Traditional craftsmen
demonstrate their skils
at the Jenadriyah Festival

     Traditional craftsmen are a unique breed of people. They dedicate their lives to preserving skills and techniques for producing a range of products and items that made life possible in the past but have no place in Saudi Arabiaís dynamic present. Such craftsmen are respected by the people and supported by the government as guardians of the Kingdomís ancient heritage and as living links to its past.
     In past centuries when everything was produced by hand, the craftsman was an indispensable member of society. Every tribe and village had numbers of craftsmen who had undergone rigorous training as apprentices to skilled artisans and who produced items that were sold locally or taken by camel caravans to distant souqs (markets) to be traded. With the introduction of mass production techniques, machinery, factories and plastics, many of the items these craftsmen produce can no longer compete in quality and price with modern equivalents.


Traditional craftsmen
demonstrate their skills
at the Jenadriyah 
National Culture and 
Heritage Festival


A basket weaver manufacture works that are both
practical and pleasing to the eye.

     Even though their skills are no longer needed, thousands of traditional craftsmen still practice their trade in Saudi Arabia. As repositories of ancient crafts that would die if abandoned, they are supported by government grants and private foundations dedicated to preserving these crafts.
     Today, Saudi Arabians eagerly flock to exhibits where traditional craftsmen practice their skills. These exhibits are held throughout the country, with the most prominent one held every spring at the Jenadriyah National Culture and Heritage Festival near Riyadh. Here, an exact replica of an old souq has been established and craftsmen practice their trade at stalls.


A tailr hand sews gold thread
onto the collar of a bisht

A weaver works on a 
loom at her home to 
produce a colorfull piece
for tent walls and flaps.

     At these exhibits one may watch a metalsmith fashion a traditional brass and copper coffee pot. A wood carver slowly transforms a piece of wood into a saddle frame. Basket makers weave palm fronds and straw into hats, baskets and containers decorated with colorful designs. A potter using a foot-powered wheel shapes clay into bowls and water jars. Leather is cut and shaped into sandals, pouches and bags. Large planks are cut and fashioned into doors and windows that have intricate carvings and inlays.
     Blacksmiths heat chunks of iron in a furnace and hammer them into gleaming swords and daggers. A tailor hand sews golden threads into the collar of a manís bisht (cloak). Jewelers fuse precious metals and mount semi-precious stones to make intricate bracelets, necklaces and earrings. Craftsman put together ingenious wooden pulleys used in the old days to laboriously draw water from wells for irrigating crops.
     These are the scenes of old Saudi Arabia that can be viewed in Jenadriyah and other exhibition centers, and which represent the traditional crafts that are kept alive by practitioners and cherished by the nation.{short description of image}

 


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