Damascus: Wood Turners

Arabic: ʿUlabiyyīn

Date: Twelfth to sixteenth centuries

These artisans made bottles from wood, and receptacles for holding milk. Their market was on Straight Street, near to al-Maqsallāṭ, west of Umm Ḥakīm and Dar al-Biṭṭīkh. Information is drawn from the work of Ibn ʿAsakir (d. 1176), Ibn Shakir (d. 1363), al-Nuʿaymi (d. 1521), al-Hadi (d. 1503), and al-Almawi (d. 1573). See also: Carpenters; Cabinet makers; Clog makers.

Citation: Elisséeff, Nikita. “Corporations de Damas sous Nūr al-Dīn: Matériaux pour une topographie économique de Damas au XIIe siècle”, Arabica 3.1 (1956): p. 74.

Arabic: Kharrāṭ

Date: c. 1890-1906

Wood turning is a famous and widespread craft which involves processing and turning branches of wood into ornamented objects such as balusters of banisters, and sections of water pipes (narghiles). The wood turner also produced chess and backgammon (barjīs) pieces, chairs, bowls, and miscellaneous items. The wood turner would peel the bark from the branch and use a lathe to make the wood smooth and even perfectly round to create special wood balls. In addition, the wood turner may be involved with the finishing of the product such as drilling ornaments and painting, according to the patrons wishes. See also: Sawyer (nashshār)

Citation: al-Qasimi, Muhammad Saʿid, Jamal al-Din al-Qasimi, and Khalil al-ʿAzm (al-Azem), Dictionnaire des Métiers Damascains, ed., Zafer al-Qasimi. (Le Monde d’Outre-Mer passé et présent, Deuxième série, Documents III, Paris and Le Haye: Mouton and Co., 1960), p. 122 (chapter 86).


Date: c. 1990

Johannes Kalter photographed a wood turner in a workshop practising his craft. See also: Carpenter; Maker of Pipe Stems.

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. 66, fig. 103.