The personal touch
Written by Kate Lord Brown
Centuries-old traditions are finding new expression in the vibrant work of contemporary Qatari craftspeople.
For any visitor to Qatar hoping to find a handmade memento of their trip, their first stop is Souq Waqif. In the souq’s winding, atmospheric alleyways, you can find artists and artisans at work, keeping traditional skills alive.
Inside the Handicrafts Centre, near the Al Mirqab Boutique Hotel, craftsmen work in individual studios, and you can see everything from traditional gypsum carvers to baskets and ouds (lute-like instruments) being made. Elsewhere in the souq you will find women weaving the traditional red, black, and white Sadu textiles. Or discover one of the craft stalls where the fine wood-carving skills of retired dhow builders are now used to create intricate model boats.
Browse the souq’s main street to find wooden brass-studded bridal chests and fine old embroidery, while in the gold souq, you can search the glittering aisles to find pieces inspired by centuries of goldsmithing in the region.
Some of the most interesting places to experience contemporary work are the festivals and markets organised at Doha’s arts venues. During the cooler winter months, Katara, Doha’s cultural village, holds regular QatART art and craft markets in its courtyard. “These products are one of a kind: handmade and not mass produced,” says QatART handmade community co-founder Dominika Bozic. Visitors can also join in craft workshops this month, with a series planned during the summer.
Meanwhile, Qatar Museums have created a Festival of Traditional Qatari Handicrafts, which showcases a range of traditional skills and allows visitors to experience local cuisine and camel rides, and to learn about the important archaeological site at Al Zubarah.