Greek traditional wooden boat builders a dwindling craft

Greek traditional wooden boat builders a dwindling craft
Boatbuilders use a bandsaw to shape wood to be used for the frame of a traditional boat in Karlovasi, Samos Island, Greece, on Friday, June 11, 2021. (AP)
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Updated 20 July 2021

Greek traditional wooden boat builders a dwindling craft

Greek traditional wooden boat builders a dwindling craft
  • The time and effort that goes into production means boatbuilders often form a bond with their creations

DRAKAIOI, Greece: On the forested slopes of an island mountain, early morning mist swirling around its peak, the unmistakable form of a traditional Greek wooden boat emerges: a caique, or kaiki, the likes of which has sailed these seas for hundreds of years.
Each beam of wood, each plank, has been felled, trimmed and shaped by one man alone, hauled and nailed into place using techniques handed down through generations, from father to son, uncle to nephew. But the current generation could be the last.
Wooden boats are an integral part of the Greek landscape, adorning tourist brochures, postcards and countless holiday snaps. They have been sailing across Greece for centuries, used as fishing boats, to transport cargo, livestock and passengers and as pleasure craft.
But the art of designing and building these vessels, done entirely by hand, is under threat. Fewer people order wooden boats since plastic and fiberglass ones are cheaper to maintain. And young people aren’t as interested in joining a profession that requires years of apprenticeship, is physically and mentally draining and has an uncertain future.
“Unfortunately, I see the profession slowly dying,” said Giorgos Kiassos, one of the last remaining boatbuilders on Samos, an eastern Aegean island that was once a major production center.
“If something doesn’t change, there will come a time when there won’t be anyone left doing this type of job. And it’s a pity, a real pity,” Kiassos said during a brief break in his mountain boatyard where, between walnut and wild mulberry trees, he is working on two: a 14-meter (45-foot) pleasure craft and a 10-meter (about a 30-foot) fishing boat.
The boats are being made to order, with the bigger one costing around 60,000 euros ($70,000), and the smaller one around 30,000 euros ($35,000).
Samos caiques are famed both for their workmanship and their raw material: timber from a pine species whose high resin content makes it durable and more resistant to woodworm. A few decades ago, numerous boatyards dotted the island, providing a major source of employment and sustaining entire communities. Now there are only about four left.
“Yes, it’s an art, but it’s also heavy work, it’s tough work. It’s manual labor that’s tiring, and now the young people, none of them are following,” Kiassos said. He’s encouraged his 23-year-old son to learn, but he isn’t particularly interested. He hopes to become a merchant captain instead.
Kostas Damianidis, an architect with a Ph.D. on Greek traditional boatbuilding, said there are several reasons for the dramatic decline in shipwrights, or traditional boatbuilders, throughout Greece.
“It is a traditional craft which is slowly dying, and yet it’s treated as if it were a simple manufacturing or supply business. There is no support from the state,” he said.
What’s more, for years the European Union, of which Greece is a member, has subsidized the physical destruction of these vessels as a way of reducing the country’s fishing fleet. The practice has led to thousands of traditional fishing boats, some described by conservationists as unique works of art, being smashed by bulldozers.
The policy is “a big blow to wooden shipbuilding,” Damianidis said. “They might be old boats, but this is a disdain of the craft. When a young person sees that they’re smashing wooden boats as useless things, why should they bother to learn how to make them?”
For their creators, the destruction is heartbreaking.
“It’s a bad thing, very bad. Because this art is one of the best and one of the most difficult. An ancient art,” retired boatbuilder Giorgos Tsinidelos said. Now 75, he started working at the age of 12 at his grandfather’s boatyard on Samos. He spent years as an apprentice before moving to the major shipbuilding area of Perama, near Greece’s main port of Piraeus.
“You don’t learn this job in a year or two. It takes many years,” he said. “Don’t forget that you take wood and you create a masterpiece, a boat.”
Another major factor in the rapidly dwindling number of shipwrights is the lack of any formal education.
“Young people have to go learn beside the old craftsmen, often for five years, six years, for them to be able to make a small boat, a kaiki, themselves,” Damianidis said. “There is no boatbuilding school.”
Damianidis is the curator of a new museum of Aegean Boatbuilding and Maritime Crafts being set up on Samos, and hopes a traditional boatbuilding school, which would be Greece’s first, will open in the museum.
That could also help Samos’ last boatbuilders, who now work mainly alone due to a shortage of skilled assistants.
“It’s important to have someone experienced because if you make one mistake, especially in the first stages of (building) the boat, the boat might end up being — well, more of a basin than a boat,” chuckled Kiassos.
Like Tsinidelos and all the current boatbuilders, Kiassos started young. Now 47, he’s been working for more than 30 years but says he’s still learning. As a schoolboy, he would sit in his uncle’s boatyard, watching logs morph into beautiful vessels. He began working there at 16 while finishing school.
He learned when the right season is to fell the trees — when to use naturally curved timber, and where on the boat each piece should go. Get that wrong, and the vessel could end up with problems, he explains. Get it right, and his creation combines beauty, function and durability.
The time and effort that goes into production means boatbuilders often form a bond with their creations, and eventually delivering them to their owners is often bittersweet.
Kiassos says he’s eager to finish each boat and start on the next.
“But when it leaves, I’m somehow sad. Yes, I’ll be happy when I see it in the water and I see everything is OK, but it’s like something is leaving — like a piece of me, how can I say it?” He grasps for words. “It might sound a bit strange the way I’m saying it, but that’s how it is.”
Despite the bleak outlook for his profession’s future, another Samos boatbuilder, 45-year-old Andreas Karamanolis, remains hopeful.
“I believe that people will return to the wooden boat. I want to believe it. Because the truth is, no other boat has the durability of the wooden boat. Not the plastic ones, not any of them,” he said. “Wood is a living organism, which no matter how many years you use it, it continues to be alive.”


As Lebanese suffer crippling economic crisis, MPs celebrate daughters’ lavish weddings

Former Hezbollah MP Nawwar Al-Sahili walked his elegantly-dressed daughter through fireworks-laden walkways and striking strobe lights this week. (Screenshot)
Former Hezbollah MP Nawwar Al-Sahili walked his elegantly-dressed daughter through fireworks-laden walkways and striking strobe lights this week. (Screenshot)
Updated 26 July 2021

As Lebanese suffer crippling economic crisis, MPs celebrate daughters’ lavish weddings

Former Hezbollah MP Nawwar Al-Sahili walked his elegantly-dressed daughter through fireworks-laden walkways and striking strobe lights this week. (Screenshot)
  • Photos and videos of the luxurious weddings were widely shared across social media as they were heavily criticized
  • Photos of Lebanese sleeping on their balconies spread across social media this week as well as ever-growing lines at gas stations

LONDON: Empty supermarket shelves, hours-long queues for gasoline, and resorting to sleeping on the balcony to endure no electricity for fans or air-conditioning in the summer - such has become the routine for the everyday Lebanese.

“These scenes of humiliation, people should not bear,” Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah said in a speech last month, waving his finger as he lambasted the long fuel lines in recent weeks.

“Those responsible for government formation need to listen to people’s voices and look with pain at the cars queueing up for fuel and the loss of electricity and medication,” Nasrallah said as he urged his supporters to be patient and to sacrifice.

Indeed, Lebanese people of all backgrounds should not have to bear with the consequences of years of government corruption and a financial meltdown - and yet, it appears that Nasrallah’s former representatives in government, nor his party allies’ current parliamentarians do not fall into that category.

Free Patriotic Movement MP Ibrahim Kanaan and former Hezbollah MP Nawwar Al-Sahili both walked their elegantly-dressed daughters through fireworks-laden walkways and striking strobe lights this week - not two weeks after former Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri stepped down from attempting to form a government after 10 months.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by thawramap (@thawramap)

 

Photos and videos of the luxurious weddings were widely shared across social media as they were heavily criticized, prompting Sahili to issue an apology online - claiming that it had not been on purpose.

“Hezbollah is proving yet again how aloof it is to the suffering of Lebanese people. This video of the lavish wedding of their MP Nawar Sahili's daughter, going viral in #Lebanon. No empathy whatsoever,” Malcolm H. Kerr Carnegie Middle East Center Research Fellow Mohanad Hage Ali tweeted.

 

 

The photos and videos were promoted across the well-followed Instagram page “Thawramap” - a page created in the heat of the October 17 nationwide protests - that has become an online watchdog targeting politicians and their lifestyles.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by thawramap (@thawramap)

 

“It shows once more that the political establishment is disconnected from the people. Nawwar Sahili posted an apology to the party’s partisans on Twitter, as if he needed the backlash to understand the weight of its actions,” one of the individuals behind the page told Arab News, speaking anonymously due to fear of repercussions for the critical content posted.

Photos of Lebanese sleeping on their balconies spread across social media this week as well as ever-growing lines at gas stations; showcasing an extreme contrast between the everyday lives of politicians and citizens.

A family in Lebanon sleeps on the balcony to cool down in the summer due to lack of electricity for fans or air conditioning. (Facebook/Zakaria Jaber)

Earlier this year, photos of the country’s political leaders wearing luxury watches worth thousands of dollars did the rounds on Twitter while the Lebanese pound’s value deteriorated heavily against the US dollar.

At the time of writing, $1 is equivalent to 22,500 Lebanese pounds (LBP) compared to 1 USD to 1,500 LBP in 2019.


Endangered bears leave Lebanon for better life in US animal sanctuary

Homer and Ulysses had been trapped for more than 10 years in a zoo in Tyre. (Supplied)
Homer and Ulysses had been trapped for more than 10 years in a zoo in Tyre. (Supplied)
Updated 25 July 2021

Endangered bears leave Lebanon for better life in US animal sanctuary

Homer and Ulysses had been trapped for more than 10 years in a zoo in Tyre. (Supplied)
  • The Syrian brown bear lived in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Turkey but, due to illegal and non-organized hunting in Lebanon, the species became extinct

BEIRUT: Two endangered bears who were living in poor conditions in a Lebanon zoo have been flown to an animal sanctuary in the US after they started to lose weight and suffered from other health issues.
Rights association Animals Lebanon said it managed to persuade their owner that “the bears deserved better” given the creatures’ deteriorating condition.
Lebanon’s economic crisis, considered the worst in its modern history, has affected animals as much as humans.
Families have given up their pets, unable to feed them in light of sharp rises in the dollar exchange rate. Zoos have also been affected, with animals facing malnourishment and owners no longer able to secure their basic needs.
Animals Lebanon said the two Syrian brown bears, called Homer and Ulysses, had been trapped for more than 10 years in a zoo in the southern city of Tyre.
“There are six bears still waiting to be rescued in the north of Lebanon, Bekaa and Beirut,” the association’s director, Jason Mier, told Arab News.
Previous attempts to get the bears to the Colorado Wild Animal Sanctuary had failed due to the pandemic, roadblocks, banks freezing assets, and the wait to obtain the sanctuary’s confirmation to receive the creatures.

FASTFACT

Families have given up their pets, unable to feed them in light of sharp rises in the dollar exchange rate. Zoos have also been affected, with animals facing malnourishment and owners no longer able to secure their basic needs.

The sanctuary cares for more than 650 lions, tigers, bears, wolves and other animals — including a fox and a wallaby rescued by Animals Lebanon.
Animal rescue organization Four Paws offered to help bear the cost of the animals’ trip to Colorado.
Mier said: “There are six zoos we are aware of in Lebanon. In 2017, we passed the Animal Protection and Welfare Law, which regulates zoos. These zoos hold endangered wildlife, local wildlife, and farmed or domesticated animals. There are about 30 lions, 10 bears, and 10 tigers. We believe conditions need to be drastically improved at all zoos.”
Dr. Assad Serhal, director of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon, told Arab News that the Syrian brown bear was an endangered species seen in the mountainous area of eastern Lebanon, near the Syrian borders.
In 2019, an environmental activist filmed a brown cub playing on the road in the outskirts of Ersal, in the Bekaa valley. That same cub was previously seen with his mother in 2017 in the same area. This species had not been seen in Lebanon for over 50 years.
The Syrian brown bear lived in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Turkey but, due to illegal and non-organized hunting in Lebanon, the species became extinct.
Serhal said Lebanon was home to several species of wild animal, but that most had been captured by zoo owners across the country.


EXCLUSIVE: All hands on Le Deck — Sofitel restaurant in Cairo sinks to bottom of the Nile

EXCLUSIVE: All hands on Le Deck — Sofitel restaurant in Cairo sinks to bottom of the Nile
Updated 25 July 2021

EXCLUSIVE: All hands on Le Deck — Sofitel restaurant in Cairo sinks to bottom of the Nile

EXCLUSIVE: All hands on Le Deck — Sofitel restaurant in Cairo sinks to bottom of the Nile
  • The floating restaurant used to be a meeting point for many famous writers, artists and politicians

CAIRO: In less than a minute, a floating restaurant sank in the Nile, which is part of the Sofitel Hotel in the Zamalek district in central Cairo.  

“I was sitting on the opposite terrace having tea and smoking with my friends and at first I thought there was a fight, then I thought someone drowned and then we heard a bang, then suddenly the deck started sinking in a way that reminded me of the Titanic movie,” a British tourist who witnessed the incident told Arab News.

The importance of the floating restaurant does not stop at the distinctiveness of its location, but also with the association of its name with many public figures, politicians and celebrities who used to visit it.

It is a fixed floating boat in front of the Sofitel Hotel, which was the former Sheraton El Gezirah, built in 1984. This limited floating space occupied one of the best locations overlooking the Nile at the other end of Zamalek Island, facing the Garden City neighborhood on the other side.  

The floating restaurant has always been characterized by its simplicity and fame at the same time.  It was a meeting point for many famous writers, artists and politicians. Among them are the artist Sabah, Wadih Al-Safi, the writer Lutfi Al-Khouli, Dr. Osama Ilbaz the famous late politician, Ahmed Qaddaf Al-Dam The famous Libyan politician, and other Egyptian and Arab celebrities.

The 1980s were the time of the heyday for "Paradise", the name of the boat at the time, where a number of VIPs had fixed places.

In the past, its name was Paradise paradise, and its name changed after the hotel’s management and ownership changed, so the name of the hotel became Sofitel and the name of the floating restaurant became Le Deck.  But it still possesses the same beauty features as the site and attracts seekers of beauty and distinction.

All this remained until Saturday evening, at eight and two minutes in the evening, when those close to the floating restaurant heard a strange sound, followed by one of its sides, and then began to sink into the water until it disappeared in fifty seconds.


Maskless Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan teams make for awkward moment at Olympic opening ceremoney

Maskless Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan teams make for awkward moment at Olympic opening ceremoney
Updated 23 July 2021

Maskless Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan teams make for awkward moment at Olympic opening ceremoney

Maskless Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan teams make for awkward moment at Olympic opening ceremoney
  • One of the central Asian country's athletes covered his face while others waved and smiled as they walked in

TOKYO: Kyrgyzstan’s Olympic team paraded maskless into Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium at Friday’s Games opening ceremony, marking an awkward contrast with all the national teams who had preceded them in masks — and in accordance with COVID-19 protocols.
Just one of the central Asian country’s athletes covered his face, with the other members of the small delegation, including its two flag bearers, waving and smiling as they walked in.
A short while later the Tajikistan team marched in similarly maskless, while Pakistan’s two flagbearers also chose not to cover their faces, unlike the vast majority of the other participants at the ceremony.
Tokyo 2020 organizers did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the delegations without masks.


Egyptian man seen parading lion on his shoulder arrested

Egyptian man seen parading lion on his shoulder arrested
Updated 23 July 2021

Egyptian man seen parading lion on his shoulder arrested

Egyptian man seen parading lion on his shoulder arrested
  • According to local media, the five-month-old lion was being held illegally

DUBAI: Egyptian authorities on Thursday confiscated a lion after a man was seen parading the animal in the streets of Ain Sokhna. 

The man, carrying the lion on his shoulder, was subsequently arrested along with two other people. 

He was identified as a photographer from Cairo. 

According to local media, the five-month-old lion was being held illegally with the aim of partaking in a photoshoot to attract tourists to the area. 

The video caused uproar on social media, with users reminding that conditions at a residential home are inappropriate for a wild animal.