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Pottery in Saudi Arabia Essay

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Updated: Aug 24th, 2020


Long ago pottery was a common art and craft that many people were practicing; however it is not so popular today, as many countries referred to mass-production methods that allowed them to meet domestic and export needs rather quickly (Gale 3). The representatives of the general public got used to this, and they usually prefer to go to huge markets when they want to buy something. A part of them even do not know that pottery is the notion that is utilized also to define the final objects made by the potters and the material used in making different kinds of pottery-ware.

It is found in the form of clay beneath the ground that can be baked and crafted into many different tools. For example, some nations have been using this clay in making pots, plates, cups, and water bottles. It’s also utilized in the construction industry; housing or commercial buildings. The potter crafts the clay by hand, or by using a machine known as a potter’s wheel, then he dries the object and uses high heat to make it solid and ready for exploitation (Franz 5). The final product is called “vitreous; it means that it can hold water” (Bryk para. 3).

People were using clay in crafting products for a very long time. For example, in Egypt, the Middle East, and Sub-Saharan Africa this kind of clay has been used since 5000 B.C. With the help of the baked clay people produced all types of pottery that was necessary to their everyday life, mostly cookware. This pottery was discovered as a profession soon after it was fond out that fire as heat is needed in the process. Ancient nations used pottery prior to any literate-cultures.

Nowadays, potters are free to use numerous types of clay bodies, but three main ones became known to the craftsmen long ago. Earthenware does not require high temperature and can be made of any color. Except for that, its unique feature is porousness, which presupposes that it rather easy to break. Stoneware can be seen in the same palette, but it is much stronger even though the surface is coarse. Porcelain seems to be the most attractive clay for the general public because the objects made of it are hard, smooth and white (“Types of Clay Bodies” para. 7).

Still, it is critical to remember that not every clay type is of the same quality around the world, which is caused by the different temperatures among diverse regions. At that point, pottery became a part only of some nations’ cultures, such as in Saudi Arabia. In this state of the Arab world, pottery is created in many different shapes and sizes with dimensions that are not specified. Every size and design depend on the artistic talent of the potter and one’s idea. As pottery users, people choose the type of the pottery they need: small, middle-sized or big dishes that are patterned or colored, etc. One has an opportunity to custom make what is desired or to buy a ready-made object. Even though this profession is not very popular all over the world, it is very valuable in the culture of Saudi Arabia.

Midianite Pottery

Among the first remembrances of pottery in Saudi Arabia is Qurayyah Painted Ware. It is a Midianite pottery that was found by the archeologists in the Hejaz mainly. The scientists believe that it is dated back to the 13th century B.C. or is even older. The pottery was found in the 1930s and attracted much attention. The decorated wares were of bichrome/polychrome style. The pottery is believed to be made with the help of a wheel that resembles the modern one. It is light in color and often has a white pained background. The decoration is mainly red and brown, but some yellow and black shades can also be seen. The wares are painted with different geometrical structures, animals, and sticklike people. These are various bowls, dishes, and jugs of various sizes (Humphreys 47).

Of course, the information that is known to the general public about Midianite pottery is rather limited today. Still, it can be said that even some pieces of ceramics can be useful for archeologists and historians who are willing to throw light on the past of Saudi Arabia and its population. After special examination, they became able to describe the clay and the place where it was taken from. Professionals considered when the objects were created and could even make an assumption on people’s origin and their routine. The pottery that was found in the Hejaz is full of the Mycenaean motifs, which made many scientists believe that people who created and painted it were Sea Peoples.

Pottery in Jebel al-Qarah

The pottery in Jebel al-Qarah became known to the general public due to the works of Tahir ibn Ali who turned one of the caves within this region into a workshop. He and his family follow the tradition of making pottery for more than 15,000 years. They believe that ceramics is not just a trade or work but an art-form that should be highly valued as it connects generations.

Jebel al-Qarah is the territory that can perfectly meet the demands of potters because they receive an opportunity to store the clay in large stone vats. In this way, it remains moist for a long time, and people can enjoy natural air conditioning created by the cave. Except for that, here one can found the clay beds from where the pottery can be dug. When the received material is stored, a part of it is taken to create some object. Potters put it on foot-powered wheels to create a jug, vase or a plate and prepare the outdoor kilns or ovens. They mainly use dried palm fronds that are easy to find and so not require additional spending.

Children in the families are taught of this process when they are the still youngsters. They start helping in different stages of production and then are getting familiar with the way the potter’s wheel operates. As the most popular product in Jebel al-Qarah is a water jug, the creation of which required enormous steadiness of hands and arms, children receive an opportunity to get trained and prepare their bodies for the future work.

As a rule, almost all members of the family take part in pottery production so that each one is responsible for a particular process and the work streamlines. In this way, while one person is occupied with the potter’s wheel, others go for the clay, take already made a jug and let it dry in the sun, then bake it and paint. As a result, a nice and durable jug will be used by one of the rural men to keep the water cold even in hot weather.

Jugs, bowls, and vases created by the masters who live and work in al-Qarah are mainly used to meet the village needs. The workers from Hofuf, at the same time, are often supplying people from the city. In this way, the work is shared, and all masters and their pottery are in great demand with the population (“The Potter’s of al-Qarah” para. 6).

Pottery in Jeddah

From my early childhood, I was pretty much exposed to the industry of pottery. Being born and raised in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, I saw many people making pottery and learned to value and enjoy this process. Many families I was familiar with were working in this sphere and attracted even the youngest children to the process. Together all members of the family were occupied in the production of the pottery ware and earned for living in this way. This process seemed to be something natural that everyone can cope with even though continuous training and practice are required. The production of this artifact makes people gather and work in cooperation, which allows to unite even those who are in a quarrel.

Craftsmen create various pottery wares and decorate them in a different manner to make the products attractive to the potential customers. Due to the requirements of the general public, who mostly use pottery as a water cooler for its ability to retain the temperature of the water (both cold or hot), potters create special jugs. The design of these objects is very similar to the simple bottles people got used to see made of plastic or glass.

They have the same shape but are bigger in size, which allows to increase the amount of water reserved to fit a whole family. As a rule, these water coolers are brown. However, their original color can be changed. For example, people often draw on them and use a lot of coloring to make them look more attractive. The materials needed to create a water cooler are simple. One should have clay and water. It is also advantageous that both the undertaken process and the materials used in the production of pottery are environmentally friendly.

Influence of the Pottery on People’s Lives

People in Saudi Arabia are mostly involved in business or fishing. These professions presuppose that individuals spend much time far from their homes and are often on the road. That is why then can use pottery to reserve water while traveling or when they go out fishing for days. The main advantage of pottery in this framework is that it keeps the water fresh and cold. Thus, it became a good business for craftsmen, as they earned for living out of pottery. They sell and sometimes export the finished products to other cities. However, due to the mass production of crockery and introduction of coolers and refrigerators the use of pottery is not as much.

Nonetheless, it became part of the tradition in Saudi Arabia. People make pottery and use it as a decoration item to save their culture and share it with the next generations. When being at a historical event, people can always find traditional potters who show their products and educate the youth and children. They share their knowledge with tourists and make such tradition spread all over the world.


Taking everything mentioned into consideration it can be claimed that pottery became widely spread many centuries ago. It was practiced in various countries all over the world but was substituted with mass production and automatized technologies. As a result, today pottery remained a highly valued craft only in several places, one of which is Saudi Arabia.

Potters use special clay to create wares of different shapes and sizes by hand or with the help of potter’s wheel. This craft became a part of the culture and turned into a treasured profession and hobby. In Saudi Arabia, the majority of the ware is represented by the jugs and other water-bottled-pottery because it is an essential item in any household due to its importance and value to every family member. Except for that, pottery is a craft that links generations and creates the history not only of one family but of the whole country.

In Saudi Arabia, pottery was mainly a cottage industry for a long time. It allowed the families to earn for living and save money instead of wasting them on the things they were able to create themselves. With the course of time, this art stopped to be so popular but even now many people treat ceramics as a great hobby and way to increase income. Pottery is not only a kind of craft; it serves as a bridge between different generations. The objects such as vases and jugs carry a part of the culture in their decoration.

Works Cited

Bryk , Nancy. , 2016.

Franz, Linda. Basic Pottery Making, Mechanicsburg: Stackpole Books, 2009. Print.

Gale, John. Pottery, Chicago: Contemporary Books, 2001. Print.

Humphreys, Colin. Miracles of Exodus: Scientists Discovery, New York: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2003. Print.



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