(Ariha, Idlib, Syria) ʿAdel Haddad, known as Abu Hassan, is one of the few men working as blacksmiths today in Syria. Historically, those whose surname is Haddad (“blacksmith” in Arabic) had ancestors who worked as blacksmiths. ʿAdel has kept this tradition alive in his small town of Ariha, relatively untouched by technology and mass communication.
Ariha falls in between Idlib, Jisr al-Shughur, and Ma’arrat al-Nuʿman. It dates back five thousand years and some of its residents have inherited the profession of blacksmithing, just like ʿAdel. He left school at the age of 12, following the death of his father in 1981, to learn the trade from his older brother.
Metalworking is not only one of the oldest professions in Ariha, but also one of the most difficult ones, as it requires intense physical labour. Abu Hassan works ten hours a day softening iron over hot fire, the same way that his ancestors did centuries ago. He works in a market that is representative of Ariha’s ancient streets, dating back to the Ayyubid period (XII-XIII centuries AD), next to a number of other small souqs, including the historic spice market.
Abu Hassan loves his work, he believes it is a family heritage, one that he will pass on to his son. “These professions tell a story steeped in the rich history of our past and a legacy passed down from grandfathers to their children, to their grandchildren,” he said.
A small room in the store contains all the coal and is known as the “fire house”. There, a fire is powered by coal and a small electric fan. Abu Hassan heats up the coal, reaching 500 degrees Celsius in 15 minutes. Once it reaches the appropriate heat, he is able to work the iron.