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An overview of cement tile manufacturing and importation in Syria and Lebanon: Damascus-Beirut, 1880s-1940s

Anas Soufan

Résumés

Le carreau de ciment est un exemple type des nouveaux matériaux de construction qui caractérisent l’architecture de la modernité en Syrie et au Liban à partir la fin du xixe siècle. L’introduction de ce matériau, si répandu aux époques coloniale et postcoloniale, remonte aux années 1880, et il reflète les bouleversements qui ont frappé la société syrienne à la suite de l’expédition égyptienne de 1831-1840. Ce matériau eut une influence indéniable sur le décor intérieur, offrant une nouvelle compréhension de la matière et de la couleur et, partant, une appropriation renouvelée de l’espace intérieur. Le carreau de ciment, dont l’utilisation s’est propagée sur toutes les rives de la Méditerranée, témoigne des interactions artistiques et culturelles de ces régions. Toute enquête sur l’importation et la manufacture locale de ce matériau soulève des questions non seulement sur ses aspects techniques mais aussi sur le contexte des activités de construction pendant la période en question. Cet article se propose d’analyser et de qualifier l’importance des caractéristiques esthétiques, industrielles et commerciales du carreau de ciment, ainsi que la dimension historique de son utilisation, le goût des Syriens pour l’imitation et l’innovation, l’accélération des échanges avec l’Europe et la transformation des moyens de production et de consommation. Les carreaux de ciment furent, des décennies durant, le revêtement de sol le plus répandu en Syrie et au Liban ; leur importation et leur manufacture locale n’ont cependant jamais fait l’objet d’enquêtes spécialisées. Seuls quelques thèmes en lien avec le sujet ont été abordés par des chercheurs tels que Robert Saliba et ‘Adel Sṭàs, ou par des architectes comme Sophie Skaf, qui a dressé un inventaire précieux des modèles les plus répandus à Beyrouth – et dans d’autres villes – dans la première moitié du xxe siècle. Notre recherche a donc pour objectif d’enrichir les travaux précédents en proposant une historiographie de l’importation et de la manufacture locale des carreaux de ciment selon un cadre temporel et géographique défini : Damas et Beyrouth, des années 1880 aux années 1930.

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Entrées d’index

Index de mots-clés :

carreau de ciment, transferts culturels

Index by keyword :

cement tiles, cultural transfers

Indice de palabras clave :

baldosa hidráulica, transferencias culturales

Schlagwortindex :

Zementfliesen, Kulturtransfers
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Notes de l’auteur

This article is a result of previous investigations undertaken in the context of post-doctoral research in the Department of Art History and Musicology at the University of Geneva, focusing on the development of materials and techniques of construction in Syria and Lebanon from the late nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century.

Texte intégral

  • 1 According respectively to Muḥammad Kurd ‘Alī, Ḫoṭaṭ aš-Šām, Damascus: Maktabat an-Nouri, 3rd ed., (...)
  • 2 Muḥammad Kurd ‘Alī, Dimašq, madīnat as-siḥr waš-si’r, Cairo: Maktabat al-maʻārif, 1944, p. 96.
  • 3 ʻAbd al-ʻAzīz al-‘Azmah, op. cit. (note 2), p. 101. See also Muḥammad Kurd ‘Alī, op. cit. (note 1 (...)
  • 4 Robert Saliba, Beyrouth, 1920-1940: architectures aux sources de la modernité, [Initially published (...)
  • 5 ‘Ādel Sṭās, “Tahseen ṣifāt al-balāṭ al-‘ismanti bisti’māl mawād maḥaliyyah,” Damascus University Jo (...)
  • 6 Sophie Skaf, 20 × 20: Beyrouth, Paris, Tunis et Barcelone, Beyrouth: Amers, 2011.

1Cement tiles (al-balāṭ, al-balāṭ aṣ-ṣinā’i, al-balāṭ al-mosaīk, al-balāt al-moulawwan al-‘aḥjār al-ramliyyah or al-‘aḥjār al-iṣṭināiayya)1 shaped an occurrence of the new construction materials that have characterized the architecture of modernity (al-fan al-‘aṣri)2 in Syria and Lebanon since the late nineteenth century. The use of this material began in the 1880s and attained its peak during the late 1930s. It was an effect of the major economic and sociopolitical upheavals that struck Syrian society beginning with the Egyptian Expedition (1832-1840). Indeed, cement tiles, whose use extended to all Mediterranean shores, created an expression of these countries’ artistic and cultural interconnectivities since the late nineteenth century. They have left their mark on interior and exterior design, allowing for space to be engaged with in new ways in response to historical and technical developments. By the mid-1930s, the importation of cement tiles practically ceased due to a prosperous local production, made possible by an abundance of the necessary raw materials and the privileged circumstances surrounding building activities. Moreover, most parts of the manufacturing machinery became locally produced.
In light of this history, the investigation, analyses, and conclusions of a survey dealing with the importation and local manufacturing of cement tiles should focus not only on the related esthetic, industrial, and commercial aspects of this subject but also on the general context that affected construction during the reviewed period. For that reason, the historic dimension of the use of cement tiles, the acceleration of contact with Europe, the evolving ways of production and consumption, and the Syrians’ penchant for imitation and renewal (
ḥubbu at-taqlīdi wal tajaddod)3 should be considered. Accordingly, the present survey attempts to respond to the following crucial questions: What contextual elements enhanced the introduction and use of cement tiles? Who were the first local manufacturers? Who were the principal suppliers of machinery for the workshops? What role might be attributed to the importation and widespread diffusion of this material? What specificities characterized its manufacturing and use?
Although cement tiles were for decades the most widely used flooring material in Syria and Lebanon, their importation and local manufacturing have not been the object of specialized inquiries. Only a few related topics have been examined by scholars such as Robert Saliba,
4 ‘Ādel Sṭās5 and Sophie Skaf, who developed a notable inventory illustrating well-known models for cement tiles in Beirut—and other Mediterranean cities—during the first half of the twentieth century.6 The aim of the present survey is to build on previous work and to propose a historiography of the first importation of cement tiles and their local manufacturing within a defined temporal and geographical framework: Damascus and Beirut, from the 1880s to the 1940s. The previously mentioned topics will be clarified first through a general overview shedding light on the related political and economic context; followed by a historiographical focus illustrating the establishment of the first local workshops in Damascus and Beirut; and, finally, by a detailed investigation and analysis into the beginnings, development, and decline of cement tile importation.

  • 7 The center’s activities concentrate on the preservation of the village’s medieval and industrial he (...)
  • 8 Yves Esquieu, Une histoire du carreau-mosaïque : de la couleur dans la maison, Mirabeau: REF. 2C, (...)
  • 9 On the French competitors of Lachave & Fils with regards to the manufacturing of cement tiles, see (...)

2These approaches will be based on bibliographical resources consisting of three main parts: firstly, writings of authors who lived during the period in question; secondly, holdings in public archives in France, the United Kingdom, and Syria; and, thirdly, holdings in private archives related to companies involved in cement tile manufacturing and trade. The archives of the French firm Lachave & Fils, currently maintained by the Centre International de Construction et Patrimoine (CICP) in Viviers, France,7 provide the main source of information for this study. In contrast, the disappearance of the records of the F. Guilhon & Barthélémy company in Avignon,8 the competitors of Lachave & Fils,9 deprived us of fundamental data. In addition to the archives of Lachave & Fils, those of private workshops and companies were also consulted: the companies of Néjib Araman, Balat Chaya, and Derwiche Haddad in Beirut; the companies of Mr. Nazir al-Kurdi and Mr. Muhammad Awwād in the region of Damascus, and others. The directors and members of the Centre International Construction et Patrimoine and these companies had the extreme courtesy to share their data, and this study would undoubtedly not have been possible without their contributions.

The Modernist Architectural Debate

3The emerging modernist sociopolitical debate, as well as the promising economic situation characterizing the Syrian context from the mid-nineteenth century, shaped the acceptance, importation, and local manufacturing of mosaic and agglomerated cement tiles. In fact, Syrian architectural modernity should be seen as an aspect of a new pattern of civilization that restructured the traditional rules and convictions of society for several internal and external reasons. This pattern was built upon a modern education system, a lucid division of labor, a centralized technocratic state, and the secularization of the arts and sciences. In spite of the visible impact of these changes, Syrians still sought to modernize their society according to three main approaches: the first, conservative, aimed at preserving existing sociocultural structures and rejected the concept of historical rupture; the second, liberal, strove to fundamentally transform society and actualize its natural development through the sciences and new ways of thinking; the third tendency hoped to adjust the irreversible movement of modern civilization to the local context, while accepting the supremacy of secularized societies exemplified by certain European models. In other words, the latter two tendencies expressed the usefulness of appropriating foreign references in the reformation and modernization of local society.

  • 10 On this subject, see Stephan Weber, Damascus, Ottoman Modernity and Urban Transformation 1808-1918, (...)
  • 11 Interview with Mr. Nazir al-Kurdi, Damascus, March 1, 2014.

4Urban and architectural spaces have particularly illustrated this observation through the incorporation of non-local forms and materials, techniques of construction, and training methods of construction professionals. Consequently, buildings of the late Ottoman period and onwards demonstrated obvious European influences.10 Others promoted the combination of both European and local references with regards to style, materials, technique, and form. In this context, the use of colored cement tiles contributed to shaping a belief in the essential modernizing impact of Europe. At the same time, some found in them a way of reviving the past, either through models inspired by local heritage or by updating the polychrome decoration that represented a primary feature of the old cities’ architecture and interior design.11

5The aforementioned modernist debate existed simultaneously with a favorable economic context resulting from new forms of production and consumption, new foreign concessions and capital, and new institutions and administrative organization. These mutations can be attributed to a wave of wide-ranging reforms—the so-called Tanzimat reforms—initiated by the Ottoman Sublime Porte in the mid-nineteenth century. They were based on multifaceted interactions with Europe and aimed to remedy the disastrous economic situation of the Ottoman Empire.

A Promising Economic Context

  • 12 Roger Owen, The Middle East in the World Economy, 1800-1914, London; New York, NY: IB Tauris, 1993, (...)
  • 13 Vincennes (France), Service historique de la défense, GR 4 H 332, Le Port de Beyrouth, notice génér (...)
  • 14 Chambre de commerce de Marseille, Les Travaux et vœux du congrès français de la Syrie à Marseille, (...)
  • 15 For more on these projects, see Leila Fawaz Tarazi, Merchants and Migrants in Nineteenth-Century Be (...)

6The reforms had different effects on the economic infrastructure of Syria and Lebanon, most notably on property, transport, and taxation regulations, and on restructuring industry, agriculture, trade, and construction activities. The Ottoman reforms paved the way for waves of European influence affecting the development of all of the Empire’s provinces. Since that time, Europe’s economic interests have molded its regional policies. While economic interactions with Europe weakened several areas of the Syrian economy, especially the traditional artisanal industries, they also led to the modernization of urban and architectural space by bringing experts, investments in civil engineering projects, and related new techniques, machinery, and merchandise. Hence, Europe had a twofold impact on the importation and manufacturing of cement tiles during the late Ottoman period. The first aspect, direct, is associated with the role of France as an exporter and main initiator of this technique. The second, indirect, relates to the role of European capital in the development of the economic infrastructure of Syria and Lebanon from the mid-nineteenth century onwards. For instance, in the wake of the World War I, French investments in Syria and Lebanon totaled around 200 million francs.12 The sectors that benefited most from this development were Syrian ports and railway projects. Relevant examples include the involvement in Beirut’s port of the Compagnie du port, des quais et des entrepôts de Beyrouth, founded in 1887 by a French company13; the modernization of the port of Alexandretta by a German group of contractors in 191014; and the network of railways of the French-Belgian company D.H.P.15

  • 16 See on this subject Anas Soufan, op. cit. (note 11), p. 71-75.
  • 17 Leila Fawaz Tarazi, op. cit. (note 11), p. 61.
  • 18 Karl Baedeker, Palestine et Syrie, routes principales à travers la Mésopotamie et la Babylonie, l’î (...)
  • 19 On the Syrian economic policies towards Lebanon during the 1940s and 1950s, see Khālid Al-Azem, Muẓ (...)
  • 20 P. Gilly, La Syrie commerciale, son avenir, 1920, Paris, Office national du commerce extérieur et O (...)
  • 21 La Courneuve (France), Archives diplomatiques, 76 RC/1, Affaires diverses, 1920-23, Rapport: note s (...)
  • 22 La Courneuve (France), Archives diplomatiques, 50CPCOM/91, Mf. 17779, sheet 33, report of the presi (...)
  • 23 La Courneuve (France), Archives diplomatiques, 50CPCOM/91, Mf. 17779, sheet 30, report of the presi (...)
  • 24 Damascus imported cement and other European products through the port of Beirut from the end of the (...)
  • 25 La Courneuve (France), Archives diplomatiques, C 186 SYRIE, Carton no. 2, Affaires diverses 1924-28(...)

7On the other hand, the inauguration of the first passable road between Damascus and Beirut in 1863, followed by a railway in 1895, not only constituted political and technical advents but also served as the main catalyst for the two cities’ urban and architectural modernization.16 As a result, Beirut emerged as “the leading port on the eastern Mediterranean”17 and the “center of Syrian trade,”18 while Damascus opened a new page in the history of its relationships with the world. This situation remained more or less stable until March 13, 1950, when the customs union between Syria and Lebanon came to an end.19 The constant increase in Beirut’s imports, from 99,761 tons in 1901 to 233,706 (two hundred thirty-three thousand seven hundred six) tons in 1910,20 proves the vitality of the Syrian economy during the late Ottoman period, when the United Kingdom, France, and Germany were the main European associates of the Ottoman province of Syria, or Šām Šerīf.21 At any rate, it is not surprising that coastal cities such as Haifa, Beirut, and Alexandretta were the first to experiment with new machinery and construction materials. However, each city had a particular geographic and economic context that determined main port. For instance, Damascus may have imported the first quantities of cement tiles or machinery for workshops through the port of Beirut. As the Chairman of the company Chemin de fer Damas, Hama et Prolongements, D.H.P reported on November 10, 1913 the growing commercial activities between the two cities offered the Beirut-Damascus railway potential financial gains. He defined the transported quantities, indicating that Beirut and Haifa were in competition over the transit of Damascus importations.22 The report illustrated the increasing quantities of construction materials transported from Beirut to Damascus: 1,490 tons in 1907, 2,558 tons in 1908, 4,799 tons in 1909, 7,264 tons in 1910, and 9,004 tons in 1911.23 In the context of a liberal economy, the Ottoman Sublime Porte promulgated legislation dealing with the flow of European merchandise and the protection of local industries. The customs taxes of 11% levied on most imports, including construction materials such as cement, tiles, dyes, metallic beams and roofing tiles,24 continued to be applied until the end of the 1940s.25

  • 26 Youssef Helbaoui, La Syrie : mise en valeur d’un pays sous-développé, Paris: R. Pichon, 1956, p. 65
  • 27 Regarding the Syrian Modern Style, see “The appropriation of Syrian urban space by an Islamic art i (...)

8During the French Mandate in Syria and Lebanon, a new economic dynamic, more interlaced with Europe, took root. The porte ouverte customs policies imposed by the French led to disastrous consequences in several sectors, since Syria, a new economic entity, was not prepared for such international competition.26 For that reason, traditional craftsmanship related to construction activities constantly fell behind, with the exception of modest initiatives linked to the Syrian Modern Style buildings.27 On the other hand, the period of the Mandate witnessed important steps in the development of the construction industry. New buildings, as well as urban projects, demanded new, standardized, fast to apply, easy to clean, and sufficiently low priced materials for construction and finishing. Cement tiles satisfied most of these requirements and, consequently, were easily employed in different kinds of private and public buildings. In light of this context, the following paragraph illustrates how the first cement tile workshops were established in Beirut and Damascus and explains who their first manufacturers, merchants, and importers were.

Local manufacturing

  • 28 Mario Baeck, “Cement Tiles: An exploration,” Journal of the Tiles & Architectural ceramics Societie (...)
  • 29 Yves Esquieu, op. cit. (note 9), p. 25.
  • 30 Lachave & Fils archives display the exportation of tools of production in many countries around the (...)

9In the 1840s, the commercialization of Portland cement began in the United Kingdom, followed by other European countries.28 The research for new applications linked to the commercial production of Portland cement contributed to the appearance of new products for construction and decoration. New kinds of plinths, columns, pilasters, consoles, fountains, baseboards, and paving tiles were created and put into use. The breakthrough of cement tile manufacturing in Europe thus dates back to the second half of the nineteenth century. France led development in this industry: it seems that August Nicolas Lachave (1821-1901) was the first and principal producer in France of machinery for cement tile workshops. Lachave established his factory near the country’s first Portland cement plant, J. & A. Pavin de Lafarge, in Viviers, a commune in Ardèche.29 Around the turn of the nineteenth century cement tiles were tested and accepted in several regions around the world, including the Middle East.30

The First Manufacturing Workshops in Beirut

  • 31 We have proof that Asaad Tabet & C. in Marseille purchased molds in 1910 from the Lachave & Fils fi (...)

10Machinery for workshops in Syria and Lebanon was purchased from Europe in two ways: from the 1880s to the 1900s by the manufacturers themselves, usually assisted by European trade mansions such as A. Farès & S. Azzi and M. Raslan and Asaad Tabet & Co.31 based in Marseille; then, from the 1900s onwards, local trade companies imported the machinery from Europe for most Syrian and Lebanese manufacturers. A local industry of molds and hydraulic presses can be discerned from the mid-1930s.

  • 32 Courtesy of Madame Chaya-Chaoul. Private collection of illustrations and archives: Beirut’s directo (...)
  • 33 Today, Chaya cement tile workshop is active and rehabilitated by Mr. Edgard Chaya promoting new and (...)

11The oldest written evidence we have today relating to owners of cement tile workshops dates back to the 1880s. Tannous Chaya purportedly founded the first cement tile workshop in Beirut. The Beirut Directory of 1889, al-Jāmi’ah, dalīl bayrūt li-‘ām 1889, edited by ‘Amīn Khoury, contains a published announcement about the manufacturing of cement tiles by the Shami & Chaya company, whose workshop was located near the Telegraph (center) of Beirut. The announcement gives plenty of noteworthy information. It illustrated the production of tiles (al-balāt) similar to marble; in different colors; of square, hexagonal, and other forms; “dry as the brick that was imported from France”; resistant to humidity in winter; utilized for houses with diverse colors and ways of laying tiles. Moreover, the company proposed the manufacturing of tiles in any required form, color, or dimension.32 This announcement suggests that the company Shami & Chaya may have existed before 1889.33

  • 34 Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave correspondence, vol.  (...)
  • 35 Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave correspondence, vol.  (...)
  • 36 Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave correspondence, vol.  (...)
  • 37 Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave correspondence, vol.  (...)
  • 38 Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave correspondence, vol.  (...)

12Little information exists on the machinery of the first Shami & Chaya workshop. Nevertheless, a few documents from the 1890s shed light on aspects of this matter. The first is a letter discovered in the Lachave & Fils’ archives,34 sent by Michel Rasslan, owner of a trade company in Marseille, to Lachave & Fils on April 23, 1897. It mentions the payment of an invoice by the Chaya company for the purchase of a hydraulic press and its accessories. Michel Diab was the representative of the Chaya company and managed the affair with both Michel Rasslan and Lachave & Fils. The outcome of this deal is not indicated in the aforementioned letter. Michel Diab’s name also appears in a letter sent on April 9, 1894, from another trade company in Marseille, A. Farès & S. Azzi, to Lachave & Fils, concerning Diab’s decision to cancel the purchase of a hydraulic press from Lachave & Fils. We do not have enough evidence to confirm that Diab was an agent working for Shami & Chaya’s workshop or a merchant of cement tile manufacturing machinery. However, another letter dated December 20, 1898, sent from Tannous Chaya to Lachave & Fils, displays other information35: Tannous Chaya discusses the repair of one machine (the hydraulic press probably), pointing to his decision not to order more presses from Lachave & Fils company. On the other hand, a letter sent on April 25, 1899, to Lachave & Fils from another member of the Chaya family, a certain Thlaum, affirms that Tannous was offering several presses for rent. Thlaum adds that he has seen good presses in Alexandria and therefore asks Lachave & Fils to lower the purchase price for a hydraulic press “similar to the last one imported by Tannous,” in addition to three molds: hexagonal (25 × 25 cm), a large square (25 × 25 cm), and a smaller square (20 × 20 cm).36 Nevertheless, on May 23, 1899,37 Thlaum wrote a letter to Lachave & Fils explaining his regret that the quoted prices were considerably higher than those quoted to his cousin Tannous. He ensured the reception of better offers—“des offres plus avantageuses”—requesting a discount of 20% on the initial prices. We have no other correspondence from Thlaum Chaya. Indeed, on the May 15, 1899, Tannous Chaya ordered a new hydraulic press as well as two square molds (20 × 20 cm and 25 × 25 cm) and a hexagonal one [20 × 20 cm]; moreover, two molds, square and hexagonal, had already been ordered in a previous letter.38

  • 39 The Lachave & Fils archives from around 1900 demonstrate contacts with other people from Beirut fro (...)
  • 40 Sophie Skaf, “Entre Beyrouth, Paris, Tunis et Barcelone, les trésors des carreaux décoratifs,” Agen (...)
  • 41 Annuaire 1948, principales sociétés exerçant une activité au Liban, published by the Service of Doc (...)
  • 42 According to communication with Mr. Malek el-Khoury, Geneva, December 2014.
  • 43 Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave correspondence. See, (...)
  • 44 Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave correspondence, lette (...)
  • 45 According to communication with Mr. Malek el-Khoury, Geneva, December 2014.

13In addition to Chaya,39 the company of Derviche Haddad had a prominent role in the trade and manufacturing of construction materials, including cement tiles, since the 1890s. According to Sophie Skaf, the company was the first manufacturer of cement tiles in Beirut beginning in the 1880s.40 Nevertheless, Skaf did not indicate the exact date of the establishment of the Derviche Haddad company, nor whether it preceded Shami & Chaya. However, the Directory of Lebanese Companies in 1948 listed “Haddad (Établissement Derwiche)” as a company founded in 1890 and reconstituted in 1925 by Tannous Haddad and Fouad el-Khouri,41 who was an architect-engineer and a brother of the president Bichara el-Khoury.42 This indication coincides with correspondence in the Lachave & Fils archives. We discern documents headed by “Fouad el-Khouri” (headquarters in Beirut, Port Street) and others headed by “Khouri and Gammache” (headquarters in Beirut, 10 Rashid Dahdah Street). This correspondence, going back to the late 1920s-1930s,43 comprises letters and invoices mostly related to spare parts of cement tile workshops. Nevertheless, an invoice from 1930 from Khoury & Gammache mentions the purchase of eight hydraulic presses (no. 8) with molds and other tools. On the other hand, some documents from the 1930s also cite the sale of machinery and tools to Syrian workshops through Fouad el-Khoury.44 To this very day, some of the machinery in el-Khoury’s workshops that had been imported from France and Italy still exists and might be rehabilitated for new phases of production.45

  • 46 Néjib J. Araman was honored by several medallions like the Royal designation as Chevalier de l’Ordr (...)
  • 47 Private collection of illustrations and archives of Mr. Tony Araman, Beirut (Lebanon), 2014, Néjib  (...)
  • 48 Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave correspondence, vol.  (...)
  • 49 Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave correspondence, vol.  (...)
  • 50 Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave correspondence, vol.  (...)
  • 51 Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave correspondence, vol.  (...)
  • 52 Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Correspondence, letter from J (...)

14By the turn of the nineteenth century, thanks to the spread of cement tiles as a new construction material, specialized Beiruti and Damascene merchants had taken over the importation and trade of machinery for cement tile workshops. Néjib Jurjis Araman provides a notable example of the impact of his generation on the transferral of new techniques and materials from Europe. Araman was an industrial, a businessman and a well-known figure of Lebanese society thanks to his local position and wide international contacts, especially within Belgium.46 Public and private archives illustrate Araman’s activities in the trade and manufacturing of construction materials, most notably cement, concrete pipes, cement bricks, ceramic and cement tiles.47 In a document from August 28, 1905, Araman indicates that he was the only person who had access to different kinds of cement tile manufacturers and requested Lachave & Fils firm to designate him as their general agent in Beirut “instead of working with several clients” as he said.48 We do not know Lachave & Fils’s answer. Nevertheless, it is clear in his letters to Lachave & Fils on August 14, 1907, that Araman ordered a press (no. 1) for a Damascene manufacturer.49 Additionally, in a letter from March 25, 1909, Araman confirms the sale of a press (no. 7) to Khalil al-Bagdadi in Damascus and indicates potential deals with merchants from Lattakieh.50 On September 6, 1909, he talks about the sale of two presses to Jaffa and Haifa, asking Lachave & Fils to send these presses directly to clients in Palestine.51 Accordingly, until the end of the 1940s Néjib Araman may have been the main agent of Lachave & Fils in Syria and Lebanon. This impression is confirmed not only by the abundance of orders filled by Araman’s company, but also by a letter from January 28, 1947, from Lachave & Fils to Nabeeh K. Houssami & Co in Beirut in which it is clearly indicated that Araman & Fils was the exclusive agent of Lachave & Fils in Syria.52

  • 53 La Courneuve (France), Archives diplomatiques, C 186 SYRIE, Carton no. 2, Affaires diverses 1924-28(...)
  • 54 Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave correspondence, vol.  (...)

15Other data about Araman’s activities belonging to the importation of cement and ceramic tiles may be found in correspondence from the French Haut-Commissariat (FHC) during the Mandate. A report dated from the late 1920s designates several merchants/importers of tiles (without identifying which kinds of tiles) from two firms in Czechoslovakia, Ditmar and Urbach. We should also mention Néjib Araman, Bechara Raad, and Basil & Rais Co. from Beirut; Habib Antaki & Fils, Abdel Wahhāb Aṭṭār, and Letfallah Geabehan from Aleppo; and George Coeter from Damascus.53 Another commercial figure is referenced in Lachave & Fils’s correspondence. Michel Nasser’s company in Beirut imported different materials, including machinery for cement tile manufacturing. The relationship between the two companies seems to have started on August 18, 1902, when Nasser asks Lachave & Fils to inform him about their mold prices. In the same letter, he indicates a Mr. Bouchkangi from Beirut, to whom he attributes the purchase of a hydraulic press in 1899 or 1900. Afterwards, in a letter from September 18, 1902, Nasser orders a mold in cast iron and steel plate with a divider (no. 82) on behalf of a client.54 The exchanges continued until the 1910s, when they were cut short by continuous disagreements about prices and discounts between the two companies.

Cement Tile Workshops in Damascus

  • 55 This work was achieved by Jamāl al-Qāsimi, the son of the author, and by Khalil al-‘Azem, his step- (...)
  • 56 Ibid.
  • 57 Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave correspondence, invoi (...)
  • 58 See, for example, Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave cor (...)
  • 59 Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave correspondence, vol.  (...)
  • 60 Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave correspondence, invoi (...)
  • 61 Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave correspondence, lette (...)
  • 62 Interview with Mr. Nazir Al-Kurdi, Damascus, March 1, 2014; with Mr. Muhammad Awwād, Damascus-Yabro (...)
  • 63 Annuaire 1948, principales sociétés exerçant une activité au Liban, published by the Service of Doc (...)
  • 64 Salah Essaleh, L’État actuel de l’économie syrienne : agriculture, industrie, commerce en comparais (...)
  • 65 London (United Kingdom), Archives of the Foreign Office, 371/16086, Rapport sur la situation économ (...)
  • 66 London (United Kingdom), Archives of the Foreign Office, 371/16086, Rapport sur la situation économ (...)

16Damascus followed Beirut into the cement tile manufacturing. Although investigations conducted in view of preparing the Dictionary of Syrian IndustriesQāmūs aṣ-ṣinā’āt aš-šāmiyyah—were undertaken from 1892 to 1902,55 this valuable book does not mention any information about cement tile production.56 This suggests that, until 1902, the use of cement tiles was limited to certain private buildings that the Dictionary’s authors did not visit. However, several documents have attributed the beginning of cement tile manufacturing in Damascus to the late 1890s. The oldest extant document belonged to Dimitri Sioufi, owner of a workshop. It is a letter sent to Lachave & Fils on April 25, 1902, concerning the Sioufi’s demand to produce a mold out of wood.57 Obviously, previous correspondence exists. In next letter, dated November 24 (mostly in 1902), Sioufi indicates that he purchased a hydraulic press that was imported from Germany one year before. He mentions several “friends” who were manufacturing cement tiles in Damascus and includes a drawing related to the purchased press. Other documents prove that a certain Khalil al-Baghdadi had a prosperous cement tile workshop in Damascus active from at least 1909.58 Additionally, correspondence related to merchants from Beirut and Aleppo give data about the cement tile manufacturers in Damascus. For instance, Néjib Araman from Beirut, in a letter from March 25, 1909, confirms the sale of a press (no. 7) to Khalil Bagdadi in Damascus and highlights potential deals with merchants from Lattakieh.59 In 1934, Najib Baki from Aleppo mentions the sale of a hydraulic press (no. 7) imported through Beirut to Muhammad al-Hāfeẓ and Khalil al-Fattal60 as well as several molds and dividers for the Mr. Malas’s factory.61 Other trading companies working in Damascus during the examined period, such as Obeid62 and Sehnaoui & Fils,63 might be mentioned as importers of cement tile machinery. In the wake of World War I, cement tiles were identified in buildings in Damascus thanks to the production of local workshops. According to Ṣalāḥ es-Ṣāleḥ, in 1933 Damascus was home to ten manufactures of cement tiles.64 However, it seems that cement tile manufacturing in Aleppo was more prosperous than in Damascus. While the annual report of the French High Commissioner—Rapport sur la situation économique de la Syrie et du Liban, 1931—states the establishment of four modern cement tiles workshops in Aleppo between 1928 and 1931,65 it does not indicate any in Damascus.66 Although this data does not cover the whole period in question, it gives a credible example of the growth of this industry in both cities.

  • 67 Muhammad taqi al-dīn Al-Ḥeṣnī, Montaḫabāt al-tawāriḫ li-dimašq, Beyrouth: Dār al-‘Āfāq al-
  • 68 Ferdinand Taoutel (père), “ma’rad dimašq sanat 1936,” Al-Mashriq, no. 17, April-June 1936, p. 400.
  • 69 Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave correspondence, lette (...)
  • 70 Anas Soufan, op. cit. (note 11), p. 187.
  • 71 Interview with Mr. Nazir Al-Kurdi, Damascus, March 2014.
  • 72 See, for example, Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave cor (...)

17Cement tile manufacturing machinery, molds, and dividers were produced locally beginning in the mid-1930s. In 1927, Taqi ed-dine al-Ḥuṣni displayed his pride and admiration in finding a hydraulic press, working on oil, presented at the Fair of Damascus. He attributed it to a technician from Aleppo, Mr. ‘Absi.67 We do not have details about the use of this press. In 1936, the newspaper al-Mashreq emphasized that local and imported machinery for tile and mosaic manufacturing—“ālat ṣun’i al-balāt wal-fusayfisāwere exhibited at the Damascus Fair.68 Moreover, in a document from April 23, 1936, Négib Araman underscores the stiff competition between Lachave & Fils’s cement tile presses and those produced in Palestine by German emigrant engineers.69 In this context, the importation of cement tile machinery through Haifa’s harbor should not be excluded, given the broad economic ties between the two cities: via a railway established through Deraa in 190570 and a vehicle road built during the French Mandate. Finally, Mr. Nazir al-Kurdi gives further evidence highlighting that at the end of the 1940s his father had transformed a hydraulic press (no. 7) of Lachave & Fils’s production (fig. 1a-c) into an electrical one. Additionally, al-Kurdi draws attention to the local melting of molds and dividers at the same period.71 Evidently, at the beginning of the manufacturing process the absence of certain materials and technical abilities caused defects in the local production. Consequently, communications between local manufacturers and European producers of cement tile machinery might be demonstrated.72

Figure 1a: Lachave & Fils Hydraulic press no. 7, in N. al-Kurdi workshop in Damascus, 2014.

Figure 1a: Lachave & Fils Hydraulic press no. 7, in N. al-Kurdi workshop in Damascus, 2014.

Figure 1b: Hydraulic press produced in Lebanon in favor to Balat Chaya Co., 2014.

Figure 1b: Hydraulic press produced in Lebanon in favor to Balat Chaya Co., 2014.

Source: Courtesy of Ms. C. Chaya.

Figure 1c: Different parts of square mould with their Damascene names.

Figure 1c: Different parts of square mould with their Damascene names.

The different parts of square mould with their Damascene names: the plate (al-ṣiniyyeh), the frame (al-‘uswārah) and the cover (al-ṭarbouš), with demonstration how the divider may be set in the mold.

  • 73 London (United Kingdom), Archives of the Foreign Office, 371/21914, no. 8, Annual Report, Economic (...)
  • 74 Muḥammad Kurd ‘Alī, Dimašq, op. cit. (note 3), p. 124.
  • 75 Ibid., p. 128.
  • 76 Interview with Mr. Nazir Al-Kurdi, Damascus, March 1, 2014.
  • 77 See Damascus (Syria), Archives of the Marble and Cement Products Artisans Syndicate.

18At the end of the 1930s, successive devaluations of the local currency and a subsequent rise in the prices of raw materials caused local manufacturers to curtail their output with a corresponding decline in sales. In spite of this observation, the Annual Report, Economic (A) of the British Consulate in Beirut covering Syria and Lebanon for 1937 reveals that the cement industries in Syria and Lebanon were growing.73 Muḥammad Kurd ‘Alī confirms this perception that World War II stimulated industrial output in Syria,74 including of cement tiles.75 Finally, research in the field confirms that several cement tile factories active in Damascus during the period studied here are still operating today. We should mention those of al-Kurdi, Šaraf, Tīnāwi, Muhammad al-Ḥāfeẓ, Antoun Almāẓ, and Bahjat ‘Obeid manufactures.76 In 1970, the Marble and Cement Products Artisans Syndicate [MCPAS] was founded in Damascus. Six hundred and three plants are registered today.77

Raw Materials

  • 78 As indicated in French official and private reports before and just after the settlement of Mandate (...)

19The necessary raw materials for cement tile manufacturing are Portland cement, hydraulic lime, colorants (dyes), sand, marble or stony components, and water. The mineral sources of these materials, including those for the production of Portland cement and hydraulic lime78 existed in most Syrian and Lebanese regions.

20Sand and Marble Components

  • 79 Interview with Mr. Nazir Al-Kurdi, Damascus, March 1, 2014; and with Mr. Muhammad Awwād, Damascus, (...)
  • 80 For example, 6,057 kg during the second trimester of 1931; La Courneuve (France), Archives diplomat (...)
  • 81 La Courneuve (France), Archives diplomatiques, 50CPCOM/336, MF. 2269, Decree no. 1970 on June 2, 19 (...)

21Building activities in Damascus relied on sand extracted from close land or mountain quarries. For instance, until the 1960s, the lands around al-Mazzeh village, four kilometers to the south of Old Damascus, were the main source of the sand utilized in building works as well as in cement tile manufacturing. Today, al-Mazzeh forms a district in Damascus. In Lebanon, sea sand was more abundantly employed because of the country’s long coasts. During the French Mandate, insignificant importations of gravel, especially from Italy,79 might be discerned.80 However, most quantities used were extracted from local quarries, for instance, from Ruhaibeh, located 35 kilometers north of Damascus. Customs duties imposed on the marble, gravel, rough stones, and sand were diminished through the decree (no. 1970) promulgated on June 2, 1927.81

22Portland Cement and Hydraulic Lime

  • 82 Palestinian manufacturers were the main Arab exporter of cement to Syria. In 1934, a commercial str (...)
  • 83 The Société des chaux & ciments Romain Boyer was the main exporter to Syria. It was represented by (...)
  • 84 Muḥammad Kurd ‘Alī, op. cit. (note 2), vol. IV, p. 268; see also the Economic Bulletins of the Fre (...)
  • 85 La Courneuve (France), Archives diplomatiques, 50CPCOM/560, MF. 2403, sheet 43, correspondence on t (...)
  • 86 La Courneuve (France), Archives diplomatiques, 76 RC/1, Affaires diverses, 1920-23, Economic Bullet (...)
  • 87 Interview with Mr. Muhammad Awwād, Damascus, August 2014.
  • 88 Savigny-le-Temple (France), Centre des Archives économiques et financières, Tableau général du comm (...)
  • 89 P. Gilly, op. cit. (note 20), 1920, p. 13.
  • 90 Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave correspondence, vol.  (...)
  • 91 Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave correspondence, vol.  (...)

23Hydraulic lime was called al-turābah al-kilsiyyah or ‘ismant abyaḍ (white cement) and Portland cement ‘ismant or cemento. Imported from regional82 and Western sources83 or produced by local factories, the abundance of these materials made the evolution and widespread diffusion of cement tiles possible. During the period studied, hydraulic lime was only imported. Until the mid-1930s, France was the exclusive supplier of this material.84 The French firm Lafarge was the leading importer during the Mandate.85 Belgian factories occupied the second position, as seen in several Economic Bulletins of the FHC,86 while other suppliers include Turkey, Egypt, Denmark, and others.87 Several European statistics provide evidence of the export of Portland cement to the Ottoman Empire since the end of the nineteenth century. For example, the catalogues of trade and navigation issued by the French Ministry of Commerce and Industry confirm the exportation of Portland cement to Syria in the 1890s.88 P. Gilly, director of the French Trade Office in Syria and Cilicia, stated that 15,000 tons of Portland cement, 960 tons of lime, and 12,000 tons of hydraulic lime were imported in the pre-World War I period.89 Other documents illustrate the trade of cement and hydraulic lime in Beirut. For example, in August 1907, the aforementioned merchant Négib Araman underscores the increase in cement consumption in Beirut in 1907. He designates himself as the exclusive agent of the Société des chaux & ciments Romain Boyer. Furthermore, he requests the help of Lachave & Fils to appoint him as the exclusive dealer of the Pavin Lafarge Company in Syria, making use of the fact that Lafarge and Lachave & Fils were located in the same commune in France, Viviers. Araman displays his ability to order 10, 20, 30, or even 50 tons of hydraulic lime per order.90 Later, on September 6, 1909, he reveals that he supplied cement to merchants in Jaffa and Haifa.91

  • 92 La Courneuve (France), Archives diplomatiques, 76 RC/1, Affaires diverses, 1920-23, Economic Bullet (...)
  • 93 Foire–Exposition de Beyrouth, avril-mai 1921, Comité français des Expositions, Niort, Th. Martin, 1 (...)
  • 94 La Courneuve (France), Archives diplomatiques, 50CPCOM/564, MF. 2402, sheet 9, report of the Haut-C (...)
  • 95 The domination of Dalmatian cement since the end of the 1920s was indicated in the economic bulleti (...)
  • 96 La Courneuve (France), Archives diplomatiques, C 186 SYRIE, Carton no. 5, Affaires diverses, affair (...)

24Since the beginning of the French Mandate, Syria and Lebanon imported Portland cement through the ports of Beirut, Tripoli, Alexandretta, and Lattakieh.92 In 1921, several French companies exported cement to Syria and Lebanon, including those companies that participated in the Beirut Fair: J.-A. Pavin de Lafarge, based in Le Teil; and the Société coloniale de chaux et ciments Portland and the Société des chaux et ciments Romain Boyer, both based in Marseille.93 The Economic Bulletins of the FHC mention several sources of Portland cement and rank them according to the volume exported to Syria and Lebanon. During the second quarter of 1930, for instance, the exporting countries are ranked as follows: Italy, Yugoslavia,94 Dalmatia (Spalato),95 Palestine, Belgium, France, and Poland.96

  • 97 Ḫāled al-‘Aẓm, a multi-term prime minister, was one of the founders of this plant and its Chairman (...)
  • 98 La Courneuve (France), Archives diplomatiques, 50CPCOM/564, MF. 2402, sheet 12, report of the Haut- (...)
  • 99 Savigny-le-Temple (France), Centre des Archives économiques et financières, Carton B-32934, report (...)
  • 100 London (United Kingdom), Archives of the Foreign Office, 371/21914, E - Syria, sheet 145, Annual re (...)
  • 101 London (United Kingdom), Archives of the Foreign Office, 371/21914, E - Syria, sheet 145, Annual re (...)
  • 102 Salah Essaleh, op. cit. (note 64), p. 115; see also La Courneuve (France), Archives diplomatiques, (...)
  • 103 Youssef Helbaoui, op. cit. (note 27), p. 74.
  • 104 Savigny-le-Temple (France), Centre des Archives économiques et financières, Carton B-32820, Élément (...)
  • 105 Annual economic report no. 10, Economy Department, Syrian government, 1939, p. 40-41, in Salah Essa (...)

25Within this framework, two local factories opened in Syria and Lebanon: the first, the National Company for the Manufacturing of Cement and Construction Materials, was established in Dummar, near Damascus, in 1930.97 The commercialization of its production began at the end of 1933.98 The second, the Société des ciments libanais, was founded in February 1929 (decree no. 4469) and established in Chekka near Tripoli; its factory was inaugurated in June 1931.99 In 1937, after expanding, its capacity rose from 135,000 tons to 175,000 tons.100 Several factors encouraged the establishment of these manufactures and the realization of considerable outputs,101 especially increased construction activities and the abundance of the calcite in many areas in Syria and Lebanon.102 Nevertheless, during World War II, the industry radically suffered due to mounting fuel prices, difficulties with maritime transport,103 and other monetary troubles.104 As a result, the production of cement tiles decreased dramatically, for example, from 9,400 m² in 1938 to 7,200 m² in 1939.105

26Mineral Dyes

  • 106 Interview with Mr. Nazir Al-Kurdi, Damascus, March 1, 2014; and with Mr. Muhammad Awwād, Damascus, (...)
  • 107 See, for example, La Courneuve (France), Archives diplomatiques, 76 RC/1, Affaires diverses, 1920-2 (...)

27Syrian builders have utilized mineral and organic natural colorants for millennia. The well-known technique for decorating interior facades in Damascus, based on the use of colored pat applied to carved lime stones to create floral and geometric shapes, dates back to at least the Mamluk period. Cement tiles’ colors vary according to their design and where they are used, or laid. In the case of unicolor tiles (balaṭ cemento), they can be either white, without any dyes, or colored with a dye. In the case of mosaic tiles (balaṭ mosaic), several colors (dyes)—even up to five—might be employed. At any rate, according to Mr. Nazir al-Kurdi and Mr. Muhammad Awwād, the worth of colored cement tiles is mainly linked to the quality of dyes.106 High-quality tiles are manufactured with mineral-based pigments only. Non-mineral-based pigments fade with age and normal wear. Colorants were mixed with water and fine marble powder in order to constitute the coloring material, whose thickness, before pressing, attained 6 to 8 millimeters. Several European firms, including those belonging to the cement tile factories, exported organic and mineral dyes to Syria and Lebanon. Since the beginning of the Mandate, the Economic Bulletins of the FHC have illustrated the importation of organic dyes and colorants. France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Italy were the main suppliers, with France and Germany in first position.107

  • 108 Muḥammad Kurd ‘Alī, op. cit. (note 2), vol. IV, p. 268.
  • 109 Interview with Mr. Nazir Al-Kurdi, Damascus, March 1, 2014.
  • 110 According to a report issued from the French Commercial Delegation in Damascus: Savigny-le-Temple ( (...)
  • 111 Savigny-le-Temple (France), Centre des Archives économiques et financières, Tableau général du comm (...)
  • 112 According to a report from the French Commercial Delegation in Damascus, Savigny-le-Temple (France) (...)
  • 113 Savigny-le-Temple (France), Centre des Archives économiques et financières, Tableau général du comm (...)

28Several sources indicate that Germany was the main supplier of colorants and dyes: Muhammad Kurd Ali in his Ḫoṭaṭ (written in 1925),108 as well as Mr. Nazir al-Kurdi and Mr. Muhammad Awwād, who mention Bayer as an example.109 Indeed, this is the company Farbenfabriken Bayer, in Leverkensen, Germany, whose large exports to Syria were underscored by the French commercial delegation to Damascus in 1949.110 This indication might be uncertain, however, as it concerned the period of the Mandate when French firms occupied the first place as suppliers of organic and mineral dyes.111 Later, in 1953, another report from the French commercial delegation to Damascus mentions several German firms represented in Syria during the colonial and postcolonial periods that worked in the sector of organic and mineral dyes112: Farbenfabriken Bayer, Badische Anilin & Soda Fabrik, Schmiche Fabrik Kalk, C. E. Roeper, BASF, R. Odenbach & C, and others. Obviously, according to the French catalogues of foreign trade and navigation, France had been an exporter of dyes to the Ottoman Empire since the late nineteenth century.113

Models and Designs

  • 114 London (United Kingdom), Archives of the Foreign Office, 684/7, proposals consisted of plans, pictu (...)
  • 115 The catalogues of the Lachave & Fils firm contained 889 models of dividers: Viviers (France), Centr (...)
  • 116 In general, the economic bulletins during the Mandate displayed the prices of several construction (...)

29During the period in question, cement tiles were not considered as prestigious as marble or wood floors in interior design. A survey of the field, as well as the project statements for many initiatives, such as the construction of the British Consulate in Damascus in the mid-1930s, give significant examples. The three offers presented in 1933-34 by Michel Murhij, Bahjat Abdal Nour (general contractors), and George Aractanji (civil-engineer),114 suggested marble and the oak wood floors for the most prestigious spaces, such as entrances, reception halls, and dining and meeting rooms, whereas unicolor and mosaic cement tiles were proposed for secondary spaces such as bedrooms, basements, and service areas. Accordingly, the prominence of cement tiles resided in their use in both ordinary and prestigious buildings, the hundreds of models available,115 and their varied and competitive prices.116

  • 117 Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave correspondence, carto (...)

30The identification of the models and designs of the cement tiles used during the period under review constitutes a main objective of the present study. Nonetheless, undertaking a widespread field survey on the subject presents certain difficulties, not least because of the current war in Syria, but also because of the demolition of many buildings related to the studied period. Consequently, a bibliographic investigation focusing on the documentation of the importation of machinery and tools seems to be a promising way to tackle a significant part of the aforementioned difficulty. In fact, each manufacturer of machinery and tools for the cement tile workshops had catalogues of the presses, dividers, molds, and accessories. For instance, Lachave & Fils’s catalogues illustrate several models of presses: hydraulic presses and hydraulic presses with electrical command, as well as several references (889 designs) of smelted bronze dividers, differentiated according to dimensions (10 × 10 cm, 10 × 20 cm, 15 × 15 cm, 16.6 × 16.6 cm, 17 × 17 cm, 20 × 20 cm, 25 × 25 cm, and 30 × 30 cm), forms (square, triangular, rectangular, chamfered square, octagonal and hexagonal), and uses (tile, border, and angle).117

  • 118 Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave correspondence, invoi (...)
  • 119 Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave correspondences, invo (...)

31In relation to this research, analysis of Lachave & Fils’s archives permitted the demonstration of several essential points. Firstly, the 20 × 20 cm molds and the no. 7 and no. 4 presses were the most frequently imported models (fig. 2a-c). For instance, from December 12, 1928, to February 27, 1930, the company Négib Araman alone imported nine no. 4 presses, eleven no. 7 presses, forty-two 20 × 20 cm square molds, and nine 25 × 25 cm square molds.118 In addition, molds were imported for the manufacturing of 20 × 10 cm and 20 × 5 cm tiles-borders, 20 × 16 cm baseboards, and square tiles composed of two 20 × 20 cm triangles.119

Figure 2a: Hydraulic press imported from Germany by Sioufi workshop in Damascus.

Figure 2a: Hydraulic press imported from Germany by Sioufi workshop in Damascus.

Source: Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave & Fils archives.

Figure 2b: Hydraulic press no. 4 produced by Lachave & Fils.

Figure 2b: Hydraulic press no. 4 produced by Lachave & Fils.

Source: Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave & Fils archives.

Figure 2c: Hydraulic press no. 7 produced by Lachave & Fils.

Figure 2c: Hydraulic press no. 7 produced by Lachave & Fils.

Source: Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave & Fils archives.

  • 120 Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave correspondences, invo (...)
  • 121 Interview with Mr. Nazir Al-Kurdi, Damascus, March 1, 2014.

32Secondly, the sales invoices of the Lachave & Fils firm reveal that the frequently ordered dividers from Syrian and Lebanese manufacturers were numbers 1, 25, 31, 34, 36, 38, 61, 66, 73, 82, 87, 91, 103, 122, 125, 175, 176, 197, 198, 205, 206, 363, and 364 (fig. 3-4). Additionally, several invoices indicate the sale of dividers with designs realized by the Syrian or Lebanese customers.120 However, the analysis of the aforementioned invoices shows a modest number of dividers ordered relative to other tools of Lachave & Fils’s production, particularly the molds. This might be explained by the well-known local manufacturing of dividers. Mr. Nazir al-Kurdi and Mr. Muhammad Awwād confirm that a well-known Damascene specialist for drawing and forging cement tile dividers was active from the 1930s to the 1950s. Therefore, several “Damascene” and “Beiruti” models emerged and had local names. Al-zanbaqah (carnation), al-‘amīr (the prince), al-musaddas (the hexagon), al-mušaqqaf (the divided), al-tāj (the crown) and others employed in the workshop of al-Kurdi in Damascus are relevant examples (fig. 5).121

Figure 3: Models of cement tiles dividers, produced by Lachave & Fils firm, used in Syria and Lebanon.

Figure 3: Models of cement tiles dividers, produced by Lachave & Fils firm, used in Syria and Lebanon.

Source: Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave correspondences.

Figure 4: Local and imported models of cement tiles, used in buildings in Damascus.

Figure 4: Local and imported models of cement tiles, used in buildings in Damascus.

Source: Courtesy of Ms. Sara Abdal Mawla al-Pasha (Architect) and Mr. Nazir al-Kurdi (owner of a cement tiles workshop in Damascus area).

Fig. 5: Dividers produced in Damascus, 1930s-40s, utilized in N. al-Kurdi cement tiles workshop, Damascus.

Fig. 5: Dividers produced in Damascus, 1930s-40s, utilized in N. al-Kurdi cement tiles workshop, Damascus.

Importation of Cement Tiles

  • 122 Muḥammad Kurd ‘Alī, op. cit. (note 2), vol. IV, p. 268.
  • 123 ʻAbd al-ʻAzīz al-‘Azmah, op. cit. (note 2), p. 111.
  • 124 Muḥammad Kurd ‘Alī, op. cit. (note 3), p. 64.
  • 125 Salah Essaleh, op. cit. (note 64), p136.

33From the late 1920s until the 1980s, cement tiles became one of the most widespread flooring materials. Muḥammad Kurd ‘Alī, in his Ḫoṭaṭ aš-Šām (written in 1923) was the first author to refer to the importation of manufactured tiles from France.122 At the end of the 1930s, ʻAbd al-ʻAzīz al-‘Azmah expressed his disapproval of using manufactured tiles—al-‘aḥjār al-ramliyyah al-iṣṭināiayya—instead of paving with traditional materials such as colored marble and local limestone.123 Later, in 1944, in his analysis of the disadvantages of “modern architecture” in Damascus, Kurd ‘Alī showed that stone, armed concrete, brick, and tiles had become the main construction materials in Syria.124 During the same period, other authors, such as Salah Essāleh, considered cement tile manufacturing a “modern industry” and a sign of economic development in the country.125

34No evidence exists demonstrating that the importation of cement tiles preceded local manufacturing, nor that the contrary occurred. Moreover, the oldest document we have on the subject, the al-Jami’ah announcement from 1889, did not mention the importation of cement tiles but rather local manufacturing by the Shami & Chaya company. In any case, clarifying the sources and quantities of imported cement tiles requires investigation into the importations across all Syrian and Lebanese borders, which seems difficult in the framework of the present survey. The following paragraph demonstrates that the importation of mosaic cement tiles continued until the mid-1930s. The importation of unicolor cement tiles (granito), on the other hand, stopped by the mid-1920s. Subsequently, the wide diffusion of cement tiles, especially in the course of the French Mandate, cannot be attributed to importation but must be due instead to local manufacturing. Three kinds of reports, statistics, and economic bulletins prove the inconsequential quantities imported.

  • 126 Savigny-le-Temple (France), Centre des Archives économiques et financières, Carton B-33808, Banque (...)
  • 127 Savigny-le-Temple (France), Centre des Archives économiques et financières, Carton B-33808, Banque (...)
  • 128 La Courneuve (France), Archives diplomatiques, 50CPCOM/335, MF. 2269, Report on the activities of t (...)
  • 129 These lists were announced in the beginning of every trimester by the customs direction in order to (...)
  • 130 Foire–Exposition de Beyrouth, avril-mai 1921, op. cit. (note 93), p. 72.
  • 131 Economic Bulletin, First Trimester, 1932, p. 83.
  • 132 Ibid., p. 83.
  • 133 Ibid., p. 33.

35At first, French and British reports dealing with commerce in Syria and Lebanon during the late Ottoman period did not indicate the exportation of cement tiles. For instance, a British report126 published in 1913 on the Trade and Commerce of Beirut made note of the most important French exports, including several construction materials such as the iron, steel, copper, tools, plate glass, nails, varnishes, spirits, roofing tiles, and cement. Another report, published in 1913,127 revealed the main importations to Damascus, which included several materials for construction such as the copper, tin, and zinc plates. Neither report mentioned the exportation of cement tiles. During the Mandate, although several accounts of the customs administrations mentioned the importation of cement tiles until the mid-1930s,128 this material was not stated in the lists of prices periodically promulgated by the customs administrations.129 The absence of European producers of cement tiles at the famous Beirut fair in April-May 1921 further reinforces the idea that the quantities imported were modest. Companies for manufacturing bricks and roofing tiles, on the other hand, such as the Société générale des tuileries de Marseille, Société nouvelle des tuileries et céramiques de Marseille, granted awards by the French High Commissioner in Beirut.130 Moreover, a persistent gap existed between the importation of cement tiles and that of ceramic tiles. For instance, during the first quarter of 1932, Syria’s and Lebanon’s imports of cement tiles attained 6,695 tons, valued at 32,600 Syrian pounds,131 compared with 116,616 tons of pottery, valued at 692,750 Syrian pounds (in other words worth nearly twenty times more).132 In the same quarter, the value of cement tiles produced in Lebanon alone attained 35 million Syrian pounds.133

  • 134 Savigny-le-Temple (France), Centre des Archives économiques et financières, Tableau général du Comm (...)
  • 135 We find several designations: until 1933, cement tiles were designated as carreaux en ciment compri (...)

36Additionally, the French catalogues of foreign trade and navigation—Tableau général du Commerce et de la Navigation—document the exportation of cement tiles around the world and point to modest quantities exported to Syria and Lebanon. Before 1918, Syria and Lebanon were part of the Ottoman Empire, and their importations from France were grouped with those of the Ottoman Empire. For instance, in 1900, 762 tons of compressed cement tiles—carreaux en ciment comprimé—were exported to the Ottoman Empire.134 Did some arrive through Syrian and Lebanese ports? We do not have a clear response. The French catalogues of foreign trade and navigation nonetheless offer significant but not exhaustive data on cement tile importations to Syria and Lebanon, designated until 1946 as one political entity: “Syria.” The exports of other European manufacturers, especially Italy, should also be divulged. It should be noted that research into these catalogues was hampered by repeated changes in the ways in which cement tiles were designated and presented.135 The following diagram displays the results of investigations into the period from 1920 to 1933:

Year

Quantities/tons/Designation Carreaux en ciment comprimé, Entry [186]

1920

---

1921

70/Colonies (all French colonies worldwide)

1922

---

1923

---

1924

70/Syria and Lebanon

1925

---

1926

---

1927

---

1928

2,713/Colonies

1929

---

1930

5,102/Colonies

1931

40/Syria and Lebanon

1932

421/Colonies

1933

730/Colonies

  • 136 Nejib Moussalli, Études économiques sur la Syrie et le Liban, Harrissa: Imprimerie de Saint Paul, 1 (...)
  • 137 La Courneuve (France), Archives diplomatiques, C 186 SYRIE, Carton no. 5, Affaires diverses, affair (...)

37Technical and contextual reasons support the hypothesis of limited importations (mosaic and granito) during the studied period: on the one hand, the relatively high price of cement tiles in Europe due to the semi-artisanal manufacturing process; on the other, the high cost of transportation because of the weight of prefabricated cement tiles compared to other materials such as ceramic tiles. At the same time, the development of local manufacturing was accelerating due to several factors: the easy process of manufacturing; the local production of most of the parts required for the workshops’ tools by the mid-1930s; the customs union between Syria and Lebanon as well as the promulgation of several customs treaties with neighboring countries; the establishment of a developed railway network connecting most Syrian and Lebanese cities to others and to Palestine, Jordan, Arabia, and Turkey; the official reforms undertaken during the late Ottoman period and the French Mandate targeting the development of local industries, particularly concerning legislation, transport, and customs regimes; the abundance of raw materials, at first imported then local produced. In addition to these reasons, the end of the 1920s and the beginning of the 1930s witnessed a period of relative political stability permitting general economic progress in industrial and building activities. Nonetheless, this situation experienced the repercussions of the 1929 international economic crisis, which contributed to a severe reduction in European exports to Syria and Lebanon, including construction materials. For instance, the value of French exports to Syria and Lebanon fell from 194,426,980 French francs in 1930 to 139,355,420 French francs in 1931.136 The result was a general stagnation in the Syrian and Lebanese economies beginning in 1930-1931,137 simultaneous to a virtual cessation of importation and a clear increase in local cement tile production.

Conclusion

38The present survey demonstrates fundamental aspects related to the historiography of the importation and local manufacturing of cement tiles in Syria and Lebanon from the 1880s to the 1940s. It elucidates the emergence, evolution, decline, and revival of many construction materials and techniques throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Moreover, it portrays the economic, artistic, and technical interconnectivities between the Mediterranean shores during the colonial and pre-colonial periods. In other words, it underscores that the importation and local manufacturing of cement tiles could not be isolated from the modernist architectural debate and the promising economic context that characterized Syria and Lebanon from the Egyptian Expedition (1832-1840) onwards. Nevertheless, several points, concerning imported cement tiles from Italy, the importation of related machinery from Germany, and Syrian and Lebanese customs statistics should be further clarified.

39The documentation brought to bear here shows that Europe—and France in particular—was the main exporter of the cement tile technique to Syria and Lebanon. It also suggests that the first manufacturing workshops were established in Beirut in the late 1880s, then in Damascus at the end of the 1890s. European trade companies, based especially in Marseille, assumed the first sales of machinery for workshops in Syria and Lebanon. Then local manufacturers themselves established direct communications with the European factories involved. By the 1900s, local commercial companies specialized in the trade of machinery and construction materials played the main role in the importation of tools for cement tile workshops. In this framework, the Lachave & Fils company, the first French manufacturer of machinery and production tools, was most present in the Syrian and Lebanese markets.

40In fact, there is no evidence that the first use of cement tiles involved imported or locally produced tiles. However, the oldest document we have, from 1889, concerning the Beiruti company Shami & Chaya, depicts a cement tile manufacturing workshop. In any case, the widespread employment of cement tiles should not be attributed to importation but to large local manufacturing. Statistics of the French, Syrian, and Lebanese customs administrations demonstrate insignificant importations, of mosaic tiles only, during the Mandate. Furthermore, these statistics point to Italy then France as the main exporters of the mosaic cement tiles. By the end of the 1930s, however, importation had practically ceased.

41While European ceramic tiles dominated the Syrian and Lebanese market because of mechanical manufacturing, cement tile production maintained its position due to its semi-mechanical technique. Nevertheless, it could not compete with the local production of ceramic tiles, dynamic and prosperous since the 1970s. Not until the 2000s did Syrian and Lebanese markets witness the return of a limited production of mosaic cement tiles, expressing the revival of an aspect of the heritage of nineteenth- and twentieth-century architecture. This observation, as well as the demonstration that most Syrian and Lebanese cement tile manufacturers have adopted European designs and others related to local architecture, prove that the modernization of Eastern Mediterranean architecture in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries occurred through the articulation of local and Western techniques and references. In any case, the use of cement tiles has affected interior and exterior design, creating new ways of engaging with space and an additional tool for expressing the historical context of both Damascus and Beirut.

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Notes

1 According respectively to Muḥammad Kurd ‘Alī, Ḫoṭaṭ aš-Šām, Damascus: Maktabat an-Nouri, 3rd ed., 1983, vol. IV, p. 268; ʻAbd al-ʻAzīz al-‘Azmah, Mirāt aš-šām, London: Riad El-Rayyes Books, 1987, p. 65-111; and Aḥmad al-‘Allāf, Dimašq, Damascus: Wizāraẗ al-Ṯaqāfaẗ wa-al-Iršād al-Qawmī, 1976, p. 98.

2 Muḥammad Kurd ‘Alī, Dimašq, madīnat as-siḥr waš-si’r, Cairo: Maktabat al-maʻārif, 1944, p. 96.

3 ʻAbd al-ʻAzīz al-‘Azmah, op. cit. (note 2), p. 101. See also Muḥammad Kurd ‘Alī, op. cit. (note 1), p. 96.

4 Robert Saliba, Beyrouth, 1920-1940: architectures aux sources de la modernité, [Initially published in 1998, translated by Marie-Louise Plateau,] Marseille, Parenthèses, 2009.

5 ‘Ādel Sṭās, “Tahseen ṣifāt al-balāṭ al-‘ismanti bisti’māl mawād maḥaliyyah,” Damascus University Journal, vol. 16, no. 2, 2000, p. 23-39.

6 Sophie Skaf, 20 × 20: Beyrouth, Paris, Tunis et Barcelone, Beyrouth: Amers, 2011.

7 The center’s activities concentrate on the preservation of the village’s medieval and industrial heritage. The administration and employees offered us all kinds of possible help and support.

8 Yves Esquieu, Une histoire du carreau-mosaïque : de la couleur dans la maison, Mirabeau: REF. 2C, 2013, p. 121.

9 On the French competitors of Lachave & Fils with regards to the manufacturing of cement tiles, see Ibid., p. 25-30.

10 On this subject, see Stephan Weber, Damascus, Ottoman Modernity and Urban Transformation 1808-1918, 2 vols., Aarhus: Aarhus University Press, 2009 (Proceedings of the Danish Institute in Damascus, 5); and, Anas Soufan, Influences occidentales et traditions régionales sur l’évolution urbaine et architecturale des villes arabes, de la fin du xixe siècle au milieu du xxe siècle, l’exemple de Damas, dissertation, École Pratique des Hautes Études, Paris, 2011.

11 Interview with Mr. Nazir al-Kurdi, Damascus, March 1, 2014.

12 Roger Owen, The Middle East in the World Economy, 1800-1914, London; New York, NY: IB Tauris, 1993, p. 248.

13 Vincennes (France), Service historique de la défense, GR 4 H 332, Le Port de Beyrouth, notice générale, M. Écochard, November 1942. The port of Beirut was also extended in 1925, 1934, and 1942.

14 Chambre de commerce de Marseille, Les Travaux et vœux du congrès français de la Syrie à Marseille, 3, 4, et 5 janvier 1919, Marseille, [S.I.], 1919, p. 7.

15 For more on these projects, see Leila Fawaz Tarazi, Merchants and Migrants in Nineteenth-Century Beirut, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983 (Harvard Middle Eastern studies, 18), p. 61-74; Anas Soufan, op. cit. (note 11), “Damas-Beyrouth, Regards croisés,” p. 72, and “Chemin de fer Damas-Beyrouth,” p. 180.

16 See on this subject Anas Soufan, op. cit. (note 11), p. 71-75.

17 Leila Fawaz Tarazi, op. cit. (note 11), p. 61.

18 Karl Baedeker, Palestine et Syrie, routes principales à travers la Mésopotamie et la Babylonie, l’île de Chypre, manuel du voyageur, 4th ed., Paris: Hachette Livre, BnF [published from the 1912 edition], p. 277; about the commercial linkage between Damascus and Beirut, see also La Courneuve (France), Archives diplomatiques, 50CPCOM/91, Mf. 17779, sheet 30, report of the Chairman of the Chemin de fer de Damas, Hama et Prolongements, D.H.P, Beirut, November 10, 1913, p. 2; Savigny-le-Temple (France), Centre des Archives économiques et financières, Carton B-32051, “Rapport sur la situation de Syrie et du Liban, 1922-1923,” ministère des Affaires étrangères, p. 53.

19 On the Syrian economic policies towards Lebanon during the 1940s and 1950s, see Khālid Al-Azem, Muẓakarāt, II, p. 5-115.

20 P. Gilly, La Syrie commerciale, son avenir, 1920, Paris, Office national du commerce extérieur et Office du Levant, 1920, p. 5.

21 La Courneuve (France), Archives diplomatiques, 76 RC/1, Affaires diverses, 1920-23, Rapport: note sur la Syrie commerciale, October 19, 1920, p. 2.

22 La Courneuve (France), Archives diplomatiques, 50CPCOM/91, Mf. 17779, sheet 33, report of the president of the Chemin de fer de Damas, Hama et Prolongements, D.H.P, Beirut, November 10, 1913, p. 4.

23 La Courneuve (France), Archives diplomatiques, 50CPCOM/91, Mf. 17779, sheet 30, report of the president of the Chemin de fer de Damas, Hama et Prolongements, D.H.P., Beirut, November 10, 1913, p. 2.

24 Damascus imported cement and other European products through the port of Beirut from the end of the nineteenth century. See Savigny-le-Temple (France), Centre des Archives économiques et financières, “Catalogues of Exterior Commerce and Navigation,” 1890s and afterwards.

25 La Courneuve (France), Archives diplomatiques, C 186 SYRIE, Carton no. 2, Affaires diverses 1924-28, report on the customs service in Syria, 1926, p. 9.

26 Youssef Helbaoui, La Syrie : mise en valeur d’un pays sous-développé, Paris: R. Pichon, 1956, p. 65.

27 Regarding the Syrian Modern Style, see “The appropriation of Syrian urban space by an Islamic art in the era of modernity: Case of Damascus 1839-1963,” lecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, November 9, 2015; Anas Soufan, op. cit. (note 11), part IV.

28 Mario Baeck, “Cement Tiles: An exploration,” Journal of the Tiles & Architectural ceramics Societies, vol. 12, 2006, p. 22.

29 Yves Esquieu, op. cit. (note 9), p. 25.

30 Lachave & Fils archives display the exportation of tools of production in many countries around the world: in Europe, Asia, Latin America, as well as the Middle East and North Africa.

31 We have proof that Asaad Tabet & C. in Marseille purchased molds in 1910 from the Lachave & Fils firm on behalf of a Syrian client. See Viviers (France), the Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Correspondance, vol. 1910.

32 Courtesy of Madame Chaya-Chaoul. Private collection of illustrations and archives: Beirut’s directory of 1889, al-Jāmi’ah, dalīl bayrūt li-‘ām 1889, ‘Amīn Khoury, Second year.

33 Today, Chaya cement tile workshop is active and rehabilitated by Mr. Edgard Chaya promoting new and traditional models, utilizing mostly the grandfather’s techniques and materials.

34 Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave correspondence, vol. 1897, letter from Michel Rasslan to Lachave & Fils on April 23, 1897.

35 Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave correspondence, vol. 1898, letter from Tannous Chaya to Lachave & Fils on August 20, 1898.

36 Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave correspondence, vol. 1899, Letter from Thlaum Chaya to Lachave & Fils on April 25, 1899.

37 Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave correspondence, vol. 1899, letter from Thlaum Chaya to Lachave & Fils on May 23, 1899.

38 Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave correspondence, vol. 1899, letter from Tannous Chaya to Lachave & Fils on May 15, 1899.

39 The Lachave & Fils archives from around 1900 demonstrate contacts with other people from Beirut from the end of the 1890s. On December 24, 1898, and February 12, 1899, Tawfik Béhes requested catalogues and information about the best hydraulic presses, prices, and ways of payment. No follow-up correspondence exists indicating whether the requests in the preceding letters were fulfilled. See Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave correspondence, vol. 1898, letter from December 24, 1898; vol. 1899, letter from February 12, 1899.

40 Sophie Skaf, “Entre Beyrouth, Paris, Tunis et Barcelone, les trésors des carreaux décoratifs,” Agenda culturel, interview on May 11, 2011, URL: http://www.agendaculturel.com/Sophie+Skaf_entre_Beyrouth_Paris_Tunis_et_Barcelone, Accessed April 25, 2016.

41 Annuaire 1948, principales sociétés exerçant une activité au Liban, published by the Service of Documentation, Banque de Syrie et du Liban, Beirut (Lebanon), 1948, p. 201.

42 According to communication with Mr. Malek el-Khoury, Geneva, December 2014.

43 Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave correspondence. See, for example, invoices in volumes from 1928, 1929, 1930, 1931, 1932, and 1934.

44 Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave correspondence, letter of Wajeeh Nouriyyeh (Homs) to Lachave & Fils, April 7, 1937.

45 According to communication with Mr. Malek el-Khoury, Geneva, December 2014.

46 Néjib J. Araman was honored by several medallions like the Royal designation as Chevalier de l’Ordre de la Couronne on June 20, 1926, and Officier de l’Ordre de Léopold II on May 21, 1951. Courtesy of Mr. Tony Araman, Private collection of illustrations and archives, Beirut, 2014.

47 Private collection of illustrations and archives of Mr. Tony Araman, Beirut (Lebanon), 2014, Néjib J. Araman was the principal actor in the manufacturing of concrete pipes and the establishment of Beirut’s drinking water and sewage networks during the French Mandate, establishing several factories for concrete applications, in addition to producing and trading equipment, petrol, and many construction materials.

48 Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave correspondence, vol. 1905, letter from August 28, 1905.

49 Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave correspondence, vol. 1907, letter from August 14, 1907.

50 Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave correspondence, vol. 1907, letter from Mars 25, 1909.

51 Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave correspondence, vol. 1907, letter from September 6, 1909.

52 Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Correspondence, letter from January 28, 1947.

53 La Courneuve (France), Archives diplomatiques, C 186 SYRIE, Carton no. 2, Affaires diverses 1924-28, report from the French consulate in Brno, February 24, 1928.

54 Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave correspondence, vol. 1902, letter from Michel Nasser, September 18, 1902.

55 This work was achieved by Jamāl al-Qāsimi, the son of the author, and by Khalil al-‘Azem, his step-son.

56 Ibid.

57 Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave correspondence, invoices vol. 1902, letter from Dimitri Sioufi, April 25, 1902.

58 See, for example, Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave correspondence, letters from October 6, 1909, and March 27, 1910.

59 Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave correspondence, vol. 1907, letter from Mars 25, 1909.

60 Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave correspondence, invoices vol. 1934, no. 294, September 26, 1934.

61 Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave correspondence, letter from Khalil Fattal, September 13, 1921.

62 Interview with Mr. Nazir Al-Kurdi, Damascus, March 1, 2014; with Mr. Muhammad Awwād, Damascus-Yabroud, August 2014.

63 Annuaire 1948, principales sociétés exerçant une activité au Liban, published by the Service of Documentation, Banque de Syrie et du Liban, Beirut, 1948, p. 357.

64 Salah Essaleh, L’État actuel de l’économie syrienne : agriculture, industrie, commerce en comparaison avec les pays limitrophes, Paris: Librairie du Recueil Sirey, 1944, p. 139.

65 London (United Kingdom), Archives of the Foreign Office, 371/16086, Rapport sur la situation économique de la Syrie et du Liban, 1931, p. 27.

66 London (United Kingdom), Archives of the Foreign Office, 371/16086, Rapport sur la situation économique de la Syrie et du Liban, 1931, p. 26.

67 Muhammad taqi al-dīn Al-Ḥeṣnī, Montaḫabāt al-tawāriḫ li-dimašq, Beyrouth: Dār al-‘Āfāq al-

Jadīdah, 1927, p. 1126.

68 Ferdinand Taoutel (père), “ma’rad dimašq sanat 1936,” Al-Mashriq, no. 17, April-June 1936, p. 400.

69 Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave correspondence, letter from Néjib Araman to Lachave & Fils, on April 23, 1936.

70 Anas Soufan, op. cit. (note 11), p. 187.

71 Interview with Mr. Nazir Al-Kurdi, Damascus, March 2014.

72 See, for example, Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave correspondence, letter from Michel Nasser, September 18, 1902; letter from Dimitri Sioufi, April 25, 1902.

73 London (United Kingdom), Archives of the Foreign Office, 371/21914, no. 8, Annual Report, Economic (A), 1938, p. 9.

74 Muḥammad Kurd ‘Alī, Dimašq, op. cit. (note 3), p. 124.

75 Ibid., p. 128.

76 Interview with Mr. Nazir Al-Kurdi, Damascus, March 1, 2014.

77 See Damascus (Syria), Archives of the Marble and Cement Products Artisans Syndicate.

78 As indicated in French official and private reports before and just after the settlement of Mandate. See, for example, La Courneuve (France), Archives diplomatiques, C 186 SYRIE, Carton no. 3, Affaires diverses 1922-23, report on the “Economic Situation and Value of Syria and Lebanon,” no. 2682/E, July 8, 1922, p. 11.

79 Interview with Mr. Nazir Al-Kurdi, Damascus, March 1, 2014; and with Mr. Muhammad Awwād, Damascus, August 2014.

80 For example, 6,057 kg during the second trimester of 1931; La Courneuve (France), Archives diplomatiques, C 186 SYRIE, Carton no. 5, Affaires commerciales 1924-28, Economic Bulletin of Second Trimester, 1931, p. 283; and 7,207 kg during the first trimester 1932; C 186 SYRIE, Carton no. 5, Affaires commerciales 1924-28, Economic Bulletin of First Trimester, 1932, p. 68.

81 La Courneuve (France), Archives diplomatiques, 50CPCOM/336, MF. 2269, Decree no. 1970 on June 2, 1928, annex iv, sheet 20.

82 Palestinian manufacturers were the main Arab exporter of cement to Syria. In 1934, a commercial struggle was caused by rising costs of transportation of Palestinian cement to Syria by the D.H.P Society. See on the subject London (United Kingdom), Archives of the Foreign Office, 371/17947, E, Syria, sheet no. 202, Enclosure of October 5, 1934.

83 The Société des chaux & ciments Romain Boyer was the main exporter to Syria. It was represented by the Ernest Cuillen Agency in Beirut. See Savigny-le-Temple (France), Centre des Archives économiques et financières, Carton B-32934, Liste des maisons françaises ayant des installations permanentes en Syrie et au Liban, p. 7.

84 Muḥammad Kurd ‘Alī, op. cit. (note 2), vol. IV, p. 268; see also the Economic Bulletins of the French Haut-Commissariat: La Courneuve (France), Archives diplomatiques, C 186 SYRIE, Carton no. 4, Affaires commerciales 1924-28, Economic Bulletin of September 1925, p. 28; of January 1926, p. 64; of September 1926, p. 1019; C 186 SYRIE, Carton no. 5, Affaires commerciales 1924-28, Economic Bulletin of Second Trimester, 1931, p. 267; 50CPCOM/561, MF. 2406, sheet 9, report of the Haut-Commissariat, January 12, 1933. See also 76 RC/1, Affaires diverses, 1920-23, Economic Bulletins, Haut-Commissariat; 1920-1923; 76 RC/1, Affaires diverses, 1920-23, report from October 19, 1920, Office commercial français du Levant, p. 13.

85 La Courneuve (France), Archives diplomatiques, 50CPCOM/560, MF. 2403, sheet 43, correspondence on the prices of construction materials determined by customs services, June 4, 1930. The diagram mentioned only Lafarge as a supplier of white cement.

86 La Courneuve (France), Archives diplomatiques, 76 RC/1, Affaires diverses, 1920-23, Economic Bulletin of August-September 1921, Importations.

87 Interview with Mr. Muhammad Awwād, Damascus, August 2014.

88 Savigny-le-Temple (France), Centre des Archives économiques et financières, Tableau général du commerce et de navigation, 1900, p. 443.

89 P. Gilly, op. cit. (note 20), 1920, p. 13.

90 Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave correspondence, vol. 1907, letter from August 12, 1907.

91 Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave correspondence, vol. 1907, letter from September 6, 1909.

92 La Courneuve (France), Archives diplomatiques, 76 RC/1, Affaires diverses, 1920-23, Economic Bulletin of April 1920, Mouvement général du port de Beirut, Tripoli, Lattakieh.

93 Foire–Exposition de Beyrouth, avril-mai 1921, Comité français des Expositions, Niort, Th. Martin, 1921, p. 72.

94 La Courneuve (France), Archives diplomatiques, 50CPCOM/564, MF. 2402, sheet 9, report of the Haut-Commissariat, Economic affairs, January 16, 1934; see also: C 186 SYRIE, Carton no. 5, Affaires diverses, affaires commerciales, 1929-1932, Economic Bulletin of Second trimester, 1930, p. 379.

95 The domination of Dalmatian cement since the end of the 1920s was indicated in the economic bulletins of the FHC and by Syrian and Lebanese merchants such as Néjib Araman. See Private collection of illustrations and archives of Mr. Tony Araman, letter to Suddeutsch Cement Export Konter, January 22, 1929, sheet 151.

96 La Courneuve (France), Archives diplomatiques, C 186 SYRIE, Carton no. 5, Affaires diverses, affaires commerciales, 1929-32, Economic Bulletin of Second trimester, 1930, p. 379.

97 Ḫāled al-‘Aẓm, a multi-term prime minister, was one of the founders of this plant and its Chairman from 1930 to 1939. See on the subject: Ḫāled al-‘Aẓm, Muẓakarāt Ḫāled al-‘Aẓm, Beyrouth: al-Dār al-mutaḥidah, 3rd ed., 2003, vol. II, p. 8. The factory expanded production after improvement works undertaken by the German firm MIAG in the early 1950s. Savigny-le-Temple (France), Centre des Archives économiques et financières, Carton 60376, French Commercial Delegate in Syria, Report no. 331D, March 1, 1950; see also Muḥammad Kurd ‘Alī, Dimašq, op. cit. (note 3), p. 121.

98 La Courneuve (France), Archives diplomatiques, 50CPCOM/564, MF. 2402, sheet 12, report of the Haut-Commissariat, Economic affairs, January 16, 1934.

99 Savigny-le-Temple (France), Centre des Archives économiques et financières, Carton B-32934, report Quinze ans du Mandat, l’œuvre français en Syrie et au Liban, p. 47.

100 London (United Kingdom), Archives of the Foreign Office, 371/21914, E - Syria, sheet 145, Annual report, Economy (A), for 1937, p. 9.

101 London (United Kingdom), Archives of the Foreign Office, 371/21914, E - Syria, sheet 145, Annual report, Economy (A), for 1937, p. 9.

102 Salah Essaleh, op. cit. (note 64), p. 115; see also La Courneuve (France), Archives diplomatiques, C 186 SYRIE, Carton no. 5, Affaires commerciales 1924-28, Economic Bulletin of Second trimester, 1931, p. 267.

103 Youssef Helbaoui, op. cit. (note 27), p. 74.

104 Savigny-le-Temple (France), Centre des Archives économiques et financières, Carton B-32820, Éléments statistiques des États de Syrie et du Liban, Service d’études économiques et statistiques, 1948, p. 30.

105 Annual economic report no. 10, Economy Department, Syrian government, 1939, p. 40-41, in Salah Essaleh, op. cit. (note 64), p. 164.

106 Interview with Mr. Nazir Al-Kurdi, Damascus, March 1, 2014; and with Mr. Muhammad Awwād, Damascus, August 2014.

107 See, for example, La Courneuve (France), Archives diplomatiques, 76 RC/1, Affaires diverses, 1920-23, Economic Bulletin of April 1920, August-September, October, November 1921; Bulletin no. 6 from June 1922, p. 11, Marché de Beyrouth; see also: La Courneuve (France), Archives diplomatiques, C 186 SYRIE, Carton no. 2, Affaires diverses 1924-28, Rapport sur la situation de Syrie et du Liban, de juillet 1923-juillet 1924, p. 34; La Courneuve (France), Archives diplomatiques, C 186 SYRIE, Carton no. 3, Affaires diverses 1922-23, Economic Bulletin, Marché de Beirut, p. 11.

108 Muḥammad Kurd ‘Alī, op. cit. (note 2), vol. IV, p. 268.

109 Interview with Mr. Nazir Al-Kurdi, Damascus, March 1, 2014.

110 According to a report issued from the French Commercial Delegation in Damascus: Savigny-le-Temple (France), Centre des Archives économiques et financières, Carton 60376, Report 90D, November 28, 1949.

111 Savigny-le-Temple (France), Centre des Archives économiques et financières, Tableau général du commerce et de navigation, vol. 1927-1939.

112 According to a report from the French Commercial Delegation in Damascus, Savigny-le-Temple (France), Centre des Archives économiques et financières, Carton 60376, Report B/02/647, “Présidence du Conseil,” February 25, 1953.

113 Savigny-le-Temple (France), Centre des Archives économiques et financières, Tableau général du commerce et de navigation, vol. 1900, 1910.

114 London (United Kingdom), Archives of the Foreign Office, 684/7, proposals consisted of plans, pictures, detailed brief for the construction and letters concerning the purchase of lands, and submitted by Michel Murhij, George Aractanji, and Bahjat Abdel-Nour.

115 The catalogues of the Lachave & Fils firm contained 889 models of dividers: Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave correspondence, box of catalogues.

116 In general, the economic bulletins during the Mandate displayed the prices of several construction materials. For instance, cement tile prices were three to four times less expensive than common imported marble during the same period. See, for example, La Courneuve (France), Archives diplomatiques, C 186 SYRIE, Carton no. 4, Affaires commerciales 1924-28, Economic Bulletin of November 1926, p. 1181; C 186 SYRIE, Carton no. 5, Affaires commerciales 1924-28, Economic Bulletin of Second trimester, 1931, p. 299.

117 Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave correspondence, carton of catalogues.

118 Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave correspondence, invoices vol. 1927, 1928, 1929, 1930; invoices date December 12, 1927; December 23, 1927; January 7, 1928; April 17, 1928; November 14, 1928; January 2, 1929; April 12, 1929; January 4, 1930; February 13, 1930; February 27, 1930.

119 Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave correspondences, invoices, vol. 1930, Fouad el-Khoury, November 10, 1930.

120 Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave correspondences, invoices, vol. 1928, invoices, Tawtel & Haddad, sheet 232, February 18, 1928; see also vol. 1930, invoices, Négib Araman, sheet 297, January 4, 1930; vol. 1903 correspondences, Michel Nasser, letter from March 2, 1903; vol. 1902 correspondences, Dimitri Sioufi, letter from April 25, 1902.

121 Interview with Mr. Nazir Al-Kurdi, Damascus, March 1, 2014.

122 Muḥammad Kurd ‘Alī, op. cit. (note 2), vol. IV, p. 268.

123 ʻAbd al-ʻAzīz al-‘Azmah, op. cit. (note 2), p. 111.

124 Muḥammad Kurd ‘Alī, op. cit. (note 3), p. 64.

125 Salah Essaleh, op. cit. (note 64), p136.

126 Savigny-le-Temple (France), Centre des Archives économiques et financières, Carton B-33808, Banque de Syrie et du Liban, report “La Syrie,” 1919, p. 7 (from the British Report for the year 1913 on the Trade and Commerce of Beirut and the Coast of Syria in 1913, V- no. 5302 Annual Series–Turkey).

127 Savigny-le-Temple (France), Centre des Archives économiques et financières, Carton B-33808, Banque de Syrie et du Liban, report “La Syrie,” 1919, p. 7 (from the British Report for the year 1913 on the Trade and Commerce of Beirut and the Coast of Syria in 1913, V- no. 5016 Annual Series–Turkey).

128 La Courneuve (France), Archives diplomatiques, 50CPCOM/335, MF. 2269, Report on the activities of the customs services in 1927, sheets 212-258-264.

129 These lists were announced in the beginning of every trimester by the customs direction in order to determine the prices adopted for each material for estimating import taxes. See La Courneuve (France), Archives diplomatiques, 50CPCOM/560, MF. 2403, sheet 43, correspondence about the prices of construction materials determined by customs services, June 4, 1930; see also La Courneuve (France), Archives diplomatiques, 50CPCOM/336, MF. 2269, Decree no. 1970 on June 2, 1928, sheets 5-14; Economic Bulletin of September 1925, p. 82; Economic Bulletin of August 1926, p. 955.

130 Foire–Exposition de Beyrouth, avril-mai 1921, op. cit. (note 93), p. 72.

131 Economic Bulletin, First Trimester, 1932, p. 83.

132 Ibid., p. 83.

133 Ibid., p. 33.

134 Savigny-le-Temple (France), Centre des Archives économiques et financières, Tableau général du Commerce et de la Navigation, 1900, p. 443.

135 We find several designations: until 1933, cement tiles were designated as carreaux en ciment comprimé, entry number 186; then, as a part of tuyaux et objets moulés en ciment où béton même armés, carreaux en aggloméré de ciment ou de chaux, plaques et carreaux en exylolithe, entry numbers 185 bis, 186, and 186 bis; after World War II, carreaux en agglomérés du ciment ou de chaux, with three categories: unicolores, multicolores, mosaïques, entry number 186; after 1951 they were designated as carreaux s’inscrivant dans un carré de 20 cm, entry numbers 1185A and 1185B. Other methods followed might also be indicated.

136 Nejib Moussalli, Études économiques sur la Syrie et le Liban, Harrissa: Imprimerie de Saint Paul, 1933, p. 27.

137 La Courneuve (France), Archives diplomatiques, C 186 SYRIE, Carton no. 5, Affaires diverses, affaires commerciales, Economic Bulletin of First Trimester, 1932, p. 40-41; see also on the economic stagnation in Syria and Lebanon at the beginning of the 1930s: Bulletin d’information, janvier 1932, p. 9.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1a: Lachave & Fils Hydraulic press no. 7, in N. al-Kurdi workshop in Damascus, 2014.
URL http://abe.revues.org/docannexe/image/2897/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 136k
Titre Figure 1b: Hydraulic press produced in Lebanon in favor to Balat Chaya Co., 2014.
Crédits Source: Courtesy of Ms. C. Chaya.
URL http://abe.revues.org/docannexe/image/2897/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 952k
Titre Figure 1c: Different parts of square mould with their Damascene names.
Légende The different parts of square mould with their Damascene names: the plate (al-ṣiniyyeh), the frame (al-‘uswārah) and the cover (al-ṭarbouš), with demonstration how the divider may be set in the mold.
URL http://abe.revues.org/docannexe/image/2897/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 248k
Titre Figure 2a: Hydraulic press imported from Germany by Sioufi workshop in Damascus.
Crédits Source: Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave & Fils archives.
URL http://abe.revues.org/docannexe/image/2897/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 156k
Titre Figure 2b: Hydraulic press no. 4 produced by Lachave & Fils.
Crédits Source: Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave & Fils archives.
URL http://abe.revues.org/docannexe/image/2897/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 164k
Titre Figure 2c: Hydraulic press no. 7 produced by Lachave & Fils.
Crédits Source: Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave & Fils archives.
URL http://abe.revues.org/docannexe/image/2897/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 876k
Titre Figure 3: Models of cement tiles dividers, produced by Lachave & Fils firm, used in Syria and Lebanon.
Crédits Source: Viviers (France), Centre international de Construction et Patrimoine, Lachave correspondences.
URL http://abe.revues.org/docannexe/image/2897/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 416k
Titre Figure 4: Local and imported models of cement tiles, used in buildings in Damascus.
Crédits Source: Courtesy of Ms. Sara Abdal Mawla al-Pasha (Architect) and Mr. Nazir al-Kurdi (owner of a cement tiles workshop in Damascus area).
URL http://abe.revues.org/docannexe/image/2897/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 180k
Titre Fig. 5: Dividers produced in Damascus, 1930s-40s, utilized in N. al-Kurdi cement tiles workshop, Damascus.
URL http://abe.revues.org/docannexe/image/2897/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 327k
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Référence électronique

Anas Soufan, « An overview of cement tile manufacturing and importation in Syria and Lebanon: Damascus-Beirut, 1880s-1940s », ABE Journal [En ligne], 8 | 2015, mis en ligne le 15 décembre 2015, consulté le 22 août 2017. URL : http://abe.revues.org/2897 ; DOI : 10.4000/abe.2897

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Auteur

Anas Soufan

Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Art history, University of Geneva, Switzerland

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La revue ABE Journal est mise à disposition selon les termes de la Licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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