Traditional wooden boats dry out in Baghdad amid mainstream modern lifestyle_Xinhua

A boat building workshop owner works on a new boat in Baghdad, Iraq, March 4, 2022. (Xinhua/Khalil Dawood)

Traditional wooden boats, once part of the classic landscapes along the Tigris in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, are disappearing, while craftsmen and boat owners struggle to preserve this heritage as more modern boats sprout.

BAGHDAD, March 9 (Xinhua) — Traditional wooden boats, once part of classic landscapes along the Tigris River in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, are disappearing, as craftsmen and boat owners struggle to preserve this heritage as more modern boats grow.

“The wooden boat industry has almost disappeared. There are very few wooden boat manufacturers now,” Abbas Abdul-Kareem, 42, told Xinhua with a bitter smile in al-Kareimat neighborhood. , one of the oldest urban areas in central Baghdad.

“My father and grandfathers used to build wooden boats, and many other workshops spread across both sides of the river here, but a few decades ago this craft began to gradually disappear,” Abdul- Kareem.

Abdul-Kareem explained that the decline of the wooden boat industry is linked to the rising prices of wood, especially that used in boat building, as well as the emergence of modern fiberglass boats. , lighter and cheaper.

A fisherman prepares fishing nets while sitting in his boat on the Tigris River in Baghdad, Iraq, March 4, 2022. (Xinhua/Khalil Dawood)

He complained about the lack of government support to save the country’s heritage since the 1990s, partly caused by the 2003 US invasion and the chaos and violence that followed.

Recalling the good old days of wooden boats, Abdul-Kareem said there was a famous family in the trade, the al-Rawak family, who owned the largest wooden boat workshop in Baghdad.

The family gradually faced great difficulties due to the high price of wood and the stagnation of the industry, and were forced to leave Baghdad for the city of Samarra, some 120 km north of the capital, because the wooden boats are still sought after by locals. .

A 70-year-old fisherman named Abu Bilal still works in his wooden boat, which is one of the few left on the river. He told Xinhua that he bought his boat 25 years ago and insisted on repairing it himself after most workshops disappeared.

A worker cleans a wooden boat to transport passengers between the banks of the Tigris River in Baghdad, Iraq, March 4, 2022. (Xinhua/Khalil Dawood)

“Boat prices have gone up between 3.5 and 4 million Iraqi dinars (2,300 and 2,700 US dollars), so people have turned to cheap fiberglass (boats), which cost around 1 .6 to 1.7 million dinars,” Abu Bilal said as he cleaned his fishing net by the river.

People increasingly prefer fiberglass boats, not only because fiberglass is cheaper, but also lighter and easier to maintain, Abu Bilal said.

In a way, the disappearance of wooden boats is linked to today’s way of life, which differs from that of previous decades when wooden boats were commonly used for river fishing, the old man explained. .

The name of Mesopotamia (Land between the rivers) is associated with two great rivers: the Tigris and the Euphrates which form the fertile sedimentary plain of Iraq. In such a geographical location, the need was felt very early for boats to cross the rivers scattered over the land.

Daham al-Saadi, a history professor at al-Iraqia University in Baghdad, told Xinhua that archaeological evidence has proven that ancient Iraqis used reed boats 5,000 years ago, which evolved over from history to wooden boats.

A group of boats used to transport people between the banks of the Tigris River in Baghdad, Iraq, March 4, 2022. (Xinhua/Khalil Dawood)

“This indicates that the craft of wooden boat builder was linked to the history of Iraq, but today it is threatened with extinction, although some of its makers in Baghdad and other cities in ‘Iraq are still trying to preserve this heritage industry,” al-Saadi said.

“The number of wooden boats is decreasing day by day,” al-Saadi said, calling on the government to protect heritage by supporting the industry as an indispensable part of preserving Iraq’s history.

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