Skills Associated with Traditional craftsmanship
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Traditional home furniture



Traditional home furniture

Most traditional home furniture in the past relied on raw materials that were found in the local desert environment. The Emirati people showcased their advanced skills in making home furniture by utilizing the useful raw materials available in their environment.

Most traditional home furniture in the past relied on raw materials that were found in the local desert environment. The Emirati people showcased their advanced skills in making home furniture by utilizing the useful raw materials available in their environment.


Mandoos is one of the most important ancient pieces of traditional home furniture. It is a box that is used to store clothes and valuable family items. It is usually made of different types of wood such as teak, ebony or pine, and it has a movable lid with hinges attached in the back. Accordingly, the price and value of a mandoos are determined according to the quality of the wood. They are usually decorated with small nails or other patterns made of copper and various other metals. Some are decorated with wooden sculptures and carvings. Sometimes the mandoos has four legs to keep it elevated, away from moisture and dampness, and in order to make it easier to clean the floor underneath without having to move it. Some mandoos-es have three or four drawers, while others are partitioned from the inside into several compartments that serve different functions. Most mandoos-es were imported from India, and a few originated from Zanzibar, Iran and Pakistan, while others were produced in Oman and other areas of the Arabian Gulf.


Another piece of traditional furniture is the “sahharah” , which is a metal box that is made in different sizes. It is often decorated with beautiful drawings and engravings with bright colours. It was used in the past to store clothes and household items and was placed in the main room.


Pillows, "mawasid” are made of fabric and are stuffed with cotton or pieces of cloth, so that they are comfortable. They would also sometimes be stuffed with the small granules of Arak trees, which are commonly found in the UAE. The branches of Arak trees contain small white granules that have a spongy texture. Another important piece of furniture is the haseer, which is a wide rug with a width of about two meters and a length of approximately 5 meters. It is made of thick palm wicker arranged in long symmetrical lines. It is also sometimes made from other trees. In the past, it would be used to cover the floors of rooms in homes as well as the floor of the manama. It would also be used in covering the deceased. In addition, people would sit on the haseer when in the courtyard. Some types of haseer were also used to cover ceilings or protect tents from the rain.


Semma is a large rug made of palm wicker that comes in different sizes, the largest of which may reach approximately 5 meters, such that it is sufficient to cover the floor of a large tent. The semma is made of long ribbons that are woven from palm wicker by women and it is decorated in various colours and shapes. A single ribbon is known as a saffa. Its width and length are determined according to the type of semma to be made. Women then sew it or attach the ribbons with one another using soft palm fronds, which are submerged in water for a period of time until they become soft and flexible. The semma is usually used to cover the floors of the home.


Another piece of home furniture is the "manz", which is made of palm frond sticks that connected to each other by ropes that are also made of palm fibre to form of a small bed. Children are placed in the manz or or are carried while in the manz by means of palm fronds. Every traditional home also has a durj, which is a ladder made of tree stems and branches. Each rung is firmly attached with ropes made of palm leaves. There are also shorter varieties of durj-es, some of which are just a carved tree stalk. The durj, is used to ascend to the manama. Its height does not exceed two meters from the ground and is constructed in the yard of the house. A ghadan is used to hang clothes to dry. It is a piece of wood that is adjusted in a certain way, such that one end of is attached to the inner side of one of the tent walls, while the other end is attached to the opposite wall. Clothes, matarreh, saha, kharj, yaid and other items are then placed on the ghadan.


No traditional house can go without a zawliyah or sijjadah, which is a rug or rectangular mat that is made of canvas or leather and sometimes woven from goat wool and decorated with beautiful-coloured drawings. Its edges are trimmed, and people can then sit on the zawliyah or use it as a blanket in cold weather. It is also used as a prayer rug.


There are many items within the home furnishings that are made by women using palm fronds and decorated with different patterns and bright colours, such as the mahafa which is a hand fan that is used to keep cool, and a broom, makhamma or makashah, which is used as a tool to clean the house and remove dirt. It is known as assouw, if it is made from palm branches after harvesting the dates. Assouw is used similar to a makhamma to clean the house or the mazrab "barn".  Jurban is also made from palm fronds. It is a container of various sizes made from palm fronds in which dates are carried. jafeer, zabeel, and quffah are cylindrical containers in the form of baskets that are made from palm fronds and come in different sizes and shapes according to their use. The most common variety has an opening and is used to carry vegetables or fish from the sea, or dates from palm trees. Some are also used to transport sand that is needed for constructing houses. In addition, there are other products that are made from palm fronds and come in different sizes. They are used for other purposes, including the mashab that is used to light and heat a fire, cool down food, especially for children. The maghtah or maghati is the cover that shields the table from insects. Another product is the sallah (basket) which comes with its lid and is normally used for storing clothes and various other items. The maghmarah is a basket in which dates are washed and left to dry, while the kashouna is also a long basket in which dates are placed.


Haban, mandaban, mawress, and obayba are containers that are made of leather and are used for storing various items, including coffee beans, rice “aish”, wheat “barr” and other grains and foodstuffs. Dharf is a container in which ghee is placed, jarba is a water container and maqras or makhadh is used for churning. Fanar, salboukh and qera’a are lighting equipment. They are comprised of two stones similar to granite and marble, and either a substance, which is similar to silk and extracted from Calotropis (ashkhar) plants, or a cotton wick is placed between them to light the fire. Not only that, copper qudoor (pots) are used for cooking, and wooden bowls are used for serving food. Other necessary tools include a number of khashouqah "spoons", mallass "a long spoon used for stirring food, raha which is a grain and bazar (spice) mill, as well as coffee dilal and fanajeen (pots and cups) and tools that are used in making these instruments.

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