Life has returned to the profession of cobbler or “Kandarji” in the Lebanese dialect, after it was believed that their profession had become a thing of the past, while this profession had disappeared in the past years, as the markets were flooded with imported and cheap shoes, in relation to the purchasing power of the Lebanese, which helped in the absence of small workshops that It is concerned with making or repairing shoes, and in the past these small workshops used to fill the markets.
But today the spirit has returned to revive in the cobbler’s fingertips, his tools, his hammer, his nails and all the details that accompany it. When he enters the “Bazarkan” market, which has been in Sidon for more than 500 years and extends from “Al-Tahta Gate” opposite the sea castle in the west to “Al-Fawqa Gate” opposite the wild castle. To the south, parallel to the width of “Al-Shakriya” Street, which delineates the borders of the former old city, where shoe repair shops are located. Its soles, and sewing machines sew its sides and insides to restore its luster.
This profession depends on two basic elements that we cannot dispense with: the thread and the needle, in addition to some sewing machines and a number of small types of nails, as well as hammers, scissors, blade, and some types of lubrication.
Zaroub “Al-Qashla” inside the old neighborhoods of Sidon, which was previously considered the old city market, is still to this day teeming with shops specializing in the profession of “skafi” and has become known as the “Kandarjia” market, which is visited by shoppers not only from Sidon and inside Old Sidon, but from different countries. The areas surrounding the city, especially from Jezzine and the villages of Iqlim al-Kharroub and Zahrani district, while the voices of professionals overlap with the voices of vegetable and fish sellers to paint the restless movement inside this market and form an integrated unit of the fabric of life.
During a tour of the Kandariji market in Sidon, I stopped at Al-Kandarji Abdul Karim Al-Bizri, one of the most prominent practitioners of the profession since his early childhood, a 68-year-old who gained wide fame thanks to his good treatment and sweet tongue, so I asked him some questions about this profession. He said: “The first rule of success is It is the love of the profession and not getting tired of it. The “Kandarji” profession, like any other profession, is a source of livelihood and has its customers. I inherited this profession from my father and have been practicing it for more than fifty years since I was young, and today my son, “Ahmed Abdul Karim Al-Bizri” is 27 years old also works with me He has supported me for more than 9 years, and there is even a demand from the young generation, who have returned to learn this profession, although in the past years it has witnessed a significant decline, but now its market has returned to flourish in this period, as many people have had to give up buying new shoes, so they start By repairing and renewing their old shoes instead of buying new ones, and this profession has been much more active than before, by up to 90 percent.”
He added, “The market has become teeming with people who come to us to repair shoes, not only from the poor classes, but from different groups of Lebanese society and residents of Palestinians and Syrians. Their shoes have been repaired and sewn more than once and even dyed to restore their luster… The time for throwing shoes is over!”
This handicraft inherited from generation to generation constitutes an integral part of the history of the city of Sidon and its archaeological landmarks that refuse to disappear. Thank you to the kandarji who smashes his hammer on shoes that resisted the rottenness of the days, and seeks help from the harshness of the asphalt, to then change his soles to start a new journey with the coming days.