Visiting a workshop or meeting a craftswoman at her home is an excellent way to discover the culture of a country. Many crafts people are women, as many handicrafts are traditionally practiced within the domestic area. Nowadays, numerous projects have been set up with aim of women empowerment, maintaining in certain cases the activity at their home, or relocating in other place the activity in workshops and cooperatives outside. Some of those projects have benefited from endorsed marketing and became companies granting their collaborators with the status of employees. However, many projects are still limited and expect a lot from tourism, while some others are even just private initiatives.
In all cases, a tip integrating handicrafts visits has a relevant impact on local communities' members, not only due to the marketing opportunity that such visits procure, but also because it encourages them in their work and add a value to their products, their efforts and their heritage.
We gather under this title the traditional activities around the fabrication and decoration of all kind of textile, from the Bedouin weaving till the finest embroidery. Textile handicrafts are reserved to women, even the hardest one like the Bedouin rugs weaving. By visiting such activities you will meet women from much diversified horizons and cultures.
The wool weaving is a typical handicraft of the Bedouin communities. The women used to manufacture all their furniture, rugs, cushions and tents following this ancestral technique, with a loom build on the ground. This work is physically demanding and was requesting social cohesion and mutual assistance in order to weave a whole tent.
It is now rare to find Bedouin women who still spin and weave for their own needs under their tent. But the survival of this tradition is insured through a few number of workshops. In this case the production is rather geared towards tourism and modern homes which look for a traditional touch. Finding outlets for this handicraft is challenging and tourism is of highest important in order to maintain it alive. Diverse experiences can be organized for you depending on the time you can spend.
An ancient traditional activity saw a renaissance since few years in the South Dead Sea area. In the past times and especially during the Mameluke period, the tropical climate of the Jordan Valley and abundance of water allowed the cultivation of the indigo at an industrial scale. You can now visit a workshop reviving the techniques of natural cloth dying including indigo and also other plants for a variety of colors. This experience is unique in Jordan.The visit of the workshop offers the possibility of dying your own scarf.
Felt is one of the oldest textile known. It is obtained by agglomeration and pressure of the wool. Felting is not in itself a traditional craft in Jordan. Its origin is located more to East in Central Asia. However a forward thinking project has set up a workshop in Jordan, which successfully empowers local women. It is a unique experience in Jordan using natural Jordanian wool and partly natural dying methods. This activity will provide you a great social experience while giving the possibility to manufacture an light and easily transportable piece.
Embroidery is a living and popular craft in Jordan, especially in Amman which hosts a large Palestinian background community, as this art widely developed in that culture for the ornament of women clothes and home furniture, but also in other locations through the country. Nowadays, the embroidery is getting out of its traditional framework to embellish modern clothes and all kind of items and accessories. You can easily join a workshop or follow a little private training that will allow you to embroider an item of your choice while spending a nice time with local women.
Soap making is a long tradition in whole Middle East that developed further to the production of olive oil. We know the Aleppo soap, the Nablus soap, but the North of Jordan also has its traditional soap craft, mainly reactivated thanks to tourism. You can spend an afternoon for making your own soap in which you can integrate the plants and spices you prefer...
Making a pottery means a little bit participating to one of the oldest activities of the mankind. Ceramic is one of the first human inventions and Middle East has a long tradition in this handicraft. Some hours to pottery manufacturing and ceramic painting will immerse you in the life of a Jordanian artist.
Mosaic art experienced a tremendous expansion in the Middle East during the Antiquity and especially the Byzantine period. The so called "Madaba School" was famous and spread mosaicists through the whole region. This art is still alive today through several workshops essentially concentrated in Madaba, which hosts an academy. The style and designs draw the antic themes but the techniques have been simplified. We can easily integrate a mosaic making experience which will allow you to make a coaster or a small tableau.
Ostrich eggs painting is an antic traditional art of Middle East that hosted in the past large herds of ostriches. A revival project reintroduced this handicraft in Azraq oasis and this activity became sustainable for several local women. The design reproduces antic mosaic themes by a technique of spotting. Drawing on eggs requests a long practice. However, you can be trained on a flat surface and make a nice coaster.
The volcanic stone makes the dark landscape of the Eastern desert and the Hauran area. Basalt is a particularly hard and rough material to work. Nevertheless, women of a local community started again carving this stone, as in Antiquity. They became so skillful that beside bowls or plates, they are able to make fine pendants (see below). Women work at their home and this activity will be also a great social experience.
The mixture of cultures and traditions has brought to Jordan the wonderful art of marquetery. Flourishing in Egypt and till recently in Syria, it is exceptional to find a marquetery workshop in Jordan. You will be amazed by the simplicity of the technique used to manufacture the masterpieces that come out of the workshop.
Difficult to say when the sand bottles art dates back... it maybe appeared in connection with the sand timer that replaced the antic clepsydra, or water clock, during the Middle Age. The sand timer became a very common tool in the marine for measuring the duration of navigation, and it is probably not accidental that the decorated sand bottles are a specialty of Aqaba ... moreover the color full sands of South Jordan probably boosted the development of this handicraft in the context of the tourism economy. You will enjoy trying your ability to this technique and take away a souvenir...