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Artisans taste recognition at Liwa Date Festival

Women keeping alive traditional wicker craft showcase their skills

Image Credit: Abdul Rahman/Gulf News
Women make wicker baskets at the heritage souq during the Liwa Date Festival. These women have been crafting these intricate baskets for more than two decades.
Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: The weaving of wicker baskets to store food — dates in particular — is a skill that has been passed on from one Emirati generation to the other.

Shaima Abdullah, 50, and Mouza Al Mansour, 30, have been crafting these intricate baskets for more than two decades, but are displaying their wares at the Liwa Date Festival for the first time.

“My grandmother taught me to weave at the tender age of six. We use wicker for three different purposes,” Shaima told Gulf News on Tuesday. “There is Al Sarrood, which is made out of wicker palm to serve meals. In addition to that, Al Mejabeth, is used to act as a protective layer to the food,” she explained.

The third woven item is referred to as Al Mekhrafah. It is a kind of basket used to store all types of dates which are intrinsic to the UAE’s heritage and culture, Shaima added.

Both Shaima and Mouza’s friends and families have been taking part in the annual Liwa festival for years now and encouraged them to participate as well.

“The festival is very well-organised this time and there are a variety of interesting stalls that portray the Emirati culture,” Shaima said.

Outside the festival, Shaima continues to make wicker baskets and delivers them to interested customers. She also works closely with the General Woman’s Union.

When asked whether they would be willing to participate in the next edition of the festival, both women eagerly replied in the affirmative. They added that the main aim of the yearly event is to spread awareness among tourists and expatriates about the UAE’s rich traditions.

“Weaving in general helps sustain Emirati heritage, and this festival is an opportunity for us to do the same,” Shaima said.

According to Mouza, visitors to her stall are mostly non-Emiratis eager to know more about the UAE and its customs. However, the sales this year are relatively low compared to previous years, she said.


— Maisoon Mubarak is an intern at Gulf News.