Camel’s hair, sheep’s wool, palm tree fronds — these are just some of the materials that are used in traditional Emirati crafts.
“Crafts are works of art that require knowledge and skill. They have economic, aesthetic and cultural returns,” Ghamasha Aldarmaki, from the research and studies department at the Hamdan Bin Mohammed Heritage Centre told Khaleej Times.
She added that the economic and social conditions of the past were the reason why many professions were born, and these crafts were important for their livelihood and to achieve self-sufficiency, “which was the basis of stability”.
The crafts varied based on the nature and geography of the different emirates, and they even reached to other Gulf, African, Indian markets and anywhere their ships reached worldwide.
“Even though some of them may have disappeared today, many are still practised and are a source of livelihood for those who practise them,” she said.
According to the centre, the crafts are divided into three categories: those related to the sea (such as diving or fishing), those related to daily life (the weaving of hair houses, tents made from palm fronds or carpets made from camel hair, and the spinning of wool and weaving women’s gowns), and finally crafts that were practised by Emirati women to meet the needs of their families.
Here are a few examples:
“Despite the UAE’s great industrial development which is witnessed in all fields, traditional crafts still maintain their position as the most important elements in intangible cultural heritage,” said Ghamasha, adding that the UAE has made great efforts when it came to preserving traditional crafts.
Al Sadu, for instance has been inscribed in 2011 by the UNESCO as part of their list of intangible cultural heritage in need of urgent safeguarding.
Many organisations, such as the Hamdan Bin Mohammed Heritage Centre, are also working on preserving the crafts and encouraging the younger generations to learn them.
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