They call it Little Damascus, and it is in a valley compressed by two mountains (Ebal and Jerzim). Its drive is from door to door, the mosque is in the middle of it, tiled clean, has a running river, built with stones and has dwelling. “
A description of the city of Nablus, in which the creativity pictures of the traveler Muhammad al-Maqdisi appeared in his book “The Best of Shares in Knowing the Territories,” and from it the Palestinian writer Muhannad al-Rabi and Ibn al-Madina set out to line the pages of his book “Nablus and its colorful tiles,” and beautifully lists the story of one of the oldest cities in the world and places of sophistication in it as it is In its colorful tiles.
In a distinguished history sequence, the writer Rabbi reviews the four chapters of his author, narrates the heritage, culture and art of Nablus, then narrates the reality of colored tiles, its manufacture and uses, and calls for its preservation as an important heritage value that made the city a masterpiece.
In the first chapter, the author reviews the history of Nablus as one of the oldest cities in the world, its geographical location and the development of architecture in it, especially through the colored tiles in its most important and oldest buildings, whether official or personal.
In the second chapter, it deals with the art of Islamic decorations that crowned other landmarks in the city, especially the art of floor covering and its development, from mosaics through to qashani and ending with tiles, and then the third chapter deals with the details of colored tiles with all its elements, colors, and exaggerated and abstract geometric shapes.
Live research and evidence
Al-Rabi explained in detail the manufacturing process in terms of its various stages, tools, ingredients, and the secrets of preparing mixtures, and he talked about the distinction of Nablus by embracing the last stronghold of this industry and refusing to let go of its breath despite many challenges.
The book issued a month ago did not specify a specific date for the beginning of the use of colored tiles in Nablus, although some indications indicated that it was used at the beginning of the year 1900 or shortly before, and that is when people moved from the saba (the smooth concrete floor) to the tiles after the prosperity of their construction and their move from the old Nablus to the foothills Surrounding mountains.
Al-Rabi, a specialist in interior architecture and Islamic antiquities, extracted his information by visiting private and public buildings that used colored tiles, such as the Nabulsi Palace, Adel Zuaiter School, the Ministry of Education building, and the Al-Shifa public bath in the middle of the old town, which is Ottoman in style. “The Ottomans ruled the city for 4 centuries.”
He also relied on scientific references and live interviews with homeowners or residents and tile manufacturers, to bring together living and research evidence and present the reader with a unique book, “the first of its kind”, that narrates this authentic art (tiles).
Al-Rabi tells Al-Jazeera Net that no one has dealt with the issue of colored tiles and floor covering as he did, and that what he wrote was nothing but studies for immediate research purposes.
The use of colored tiles may differ from one house to another. If it is found in one of the rooms, it may not be in the rest of it, depending on the physical condition of the family or the nature of the design. The main reception room (guests) may be tiled with a “carpet” of colored tiles and the rest of the house with white, undecorated tiles.
And “floor covering is an art that developed from the use of what is available from unorganized stones to the refinement of stone floors, passing through the mosaic floors of various shapes and patterns, and returning again to the use of stones as at the end of the Ottoman era, then using the concrete slabs.”
The book published by the Popular Library in Nablus is located in 120 pages of medium size and glossy paper, and with an elegant cardboard cover, a picture of colored tiles printed on the face, and on the back is the author’s biography and message.
The beauty of the narration and the content
The book was distinguished by presenting the most accurate details, which is why it took a long time to search and collect information for several years and thus its publication was delayed, and the writer says that its publication “was like a child I had” at a difficult time when the Corona virus was spreading and generating great pressure and depression.
The reader – especially Nabulsi – is not tired of the book by simply opening its first pages, the secret lies in the historical narration and the abundance of content, then providing a full explanation about the colored tiles and their forms, outlined by photography and drawing, and he will be amazed between what he reads and what is still ahead of him and he sees it in the houses and landmarks of the city and also creates .
There are side titles included by the author, such as the decorative elements, which varied between the shape of the plant, such as grape leaves, acanthus, and lotus, and the developments of its use between the ages of the Greeks, Romans, and Byzantines, and between the geometric units of the square, the triangle, the pentagon, and the simple, compound, and octagonal star shapes and “twelve” (12 sides).
He was not satisfied with the pictures to distinguish the types and shapes of the tiles, but instead stopped on the inside and outside of the pages of the book, to explain by engineering drawing the content of one tile and its location among its counterparts in the same room or house in a numbered manner.
The use of colored tiles reflected the economic, social and political situation during its emergence and arrival through the Ottoman Empire in the late period of its rule of Palestine in the “transitional period”, which created an “overlap” between other types of tiles, especially the European ones who were found in Bethlehem “and was not limited to floors.” But the walls are decorated with it. “
The most distinctive feature of colored tiles is that it is manufactured by hand even today, as each tile takes 20 minutes, which makes its price high (about $ 25 per square meter) compared to the machine manufacturer or importer.
Calls for protection and documentation
In the last chapter, the author singles out an explanation of the manufacturing process and the only Palestinian factory that produces these tiles so far, and the Aslan family that owned the factory inherited the profession through her grandfather Jamil Aslan, who came with her from the Levant in 1910, and he recounts another verbal account of the family saying that this industry in Nablus was known between 1860 and 1880.
In his book, Al-Rabi wants to educate the young generation about the importance of colored tiles as a symbol of the Palestinian heritage and urge academics and others to take advantage of it and come up with more conservative and comprehensive literature.
He says that the book documents a historically and nationally important stage in light of Israel’s falsification of the Palestinian heritage and attributing it to it, “whole tile floors were stolen and sold to the occupation, out of ignorance or intent.”
He turns the pages and writes the dedication over a copy that he presented to Al-Jazeera Net. Al-Rabbi noted that he annotated his book with phrases by Palestinian personalities from Nablus and others who had a role in motivating him to complete his work. Khatam says, “If you want to write, start even with a word, then the important thing is to start.”