For the past 700 years the Razzouk family have made tattooing their profession, from one generation to the next. Razzouk Tattoo business!
The family business has been passed down and today in Old City Jerusalem Wassim Razzouk keeps his families legacy alive! The Razzouk family specialized in religious tattoos and for centuries tattooed Coptic Christians with a small cross that granted them access to churches.
Within the Coptic and other Eastern Christian communities tattooing has had a traditional and deeply religious role, tattoos have served as a mark of a persons pilgrimage to the Holy Land and a reminder of their faith even after the pilgrimage has ended. Anton Razzouk, who tattooed for over fifty years, alludes further to the role the tattoos play; “The tattoo was not only an unforgettable souvenir from the Holy Land, but it also served as a reminder of the person’s Christian faith and not to commit sins, theft, robbery, or murder.”
Traditionally the tattoos were created from carved wooden stamps which served two purposes, one- to complete the tattoo quicker and get the next pilgrim in for an inking and the second- to act as an early form of flash and show pilgrims what designs they could have! Although not in use today the Razzouk's still posses a number of these olive and cedar wood stamps and only in the last century they were sued to tattoo the arms of Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie, King George V and King Edward VII. The designs on the stencils include St. George slaying the dragon, the Resurrection, Mother Mary and Jesus and the Jerusalem Cross!
Today Wassim continues the family business and remains tattooing pilgrims with the assistance of his wife and fellow artist Gabrielle in the Christian Quarter Street in the Old City of Jerusalem. Though he also tattoos more modern designs in the nearby city of Ramallah. Surprisingly the majority of pilgrims Wassim tattoos are elderly individuals getting their first tattoo; “A lot of elderly people come to us for their first tattoos, the oldest man was an 87-year-old and the oldest woman was 92”
Religious tattoos have been the specialty of the Razzouk family for seven centuries and their business shows no signs of slowing down, the story of the Razzouk's is definitely a unique one and not just in tattooing! Still, ink is their business and it has been so for hundreds of years and it will hopefully be so for hundreds more!!