The Bsous museum is the only one of its kind in Lebanon. That may seem a little strange when, as the signs in the museum will tell you, silk production was at one period the pillar of the Lebanese economy, counting for 62 percent of all exports between 1872 and 1910.
Numerous factors led to the decline of Lebanon’s silk industry. Factories suffered from a major shortage of women – who long dominated the silk factories’ workforce – after they found they earned more in lacework, which they could do from home.
When silk factories shifted from all-female to mixed workspaces, angry reactions from Mount Lebanon’s religious authorities – two patriarchs named Aoun and Geagea, as it happens – deterred many families from sending women to work. The availability of cheaper cloth like rayon and cotton, as well as increased competition from other silk producing countries, spelt the end of Lebanon’s remaining factories.
Silk enterprise was over by 1982 – defeated by cheap mass production from China, which still dominates the industry today. That year, the Silk Office was suspended indefinitely.