What It’s Like to Get Tattoo With Ancient Stamps at Razzouk

Every time I travel, my search for lasting ways to remember my experiences abroad continues. Razzouk Tattoo has been in business for 700 years and I found the ultimate souvenir: tattoos.

The author taking a selfie outside Razzouk Tattoo in Jerusalem.
The author at Razzouk Tattoo, Jerusalem.
Jordan Parker Erb/Insider

I love body art, and have almost a dozen tattoos. So I was intrigued when I read about Razzouk Tattoo I was in Jerusalem, Israel and knew that I had to go. Wassim Razzouk (current owner) told me that the parlor has been run by the same family from the 1300s.

Their ancient tattooing technique, which uses hand-carved stamps to create designs, has attracted people to the Holy City for centuries. members of the band OneRepublic.

Last month, I joined the ranks that sought out the shop for ink.

Five centuries ago Wassim Razzouk’s family moved to Jerusalem from Egypt for pilgrimage. There they continued to tattoo the many visitors who came to Jerusalem.

A man stands in front of a tattoo parlor in Jerusalem.
Wassim Razzouk standing in front of his parlor.
Jordan Parker Erb/Insider

The Razzouks, Coptic Christians who practice a religion called Coptic Christianity, are a group of Coptic Christians. originated in Egypt. They started tattooing Christians on the 1300s to identify themselves. However, this practice was long-established, according to the Coptic Church of Archangel Michael and St. Tekla.

Wassim explained to me that Egypt used to have little Christian tattoos on their wrists as a way of marking themselves for Jesus.

Wassim explained to Insider that their business has been around for many years in different forms. The Razzouks tattooed people in church courtyards when they first began, but their current location didn’t open until much later.

According to Wassim’s family story, their ancestors came from Egypt and settled in Jerusalem. He said that the stenciling technique they used to inscribe pilgrims was also brought to Jerusalem.

Razzouk uses hand-carved stamped stamps as stencils to create their tattoos. The stamp is then pressed into ink, transferred onto the customer and used as an outline. Finally, they tattoo the design with a traditional tattoo gun.

A hand holding two small stamps
These are the stamps I chose to have tattooed.
Jordan Parker Erb/Insider

Razzouk Tattoo creates their tattoos using hand-carved stamps. This is not the case with other tattoo shops. Wassim explained that each one was carved into a wooden piece as part a stenciling technique that originated from Egypt.

He explained to me that the stamp shown on the left was created around 200 years ago while the lion stencil is approximately 400 years old.

The original family had over 140 designs. However, only 80 of these are currently in the shop. He stated that many of the remaining designs have been lost or are now with family members.

Razzouk Tattoo has many tattoo styles, but their speciality is stamps.

Three photos of tattoos are seen in a photo collage
Here are some examples of the stamps that Razzouk Tattoo offers.
Photos courtesy of Wassim Razzouk/@razzouktattoo

Guests have the option to bring in their ideas for custom tattoos or can choose from the dozens of stamps available at the shop. This is what I learned through the process.

I was told that each stencil has a religious motif, which spans Judaism, Christianity, and all the ages.

Wassim explained that the images depict scenes from Christ’s baptism to his resurrection as well as many symbolic events between.

Razzouk’s historic method of tattooing was first introduced to me by my mom. She had made an appointment on a family trip in Israel. As a self-proclaimed tattoo enthusiast, I knew I had got to go along with her.

A road inside Jerusalem’s old city.
A road inside Jerusalem’s old city, where Razzouk Tattoo is located.
Jordan Parker Erb/Insider

My mom and I went to Razzouk Tattoo in October with my dad as moral support. It is located within the walls of Jerusalem’s buzzing old city.

Jerusalem’s narrow cobblestone lanes are dotted with souvenir shops, fresh juice stands, and traffic-jammed streets lined by boutiques, just outside the walls of the Old City.

The shop was small and bustling when we first arrived. The shop was no bigger than my New York City apartment measuring approximately 1,000 square feet. It was crowded with tattoo artists, guests and potential customers.

My mom and I scheduled appointments approximately a month ahead of time, but we also saw people make appointments for the next day as well as walk ins.

Razzouk Tattoo offers the kind of no-frills experience I’ve come to expect from some tattoo shops in the United States — but with perhaps even fewer steps.

The inside of a tattoo parlor
Inside the tattoo shop.
Jordan Parker Erb/Insider

Every tattoo shop I have visited, from Montana to New York has been a strict no-nonsense place. There are few platitudes and little small talk. And there is no dilly-dallying. It’s time to go to the tattooing table after signing waivers and consent forms.

It was almost the same process at Razzouk tattoo, except for the waivers and consent forms. Tattoo parlors, like most places that offer body-modification, require you to sign paperwork to prove you’re legal enough to get tattoos and you won’t sue if anything goes wrong.

Not so at Razzouk.

While I am not certain why the forms were missing, it was alarming. I also remembered that I was in a different country with different rules, so I thought it was quite nice to be able to skip the paperwork.

There was virtually no paperwork needed to get started tattooing.

A book filled with designs, which customers can choose to get tattooed.
Customers can select to have their tattoos done from a book that contains stamps.
Jordan Parker Erb/Insider

It was amazing how fast we got started. We started within minutes of arriving for our appointment at 5 p.m., without any paperwork or guests.

We flipped through binders with the stamp designs before being ushered back for inking. The history of the stencils fascinated me and I flipped through the books.

I had spent months looking through the shop’s Instagram account, so I knew what designs I wanted. My mom, however, had her own idea. After admiring the stamps for a while, we were ready to get tattooing.

Two small tattoos were done on my body: an olive branch, and a lion.

Two tattoos, a lion and an olive branch, side by side
The author’s tattoos, a lion and an olive branch, were created from 400- and 200-year-old stamps.
Jordan Parker Erb/Insider

Although I thought that an olive branch or a lion would look great permanently etched on my body, I was more interested in their aesthetic appeal than their meaning. I asked my employees for their meanings.

I had the lion tattooed on my tricep. is the Lion of JudahThe symbol of a tribal of the same name, which is referenced in Judaism or Christianity as “the Symbol of the Tribe of the Same Name”

An employee explained that the olive branch is a symbol representing hope and love. It can be found on many Razzouk Tattoo stamps.

The tattoos are not only different in how they are done but I believe that they look just like any other ink.

The author getting tattooed in Jerusalem.
One of the tattooists presses the stamp onto author’s wrist.
Jordan Parker Erb/Insider

The cost, pain, and healing process were nearly identical to tattoos I have received in the US.

Each piece is approximately one inch in diameter. I paid $170 for the two pieces. They hurt like any other tattoo, and took the same amount of time to heal — about two weeks.

Tattoos are not the right souvenir for everyone, I see that. For the adventurous traveler or impulsive tattoo fan, it’s an experience that should be done.

People stand in a tattoo shop.
Razzouk Tattoo is a must for any adventurous traveler.
Jordan Parker Erb/Insider

If you’re looking for a calm, tidy environment for your first tattoo with consent forms, safety and procedure explanations, and extensive aftercare instructions, I would look elsewhere.

This is where you should go if you are looking for an unforgettable experience and a tattoo filled with a lot of stories.

Each of my tattoos has a story, but these are my favorite.

The author holding a cup of coffee. A tattoo of an olive branch can be seen on her wrist.
Razzouk tattoos are like having a piece or history permanently inked on your body.
Jordan Parker Erb/Insider

Every piece of body art I have, from the tattoo that a friend gave to me at an undergrad party, to the tattoos that are dedicated my parents, has a story. Each piece of my body art has something to do with a meaningful or memorable story.

But now, having a part of history stamped onto my body is a certificate of my travels that can never be lost or stolen — and that’s exactly what Wassim said is so special about it.

Wassim said to me, “It’s different from any tattoo you can find anywhere else in the globe.” “It’s different. It’s a tattoo that comes with heritage — the heritage of the Holy Land, of the pilgrims, and of our family.”

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