Leather & Weaving

Leather work is carried out mainly by women. It consists, first of all, of tanning goat and camel skin. To do this, women use a coloured drawing tool called Alkhatata, a cutting instrument called Alkabda and an embroidery tool called Lachfa.

Here follows a list of leather and weaving productions:


It is a leather object resembling to a bag whose may reach 1m30 of height and 70 cm of width. This leather bag is put on the back of camels to store food, tea and any other object that the nomad may need during his travel.

Sahrawi women take 4 or 6 days to make Tassoufra from goat skin and decorate it with embroidery.  On the top of it, they put a leather padlock called Assir.


It is a small size object put on the camel’s back to keep the material and ingredients of tea. Alkountiya is made of piece of leather covering a pot of 20 cm depth and 70 cm width. It is made of Assamar, a sort of wooden yellowish filaments that Sahrawi women gather from the edges of oueds and rivers. The higher part of Alkountiya is made of leather in order to facilitate its opening and fastening. The lower part contains kitchen utensils. Assamar protects Alkountiya from breaking in spite of the abrupt movement of camels.

It is the traditional leather cushion that Sahrawi women use as a balustrade and to decorate their tents (Al khayma). Generally, Assermi is embroidered according to Sahrawi traditions. Sometimes, Asermi length may exceed one meter. Generally, its width is 40 cm. When it is round, it takes the Hassani name Marfek. Sahrawis use it as a balustrade to let their body relax. The making of Assermi is assumed by women. This female cultural heritage has been preserved for centuries regarding its form, its colours and its ornaments.


It is a leather bucket used for the preparation of fermented skimmed milk called lben. It can be cheep, goat or camel milk. It is women who are usually in charge of doing Achakwa. They begin by tanning leather by using leaves of Jeddari, a type of trees used in wood work. The opening/closing on the top of Achakwa is made of leather which facilitates its manipulation and reinforce its resistance. Achakwa height does not exceed 70 cm.


It is a leather pot used for storing water and placed on the camels back during nomads’ travels. It is made of desert animal skin. Its apparent side is not tanned nor deprived from hairs. On the other hand, its interior surface is tanned by using products called Zwaya. After that, a black liquid called Qatrane is poured inside Alkarba in order to guarantee its waterproofness. Experiments show that the making process associated with the black liquid Qatrane allows to preserve water freshness.


It is a basket made of clay used to serve couscous and other daily meals. This is an essential element in the tent life since Attbak can replace the table in some situations.


Weaving of tents (Al khayma)

This is a female activity. The raw material corresponds to the manes of the desert animals. The weaving process includes washing, gyration, transformation into filaments then into fabric tufts called Laflig. Thereafter, these tufts are piled up to constitute a large square mattress which is the essence of the tent (Al khayma).  Tent weaving is done by Sahrawi women at a ceremony called Twiza during which tea is served and discussions do not end. Contrary to what one may think, this festive atmosphere allows Sahrawi women carry out their weaving with the best quality and on time. Following the ancestral traditions of Sahrawi populations, everybody passing by an assembly of Sahrawi women who are weaving a tent (Twiza) should participate in this ceremony by offering sugar and tea. It begins when women throw on him one or more fabric tufts.  The targeted passer-by is called Maqsoud.


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