Red Sea Development Company and KAUST sign research agreement
MAKKAH: A young Saudi from the south of the Kingdom is bringing back the timeless craftsmanship of hand carving on wooden canes with a new look to suit modern tastes, stimulating demand from Hajj pilgrims and online shoppers of the whole world.
Walking sticks have always been associated with the elderly and the sick, and typically include simple designs that focus more on function than appearance.
This association prompted Adel Al-Shehri to breathe new life into the concept by bringing back an old craft and turning canes into famous statement pieces used by the Saudis.
Through his work, he can convey the cultural and historical essence of Saudi Arabia by engraving cultural patterns on sidr wood.
Al-Shehri grew up in the southern mountain ranges of the Kingdom and uses the ancient native tree to create unique canes with an intricate design, just as his ancestors once did.
The sidr tree, known as Christ’s thorny jujube, is an evergreen species that is an integral part of culture. It can be used in medicine but also in the construction of canes and wooden objects found in many homes in the south of the Kingdom.
He told Arab News that he inherited a love for artifacts from his ancestors, such as shining swords and jambiyas, a type of dagger with a curved blade. Growing up surrounded by architecture adorned with stones and wood, Al-Shehri said he wanted to bring the rich history of design to life by using a product found in his garden.
“Visitors to Saudi Arabia are constantly on the lookout for souvenirs, swords or canes. However, shipping swords is a real problem, as they are considered edged weapons. During this time, some items lose quality or are damaged during shipping. That’s why I focused entirely on making canes, ”he added.
Al-Shehri said that during his Hajj pilgrimage he used his cane as a “crutch”, engraving his name on it. Soon after, he decided to use the phrase “Made in Saudi Arabia” and focus on the seasons of Umrah and Hajj to present the product as a keepsake that can be taken home by pilgrims. Al-Shehri said some Hajj institutions even reached out to offer his canes as a gift at the end of the pilgrimage tours.
The canes I create are enough to stop importing canes that neither accentuate our identity nor enhance our intellectual and cultural message.
Adel Al Shehri
He said many people around the world have requested their canes through Hajj institutions or on social media.
More recently, he added, a German citizen requested four canes with different designs inspired by Saudi culture, but some customers are requesting personalized or specially personalized canes to illustrate a souvenir.
Al-Shehri said the canes he designs come in luxurious, handmade boxes that serve as a masterpiece to be displayed in a client’s home. He described the cane as “a sign of prestige, warmth and hospitality”.
The first thing that caught his attention as a child was the way his family stored his old swords, pistols, and jambiyas – all wrapped in ornate fabrics and stored in old boxes.
Al-Shehri has always wanted to honor this heritage and share it with other Saudi cities. The many public praise for his initial work was the first cornerstone of his dream of producing his rods. He pointed out that he often uses sidr wood for the canes because the diameter must be more than 40 centimeters.
In order for the wood fibers to grow, the sidr must also be dried for six months. “The handle is made from the core of sidr wood so that it can withstand grafting, which can sometimes reach a thousand grafts inside,” Al-Shehri said. Without any educational experience, his drive to create such masterpieces taught him to persevere and learn the craft with time and patience. “The manufacturing steps became an inspiration and taught me the ins and outs of this creative craft, which shaped the traits of my personality and led me to worlds of magic and beauty,” t -he declares.
“I was first interested in the metal lathe and mastering its unique way of making accessories and adding wood to them. I then focused on the tactile element and adding luster in the absence of real manufacturers in this area. I insisted on mastering the metal lathe myself so that I wouldn’t depend on anyone else. My workshop, filled with nickel, chrome, stainless steel and brass, along with metal and wood lathes, has become my best friend.
“I work for hours on end to respond to different requests, especially if a customer places an order for a special occasion with a tight deadline,” he added.
Al-Shehri said that what he and many other Kingdom builders are doing promotes Saudi culture and is a sign of pride in Saudi identity. “The canes I create are enough to stop importing canes that neither accentuate our identity nor enhance our intellectual and cultural message.