Basra’s Sabean-Mandeans Keeping Golden Traditions Alive

Waheed Ghanim


They call them the “golden sect” because many members of the Iraqi ethnic minority traditionally work in goldsmithing.

 

Karim Samari Ajil, the oldest goldsmith in Basra’s market, uses surprisingly simple tools to practice his trade.

These include a hammer, an anvil and wire. “We use a clay stove to melt the metal and a clamp to pull it out,” Ajil explains.

Ajil inherited this trade from his Sabean-Mandean ancestors, who worked first as fishermen, blacksmiths and farmers in Iraq’s southern marshes before moving to southern cities to work with Iraqi Jews in metalwork. Ajil himself has been a goldsmith since he was 11; he’s in his 60s now.

 

He shows visitors around his small workshop. He makes women’s jewellery as well as such things as small bells for the cots of new-borns. Sometimes his customers insist on sitting next to him as he makes up orders.

One of the main problems of the job today is getting the gold. It is usually imported from Dubai, Turkey, Kuwait and Singapore but there are often delays, he notes, and buyers must also pay a 5 percent tax. “A kilogram of gold costs about US$900, more than the official rate,” Ajil points out.

A lot of gold is also smuggled in, via northern Iraq – this is often melted down to disguise its origin and then sold as legal gold.

There is also a lot more competition these days. At one stage it was only the Sabean-Mandeans and the Jewish people working as goldsmiths here. Ajil mourns the fact that today, the old methods of goldsmithing are being forgotten and anyone can – and does – get involved in selling and crafting gold.

Today gold sellers in Basra can be divided into two categories. There are those who make gold jewellery, hand crafting designs of all kinds – most often these are the Sabean-Mandean goldsmiths. The second category is occupied by those who retail gold and Ajil says there are some big aesthetic differences.

Sabean-Mandean spiritual leader, Mazen Nayef, can’t say for sure how many of his people are left in Iraq. But he does know that those who goldsmith are often targeted for blackmail and other crimes. People think the Sabean-Mandeans are wealthy because of what they do, he says.

“But we won’t give up our profession,” Nayef told Al Menassa. “It’s difficult, it requires creativity and one should practice it from a young age because you’re dealing with such a valuable material.”

 

 

 

Related Articles

47 Comments

  1. Great article! That is the type of info that are
    meant to be shared around the net. Shame on Google for no longer positioning this post higher!
    Come on over and consult with my site . Thanks =)

  2. I was recommended this web site by my cousin. I am not sure whether this post is written by him as nobody else
    know such detailed about my difficulty. You are incredible!
    Thanks!

  3. I am not sure where you’re getting your information, but great topic.
    I needs to spend some time learning more or understanding more.
    Thanks for magnificent information I was looking for this information for my mission.

  4. I don’t know if it’s just me or if perhaps everybody else encountering issues with your blog.

    It appears as if some of the written text on your content are
    running off the screen. Can someone else please provide feedback and let
    me know if this is happening to them as well? This could be a problem with my web browser because I’ve had this happen previously.
    Many thanks

  5. I got this web page from my friend who informed
    me about this web page and now this time I am visiting this site and reading very informative articles or
    reviews at this time.

  6. I just couldn’t go away your web site before suggesting that I extremely loved the usual info an individual provide to your guests?

    Is gonna be back incessantly to check out new posts

  7. My coder is trying to persuade me to move
    to .net from PHP. I have always disliked the idea because
    of the expenses. But he’s tryiong none the less. I’ve been using WordPress on several websites for about
    a year and am concerned about switching to another platform.
    I have heard excellent things about blogengine.net. Is there a way
    I can import all my wordpress content into it? Any kind of help would be really appreciated!
    quest bars http://bit.ly/3jZgEA2 quest bars

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back to top button