Damascus: Makers of Norias

Date: c. 1890-1906

Arabic: nuwāʿīrī

A noria is a wooden mechanism that lifts fresh water into a pipe or open channel, usually for the purpose of agricultural irrigation. The construction of this technology involved woodworkers who created the wheel and spindle. Also required were the wooden buckets (sing. saṭl), which tied onto the wheel with palm fibres (līf). This activity was significant and profitable in the late Ottoman period. As they required constant maintenance in respect to the spokes and other features, much of the work of the nuwāʿīrī involved repairing of existing norias. This craft also involves the collaboration of other artisans such as the maker of pipes and other wood workers. The most famous surviving norias are located in the Syrian city of Hama. See also: Sawyer (nashshār), Carpenter (najjār), Maker of drainpipes (qasāṭilī).

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), pp. 489-90 (chapter 423).

Milwright, Marcus. “Wood and Woodworking in Late Ottoman Damascus: An Analysis of the Qāmūs al-Ṣināʿāt al-Shāmiyya”, Bulletin d’Etudes Orientales 61 (2012): p. 553.

Bazantay, Pierre, Enquête sur lʼartisanat à Antioche, Les états du Levant sous Mandat Français (Beirut, Imprimerie Catholique, 1936), pp. 23-24.