September 2019

by Nebras Maslamani

When I first visited Wadi Faynan, I noticed how this region is poorly known, even though it has a beautiful landscape, history, and inspiring women. The women in Wadi Faynan are producers: they wake up every morning with a long list of things to do, and they use their time very efficiently and effectively.

During several visits to Wadi Faynan, while working on the “Our Past, Our Future, all together in Faynan” project and learning about work elsewhere, such as that conducted by Professor Robin Coningham, I decided to start collecting photographs of the local handmade products in Faynan. I also wanted to learn about the value of these products for the women of Faynan.

Many of the women make handicrafts, primarily as a hobby, either from scratch or by recycling old materials. Shirts and traditional dresses (thoups) with embroidery are re-designed and made in a new style. I was surprised at the level of skill possessed by the women, this being inherited from one generation to the next without any professional training. As well as clothing, they create woven bags, wallets, and baskets from camel and sheep wool, as well as baskets from straw material.

Some of the women would like to develop their handicraft making into a business for selling their products to the increasing number of visitors to Faynan. I have discussed this idea with Professor Steven Mithen, PI of OPOF, Dr Carol Palmer, Director of CBRL, and with the head of ‘Future Pioneers for Community Empowerment (FPEC)’, an NGO that supports such business development. As a group, we hope to find a means to support the development of a handicraft business for the women of Faynan and Greigra.

Camel wool rug  Um Khalil uses high quality natural products to create colourful camel-coloured carpets that are beautiful and unique. It took Um Khalil 20 days to produce this piece from camel wool that was brought from Palestine. She learned her skills from her family, these being passed from mother to daughter through the generations.

Bags from recycled wool – giving old wool a vibrant new life

Men also make handicrafts in Faynan, Ahmad Al’amareen made these knives from wood and iron inside his small house and without the existence of a proper workshop As’ad likes working with his hands and makes ‘umbrellas’ and chairs from the local reed plant