For generations, the hakawati — the public storyteller — has brought Syria’s folktales and epic stories to life for ordinary people. Offering dramatic readings of traditional tales in cafés and restaurants, the hakawati embodies one of the most distinctive and precious elements of Syria’s intangible cultural heritage.
Over the last half-century, the advent of the modern audio-visual and media age has seen a dramatic reduction in the number of professional hakawati in Syria; a decline sadly exacerbated by the country’s recent and ongoing conflict. For many, this trend has created a strong resolve to ensure that the tradition, and the centuries-old stories that belong to it, survive.
In this project, we celebrate the life of the fabled Damascene storyteller Abu Shadi and also examine the role and importance of stories and storytelling in modern Syria.