I visited Yemen Dec. 9th to the 31st of 2012. During my stay in my hometown Aden, my sister and I drove by and stopped at a small store by one of the roads leading to Seerah –which is a bay area named after a fort called Seerah. It is said that the Portuguese who tried to invade the seaport Aden called it Seerah, and so the name stuck. Whether fact or fiction, the area is now called Seerah. Anyway, we stopped at this small store I was just telling you about where I used to pass by 15 years ago where this old man used to weave straw into baskets, Masaref [like this one], small flag fans, and totes etc. I secretly promised that once I went back to Aden for a visit, I would go to this store and buy some of this talented man’s crafts. Alhamdullilah Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta’la gave me the chance to do so. Oftentimes, you secretly wish for something and you think no one knows but in actuality Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala does and grants the wish.I had always been telling my husband that I wanted a Masrafah rather than a dining table–so that’s another wish granted alhamdullilah.
Now what is a Masrafah you ask? It is a mat made of straw that you see a picture of at the beginning of this post. What do Yemenis use it for? Well, they used it for fine Yemeni dining . Maybe they still probably use it in rural areas. But in Aden people are now used to either using dining tables and chairs, or rolls of plastic that they spread on the ground instead of this reusable and environment friendly Masrafah. Maybe it is even hung on the wall as a relic of traditions past. What a pity! How is the Masrafah used? Well, it is laid on the floor, and the dishes cradling the food would be placed on it. Then people would gather around and eat. You don’t need a tablecloth, because the Masrafah comes in different colors and patterns–some of the straws woven in are dyed with bright colors as you can see in this picture:
And once the meal is over the Masrafah is dusted, wiped with a damp cloth, and hung up by a straw hook [see pic below] and hung up to dry.
This is a small part of my Yemeni tradition that I have longed for while living in the USA. If you are ever in Aden/Yemen pick one up for your home and give this hardworking man a hand. He had a huge smile on his face when I told him , “I never forgot you in 15 years.” He made dua for me. It was priceless! Like he continues to craft tradition , I am hoping through this post to perpetuate it among my blog visitors Insha Allah.
* Click here for a bread basket I also bought.