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The Armenians of Ottoman Ourfa - Master of Trades

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#1 Yervant1


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Posted 29 August 2016 - 09:31 AM

The Armenians of Ottoman Ourfa - Master of Trades


70327.jpg17:24, August 29, 2016

Vahe Tachjian

Ourfa is home to an abundance of trades and professions, many of which have a centuries-long history and have reached the highest levels of proficiency. That abundance and high level of development are connected to the geographic location of the city: Ourfa lies at the intersection of various trade routes; as a result, the trades as well as commerce have thrived in the city.

The renown of Ourfa's manufactured goods and products is the result of the expertise and knowhow of the local Armenians, who constituted the principal presence in the city's tradecrafts.

Aladja Work [Loom Work, Weaving]

Aladja [literally, "multicolored"] is a striped fabric used for the clothing of the local population. In Ourfa, it is a craft practiced by Armenians. It is the aladjadji ["maker ofaladja,"] (also known as manousadji) who weaves the entari, the long robe-like loose clothing worn by men in the city and the entire region. The city has numerous aladjaworkshops where expert craftspeople work day in and out at their looms, sitting in their pits or across from their looms. The workshops are widespread in the Armenian quarter, where many weavers work out of their homes. The Armenian quarter is densely populated, with narrow streets that are often cul-de-sacs; accordingly, during the workday, from all corners of the quarter one can hear the persistent din of the looms at work.

The goods produced by the aladja weavers of Ourfa are renowned. Along with local consumption, the fabrics are exported to the markets of the surrounding cities. To withstand the competition from the aladja weavers of nearby cities (Diarbekir/Dikranagerd and Ayntab), the craftspeople of Ourfa continually attempt to introduce innovations in their products, such as new color formulations, new decorative patterns, and so on. [1]

Weaving is also widespread in the nearby village of Garmoudj, where more than a hundred looms function. [2]

Basma Work [Textile/Fabric Printing] and Dyeing

These are highly developed crafts in Ourfa, and Armenians were prevalent among their practitioners. Basma work is the printing of floral designs and figures on white cotton or other cloth through the use of engraved woodblocks or stencils. Because at the time the use of machines was not widespread, these processes were carried out by hand.

With its floral design, the 7-meter-long and 15-meter-tall altar curtain of Ourfa's St. Asdvadzadzin [Holy Mother of God] church is considered among the masterworks of the city's Armenian textile printers. That church was burned down in 1895, during the anti-Armenian massacres throughout the Ottoman Empire; the altar curtain for the renovated church was fashioned and donated by the city's textile printers. The following craftsmen are recorded as having been among those who made the curtain: brothers Arakel, Aroush, and Avedis Misirian; Aroush Djigergants and his sons Apraham and Hovagim; brothers Sarkis, Hovsep, Aroush, and Anania Marashlonts; brothers Kevork, Nazar, and Hagop Kiziloghliyan; and Kevork Haleboghliyan.

As for dyeing, that simply refers to the craft of applying solid colors to woven fabric, a skill in which the craftspeople of Ourfa have developed a high level of expertise. The fabrics of Ourfa are renowned for the durability of their colors. [3]


The city's tailors work in accordance with local demand, which comes in two forms: local- and Western-style clothing. Those who wear the latter belong to the middle classes, such as government officials, doctors, lawyers, pharmacists, etc. [4]


As with the tailoring trade, the Ourfa's shoemakers are also adept at making both modern, European-style and traditional local-style shoes. European styles have been widely adopted by the city's populace. Ourfatsis like to wear black polished-leather shoes. It often happens that the person wearing local clothing will, in the case of shoes, select a European style. The scene changes in summer, when the population starts to wear slippers. Especially favored are the red slippers the uppers of which are made of goatskin.

Shoemaking, too, is known as an Armenian trade in Ourfa. A small group of Turkish shoemakers works out of the Eskidji bazaar (cobbler's market). In total, the city's shoemakers (including cobblers) number more than 300.

Shoemaking workshops were founded in the American and German orphanages that were established after the 1895 massacres, and Armenian orphans learned this craft under the supervision of expert shoemakers. [5]


In the city there is a separate bazaar lined with the shops of cabinetmakers (furniture makers) adjacent to each other. This is where various types of furniture are made for the home, such as chairs, as well as agricultural implements. The majority of cabinetmakers are Turks.

When a cabinetmaking workshop was established in the city's German mission ["Deutsche Orient-Mision," established by missionary Dr. Johannes Lepsius], Armenian cabinetmakers also began to be trained there. [6] There is also a carpentry workshop in the American mission, the master carpenters of which are Francis Nadjarian, Hagop Nadjarian, and Maksoud Khanbegliyan. The carpentry workshop was originally founded on the grounds of the mission, but when its work expanded, after 1910 it was relocated across from the saray (government building) and the house of Severekli Ali [a Kurdish notable and CUP (Young Turk) leader]. [7]


In Ourfa, master stonemasons also assume the role of architect. It's believed that stonemasonry has long played a unique role in the life of the city. The likely reason is the presence of exceptional stone quarries in nearby areas, including the renowned quarries at Top DaghıDamlamaca, and King Abgar [Apkar] mountains. In Ourfa, the many bridges, churches, public baths, mosques, inns, and hospitals are the works of local stonemasons, many of whom are Armenians. The fame of the local stonemasons has spread beyond the city. On occasion, Ourfa stonemasons have been invited to Aleppo, Diarbekir, and even Istanbul to construct buildings there. [9]

Recorded among Ourfa's Armenian architects are the names of Apraham Khelfoghlian (killed in 1895), Ousda [Usta] Hayrabed (killed in 1895), Kel Krikor (killed in 1895), Khacher Tashdjian, Krikor Mesrobian (killed in 1915), Vagharsh Mesrobian (killed in 1915), Hisa Hisayian (killed in 1915), Kevork Hisayian (killed in 1915), Hagop Ardzivian (killed in 1915), Khacher Arabian, Shmavon Tashdjian, Kevork Topalian, Sarkis Mesrobian, George Topalian, and Bedros Yeremian. [10]

Ousda Harab (Hayrabed) and Kevork Devroushoghli were famous among the architects who lived and worked during the 19th century. It's recounted that on September 28, 1854, an unprecedented storm struck Ourfa. The force of the gales was so powerful that some minarets were left in ruins; the architect who reconstructed them was Ousda Harab. Kevork Devroushoghli and Ousda Harab are the architects who build the Tekke and Herese buildings at a site called Atpazar. In 1864, the same architects reconstructed the Hasan Pasha mosque's minaret, which had been destroyed by a flood in Ourfa. The name of Krikor Devroushoghli is also recorded as the architect of the Armenian school built in 1871. And Krikor Mesrobian and his father, Sarkis Mesrobian, are the architects of the reconstruction of the St. Sarkis monastery, located to the west of the city, begun in 1873. [11]

Taking into account that the city's water is delivered via aqueducts, Armenian stonemasons also gained expertise in the art of constructing aqueducts. [12]

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