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World In Syria, the latest wooden boats manufacturers preserve an

10:50  01 august  2022
10:50  01 august  2022 Source:   rfi.fr

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Le Syrien Khaled Bahlawan construit à la main un bateau en bois au bord de l'île d'Arwad, dans l'ouest de la Syrie, un artisanat que sa famille veut préserver, le 24 juillet 2022 © Louai Beshara heritage The Syrian Khaled Bahlawan built a wooden boat by the island of Arwad, in western Syria, A craftsmanship that his family wants to preserve, on July 24, 2022

Khaled Bahlawan plant nails in a traditional wooden boat that he built by hand, working under the burning sun of the Mediterranean coast in Syria, to preserve ancient craftsmanship endangered.

Des membres de la famille syrienne des Bahlawan aident à la construction d'un bateau en bois au bord de l'île d'Arwad, dans l'ouest de la Syrie, le 24 juillet 2022 © Louai Beshara of the members of the Syrian family of Bahlawan help the construction of a wooden boat on the edge of the island of Arwad, in western Syria, July 24, 2022

"We are the Last family in Syria to make wooden ships and boats, "said AFP Mr. Bahlawan. "It is the heritage of our ancestors. We are fighting every day to preserve it," adds this 39 -year -old man on the edge of the island of Arwad, in front of the city of Tartous, in the west of Syria.

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Le Syrien Khaled Bahlawan construit à la main un bateau en bois au bord de l'île d'Arwad, dans l'ouest de la Syrie, un artisanat que sa famille veut préserver, le 24 juillet 2022 © Louai Beshara The Syrian Khaled Bahlawan built a wooden boat by hand by the island of Arwad, in the west of Syria, a craftsmanship that his family wants to preserve, on July 24, 2022

old Several millennia, this Phoenician crafts are now threatened by the drop in wooden boat demand.

The long power cuts due to years of conflict in Syria prevent Mr. Bahlawan from using his modern electrical equipment. He therefore uses the archaic manual tools of his grandfather.

"It's a difficult task," he said, sweating, his face dotted with wood chips in his workshop. "We do our best to overcome difficulties such as electricity cuts and fuel shortages," said man with golden skin by the sun.

- Risk of disappearance -

The eight members of the Bahlawan family share the tasks in the modest workshop. They have been manufacturing and repairing wooden boats for hundreds of years. These ships are used mainly by fishermen, seaside resorts and for transport.

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According to the mayor of Arwad, Noureddine Souleiman, the manufacture of wooden boats is a tradition that dates back thousands of years, for the Phoenician era. In the past, the majority of the inhabitants of Arwad were boats, he says: "Today, only the Bahlawan family remains."

The Phoenicians were renowned for the manufacture of ships and wooden boats. Outstanding navigators, they roamed the Mediterranean, bringing their knowledge, their artisanal know-how and even their alphabet in other regions of the Mediterranean.

Des membres de la famille syrienne des Bahlawan aident à la construction d'un bateau en bois au bord de l'île d'Arwad, dans l'ouest de la Syrie, le 24 juillet 2022 © Louai Beshara of the members of the Syrian family of Bahlawan help the construction of a wooden boat on the edge of the island of Arwad, west of Syria, July 24, 2022

but traditional manufacturing Boats is now likely to disappear completely, worries Mr. Suleiman, because young people emigrate or seek easier and more profitable work.

located about three kilometers from the Côte de Tartous, Arwad is the only inhabited island in Syria, a haven of peace in a country torn apart by 11 years of war. Hundreds of workers, inhabitants and visitors go there every day in wooden boats, mostly manufactured by the Bahlawan.

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- "Historical responsibility" -

The Bahlawan have retained the original shape and structure of the former Phoenician boats, despite some modifications, explains to AFP Farouk Bahlawan, uncle of Khaled and qualified carpenter.

"We make these ships mainly from eucalyptus and mulberry wood from the forests of Tartous", explains this 54 -year -old man.

A few meters from the open -air workshop, more than 40 wooden boats are moored at the port of Arwad.

"We manufactured four large ships each year and several boats that we export to Cyprus, Turkey and Lebanon," says Farouk. But "this year, we only worked on one ship, and there is still a lot of work before it is finished," he adds.

"We have to continue this trip," says Farouk the trembling voice, looking at the children who have fun handling kite: "We carry a historical responsibility on our shoulders."

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