- Title: LIBYA: Libyan traditional craftsmanship revived to promote tourism
- Date: 11th October 2007
- Summary: ALLEYWAY IN OLD TRIPOLI WIDE OF TRADITIONAL LIBYAN GARMENTS ON DISPLAY IN SHOP
- Embargoed: 26th October 2007 13:00
- Topics: Arts / Culture / Entertainment / Showbiz,Travel / Tourism
- Reuters ID: LVADOZV5NZYYDYRH76JL1YSFX6O3
- Story Text: Dwindling Libyan craftsmanship revived in a bid to promote the North African country as a tourist destination.
If you ask a blacksmith, a tailor, an artisan or a carpenter in Tripoli's old souk, they will probably tell you life was better in Libya before 1959, when the country's vast oil reserves were discovered.
It was a time when much of the population's subsistence depended on small scale handmade manufacturing from local raw materials such as wood, palm leaves, clay and leather.
Families -- and women especially -- benefited from these cottage industries, working from home as suppliers for small factories and shops.
The Libyan coastal cities of Tripoli, Misurata and Benghazi and the southern city of Ghadames were the main suppliers for the local market at the time, and even exported their wares to neighbouring Tunisia.
Nowadays the remnants of traditionally produced crafts are usually to be found in museums, souvenirs of an exotic era long forgotten. The daily consumption patterns of the average Libyan today focus on products made of plastic -- an oil derivative -- and other imported items that are cheaper and take less time and effort to produce..
Many of the country's craftspeople are too old to impart their knowledge to the young, and the young are consumed with learning other, more modern skills.
"There are fewer craftsmen than there were before. Those who have grown old have not passed on their knowledge to anyone. That is why it is dwindling. Even the ones who are left and trying to preserve it don't find any interest from the authorities. There is no support for people to maintain it or to make more of an effort," says Adel Mohamed, a young engineer and craftsman.
"There are no more craftsmen. In the past there were apprenticeships. We used to learn the craft without being paid a wage, or something very symbolic. No one comes to learn and work hard anymore,"
Hajj Ali Elhadi, an aging weaver complains.
Another reason for the waning interest is the lack of profitability of traditional trades.
"These days it is not very popular because it is an exhausting trade. So not many young people are trying to learn it. It is not in demand," tailor Mohamed Hamza adds.
But ever since the Libyan government began opening up to the West in 2003, it has been trying to promote itself as a Mediterranean tourist destination.
The new policy involves government plans to support traditional leather crafts, palm products, wool, and metal industries by establishing institutes throughout the country.
Other related efforts to promote tourism include an announcement, last September, by Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the president's son, that 1.5 billion pounds (3 billion USD) would be earmarked for the preservation of the country's archaeological sites as part of a plan known as the 'Green Mountain Development Area'.
According to UN tourism agency estimates, a mere 149,000 tourists visited the North African country in 2004, accounting for less than 1 per cent of its GDP.
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