The Merchant of Syria
A History of Survival
The remarkable story of Abu Chaker, who saved his family and its fortune amid a brutal civil war by buying a wool mill in northern England.
What hope is there for the future of Syria? Clues can be found in the life and times of the Syrian cloth merchant Abu Chaker (1921–2013). Barely literate, and supporting his mother and sisters from the age of ten, he built up his business empire on trust, despite losing everything twice through political instability and war, before coming to England in the 1970s. The climax of his tumultuous life was to buy and save a Yorkshire mill, which still serves as the headquarters of the textile manufacturing company he turned into a global brand.
Drawing on her first-hand knowledge of the man, and on scores of interviews conducted in Syria, Lebanon and Britain since his death, Diana Darke shows how Abu Chaker’s story embodies the struggles of many young Syrians, and touches upon many of today’s pressing global issues—from Islamic values, religious coexistence and multiculturalism to poverty, political unrest, terrorism, displacement and refugees.
Diana Darke is an Arabist and cultural expert who has lived and worked in the Middle East for over thirty years. She is the author of My House in Damascus: An Inside View of the Syrian Crisis. Her links to Syria are deep and ongoing.