Intangible Cultural Heritage
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Al Sadu

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From tents to carpets to belts for camel saddles, this traditional weaving technique is central to the culture and lifestyle of the Bedouin 

In the resource-scarce lands of the Arabian Peninsula, from Bedouin ingenuity emerged the craft of Al-Sadu, the traditional technique of weaving the hair of camels and the wool of goats and sheep into fabric for blankets, carpets, pillows, tents and the decoration of camel saddles and belts. 

 

Al-Sadu holds a place of particular honour in Emirati society, recognised for its essential role in Bedouin life and as a tangible example of adaptation and creativity. It also represents one of the most valuable economic contributions that women made to their society. Al-Sadu also played a central role in the social lives of traditional Emirati women.

 

Because of Al-Sadu’s significance, it was inscribed in 2011 on the UNESCO 'List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding'.

sadu

Process



The Al-Sadu process begins with the cutting of wool and goat hair, and the collecting of camel hair. 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 with 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 United Arab Emirates, such as 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 would be 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; Koranic verses; mosques and the names of tribes. These motifs can 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.

Did You Know ?

The traditional Bedouin tent, Bayt Al-She`r (house of hair), is a long, low, black tent made of Al-Sadu-woven goat hair.

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