MUSCAT, Dec 4 – For 60-year-old Khalaf Zahar al Bahry, the day begins very early. He gets up at the crack of dawn and begins to collect palm fronds with which he weaves baskets — a task he has been doing for over three decades now. In this age of the Internet and technology, Al Bahry, a resident of Al Awabi in Batinah Governorate, belongs to a rare breed of people who is engaged in the preservation of Oman’s rich tradition through the practise of this art.
“I enjoy what I’m doing because these are the skills that I learned from my grandfather decades ago,” he says while weaving a khanjar-holder with his deft fingers.
Al Bahry weaves magic with his hands. Apart from baskets, he makes frankincense burners, tissue boxes and hats, among others, which are sold at Shangri-la Heritage Village at Barr Al Nissan.
Realising his potential and with the objective of backing the tradition, the management of Shangri-la has given him two galleries for showcasing his wares.
“We have extended all our support to ‘Uncle Khalaf’. He is one of the Omani identities we can be proud of,” said Samira al Balushi, senior supervisor at Al Mazaar, a part of the heritage village.
On any given day, he can be spotted at the Heritage Village lawns, surrounded by people curious to see the way he skillfully weaves baskets. This is his way of reaching out to both local as well as overseas customers.
All his products are made from palm fronds without any colour. He paints it only if a customer asks for it. When it comes to colour, his daughter is his “adviser”. She adds colour to the baskets bought by a number of overseas visitors.
While he is fond of his craft, Al Bahry is worried about its future as fewer youngsters are interested in taking it up either as a hobby or as a means of livelihood.