World record hopes for Emirati women’s giant mat

Seven Emirati housewives worked to preserve UAE culture and heritage

Dubai: Seven Emirati housewives got together and made a giant traditional mat from date palm tree leaves, as part of their efforts to keep this symbol of the UAE’s culture alive.
The seven women, who are all members of the women committee of Dibba Al Fujairah’s Culture, Theatre and Arts Centre, said it took them around six months to complete the project as they worked on it whenever they got some spare time out of their busy daily routines.
The mat is made of date palm tree fronds and is 24m and 30cm long. Its width is 74cm.

The traditional mat, known in the UAE as a ‘Haseer’, was widely used to furnish floors of houses, mosques and roof tops in the past. They are still used today, but mostly for outings, especially in the desert. The giant mat will be on display at the first Liwa/Ajman Date Festival which begins tomorrow and will continue until Friday, July 29.

Saif Al Dahmani, Head of Al Nakheel Foundation for Heritage and Handcrafts, is the one who suggested the idea of making the giant mat and is now working on promoting it. He is even trying to find a sponsor for the project to help get the mat registered with the Guinness World Records (GWR).

“We already exhibited the mat at the Liwa Date Festival which ended last week and we got a good response from visitors who were amazed at seeing the mat and appreciated the hard work that went into it,” he told Gulf News.

Common people

Al Dahmani said he chose the traditional mat because it is part of the country’s heritage and something that was used widely in the past, especially by common people. “I am basically coordinating with the women committee, as I am exhibiting this mat at various exhibitions,” he said. “I also promote the handmade products by these women on various occasions,” he added.
Mariam Juma, the general supervisor, who oversaw the project, said she feels proud of the women who dedicated time out of their busy lives to this project. She said the seven women spent six months first, weaving and then sewing the mat. “When we suggested to them the idea, we did not set a timeframe because we knew it is difficult for them to dedicated certain hours to this because of their other commitments.
“This is the first time the women committee of Dibba Al Fujairah has taken up such a project and we are happy it has seen the light,” she said.

Aisha Hamdan, one of the seven women who worked on the mat, told Gulf News they all took part in the project because they wanted to do something that represented the culture and heritage of the UAE as a country.
“This mat does not only represent us women from Fujairah, but the entire UAE,” she said.
Sindiyah Al Rahma, a 50-year-old housewife and mother of nine, said she spent her time working on the mat whenever she was free from her house responsibilities.
“I used to spend around one to two hours whenever I had some time on hand because I also take care of my house and children,” she said.
Fatima Hassan, a mother of six, said weaving and sewing has always been her passion.
“I learned it when I was a child and still love doing it. So the idea of making a giant mat putting our experience into it was very exciting to me,” she said.
Art of weaving
Halima Ali, another 50-year-old housewife and mother of nine, said she learned the art of weaving and sewing from her grandmother and mother and she still does it. She is also now passing on the skills she learned to her daughters.
“We have to pass on the experience of making these traditional handcrafts to the younger generations because they are part of our identity and we have to preserve it in a way or the other,” she said.

At a glance

Work on the giant mat started on December 1, 2010 and was completed on May 27, 2011.
The giant mat will be on display at the first Liwa/Ajman Date Festival, which starts tomorrow and runs until Friday, at Ajman Festival City, near Ajman City Centre.
For details on the festival contact: 050-3006888