by Salah Takieddine
BEIRUT, April 18 (Xinhua) -- Pottery industry in Lebanon is struggling for survival despite lack of governmental support and the tough competition from imported manufactures.
Pottery in Lebanon is considered one of the oldest industries which goes back to thousands of years ago in the country.
The pottery kitchenware products are still widely used in Lebanon with large groups of citizens preferring to use them on health reasons.
Dr. Mona al-Mohammad, a dietitian, told Xinhua that "there are no medical proofs that assert the benefits of cooking food in pottery utensils," but stresses that "they are of good types and people enjoy using them."
She added "there is a traditional saying that cooking food or keeping water in pottery is better than keeping it in other types of utensils, and eating or drinking from pottery has a particular taste."
Khaled el-Sheikh, an owner of a small restaurant specialized in selling cooked beans, he said "I still offer my clients the cooked beans in pottery plates and use pottery jugs to serve them the drinking water especially during summer because it keeps the water cool and it tastes better."
The acquisition of pottery is not restricted on the kitchen utensils, but it also involves art products that match by its beauty antiques and are displayed in restaurants and show rooms for the aesthetic touches combined with engravings and drawings that add to pottery a symbolic value.
Georges Ariro, a pottery manufacturer in north Lebanon, told Xinhua that "pottery is the oldest human craft and it has preceded the manufacture of glass and porcelain," adding that "it is a profession that we inherited in the family and passed its secrets of more than 350 years."
Ariro explained that his factory produces handmade pottery and is still a destination for local families, tourists and schoolchildren who come to learn about this traditional heritage craft.
He added that pottery is about a relation between the skills of the manufacturer and the fire and dust of which pottery is made and that the phases through which the product passes "need lengthy hours and the use of a special clay soil called Delghan."
Ariro said that "the pottery factories are diminishing and their number in Lebanon today does not exceed the number of fingers of one hand because of the invasion of imported pottery that are sold at prices lower than the locally manufactured pottery."
However he stressed that the local manufacturers "cannot compete with the modernization of this craft that is currently depending on the use of modern machinery."