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Celebrating Bahrain’s craft culture

January 29 - February 04 , 2020

Gulf Weekly Naman Arora
By Naman Arora

Gulf Weekly  Celebrating Bahrain’s craft culture

The second “Saturday Market” kicked off last weekend at Bab Al Bahrain, showcasing various skilled craftsmen and offering visitors a chance to take home a piece of Bahraini tradition and skill.

This year, the market that lines the alley within Manama Souq right behind Bab Al Bahrain, is open all day, except for a lunch and prayer break, which runs from 12:30pm to 2pm.

Chief executive of Bahrain Tourism and Exhibition Authority (BTEA) Nader Almoayyed said: “We are pleased to officially launch the Saturday Market to the public at Bab Al Bahrain. It provides a space for local craftsmen to participate on a weekly basis, enabling them to showcase their creative talent and unique handicraft products and masterpieces to visitors from Bahrain and the region as a whole.

“The weekly event highlights our efforts at BTEA, which involve diversifying the kingdom’s tourism offerings and preserving the handicraft sector in Bahrain. With this in mind, we look forward to hosting more events and festivals suitable for all ages, which aim at strengthening the Tourism sector and its contribution to the growth of the Bahrain national economy.”

The market features 40 craftsmen specialised in 25 crafts such as basket weaving, traditional decorated chests, woodworking, pottery, hand embroidery, henna design, dolls, carpets, cage-making, pearl shucking and crochet among other trades.

The vendors are not charged a fee for their stall and are allotted one, two or three week slots, with new vendors rotating in every week, giving regular visitors something new to look forward to.

Amongst the vendors was the Can Company, which GulfWeekly had featured in October, comprised of a team of aspiring scientists from University of Bahrain, who have engineered a line of clay bottles in leather satchels that neutralise the sometimes-acidic nature of Bahrain’s water.

Ohood Muthana, who along with Ahmed Muneer, was representing the company at the market, said: “This is the first year we are at the Saturday market. We have a range of new products we have introduced since October based on customer feedback. We now offer a narrower bottle in glazed and non-glazed options.

“Additionally, to celebrate Bahraini heritage, our leather satchels now feature designs like the Dilmun seal and Bahraini flag so our customers can feel proud of owning a part of Bahraini heritage.”

Additionally, various activities and entertainment are available for visitors to enjoy, including live band performances, traditional Bahraini food vendors and activities and play areas for children.

Vendors have been curated with particular focus on the kingdom’s longstanding pearling history, and handicraft tradition.

Bahraini ceramic artist Shahnaz Ali had her hand-painted ceramic plates, cups, coasters and more on display, while Mohammed Helal, whose family continues its 100-year-plus tradition of basket-weaving, was hoping to sell some of their recent creations as well as educating visitors on the family’s history in the business.

Mohammed told our sister newspaper GDN: “As you can see, the palm tree wicker is used in making amazing baskets which are used to store several items. This tradition has been in my family for more than 100 years, my father taught me and my grandfather taught my father.

“We use colours to paint the palm wicker after making them into beautiful designs. Some of them include plates and you can store anything from sweets, nuts, fruits, any food.

“I am proud of the Bahraini traditions and I plan to pass it on to my children in the future.”

Bahraini artist Mustafa Halwachi was on hand as well with a steady hand to showcase centuries-old calligraphic tradition. He worked with 33-year-old Hassan Al Malik to create custom-made engraved wooden boxes used to store jewellery and other items.

Wafa Al Awadh and her mother Aisha, who run Al Dewania coffee, were offering visitors a taste of Arabic beverages. Wafa roasts her coffee at home, adding spices like saffron and cardamom, and considers her home-based business to be more of a passion, even though her mother has been running it since 2001. Wafa joined the bean business seven years ago.

Wafa explained: “This is our second year at the Saturday market. So far, the crowds have been good. Last year, it was only during the daytime but this time, it’s all-day. It can be a bit tiring but it’s good because we get to see more customers and show them some of our new custard creations!”

According to the BTEA, the market aims to further enlighten the public about the local handicraft sector, as well as encourage Bahraini youth to engage in craft projects in order to preserve local crafts as a trade which is deeply rooted in the longstanding history of the Kingdom of Bahrain.

The weekly Saturday Market is being held until March 22 at Bab Al Bahrain, every Saturday morning from 9am to 12:30pm and in the afternoon from 2pm to 7pm.

During the Formula 1 Bahrain Grand Prix 2020, it will be held from March 19 until March 22 and open to visitors for four consecutive days.

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