Aghabani” is an old Damascene craft that has spread to most Syrian areas. It is said that “Aghabani” is an originally Turkish word that means decoration on fabric, and Aghabani is known as the white, silky or cotton weaving that is embroidered with natural yellow silk extracted from tree barks. Embroidering Aghabani was used for large table covers and women and men’s clothing, including bridal gowns.
For over 500 years Aghabani artisans in Damascus have been printing textures on stone and sand. Over time, the designs were hand carved on wooden moulds and stamped on the material The worker used a specific type of ink or Indigo dye that wears off after the textile was washed.
The stamped material is given to a local seamstress who embroiders the patterns with different colored threads. Geometric, plant or animal embroidery shapes were drawn. Some of the most common ones are : “The Ceiling of the Hall,” “The Cedar,” “The Vein of Roses,” “The Butterfly,” “The Footprint of the Camel,” “Pomegranate Seed” and “The Damascene Flower.” There are three types of embroidery: Tals Embroidery, where pieces are embroidered entirely within a specific design, and Rash Embroidery, where the sides of pieces are embroidered and the rest remains blank, and Naqer Embroidery, which is a type of light, wavy embroidery that gives the piece a crystallized look, and is one of the finest types of embroidery.
In the past, both the material and embroidery were made of silk, but nowadays, the material is replaced by cotton. However, Organza and silk material are still used for Aghabani textiles, but they are rarely used and much more expensive.
Rough needles were used for the process of embroidery, and today small mechanical machines are used, where the worker draws the design using the machine. Women from areas around Damascus, such as Douma and Jisreen , developed fame from practicing this craft. The number of workshops dedicated to this craft has dwindled, and this craft is now nearing extinction.
Nowadays, “Threads of Hope – Aghabani ” is not only trying to revive a beautiful craft to remain a symbol of Syrian authenticity and heritage; but it is also presenting itself as a good opportunity for empowering Syrian women through difficult circumstances.