100% Emirati

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100% Emirati

By Shireena Al Nowais, Staff Reporter / GULF NEWS Published: August 12, 2007, 23:00

In a small corner on the second floor of the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH), aka the Cultural Foundation, is an invincible time machine.

As you step through this time machine you are transported to a time in the UAE when television, the internet, chairs and other modern-day luxuries did not exist.

Veiled women sit crosslegged in a woollen tent sipping freshly brewed Arabic coffee. One woman is quietly weaving a traditional dress with gold lining. After the dress is completed and she is satisfied with her work, she pins it to a wall made of palm fronds where it joins a colourful array of traditional dresses waiting to be sold.

Preserving culture

Mohammad Khalaf Al Mazroui, Director-General of ADACH, says that the authority puts emphasis on traditional Emirati crafts as part of its strategy to preserve Abu Dhabi’s cultural heritage, hence the creation of a “corner” or an outlet where traditional handicrafts are displayed.

“With globalisation and free trade, local products have entered a mismatched competition with imported ones. On the other hand, most of our traditional handicrafts contribute to the promotion of tourism and feature the habits and traditions of the people of Abu Dhabi, the UAE and the entire Gulf region,” he said.

Traditional arts

The outlet, located at Delma Corner in the Cultural Foundation, features Emirati women performing the arts of sado (wool/cotton weaving), teli (embroidery), palm tree frond weaving and henna.

Samples of Emirati traditional handicrafts are available for sale and all profits are rolled back into the project. Thus visitors directly contribute to the preservation of Emirati traditional crafts, some of which are close to disappearing.

Making a point

Al Mazroui made it clear that through this project ADACH also aims to show visitors how these folk arts are as beautiful and creative as other arts.

“Formal and folk arts have the same roots, and most of the world’s renowned artists have drawn their creative works from folklore. Thus, craftsmen and folk artists deserve from us all respect and recognition,” he said.

Did you know?

The most popular form of craft in Abu Dhabi is sado — the art of wool/cotton weaving. This handwork item is quite popular among tourists.

Teli is another well-known local craft in Abu Dhabi. It is basically the Arab-style embroidery that adorns women’s clothes.

The weaving of palm tree fronds is also a popular craft in the emirate. The end results are beautiful baskets and bags.

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