Tuesday, April 06, 2010

A Day of Sharing in the Desert

It all started with my friend Karin Jackson's purchase of an antique camel bag at the Al Dhafra Camel Festival (which I will tell you about in my next blog entry). As we wandered through the Souk at the Festival, the local Bedouin weavers were admiring her purchase and through them we had the pleasure of meeting Leila Ben-Gacem, Manager of the Entrepreneurship Development Department of the Khalifa Fund, here in Abu Dhabi.

Leila is from Tunisia and has come to the United Arab Emirates to work with the Khalifa Fund to help keep the country's heritage skills alive. She travels to the farthest western reaches of Abu Dhabi Emirate to the two most remote towns of the region, Ghayathi and Sila, to search out local women with traditional skills; specifically the Bedouin art of weaving. For the past year she has been organizing a network of women operating in tents, caravans, and homes. These women are improving their skills and with the help of Leila, local co-ordinator Moza al Mansoori, and Design Consultant Yaza Hussain, market opportunities will be created to enable them to reach their potential through their creativity and handwork, while supplementing their family income and helping to meet their needs.

During our chat with Leila and our discussion of the difficulties and struggle to place a monetary value on handwork and determining a fair price for these items, she learned that we were quilters. She thought the ladies would love to see our work and of course they would love to share their weaving skills with us and she suggested we all meet. We were thrilled to be invited! A date was set and we invited some fellow quilters to join us.

6:30AM eight quilters met to head to the desert and Ghayathi, a 2 1/2 hour drive into the desert from Abu Dhabi. Once we leave the greenery of Abu Dhabi island, it is a sea of sand, as far as the eye can see. We arrive at a local girl's school in Ghayathi, where we are greeted by the weavers who have come to show the weaving they have produced since their last meeting and to consult with Yaza on some new design ideas. There was a show and tell of quilts and weaving. Leila and Moza were kind enough to translate for both sides as the local ladies speak very little English and we speak almost no Arabic.

1 comment:

Notjustnat said...

Woo hoo!!! What's a trip. I feel sad seeing it, you know I always wanted to visit the weavers. Well other life maybe! Good to see you blogging Cynthia.