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RIYADH: Tuesday marks the end of the Hasawi Bisht festival, which is held at Souq Al-Arbi’a in Al-Ahsa.
The bisht is a traditional male coat popular in Arab countries, worn over a thobe. It sits over the shoulder and goes down to the sleeveless leg.
The week-long festival featured a variety of activities that reflected the historical and cultural heritage of hand-knitting in Al-Ahsa, particularly in the production of bisht.
During the inauguration of the festival last Wednesday, the governor of the Eastern province, Prince Saud bin Naif, wore a light brown bisht and was accompanied by the governor of Al-Ahsa, Prince Saud bin Talal bin Badr, and the Minister of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing, Majid Al-Hogail.
Many people in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf like to wear bishts on special occasions and holidays, and wear them with traditional ornaments and fine hand stitching, embroidered with various threads and buttons in gold or yellow, silver , White and red.
Male brides in Saudi Arabia almost always wear a bisht, and many universities insist that their students wear one at graduation ceremonies.
Emad Al-Ghadeer, Executive Member of the National Logistics Committee of the Federation of Saudi Chambers, said: “There is no doubt that Hasawi bisht is a brand with a long history, and it needs to be nurtured and properly introduced to ensure its continuity.
Al-Ghadeer urged the establishment of training institutes in the industry to boost the productivity of the bisht, “as this work of art contributes significantly to the economic development of the region”.
He compared the Hasawi bisht to a Rolex watch in terms of quality, pointing out that many visitors to Saudi Arabia are eager to buy them.
According to Ali Mohammed Al-Qattan, one of the biggest traders in the sector at Al-Ahsa, there has been an increase in bisht sales after several months of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the industry.
While machine-made bishts began dominating markets many years ago, helped by their low prices, handmade bishts continue to exist “among the elites at least”, he said. declared.
“For each specific part of the bisht, there’s a tailor who knows how to work well with it and feels (it’s) easy to sew,” he added.
The seven-day festival includes an exhibition documenting the value of bisht, live workshops on the bisht industry, and a celebration of national crafts including bisht knitting.
Al-Ahsa is well known for bisht, a historic craft that has been passed down through many families for generations.
Khaled Al-Farida, director general of the Al-Ahsa Tourism Authority, said the bisht industry was initially a female profession, as women were eager to knit them for their sons who traveled to Kataib ( Koran memorization sessions), distinguishing them from others.
Men ventured into the business as the demand grew and slowly the industry began to grow.
The names of the bisht are based on rows of decoration, width and shape, which can be triangular, quadrilateral, hexagonal or octagonal, he explained.
Al-Farida noted that bisht used to be sold only to wealthy – merchants and those with wealth and power. Later, the bisht became a national costume and symbol of Saudi Arabia and its Gulf neighbors.
According to him, black is the most sought-after color, especially at weddings, and one of the reasons for this is that it takes on a distinctive shape when encrusted with gold buttons, as well as beige and brown.