Damascus: Cotton Weavers

Date: fourteenth century

The weaving of cotton in Damascus was a craft passed from father to son. Sold in well-ordered and stocked shops in the city, Damascene cotton was highly sought after by foreigners who would travel from across the world to attain them. Italian traveller Simone found the cotton in Damascus to be ‘the world’s most beautiful, so that if one saw of the finest, and he were not a perfect connoisseur, he would believe they were silk, so very fine and delicate and beautiful are they’.

Citation: Bellorini, Theophilus and Eugene Hoade (trans.), Visit to the Holy Places of Egypt, Sinai, Palestine and Syria in 1384 by Frescobaldi, Gucci & Sigoli, Publications of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum 6 (Jerusalem: Franciscan Press, 1948), p. 86.

Damascus: Cotton Weavers

Date: c. 1840

Sir John Bowring (d. 1872) claims that there were approximately 400 looms designated for cotton textiles, each of which produced about seven to eight pieces per week. See also: Silk Weavers

Citation: Bowring, John. Report on the Commercial Statistics of Syria (London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1840. Reprinted: New York: Arno Press, 1973), p. 20.

Damascus: Cotton Weavers

Date: late nineteenth, early twentieth century

As the value of silk has increased exponentially in addition to the flooding of European goods, Damascene weavers changed to imitate the ālāja fabric using cotton (dīmā) yarn so that their products can be widely purchased. Thousands of people were involved in this industry to earn their livelihood. Local weavers struggled to compete with the more favored European brands. These weaver also began to produce trousers with a light cloth, which uncommon in previous times. See also: Silk Weavers

Citation: Nuʿman al-Qasatili, al-Rawḍat al-ghannāʾ Dimashq al-fayḥāʾ (Beirut, 1876/1299. Reprinted: Beirut: Dar al-Raʾid al-ʿArabi, 1982), p. 123. Translated in Issawi, Charles (ed.), The Economic History of the Middle East, 1800-1914: A Book of Readings (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1966), pp. 387-88.

Damascus: Cotton Weavers

Date: 1933

No figures are available for the number of handlooms, but official records indicate that 67,900 pieces of pure cotton were produced in Damascus in 1933. It is not clear whether this number includes both industrially-made and handmade textiles. This figure represents a decine from the production in the late 1920s (for example, 151,000 in 1929). See also: Lace Maker; Silk Weaver; Wool Weaver.

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. pp. 148-49, table XIII.