The Al-Sadu process begins with the cutting of wool and goat hair, and the collecting of camel fur. The wool or hair is then sorted according to colour and length. The cleaning process begins with the hair being blown and shaken to rid it of any plant matter, thorns, dust or soil. It is then combed. The process continues with cleaning, soaking it in hot or cold water three or more times, using clay, ash, soap or special Al-Sadu powder as detergent.
Next, the hair or wool is spun into yarn using a drop spindle, then dyed – often in bright colours – using local plants and spices available in the UAE. These include henna, turmeric, saffron, cactus and indigo. Traditional Al-Sadu colours are black, white, brown, beige and red.
The yarn is then woven on a floor loom made of palm or jujube wood. When a large amount of Al-Sadu material is required, such as for a tent or use at a wedding, multiple looms are used.
Traditionally, weavers would gather in small groups to spin and weave, exchanging family news and occasionally chanting or reciting poetry, such as Al-Taghrooda.
Designs and motifs
Elements of the desert environment and other important aspects of Bedouin life are often incorporated into the Al-Sadu decorations, symbols, shapes and inscriptions.
Common motifs include geometric patterns evocative of the region’s undulating grasslands and sand dunes; palm trees and flowers; camels, sheep and falcons; Qur’anic verses; mosques and the names of tribes. These motifs can also symbolise specific ideals. For example, a chain with overlapping rings symbolises the unity and cohesion among members of a tribe.
The names of the most frequently used Al-Sadu motifs are: The Masters’ Design, the Tree Design, Al Owerayan Pattern, Spotted Leather Skin Design, Ammunition Passer Design, Grain Design, Asnan Al Khail (Horse Teeth) Design, Scissors Design and Ain Al Ghadeer pattern.