The desert is the heart and soul of Arabian life in Ras Al Khaimah and the UAE. It’s the birthplace…
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is known for its modern cities and huge deserts. Tourists often only visit the country’s malls, safaris, restaurants, and hotels. Only a few venture out of mainstream travel plans to enjoy the Emirate’s cultural crafts.
Places like Ras Al Khaimah in the UAE are rich with traditional crafts that provide a glimpse into the Emirati culture and the nomadic lifestyle. To truly understand UAE’s culture and history, ensure your next trip helps you discover the country’s traditional craft. Here is a guide to help plan your vacation.
UAE’s traditional crafts are unique and intricate. Craftspeople must go through extensive and strict apprenticeships before they master the art. And the beauty of the final products makes these efforts worthwhile. Here are some of UAE’s traditional crafts you cannot miss seeing.
Pottery is one of the oldest crafts of the UAE, dating back to 2,000 BCE. Traditionally pottery was used to create necessities such as water jugs and coffee pots. Emaratis continue to use Hib, a pottery jar that keeps water cool, and chirr and kharas, pots to store dates and dried fish.
Currently, pottery is made with hands and a potter’s wheel. You’ll find two types of clay commonly used: red and green. Red, or stoneware clay, is extracted from the mountains and fired at melting temperatures before shaping into objects like plates and bowls. In contrast, green clay is found underground and is mixed with red clay so it can be heated at lower temperatures.
Sadu is a weaving technique that was traditionally practiced in nomadic tribes. It utilizes camel fur, goat hair, and sheep wool to create necessities like tents, carpets, and blankets. The art was commonly practiced by women and allowed the nomads to participate in trade. In 2011, Sadu was put on UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding.
The weaving technique is extensive and, depending on the design, can take anywhere from two days to a week. Craftspeople gather and sort the material according to length and color. They remove impurities such as soil or plant matter by hand before cleaning them with detergent.
The yarn is dyed in multiple colors, usually through plants and spices, like henna and saffron. Then, they break the wool and spin it into yarn by using a loom. Items woven through Sadu have diverse motives and designs. They often include symbols of palm trees, sheep, camels, and verses from the Holy Quran. In ancient times these motives would also represent tribal symbols.
Talli is a traditional textile craft used to decorate female clothing. It is created by braiding thread strands together to create long strips of material of bright colors and intricate designs. Talli’s braiding process is lengthy and complex. Each thread is looped through a bobbin and supported by a pillow called Mousadah attached to a metal stand called Kajoujah. The setup allows the artisan to twist and braid threads carefully without unwinding them.
Traditionally Talli consisted of genuine silver and gold threads in the center and colorful cotton ones along the borders. These days, the real silver and gold threads have been replaced by synthetic versions, and Emirati women prefer Talli in black, red, green, and white colors more. Talli has multiple techniques. Here are some of the popular ones
Traditional crafts such as the ones mentioned above are essential for admirers of culture and history. They show how ancient Emeratis lived their daily lives, and their creation process highlights the intricacy of human craftsmanship. Here are a few places to see UAE’s traditional crafts in Ras Al Khaimah.
Traditional crafts captivate those who appreciate culture and history, as they reveal how ancient Emiratis navigated daily life and showcase the intricacy of human artisanship. One such place to witness these mesmerizing crafts is The National Museum of Ras Al Khaimah. Housing an extensive collection of archaeological, historical, and ethnographic artifacts, the museum collaborates with the Department of Antiques to provide insightful surveys and research that illuminate the region’s traditional way of life. Interactive ethnographical displays offer glimpses into traditional crafts spanning agriculture, fishing, and architecture.
The museum’s edifice itself holds historical importance. Initially built as a fort to defend against British invasions in 1809, it later served as a residential complex for the Quwasim family, police headquarters, and a prison before its transformation into a national history museum.
Abu Dhabi’s Women’s Handicraft Center is a grand showcase where artisans, primarily women, craft traditional handicrafts like Talli and Sadu. Visitors can marvel at the diligence poured into each creation and the years of training required to master these crafts. Dressed in vibrant Kanduras with black veils, the women work in groups, echoing the practices of their ancient predecessors.
The center also exhibits traditional life practices such as wedding preparations, makeup, and female attire throughout the UAE’s history. Many artisans come from rural areas, inheriting their skills from generations past. The center enables them to earn a fair wage and gain recognition for their work. Visitors can purchase the beautiful handicrafts on display in the center’s shops.
Dubai’s Hatta Heritage Village is a meticulous reconstruction of the traditional mountain village of Hatta, which dates back over 3,000 years. Using authentic building materials like palm trees, mud, and stone, the reconstructed village offers a genuine glimpse into traditional Emirati life. Visitors can explore how the villagers crafted shared resources, the clothes they wore, and the roles they played in sustaining their way of life. The village also features houses exhibiting traditional artifacts, weaponry, and musical instruments.
UAE is a modern country with tall skyscrapers and world-class restaurants and malls. However, the country also has a rich history and culture often missed by tourists. The traditional crafts of the Emirati people, such as pottery, Sadu, and Talli, provide a perfect insight into the daily lives of ancient Emirati societies. In your next visit to the UAE, ensure you visit museums and heritage centers to gain firsthand experience of UAE’s traditional crafts. Book your trip to Ras Al Khaimah now!