Emirati women showcase local culture at Hoyamal festival

Organisers of the festival hope to raise awareness about traditions, including embroidery and food but some of the women participating say that business hasn't been as good as the expected.
Madia Al Rumaithi is happy to display her heritage as well as old photos and camel regalia besides her  wares. Fatima AL Marzooqi / The National
Madia Al Rumaithi is happy to display her heritage as well as old photos and camel regalia besides her wares. Fatima AL Marzooqi / The National

ABU DHABI // Emirati women have been invited to set up shop at the souq in the World Trade Centre Mall to showcase UAE traditions and culture.

It is part of the Hoyamal festival, named after the rallying cry of pearl divers.

The event is a collaboration between Aldar Properties, the souq’s developer, and the Khalifa Fund, which supports women with an interest in setting up businesses.

Organisers of the festival hope to raise awareness about traditions, including embroidery and food.

“A lot of what we’re trying to do is support local culture and talent,” said Talal Al Dhiyebi, Aldar’s executive director of asset management.

“There’s a lot of national talent out there but they never had the right infrastructure and platform to promote what they have, especially to the expat residents and tourists.”

The festival officially launched on Sunday but several of the businesswomen have been there for more than a week. They said business had been slow, and that they did a swifter trade in Liwa and Al Wathba.

Safia Al Marzouqi, 50, has been working from 11am to 10pm for the past 10 days and has taken just Dh10 for a small toy. Among the items she sells is homemade Bkhour, a scented oil for home use.

“It is nice to be here, as it’s different …than the other festivals, but it costs me money,” she said. “It’s not close to my home in Shamkha. It takes me nearly one hour to reach here and I have to pay for petrol, so it’s not really worth being here.”

Umm Ahmed Al Mansouri has been throwing food away since she started taking part in the festival a week ago. She has a restaurant in Khalidiya and is selling her hot food, spices and gaymat sweets – little dough balls covered in honey, which are an Emirati favourite.

“It’s quiet here. We need more people to come. Usually for these festivals I would bring huge pots of food but for this, I bring small dishes and still throw most of the food away,” said Ms Al Mansouri.

She has been taking part in festivals such as this for three years, from Madinat Zayed to the outskirts of the island.

Umm Salem Al Muhairbi, 52, lives in the Muroor area. She has made between Dh100 and Dh200 by selling spices and coffee since joining the festival two weeks ago.

“I don’t know how long I will stay,” she said.

None of the women knew about the rebuilt souq before this event. They said many Emiratis were not aware of it, so they had been selling their products mainly to tourists.

“In Al Wathba and Liwa, I sold Dh4,000 of my things,” said Ms Al Muhairbi.

Madia Al Rumaithi, who is in her fifties, said she was not bothered by the lack of trade and was happy to be showcasing her heritage.

Along with her wares, including her own embroidery, she displays old photos and items such as camel regalia, some of which is about 30 years old.

“It’s more important what you can show people,” she said.

Mr Al Dhiyebi said it was important to support the stall owners.

“If you don’t support these businesses, you will lose decades of heritage and culture,” he said. “It’s very important for them to show the young generation what this means.”

mswan@thenational.ae

Published: January 26, 2014 04:00 AM

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