Cus­toms & tra­di­tions

De­vel­oped from a her­itage of blade-mak­ing that stretches back al­most 250 years, by the Had­dad fam­ily in Jezzine, the tra­di­tional cut­lery adorned with in­tri­cately de­signed han­dles in the shape of a phoenix has be­come an em­blem­atic craft of Le­banon

Lebanon Traveler - - CONTENTS -

The art of cut­lery

The his­tory of blade-mak­ing in Jezzine dates back to 1770, when the Had­dad fam­ily were forg­ing dag­gers and swords. Al­ways adapt­ing with the times, the Had­dads ex­panded to the pro­duc­tion of ri­fles for the Le­banese army and then be­gan the first man­u­fac­ture of their now fa­mous cut­lery in 1930. To­day, the com­pany is called S & S Had­dad, named af­ter brothers Samir and Souheil and their prod­uct line in­cludes bar, desk, dessert and man­i­cure sets, small items such as bot­tle open­ers and key chains, and spe­cialty pieces in­clud­ing dag­gers and swords. While Samir passed away a year ago and Souheil is now re­tired, the com­pany re­mains a fam­ily busi­ness, run by cousins Tony (son of Samir) and Fouad (son of Souheil.) Ac­cord­ing to Fouad, the dis­tinc­tive han­dles are based on the Le­banese leg­end of the phoenix. A myth that can be traced back to Phoeni­cian times, the phoenix - a fire­bird from par­adise - lives 500 years, fill­ing the air with its heav­enly voice be­fore per­ish­ing in fire. It then rises from the ashes to live an­other 500 years. This fa­bled bird res­onates with Le­banon’s own his­tory, from an­cient times till to­day, a coun­try that has shown its own re­silience through­out years of oc­cu­pa­tion, war and re­gional con­flict.

The suc­cess of the Had­dad’s busi­ness in­spired other fam­i­lies in town to fol­low suit, and Souk al Sad Street in Jezzine is now home to sev­eral cut­lery shops. At Eid Bou Rached, the cut­lery is pro­duced fol­low­ing tra­di­tional meth­ods, and shop owner Ghazi Bou Rached is happy to ex­plain the process to vis­i­tors. Han­dles be­gin as cow bone and buf­falo horn, which are then carved into the fire­bird’s head and body, pol­ished and fit­ted with stain­less steel uten­sils. Brass wings are added, and hand-painted de­tails. Black and ivory are the tra­di­tional col­ors, re­flect­ing the color of the base ma­te­rial.

“Our fam­ily started this busi­ness in 1925 and I in­her­ited the shop from my father,” says Ghazi, point­ing to an el­derly man seated out­side his shop. Like the phoenix, Had­dad’s com­pany con­tin­ues to rein­vent it­self. In or­der to cre­ate a more durable prod­uct, the han­dles of Had­dad’s cut­lery are now made of a com­pos­ite ma­te­rial.

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