Arabic Art & Fine Craft

Discovered at every archeological dig are pottery jars used for storing water and grain. Today, these are still fired in man made wood-fuelled kilns. The various shapes and sizes of the water, grain and later oil jars, are displayed in the Heritage Museum, (see Museums section). New locally made pots are on sale in the Plant Souk, Al Soor.

The old Arabic bridal chests which are becoming a rarity were made throughout the Gulf, characterized by the solid wood (usually teak or rosewood) with inlaid brass decoration and often, secret compartments. Smaller wooden chests, with carved decoration only and many compartments were made specifically for the pearling industry. Pearls would be graded and stored in the boxes according to size, along with scales and other pearling paraphernalia.

Weaving and embroidery was used for dress decoration and practical purposes. These traditional crafts are still popular pastimes amongst the national women.

The locally available date palm fibers are woven to produce mats, baskets, bags and bowls plus fans used for lighting fires.

There is a shop in Souk Al Arsah which sells these crafts and you will also find them on sale in the old Iranian Bazaar which runs parallel to the creek. For further details, see Souks section.

Perfume and Incense are an integral part of Arabic life for both men and women and are usually family run businesses. The three types of perfume and how they are mixed are a closely guarded secret. Attar is the oil based perfume, bukhoor is the fragrant burnt incense (formed by burning the wood chips) and the third is a wax sachet, which when burnt gives off a charcoal odor.

A visit to Al Shuwaiheyn between the Arts Area and Al Boorj Avenue is recommended. You will find many perfume shops here with the oils, the incense woods and burners on display. With a little gentle persuasion, the shop keepers will show you the famous bukhoor and allow you to test the perfumed oils, see Souks section.

Henna, made from the leaves of the lawsonia inermis shrub, has been used for centuries to enhance beauty in the Middle East and India. Traditionally, henna is used to color hair and to decorate the palms of hands and the soles of feet, specially for weddings and Eid celebrations. The coloring, which also contains cooling properties will remain on the skin for several weeks before fading. In addition to Indian and Arab beauty centers which provide this treatment, you can buy henna transfers in the Iranian Bazaar, just behind the Arts Center!