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Revisiting old marriage tradition of hand-made mattresses.

Summary: Upholstering bed mattresses was once a prominent profession in south Lebanon which over time has faded away.

SIDON, Lebanon: Upholstering bed mattresses was once a prominent profession in south Lebanon which over time has faded away. In the past, beds and pillows were an integral gift in marriage ceremonies. Mattresses were stuffed with sheep wool and winter quilts were made from pure cotton in those days.

In fact, the parents of the bride were obliged to carry bed mattresses and complimentary accessories on the wedding eve to her new house according to tradition.

"But today everything has become based on trends," 70-year-old Kamel Shaarawi, who works in upholstery, explained. "Globalization won over our heritage and openness closed what our ancestors and parents left us."

Shaarawi knows how to sew and prepare bed mattresses. He is fighting to keep his profession alive despite the proliferation of readymade mattresses.

"The bed mattresses used to be stuffed with sheep wool after being washed, cleaned and sun-dried. The bride's parents used to ask for the mattress a month ahead of the wedding in addition to the quilt, pillows and embroidered and printed bed sheets," he explained.

"But today the mattresses are manufactured, stuffed with sponge and springs and have taken the place of our profession."

The mattresses that the bride and groom sleep on were stuffed with 30 kilos of sheep wool and were upholstered every year.

Shaarawi recalled how they used to visit houses, rupture, upholster and tailor them again.

"Sometimes the groom would ask for a mattress that would make his wife pregnant with boys, while other ask for ones that would bring girls," Shaarawi laughed.

He said he used to go along with it, and "design" mattresses for those who prefer boys in blue and those wanting girls in pink.

At Sidon's souks, pillows and wool are hung in one of the city's shops. Abu Hasan Traboulsi is seen making and upholstering quilts along with one his employees.

"Many continue to ask for quilts made from natural cotton," Traboulsi said.

"The quilt needs to be stuffed with around 4 kilos of pure cotton in addition to fashionable fabric for the quilts."

The quilt needs more than three hours of work, Traboulsi said.

Mehye el-Din Baba inherited a fabric-selling business from his father. Inside his historic shop, fabric of various colors can be found.

"The demand on bed mattresses made of wool is little, today the cotton is artificial," Baba said.

Several modern mattresses are causing back pain he noted saying that when making coverlets or bed sheets one needs to be careful to keep them clean.

"Regardless of how comfortable the pillow is, conscience is what matters."

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Publication:The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)
Geographic Code:7LEBA
Date:Nov 21, 2015
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