Michel Homsi, the last craftsman building handmade coffins in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, works at his shop on December 21, 2016.
AFP / IBRAHIM CHALHOUB
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In a tiny workshop in Lebanon's Tripoli, coffin-maker Michel Homsi takes a drag on a cigarette, surrounded by his carefully crafted handiwork, waiting for customers that never seem to arrive. He hasn't sold one of his handmade wooden caskets in a year, due to competition from machine-made coffins but also to dwindling numbers of Christians in the northern port city.Initially, business was brisk, with the father-son pair making four or five coffins a month.That process waits until a buyer has chosen the casket, so nowadays Homsi is surrounded by unlined coffins.Coffin-making is virtually the only trade Homsi has ever known.In 1982, when the fearsome Sunni Islamic Unification Movement militia began targeting Christians, Homsi decided to flee.Back in Tripoli, Homsi resumed making coffins with his father, but business had already started to dwindle as local Christians fled.By the end of the war in 1990, Homsi was making just one coffin a month and was forced to take up a cleaning job on the side to make ends meet for his wife and two children.Even peacetime brought no new customers for Homsi.
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