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To this day, many Coptic Churches require a tattoo of a cross or other proof of Christian faith to enter a church.

They also incorporate instruments and designs dating back several hundred years, carrying on one of the world’s oldest tattoo traditions.

The Razzouk family themselves placed their roots in Jerusalem as pilgrims.

After many pilgrimages and several generations of tattooing pilgrims and Christians of Jerusalem and the Holy Land, the Razzouk family relocated permanently to the Holy City around 1750.

The first evidence of a Christian tattoo tradition traces back to the Holy Land and Egypt as early as the 6th or 7th Century.

From there, the tradition spread throughout Eastern Christian communities such as the Ethiopian, Armenian, Syriac and Maronite Churches.

Historically, Christian tattoo artists created their own inks and used stamps to apply images to the skin, before tracing over them with the tattoo implements.

While Wassim does not use the old family ink recipe of soot and wine – using instead sterile inks produced specifically for tattoo application – many of the family’s 168 historic wooden stamps are still in use today.

Over the course of my interview with Wassim, nearly every customer used one of these ancient artifacts as part of their tattoo design.

Two women from western Armenia – lands now controlled by eastern Turkey – came in and explained that they had just completed their pilgrimage to the Holy Land and wanted to get a traditional pilgrim’s tattoo with no alterations.

Wassim Razzouk, 43, is a tattoo artist descending from a centuries-long line in the trade: 700 years to be exact.

“We are Copts, we come from Egypt, and in Egypt there is a tradition of tattooing Christians, and my great, great ancestors were some of those tattooing the Christian Copts,” he told me.

“A lot of them decided to come to the Holy Land as pilgrims themselves and decided to stay,” Wassim said.

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