Arts & Music

Revisiting Traditional Crafts Of Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has a rich history of crafts. These were not works of art, rather the essence of daily life in the Kingdom.

Ever wonder what creativity the Bedouins and people of Saudi tribes of the past were up to?! Here are some crafts you should know about!

1. Weaving

From camel shoulder decorations to tents, the Saudis of the past weaved everything! The prominent design in Bedouin weaving is the longitudinal stripes in plain weaves. The Nabila Bassam Project in Al-Khobar is now an industry in itself which sells not only traditional weavings but also costumes. Curtains, saddle bags, blankets, pillows, clothes and bags were also weaved by the Bedouins.

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2. Jewelry

While men would adorn their rides or swords, women adorned themselves with jewellery. Saudi women would wear arm bands, anklets, earrings, nose rings and even belts and head jewellery. These were also considered the signs of a woman’s status and wealth. Melwi are the twisted silver bracelets and hizam is the waist belt. Coins and silver belts are also a common motif in traditional Saudi jewellery. Usually 3 or 5 chains would hang from the belt. Geometric shapes and pictorial symbols like crescents and shapes are common motifs. Colorful jewels and glass were also commonly used in jewelry.

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3. Dresses and costumes

Traditional Saudi costumes are usually very decorative and in combinations of black and burgundy. Other common colors include dark green and violet. Metal beads would be used for embroidery and some women’s tribal dresses also had coins and bells on them. Detailed lead beading work is used in the Hijazi thobe. Metal threads and geometric designs with wide cuffs are also common design elements.


4. Baskets

Palm fiber from palm leaf and grass blades would be used to make circular mats and baskets. The most decorative baskets are found in the Asir region. Star and zig-zag patterns are common in baskets used for storage.

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5. Dowry Baskets

Most commonly found in the Qatif region, these baskets would be used by brides to carry their dowry. These would be carried on the head, with the smaller basket on top.

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6. Wooden bowls and spoons.

The Bedouins used these for stews and butter. Shallow bowls with a ‘lip’ would be made for the purpose of pouring liquids like milk.

source: inkfrog.com

source: inkfrog.com


7. Pots

Pottery would be used for the storage of food. A hole would be dug in the ground to keep the pot. The common method of making these was wheel throwing.


8. Scales

Scales are called mizan. A decorative wooden stick would carry two baskets for measurement.

source: haraj.com.sa

source: haraj.com.sa


9. Doors and Windows

If you’ve been to the historical Balad district then you have already seen what traditional doors and windows look like. They are usually painted with geometric patterns and are made from flat wood panels.

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Photo Credit: flickr.com


10. Coffee Bean Bags

Leather drawstrings on embroidered material or entirely leather are two major kinds of coffee bean bags.


11. Coffee Boxes

These were single wood boxes with an open end. They were used for cooling down the coffee beans before the grinding process. Studs and steel rings often decorated the boxes which were sometimes also used for storing spices.


12.Incense burners

These are still used today in most Saudi homes. Earlier it was made of wood with the shallow part covered in lead and decorated with brass. They would also contain mirror designs on the sides. Incense burners were made from clay in some regions.

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Which traditional crafts of Saudi Arabia are your favorite?!

Source: Traditional Crafts of Saudi Arabia by John Topham

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