As grilling habits changed

Traditional clay oven craft revives in Diyala village

DIYALA, January 17 — In the village of Duhila, near Baquba, Latifa Khalil, also known as ‘Um Hameed’, has been shaping the traditional clay oven craft since she was 15. Under her mother’s guidance, Um Hameed mastered the art of creating ‘Tannour,’ a local clay oven. Now in her sixties, she attributes the resurgence of these ovens to changing grilling habits and the preparation of ‘kleeja,’ a traditional Iraqi pastry.

Speaking to 964media, Um Hameed explaines her longstanding craft. “I have been in this profession since I was 15, and there’s a high demand for our ovens,” she said. The absence of modern metal ovens in the past led women to craft these traditional clay alternatives.

Detailing the process, Um Hameed explained that the ovens are made from specially selected soil. This clay is sifted and mixed with salt, straw, and animal dung to prevent cracking and residue on bread. The quality of these ovens has attracted customers from regions like Sulaymaniyah and Salah al-Din.

The pricing of the ovens, ranging from 30,000 to 15,000 Iraqi dinars, varies based on size, with considerations made for those unable to afford them. The construction of an oven can take a week to ten days, depending on weather conditions, with shorter durations in the summer.

Um Hameed notices a shift in their usage. Initially lasting over two years for housewives, these ovens are now frequently used for grilling and making ‘Kleeja.’ The demand has grown significantly, with production increasing from two or three ovens yearly to three to five ovens weekly. The primary clientele now includes barbecue enthusiasts and restaurant owners specializing in grilled meats and fish.