Wool Weaving:A traditional folkloric Handicraft [Archives:2004/774/Last Page]

September 20 2004
Handicraftsman working on the looms
Handicraftsman working on the looms
By Nasser Abdullah N. Salah,
For the Yemen Times
Aden Bureau

Traditional handicrafts are by no means new in Yemen, and Shabwa in particular has known a long history of such activities. Weaving is a particular specialty, – not only Maawez weaving, but wool weaving as well, a long-standing activity which skill, known as hair weaving to the inhabitants of Shabwa, has been passed on through generations.
Shabwa, is indeed famous for having varieties of traditional crafts due to its folkloric heritage and its close relation to ancient Yemeni civilizations. It is a shame then, that this tradition of weaving is on the decline.
Aar, a small village, situated in the Gabah district of Shabwa, is one of many villages where hair weaving can be found. The natives are craftsmen by nature, and used to devote themselves to such activities as a source of income, but in the present day there are but few who still find the time for this activity. The reasons why hair weaving is on the decline can be attributed to a change in attitude of today's generation.
The Al Bu-Lienah family, well known in the Gabah area, have long been skilled weavers, who used to visit many places and villages in Shabwa, making beautiful woollen rugs.
The raw materials used in this trade are obtained from animal hair, which is first cut off from goats, sheep, or camels, then cleaned, and spun into large balls of rough, thick, threads – manual wooden-made tools were used to serve the purpose. Finally, after much labor attractive rugs of thick heavy fabric, woven in rectangular shape are produced in different types known as FLEEG, SHUGGAH, FAREEQAH, and QATIEF. One of which is made only from the pure wool of goats, sheep or camel, whereas, the other is either consisted of wool of goat, or sheep, but mingled with cotton fine threads, that might be colored to pattern pretty stripes added to the surface. It takes as long as two days to make one woolen rug.
Woolen rugs were typically used for different purposes, people used to sleep on, wrap up in, sit on, and live in them as tents. It is said that sleeping on a woolen rug, especially the shaggy one made of goats wool, is a good way to ease backache. One may also tie rough woolen threads loosely around one's legs and arms to help relieve rheumatic conditions. Woolen rugs were sewn to serve as sacks to keep provisions, supplies and crops when carried on donkeys and camels backs.
Traditional, folkloric handicrafts are part of our culture, heritage, and history in which we must take pride, and subsequently, make every effort to preserve.