Country: Bahrain

Including: traditional chests, architectural crafts (ceilings, doors, windows, and balconies), engraving and decorating on wood.

Traditional Arabic wooden chests of various sizes, ranging from very large storage chests down to jewellery ‘boxes’, are made from the highest quality rosewood and teak. These are commonplace in Arab countries. Family homes in these regions will generally have at least three to four wooden chests of varying designs and sizes. The chests store many different items, including bedding, clothes, children toys, important paperwork, jewellery, etc. The chests have locks and all are well-crafted and of excellent designs. They can be made to suit individual taste and size to fit most areas in the home.

To help blend in with floor colourings and internal décor, each chest is finished in either brown or black shade. This is followed by a durable coating of sesame seed oil to seal and finish the chest. Finally, the chest rests on four legs, designed to look as if they form part of the chest itself. The reason for this is to ensure each chest is protected against floor humidity.

In Bahrain, the traditional chest makers belong to a small number of families. These families are in demand for their individual design and expertise. Their forefathers crafted a very different chest for day to day use, to store kitchen utensils, clothes, tools, etc. Therefore the chests were plain, without decoration and set on four smaller legs, thereby preventing any insects or the humidity from damaging the contents. This chest was named the ‘khatam’. Two other extremely useful chests were in demand in past times. The ‘Bohabal’, travel chest was reinforced by a specially made strong rope, outlining the sides of the chest, thus making it as damage-proof as possible during the stormy rough sea journeys. The ship’s captains also possessed a particular chest named the bichtachtah very useful for storage of gold, pearl, cash and many important documents. This was easily used because of the chest’s small drawers and compartments, making it ideal for the captains’ purposes. The bichtachtah was finely carved, but without brass design or legs.

In Bahrain, the craft of boat building continues down the generations, with craftsmen from local families either living in Manama city or the old town of Muharraq. Manual carpenters’ tools are used in this industry, be it saws, axes, drilling tools, etc. Timber imported from India for building boats affords various uses, such as fishing and pearling, passengers and cargo boats. In many cases, the crafted boats are made to meet individual requirements.