Meet 95-year-old Emirati man who has been making ropes out of palm fronds since he was 5

The process of palm tree rope making, as practiced by Dwari, is as intricate as it is labour-intensive

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SM Ayaz Zakir

Published: Sat 2 Sep 2023, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Mon 4 Sep 2023, 9:20 PM

A 95-year-old Emirati man in the UAE is a living example of how traditional craftsmanship continues to thrive in a world where technological advancement is quickly changing centuries-old traditions. Meet Sulaiman Abdullah Mohammed Al Dwari, who has been proudly carrying on the tradition of creating ropes from palm trees since he was just 5 years old.

“I don’t recall my exact age, but am definitely over 90 years old, and I believe I am 95. This skill of making strong ropes from palm trees with bare hands was started when I was very young, possibly when I was 5,” said the nonagenarian.

Dwari is the highlight of the Al Maleh and Fishing Festival, which is currently happening at Dibba Al Hisn Island by the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

With a wide smile on his face, eyes on the audience, and hands rubbing the strands of palm fronds, Dwari keeps them engaged in his art of expertise. “What I do is not that great. But the current generation has not seen it, which is why they find it so fascinating," said Dwari.

The early days

Born in Dibba, Fujairah, Dwari has honed his skills in rope making, netting, fishing, and fish salting over the years. “I am just five years old with an experience of 95 years,” said Dwari with a sparkle in his eyes.

"Back in the day, all we had was fishing and pearl-diving communities. But today, we have communities in the country mastered in every field. People around the world want to settle here. All thanks to the leaders they have made the nation what it is today,” said Dwari.

Process of making ropes

The process of palm tree rope making, as practiced by Dwari, is as intricate as it is labour-intensive. “The first step involves selecting the right type of palm fronds. We must ensure that they are sufficiently pliable for weaving. We have to then carefully trim and prepare the fronds to be split into narrow strands. These strands are soaked in water and partially dried. And now it’s the time for the magic.” said Dwari.

With decades of practice, Dwari uses a technique that has been passed down through generations. He rubs the strips of palm fronds onto his hands and knees, exerting pressure while gently twisting the fibers together. “As I keep rubbing it, these fibers intertwine and strengthen, resulting in a strong and durable rope."

This process might sound simple, but it's actually quite labour-intensive - Dwari's hands and knees have become experts in transforming these palm fronds into reliable ropes.

“There are different patterns to weave the rope depending on the strands. We can make a thick rope by rubbing the strands together. For a more durable rope, we make strips of 10-15 strands, rub them to stick together, and then twine them together,” said Dwari.

“Our ancestors relied on these ropes for their daily lives,” he said with a nostalgic smile. “From fishing to constructing shelters, these ropes were essential tools that held our communities together,” added Dwari, taking pride in keeping the tradition alive.

Dwari’s skills in the field extend beyond their use in everyday life. He also crafts intricate patterns and designs within the ropes, transforming them into objects of art that reflect the rich heritage of the UAE.

In this constantly changing world, Sulaiman Abdullah Mohammed Al Dwari reminds us that some traditions are worth holding onto. With every rope he creates, he connects the past with the present, showing us the value of traditions and heritage.


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