Damascus: Shoe Makers

Date: c. 1807

Spanish traveler Domingo Francisco Jorge Badía y Leblich (d. 1818), better known by his pseudonym Ali Bey al Abbasi, observes that shoe makers occupy a great number of shops in the streets of Damascus. See also: Tanner.

Citation: al-Abbasi, Ali Bey. Travels of Ali Bey in Morocco, Tripoli, Cyprus, Egypt, Arabia, Syria, and Turkey. Between the Year 1803 and 1807 (Philadelphia: Printed for John Conrad, at the Shakespeare building, by James Maxwell, 1816. After London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and Brown, 1816), II, p. 307.


Date: c. 1840

Sir John Bowring (d. 1872) notes the large number of shoemakers in the sūq. These shops were kept in good order and abundantly supplied with goods. See also: Tanner.

Citation: Bowring, John. Report on the Commercial Statistics of Syria (London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1840. Reprinted: New York: Arno Press, 1973), p. 92.

Date: 1892-93

During his visit to the sūq of the old town of Damascus Albert Terhune (d. 1942) records that shoe makers and other artisans had workshops and storerooms on Straight Street. The goods from these storerooms would be sold in the sūq. See also: boot maker; saddler; leather slipper maker.

Citation: Terhune, Albert Payson, Syria from the Saddle: A Description of the Holy Land today, as seen through a young man’s Eyes (New York: Silver, Burdett and Co., 1896),  p. 49.


Date: c. 1990

This craft concerning leather materials exists almost exclusively to cater to tourist demands, as shoes in the European style have taken over Syria. Nonetheless, there was still a small demand for traditional leather shoes and boots, which were purchased by Bedouins. See also: Tanner; Currier; Saddler.

Citation: Kalter, Johannes, “Urban Handicrafts”, in Kalter, Johannes, Margareta Pavaloi, and Maria Zerrnickel, eds. The Arts and Crafts of Syria: Collection Antoine Touma and Linden-Museum Stuttgart (London and New York: Thames and Hudson, 1992), p. 68.

Date: 1930s

Factories had been established for the manufacture of shoes, but much of the craft was still practised in traditional workshops. Damascus was said to have 2,000 shoe makers employing 4-5,000 young artisans. Nineteen tons of shoes were exported from Syria in 1934 (compared with a high of 142 tons in 1931). See also: Tanner; Currier; Makers of Clogs.

Citation: Hakim, George, “Industry”, in Himadeh, Saʿid B., ed., Economic Organization of Syria (Beirut: The American Press, 1936. Reprinted New York: AMS Press, 1973, pp. 163-64, table XXIX.