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Libya's pottery industry struggles to make sales

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MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP or licensors


Pottery has long been the pride of the city of Ghariane, in northwestern Libya, before declining over the years.

To try to save their tradition, the craftsmen now rely on online sales.

Potteries in Gharyan, a city of 160,000 people, essentially stopped developing in the 1980s and are struggling to keep pace with modernization, he said.

Businesses across Libya face daunting logistical challenges and an archaic banking system -- a challenge Shabani overcomes by receiving payment through an account in Europe.

On one of the main avenues of the city nicknamed by Libyans "capital of pottery", the tradition is quite evident.

For a long time, their major obstacle has been the transportation of pots to various markets across the country and externally.

"We tried to make it easier to transport the pottery to Libyans living outside the country - in Britain, Germany, America and Canada, as a first step - it was a great experience at first, then we experienced problems with shipping, such as packaging, as we didn't have very good materials for packaging, so we invested in that part of the project," said Muayyad al-Shabani, a potter from Gharyan.

Orders are placed directly on dedicated Facebook and Instagram pages, run by a dozen people, from sales to packaging to shipping.

This industry now faces imminent closure due to a shortage of laborers, a rise in the price of raw materials, sluggish marketing and increasingly tough competition.

"There's a lack of basic materials, which we have to import at high prices, and there are also few workers because of a lack of craft schools. Also the new generation (are not learning the craft), so we are relying on the older generation, who are leaving this profession as they advance in age, and then there's foreign labor and sometimes the market is good while other times there's a recession," said Ali Al-Zarqani, potter from Gharyan.

Ceramics have been part of the identity of many Libyans. The industry has changed the lives of so many families and individuals. The industry has hired thousands of managers, marketers and craftsmen in the entire north African country.

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