The Merchant of Syria: A History of Survival
The Merchant of Syria tells the life of Abu Chaker, a cloth merchant from Homs who lived from 1921 to 2013. Barely literate, he nevertheless built up a commercial empire based on trust, then lost everything twice through political instability and war, before coming to northern England as an economic migrant. The climax of this devout Sunni Muslim’s tumultuous life was to buy and save a Yorkshire wool mill, which still serves as the headquarters of the textile manufacturing company he turned into a global brand. Standing on Little Horton Lane in Bradford, Briggella Mill continues to manufacture the finest quality English cloth. Its looms clatter on.Drawing on interviews conducted in Syria, Lebanon and Britain, Abu Chaker’s story exemplifies many of today’s pressing global issues – poverty, Islamic values (he gave away a great deal to charity, albeit discreetly), religious co-existence, refugees, displacement, multiculturalism, political unrest and terrorism. One strand of the book offers the reader the vital backdrop against which his life was lived, while the other focusses on Abu Chaker himself. Diana Darke’s final chapter weaves these strands together, seeking answers to a vital question: how, after seven years of war, in which half of its population has been displaced and the currency lost ninety per cent of its value, can Syria survive?
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