Emirati woman selling traditional handicrafts at the Liwa Date Festival on Tuesday. Image Credit: Abdul Rahman/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 Moza 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 today (Tuesday) at the Liwa Date festival.

“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 form of a basket used to store all types of dates, which are intrinsic to the UAE’s heritage and culture, Shaima added.

Both Shaima and Moza’s friends and families have been taking part at the annual Liwa festival for years now, and have 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 annual festival next year, both the craftswomen eagerly said they would. 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 Moza, 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 lower compared to previous years, she has heard.

-Maisoon Mubarak is an intern at Gulf News.