Damascus: Shadow Puppeteers

Arabic: karakūzātī

Date: 1741-62

In his chronicle, the Damascene barber, Shihab al-Din Ahmad ibn Budayr (d. after 1762), describes a shadow play (khayāl al-ẓill) performance that occurred in the residence of the governor of Damascus. He claims that a puppet had been made in the shape of a Christian, Ibn Tuma, who was in attendance. This puppet was employed in a sexual scene during the play. See also: Tanner; Cobbler; Maker of Clogs.

Citation: Shihab al-Din Ahmad ibn Budayr, Sajdi, Ḥawādith Dimashq al-yawmiyya in Sajdi, Dana, The Barber of Damascus: Nouveau Literacy in the eighteenth-century Ottoman Levant (Stanford CA: Stanford University Press, 2013), pp. 165-66.



Date: c.1890-1906

The shadow puppeteer employed puppets made from stretched animal skin. These skins were cut into shape with coloured silk added into pierced sections. The performances were done in coffee shops using wooden frame to support the textile screen.

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. 384 (chapter 310). Translated in: Milwright, Marcus, “On the Date of Paul Kahle’s Egyptian Shadow Puppets”, Muqarnas 28 (2011): pp. 61-62. See also: 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. 550.