Ghraoui is the name of a deep-routed Damascene merchant family with a business established since 1805. During all its history, Ghraoui was associated with quality and excellence despite the political turmoil and hardship that accompanied its long journey, the Ghraoui success and legacy was carried on from one Ghraoui generation to the next. Although, during the 19th century, the family’s main activities were commodity trading like sugar, coffee, tea and handmade fruit processing. The beginning of the 20th century was the start of their real industrial venture.
Ahmad Ghraoui (1867-1960)
In the early 20th century, the head of the family’s 4th generation, Mr Sadek A. Ghraoui was a pioneer in introducing Syrian crafts to the international community. He represented the Syrian merchant and business communities in neighbouring Levant countries and all over the world.
Sadek Ghraoui was one of the five main founder of the fruit and vegetables canning company “Companie National des Conserves“, which was the very first public shareholding and the largest company in Syria at that time. It employed over 1000 employees and its products were reaching well into Europe and America, and participated at international exhibitions and fairs where Ghraoui products were recompensed several time from Paris to New York with awards certificates of excellence and gold medals in recognition of its quality.
Ottoman Syria was turned into short lived Arab Kingdom of Syria in 1920, which was however soon committed under French mandate.
Sadek Ghraoui during a visit to a chocolate factory in France, 1931
ADVENTURES OF CHOCOLATE
In addition of being the founder of several big companies – among it the National Sugar Company in Homs and a cement company in Damascus – Sadek Ghraoui was also engaged with different commercial activities: “importing and distributing food products” lead him into new adventures.
After a visit to France in 1931, Sadek Ghraoui was convinced of present chocolate, this new product to the Middle East people, as they were used only to Arabic sweets and chocolate was a new taste and discovery. They needed temptation, so a sterling silver scissors or a golden letter cutter were offered in every chocolate box to tempt people to buy this new delicatessen.
At the beginning, Ghraoui Chocolate was manufactured trough importing chocolate in blocks from Cacao Barry in France or Lesme in England. At that time, the most popular Ghraoui chocolate product was milk chocolate with almonds, which was introduced to the local market in fancy, thin wooden boxes imported from Lourié & Co., Austria.
Sadek Ghraoui (third from the left) wearing the fez at the International Colonial Fair of Paris in 1937
Damascene people started to buy and appreciate this new delicatessen. Shortly after, chocolate become a much appreciated gift in the Levant region. Once the demand for this new product increased, Mr. Ghraoui brought in a French manager who stayed in Damascus for 12 years. The aim of inviting this expatriate to Damascus was to match Ghraoui’s chocolate with the distinction of Ghraoui’s other products that had maintained an excellent reputation since the early 19th century, such as candied fruits.
Mr. Ogisse played a very important role in training the Damascene chocolatiers on the art of manufacturing superior quality chocolate from cocoa.
In the 1930s and 1940s, Ghraoui products were sold in London in Fortnum & Mason, Selfridges, and Harrods. They even gained the title of Purveyor to H.M. the Queen of England through its presence in the Army & Navy Store in London. In Paris, Ghraoui products were sold in Fauchon and Hediard.
Sadek Ghraoui is watching the installation and trial of manufacturing biscuits
at his last manufacturing project;
the Syrian Company for Manufacturing Biscuit and Chocolate,
which became the first Public Private Partnership Company in Syria
Syria gained independence in 1946, and became the Republic of Syria between 1946 and 1963. The early years of independence were marked by economic growth and political stability.
Unfortunately, political turmoil in the 50s and 60s brought tremendous losses to Mr. Sadek Ghraoui. In less than ten years, his company was nationalised two times.
Workers at the Syrian public shareholding company for Biscuit and Chocolate,
Sadek Ghroaui’s last project in 1966
First, Syria’s union with Egypt, when Nasser embarked on an unprecedented wave of nationalizations in both countries. It began in July 1961, without consulting top Syrian economic officials. The entire cotton trade was taken over by the government, as well as all import-export firms. Nasser announced the nationalization of banks and factories and this is when all industrial facilities of the father of Bassam Ghraoui were nationalised.
The coup d’état in Syria in 1961 led to its withdrawal from the union and renewed assertion of its independence. This is when Sadek Ghraoui in 1963 decided to proceed with the establishment of a large manufactory to produce high-quality chocolates, biscuits and confectioneries.
The manufacturing line for the biscuits was bought from Werner and Pfleiderer in Stuttgart, while the chocolate line was bought from Carle Montanari in Italy, and the toffee line from Nagema. The company name was S. Ghraoui and Co. (Syrian Company for Chocolate & Biscuits).
And this was the last industrial venture of the father of Bassam Ghraoui, which was nationalized in 1965 under the ruling of the Baath party. The Syrian government took complete control of the management and the production without the presence of Mr. Ghraoui.
Bassam S. Ghraoui
BASSAM S. GHRAOUI
After losing all their industrial activities and the sudden death of Sadek A. Ghraoui in 1969, his son Bassam S. Ghraoui resumed the chocolate adventure, starting from a small shop. That was the only family property which survived.
The shop stayed opened through this tough time thanks to the old shop keeper who managed the boutique until the son of Sadek Ghraoui finished his university studies and took control of managing this remaining small business.
In 1996, Ghraoui Chocolate Industry Ltd., founded by Mr. Bassam S. Ghraoui, established a modern chocolate and confectionery factory in the suburbs of Damascus, meeting the latest standards in manufacturing high quality chocolate and confectionery. Ghraoui chocolates and confectionaries were manufactured with delicacy and prepared with the selection of the highest quality raw materials to keep its excellent reputation and bind its glorious past.
Ghraoui chocolate was awarded the “Prix d’honneur” in 2005 at “Salon du Chocolat” in Paris, which is the most exclusive chocolate exhibition in Europe. The international successes led Ghraoui to expand its participation, including the first annual Salon du Chocolat and Chocolate Fashion Show in Moscow in 2006.
Ghraoui’s dress was designed by the Belgian designer, Stéphane Mahéas, and decorated with chocolate by the skilled chocolate technicians at Ghraoui’s factory. In 2008, Ghraoui took part in this same Chocolate Fashion Show in Paris with a special gown designed by the famous French designer Jean Doucet and worn by Miss France 2007, Rachel Legrain Trapani. In 2009, Ghraoui’s dress was worn by the French singer Caroline Clément.
Due to the Syrian civil war, the manufactory of Damascus was closed in 2012.
Today, Ghraoui is relaunching.
Ghraoui chocolate is going for a rebirth once again from Budapest, opening a new page in its story.
Carrying two-century journey of commitment to high quality and excellence, and an accumulated know-how of making exquisite chocolate and confectionery, Ghraoui team is proud to offer you a wide selection of delicacies.
Our first boutique is in Andrássy, in the heart of Budapest. An avenue, which was listed as world heritage by UNESCO in 2002, a symbol that holds all the meaning of our story.
Multiple international television stations have conducted reports and interviews about Ghraoui, including LUX TV from Luxembourg and ABC Channel from the United States, where Diane Sawyer described Ghraoui chocolate as the world’s best chocolate– as well as CNN in its show “Market Place Middle East”.
Moreover, many European and American publications have been writing on Ghraoui chocolate, including Aramco World, Madame Figaro magazine and The New York Times.