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Loom weaving (Al Nol) : A Lebanese tradition facing extinction

By The Monthly - monthlymagazine.com | - last updated :

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The Lebanese used to be famous for practicing various handicraft, many of them now extinct, among them loom weaving (Al Nol).

Origin of Al Nol

Loom weaving is considered to be among the oldest professions in history. According to various studies and research Al Nol was invented 3000 years ago and practised by the Phoenicians. Al Nol has an important place in Lebanese history and it used to exist in every Lebanese home.

Historians agree that the traditional Al Nol entered Lebanon, especially in the regions of Deir El Qamar and Zouk Mkayel, from the Syrian city of Homs in the beginning of the 19th century. The Nol however, on wooden wheels was not known before the 9th or 10th Century.

Structure of the loom

The structure of the loom is made up of two parts: a wheel and a nol.

  1. The wheel is made of wood and is manipulated with a handle to turn the sewing threads on the tayyara. The tayyara is a round cage used to spin the thread.
  2. The nol has several parts:
  • Al Ghawariz (nails) which number to 6: 4 for the small scaffold of the nol and two are fixed on the back to hold the “Metwayeh”
  • The “Metwayeh” is a round piece of wood emptied from the middle where small pieces of wood called “Bayabir” can be found.
  • Bayabir: to hold the sewing threads and holds the sewed clothes.
  • The four remaining “Ghawariz” are used to hold the “Aktaf” (Jousour meaning bridges), which hold the threads of the (Sadda).
  • Al Tahtiya: a chain linked to the wall.
  • Al Katfan: on each of which a sharp piece of wood called “Al Daraj” to hold the “daff” can be found to fasten its movement.
  • The Daff: it is a heavy mobile piece of wood used to soften the clothes after each sewing process.
  • Al Sayfayn: two pieces of wood linked to the “Daraj” to fix the sewing process, and they are also linked to the “Daff”.
  • Al Romh: a wooden piece linking between the “Sayfayn” and fixed on the “Daraj”.
  • Al Sojk: a rounded stick between the yoke and the Daff used to fix the brush which is a sharp piece of wood used to fasten the threads.
  • Yoke: is made of two pieces of wood linked by many lines of threads.
  • Al Fakasat: pieces of wood attached with circular chains and allowing the yoke to move.
  • Al Faras: a piece of wood fixed on the ceiling and used to hang up the loom hold with the “fakasat”.
  • Al Rayahat: two pieces of rope, each piece is turned on itself.
  • “Ziyar”: usually it is a goat bone out on the right and left sides of the loom and used to hold the “sayfan” and “Al Romh”.
  • “Al Matit”: used to keep the clothes straight.
  • “Al Mizan”: a piece of wood that is put under the loom to keep the cleanliness of the work.
  • “Zircon”: a wooden piece on which the worker sit.

The situation in 2009

Since the mid nineteenth century the use of the loom was widespread but nowadays it is facing a real extinction. In the region of Zouk more than 300 looms were once used; today, only 6 looms are currently in use. Antoine Saadeh has been practicing this handicraft for more than 60 years, a tradition in his family for more than 100 years. Saadeh has taught more than 50 persons how to practice this handcraft.

Problems

  • The main problem facing this handcraft is its high cost and the small number of markets to sell the products.
  • The price of one kilogram of silk is $100 and is imported from Syria.
  • The production of each piece takes about 20 to 30 days and the cost can reach $700.
  • This traditional, noble and beautiful handicraft is now on the brink of extinction.