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Since longtime, Syria was known by silk fabrication, once the
brocade or the damas are mentioned, we think directly of Damascus and Syria.
The principal silk Road traverses syrian territory. Syria is
the Most active state : it is the cross/road of commerce between East and West,
North and South. Since Damascus is the principal access to Hijaz, Egypt,
Antiochia and Alexandrette, all these countries delivered Asian merchandises to
Mediterranean ships, to be transported to Genes and Venizia... In the second
place there was Palmyra, with its eastern door open to Mesopotamia. Before this
stage, the Extreme‑Orient people monopolised the silk fabrication and
exportation and collected abundant profits. Afterwards, other people discovered
the very precious material ; then the silk commerce passed to Greco‑Roman
world who dominated directly this commerce.
In the Middle Ages, the Arabs have controlled this commerce
till the Crusades in the 12th and 13th centuries.
In 555 A.D., two monks from Athos Mountain (or Nestorian
monks) transferred silk to the Middle‑East. Then this industry expanded
to Greece, Black‑sea region, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Iraq and Egypt
too. The Arabs were interested in planting mulberry‑trees and cultivation
of silk worms. Many arab cities flourished with silk workshops, particularly in
Damascus. Arabs have contributed to expand this industry to Europe through
Andalousia. The Omeyad calif Mouawiya bin Abi Soufian founded a workshop in his
own Palace in Damascus in 665 A.D.
At the end of the Ayyoubid epoch and during the Mamelouk
epoch, silk production was large, especially the golden silk. During Mamelouk
domination and Ottoman afterwards, Damascus was renowned by silk products :
more than 40 species of it.
In modem times, silk has widely expanded in the 17th century.
The Maani in Lebanon encouraged this industry. Lebanon was a pioneer in this
field. The silk fabrication was prosperous till the 20th century ; but
unfortunately, it suffered serious regression.
In the 18th century, the Ottoman government imposed many taxes
which subsequently caused real stagnation.
1915, the Chamber of Commerce in Lyon (France) sent a letter to the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs, encouraging the French government to occupy Syria (Syria‑Lebanon-Palestine...),
rich with silk, and then must remain dependent of the Lyonees market, which
imported yearly (500 Tuns) of Syrian silk.
During the French Mandate, in the thirties, the world wide
economic crisis struck Syrian silk production, so many enterprises made
The introduction to Syria of the European fashion late 19th
century, and in the beginning of the 20th contributed to the regression of
traditional silk fabrics ; add to that, the new mechanical looms at the dawn of
the 20th century replaced the manual looms, and the degradation of the silk
handicraft was clear to all.
Silk worm is cultivated in Syria in spring and autumn in west
mountains, and along side of the Orontes River.