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Skills associated with traditional handicraft

Overview

Making the al jirab (basket for dates) and its uses

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Al khoos (palm frond weaving) is a traditional industry practised in many parts of the United Arab Emirates, particularly in regions with palm plantations. Products made from al khoos were considered essentials for life in the past therefore women used it to secure most of their daily needs from it. 

Al jirab is a typical product made from palm fronds and this used for storing dates.

A practitioner describes the making of the al jirab as follows: Al khasf is made from braided palm fronds, and when the basket is filled with fresh dates it is called al yirab, or al jirab. Al yirab come in different sizes, some with a capacity of four mann while larger ones have a capacity of seven mann.

During the date harvest season, people gather together to collect the dates and fill the al yirab. This process is called al hasheed, a word derived from yahtashid, meaning gathering - in this case it refers to farmers gathering together after which the palm plantation owner offers them food. Most narrators say that the taste of dates stored in al yirab is different in quality from those packed in bags and plastic boxes.

Weaving the palm fronds started towards the end of the al ratab season (when the dates are ripe for harvest) when farmers, both men and women, gather the palm fronds. After the fronds are cleaned and prepared, experienced woman sort them out into lengths of between 10 to 15 arm spans depending on the kind of fronds. These are then braided to create al jirab. The al jirab is then soaked in water for three hours to make it more flexible after which it is dried under the sun for a few days.

Once it is dried, the farmer uses it to make baskets, a process that may take an entire day or less depending on the size required. The process starts by braiding equally sized lengths at different thicknesses, depending on the basket being made. The thicker the braid, the more palm fronds are needed. 

One female narrator says: The al jirab is made using al khoos, which is stitched together with al sard (thread). It is then used to store dates after they have been sprayed with water and left to dry in the sun (taghmeer).  This helps to preserve the dates from the beginning of the season until the next season. Some families also use al jirab to store meat after it has been grilled in the tannour (wood oven). The al jirab has many uses, including storing dates and carrying goods. The al jirab that is filled with dates is called jirab, and if it is empty it is called khasf

 

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