Damascus: Basket Makers

Arabic: Khawwāṣīn

Date: Twelfth to sixteenth centuries

Weavers in Damascus had a market between the mausoleum-madrasa of Nūr al-dīn and Straight Street. They used tree leaves, sometimes palm leaves, to make baskets and mats. In contrast, the makers of braided trays used rush and willow strands. Since palm trees are scarce in Syria, apart from in Palmyra and Quneitra where the dwarf palm grows, weavers primarily relied on corn leaves and straw for their mats. Information is drawn from the work of Ibn ʿAsakir (d. 1176), al-Nuʿaymi (d. 1521), al-Hadi (d. 1503), and al-Almawi (d. 1573). See also: Makers of woven trays.

Citation: Elisséeff, Nikita. “Corporations de Damas sous Nūr al-Dīn: Matériaux pour une topographie économique de Damas au XIIe siècle”, Arabica 3.1 (1956): pp. 68-69.


Arabic: sallāl

Date: c. 1890-1906

Two kinds of baskets were principally made: the strongest are made from willow (ṣafṣāf) branches, and the other is made from reed (qaṣab). The craftspeople engaged in this activity soak these materials in water until they become flexible to weave into baskets. Basket makers are usually poor rural peoples, and provides a living for many people. Although it is not a profitable craft, the utilitarian nature of baskets such as to carry apples and vegetables denotes basket making as a widespread activity. See also: Maker of lids (for protecting food) (mikabbatī).

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. 238 (chapter 160).


Date: 1938

Photographer John D. Whiting (d. 1951), who also worked as a tour guide, documents a street sweeper collecting detritus into a basket made of old rubber tires. This appears to have been a local craft. See also: Maker of Cord and Twine.

Citation: Whiting, J. D. & Matson, G. E., photographer. (1938) Diary in Photos, vol. IV, 1938. [Online Text] Retrieved from the Library of Congress: https://www.loc.gov/item/2007675264/ (last consulted: 13 February 2017).

Damascus, Kamer ed Din: Makers of Baskets
Date: 1938

Photographer John D. Whiting documents a photograph of a street sweeper sweeping a basket made of old tires.
Citation: Whiting, J. D. & Matson, G. E., photographer. (1938) Diary in Photos, vol. IV, 1938.

Online Text: Retrieved from the Library of Congress