Women trained in traditional crafts at Sana’ani Heritage House

13 Jan
Amatalrazaq Ghaf, head of the Sana’ani Heritage House, displays hand-made items made by graduates of a recent craft production training course.
photos by Malak Shaher

Malak Shaher

Yemen Times

Published:13-01-2011

The Sana’ani Heritage House held a traditional graduation party this week for the first group of young women who completed their craft training at the house.

The course in traditional crafts lasted for three months from the beginning of July until the end of September. It was financed by the Liquid Natural Gas Company in Yemen (LNG).

The first 45 young women who participated in the training completed courses in a variety of fields, including sewing, embroidery and making bags. For many it was also a unique chance to learn the arts of preparing traditional Sana’ani food.

“Despite the fact that I am a Sana’ani girl, I learned to cook different Sana’ani dishes that we no longer prepare at home. This experience took us back to a time when we were little children and reminded us of our grandmother’s food,” said Iman Al-Hamzi, 25.

Iman Al-Hamzi, her sister and two of her cousins were among the first 45 participants. At the graduation party this week Tuesday, Jan. 11 2011, they shared their joy and some of their newly acquired knowledge with the Yemen Times.

Hana Al-Hamzi said she had learned not only about cooking but also how food affects one’s health.

Two men in Sana’ni traditional dress singing at the graduation party for craft course trainees. YT photo by Malak Shaher

“Beside the different dishes I learned nutritional facts about Sana’ani food,” she said.

“For example, Al-Salta, a very famous dish in Sana’a, contains a lot of fats and we should not have this dish too often. I have learnt that fatty and sugary dishes should only be eaten once a week,” the graduate explained.

Apart from the training, the girls enjoyed the particular and homely atmosphere in the Sana’ani Heritage House. They did not have to wear the face veil as there were no men around.

“Inside the house we were having fun as if we were in our own homes. This is the first time we had fun while learning something good for our future,” the two sisters and cousins said.

The specific Sana’ani style was the particular focus of all aspects of the course, including the graduation ceremony. The girls received their certificates in a traditional Sana’ani room where they sat on mattresses embroidered in red and yellow threads and listened to two men who sang traditional Yemeni songs.

Amatalrazaq Ghaf, chairwoman of the house, explained that the 45 girls had intentionally been selected from the Old City of Sana’a so that they would be near the venue. The house will continue to supply them with the materials needed to practice their crafts. When tourists visit the Sana’ani Heritage House they will invite the girls to sell their products or prepare traditional food.

The San’ani Cultural House in Sana’a Old City. YT photo by Malak Shaheri

According to Ghaf, the link between the graduates, the house and its visitors is beneficial for all. While the house is in need of trained people who can help out at short notice when tourists are around, the girls have an opportunity to earn their living with traditional crafts. Ghaf is particularly excited about the idea that Sana’ani girls will prepare and serve traditional dishes to tourists.

“Food is not just to be eaten. Food means culture and it reflects the people’s background,” Ghaf said.

Apart from enjoying the dishes, visitors will therefore learn about the historical and cultural background of Old Sana’a where they were invented.

At the graduation ceremony, Ghaf was already looking forward to welcoming more tourists and receiving them with Sana’ani food and crafts.

“I am very happy indeed as we are more ready now to welcome visitors to this house,” Ghaf said.

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