In western Saudi Arabia’s city of Taif, shoppers stroll through a street filled with shops. Located in the heart of the city, this market is recognized for its traditional arts and crafts. Shops are filled with souvenirs, gold, silver, spices, jewelry, sheepskins, rugs, camelhair tents and perfumes.
In every corner of the market you see visitors admiring the craftsmanship of the artisans. The craft of spinning and weaving wool is one of oldest in Taif, and in spite of the decline of this craft, the villagers still produce woven bags, placemats and clothing made of pure wool.
The stores display Taif fashions alongside old and bladed weapons, small swords known as Al-Janabi or Khanjar, decorated in silver; some are antiques and collectibles previously owned by the people of Taif.
Mithiba Thawab Al Muthairi, an artisan known for her long tradition of creating handicrafts in the city of Taif says, “The mattresses and cloths I have on display are made of pure wool; I distribute them to shops in Badi.” Her work consists of cross-blended color embroideries inspired by rural life in Taif.
“Two meters of embroidered cloth, which takes approximately six months to make, costs around 100,000 riyals [the equivalent of about $26,700], depending on the cost of yarn, wool and other,” says Ms. Al Muthairi.
Further along the street, one sees an elderly woman melting lead and dissolving it into small beads, which she later uses to decorate a pattern on dresses for women and girls.
Um Faisal, a saleswoman says, “In my store you will find traditional clothing, worn by village women. I even have special dresses that are worn by brides on their wedding day.”
Although there is a rapid development in the city of Taif, and traditions are changing, families want traditional clothing, especially at social events such as weddings and festivals. The artisans of Taif hope that their traditions continue so that their heritage is preserved for years to come.
(Nadia Idriss Mayen of Al Arabiya can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org)