Residents of the city of Kafr Nubbal are reviving the tradition of baking flatbread in traditional clay ovens.
The dire security situation has led to shortages of both fuel and wheat flour for automated bakeries, which has played a part in this revival.
But locals say that it is also spurred by nostalgia and memories of more peaceful times.
“The tannur has its own atmosphere and charm, “ said Um Isa, 33. “People are drawn in because they find the appetizing smell of baked flatbread irresistible. It is also a focal point for women of the neighbourhood to get together over a cup of tea and muhamarah (bread topped with a spicy red pepper paste).”
The process requires skill and patience, from gathering the materials to build the oven to kneading the dough and cooking it for just long enough inside the intense heat.
Um Khalid, 55, is a local woman with long experience of making clay ovens.
“The tannur is essentially made of pottery and plant fibres mixed together to produce a cement-like mix,” she said. “Then, with utmost care, the tannur is built in a conical shape.”
“The construction of the clay oven is only part of the story,” continued Um Faris, 60. “Making bread in a tannur demands mastery of cooking and a variety of skills including the preparation of the dough and whisking the baked bread out of the oven.”
This was once a prized skill amongst local women, she continued.
“Making tannur flatbread… requires a positive spirit and real desire. Many girls of the young generation lack this skill. In the past, a girl capable of making tannurflatbread was a girl capable of attracting many suitors.”