Tripolian crafts are strongly associated with the Mamluks who rebuilt the city and its souks to be in accordance with the crafts groupings and the city planning policy around its main mosque, the grand Mansouri mosque. Each craft had its own souk which is named after the craft's name. These souks and khans are distributed around the city: the Goldsmiths souk, the perfumers souk and the soap khan are next to the grand Mansouri mosque, the wood khan is next to the Ouisah mosque, coppersmiths souk, tailors khan as well as the crane and hay chairs are next to Ezideen bath, as for the soap, it is located in the Egyptians khan. At Al-Zahrieh quarter , there is still a huge soap works ( Ouida). As for Tripoli coastline, in the port area, crafts that are related to fishing, such as building wooden boats and ships, weaving fishing nets and manufacturing clay pots, were developed.
Economical as well as social value of the craft
The Tripolian crafts are firmly associated with the families to the extent that these families adopted the name of the craft they made to be their own family name. These families do still exist so far, such as: Saponji (soap makers), Hayik (Tailor), Dabagh (Tanner), Shikh Al-Najarin(Carpentry master), Sabbagh (Dyer), M3mar (Mason/builder), Najjar (Carpenter), Nahas (coppersmith), Al Halab (Milkman), Al Nakash (engraver), Al Mnajid (upholsterer), due to the fact that the techniques of these crafts were inherited amongst the family members along with the experience aswell as the secrets of the craft that were to be practiced from a tender age until one reaches the mastery of the craft which is regarded to be the highest degree a craftsman can reach.
There are approximately 100 small workshops that are divided as follows:
- Woodworking ( manufacturing and engraving)
- Copper (manufacturing ,engraving and inscription)
- Soap ( manufacturing and decoration)
These three crafts constitute 50% of the total number of the crafts, whereas all the following ( carving, hay, mosaic, iron, silver, pottery, fishing boats manufacturing and fishing nets mending) constitute the other 50%.
In spite of the difficult circumstances that the crafts sector is facing, yet the inheritance of the craft from one generation to another is still 100% in such crafts as soap, copper and fishing boats manufacturing and fishing nets mending, while 80% is still inheriting the woodworking craft.
Knowing that 43% of the craftsmen are aged between 20-55 years old, we realize the socio-economic role that the craft is still playing in the city's economy.
Production methods and tools
Crafts industries depend upon a variety of raw materials, some of which are associated with the internal environment such as pottery, soap and engraving, and others depend on external resources like copper and iron. The rest depend upon both resources such as, wood, mosaic, hay and boat manufacturing.
As for the production tools, although are different from one craft to another, yet they are mostly traditional in spite of the fact that some of which were modified or some tools were added to them, they still fall into the category of manual production line and are still far from becoming industrial methods.