Athra Saeed Al Mansouri demonstrates traditional weaving skills at the heritage village during the recent Al Dhafra Festival in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Abdul Rahman/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: The stall may look small and its entrance crammed with handicrafts, but once you enter, you cannot help but notice the woman sitting on the floor, cheerfully spinning wool and chatting with guests.

Athra Saeed Al Mansouri, an Emirati from Samha, is one of several weavers who still use Sadu, a traditional weaving technique. While unable to completely demonstrate her skill, as it requires the use of a large, mechanical loom, Athra, a mother of seven, is more than willing to explain the techniques and effort required to create items ranging from carpets to tents.

"At first, I sat and watched my mother weave with other women … when I was a child, I wouldn't be allowed to do anything but sort the wool but as I grew a older, I began to use the mughsil [a wooden stick with a four point flat top] to help spin the wool into yarn," she said.

"When I turned 12 or 13, my mother began teaching me the techniques to create different patterns, such as Al Owerayan [two triangles weaved together to form an hourglass shape] to create items such as bags. I taught my daughters, but while they know the techniques, they don't really practice the craft," she added.

Athtra recently participated at Al Dhafrah Camel Festival's traditional souk which ended on December 28. "I always take part in these festivals. I enjoy speaking to visitors and explaining our culture," she said.

Sadu was highlighted at the festival as part of Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage's efforts to place an element from Emirati culture and heritage on Unesco's List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Sadu is done by women in rural communities of the UAE and is used in furniture as well as accessories for camels and horses. Wool from sheep, camel and goat is used in Sadu. Depending on the size of the item being created, and the pattern, an object can be created in several hours, weeks or months, and sometimes even longer.