Last week I blogged about dhows, one of my favorite things to explore and photograph in the Arabian Gulf. On my most recent trip, a friend showed me around another fascinating site, the Al Kurar House, somewhere I’d not yet seen on previous trips to the Gulf.

The Shaikha (wife of the King, mother of the Crown Prince) sponsored the establishment this unique venue in order to allow the dying art of Kurar embroidery to be passed down by elderly women to future generations.

The Al Kurar House is a beautifully restored old home in the traditional part of town, settled among other recently renovated homes, each depicting various aspects of the country’s history or legacy.

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Kurar embroidery is a very specific art form, in which at least three women create a Kurar ribbon by weaving gold thread and then immediately embroidering it onto textiles of some sort.  One woman sits facing the others and holds the ends of the threads, also embroidering it down, while the other women weave and spin the golden threads together with their fingers.

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When there are enough women, they may even have another woman who will sit off to the side and help to untangle the gold thread before it gets handed off to the women weaving it together by hand, helping to facilitate the process.

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The textile artist in me was especially fascinated by watching these women work.  Their hunched bodies huddled over, deep in concentration, fingers deftly weaving together golden threads, it was reminiscent of the speed at which a spider spins its intricate web.  Weathered hands intermixed with those of the younger generation learning the craft from their elders

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Head bowed low, dressed in their abayas and shaylas, and in some cases wearing a niqab, at times they worked in silence.  Other times, animated conversation – or even giggles over a story – would flow amidst their focus on their work.

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The piece the women were working on the day we visited the Al Kurar House. IMG_1109IMG_1110

A scale for weighing golden thread used in Kurar embroidery in the past. IMG_1115IMG_1117

Examples of traditional gold Kurar embroidery work done on an abaya using actual gold thread.

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Another old abaya with very plain gold Kurar work, but with very unique Kurar cording, as well.

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