Craftsmen showcase art of making palm frond panels

Craftsmen showcase art of making palm frond panels
Craftsmen showcase art of making palm frond panels

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Nevin Al Sukari - Abu Dhabi - The men make daan panels up to 24 feet at times.

Taking place in the historic Heart of Sharjah district, the 18th edition of Sharjah Heritage Days (SHD) is showcasing the unique crafts specific to the UAE and Gulf region to preserve local handicraft traditions and educate the younger generations about it.

One such craft is making the “daan” or palm frond panels, which are in turn used to build the Areesh traditional houses. The palm leaf stems are sorted, dried, lined up and tied side-by-side using another palm tree-derivative – rope made out of the tree’s fibre. The daan craftsmen, who hail from Fujairah, can be seen at work in the Agriculture Environment pavilion, making panels measuring 2.5 metres in length at a time, which are then assembled to build the Areesh.

The men even make daan panels up to 24 feet at times. “Besides the Areesh house walls, it’s also used for making ceilings, walls for animal barns, and in boats,” says Ali Al Kaabi, one of the daan craftsmen. Nearby sits Salem Mohammed Al Hfeity, an octogenarian who swiftly fashions the ropes by rolling the palm fibre against his leg.

The beauty of using all the parts of the locally abundant palm tree is that it is suitable for the high temperatures and practical uses in the region. “The daan helped keep old houses cool in the hot weather and served as a seating area in wooden boats, as they are soft enough to sit on with some cloths spread on top,” says Rashid Saeed Al Abdouli, another craftsman.

The craft goes back hundreds of years, and was more commonly in use before the 1960s, but it still endures today through these craftspeople who travel around the country showcasing it to new generations and offering a glimpse into how their forefathers lived.

Taking place in the historic Heart of Sharjah district, the 18th edition of Sharjah Heritage Days seeks to highlight the heritage and rich culture of the UAE, until April 10.

Among the arts being showcased are the unique crafts specific to the UAE and Gulf region that centre on women makers, enabling them to preserve local handicraft traditions.

One such craft is the generations-old art of weaving using the “safeefah” technique – palm leaves are dried and woven together to create baskets, mats, rugs boxes, bags and other items. At the Agriculture Environment open-air pavilion, Emirati women from Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah are seated among palm fronds – called “khoos” – which are divided into sections, some of them coloured, and weaving them into various items.

Before the weaving, the fronds need to be dried (for up to a week) cleaned and assembled as well. The dyeing process is done by dipping the fronds in hot water with the colour in it, before leaving them to dry again. The woven items may take a day or more to complete. Often, it is a leisure activity for the women, spread out over many days and used as a time to catch up with relatives or friends.

While in the past, safeefah baskets and items served a variety of practical use and purposes, it is preserved today as an Emirati cultural tradition, with the products sold as décor items or souvenirs. The weaving activities at Sharjah Heritage Days offers an informative display and a look into this old household art and activity, for a younger and modern generation of Emiratis and expatriates.

As the 18th edition of Sharjah Heritage Days (SHD) – the region’s largest festival showcasing local and global cultures – completed its first two weeks, the Higher Organising Committee has announced that 63,000 people from the UAE and beyond have visited the festival’s 500+ activities and events in the Heart of Sharjah.

On behalf of the festival organisers, Dr. Abdul Aziz Al Musallam, Chairman of the Sharjah Institute for Heritage and Chairman of the committee, said: “The heartening footfall to our festival thus far is a clear indication that heritage is a rich and interesting subject to all segments of community, and has the potential to be a key driver in the culture and tourism sectors. The number also testify to the amount of trust the public has in the precautionary measures in place at SHD to curb the spread of COVID-19.”

The organising committee continues to work on its plan for daily and continuous sterilisationof all the activity locations.

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