The walls of heritage: Daan craftsmen showcase art  of making palm frond panels to build old houses

The Agriculture Environment at Sharjah Heritage Days shows how every part of the palm tree is put to best use in UAE life

Taking place in the historic Heart of Sharjah district, the 18th edition of Sharjah Heritage Days (SHD) is showcasing the unique crafts specific to the UAE and Gulf region to preserve local handicraft traditions and educate the younger generations about it.

One such craft is making the “daan” or palm frond panels, which are in turn used to build the Areesh traditional houses. The palm leaf stems are sorted, dried, lined up and tied side-by-side using another palm tree-derivative – rope made out of the tree’s fibre. The daan craftsmen, who hail from Fujairah, can be seen at work in the Agriculture Environment pavilion, making panels measuring 2.5 metres in length at a time, which are then assembled to build the Areesh.

The men even make daan panels up to 24 feet at times. “Besides the Areesh house walls, it’s also used for making ceilings, walls for animal barns, and in boats,” says Ali Al Kaabi, one of the daan craftsmen. Nearby sits Salem Mohammed Al Hfeity, an octogenarian who swiftly fashions the ropes by rolling the palm fibre against his leg.

The beauty of using all the parts of the locally abundant palm tree is that it is suitable for the high temperatures and practical uses in the region. “The daan helped keep old houses cool in the hot weather and served as a seating area in wooden boats, as they are soft enough to sit on with some cloths spread on top,” says Rashid Saeed Al Abdouli, another craftsman.

The craft goes back hundreds of years, and was more commonly in use before the 1960s, but it still endures today through these craftspeople who travel around the country showcasing it to new generations and offering a glimpse into how their forefathers lived.

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