Although oftentimes Abu Dhabi is criticized for importing culture, the Women’s Handicraft Center is a excellent example of Abu Dhabi truly protecting and promoting its artistic heritage. Founded in 1975, the center is an active site of creation, with over forty women harnessing their talents and selling their handicrafts. Products created are then sold to locals and tourists alike who congregate to see the detailed handiwork of the talented women, brought from all corners of Abu Dhabi to one place where their art can be fostered, celebrated and shared.
At the Center, women tailor clothing, create intricate beaded patterns to add to dresses, sew extravagant kandoras and jellabiyas and weave carpets. In addition to clothing, some women use date palm tree branches, soaked in water to make them more flexible, as material to make baskets, pads to eat on the ground and iPad sleeves — a modern twist.
The artisans themselves are older Emirati women, often illiterate, widowed or divorced, whose livelihoods depend on the Women’s Handicraft Center. They are female artisans who have been practicing these arts for decades, often in the same groups housed at the Center. The director explained that the women find entertainment, a hobby and family at the Center. The arts bring them together and provide them with purpose and gratification for their hard work.
Although the final products are quite expensive, the trip is worth it to see firsthand heritage and dedication to preserving and sharing the culture. However, visiting hours to see the women work and participate in workshops are limited to between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. Students who can’t drag themselves out of bed can still go see the women’s work until 4 p.m. at the exhibition hall.
To get to the Women’s Handicraft Center, ask the taxi driver to drive to the end of Karama St, in the Al Mushrif area. The Women’s Union is next to the Abu Dhabi Country Club and Royal Stables. Inside the Women’s Union, the Center is located in the very back.
Nicole Lopez del Carril is a staff writer. Email her at email@example.com.