With the launch of the activities of the Liwa Dates Festival (2014), visitors, and especially tourists, have been flocking to the Traditional Market. A key highlight at the Festival, the Market aspires to convey the spirit of authentic Emirati heritage and spread the cultural legacy of ancestors. The tourist dimension of the Liwa Dates Festival in Al Gharbia (The Western Region) acquires a double significance, in view of the close connection between many local crafts and the cultivation of palm trees and dates.
The tourists who visit Liwa and its Festival find in the Market a model of the flourishing oasis decorated with meticulously-woven palm leaves. They have a chance to discover all products made of fronds, in addition to date sweets. Visitors can also have a close look at every aspect that is related to the daily life of the simple Bedouin family and the different crafts, such as Al Sadu (a traditional form of weaving) and knitting.
Many families visited the All-family Pavilion at the Traditional Market. The pavilion accompanies the activities of the Festival as part of the section of Modern Handicrafts Workshop. The Market aims at reviving, developing and safeguarding heritage. Among its other objectives are the promotion of the heritage legacy among locals and foreigners and the encouragement of Emirati women who have achieved a great deal of progress and development, and this through their participation in the organisation of exhibitions and trade fairs.
Once at the Market, the visitor notices that all displayed products are inspired by the local heritage and ancient environment. Among the products on display are handmade date baskets, painting on abayas, henna, and other products in addition to Emirati cuisine. The organisation of the Traditional Market falls within the strategy and efforts of the Cultural Programs and Heritage Festivals Committee to safeguard the intangible heritage of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, and the UAE in general. The Committee hopes to preserve and develop heritage through its integration in the daily life of the society. It aspires to guarantee that the rich cultural heritage of the region will remain alive and safe from oblivion in the future. Out of a belief that the strong winds of change can result in the loss of a whole culture in the absence of an adequate care, the Committee took on the responsibility to protect the local heritage.
The displayed products give the visitor an insight into the lives and traditions of ancestors, and can be considered as a traditional legacy with all the heritage lexicon and old tales they carry. The Market reflects, indeed, the strong bonds that connect the sons of the desert with the palm tree and their surrounding environment. A woman at the Market has displayed at her shop the following message in Emirati local dialect ‘Dear guest, welcome and we hope this won’t be your last visit.” This and other messages do confirm the ongoing hospitality and reveal the authentic Emirati spirit.
The visitor will also grasp women’s vital role in the deep-rooted Bedouin economy. Women are considered as important players in the collection of what an oasis can offer. From their mothers and grand-mothers, women inherit the efficient techniques needed to use these riches and preserve them for post-harvest times. The visitor will also discover the solidarity between the members of Bedouin families and notice the constant subsistence of tribal unity. The Traditional Market is a continuous local festival by itself. It is, indeed, a perfect platform to share expertise and reproduce entrenched heritage for the benefit of future generations.
The Director of the Liwa Date Festival, Mr. Obaid Khalfan Al Mazrouei, said, “The number of shops at the Market had reached 160 and benefited more than 306 Emirati families, who have been displaying their products made of palm trees, like the Al Surood (a round mat made of palm leaves), Al Mukhrafa (a basket made of palm leaves), Al Jahfeer (another type of basket made of palm leaves), floor mats, Al Meshab (a table-mat made of palm leaves), Al Yrab (a large bag made of palm leaves and used to conserve dry dates). Also on display are pastries made of dates and date sauce in addition to all varieties of Al Ratab (half-ripe dates).”
Mazrouei noted, “The Market includes a number of Majales (traditional meeting places) which are distributed among women artisans to display their products. This will bestow an opportunity upon visitors to discover by themselves the splendor of the traditional products made by a group of Emirati mothers.”
He explained, “The Traditional Market is a special event that reveals before the curious eyes of interested tourists the local heritage, which is rich in handicrafts related to the palm tree and dates. The visitors find in the Market a model of the flourishing oasis decorated with palm leaves that are meticulously woven. They have a chance to discover all products related to the lives of simple Bedouin families, such as Al Sadu and knitting.”
The Director of the Festival said that women participation could be considered as the main objective behind the idea of the Traditional market, noting: “The women who work in the sector of handicrafts make a tremendous effort to promote the heritage of the UAE in general and Al Gharbia in particular. The Traditional Market encourages home-made production of food, and culinary products related to the palm tree, dates and Al Ratab.” Mazrouei noted, “The launch of traditional meeting places inside the market opens the path in front of these women to teach handicrafts to the new generations.”
“These initiatives have witnessed the attendance of dozens of Emirati women who have come to gain knowledge of these local handicrafts that are usually transmitted from mother to daughter. The Market can also be considered as a platform that helps those involved in the handicrafts sector to enhance their skills through identifying the tastes of the consumers and visitors, including citizens, residents and tourists,” Mazrouei added.
Mazrouei shed light on the keenness of the Organising Committee to set terms and conditions for the participation in the Traditional Market in order to ensure the success of the targeted mission. He noted, “The participant must respect the deadlines set by the Festival’s Committee. He/She must stay in his/her shop from opening time to closure time and display only the products that were designated earlier by the Organizing Committee. The participant takes full responsibility for the transport of his/her goods to the Market and their arrangement in the shop at his/her own expense and in respect of the preset deadlines. The Organising Committee has the full right to use the space allocated to the participant if he fails to arrange it at least one day before the beginning of the Festival. The participant has no right to relinquish his space to any other person without a prior written permission from the Organising Committee.”
For more info please contact:
Rania Abo Baker Williams
cultural programs and heritage festivals committee ???Abu Dhabi