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Contributors Graphics on both pages are done by graphic designer Tarek Atrissi. Turn to page 25 to see more of his work and read his interview with Oasis. Atrissi ©

‫ مها البشر‬Maha Al-Bisher is an ever-evolving young Saudi translator studying at King Saud University whose dream is to become the first Saudi female public figure. The spontaneous 21 year-old is a walking ball of energy, the reason being that her body is 90% water and 10% caffeine. Her quirkiness and fast-talking are her most noticeable characteristics. She has a weird passion for the color green, and her mind is constantly growling for books and knowledge. She is determined to show the world that Saudi girls are not only ladies of leisure. She is living proof that a tiny bird-like figure is fully capable of making a difference. So stick around and watch this tiny rebel shine!

‫سارة منير العتيبي‬

Sara Moneer AlOtaibi is a graduate student of English literature at George Mason University in Virginia. She has a deep fascination with art that extends beyond prose fiction and poetry to include interests in music, theater, cinema and painting. She detests art snobbery that favors high art over low or indie over mainstream, and believes that tasteful art, regardless of its label, is worthy of appreciation. When she doesn’t have her nose in a book, she likes watching movies, going to rock shows, and checking out plays at the theater.

‫ سارة الذيب‬Sara Altheeb is a 22 years old 4th year

student at the college of languages and translation in King Saud University. One of the reasons behind her choosing this major was that it gives her “the basic knowledge in many fields.” Sara is quite an ambitious person who happens to be into journalism these days. She enjoys reading, traveling, learning about new cultures, and trying everything new.

‫ياسمني باقر‬

Jasmine Bager is a Saudi-Hispanic freelance writer and artist who grew up in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, and earned her degrees in both Print Journalism and Studio Art from the University of Miami. She may be reached at:

‫ُأبي عدنان طيبة‬

Obai Taibah is an out of place petroleum engineer who seeks refuge in the world of independent film and techno music. He keeps his afro in tact just in case the 70’s come back all of a sudden.

‫ نيكولى هيويت‬Nicolla Hewitt is an Emmy award winning journalist. Miss Hewitt spent two decades in broadcast television, working for ABC, CBS & NBC News. She has interviewed numerous world leaders from both the political and business worlds, with a particular emphasis on the Middle East. Among her interviewees are King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, Former US President Clinton, Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, HRH Prince Saud Al Faisal, and Bill Gates.

Miss Hewitt, who sits on the board of OTR - the largest Foreign Policy Association for Women in the United States speaks fluent French as well as conversational Arabic and Italian. She holds a degree in Broadcast Journalism from Pepperdine University, and was a Media Fellow at the Hoover Institute at Stanford University. She has lived in London, Amman, and Los Angeles and currently resides in New York. She is currently President, of Nicolla Hewitt Communications, her own strategic consultancy firm.

‫غادة عنبر‬

Ghada Anbar holds a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature from King Abdul-aziz University and a Post Graduate Diploma in Mass Communication from University of Leicester. She is currently working for Procter & Gamble in Jeddah. She believes in equality amongst human beings, and strives to contribute to the progress of the society in any big or small way. She believes that everbody should be doing so without loosing their individual identities, culture or religion. Enjoys and appreciates the efforts put in and produced by the human mind to come up with anything creative and artistic. Her favorite times are spent cooking and baking, sharing it with family and good friends, and relaxing at home.

‫ جفري كينج‬.‫د‬

Dr. Geoffrey King is a reader in Islamic art and archaeology at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He taught at the King Saudi University from 1980 till 1987. He also taught at the American University of Cairo before taking up his position at the University of London. His research and excavations led him to write several books on the art and archaeology of the region from Saudi Arabia to the UAE.

‫بادرايغ بلتون‬

Pádraig Belton is an Irish journalist in London and has been a foreign correspondent in the Middle East and Pakistan. He is completing a doctorate at Oxford, and a master’s in Arabic, Persian and Urdu at the School of Oriental and African Studies. He is presently perfecting his Qatayef.

‫آالء محمد طرابزوني‬

I am Alaa Tarabzouni. I am a Saudi. I am a female. I am a brunette. I am an architecture student. I am 19. I am a lazy perfectionist. I am a photographer. I am goal-oriented. I am a game boy colour fanatic. I am an –out-of-the-closet- Hannah Montana fan. I am easily amused. I am a daughter. I am a sister. I am not a believer of labels.

Contents 13 Editor’s Note 14 Saudi Updates arts & culture what’s happening in our region

20 The Islamic Garden: Arabian water technology and the garden made art in Islam

24 Arabic Calligraphy Reinvented with Tarek Atrissi 30 Khatt Foundation: Designing between the lines 34 Italy Celebrates Saudi: Nawafeth-Soglie

36 The Art of the Precious Embroidery: Creating new classics from an old style

40 Mosaic: Saudi Arabian delegates champion Muslim

leadership in Mosaic Summer School at Cambridge

in focus focused on Saudi Arabia 43 Lights, Camera, Action: Saudi Movies

46 The Jameel Prize: Abdul Latif Jameel awards contemporary Islamic art through the V&A’s Jameel Gallery

our guide to a happening Saudi 54 Souks | Harvey Nichols Riyadh 56 Souks | Superwomen 58 Souks | Jimmy Choo meets H&M 60

Souks | Newest Designer Home Products


Foodie | Tamraty: date cakes, cupcakes, and milkshakes!

quenches the mind OASIS MAGAZINE


cover review

The cover was designed by Zoom Creative: Zoom Creative is an inventive and progressive 3 year old Saudi design studio based in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The company specializes in a wide range of visual communications including web design & development, print design, motion graphics, branding, product design, interior spatial design and photography. Zoom Creative’s objective is to give clients a sense of distinguished pride and satisfaction in accomplishing their final visual goal while providing a unique and progressive edge. Zoom Creative / Riyadh / +966 1 217 8178 /

Contents 68 Art Scene | Athr Art Gallery 70 Venture out of the Cities | Beit Al Qur’an in Bahrain 72 Till Next Time: Reminder of events to come

healthy mind worldwide topics to enlighten

your mind

76 Media Review 78

Saudi on Top: Farouq Al Zouman


Shayirha: share it

82 Literacy Legacy: book reviews 84 Misadventures in the Middle East 88 web review 90 Middle Eastern Movies Hit the Big Screen: movie reviews


everybody needs a break every now and then... make it worthwhile

93 The Modern Middle East in: New York, Dubai, Paris,

Beirut, Muscat, London, Marrakech, and Damascus

edgy gadgets and sweets that make us smile


Modern Arabs: graphics, products, and more


Sweet Tooth: The Best Loukoum


Where to Find Us


One Last Thing

Editor's note

From Islamic gardens to the modernization of Arabic calligraphy and everything in between, our writers traveled around the globe in search of Islamic art. In our Edgy section, you’ll find products by designers who have deconstructed Islamic art and redefined it in their products. In Travel, we found old hammams turned into modern lounges, modern cafes with traditional dishes, and old cities buzzing with artistic life. Meanwhile, what seemed unheard of ten years ago has finally flourished. Read all about the booming movie-making business in Saudi Arabia. Yes, that’s right, we may have a lack of cinemas, but that’s not stopping our budding directors. “Islamic art is perhaps the most accessible manifestation of a complex civilization that often seems enigmatic to outsiders. Through its brilliant use of color and its superb balance between design and form, Islamic art creates an immediate visual impact. Its strong aesthetic appeal transcends distances in time and space, as well as differences in language, culture, and creed.” Dr Linda Komaroff, associate curator of Islamic Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Wishing you all Eid Mubarak and a special happy anniversary to Oasis, its dedicated staff, and all you beautiful readers out there that helped us make it to this point. We’ve had a blast swapping stories with you in our cozy little oasis and we look forward to another exciting year.



Contemporary and modern Islamic art, on the other hand, has not always been well documented. Taken from a bigger picture, there are still many debates on what even constitutes modern Islamic art. Some say that it is art produced or pertaining to the Islamic world, while others claim it is any art that follows the traditional Islamic art aesthetics. What do we say? We say that there is no better topic to delve into on the anniversary of our second year of publication, so come explore with us and you be the judge.

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Modern and contemporary art is all anyone talks about these days. You’ll find skulls studded with diamonds, a random dot on a white canvas, and even a simple shelf with a lone glass of water on it that the artist insists is actually an oak tree. But, is it art?

saudi updates

KAUST Eighty kilometers from Jeddah lies the 6th most powerful supercomputer in the world. The supercomputer lovingly named Shaheen, the peregrine falcon that reaches speeds of up to 340 kilometers per hour, is housed on a 36 square kilometer site and was developed with IBM. Shaheen has the capacity of 222 teraflops -- equivalent to 222 trillion floating-point operations per second. In laymen terms, this means that the supercomputer can solve 222 trillion complicated calculations per second. As if that weren’t enough, Shaheen will eventually upgrade to the petaflop range in the near future. “The supercomputer is the cornerstone of this knowledgebased economy that we are seeking,” said Majid Al-Ghaslan, in charge of the acquisition, design and development of the “Shaheen” supercomputer. Joining Shaheen is the CORNEA, built in association with the University of California. The CORNEA is a fully immersive, six-sided virtual reality facility that gives the user the ability to turn any data into a 3D structure. The CORNEA comes in a multipurpose room with a 32 million-pixel digital cinema projection system that enables stereoscopic viewing for 75 people. Shaheen, CORNEA, and some of the most sophisticated research equipment in the world, including oceanographic equipment, genomic facilities fully equipped with robots and laboratory automation, nanoimaging, nanofabrication

Thuwal, where KAUST is based, is a small town in the province of Mecca known for its abundance of pearls, red groupers, and an array of coastal reefs. Centuries ago, Thuwal was a fishing port but now it is home to the newest international, graduate-level research university dedicated to inspiring a new age of scientific achievement in Saudi Arabia, the region and the entire world. KAUST’s research agenda focuses on four strategic areas: applied mathematical and computational sciences, bioscience and bioengineering, materials science, engineering, and resources, energy and environment. The university has created nine centers for research so far, including: catalysis, clean combustion, computational bioscience, geometric modeling and scientific visualization, membranes, plant stress genomics and technology, Red Sea science and engineering, solar and alternative energy science and engineering, and water desalination and reuse. The university hopes to increase the number of research centers to 20 by 2020. With a $10 billion donation to its endowment from King Abdullah, it is able to lure

“KAUST is a remarkable addition to the world’s resources in high-end computing,” said David Keyes, Chair of the Mathematical and Computer Sciences and Engineering Division, who is moving to Saudi Arabia from Columbia University in the United States. We’ve only begun to chip at the tip of the iceberg of what KAUST has to offer. The university has integrated sustainable development into the design of the entire campus. The university rooftop contains a solar power plant that features 4,134 square meters of solar thermal panels for hot water production and 16,567 square meters of photovoltaic arrays, producing 4 megawatts of energy annually. The campus will also be utilizing alternative transportation methods including a bicycle-sharing program, campuswide bus service, and 100 electric vehicles and charging stations. “KAUST is demonstrating true leadership in the implementation of charging infrastructures for electric vehicles. We hope this move will spur more organizations and decisionmakers worldwide to invest in zero-emissions motoring,” quoted Elektromotive. To reflect upon the rich history of the Middle East, art pieces and installations are strewn along the campus that emanate the spirit of collaboration and creative exchange. One of our personal favorites is a piece called Two Brothers by artist Dennis Nona of Australia. “This bronze, gold patina and Mother of Pearl canoe depicts the Two Brothers Stars Legend. According to the story, the Duggue Wal and Thukue Wal stars are two brothers who do not always agree. When the stars are seen far apart, it is rumored the brothers are fighting and strong, rough winds can be expected. Gentle winds and calm seas are experienced when the stars are close together.“

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On the 23rd and 24th of September 2009, KAUST will hold its Inauguration Ceremony and Symposium. The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who conceived and supported the development of the university, is hosting the event. In attendance will be: H.E. Minister Ali Ibrahim Al-Naimi, Chairman of the KAUST Board of Trustees and Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; Professor Choon Fong Shih, President of KAUST; heads of state; presidents of the world’s top universities; distinguished scientists, including Nobel Laureates; global business leaders; and, of course, KAUST administrators, faculty, students, staff, and international research collaborators.

experts from around the globe with the promise of almost unlimited funding for research work.


and characterization equipment, all come under one roof to welcome 394 enrolling students and 71 professors from more than 60 countries to King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST).

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Souq Okaz



The city of Taif has been home to some of the most famous annual fairs in the Arabian Peninsula. This year was no different as Taif celebrated the third edition of its Souq Okaz Cultural Festival. The festival focused on reviving the spirit of the event, which dates back to the pre-Islamic era. The Center for Tourism Research and Information (MAS) reports that the number of visitors to the Souq Okaz Festival reached 22,480 in less than a week. The 700-meter venue reflected the market as it once was. Attendees were privy to cultural debates, poetry readings, folkloric and pop music shows, and traditional crafts and cuisines. Capturing the Souq’s traditional richness and beauty, organizers treated the audience to the art of Arabic calligraphy via workshops, a play centered on famous poet Umru Al-Qais, and an evening of poetry that featured eminent Arab poets such as Shouqi Bazie from Lebanon, Ali Abdullah Khalifa from Bahrain, Hassan Al Sabie of Saudi Arabia and the Moroccan poetess Ameena Al Meraini. Dr. Fahd Bin Abdullah Al-Sammari, Secretary General of the King Abdul Aziz Foundation for Research and Archives (Darah) -- the organizers of the event -- said: “Souq Okaz is both one of the important cultural markets in the history of literature and poetry in the Arabian Peninsula as well as the most famous one… it is an open university for the graduation of new poets that had made an impact on the Arabic language.” This year’s Souq Okaz Festival saw the extraordinary skills of five-year-old Safwan Bin Hamam Rajab, arguably the youngest key-maker in the world. Prince Sultan Bin Salman, the Minister for Tourism and Antiquities, recently witnessed the boy’s talent and has promised to register him in the Guinness Book of World Records for his skills.

Cancer Vaccine! A new study published in the August issue of Neoplasia, describes, in a mouse model, the production of an antibody that is used as a vaccine to block tumor cells metastasizing from one organ to the other, thus essentially stopping the tumor from spreading any further. This new immunotherapy approach has many important implications, most importantly the possibility of creating a cancer vaccine for humans. The antibody that the researchers produced will be ready for clinical trials very soon. The paper is the result of the first international collaboration between King Saud University and the University of Buffalo. Adel Almogren, a professor from the Department of Pathology and Immunology in the College of Medicine at King Saud University, is one of the principal authors on the paper. Kate Rittenhouse-Olson, professor of biotechnical and clinical laboratory sciences in the University of Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, is senior author. Other collaborators in this work are Olga V. Glinskii and Vladislav V. Glinsky of the University of Missouri and Harry S. Truman Veterans’ Hospital, Rene Roy of the University of Montreal, Richard P. Cheng of National Taiwan University and Gregory Wilding of University of Buffalo. In October of 2009, the research team from University of Buffalo will be heading to Saudi Arabia to meet with the research team at King Saud University to discuss further collaborations. The hope is to produce a vaccine within the next six years that will allow patients to produce their own tumor-antibodies and thus alleviate the burden of the disease.

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17 Copyright Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission ©

by Sara Al Otaibi

Saudis arriving in DC on the fourth of July of this year have come to celebrate a different occasion, as the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission (SACM) held a special ceremony for the second graduating class of the King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz scholarship program. The ceremony, attended by Saudi Minister of Higher Education, Dr. Khalid Al-Angary, and Saudi Ambassador to the United States, Adel AlJubeir, honored 1,072 Saudi graduates and recognized the accomplishments of the honor graduates. The celebration began a day earlier with a cultural exhibition that was organized by SACM and hosted more than 200 university directors from all over the States. The exhibition, opened by both Al-Angary and Al-Jubeir, showcased the fruitful accomplishments of Saudi student clubs from several universities around the country in their attempts to raise awareness about Saudi Arabia’s cultures and traditions. The event opened with the documentary “Creative Minds in America” that highlighted the creative achievements of Saudi scholarship students in the States, and was followed by a performance of the “ardah,” the popular Saudi folklore dance. Another musical celebra-

tion followed, with a performance by Abdulalhadi Hussein, singing “Eid Almughtareb,” a song that captured the blissful spirits of the graduates. More of the country’s traditional artifacts were shown through display corners representing different regions of Saudi Arabia that demonstrated the various cultures within the country. Through a segment focusing on visual arts, students were encouraged to exhibit their artistic creations in photography and oil paintings that embodied various representations of the country. The prominence of the cultural aspect in the education of Saudi scholarship students was reflected through their outstanding contributions that have demonstrated their eagerness to expose others to the various cultures of their country and to facilitate a means of connecting different cultures and peoples in hopes of promoting a better understanding.


Graduation Ceremony

arts & culture

arts & culture

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The Islamic Garden: OASIS MAGAZINE


Arabian water technology and the garden made art in Islam by Dr Geoffrey King

One of the most ancient themes in Islamic art is that of the garden. In the harsh and arid lands of the Middle East and North Africa, the green respite of the garden, the scent of perfumed flowers and the sound and the sight of running water have constituted a relief and contrast with the harsh heat of the natural landscape. The creation of gardens is one of the great achievements of Islamic civilisation.

Surat al-Baqara, verse 25 is explicit: “But give glad tidings to those who believe and work righteousness, that their portion is Gardens, beneath which rivers flow”. The terrestrial garden is the nearest that humans can understand of Allâh’s promise of Paradise to Muslims. In imitation of natural oases, the Middle East has long since evolved the tradition of building artificial gardens. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon are legendary. The Ma’rib dam in Yemen and the irrigated gardens that it supported are among the greatest early building projects in Arabian architectural history. At Qaryat al-Faw (early 1st millennium CE), on the edge of the formidable deep sands of the al-Ahqaf desert, Saudi Arabia’s Empty Quarter, subtle irrigation systems were developed to plant trees in what today is arid desert. In the dry Jordanian badiya plains in the same period, stone clusters were used to gather dew, providing sufficient water to sustain vines. The Bani Ghassan Arabs, allies and frontier guards of Byzantium, in the 6th C. CE built some of the most massive water storage systems anywhere in the Middle East at Rusafa, between the Euphrates and Palmyra. These ancient water projects presage a whole technological capacity of creating artificial gardens, a theme that is taken up from the first by Muslims in Arabia and in Bilad al-Sha’m, whether portrayed in art or actual. The wall mosaics that decorate the first surviving Islamic monuments--the 1st C. hijrî Qubbat al-Sakhra, the Dome of the Rock in al-Quds/Jerusalem and the mosaics of the Great Mosque of Damascus—are widely interpreted as including references to the gardens of the Qur’anic Paradise.

The Darb Zubayda, the greatest road system built since the Romans, that runs across the north of Saudi Arabia is accompanied by a great variety of water tanks built with precise surveying techniques to serve the hajjis travelling from Baghdad to holy Makka. The al-Aflâj area around Layla’ in southern Najd takes its name from the ancient canal system that runs below ground, tapping the acquifers to sustain gardens. The same complex and effective technology falaj occurs in Oman, the United Arab Emirates and in the arid landscape of Iran, providing the means of supporting farms and gardens. In Palestine, one of the last Umayyad rulers, al-Walid II, the builder of the great palace of Khirbat al-Majfar in the Jordan Valley, surrounded it with gardens and fields, irrigating them with a network of canals tapping the water supplies in the mountains above. He even considered diverting the river Jordan by canal to irrigate the area around al-Mafjar, whose very name refers to the copious waters of the springs of the Jordan Valley. This practical Arabian technology of water resource exploitation provided the means that supported the artificial gardens developed under Islam as the faith expanded its landscape from Spain to Central Asia and India. Where Islam went, Arabian irrigation technologies followed. The first Umayyad amir of al-Andalus, ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Dakhil, when he built his palace at Cordoba, imported palm trees from Syria to recreate in Spain the garden of his uncle the Khalifa Hisham bin ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan at Rusafa on the Euphrates. He named this first palace of the Arabs in Spain “Rusafa”, after that of the Khalifa Hisham. It has long since vanished but it was to be the first of the gardens built by the Arabs in Spain and whose memory and form is retained in the Alhambra at Granada. It is with the building by the ‘Abbasid Khalifa al-Mu‘tasim’ of the great city of Samarra’ in al-‘Iraq on the Tigris that we have the first archaeological evidence of what early Islamic formal gardens actually looked like. Sufficient evidence was exposed during excavation of the great palace of the Jawsaq al-Khaqani, started in 836 CE by the Khalifa al-Mu‘tasim to show that its design derived directly from the tradition of formal, longitudinal gardens that we know existed in the great Sassanian palaces of Iran at palaces like Firuzabad, Sarvistan and al-Mada’in/Ctesiphon.

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In a landscape where summer temperatures can exceed 55 degrees, gardens and flowing water are rare ideals of relief and rest, physically and spiritually. Paradise in the Holy Qur’ân is conceived as a garden: the word garden occurs repeatedly in the holy book as a concept of perfection promised to believing Muslims after the Day of Judgment, Yawm al-Qiyama.


The palm oases of Arabia--Taymâ’, al-Jawf, al-Madîna, Najrân, Wadi Hanifa, al-Hasa, al-Ain and the Liwa--all form natural gardens that contrast with the barren plains, the black harra and the deep sands of the Nafûds. The very name of al-Riyad conjures up the gardens that made it possible to settle.

The Umayyad Khulufâ’ established extensive farms in the countryside of Palestine and the badiya plains of Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. In Palestine, Jordan and the Hijâz, they amended by complex irrigation systems the capacities of the landscape, channelling water in qanats and building dams to store water like those near Ta’if and Khaybar. Some of this dam building is associated with the Umayyad Khalîfa Mu‘awiya.

arts & culture Rectangular flower beds were subdivided with walkways probably with a central fountain, in a design preserved in the Court of the Lions at the Alhambra in Granada. Such gardens were probably repeated in later times in the palaces that ran along the eastern side of the Tigris at Baghdâd but nothing now remains of any part of them.

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The great palace city of al-Qahira/Cairo founded by the Fatimids the 4th/10th is mostly lost but we known from the description by Nasir-i Khusraw writing in the following century that the western half of the palace was filled with gardens, irrigated by a long canal drawn from the Nile and identifiable today. Set amidst the great Western Palace gardens were pavilions.



None survive but it is generally agreed that something of the appearance of the Western Palace of al-Qahira is preserved in Palermo, Sicily in the surviving Islamic garden of La Favara, (i.e. an Italianisation of the Arabic al-fawarra). Here, a domed pavilion stood in the middle of a lake fed by an irrigation system. It was built either in the 4th C./10th C. by the Bani Kalb allies of the Fatimids rulers of Sicily or by Muslim architects working for the Norman king Roger II who adopted Islamic fashions in art, architecture and dress and who had effectively “gone native”, faced with the sophistication of his Islamic territories in Siqillya. In the midst of groves of trees on the outskirts of Palermo stands a domed building, probably dating to 5th-6th C./11th-12th C., and attributed to the Norman kings of Sicily. It is very close in form to the Islamic tombs built under the Fatimids in Cairo but is not a tomb. Rather it is a pavilion built by Muslim architects where the Norman princes would sit at leisure among gardens and it is probably one of the closest building surviving to those of the Fatimids’ Western Palace at al-Qahira. The Palermo pavilion of the Normans is also formidably close in type to a pavilion built for the Rasulid rulers of Ta‘izz in Yemen of the 7th C./13th C. for the same purpose of royal relaxation. It is set on a promontory from which the Rasulids would enjoy the view of the city of Ta‘izz stretched out below. The most famed gardens of the Islamic world are those built in the palace of the Alhambra, the al-Hamra’, by the Nasrid kings of Granada in the 7th C./14th C. The rigid formality of the Court of the Lions preserves the symmetry of the garden of the Jawsaq al-Khaqani of the ‘Abbasids at Samarra’. This was probably a common type of garden in

the Islamic world by the time that the Nasrids adopted it. Its central fountain surrounded by lions provides not only irrigation but the element of sound, for in such gardens the sound of running water was as important as the visual effect of the garden.

The idea of the walled garden with flowing water and pavilions is also preserved in Iran at Kashan where the gardens of Fin have an affinity with the formality of the gardens at the Alhambra. The emphasis on flowing water also gives a garden-like appearance to religious shrines and this is the case at Safavid sites like the Rabi‘a b. Kulzum shrine near Nishapur in Iran, for example. The great tradition of Iranian carpets like the masterpiece from Ardabil in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London are recalled by the large ceramic panels on the facade of the 11th C./17th C. Safavid Masjid-i Imam at Isfahan, It seems likely that both the carpet and the mosque’s decoration relate to the appearance of lost garden. However, it is in the garden carpet tradition of Turkey and Iran that the Islamic garden can most confidently be explored, for garden carpets seem to imitate in the sense of portrayal real but lost gardens. With the expansion of Islam into the east, to the Indian subcontinent and the Far East, other factors enter the design of the Islamic garden. The gardens that survive in India make a great emphasis on water and the reflection of architecture in water, drawing on the indigenous Hindu tradition of building water tanks which was drawn upon by Islam. In eastern and southern China, a very little known transformation to the Islamic garden takes place as the indigenous Confucian intellectual concept of the elegant gardens of scholar-officials is incorporated into mosque designs. Thus, the propitious rocks and comment-worthy trees that are a major part of the scholar-garden tradition that is so well-displayed in the gardens at Suzhou and Huangzhou on the eastern coast appear repeatedly in Chinese mosques. These deeply Chinese concepts ap-

In the course of the Chinese adaption of Islamic concepts, the tombs of holy men and of great figures in society were also set in gardens that have connotations of Paradise but which are formed in an entirely Chinese cultural manner and in accord with Islamic traditions. At Canton, the tomb of Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqas is set in an Islamic cemetery, formed in purely Chinese garden terms and it is much visited. The Prophet Muhammad (S.) had sent his Companion Sa‘d ibn Abî Waqqas with two others to the T’ang Emperor to teach the Chinese about Islam. They were well-received and were permitted to teach the Pure (Qing) religion of Islam. Chinese Muslims believe that Sa‘d died at Canton, hence his presence in the garden cemetery. A highly formal cemetery garden setting was created for the site of the burial of the great Muslim admiral Cheng Ho who served the Ming Emperor Jongle. The admiral was a Muslim and he had launched a succession of very large fleets to trade with Hurmuz in the Arabian Gulf, with east Africa and with Jidda between 1404 and 1433 when he died. His emissaries visited Makka al-Mukarrama and fine Chinese porcelain was exported in vast quanities to Arabian and east African Muslim communities. At his death, the admiral Cheng Ho was buried at Nankingin a simple grave set on a high artificial mountain like platform approached through a formal garden, an Islamic adaptation of the traditional Chinese form of burial of emperors and princes. The concept of the garden as a place of peace and spirituality that is often referred to in the Holy Qur’an has embedded itself deeply into the culture of Islam as a theme of art and as we have seen, wherever Islam has spread, it has brought with it the janna that is an analogy of Paradise, to be translated and adapted to the cultures of those who have converted to Islam or been deeply affected by it. After calligraphy and portrayals of the Holy Cities, the garden can be rightly regarded as the most Islamic of themes in art.

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The appearance of the Court of the Lions and the other surviving gardens at Granada is probably best conjured up by the format of the great garden carpets that survive from Turkey and Iran in later times with intense colour forming patterns.

pear in Ming and Qing period mosques throughout eastern and southern China. They reflect the profound degree to which Islamic architecture and art was incorporated into Chinese intellectual and aesthetic terms in the post-Yuan Mongol period (i.e., post-7th/14th C.) under the early Ming emperors and their Qing successors.


Today the grass beds of the Court of the Lions or of the Generalife garden have no relationship to their original appearance. Originally they would have been planted with highly coloured flowers with strong scent which would have added a further sensual pleasure for those using the gardens. The scent of the flowers corresponds to the role that perfume plays among the acceptable pleasures in society in Arabia to this day.

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Arabic Calligraphy Reinvented with Tarek Atrissi



Serifs and Fonts and Typefaces, Oh My!

long process of font design and production process completely worth it.

We at Oasis pride ourselves on coming up with a welldesigned magazine every issue. Naturally, fonts, and typography in general, are a key aspect to our approach. So, we thought it’d be fun to “talk shop” with a couple of Arabs that have had a huge impact on the world of design and typography.

I think maybe a combination of all these create a unique and satisfying sense of accomplishment, but more importantly, they motivate me as a designer to create further work and keep up with the creative challenges.

First up, we spoke with one of the most recognized designers in the Arab World, Tarek Atrissi, and discussed his passion for letters, words and their design. What has been, in your opinion, your greatest accomplishment and why? I have always tried to be a multi-disciplinary designer and try to step beyond the sphere of just graphic design practice; to be involved on an academic and research level as well as on a level of promoting the field and working towards setting platforms for Arab designers to make their work more visible. The variety of type of work and the different levels I am active in, make my career as a designer more exciting and always creatively challenging and inspiring. It is hard however to point out what I would consider my greatest accomplishment because, as you say, several things happened on several levels and each of these has had a special success to it. On a branding level, it was exciting to be able to complete the design of a complete visual identity for a country (Qatar in 2004). This was a unique project in scale and nature. Nation branding is just too rare to occur for any designer to experience it. As a judge I was honored to be part of this year’s jury panel of the Adobe Design Achievement Awards in San Jose, California, which is the biggest international student competition around the world. As a curator, bringing the first exhibition of Arabic posters to Europe was a special step in creating international awareness and appreciation for the Arabic visual culture. As a type designer, seeing my very own Arabic fonts become very visible and popular across the Arab world made the

You’ve specialized in Arabic typography since the beginning of your career. What is the reason behind your fascination with Arabic typography? Any graphic designer is fascinated with typography, and being an Arab graphic designer, it is natural that Arabic typography becomes an important part of your focus. I think the interest and specialization comes from the fact that the challenge was bigger. There was relatively less done in the world of Arabic typography, and it was frustrating to see, for no specific reason, less exciting typographic work occurring in our side of the world. The Arabic written letter holds a lot of value as well in our Arab World. After all, the written script is the only common aspect across all the countries in the Arab World. The spoken language differs, the cultural values differ, and even politics and religion are different. Only the written language is common and holds a lot of history in it from our heritage of visual language in the Arab World. It is a fascinating challenge to work with Arabic typography, calligraphy and lettering, particularly with the constant struggle to mix the traditional with the contemporary, as well as to combine the historic artistic practice with a new digital era that is constantly and rapidly developing. You’ve studied and lived in various places such as Lebanon, Netherlands and the United States. Where would you say was the most inspiring location for your work? Every place has its unique assets and its own design culture and hence its own inspirations. I think each of these countries influenced some aspects of my work and helped in shaping my design personality. Living in different places in the Arab World helped enhance my interest in our unique visual culture and in understanding the cultural differences within the Arab World itself. The Netherlands

Design by Tarek Atrissi Š

has a strong history in graphic design and being part of the Dutch design culture was certainly a very strong inspiration and eye-opener to functional and simple design solutions. The New York design culture had a very strong influence as well, particularly through the big designers that I was privileged to study with during my time there. I think it is very important for a designer to experience different cultures and different design environments and just be inspired by different geographic locations. The more you see, the more you broaden your creative environment. What is so great and important about having a typography language?

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Typography is at the essence of graphic design and hence a big part of visual communication. It is extremely important and should be localized so as not to become just another imported visual language forced into a specific market, culture, and environment.



There is a certain look or misconception that the world has towards the Arab World. Do you think that also applies to their views towards Arabic typography? The Arab World in general is often very much stereotyped. Arabic typography was an unknown field with many in the West and the stereotype lied in the fact that many were not aware of the presence of a young emerging generation of graphic designers. Many looked at Arabic typography with the misconception that it is merely the historic calligraphic practice. While it is beautiful, it is not the only aspect of the written Arabic script, especially today, in the context of visual communication. I think this is where lies the responsibility of Arabic graphic designers, in trying to bring their work to a wider audience and actively change, as well as in using their communication skills to change any misconception relating to the Arab world, not only in the field of typography but in any wider context. That is what I have been trying to do since the beginning of my career: communicating a more positive image of the Arab world to a wider international audience by showing the constantly developing level of visual art and graphic design and reflecting its unique local flavor. Arabic calligraphy is rooted in our culture and is, in a sense, timeless. How does Arabic typography parallel that and how does it re-invent itself in a modern age? Our digital times are significantly different than the context and environment in which Arabic calligraphy developed. Arabic typography serves a different purpose on many levels and has to keep up with a rapidly changing technological surrounding. It is a very delicate task for typography to re-invent itself and stay, on one hand, loyal to the calligraphic values and, on the other hand, be innovative and functional in today’s requirements. How this is done seems to be different between different designers and different type design trends. Some are more inclined towards preserving the traditional aspects, while others are

“The Arabic written letter holds a lot of our Arab World. After all, the written script is the only common aspect across all the countries in the Arab World. The spoken language differs, the cultural values differ, and even politics and religion are different. Only the written language is common and holds a lot of history in it from our heritage of visual language in the Arab World.� --Tarek Atrissi

Have you seen any major developments within Arabic typography? The last ten years have witnessed a rapid and booming development in Arabic typography. There is more interest in the field and a growing number of graphic designers are leaving their impact. There are more type designers focused mainly on designing fonts and more cultural and non-profit organizations involved in Arabic typography. It is just a first step for the field to get to the point where it should have been much earlier. All in all, the developments are very positive. You’ve created several websites including your blog, Arabic posters, and Arabic typography. What is the idea behind and what is the significance of having a platform for discussion between Arabic typographers?

Design by Tarek Atrissi Š, introduced in 2000, originally aimed to create an exciting Arabic typographic presence on the web. It coincided well with a time where interactive flash websites were rising all over the internet and it was impossible to find even one single decently designed Arabic website, let alone one that took full advantage of the beauty of the Arabic script in new media context. The site changed all that. It achieved its goals in creating a solid typographic online example and bringing the emerging Arabic typography from the Arab World to a wider international audience. Most importantly, it encouraged the further development of many similar initiatives on the web, such as blogs and informative and social platforms dedicated to Arabic typography.


keener on focusing on the modern side. The in-between attempt seems to vary a lot as well between different approaches. I think it is hard to have a clear answer here to what is the best way for typography to reinvent itself. Time will be the best test to look back at this area and judge it more objectively.

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Logos by Tarek Atrissi Š

arts & culture scene in Saudi Arabia and I was very pleased to see this positive development. Do you think that enough inspiration can be derived from an Arabic heritage and background, that graphic designers will be able to build from that on its own without having to address what the West is up to? Absolutely. There is a lot of inspiration and visual culture in the Arab World to focus on and build on so that designers can create their own local graphic design language. Something the West needs, as globalization is imposing a less exciting international design style. Local design inspired by a specific local culture is a powerful strength that needs to be developed all the way, particularly in our world. What advice would you give up and coming graphic designers from the Arab World? It all starts with hard work. A graphic designer needs to be fully dedicated to his profession to make the best out of it. Always nourish your creative soul by actively researching various aspects of design and keeping an eye on all the work happening regionally around you as well as internationally. Also, seek as much education in design as possible, since a solid design academic background is key towards having a more solid design career. The website aims to create an educational, inspirational and experimental online communication platform for designers in the Arab World. Despite being typographically driven at its core, it also covers a vast range of creative disciplines: graphic design, calligraphy and lettering; branding and visual identities; new media and TV graphics; popular and vernacular Arabic design; visual communication; fashion and product design; and architecture and urban planning. The site offers an in-depth look at modern design that reflects trends, innovation and aesthetics in the Arab World today. will re-launch at the end of September 2009 to be a manifestation of more contemporary areas such as design and social change, moving beyond the traditional disciplines to design between the lines and its implication and resonance in society. The website has continuously served the needs of a rapidly growing global Arab design community by creating a portal that supports advocating better awareness for design in the Arab World and the first real platform for design criticism in the region. You have recently ventured off to Jeddah for the design conference Tawasol. Did you expect it to be a hit? How did you find the graphic design scene in Saudi Arabia? I did not know what to expect but I was certainly very impressed by the conference as well as with the level of design students and the general interest in graphic design and typography. It showcased the growing graphic design



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arts & culture

Khatt Foundation:

Designing Between the Lines

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Huda Smitshuijzen AbiFares. Doesn’t that name just make you want to know everything about her? It positively exudes diversity.


3O Huda Smitshuijzen AbiFares. Khatt Foundation ©

Huda is a Beirut-born, American-educated individual who currently lives in Amsterdam. She is a typographer, writer, researcher and graphic designer, with degrees from both Yale University School of Art and Rhode Island School of Design. She is also the founder and director of Khatt Foundation, a non-profit organization that promotes design development and research through projects that have proven to be truly innovative. The foundation strives to advance design in the Arab World and the Middle East and strives to build cross-cultural creative networks by organizing highly successful cultural events of relevance, such as the 1st Kitabat Conference on Arabic Typography (April 2006 in Dubai), the Typographic Matchmaking Project, the Khatt Kufi & Kaffiya Symposium on Arabic Visual Culture and the El Hema Exhibition project (Amsterdam 2007). The foundation also hosts a variety of workshops, exhibitions, and exchange programs between Europe and the Middle East, as well as showcases a wide array of published books and catalogs about Middle Eastern design and visual culture. Finally, the foundation established a highly valued online resource: the Khatt Online Community. The choice of the name ‘Khatt’ for the foundation goes deeper than just being a word. What is the reason behind the name? The word “khatt” in Arabic is rich with associations that define the overarching aims of the Khatt Foundation. Khatt does not only mean “writing, script, lettering, calligraphy and typographic style”, but also means “line”, as in a trace on a page, a line of thinking, a direction, a direct line towards a defined goal, a straight path and so much more. What was the motivation behind Khatt Foundation? The simple motivation was to create a platform for contemporary Arabic design in the widest sense and to find a concrete way to link the various applied arts. The choice of the Arabic script and typography was very obvious. As a graphic designer, what made you venture into creating Khatt? How did your background play into the foundation? As a designer in the Arab World, I had personally struggled to find information that would help me to work in a culturally relevant manner without copying the past and playing with pastiche. I found very little accessible pub-

Our mission is to provide a platform for cultural dialog and to promote better understanding between Western nations and the Arab World. Also, we aim to support the development of cultural projects that promote the exchange of ideas, educate, and allow for cross-cultural collaboration in the broadest sense. In addition, we wanted to establish a center for information about contemporary design in the Arab World. In other words, to provide a resource for all interested across this region as well as internationally. We also wanted to create opportunities and networks for young Arab designers across national borders and political divides and bring cultural projects to a wider public, as well as connect them to the design industries and help in the development of the visual aspects of communication, specifically Arabic typographic design in the larger context of applied arts and visual communication. As a foundation, Khatt has successfully run projects in both the Arab and the Western Worlds. Who are these projects aimed at and what are the goals and advantages that have come from them? Our projects start from a need we identify and we aim our projects to the professional designers and students of design in the Arab World. Naturally, the projects eventually spread to consumers and a wider audience. The goals are always to improve design and typography and push the boundaries of what is expected, thereby creating products that others can use in creating their own work and products in return. So far the projects that led to concrete products, like the ‘Typographic Matchmaking v1.0’ fonts that were published in 2007 and distributed for a one-user license with the book, have been widely used. Our project and fonts have initiated the trend of bilingual consumer font families, so now our ideas and approach is being copied by mainstream font foundries and famous designers. Also, these fonts are being used for educational purposes, in art publications, and in children’s books, where money and budgets are small but the interest in quality is high. When these fonts are used for large-scale commercial purposes, the designers of the fonts have been contacted and commissioned to sometimes even be involved in further work. The benefits for the culture are subtle but there is definitely a growing interest and understanding for contemporary design and typography.

One example is the creation of an Arab/Iranian design community with a presence in the international design scene. We’ve also organized workshops and seminars on Arabic typography and design in the Arab World, as well as conferences, exhibitions and exchange programs in collaboration with other European and Arab institutions. We’ve set up design research projects that help revive and renovate design and crafts in the Arab World in partnership with local industries and designers. Additionally, the foundation has facilitated and assisted with research projects on typography and design and provided information through a network of experts about type technology and visual communication in the Arab World. Finally, we’ve played a strong part in publishing books, catalogs and articles about design and visual communication in the Arab World. Projects like ‘Project Mulsaq’ and the ‘Typographic Matchmaking Projects’ have been considered huge successes. What projects do you have in store for the future and what are some of the possible new areas that you would like to explore?

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What are the goals of the foundation?

What are some of the foundation’s present and recent activities?


lished information about contemporary Middle Eastern design and recent history. Moreover, the few published works tended to be, in general, either not very well written or not very well designed and printed. Finally, there were no online resources to be found. There was lots of work to be done and I was compelled to take on the challenge. I had started working on research about Arabic typography and teaching the subject at the American University in Dubai, so the Khatt Foundation was the final link between my academic and professional work and personal interest as an Arab designer.

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arts & culture



Mulsaq competition winning entries.Khatt Foundation Š

I am currently working on a book about Arabic typographic layouts and book design. I am also at a very early stage of investigating a history of costume design in the Arab world. That last idea will take many years and may turn into a series of monographs and topics. I think there is a very significant relationship between identity, dress and visual communication; how we organize patterns and colors has a very strong relation to landscape, social relations and written communication. The Khatt online network has just celebrated its two-year mark this summer. What does this online network provide? The Khatt Network provides a window to the world of contemporary design in the Middle East and Arab World. It provides information about this scene and its members and offers the opportunity for designers from this widely spread geographic area to meet and collaborate on projects and exchange ideas, overriding physical barriers and obstacles. It also provides, free of charge, the possibility for designers to present their work and post their ideas, biographies, events, favorite books and so on. Calligraphy has always been looked at as the purest form of “ art” within the Arab World. Why is calligraphy and, for that matter, typography, very important in our culture? The Arab and Islamic heritage has always cherished the ‘word’ in its spoken, sung and written form. We have elevated calligraphy to a very high and refined art form. Calligraphy is visual celebration of word giving it beauty, visual rhythm. It is the dancing traces that connect the hand to

Do you think that enough inspiration can be derived from an Arabic heritage and background; that graphic designers will be able to build from that on its own without having to address what the Western World is up to? There is definitely enough inspiration in our Arab/Islamic heritage. Our heritage has always been inclusive, incorporating and getting inspired by other civilizations’ visual cultures and arts. I do not see being inspired from the heritage as necessarily shutting out the West, or even Far East. On the contrary, we need to be aware of the essence and principles of our Arab design culture, not the superficial formal aspects. Globalization sometimes brings a loss of culture. Why do you think it is important for the new generation of Arabs to cling on to their typography? Why is it important for them to develop it further within the context of a modern world? It is important not to cling but to cherish the most emblematic image of our cultural identity in the face of commercially driven globalization. We need to be proud, without arrogance or sense of superiority, just be proud that we have something to develop further and make others respect and appreciate. We also need to develop it further in order to prove to ourselves first, and others second, that we can be true to our visual heritage and culture by keeping it alive rather than mummifying it into old museum relics. What advice would you give up and coming graphic designers from the Arab World? Be proud of what you have, learn about the past and look towards finding your individual voice for your present and future work. Work hard and make what you cannot find and that you feel you need to have. Since its launch in 2004, Khatt Foundation has continuously exhibited one success after another. It has established itself as a platform for launching innovative design projects that address the immediate needs of design in the region. Partnering with established institutions, it has turned the results of these projects into viable products available on the market. The Foundation’s online network is an excellent place to get inspiration from and to meet designers from all around the region and the world.

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With three books to your name: Arabic Typography: a comprehensive sourcebook, Experimental Arabic Type, and Typographic Matchmaking; do you have any plans for a new installment?

the traces it makes on a page while writing. It imbues the word with meaning and emotions. I believe that we now owe it to ourselves in the arab world to also elevate typography to that level, not only by paying more attention to making good typographic work and new typefaces, but also by making the general public as aware of its importance as they are of Arabic calligraphy’s. This I believe is our cultural identity in the new technology-driven ‘modern world’.


I am working on a new version of Typographic Matchmaking for urban and architectural design. We hope to influence the look of public space and its use by civilians in Arab and European cities. There are five teams of designers, not only typographic and graphic designers, but also notable urban designers, product designers and architects involved this time. It is an ambitious project that we hope will result in a traveling exhibition and public interventions in cities throughout the region and in Europe. We hope to be ready by September 2010. New avenues we would like to push for as a cultural design foundation, are better and closer relations between crafts and contemporary design in the region. We also would like to work on experimental projects with Arab product designers and craftsmen. We will be taking part in an exhibition at Haus Der Kunst in Munich in September 2010 where we will start exhibiting specially developed work in this direction by inviting a small group of Arab designers that are also members of the Khatt network. Another avenue is to develop projects focused on Arabic typography and new media.

arts & culture

Italy Celebrates Saudi

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By Samia Kanaan



“Ever since its inception, Nawafeth-Soglie was based on exchanging ideas through Windows and understanding each other’s culture through crossing thresholds.” Maria Rosaria D’Auria On a beautiful day, June 10, 2009, in the gardens of the Museum of Rome in Trastevere, a great event took place. It was the sequential of Nawafeth-Soglie; a project for dialogue which saw the light in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in 2007.  With the cooperation of Al Nahda Philanthropic Society and Art of Heritage, Mrs. Maria Rosaria Vricella d’Auria made it happen. She is the wife of His Excellency the Italian Ambassador in Riyadh Mr. Eugenio d’Auria, and the organizer of Nawafeth-Soglie event, which was held under the patronage of the Italian and Saudi ministries of Foreign Affairs and Cultural Activities. 

HRH Princess Haifa Al-Faisal was the guest of honor at this occasion. HRH is one of the prominent figures who dedicates her time to the Art of Heritage non-profit organization. This organization is dedicated to preserving authentic tribal clothing and artifacts. For this mission, the organization employs Saudi women, thus enabling them to become active citizens contributing to the progress of their country. Also his Excellency the Saudi Ambassador to Italy Mr. Mohammad Jarrallah was present. Mrs. Vricella d’Auria wrote in the introduction of the catalogue, “here come the Saudi ladies with their distinct social, geographic and cultural attributes, accompanied by the fragrance of ottor, oud and the scents of the flowers of the Orient. They land on the banks of the Tiber as honored guests of the city of Rome.”   Twenty Saudi and Italian women artists worked together; art was their unspoken language and refined form of expression. 

Fiorella Pallas’ holistic jewelry is inspired by the most ancient cultures, the Red Indians. She calls her collection “Mii Amo”, which means “find your path.” The works of two accomplished photographers, Loredana Mantello and Susan Baaghil, were a real treat for the eyes. Loredana’s photo of two hands reaching out for each other was chosen for the cover of the catalogue. Mr. Eugenio d’Auria commented that “the hands pay tribute to Rome and the Romans who participated in this event, and to all those who opened windows for dialogue aiming to achieve peace between rich cultures of different yet similar peoples that form one world”. Susan, who has a Ph.D. in Photography, was awarded the Solidariet Gold Star Plaque by Italian president Giorgio Napoletarie and was named Cavalier. It was the first time an Arab artist has received such a prestigious award from a foreign government. Last but not least, there were the poets and writers. Paola Vallone is a writer who lived in Saudi Arabia. Her eyes filled with tears as she fondly recalled memories from the years she spent in the Kingdom, describing them as the most beautiful years of her life. Hung on the wall behind her was the short story of “Khaludeh.” 

No matter what form a work of art took, it was a true reflection of the artist’s soul that honestly tells the story of each artist. There was music, poetry, and good food (Halal at the recommendation of Mrs. Vricella d’Auria, who did not miss the smallest detail in her quest for a perfect event). Poems of the Arab-Sicilian poet Abed Jabbar Ibin Mohammed Ibn Hamdis were recited to reinforce the cultural marriage. A fine group of people from Saudi Arabia and Italy were celebrating their successful reunion. An air of conviviality and positive energy filled the atmosphere. Everyone felt that they were alike: alike in their hopes, their aspirations, and the challenges that face them. Alike in their love of beauty and art, and in their desire to understand each other and build bridges that connect.  Among the Saudi participants was Dr. Thurraya Al Erayyed, a poet and researcher. She has a Ph.D in education & planning and works as a planning consultant. She gave a highly analytical and candid lecture about Saudi women seen from “the larger framework of time and space; history and geography.” Dr. Maha AlSenan gave another fascinating lecture about art in Saudi Arabia.  Mrs. D’Auria believes that the Nawafeth-Soglie event is “an exhibition and at the same time a meeting place for artists where they can hear a lecture, a recited poem, and see pictures and spaces where common roots and diversity are traced”. She continues: “It is a second chance, and I hope it won’t be the last for the meeting of our two worlds, similar yet different and rich with culture and heritage. It’s an opportunity to seek mutual understanding, to get to know one another, and to encounter individuals of unique talents and characteristics that surpass the limitations of belonging.”


At one moment you smelled the sweet fragrance of the rose created by Norah Bint Abdullah Bin Muhammad. Then, you were taken to another realm of scents created by Ilaria Sartori and Laura Tonatto. Dates infused with the flavors of Saudi Arabia, freshly picked from Salwa Al-Hukail’s own palm trees, were offered to guests along with cups of Cardamom-flavored Arabian coffee. Salwa is a talented painter whose watercolors were highly acclaimed. An attractive display of Sicilian sweets made by Marcella Monaco greeted the eyes while, on one wall, majestic traditional Saudi dresses were displayed alongside traditional Ricamo made by Rosalba Niccoli, and silk velour fabrics by Paola Gaggioli.   Intricate paintings on porcelain, made by Shaden Al Towaijri, attracted attention, as did the ones made by Renata Emmolo. The works of Massoudah Qurban, who has a Ph.D. in art and jewelry design, glistened under the rays of the setting sun. 

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Through the corridors of the old and elegant museum you encountered the jeweller, the painter, the photographer, the perfume maker, the soap maker, the entrepreneur and the writer. It was a fascinating experience which stimulated one’s five senses.

arts & culture

The Art of Precious Embroidery: creating new classics from an old style

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When you think of Saudi Arabia, fine fashion is not what automatically springs to mind. But, a group of women based in Riyadh are working hard to change that image and it looks like they might just succeed.



Grand classics- they make every woman feel like a queen through their superb detailing, priceless handwork and finish to the last detail.

The Art of Heritage is a group that has a big heart and big plans to take their remarkable story and exquisite kaftans, abayas, shawls and accessories to a new level of recognition.

A cooperative partnership, Art of Heritage was first organized 20 years ago as the Heritage Center, part of Al Nahda Women’s Charitable Organization. To get the background on this remarkable group, OASIS interviewed Somaya Badr, the group’s general manager.

Based in Riyadh, the group is a socially responsible organization devoted to the preservation of Arab heritage for the benefit of women’s causes, supporting needy and disabled women.

ART OF HERITAGE – DEVOTED TO PRESERVATION “Our name says not only who we are but what we do. Every dress, thobe, abaya, and shaila, shawl we produce is based on our heritage,” said Badr.

THE STORY BEHIND THE DRESSES The Art of Heritage story began 20 years ago as an effort to preserve the traditions of Saudi Arabia before modernization erased all traces of the past – especially for the women who remembered a time when there were no boutiques selling the latest from Italy or France.

“We have the largest collection of authentic old thobes, abayas, shailas, and scarves in Saudi and possibly the Arab World. Our research team has done amazing work over the last two decades to source authentic pieces which are our reference and research library. We then classified and identified the tribes they came from by interviewing the women who made them or donated them to try to record their history. Many of the women who gave them remembered their grandmothers making them!”

The Heritage Center of Al Nahda began to collect and document the traditional dresses, kaftans and abayas, as well as carpets, jewelry, household artifacts, and doors – everything that was giving up its place to a rapidly changing modern society. The group then started to reproduce the dresses, accessories, abayas and thobes into new modern classics that could once again be given from mother to daughter with a story of where they come from, what the patterns represent and knowledge of how they were made. NEW HEIRLOOMS – FOR TODAY’S WOMAN Fine embroidery and exquisite materials, handmade and beautifully finished from top to bottom – every item produced by Art of Heritage is a fashion statement and heirloom in waiting. These are not dresses you wear for a season and then retire because they are clearly dated – the Art of Heritage dresses and accessories are timeless elegance personified.

When asked if the new dresses were exact copies, Badr replied: “Sometimes. We have examples of thobes that are 100 years old and next to them we can show you the exact replica using the same techniques produced by grandmothers and their mothers. But, we have taken this art form into today with variations on materials, cuts and small style modifications – an approach that blends modern with tradition. However, each of the dresses we produce is authentic. Either the colors and patterns are traditional or the cut of the dress, thobe or the entire garment.” NEW TAKE ON A CLASSIC BLACK DRESSABAYAS THAT MAKE YOU WANT TO WEAR THEM The black abaya. This necessity of life and nuisance in hot weather remains a definition of who you are when you are outside the house in Saudi Arabia.

Traditional Najdi Dress

Hijazi Bridal Dress

The exceptional hand embroidered thobes, kaftans and abayas made by Art of Heritage

Traditional Najdi Dress

Hijazi Bedouin Dress

arts & culture

Bold statements in vivid colors, minutely stitched embroidery on the sleeve and neckline, the Art of Heritage abaya makes you say yes to the dress. Tiny stitches that hold beautiful flower patterns or the geometric themes that are the hallmark of Saudi Arabia are part of the abayas. Inspired designs that incorporate shells, small buttons or lead beads that were the tribal equivalent of Swarovski all come back to life in the hands of the Art of Heritage ladies.

SEASON DRIVEN – Ramadan, Weddings, you name it.

The group is advancing into producing a new collection of abayas for next Ramadan that will take the region by storm, according to Badr. “We really have two seasons – Ramadan and the end of the year. So we try to plan our collections at least 6 months in advance. Ramadan, of course, is our big season just as the end of the year is the key season in the West. So,

We asked about the wedding dresses and Badr replied: “Weddings are an important part of every woman’s life and that of every woman in her family – not to mention the family of the groom. We try to make our wedding dresses as special as the occasion itself. Because of all the detail – they can take up to half a year in planning, choice of materials, design, fittings and finalization. But each one is part of that special experience for the bride and her family.” Looking at the fine silks, linens, cotton or pure wool for the winter thobes, the exceptional embroidery and classic line defines the dresses. Every one of the Art of Heritage dresses or abayas is designed in Riyadh and made by hand. The women working on the dresses may take up to 6 months to complete a major piece – covered with fine embroidery details from neckline to hem. And every one of the dresses and accessories, abayas and shailas are a good reason to invest in the heirloom of the future.


Ana Ghair Mall, Jeddah. Tel. + 966 (2) 6617798 Centeria Mall, Riyadh. Tel. + 966 (1) 4616609

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Cuffs, necklines, the ties – everything about an Art of Heritage abaya is designed to make you put it on and smile. “We don’t see the abaya as a nuisance – why should it be,” Badr continued. “We believe that we wear our abayas as much as we wear our dresses and they should be as beautiful as what is underneath them. Every one of our abayas is made with this idea in mind.“

next Ramadan, we hope to bring out a line of abayas that will take everyone by storm.”


If you dreaded putting on your abaya, have a close look at the Art of Heritage’s take on it. Beautifully cut, exceptionally detailed and finished, the abayas produced by the group redefine them from cumbersome to fashionable.

arts & culture


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Saudi Arabian delegates champion Muslim leadership in Mosaic International Summer School at Cambridge University


4O To inspire leadership within Muslim communities across the globe, 90 delegates, including five from Saudi Arabia, were brought together for the inaugural Mosaic International Summer School which was held in the UK between 18 July – 1 August 2009. The Mosaic International Summer School is an initiative founded by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales to address Muslim community-based interests and issues. Sponsored by the main international partner, HSBC Bank Middle East Limited, the International Summer School aims to increase understanding of global, social and environmental issues and create positive relations between individuals from both the Muslim and non Muslim world. The two week programme encourages debate and discussion around key issues facing communities worldwide, with delegates benefitting from high level presentations as well as visiting projects across the UK to bring the discussions to life. It is hoped that by working with delegates from other countries, a collective set of ideas and thinking will emerge around the issues, which the participants can then build on when they return to their own countries. The group of delegates were selected from a wide range of individuals aged 20-40 years old from across the world, including Bahrain, Bangladesh, Egypt, Iraq, Indonesia Jordan, Malaysia, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tur-

key, UAE and the UK. The group represented a diversity of backgrounds and experience – including designers, HR professionals, students, engineers and business leaders. With an average age of 30, flying the flag for Muslim leadership within Saudi Arabia were delegates from a mix of business and educational backgrounds with professions including a graphic designer, economic researcher, journalist, business advisor and computer gamer. One of the delegates was 32 year old Yasser Bahjatt from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Yasser is an entrepreneur and general manager of two computing gaming businesses, with a BA in Computer Engineering. Yasser is one of the leading figures in the newly founded eSports industry in the Middle East and has been involved with ESWC (Electronic Sports World Cup) as a Strategic Board Member and representative of his community. He is keen to bring back management and leadership skills to grow the eSports industry in the Middle East into a major sport and sustain Saudi as one of the World’s Top eSports countries. Yasser comments: “Mosaic summer school is an opportunity to sharpen my leadership and management skills, as well as interact with highly talented and successful individuals from all over the world.” The first week of the programme took place in Cambridge, UK, and consisted of seminars and discussion groups

contributing to the theme of inspiring leadership in the 21st century. Contributors included those from the organisations representing the various Princes’ interests as well as influential British Muslims and non Muslims from all walks of life. In the second week of the programme, the delegation was divided into groups to visit projects around the UK, before reconvening in London to report back and reflect as a group on what they have learnt.

Kaltham Al Koheji, Regional Head of Corporate Sustainability, HSBC Bank Middle East Limited adds: “This programme presents a unique opportunity for HSBC to nurture and support the young people of our region. We hope it will go some way in making an impact on the education of our talented participants.” “If today’s students are taught the importance of good leadership qualities, we believe they will go on to be better leaders as they move ahead with their careers. The core of HSBC’s community investment is to encourage education as well as promote diversity and this programme delivers on these objectives.” On returning home, delegates were encouraged to apply their learning to their communities – ranging from business to academic settings. In addition, the delegates were invited to become part of the summer school’s alumni, showing a commitment to positive relations and collaborative action between the Muslim and non Muslim world. All images copyright Mosaic ©


Aimed at addressing a set of global issues, the summer school is a complementary extension to Mosaic’s work in the UK, where it strives to achieve a more integrated and thriving society where all individuals, regardless of background, are supported in realising their potential. Since its inception in 2007, Mosaic has gained substantial support both within the UK and internationally, and is not only capable of mobilising interest in successful individuals to undertake volunteering and other collaborations on community-based youth projects, but that an increasing number of individuals and organisations are keen to collaborate and expand Mosaic into other important areas which are compatible with the overall objectives.

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John O’Brien, Managing Director of Mosaic, comments: “Within the UK, Mosaic helps to break down social barriers between Muslim and non Muslim communities, through supporting young Muslims and others facing various challenges in life... Through the Mosaic International Summer School, we hope to extend our work on a global scale, promoting increased understanding as well as investing in future leaders. The programme will create a network of leaders with an understanding of global, social and environmental issues, so that young Muslims can drive positive relations between the Muslim and non Muslim world.”

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Lights! Camera! Action:

Saudi Movies

By Ghada Anbar

Movies and Saudi Arabia aren’t two things that one would normally associate with each other, however it seems this is quickly changing. Many creative talents are bursting out into the scene, expressing themselves in new ways and reaching out to their generations to talk about their hopes and dreams for this Kingdom.

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It’s a Movement In doing research on this topic, we came across a few interesting men and women who have chosen to use this medium to enrich their lives and the lives of others. Sitting down and listening to the passion pour out of these young Saudis was quite refreshing and very promising. The first group we met with calls itself “IBHAAM”, meaning “thumb” in Arabic, which has recently established a production house and casting agency. The members started off doing short movies as a hobby and to kill time, but soon developed their skills and are now working on several projects professionally.


“We are using movies to deliver a message to our society and the young generations; how to make the right decisions for a healthy life,” said Majed Anbar, one of the directors. “We want to inspire youth to think about the future and work towards something instead of living randomly, wasting their time in cafes and restaurants ... to become proactive in building values for a wiser and more cultured society.” Hanaa Alfassi, also a director, said that her passion started with graphic design and photography. “if I weren’t doing this, I would be teaching.” Her vision is to speak to the people through media that has depth, leave everyone thinking and powerfully affect them, including herself. Living in Egypt and Morocco most of her life, she has also experienced firsthand the misconceptions that people have about Saudi Arabia and its people; that they’re all simply “bedouins” living in the desert. She summed up the main purpose behind her work: “When people start seeing the pressure coming from the media, they’ll feel encouraged to speak out about their own experiences.” The agency is currently working on several projects. One of them is filming a documentary, along with a British company, called “Our Everyday Lives”. Its goal is to promote cultural dialogue between the Arab world and the Western World. IBHAAM is shooting and directing the Saudi part

From top (clockwise): Hamzah Tarzan, Ahd Kamel, Majed Anbar, and Hanaa Alfassi ©

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of it by filming regular young Saudis and following them through their everyday lives. Other projects of theirs include castings for Nokia advertisements, a documentary on women driving in the Kingdom and managing various events.



Hamzah Tarzan is another ambitious movie maker who spent six years of his life studying at King Fahad University of Petroleum and Minerals when one day he felt that he was holding himself back from his real passion. “There comes a moment of truth in everybody’s life when you are faced with obstacles from every angle. It makes you wonder why you’re here and what you’re doing,” said Hamzah with an intense tone of voice. Completely self taught, Hamzah explains how he never took any technical training, any courses in filming, nor even read a manual for any of the editing programs he uses. He nevertheless made use of his university studies. “Making movies is not a science, but my studies in computer engineering did help with positioning of the angles of the camera for example. I mix that knowledge with psychology, using symbolism to give things more than one meaning,” he explained. “A tea pot, for example, can be seen as a container to pour tea from, or a work of art, or maybe a prison. I like to create an ideology behind my movies, leaving the audience to interpret them the way they like to, and sometimes I get pretty impressive ideas from them!” Hamzah has made three films so far: “Living Backwards” for which he won best editor in the Al Hasaa Film Festival 2008 and best director in the Saudi Film Competition 2008 in Al Dammam. The Saudi Film Competition also gave him the best director award for his second movie, “The Basement.” His third movie was “The Window.” He has even made a name for himself in the international field, being nominated for many awards in international film festivals that took place in Canada, United Arab Emirates and India. Trend Setting We had a chance to talk to a man who has had a powerful impact on Saudi media and very clearly created the benchmark for everyone involved in the field. Eissa Bougary recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of 3Points, an advertising and marketing agency that he co-owns with Marwan Qutub. 3Points has produced more than 100 commercials and more than 60 hours of documentary material. Some of their work includes the Weekend Culture campaign that aimed at encouraging people to go out on the weekends to promote local tourism, a bunch of clever and comic advertisements for Dominos Pizza, and their most recent anti-corruption campaign which delivers a powerful Islamic message about the importance of earning your living honestly by depicting an unforgettable im-

age of what happens when you don’t! The agency’s success is so evident that it was featured in a documentary on CNN. Eissa himself has won many local and international awards such as the Sword Award, the Berlin Award for ads, and a South African award for best animation. Eissa’s approach is unique. One intriguing experience he went through while working on one of his projects was when he wanted to know what it was like looking up from a grave, and so he went into one and had someone close the grave on him to get the feel of it! So what does the man behind all that think of the sudden outburst of movie makers in Saudi Arabia? Well, the picture wasn’t so bright a few years back. Always knowing that he wanted to be a director, the field was so underdeveloped when Eissa graduated that he had to get what was socially thought of back then as a “real job”. Eissa shared: “I worked for Procter and Gamble. Once, I was walking down the corridors and I saw an incoming fax with a story board for an ad. It was for Tide. I took it, looked at it for about an hour, not realising the time. I knew then that this is my dream job: to transfer the images that came to my mind into film. It’s the making of magic 24 frames a second.” Eissa said that he didn’t have the luxury of what the young generations now have of the society opening up and starting to see, from work like his, that this industry is a real one to pursue a career in just like the other more traditional ones. For you aspiring movie makers out there: “If you can see it in your head, transfer it to film.” Finally, we spoke to the director, producer, and actress Ahd Kamel. Ahd received a recognition award for Upcoming Middle Eastern Filmmaker from the Circle Conference organized by the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage, presented to her by none other than world-renowned director Spike Lee. She chalks up her foray into the world of movies to pure chance and a little bit of laziness. While she was getting her BFA in Animation and Communication design from Parsons School of Design, at one point she had to com-

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plete a five-minute animation piece reflecting her thesis project. “Out of laziness I tried to find the easiest way around animating 5 minutes worth of images, which by the way is a lot of work, and cut my work in half,” said Ahd. She decided to do a documentary about Saudi women, use about a minute of animation in the introduction and all the transitions, leaving the rest as live action. Piece of cake, or so she thought. “At the time,” said Ahd, “I didn’t realize that live action takes as much if not more time to put together as animation. I knew I was in love with the work and found my calling when I spent 14 to 18 hours a day working. I fell in love with the medium, the possibilities it offers and the whole process. So, I decided to pursue it professionally and enrolled in film school.” She fondly remembers her time as director Peter Berg’s set assistant during the film, “The Kingdom.” “No matter how you feel about what comes out of Hollywood, you must agree that what goes into making a film of that scale is impressive.” Ahd recalls a funny story during which she was asked to drive Peter in a golf cart to and from the set. “Having lived in Saudi till I was 17 and moving to New York after that, I never really learned to drive but it was too embarrassing to admit that,” said Ahd. “So I started the cart, pushed the peddle down and to my dismay it was in reverse. Yeah, you get the picture.”

Ahd is currently promoting her latest short movie, “The Shoemaker,” which has been invited to premier at the 6th Annual Dubai Film Festival in December 2009, and is working on her first feature film, “Smile, You’re in Jeddah.” The film is a social dramedy that explores the conflict of balancing between traditional expectations and modern ways of life in an ever-growing global world. “My film explores these personal and cultural conflicts through the eyes of Ruba, a Saudi woman, who falls in love with Reade, an all-American boy. They decide to get married despite cultural pressures and their journey begins to gain her family’s approval.” Ahd views the recent outburst of movie-making in the region as a promising way for our young and very visual generations to express themselves. “Expression is the driving force behind every artist and to see people expressing themselves in any medium is a great sign that artists are thriving among us.” As for the future of the industry, “the possibilities are endless, but it’s all in our hands. It begins with a step and the first is to open a movie theater.” Her final words of advice sum up what we feel will resonate with everyone out there hoping to embark upon this exciting journey into the world of movies: “You didn’t choose an easy path, but you already know that. So, if you truly love it and your heart is in it, let that drive you and guide you till the very end.”


Image from Ahd Kamel’s short movie: “The Shoemaker” ©

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Jameel Prize It has been called the Islamic Turner, and answers the question, what could be better than one Jameel Gallery at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A). The answer, clearly two; or rather, one gallery devoted to the old, and one biennial prize and linked exhibition devoted to, as its curator Tim Stanley puts it, ‘how the Islamic tradition can feed into contemporary art.’ By Pádraig Belton For the V&A, this is all a return to its roots. At its 1850s founding, this museum would eventually grow into the world’s largest museum of decorative arts and design drank heavily of the sprays of Islamic decoration, as an inspiration to modern design that was neither neo-classical nor gothic revival. That indispensable Victorian designer Owen Jones - the prints and drawings gallery now hosts a display noting his 200th birthday - returned from the Alhambra with notes urging that ornament stay true to object and material. With his tessellated pavements and mosaics, and as decorator of 1851’s Crystal Palace, Jones proved a prime figure in 19th century British design reform. He was author of the Grammar of Ornament (the first design textbook), mentor of Christopher Dresser (Britain’s first industrial designer) -- and spread the lessons of his Alhambran study firmly within the South Kensington museum’s orbit, designing many of its spaces and associating closely with its first director, Henry Cole. Distilling the lessons of ancient Arabian, Turkish, Moresque and Persian ornament for living Victorian ears, he summed these up writing that “true art consists of idealising, and not copying, the forms of nature.” This was classicism, the Grand

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Tour gone wrong and ending on the wrong side of the Mediterranean. Returning mediaeval knights might have worked enormous intellectual transfer along Roman roads home from the Middle East and North Africa to Europe, but their descendants in the 19th century museum chose less to engage the inhabitants of the region and more to exploit its antiquarian objects. Now, however, the V&A’s prize circles back to repose the Victorian museum’s question, offering contemporary designers working within Islamic traditions opportunity to enter a debate not just about interaction between Islamic art and British, but against a fully international scope for comingling. The exhibit, taking the theme of exchange resolutely, will move from London in mid-September to tour in the Middle East. It was made possible by a Saudi benefactor, Mohammed Abdul Latif Jameel, who in 2006 contributed greatly to the Islamic Gallery’s refurbishment and renaming, for his late father. Another circling back: the Jameel Gallery brandishes the much-copied Ardabil Carpet, acquired for the V&A by the exertions of William Morris - the Pre-Raphaelite and Arts and Crafts innovator, who with his structured patterns and regard for the nature of fabrics clearly was learning things from Islamic methods of artistic textile production. Jameel proposed the prize roundabouts concurrent with the reopening of the gallery, as a nod both to the V&A’s stature



The Jameel Prize Winner: Afruz Amighi’s ‘1001 Pages’ ©

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Hassan Hajjaj ©

as the first museum in the world systematically to collect Islamic art, and to its founders’ faith that there was much to be learned from it towards reforming British design. There is also, inescapably, the grappling with what it means to discuss Islam in Britain. The Victorians had their conceptions of Islamic cultures; we have ours in the epoch of British art (Saatchi, by the by, is of Baghdadi birth). The exhibition release discloses an earnest aim to “contribute to a broader debate about Islamic culture. Not to be selfconsciously political, but the mere effort of showing these objects in a beautiful setting, makes its own point of the self-confidence of a civilisation that could produce them.” There is great beauty convened here. The short list boasts nine of a hundred entrants. There is Persian calligraphy from Reza Abedini carefully arranged into human forms, evoking the figures’ inner lives or culture. Hamra Abbas subtly limns the vulnerability and urgency of the Muslim faith, by writing us a letter “I wanted to tell you my story in person, but I do not like the weather in your country” entitled “Please do not step 3”, an impossible stricture as the words are placed between two rooms, on the floorboards. Windows and portals symbolically pervade the mashrabiyyat - latticed shutters - of Susan Hefuna’s turned wood; the incorporate ‫( أنا‬an ana-gram) conceals interiority, and mediates between two worlds something like the persona of Hellenic tragedy which constrain speech and render it possible.

Lebanese-Canadian Camille Zakharia offers photocollaged Markings, paint on motorway asphalt reconstituted to form mosaics. Owen Jones might have lauded: in a hunger for pattern dissassembling and creating worlds as an assertion to remain free - from medium, and mentally from what it represents - this as one who has fled war and struggled to communicate in foreign tongues. It is a cosmopolitan gathering; of the nine, only jeweller Sevan Biçakçi and printmaker Khosrow Hassanzadeh work wholly in the countries of their birth. Prizes, by custom, have winners; in this case, Afruz Amighi’s ‘1001 Pages’(images on page 47). She has described her piece as creating an evocation of a certain idealisation of the mosque using shadow pieces created by hand-cuttings project from a suspended and illuminated plastic sheet. It combines ethereal images of birds, which dance alongside hooks and chains, icons of barbarism.

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Working in diaspora like seven of the exhibit’s nine artists - of Iranian origins, trained and working in the New York of this past decade - she has spoken of the Islamic aesthetic sensibility as being intuitive for her. Perhaps this is part of the resonance for her of shadows - intangible, a sort of physical analogue to memory. It is a dissolution both of artwork and viewer. There is in her work an intimate detachment, coming from juxtaposition of opposites - the deeply personal, and at the same time public space of a mosque; chains alongside the birds; the blinded peacocks. She is quick to speak of Abrahamic and Sufi traditions of God and humanity’s attempt to escape out of darkness. Hamra Abbas’s ‘Loss of a Magnificent Story.’ ©



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Khosrow Hassanzadeh’s prints (right) and Susan Hefuna’s wood artpiece ‫( أنا‬left) ©.

1001 pages and shadows each gesture halfway to an equal number of nights; Amighi as Šahrazad, then, with a visual embeddedness of stories within stories and mingling of narrator, character and audience. Asked about the title, she responds it also bears much to do with her process of creation. “I was in a pretty bad rut; I couldn’t be in the studio: all I could do was read. I don’t think I absorbed maybe a fraction. It was an activity, like a sport.” Reaching a stage at last mentally ‘ready for the tedious work, for the hard labour’, she cut pieces for two months, labouring over detail: ‘every cut, every bird, every species was significant.’ She described the actual creation as hypnotic. ‘The symbolism, the obscure reference, was my own alphabet’ (though she goes on to express delight in its resonance with the V&A’s curator, as well). She finds her audiences experience her piece as ‘a sacred space, a hush, a place of quiet contemplation,’ amidst a ghost-

ly atmosphere where darkness permits viewers to relax in a way they could not in an exposed gallery, with others watching. It is an experience she felt elsewhere, and wished to pass on: ‘You go in to a mosque in Iran, you take off your shoes, and people are crying, sleeping. You could scream, you could feel however you want to feel, it’s very comforting. That’s what I was hoping for.’ She cites Rumi’s parable of Chinese Art and Greek Art: ‘The Chinese figures and images shimmeringly reflected / On the clear Greek walls. They lived there / Even more beautifully, and always / Changing in the light’ And the effect of winning the prize? ‘I can’t lie, it provided a huge amount of motivation to keep working. Not just financially, but the psychological response.’ (As a work of art, it began in summer of 2008 with a fiction: she’d not created anything for months, and a mentor chivvied her along to complete the piece for a show. When it was

Susan Hefuna’s wood artpiece ‫( أنا‬an ana-gram) ©.

in focus complete, Amighi recalls, ‘I said to her “When’s the show?” the mentor confessed there was no show, “I’d just wanted to get you off your bum.” She speaks warmly of meeting the other entrants, calling it the prize’s best aspect. She dwells at length on Biçakçi’s jewelry (says Amighi, ‘you should wear it sitting in your throne’) and the salon installation of Moroccan-British artist Hassan Hajjaj (‘Without even thinking about it I would go and sit in that room. We would congregate there. Hassan is such a social connector and that that room reflects his personality.’) Hajjaj’s Salon - he’s used the title in previous installations, including one in Cardiff; clearly it is for him an evocative one - probes the invasion and absorption of Western brands by traditional culture in an Islamic country. He permits the word ‘Marrakitsch’ to slip his lips, and may winkingly also be showing how the Moroccan brand - an Islamic brand, at a push - has invaded and been absorbed by traditional culture in Britain. (His own images, one could note, grace the website of London’s Britpop band Blur.)

Reza Abedini ©

His installation seems to be a tea-spot, a back corner of a market, which has attracted the commercial detritus of traditional items, emblazoned with Western brand names - a Louis Vuitton Islamic veil, Coca-Cola labelled crates, in Arabic. He confesses to spending a great deal of time on his frames; the notion of framing, and reframing, seems at the centre of what he does. An omnipresent camel figures as a microcosm of the Maghreb and ‘East’; and the multinational, of Europe and the ‘West’. Asked of the influence of an Islamic sensibility, he gestures as well to the miniature tradition, to geometrical forms and mosaic repetition. If it all looks curiously authentic, it’s because it is; in creating the installation, he worked with artisans from Marrakesh. ‘For the stool, I had to use a person who makes poufs. For the lamp, I got involved, made sketches and had that made by a local artisan; I enjoyed that aspect.’ How then, does he feel about Marrakesh’s own new standing as a British brand, as a destination for mass tourism? ‘Something like this has plusses and minuses - it depends how you look at it. On the plus side it allows people to go and look. On the negative side there are more “planes in the air, and the wrong sort of people who don’t respect the culture.” I asked if he thought the local culture would withstand the onslaught. “In history, people change due to time; it happens in every third world country. People desire what they think we’ve got; we’re trying to find something more spiritual by going to these places.” It is, to the V&A’s founding query reopened with this prize exhibition, one peremptory reply. As this scion of the Great Exhibition prepares with its riches to depart to the Middle East on tour, it is, also, unlikely to be the last.

our guide

Division Lines (2004-06) © Camille Zakharia ©


Harvey Nichols Riyadh Men & Women’s Autumn/Winter 2010 Collections Something in the air is buzzing at Harvey Nichols Riyadh as it unveiled the new development and expansion of its men’s collection of casual and formal wear as well as many more acquired accessories. There are so many new designer labels that will make their way to the shelves this time around including Daniele Fiesoli’s collection (two top row left images) of light cashmere sweaters and pieces sourced from the heart of Tuscany’s textile district. Eton fashion label has been creating upscale shirts since 1928; the Scandinavian designs have no parallel in comfort and quality. This fall’s collection draws inspiration from old English University club dress codes such as burgundy red, rusty orange, racing green and lavender purple mixed with purple and aubergine as well as earthy tones of ocean and driftwood. Their Red Ribbon collection offers wrinkle-free cotton shirts perfect for the busy businessman.

For a more casual look, check out the new collection from Paul & Joe (opposite: top right and middle rows) that is playful with a perfect blend of rational thinking and a charming but mischievous approach to fashion. You’ll find quirky details and unexpected pastels that will liven up any wardrobe you have in mind. You will also find Project E’s famous polo t-shirts that are a favorite amongst stylists and celebrities alike. Now, throw on a pair of perfect jeans from AG (bottom row). The most sought after denim brand in the world is now available in Harvey Nichols Riyadh. The mastermind designer behind the label Adriano has previously manufactured jeans for Gap, Abercrombie and Ralph Lauren and now is creating his own brand of vintage looking jeans, which have the freshness and attitude of modern jeans. The jeans are even manually given the perfect finish and a final pumice stone washing process gives the jeans a soft feel and rugged look.

Clockwise from top: DVF, Alexander McQueen, Chloe, and Repetto flats.©

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The men’s collection that Harvey Nichols Riyadh has acquired is in a nutshell the perfect wardrobe for the contemporary man with attention to details and amazing fabrics. Of course they haven’t forgotten about the women’s collection, as you will find the fall’s hottest trends and designers stocked up for your next shopping experience. As the world recovers from the economic depression, Fall 2009/2010 collection will largely define what 2010 fashion will look like. With trends like over the knee-boots, capes, cloaks, ripped jeans, bohemian-luxe and military inspired designs, the year 2010 is looking more cutting edge than ever before. Get noticed with your footwear, thigh high pirate boots, ankle boots, baroque sandals or even some classic Repetto ballet flats. These flats, which have been

around since 1947, have become legendary all over the world as each shoe production remains completely traditional and surrounded by many quality control and as precious things, they are produced in limited editions. Bags are also getting a facelift with basic bags getting revved up with hard-edged studs, zippers and some bold colors. The best part of all of this is that you will have your pick from a multitude of designers including: DVF (clutch on opposite page), JT Italia, Katherine Kwei, Linea Pelle, Luella, Michael Kors, Paul & Joe, Unica, Tomassini, Salderini, Le Silla, Gianfranco Ferré (middle row), and Mariella Burani to name a few; all of this goodness under one spectacular roof, Harvey Nichols Riyadh. What are you waiting for? Shop, shop, shop…



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With a dedication to providing their clients with what is missing in their closets, Vibe continuously replenishes its stock with up and coming designers, must-have items and, of course, those accent accessories that we all know and love.



Disaya’s bangles Š Vibe

“Quality of course is important, price comes next. We like to sell items which are affordable by teenagers to older women…We also like to choose certain designs which are wearable and never go out of date.” -- Vibe

Jennifer Behr’s headpieces © Vibe

No outfit is complete without Jennifer Behr’s headpieces. Each is handmade in New York and, for this season, the fabrics, textures and designs scream “elegant punk”, which makes us love them even more. After all is said and done the true measure of a store is whether the people behind the concept really do wear the clothes. So, do they? “I always love Clue as it is wearable all year long and so plain that you can actually wear an item twice in the same week without people noticing you did so… and Shourouk is another favorite as the pieces have the ability to change an outfit from day to night by simply adding it to your outfit. -- Vibe As true superheroes, the owners of Vibe have not forgotten about your special little ones and have handpicked items from 2B including studded converse, beanies and vests. To Vibe and beyond! Vibe Boutique 1st Floor Centria Mall


Disaya, the brainchild of Disaya Sorakraikitiku, has one of the coolest collections around. Disaya’s collection is not only about great design but also about supporting great causes and thus donates part of its proceeds to the Smiley World Association, which fights against all forms of social exclusion. This season’s jewelry collection features chunky Smiley enamel bangles, comic book inspired bangles, and the trademark teddy bears that feature patterns and bling.

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Stepping with your best foot forward has never been more fun. Meticulously selected, this season’s must-haves have made their way to this tiny purple store. You will instantly fall in love with Maloles ballet flats which are as comfortable as they are stylish. Loeffler Randall’s fall 2009 collection emanates a sense of romance and innocence; his shoes have revolutionized the New York fashion scene. Also, be on the look out for the new editions of Melissa shoes.


Jimmy Choo The bond between a woman and her shoes is inescapable and has never been more emphasized with brand names such as Jimmy Choo. Women have gone as far as to undergo toe-liposuction and toe-shortening to fit into a pair of Jimmy Choos (we are not making this up). The couture shoes over the years have become lucky charms to many Oscar winners such as Cate Blanchett, Halle Berry, Hilary Swank, and many other Hollywood actresses. In 1996, the iconic label was first launched by Tamara Mellon, Accessories Editor at British Vogue, and Jimmy Choo, the couture shoemaker, in a stand-alone boutique on Motcomb Street in London. In 1998, the label opened its first flagship store in New York followed by a Los Angeles store in 1999. On November 14th 2009, Jimmy Choo will bring its international glamour and covetable shoes and bags to H&M stores around the world. The Swedish giant H&M has collaborated with many designers over the years, including Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garcon, Mathew Williamson, Karl Lagerfeld, Stella McCartney, Madonna, Roberto Cavalli, Viktor & Rolf, and now Jimmy Choo. This latest venture will bring a collection of shoes, bags, women’s clothing line as well as men’s collection of shoes, bags and accessories that will start from as little as 50 dollars to a maximum of 280 dollars. “We are privileged to be among the fashion greats who have been affiliated with H&M so far, and to be designing a collection appealing to fashion savvy, street smart women, and to be including some great pieces for men, too. Jimmy Choo will bring to H&M a sophisticated, fashion forward, accessible and glamorous collection – the perfect party pieces to buy now and then wear out that night!” Tamara Mellon, Founder and President, Jimmy Choo. “We adore Jimmy Choo’s shoes and bags. They are glamorous and sexy, and they add instant style to the simplest of outfits. I like the way we have worked with clothes to accessorize the shoes and bags rather than the other way around. This collaboration is particularly exciting because it’s our first shoe designer collection. It’s a joy to be able to offer top end designer shoes and bags of excellent quality to our customers.” Margareta van den Bosch, creative advisor, H&M. The Jimmy Choo people sought to make it clear that this is not an attempt to launch a modest-priced line permanently. They just want to offer something to those who dream of owning something authentic from the brand without taking out a second mortgage on the house. Circle the date: November 14th 2009.

meets H&M

H&M ©

Light Up “Science is spectral analysis. Art is light synthesis.” Kraus


In search of the best lighting in town? If you are, you should already know that the newest designer home creations are all at Cities. The design and lifestyle store, that brings together all the latest design and home accessories from around the world, has become so popular that they are expanding their store in Centria Mall, Riyadh. Our favorite pick this time around is from Atelier S/Z. A modern twist on the traditional nargile, this unique creation is made of Plexiglas and silver coated copper. Atelier S/Z is the brainchild of Sibylle and Ziad, which was created in December 2001. The dashing duo whose combined degrees include fine arts, communication arts and even the art of sculpture making, create products by deconstructing existing elements and reproducing them as funky, quirky and extremely modern products for everyday living. If you’ve never been a fan of the water pipe, then we guarantee you will after you set your sight on this original concoction which can also double as a stunning centerpiece. Some of the designer ranges available at Cities include: Gaia & Gino, Philippe Starck, Paola Navone, Baobab, La Bellino, La Fibule, Bellevue, Beistelltisch dunkel, and Standleuchte amongst many others. Light up your day with a visit to Cities. Cities | Design & Lifestyle Store 1st Floor Centria Mall (Olaya & Tahlia intersection) Riyadh



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Tamraty By Rashed Saud Islam

Rayan Maimani and Homam Bogary aren’t your typical Saudis. Not content to just mull about their day jobs, they chose to start their very own gourmet sweets and date business. While other men their age may be out cruising the streets, or whistling away their youth, Rayan and Homam have been spending all their spare time working on their latest venture ‘Tamraty Al Momayazah’, or ‘Distinctive Dates’, a gourmet date store with a modern twist.

dates are cleaned, washed and offered for the same price as elsewhere in the market.

On arrival, all guests are welcomed with traditional Arabic coffee, and given a tour of the products being offered. Both Rayan and Homam have an excellent grounding and knowledge of the numerous varieties of dates on offer. It is no wonder that Rayan and Homam are cousins, and that this family business is infused with welcoming touches. The duo decided to start a family business after Rayan came back from the states in early 2009. Within a few months they had sketched out their idea, and the concept of Tamraty was born.

Their ambition is “to do what New Zealand did for the Kiwi,” explained Rayan, others offering similar quality of up-market products include Bateel and Ganache. But the duo hastened to add that all of the offerings at Tamraty are unique and custom-made for the store. For example, Tamraty’s selection of date sweets include imaginative ingredients such as cornflakes, coconut, caramel and even new takes on the form the sweets should come in.

What really sets Tamraty apart from the competition is their exclusive sweets. Take the ‘Momayazah’ for example. These small glossy balls of caramel look like marbles. You expect them to be hard based on their appearance, but, risk a bite and you will be pleasantly surprised by the satisfying crunch that follows. The Mamool is also different here. Baked by the duo’s grandmother, the sweet cakes are as homemade as you can get and you can really taste the difference. As for the dates, varieties from across the Kingdom are available, but the owners are particularly proud of their Medjool dates which are dark, smooth and creamy; almost like eating molten toffee. Presentation is key and appears to be something that the duo has down to a tee. Seasonal

Special trays and platters of dates are also available, but with a twist. For example, you can have an array of dates wrapped up in the form of a small palm tree for something really different. These creative items are sure to be a hit across town.

Instead of sprinkling some pistachio powder over a date, you actually get a pistachio mixed date balls. These small spheres are tiny little bites, but rich and satisfying.Their mouthful sized mini date cakes are also fantastic. Tamoor, the Mascot is also a first for a Sweet shop in Jeddah (at least that we are aware of). It’s certainly quirky.  A large legged date with cartoon-like eyes stares out through the windows at passersby or those approaching the store. Homam’s sister was responsible for all the branding and the logo design. Right down to the packaging, everything is ‘Saudi Made.’ We managed to ask the team a few questions about how and why they setup Tamraty:

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How old are you both? What is your background? Homam Bogary: I’m 27 and I have a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration specialized in Marketing and a Masters in Industrial Management. Rayan Maimani: I’m 26 years old. I got my Bachelor of Science in Business Administration specializing in Marketing and my Master Degree in Occupational Safety. What inspired you to start your own business? The date is one of the national products which is exported by Saudi Arabia, and it is one of the most available food resources in Saudi Arabia. When we were studying the market we found that all date stores are very traditional, focusing only on serving the need of the month of Ramadan. That is what encouraged us to develop this concept. We believe dates are as good as chocolates and therefore suitable for all social gatherings. We developed the date industry by making Tamraty al Momayazah, or “really special date,” by filling the date with special recipes, making them one of the best decorative dates ever. Tamraty Al Momayazah? What inspired the name? We were looking for a modern, easy, and memorable name. What’s your unique selling point? How do your prices compare to the competition? Tamraty is different in its way of promoting dates. While we were studying the market we found that all date shops have a straight cultural atmosphere. We decided to go down the modern route, even in our advertising. That’s because we are targeting everybody. Kids, for example, have started to choose our uniquely filled dates over their usual chocolates. In fact, it’s happened more than once that a kid stops his father at our shop to check our products because they are in love with Tamraty Al Momayazah’s mascot, Tamoor. Our unique selling point is dates with a modern touch.  As far as the prices go, as they say: quality has its price. You mentioned you will be offering date shakes! They sound great and would go well with your date cakes and cupcakes. We are launching them very soon. We are in the final stages of developing the recipe for these unique milk shakes. What are your plans for the future? Our main challenge will be to change the concept of the date to the general public. We are also palnning on opening new stores. A new store will open very soon on Al Tahliah Street in Jeddah. Our expansion plan is to have at minimum a new store every six to eight months.

art scene


Peter Sanders (photography), Lulwah Al-Homoud, Haji Noor Deen Mi Guang Jiang (calligraphy), Noha Al-Sharif (sculpture)

From 10.00am to 5.00pm & from 22.00pm to 1.00am.

venture out of the cities

Beit Al Qur’an

Jasmine Bager

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The stoic building is a block of sand-colored stone, carved intricately with Arabic lettering and veiled with a coat of swirling dust against the backdrop of a desert sun. The sound of the athan and that of children reciting verses of the Quran, leads to the doors of Beit Al Quran.



It is hard to comprehend how the Gulf region of Arabia is saturated with transfixed Muslims and yet only one building is dedicated to collecting, maintaining and preserving the Holy Quran in all its printed forms. The Kingdom of Bahrain is known for its natural pearls, yet this treasure cradling over 5,000 rare Qurans, rivals any religious institution. Bahraini local Dr. Abdul Latif Kanoo founded the Beit Al Quran in March of 1990, enabling his local community the opportunity to showcase Islamic manuscripts and artifacts all under one roof. Many of the donated Qurans were originally from Mr. Kanoo’s private collection, and others were added over the years. The space includes a mosque, an auditorium, a library, an active Quran school and ten exhibition halls within the museum. There is no entry fee, but visitors are encouraged to slip monetary donations into a large box near the entrance, and everyone is welcome, regardless of religion. Inside the building, the light shines, as large windows literally, and figuratively, paint the space with illumination. A seating area, with small wooden tables, is available for visitors who wish to sit and reflect upon their sightings within the small space. Many visitors begin their journey into the museum by entering the Mathaf al-Hayat, which is a large wheel-chair accessible space, interconnected with ramps that lead the visitor gracefully to the second floor. Along the way, the Qurans are displayed in custom-made glass cabinets with fiber-optic lighting with monitored climate-control to ensure the manuscripts are properly displayed and preserved. The Quran School is located on the upper level of the building, with students enrolling to attempt to memorize or better comprehend Allah’s chosen words. The early Arabs orally passed on stories, but all of that changed once the Quran was brought upon the prophet Muhammed (PBUH). In order to accurately record the

One extraordinarily rare Quran on display was one that was created in Tunisia on deep blue-colored vellum, inscribed in gold, and commissioned by the Abbasid caliph al Ma’mun to commemorate his father. This piece was believed to be one of only three existing manuscripts to have been written during that time period on colored parchment. The Qurans on display include a tiny manuscript measuring a mere 43 millimeters across, which was originally favored by travelers, and displayed with a microscope to assist readers. On the other end of the size spectrum, the museum displays extra large pages measuring 75 by 50 centimeters, reportedly from the Mamluk period (12-501517).


words of Allah, Arabic calligraphy was explored. The earlier Qurans were basic and simple in form, inked on leather, wood and stones or bones. Then came the use of parchment, which was more expensive, without any embellishments. The designs became more elaborate in the seventh century, with the growth of the craft, and became flamboyant, with touches of color, created from crushed semiprecious stones and vegetables, in the Umayyad period (661-750). By the end of the 11th century, manuscripts became highly decorative, and predominantly blue.

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Images of Beit Al Quran. Ian Hamzah ©

Since Arabic is not spoken in all Islamic nations, many Quranic verses were translated, often printed alongside the Arabic lines within the same page. Beit Al Quran offers a glimpse of such extraordinary books, stacked in a high shelf enclosed within a glass case. Nearby, on the walls, modern paintings by the current generation of artists are on display. The museum offers permanent and visiting exhibitions, and began selling Eid greeting cards in 2008 to raise funds for the center and to promote Islamic art. “The institute serves as a custodian of Islamic traditions for future generations,” Mr. Kanoo is quoted to have said. Location: The Business District in Manama, Bahrain Hours of Operation: Sat-Wed 9:00-12:00 and 16:0018:00; Thu 9:00-12:30 Tel: +973 290-101 Entry fee: Free; donations are welcome

till next time...

Events Saudi International Boat Show: 14-17, October 2009 Al Furusya Marine & Yacht Club, Jeddah Saudi Print 2009: 18-21, Oct., Riyadh Exhibition Center Saudi Media Show: 27-29, Oct. 2009, Intercontinental Hotel Riyadh Global Competitiveness Forum (GCF) 2010: 24-26, January 2010, Four Seasons Hotel Riyadh (Saudi contemporary art exhibition accompanies the GCF) Al-Khalidya Horse Festival: January 2010, Al-Khalidiah Farm, Riyadh Female Higher Education Symposium: 4-6 January 2010, Taibah University Riyadh Arts of the Islamic World: 7, Oct., Sotheby’s, London Contemporary Arab Art: 14, October 2009, Vanity Fair Breaking the Veils: Women Artists from the Islamic World: till 12, December, 2009, Yale University

This page: images of artworks in Breaking the Veils. From top clockwise: Etel Adnan, (Lebanon) Allah; Meriam Bouderbala (Tunisia) Untitled; HRH Fahda Bint Saud, (Saudi Arabia),Three Women; Kanak Chakma (Bangladesh), Waiting-39; Nirmala Shanmughalingam, (Malaysia), Beirut. Š

"Landscapes of the Mind" Saudi photographer Manal Al-Dowayan will display her new collection of prints in a solo exhibit next month at the Cuadro Fine Art Gallery in the DIFC, Dubai. The series “Landscapes of the Mind” provocatively plays with notions of perception, barriers and herd mentality through black and white images of groups of women represented in a local landscape. An interesting multiple-media collaboration presented in this collection is a work that combines Manal’s photography with a piece of experimental video by Saudi filmmaker Noor Al-Dabbagh. “Landscapes of the Mind” is an intriguing development for photographer Manal Al-Dowayan towards a more ambiguous and somewhat pop-influenced imagery. Her first series of striking crisp black and white photographs, titled “I am”, showed women from various professions in traditional Saudi garb and created a stir internationally. “This new collection is an exciting adventure in my style and thoughts. I am very excited about this upcoming exhibition; it will be the event that launches a new set of ideas and images that I have been working on this year.” Al-Dowayan “I am proud to be working on this collaboration with Manal, it will hopefully be the start of a new creative wave of artists in Saudi working with different media to explore issues that capture our shared imagination.” Al-Dabbagh Manal Al Dowayan Solo Exhibition (featuring video by Noor Al-Dabbagh) Cuadro Fine Art Gallery, DIFC October 20th, 2009


healthy mind

healthy mind

Media Review By Maha Al-Bisher

It is a known fact that the media is a powerful tool which can alter public opinion in a short period of time. What is new, however; is using media to spread Islamic awareness and Islamic heritage. By “media”, I do not just mean television, radio, internet, and newspapers, but also modern forms of media such as: blogs, Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, and so on. Young Muslims are blowing us away with their creativity and their determination to reach their goal of reviving Islamic heritage. They are trying to reach out to the Muslim youth in particular. If you think this is an easy task, think again. Young people are extremely hard to please; they question everything, have a say on every matter and if the speaker accidentally says something unappealing to them, they lose interest immediately. Advertisements The huge influence television advertisements have on a nation is undeniable. They creep into the public mind unconsciously and shape their views. There is no better example of that than the recent advertisements by the Abdul-Latif Jameel Company. They are the ones that created those popular catchy ads, “Aklak Hallal”, that discussed the topic of Muslims’ incomes as being lawful according to Islamic Law. Short, snappy and straight to the point, they struck quite a nerve with viewers with their thoughtful plot and extraordinary cinematography. Blogs To amuse someone to the point of hysteric laughter is a powerful talent, and mastering it is indeed an art. Ali Ardekani, or Baba Ali as he casts himself in his video blogs, has that talent in spades. He produced several short films that introduce topics that are rarely spoken of, such as extravagant weddings and culture versus religion issues. With his sharp wit, irresistible humor (stand-up comedy style) and sarcastic attitude he approached Muslims all around the globe.

Television Ahmad Al-Shogairy, the host of the programs Khawater and Law Kan Bainana, both of which target young Muslims, has an original way of speaking and of proposing Islamic cases that is remarkably appealing and help many viewers easily relate to him. Although he doesn’t rely on the comical aspect, he definitely has his own unique ways (e.g. he once suggested to use a Powerpoint presentation for a Friday prayer sermon.) This Ramadan, Al-Shogairy’s Khawater program took the audience on a journey to Japan. Each episode explored a different aspect of their society from the way they dispose of waste, their everyday manners, to how they coped with Hiroshima and learned from it. His mission from this journey was to learn from the successes they have achieved so far; those which have made them one of the top economies of the world.

I caught up with Ahmad Al-Shogairy to ask him a few questions: What are the points you keep in mind while preparing for your programs (given the fact that you target youth which make a picky and hard to please audience)?

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In order for the show to be successful, I need to keep several points in mind. First, the program should not be too lengthy. In our day and age, people get bored easily. Second, the language I use is important. I had to make sure the way I spoke would not be thought of as mere senseless lecturing. I tend to give advice indirectly. Third, the main theme should be entertainment, with advice being just a small part of it; not vice-versa. Finally, the topics have to be about the youth’s current interest and based on what they encounter in their everyday lives. Have you thought of having another educational program aimed only at parents?


Would you say that one of the reasons behind your popularity amongst the young generation is your modern approach and look? It’s the whole package. I mean, the whole package is different. The way I talk and look and the focus of the program. Although my modern, casual look has its obvious impact, I do on occasion try to wear the traditional clothes as well (thobe). There is nothing wrong with being proud of our customs and traditions, just like there is nothing wrong with adapting a modern look. How has the general reaction been to your programs, so far? It has been very positive (Alhamdolillah)! Any parting words of advice for Oasis readers? Thank you for the interview! I hope that the youth of today would be more aware of their importance in today’s society. They have to realise that they are the future we anticipate. They should start setting goals and be determined enough to accomplish them.


I aim to make the information provided in the programs beneficial and attractive to both the younger generations and the parents. It’s true that our main focus is the youth, but when the program is on TV, the whole family watches it; the kids, the parents, and even sometimes the grandparents. I’m not planning on making a program for a certain category; my goal is to talk about general topics that interest everyone.

healthy mind

Saudi on the Top By Sara Altheeb 11:30 am, May 26th 1953, denotes the first successful ascent of Mount Everest, by Sir Edmund Hillary of New Zealand and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay of Nepal. After reaching the highest peak in the world, the two climbers buried some sweets and a small cross before descending.

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Since that historic day, many more climbers have broken records reaching the summit of Mount Everest, from the oldest man, 75 years old, to the youngest climber at the mere age of 15. The tip of the world has inspired many to get an unparalleled 360 view of its peak. In 2009, at least 200 climbers have already reached the top of the mountain. has stated that it “seems the entire world stood on top of itself” recently.



“The first question which you will ask and which I must try to answer is this, ‘What is the use of climbing Mount Everest?’ and my answer must at once be, ‘It is no use.’ Oh, we may learn a little about the behavior of the human body at high altitudes, and possibly medical men may turn our observation to some account for the purposes of aviation. But otherwise nothing will come of it. We shall not bring back a single bit of gold or silver, nor a gem. So, if you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won’t see why we go. What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. That is what life means and what life is for.” George Leigh Mallory (English climber) On the 21st of May 2008 and after 60 days of climbing, 30 year old, Farouq Alzouman became the first Saudi to reach the tip of Mount Everest, the first climber to be nicknamed “Sir Edmund Hillary of Saudi Arabia”, the first man in history to carry the Quran with him to the summit and the first Muslim to make a call for prayer on nature’s highest pulpit, with an altitude of more than 8848 m and a temperature below -50 C˚. Alzouman was sponsored by The Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities’ “Leave No Trace” program, which aims to develop ecotourism trips while preserving nature. Some of the principles of “Leave No Trace” are: the preplanning of ecological tours, the disposal of waste in an appropriate way, dealing gently with different types of wildlife, making no changes to the natural or archeological elements and respecting others. “Farouq - What an ambassador for his country! I think I would struggle to find anyone who could possibly dislike Farouq. He had us regularly laughing with his stories and observations from his time in the US. So much so that we decided that a TV series called “The Adventures of Farouq” would be a huge success. I say that he is a great ambas-

sador for his country because on numerous occasions he more than held his owns during discussions about his culture and religion. They say that one should never discuss sex, politics or religion at the dinner table. Aside from climbing, I don’t think we talked about anything else! As the first Saudi to summit Everest we often remarked that he will soon become Saudi Arabia’s most eligible bachelor and I wish him every success in the future. I am privileged to call him my friend.” Nabil Lodey (English climber) On the 11th of July 2009 Farouq, who was born in Riyadh in 1979 and got his BS in Economics from the University of Oregon, gave a lecture entitled “Life is like Climbing Mt. Everest” at King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh. We caught up with him after that lecture for an interview. Why did you decide to climb Mt. Everest? I had previously climbed several mountains in the states such as Mount Shasta in California and Mount Rainer in Washington but it was not until I got to the top of one of Maui’s mountains, where I saw one of the most beautiful scenes in my life, that I decided to see how the world looked like from its highest peak. What was your goal from this journey? The main reason was to admire the beauty and creation of Allah. I also realized that no Saudi had ever climbed Mount Everest, so I was motivated to be the first to represent my country, raise the flag, and carry the Quran to the highest point on earth. Everest is known for being the highest graveyard in the world. Did you have any moments of weakness? Thankfully, I never had a moment of weakness and that is thanks to Allah. When a person studies his goal well and knows the path to it, then all you have to do is leave the rest to Allah. That person will not have a second thought about the capability of reaching his goal. I know that there are no words that could really describe how it feels to reach the top. But, how did it feel to you? To be honest, reaching the top wasn’t just the goal; the whole journey was my goal. Plus, reaching the top did not mean I was safe yet! In fact, going down was harder and more dangerous. The mission wasn’t over yet, but to win that battle and stand on the highest peak gave me goose bumps from the inside. For over ten minutes I was speechless of how amazing the creation of Allah looked from the world’s roof. Any last thoughts you’d like to share with our readers? Every person has a summit in his life to climb and conquer, for which we all should exert efforts. And efforts never go in vain.

Farouq Alzouman on Everest Š

healthy mind Shayirha = Share it Interview with Yousef Alshaikh Shayirha: [shai-yer-ha] - verb: 1. Share it! 2. (Colloquial Kuwaiti) To fasten with a hook. Think tanks are overrated. All you need is a group of students, snacks and time. Voila, ideas are born. Sure, some of them might not always be feasible -- “Human-sized hamster wheels/electric generators” -- but every so often, you have a winner. Take for example a group of architecture students from King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM). As many before them, they realized that higher education is not just about reading textbooks and attending classes; it’s about seeking knowledge that is personal to yourself and sharing it with your peers.

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Thus out of this simple idea, Shayirha was born.



A group of ‘Mshayireen’ (sharers) meets up weekly to present and share their design ideas. The themes of the meetings range from presentation skills and techniques, to full-on case studies. The group is a non-profit organization whose sole mission stems from the passion of the group members to ‘share’. Shayirha was co-founded by Eyad Maghazil, Ala Al-Mctoom, and Yousef Alshaikh. Meanwhile, the list of coordinators, participants and members is constantly growing.

urally to the notion that everyone would stand to benefit if we were to share these two things amongst ourselves and the rest of the college. So, we sat down and structured the project, wrote a preliminary list of interests (a manifesto of sorts), started to spread the news, printed a few flyers, and scheduled our first meeting on the 9th of March 2009. This “pilot” meeting, which would be a demo for things to come, was a huge success with our colleagues and things just picked up from there. Thus, Shayirha, which is an Arabic take on “share it”, was born. The official format that was established was a collaborative weekly meeting every Monday after university hours where we would meet, someone would present an idea, design approach, etc., and we would sit and discuss it for an hour. In addition to our discussions there would be other activities such as designing, viewing selected design works, and let’s not forget lots of delicious munching. I’d also like to point out that everything we do at Shayirha is a group effort, from the filming, to the discussions, to the preparation of content. I can go on forever just talking about the people who have put this together, but I’d rather just say that everyone who’s pitched in so far is someone who breathes design day in and day out. And that, my friend, is Shayirha in a “nutshell”!

To get a better idea of the group, we hunted down and spoke to one of the founders of the group, Yousef Alshaikh.

Why did you take it upon yourselves to create Shayirha?

Explain the concept behind Shayirha?

We waited, waited, and waited some more. Since no one else was doing it for us, we decided we might as well do it ourselves. That, and divine intervention, of course.

The idea in its infancy had been floating around in our collective minds for a while when one day, by divine intervention and sheer hunger after a long day at university, we ended up at Al-Khobar seafront in the company of three pizzas and a piece of A4 sized paper. Hence was born the first draft for our yet unnamed project. Several months of long sleepless nights and many pizzas later we arrived at a simple premise that is very much at the heart of Shayirah:

Are there any rules for joining Shayirha? Our three simple rules are: 1) you genuinely have to “love” design. It might seem so, but we’re not really here for the pizza. 2) You have to discuss and debate, so no boring lectures please. 3) Finally, anything and everything designrelated counts. Underwater glowing fashion? Yes, please.

“We love design, and want to share it with the rest of humanity!”

What has been your favorite project or event that you’ve organized so far?

Unfortunately, humanity was out that day, so we decided to start small and local with our university, KFUPM. Now that I’ve sidetracked to my heart’s content, I’ll go ahead and explain our simple concept:

So far, the “make a chair out of cardboard” project has been our most fun project. If you haven’t watched the video of it yet, allow me to preface it by saying: The video was not doctored. The chair really did support a whole busload of students!

We are three architecture students with a variety of different skill sets and design knowledge. We are not unique as such, as we are part of a college that is full of designers that are similar to us in these two matters. This led us nat-

You’ve opted to document Shayirha via blog, video and random events in Dhahran. What is the purpose of each outlet?

Our weekly meetings in our studio area at KFUPM are the very heart of the project. The blog on the other hand is a means to collect all our ideas, projects and knowledge in one place and provide a platform for the access of all this material, in addition to the video documentation of all our meetings, to our members and rest of the world alike. In your videos, the cameraman always seems to be running, why is that? Ah, that would be Ala’a Al-Mctoom, funny guy, always late. No, but seriously, Ala’a is our very own home-bred director and cinematographer, and he really loves doing those funky intros which really help support our “design should be fun too” attitude. How does Shayirha relate to the everyday student in Saudi Arabia or even the Arab world? Ever since inception, we’ve really worked hard to make Shayirha as open to the public and accessible as possible. So far we’ve even managed to gather a decent following of non-design discipline students here at KFUPM in addition to design students from around the country. We are very proud of them and will be collaborating with them on numerous projects at the peripheries of the design field, such as robotics design and interactive art. During these past few years, the new Saudi generation has been getting a lot of bad press regarding lack of enthusiasm, work ethics and so on. Have you seen a different image now that you are all involved in a project such as Shayirha?


From experience I would say bad press is just that, “bad” press. As a country we have legions of people with amazing forward-thinking ideas and the will that is necessary to go through with these ideas. I believe that with the collaboration of others and the right exposure, such people will God willing inspire the rest of us to start taking initiatives in serving our society with the things we love doing the most. What is your future plan for Shayirha? Will you take over the world? Huh? Who’s been talking to you guys? All I can say though is that we’ll be sharing our little project with a much larger audience very soon! With that said, I would like to leave you all with the following thought: Everyone you know is a light bulb waiting to burst into a thousand Kelvin. Share and all shall be light! Shayirha might still be a young group, but based on its rate of progress and the dedication of its members, Shayirha is well on its way to becoming a pioneer of innovative learning.

Shayirha ©

healthy mind Literacy Legacy

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You must admit that you’ve spent quite a few brain cells busy with your dreams and wishes. One of which is a passing, yet irksome contemplation. Which irksome desire is it? Well, it’s the result of a bad hair day and an exam you fear you have flunked; the wish to live in someone else’s shoes. Since Oasis Magazine quenches your thirst for just about everything, here’s an elixir that can briefly transform you into someone else. Please make sure you don’t exceed the prescribed amount! By Nora Alfaiz



The Arabic Font Specimen Book by Edo Smitshuijzen

Muslim artists think of Arabic calligraphy as the most essential form of decoration. You can find arabesque writings on Alhambra’s walls, all over Taj Majal, and even on the most modern magazines and fashionable shirts. In spite of its rich impact on us, Arabic fonts needed to be gathered and documented. This is where this book comes in. Each font is accompanied with a specimen in three sizes: display size, average size, and small size. In addition to that, you’re provided with the names of the designers and the manufacturers of the fonts. The book is beneficial to those who work in print, website design, graphic design and anyone who’s just a fan.

The Saudi & Oriental Cooking Originals by Rabha Ahmed Hafez


by David Macaulay “Admiral Suha Mehmet Pasa had done well by war. For more than thirty years his successful naval campaigns had made him a highly respected member of the Ottoman aristocracy…” Macaulay is famous for his books on architecture. Yes, the previous quote was taken from a book that deals with mosques’ structure design and how they’re actually built. A book for children, its ninety-six pages tell the story of Admiral Pasa’s intention to build a mosque. In the process of attaining his heart’s desire, we learn all about how mosques are made, along with learning a thing or two about the Muslim society. The provided information is easier to understand due to his colorful illustrations, which makes Mosque a must read for anyone who likes to learn the fun way.

Let’s face it: there are endless ways to prepare Middle Eastern dishes. However, the best source of loyal recipes would be best taken straight from the horse’s mouth! As mom always says, the best recipes are ones used by natives of the cuisine in question. This is a cook book of about three hundred pages, all of which Saudi households religiously follow or tried in other households. You’ll find recipes to Saudi dishes of all regions, all of which people swear by. Tabouleh salad, anyone? How about the most famous entrée, none other than kabsa? Or how about a simple shawarma with extra sauce? Kunafa for dessert? Are you drooling yet? Good.

quenches the mind

healthy mind



Misadventures in the Middle East In 2002, after graduating from college, Henry Hemming and his friend and fellow artist Al Braithwaite began a yearlong journey through the Middle East; a journey to explore and to create art. In 2007, Henry’s written account of the journey Misadventures in the Middle East was finally published.

was not enslaved to it. Beyond that we wanted to create a bank of images that existed somewhere apart from the two Western tropes concerning this region – on the one hand dusty, exotic souks full of mystery, intrigue and possibility, and on the other a more contemporary collage of conflict fuelled by religious extremism.

Why did you initially set out on a journey to make art in the Middle East?

Politics and media are inescapable in the way that they shape perceptions and judgments; what do you think was the biggest misconception of the Middle East after this yearlong journey?

Like so many journeys, it began as a collision of ideas. I decided first that I wanted to spend a year making art in situ. As a result of earlier experiences I believed in that and wanted to explore this as an art-making technique. I was also adamant that I wanted to do this with Al Braithwaite – an artist I had worked with before, so it was really through conversations with him that we chose the Middle East. Here was a part of the world where our various interests overlapped; in another sense the decision was to do with a book we had both read: Orientalism. We were gripped, utterly, by the possibility of creating a body of artistic work concerning the region, as British artists, in the early twenty-first century, that Edward Said could look at and find some kind of value in. We wanted to make work that was not a conscious or unconscious rehashing of what had gone before, that was pandering to no stereotype that was aware of its historical position but at the same time

…that ‘the Middle East’ exists as a coherent entity. Worse, that different rules apply to the entire region and that these rules, somehow, magically, serve to place this part of the world beyond Western analysis. This is ‘particularism’ and for me it remains the most egregious misconception concerning the region. I know you only wanted the biggest, but the other biggie for me would be an occasional failure on the part of writers, commentators, and the general public in Britain to imagine the people living in this part of the world as having multiple identities. Throughout human history it has not been possible to stigmatize or wage war against a people or the inhabitants of a particular place without projecting onto them a singular identity such as, for example, ‘Muslim’.

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Why did you decide to turn your journals into a book? Two reasons. First, they were the bare bones of a story that was quite unlike any other, one that provided a more multi-faceted, human, silly and profound way into the region. Second, for me any text will have a certain feel, a stylistic taste, and there was no other book I had read that tasted like the one I had in mind. Much of that stylistic taste was to do with a certain authorial honesty. So if I made a mistake or acted like a 23-year old during the journey – I was 23 – then it was important to represent that within the book. I’ve always looked at cars as a means to get from A to B (to the horror of many) and was really pleased to know you felt the same; after Yasmine, have you changed your views towards cars? Or was she special before and even more after the trip? Yasmine only came into my life weeks before the journey began, at which point I too thought of vehicles as, well, vehicles, each one a steel-clad means of getting from A to B. Yasmine changed all that and in car terms is my first love, so no, no other has come close.

What was your favorite art piece that you created on this trip and why? ‘The Spectator’. It was a piece about the experience of watching the Second Gulf War begin on television in a small village in Jordan. I like it because it made me cry and later it made an Iraqi woman who saw it cry. You’ve encountered many people along your journey, who was by far your favorite person and why? I don’t have a favourite. The contenders would be: Moonlight, the protesting artist in Isfahan; Amirali Ghasemi, the artist and curator in Tehran; James Wilde, the former war journalist living in Istanbul; Ali Akbar, a Sufi-dervish-actormystic outside Tehran; HRH Prince Hassan bin Talal, a man blessed with extraordinary humanity and intellect; Mamdouh Bisharat, a gregarious host with an excellent garden; the Iranian army captain with one leg who let us back into his country illegally; Hero Talabani, in Kurdish Iraq, who saved our skins; the two boys who stole our camera in the Wahiba Sands and their sister who swore that they had never done it and called us Western troublemakers for suggesting they had; their uncle for pouring


All Images copyright Misadventures in the Middle East ©

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86 prisoners were held and some of them would go on to be executed. I found some pictures drawn on the walls by men who were later killed which I will not forget. calm on the situation by giving us back our camera; Arik Kilemnik, a printmaker in Jerusalem, and Larry Wright in Jeddah. The people I loved meeting in Baghdad would fill another page. I’m sorry, I haven’t answered this very well. I don’t have a favourite. What about the person who left a lasting impression? Because I was travelling for a year and was on the move for all of that year I met a huge number of people, but the people I liked the most were always the ones who questioned the world around them and took extreme pleasure in conversation. There were plenty of these, and again I don’t want to single one out other than Al, the artist who accompanied me throughout. He embodies that way of seeing I have just described. What is the most haunting memory? Feeling very close to death in Baghdad without knowing how to gauge its proximity, that and being in the Redhouse in Sulaymaniyah, Kurdish Iraq, where peshmergha

You’ve been highly documented throughout your journey, with lots and lots of interviews, has there been any question that you had wished someone would ask? And what would the answer be? Yes, I am still waiting for an interviewer to tell me that they have a pocket-sized elephant in their pocket that they have trained to sing a medley of Hungarian folk songs, and would I like to see it? To which the answer would, of course, be yes. Meeting and really getting to know people and artists, who would you describe as being a true artist? I am the wrong person for this question. For me anyone who says they are an artist is an artist, just as anything you care to call art is art. I’m uninterested by whether something is or is not ‘art’, ditto ‘true art’, ‘artist’ and ‘true artist’. I am congenitally wary of the cult of the artist and much, much more interested in what constitutes good art rather than who is a good artist. So what is that? Well, for me

All Images copyright Misadventures in the Middle East ©

‘good art’ will often involve a strange alchemical cocktail of tone, the relationship of that piece to its point in history, aesthetics, balance and a degree of iconoclasm. What would you say was the biggest unexpected realization after this journey? That Yasmine is not invincible – I parked her for a few months in a field in the English countryside during which time she was broken into and badly vandalized. She was not touched during our time in the Middle East. She is now back on the road you will be glad to know and was recently to be found ferrying children from all over the region around Britain as part of the educational programme that came out of this journey – see for more. This may sound like a sideways answer but the fact that Yasmine was not broken into during our journey is an allusion, I think, to one of the most startling aspects of that year – the very real culture of hospitality. It is extraordinarily powerful, it is increasingly unique, and I believe it is something to be celebrated.

What are your future projects, and where can we expect Henry Hemming next? I’m working on another book for the publisher John Murray that will come out in 2011, to follow on from the book I wrote for them last year called In Search of the English Eccentric. Art-wise there are a number of projects and ideas I’m working on now which should see the light of day over the coming years. My most recent body of work was a series of etchings onto antique paper concerning those English eccentrics I met for my book, images can be found at

healthy mind

web review

Interview with Jinanne Tabra

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In 2008 and at the age of 21, Jinanne Tabra, born in Iraq and raised in the UK, set out to launch while still a senior at the Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar.



What is It is an online community for educational books with an Arabic theme that allows future Arab generations to grow up reading, writing and thinking in their mother tongue. Books on the site are categorized based on age, topic and language and are shipped all over the world. is committed to its mission and organizes workshops, language lectures, student activities, and even donates a percentage of its annual profits to charities that aid children in the Arab world. Recently Jinanne was voted to be one of Arabian Business’s “ 30 under 30: The New Generation of Arab Leaders”, so we caught up with her for a one-on-one chat. Tell us a little bit about yourself. I was born and raised in Scotland, which made it very difficult for me to learn Arabic because the resources available to families overseas have always been very limited. In an effort to weave more of the Arabic language, culture and traditions into our daily lives, my parents decided we would move to Qatar when I was in high school. I enjoyed my life in Qatar so much that I stayed there after graduating high school and attended Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar. Studying Business Administration exposed me to a whole lot of inspiring business cases from all over the world, and the class that I enjoyed most in college was Entrepreneurship. It was while taking that class that was born - our professor introduced us to a wealth of startup case studies, entrepreneurial autobiographies, interviews and even inspiration quotes - they were all success stories, and I decided during those classes that I would have a success story of my own. What was the reason behind the creation of Araboh. com? My Arabic is not as strong as my English, not nearly as strong as it should be, and that’s the case with so many Arabs today. The idea for an online children’s bookstore came from reflecting on my own experience learning the language, I realized that as a child I had never enjoyed Arabic. I dreaded the ‘Arabic school’ I would go to every weekend in Scotland, and although I loved reading English books as a kid, I couldn’t remember ever being really

excited about an Arabic book or toy. The Arabic materials available to us overseas just couldn’t compete with all the exciting and engaging English materials. is trying to change that, we’re trying to get kids excited about the Arabic language, and we’re providing quality educational materials that are just as good as those found in other languages around the world. Halfway through your senior year at college you decided to setup by flying out to Dubai, why did you decide to open it then and there? Why not wait till you graduated? Part of it was just excitement, I had an idea and I wanted to get to work on it. The other part was that I knew every day that went by, Arab families overseas were going through the same struggles I went through growing up, I didn’t want to waste time in providing this service to our customers. Why did you decide to open Araboh as a website and not a store? There was never any question in my mind; it had to be an online business. The people I wanted to help were Arab families living in Europe, North America, all over the world. The website gives us that global reach, the majority of our orders currently come from the US, we also work with individuals and organizations in Australia, Greece, Norway, Canada, the UK and other countries - all of whom found us on the web. What has been the best part of establishing Araboh. com? The best part of this experience has been hearing from our customers. I have had letters written by young children telling me all about what their favorite book is, I’ve heard from adults in Europe and the US about how our beginners books are helping them learn a language they have always wanted to learn, soldiers serving in Iraq have ordered books from us, libraries in Australia, schools in the US, the reach has been outstanding. Have you seen a surge of interest towards Arabic books since you’ve started? Surprisingly, there is actually a great deal of demand for Arabic books within the Gulf states. It surprised me to learn that even families and schools in Arabic countries struggle

to find Arabic language materials that can hold up against the huge amount of English materials in our market. As a result of this demand, we launched our Arabic Language Festivals, visiting local schools to run student activities, host workshops and language lectures, work with teachers and librarians and invite parents and family members into the school for the festival to promote family reading. The Arabic Language Festivals have been extremely well received and we’ll be expanding our programs into more schools for the 2009-2010 academic year.

How do we redefine the state of the Arabic language in our society? At the moment it’s very simple; English is more fun. A great deal of English books, cartoons, computer games, and other educational tools are more sophisticated than their Arabic counterparts - they are so engaging and exciting to children that they feel more like fun than learning! I think there is a lot we can learn from some of these International resources. The Arab world is creating Arabic voiceovers for Barney the dinosaur and the Tellytubbies - but our kids are smart enough to know they’re not getting the real thing, they would rather watch it in it’s original English version. Companies like AlJazeera Children’s Channel and the Freej cartoon series understand this and are creating programs that are authentic, exciting and that validate the Arab culture and identity. We are finding ways to get people excited about Arabic again; we are on the right track. The excitement and dedication that oozes from Jinanne Tabra ensures that is not only a website but a movement that will teach us all to cherish the Arabic language.


Jinanne Tabra in action. ©

There has always been gloomy statistics on the state of Arabic books; do you think websites such as could help change that? I hope so. I have learned that there are a large number of Arabic publishers turning out hundreds of titles each year, they are just difficult to find and they rarely develop direct channels to the consumer. is dedicated to providing titles from a range of publishers, we currently stock books from 13 publishers and that number will double in the next three months. Something else that I’m very excited about is the launch of our very own publishing house, we are gearing up to launch our very own brand of Arabic books and educational tools in the coming months - so I’m very proud that we have grown from our beginnings in retail to now making a real contribution to the Arabic publishing industry.

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What is by far the best selling book at For the past few months, it has been a Learn the Alphabet set (textbook & exercise book) by Samir Editeur (a Lebanese publisher). However, a couple of months ago Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing released an Arabic-English version of “The Selfish Crocodile”, it is a wonderful book that children of all ages enjoy and is quickly becoming one of our hottest titles.

Movie Reviews Middle Eastern movies finally stepping up... Capitán Abu Raed

Review by Obai Taibah Certain events shaped our protagonist, Abu Raed, into the man he is today. He struggles to get over the loss of his beloved wife, Um Raed. He fills that void when he is mistaken for a pilot by one of the kids in the neighborhood, and starts telling the kids about his ‘adventures’ all over the world. As the story progresses, Abu Raed tries hard to save two kids, Tariq and Murad, from their respective abusive fathers. All this takes place in the poorer part of Amman.

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In the upscale part of Amman, Nour’s parents try to persuade her into marriage of convenience. Nour is an actual pilot and the two, Nour and Abu Raed, become friends when they meet at the airport. In the end, all the different stories intertwine to become one great story.



The acting is superb, namely Abu Raed and Murad’s father; the music is really engaging; and the story is truly moving. Captain Abu Raed is Matalqa’s first feature film, and is the first film produced in Jordan in more than 50 years. Matalqa did an amazing job capturing the beauty of Amman in its simplest form: its true form.

Lemon Tree

Review by Feras Sheraiff Lemon Tree takes us on a journey through the PalestinianIsraeli conflict through the eyes of Salma, the sole owner of a grove of lemon trees. The film follows her struggle to protect her grove from the newly assigned, overly paranoid Israeli Minister of Defense who moved in next door. As the minister moved into his new house, the grove is highlighted as a possible threat and a ruling for its up rooting is put in place. The film also follows the story from the opposing end, through the eyes of Mira, the Minister’s wife. Mira is shown to be living in guilt for what is happening to the woman next door. The film is well-acted, and shows a side of Palestine that we are not used to seeing. It shows that beyond the conflict and beyond the war, there are still people, leading normal lives, or as close to normal as they can get. Lemon Tree might seem like it is oversimplifying the regional conflict, but it does it with good reason, for it is not a political movie and shouldn’t be watched as one. It is a movie about people and their struggle to coexist. Strong performances and a wonderful soundtrack make this a delight to watch.

Allah Made Me Funny

Review by Jasmine Bager You do not have to be living in Denmark to know that the words “Allah” and “funny” are not often peacefully, and deliberately, used in the same sentence. Muslim-American comedians Mohammed “Mo” Amer, Azhar Usman and Bryant “Preacher” Moss set out to not only use the terms, but to combine them to promote awareness and peace.

In this paranoid post 9/11 world, they showcased their sold-out American comedy tour on stage in a funny documentary-concert movie named, “Allah Made Me Funny.” The comedians are three men from different American backgrounds: one is of Arab-heritage, another is of Indian-parentage and the last member is of African-American roots. Although they each physically looked different, they shared a common goal of bringing Muslim and Western worlds closer together. Palestinian-American Mohammed “Mo” Amer was cleanshaven with a fair-complexion and an almost soft-spoken yet dominant presence. When stepping onto a spacious stage he exclaimed, “This is a lot of room for a Palestinian!”

91 Flamboyant Bryant “Preacher” Moss converted to Islam as a young adult and boldly stated, “The United States is scared of two things, black people, and Muslims--I got the best of both worlds!” Indian-American Azhar Usman was a crowd-favorite, with his distinctive deep voice and full bushy beard. He joked about how often people grew fearful when he boarded an airplane and took his seat, yet he observed, “Of course, everyone is real nice to me once the plane safely lands.” He then imitated a bashful giggling passenger who waved and smiled at him as he departed the aircraft. Each of the comedians had approximately 20 minutes of solo-time on stage, with the remainder of the nearly hour and a half movie showing each member as he struggled to write new material on issues not usually meant to be humorous. The movie was directed by Andrea Kalin and written by Mohammed Amer, Azhar Usman and Bryant Moss.


Armed with jokes, instead of weapons, they poked fun at the stereotypical stigmas often associated with Islam and Muslims by trying a new approach---poking fun at themselves and making the audience smile. Their approach seemed to be that since laughter could be the sole universal language that unites us all, why not make a show out of it!

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The trio, aptly named, “Allah Made Me Funny,” shed light and laughter to the mainstream, and attempt to remind Muslims that laughter really could be the best response to any racial situation.



Reem Acra:

New York


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There are so many famous names associated with New York’s Fifth Avenue – The Plaza Hotel, Tiffany & Co., Trump Tower, Cartier, and now another jewel - world-renowned celebrity designer Reem Acra. Sitting in Reem’s ten thousand square foot appointment only showroom on Fifth Avenue, her stunningly exquisite talent is everywhere. You feel as though you’re living and seeing a dream through the colors, the design and the beauty of it all.



Then there’s the designer herself. Reem Acra is one of the most humble people you could meet, and the first Arab woman to run her own global fashion brand. Speaking with some of her glamorous creations from her 2009 collection behind her, Acra says, “The concept of the company is to make women feel more beautiful and more confident. When you look good, you feel good. And this is the concept of the whole company. It’s all about empowering women.” She certainly has empowered women. Her client list reads like a “who’s who” of some of the world’s best-known women, and includes royalty and the Hollywood elite. Beloved by celebrities such as Angelina Jolie, Halle Berry, Beyonce and Catherine Zeta Jones, Acra’s uber-feminine red carpet creations epitomize global glamour by offering women her innate fashion sense, European style and understanding of what looks and feels beautiful. Just being in her showroom makes you feel pretty. Acra says, “I love figuring out each woman that comes here. Who is she? What’s her dream? This to me is really what custom design is about. I spend time with each and every client. It’s the utmost of luxury, and I pour the love of what I do into every creation.” Acra, an American designer of Lebanese descent, is one of the most famous designers in the world, with her dresses being sold in over 100 stores worldwide. While she travels frequently to the Middle East and Paris to meet clients, Beirut is still her favorite city. It’s where she finds much of her inspiration. “I love coming back to the region, it’s exciting there’s such a new generation of women in the Middle East who are so beautiful and talented, and they’re eager to do significant things, optimistic and very powerful. I enjoy my time with them.” Acra’s tale is more taffeta to tulle than rags to riches. She grew up as the only daughter, with three brothers, in a well-to-do home in Beirut. Her father was a prominent doctor and professor emeritus of environmental science at the American University of Beirut. A seamstress lived

Reem Acra ©

in their home because her mother, who had a passion for luxe fabrics, needed a steady stream of gowns. Needless to say, Acra remembers being very well-dressed as a girl. Now her luxurious designs grace the very best dressed women. Angelina Jolie wears Reem Acra for red carpet appearances, to press conferences and even at home. Halle Berry wore two of Reem’s designs twice in the same week; both Julia Roberts and Beyonce asked for Reem to dress them for their cover shoots on Vanity Fair; and Eva Longoria chose her for this year’s Golden Globes. Says a friend, “Eva Longoria was always fabulous, but she became more fabulous at the Golden Globes. Acra’s dresses are really putting people on the map.” Even teen sensations Nicole Richie and Miley Cyrus are fans; something that Reem is thrilled about. “I am a magnet for women to look and feel fabulous, and feel great. I also have a young generation coming to me. It’s not just the more sophisticated women, but also the new vibe of younger women. It keeps ideas fresh.”

Speaking to Acra, you sense she is as excited to create new designs as the customer that sees the beauty of her creations hanging so gracefully in her showroom. Each one a work of art. Beyond the red carpet designs, which regularly grace the covers of Vogue, she takes pride in dressing women for their most important day of all – their wedding day. Interlaced with her sense of luxury, her regal designs are developed with a modern aesthetic. The ready-to-wear and bridal collections evoke an ethereal quality. “I really love dressing brides and figuring out who she is. This is really the utmost of luxury and what makes custom design so special. I pour the love of what I do into every single creation, and to every single bride. Otherwise I just couldn’t do it. I love working with their mothers and their sisters. It’s what life’s about.” One of the most famous wedding dresses she designed was for “Desperate Housewife” star Marcia Cross. Her success certainly keeps Acra busy. She wakes up by 7am every morning at her apartment in New York, which she has made to resemble her home in Beirut. A hairdresser comes every morning to see her, (Acra calls this her biggest luxury!). She uses this time at home to call clients in different time zones around the world, and to dream up new designs and wistful creations. She says, “I think New York is the best place in the world to live. It’s so inspiring, and has such great energy. It’s just a wonderful melting pot.” Energy is something Acra needs a lot of, with her working an average of 14 hours a day. Many women say Acra is now part of fashion royalty, and she’s certainly become a celebrity in her own right. She’s recognized on her travels in the Middle East, as well as at restaurants and chic boutiques in New York and Los Angeles. Her name is always in the media. In the last few months alone, Acra’s designs have been mentioned in smash hits Gossip Girl and Ugly Betty. Her bridal and glamorous evening clothes have appeared in Oprah’s magazine, In Style, Women’s Wear Daily and the New York Times. As a Lebanese American she’s proud to be at the top of her field, and wants other women in the Middle East to look at her achievements of success as an inspiration for themselves. “I believe anything is possible, but I don’t take it for granted. I feel my journey is continuing, and I must be patient, but I know I’m on the cusp of even greater things.” We certainly hope Reem Acra is. Her designs make us all feel more beautiful, whether we’re wearing them, or wishing we were!

Reem Acra’s Resort 2010 Collection ©

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New York By Nicolla Hewitt


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Frank Sinatra famously sang: “If you can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere.” Well, those words are certainly ringing true for 28-year-old Lebanese Hady Kfoury, the owner of one of the hippest restaurants in New York City - “Naya,” currently one of the hottest tables in Manhattan. The New York Times recently said the city had never had a Lebanese restaurant like Naya, and certainly it’s easy to see why. It’s chic, it’s fun and it’s authentic.



Hady may be young to be such a success in a truly competitive market (New York City is home to over 20,000 restaurants), but he knows what he’s talking about. After being assistant banquet manager at the Michelin star-rated restaurant Daniel, he decided to go back to his roots in traditional Lebanese cuisine, “I always realized there was no good Lebanese restaurant in Manhattan, and I knew there were so many ways to bring it here. Being on the Upper East Side is perfect. It’s more upscale, and people are more open to this kind of food.” The clients he attracts are some of the most influential in the city – and definitely the “beautiful crowd.” They include ambassadors to the United Nations, movie stars on location for their latest movies, businessmen, and visitors from the Middle East. Even famed home guru Martha Stewart called him to find out the secret recipe for his hummus. His answer? “Importing the tahini from Lebanon.” Truth be told, he owes the success of all his recipes to his biggest supporter of all – his mother. “My mother basically wrote down all my favorite recipies from home, included all the spices, and then we got to work. She always told me: never use canned tomatoes, make it fresh. Never use processed lemon juice, use the real lemon juice.” Hady Kfoury may love his food, and the restaurant trade, but not enough to be the chef. As though living what many describe as “the American dream,” he located a Lebanese chef in Ohio, who had won a US green card in the National Lottery. Says Hady, “I wanted someone who really knew the food, who really understood the spices. Once we met in Ohio, I knew he was perfect. Next thing I did was send him to my mother in Lebanon to teach him how to make all my favorite things. Now I feel like I’m eating at home everyday. I have ten people in the kitchen, and yes it’s a huge payroll, but you can’t cut corners to be successful.”

Naya Restaurant ©

He is indeed successful. Not only is Naya an “it ticket” in town, it’s also doing a lot to promote Lebanon. The chic white interiors are all designed by Lebanese architect Michel Aboud. The familiar sounds of Buddah Bar play in the background. Even jaded New Yorkers are loving the originality at a time when they’re watching their wallets too. “I wanted to make sure we could let them know Lebanese cuisine is good, and authentic. New Yorkers are ready for this. Hummus and fatoush are the most popular and they love the shish taouk. They want to experience it from A to Z, and know they’ve got the true Lebanese experience.” What everyone else should know is they too need to experience Naya. It’s hip, it’s hot and it’s happening, And yes, if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere. Now you need to try to get a reservation! Naya is located at 1057 2nd Avenue, New York, NY 10022 Naya Express opens in mid October.




Modern, edgy, funky and no doubt colorful are just a few of the words that pop into mind when talking about the first and newest creation of designer Karim Rashid in the United Arab Emirates. With more than 3,000 projects in more than 35 countries and more than 300 awards to his name, there is no doubt that Rashid’s creation in Dubai has broken the conventional mold of restaurant interiors.

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In the hustle of Dubai Mall, Switch restaurant and lounge provides a cocoon of warmth and insulation to its guests. “I wanted Switch to be a strong, symmetrical soft organic womb-like space composed of a continuous, undulating wall that wraps around the entire restaurant,” explains Rashid, who believes design can do a lot to change your mood. A distinctive panel on the ceiling has Arabic script carved into it, setting the atmosphere that, although the restaurant celebrates modernity, it is deeply rooted in its surrounding heritage and culture.



“ It was also great to get someone in who was not from Dubai but who was Arabic, because I wanted to emphasize the Arabic nature and also have that fresh outlook.” Deem Al Bassam, owner of Switch. So where did the name Switch come from? The idea was to create a space that could easily “switch” between night and day and to create a “switch” where dining becomes an experience and not only a necessity. “ The space actually transforms, and it takes you on a journey. It is a truly unique environment,“ said Rashid. And of course the food at Swtich is created by one of South Africa’s top chefs. Chef Thomas Schmid created a Mediterranean fusion menu that hopes to bring back customers again and again.

Switch Dubai Mall 04 339 9131 Switch ©




The Levant region- Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Jordan, Western Iraq, and Northern Saudi Arabia -was know for its beautiful traditional houses. Guests were always welcomed, through the courtyards, into the liwans (or entrance halls) of these homes.

How do you revive tradition? What inspires you? I’m inspired by the traditions of the Mediterranean as well as the desert life. You see, I’m not inventing anything new. Rather what I’m doing is redefining, actualizing, and simplifying tradition. I hate folklore. It is dead. What we need is a new spirit. For instance, I’ve simplified traditional bedouin leather sandals to look like flip-flops or modern sandals with a rich history. Streamlining objects of the past doesn’t make them lose their identity, it gives them a new life. These sandals were also very masculine, now they can be worn by men and women. Looking around Liwan, a lot of the items seem very functional and easy to wear. I love the pink bedouin abaya. It’s so fresh. It can be worn as a chic dress or around the house as a robe. I’ve used cotton instead of wool and fresh colors instead of the traditional camel color. So now it’s feminine, very modern yet it still retains its identity and it’s trimmed with a simpler golden trim. My designs are multifunctional. Men and women’s clothes and the furniture can all be used in multiple ways. Who do you work with to turn your designs into reality? I’ve always worked with traditional Lebanese craftsmen. The idea of marketing their skills is still one of my goals. So, what you see in Liwan is mostly their work. All the items are limited editions from the hand woven towels to the kaftans. We never wanted Liwan to be a big distributor. We also choose to represent designers that complete the spirit of Liwan, like Tsé & Tsé and their now well-know white porcelain. Liwan’s items, like the bedouin sandals, have become best sellers and celebrities such as Catherine Deneuve and Vanessa Paradis frequent the Paris store. LIWAN Paris-Beirut 8 rue St-Sulpice, Paris Madrid St. Mar Mekhael –Medawar, Beirut

Liwan ©


We met Audi, designer and co-owner of Liwan, at the Liwan store in Beirut. Beautiful scents of the Orient flow everywhere. Once you browse through the abayas, jallabiyas, bed sheets, and bedouin leather sandals, you realize that the seemingly traditional objects have transformed into contemporary Middle Eastern classics with a twist. We settled down on the chic Arabian golden seating area to start the interview.

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More than 20 years ago, a place called Liwan opened in the Saint Germain des Près district of Paris. “We called it a place, not a boutique, because it’s a place where a lot of beautiful, unexpected and personal rendezvous happen – around the work of Lina Audi, who’s worked for over 20 years with a chorus of artisans from all the métiers, weaving, copper work, couture ateliers,” clarifies Dina Haidar (co-owner of Liwan).


Bait Muzna:


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Deep in the heart of Muscat, Oman’s capital, is a vibrant contemporary art scene. Most of you will probably be surprised at this, particularly since the capital by the sea is an avid preserver of Islamic architecture and no skyscrapers clutter its skyline.



Images of Bait Muzna and artwork by artists represented at Bait Muzna ©

A major player in the contemporary art scene of Muscat has been Bait Muzna. Originally the home of a member of the royal family, Bait Muzna dates back to the 18th century and was part of the government’s plan to restore historic sites in 1999. The renovation came about through the vision and dedication of owner Sayyida Susan Al Said, American-born wife of a nephew of the original owner, Sayyida Muzna bint Nadir. “We are trying to open people’s eyes and show the relevance of contemporary work,” she says. “Omani artists are very keen to gain exposure, and our gallery is moving toward the contemporary field.” Since its opening in 2000, Bait Muzna Gallery has been exhibiting both Omani and international artists, organizing workshops and taking part in international art forums such as Art Dubai and Art Paris in Abu Dhabi. The gallery’s director, Ellen Molliet, shook things up in Muscat when, instead of closing for the four months of the summer, not only kept the gallery open but allowed for a more interactive exhibition in order to liven up the art scene. “I really wanted to change the way in which people out here view art. Hitherto, there was this very stereotype comelook-and-go approach to viewing art in galleries in general and Bait Muzna was no exception. I thought this was so dull and boring. I wanted art lovers and connoisseurs to come and see art as a living organism, as an extension of the artists’ persona and more importantly, as the collective consciousness and voice of Omani artists. And lastly I wanted to make this process of viewing art interactive, so that there is a closer identification among the people with their own art and culture; the artists are not only given ample space to exhibit some of their choicest works, but they also have the freedom to do their own thing inside the gallery whether it is to paint or interact with visitors who would like to know more about their works.”

Molliet has not stopped there. Since the gallery’s opening the director has worked tirelessly to promote Omani art, Omani artists, and most importantly to get people talking on how art has really evolved in Oman and has acquired a character and identity of its own. 2009 has seen a very busy schedule with sales trips abroad and proactive marketing of Bait Muzna’s artists.”Now I can prove to people who ask about Oman that we do have art and I want to put those people out there. They are great artists. I am comparing their artwork to some other bigger artists in the UAE and in the Gulf in general. Not only myself, but also people from Artparis - Abu Dhabi and the collectors are saying that too, that they are not only on the same level, but better. So for me, that’s what we reached and that is what makes me really happy.”

Comptoir Libanais: A glass counter is stacked with a long stretch of hot wraps, deep fried pastries, flavored breads, and colorful salads. Two striking images plaster the wall and make up the Comptoir Lebanese brand: Chiclets Gum and Lebanese actress Sirine Jamal al Dien. The staff awaits you to either sit or order your take-away. Although Comptoir Lebanais assertively describes itself as Lebanese cuisine, we found it to be more of a fusion Middle Eastern flavor. The concept of the store is quite simple: to provide food that is affordable, easy to know, and healthy. Fresh and modern, Comptoir offers weary shoppers from around-the-corner giant Selfridges a peace of mind and a much needed seat to lift off those feet. There are products sold here as well jars of harissa, couscous, bottles of rose water, Marrakesh handbags, and even designer Rana Salam’s Chiclets resin bracelets. Whether you come here to snack, drink some mint tea infused with rose water, get your hands on some Chiclets, or just to check out their exquisitely packaged goods, you should not step out of the shop without trying their baked Moroccan bread. Ask the staff to warm it up and your heart will melt instantly! 65 Wigmor Street London W1U 1PZ



Épices: We were in search of the modern Morocco when we traveled to Marrakech. What were the young Moroccans doing to modernize their heritage? We were told about Kamal Laftimi, the young chef and owner of Cafe des Epices and Terrasse des Epices. In only a few years, he has managed to make both very successful ventures. Contemporary Morocco is summed up in his dishes. We were told about a few other individuals but decided to do our own search and to first get lost in the old souk. Djemaa el Fna, was as you would imagine it, filled with all kinds of people, orange juice stalls, snake charmers, and even monkeys jumping on you! The narrow streets led us to some beautiful hidden gems of old riads, even older Quran schools and universities turned museums, beautiful mosques, enchanting hotels, yummy restaurants, the never-ending oh-so-colorful souk, and then we stopped. A narrow three-story building caught our attention. It had a very modern feel to it with the mixture of its maroon color and its simple white writing that read: Cafes des Epices! The cafe is in the heart of the old souk, right in front of the spices market, but once you walk in you feel a very contemporary Morocco in the atmosphere and the menu. We ordered some thé à la menthe (mint tea) from a waiter eagerly told us about all the different icy fresh drinks they have, infused with the tastes of Morocco from mint to the

Marrakech different spices. For us the treats here were the sandwiches. The traditional chicken tagine is turned into a sandwich with all the olives and the citrus yumminess of the chicken. Other traditional Moroccan favorites are also on the list, like the spicy marguez sandwich. Sitting below a straw umbrella on the rooftop of the simple cafe overlooking the souk, we were happy to have found a contemporary Morocco charged with the real richness of its past. Then, we found a map that leads to the next Epices! The rain didn’t dampen our spirits to find the second Epices. This was hard to find. It is wedged somewhere in the old souk on the top floor of an old building. The Atlas mountains, the Koutoubia Mosque’s minaret, and the rooftops of all the old buildings are visible from the Terrasse des Epices. The atmosphere is boho chic Moroccan and the menus are black boards. Fusion Moroccan food is on the menu and is a must, along with more thé à la menthe and Moroccan pastries. Chic, relaxed and simple places to enjoy the real Morocco for those who don’t mind a little bit of adventure in the middle of old Marrakech.




Damascus is one of the oldest and most historical cities in the world therefore no doubt entrenched in some of the most amazing architectural finds. Recently, there’s been a surge of new hip places in Damascus that have opted to keep the old structures and put their modern twist to it. The owners of two of the hottest new comers to the Damascan scene are six well-established gentlemen who came together to create something distinctive yet culturally authentic. “Our aim is to open opportunities to the public eye without interfering with its heritage, nevertheless giving them possibilities of new ground-breaking ways of spending their time.” George Chawi Dome’s architecture attempts to recapture the beautiful heritage of the site in a modern text. Once inside, you are surrounded by the shafts of light that radiate through the white 7th century arched walls. Standing in vivid contrast to these walls are authentic original wood panels detailed with arabesque motifs and antique glass chandeliers. What was once a 14th century historical Turkish bath has transformed into an extraordinary neo-classic atmos-

phere, which is illustrious to another domain Damascus has come across. O emphasizes on hip innovative aesthetics, just like the name and logo indicate. The earthly palette is the main color scheme, dominated by shades of navy blue. The elements used in this summer location, are within the actual ambiance of the place. In addition to the emphasis on the name, elements include local bands, to encourage culture within the society. The bands would include Jazz, Oriental, Latin or French; all local, all genuine. So where did the inspiration for both venues come from? According to the owners, the target demographic in Syria is disgruntled with the variety of choices available for fine dining and lounge offerings in Damascus. The inspiration for this project sashayed through their minds, where a hip, trendy and glamorous idea was finally laid to plan. The two venues have taken off like wildfire with the attention to detail, impeccable service and high quality food, who wouldn’t be swayed.



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Maha Khalawi

She graduated from Dar Al Hekma College, Jeddah, in their first graphic design graduating class, one of only a select dozen to gain that honor. She is the designer of the Eid card insert found in this issue. What was your training and educational background, both in and out of school? Having parents from two completely different backgroundsmy mother is American- has influenced me in ways I might never truly comprehend. Growing up, we visited museums whenever my mom had a chance to take us, which made me more aware of how lacking we were in that field. I realized how special and beautiful Islamic art was, whenever we could find it. As children, my father would entertain my siblings and I with stories of the prophets and different Islamic historical figures, so I guess my awareness of such a rich and beautiful history, and language, started then. As to my educational background, I decided to study graphic design because I figured it was the best career to follow while still leaving artistic and creative leeway in my life-trying to be both sensible and artistic. I try to strike a balance between work, my own needs, and that of my family. Which Islamic or Western artists do you favor? I would say I am influenced by everything I see, sometimes, even hear. If I had to sum it up, I would mention two major influences: Reza Abedini and Hassan al Massoud. One uses a lot of typography, playing with images and positive/ negative space, while the other displays fluid calligraphic and modern brush strokes. Both are, in my opinion, geniuses at what they do; to get a chance to study under either would be a great honor. Do you consider yourself to be an Islamic artist and why? I never really thought of it that way. I am a Muslim artist, yes, but I also do different themed designs. I really enjoy the religious themed ones because I meditate on what I am saying while working on it, so it is very therapeutic, in a way. I hope to give the same sense of peace and calmness to whoever looks at it.

Why do you feel there is a lack of Islamic art in modern pop culture today, even in Islamic nations? Maybe because many have this idea that Islamic art has to be traditional? So, until they get past that notion, it will not flourish. Another reason may be because pop culture revolves mostly around music, movies, fashion and pop icons, and those themes do not exactly go hand-in-hand with Quranic verses and Islamic art. How do you view the current generation of upcoming Islamic artists? I view them as explorers. You experiment with bright colors in some of your interpretations of Islamic text. What is your goal? My goal is to move away from tradition, to show that religious art cant be bright, modern, young and happy. As a young Muslim, I would want to adorn my walls, be they digital or real, with something that reflects my lifestyle and myself. Gaza, Lebanon, as well as many other nations, have all recently seen a surge in Islamic/Arab pride, in the form of t-shirts and other decorative banners, do you think the future generations will be made peaceful via the medium of art? Yes, I think they will, because art is a constructive way of letting out pent up emotions of injustice, rage, pride, and a way of stating opinions too, without hurting anyone. Take (graffiti artist) Banksy, for example, his street art made him beyond famous for saying so much, with so little. What is so wonderful about maintaining the tradition of giving and receiving physical Eid cards? Simply, it is a physical reminder of a happy occasion. I love greeting cards, you can write personal notes on them, mail them, and keep them in a shoebox to open up many years later and look at them with a nostalgic smile. I used to always make my own Eid cards (amongst other occasions) since I discovered craft paper, scissors, glue, and sometimes glitter, too!

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Born in Jubail, raised in Dhahran and currently stationed in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, 26-year old Maha is a Saudi designer with a clear vision. She vibrantly brings a fresh take on religious typographic content by adding splashes of youthful color.

The Product


The Designer

Jasmine Bager caught up with graphic designer Maha Khalawi to discuss why combining intricate traditional Islamic details with colorful funky undertones may be the key to unlocking world peace!

edgy Younes Duret We have all come across a design that made us wonder, “Sure, it’s pretty, but there’s no way I could use that practically.” Meet Younes Duret, your kind of product designer. A Franco-Morroccan, Younes heavily draws from that duality in many of his works. Moreover, he firmly believes that objects should be both beautiful as well as useful.

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Younes defines himself as an industrial designer with a focus on ergonomics and function. In his view, design should consider not only how an object looks, but also how it is created and, more importantly, how it is used.



“The industrial designer is positioned as an interface between the industry and the consumer,” said Younes. “From the industrial side, he helps to upgrade its image and enable it to integrate more rapidly into an extremely competitive market. For consumers, he responds to their demands by designing products that are both functional and aesthetic. Thus, the industrial designer contributes greatly to the economic development of countries in developing its industries.” His mission is to bring industrial design to the forefront of Morocco’s design world. That’s where his design agency, Extru-D ( comes in. “We must innovate, while maintaining the Moroccan identity. We must develop the design industry’s market and stop being sub-contractors. Moroccans must impose their identity, integrate their crafts and traditions with modern design and share their beautiful imagery with the world. By offering traditional, yet innovative and functional products, they can impose their identity and contribute to the national and international market with real value.” With a degree from l’ENSCI (L’Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Création Industrielle) in Paris, Younes who returned to

Morocco in 2006, started off running. In that very same year, he not only founded his design firm, but later on he also received the Marc Charrass Award of Creation and Innovation at the Biennale Internationale du Design de Saint-Etienne for his famed tricycle design, the “Belek”. The Duret Touch Some of his more popular works include: Zelli Bookcase: One look at this bookcase and you will recognize it as perfectly Moroccan, thanks to its unique shape which is internationally recognizable as zellige -- the terra cotta enamel tiles most commonly used in Moroccan mosaics and architecture. The traditional shape provides plenty of surfaces that can be used functionally as shelves. Meanwhile, its industrial design offers a simplified assembly process that helps save space when transporting or storing the bookcase. Beldi Tea Kettle: this kettle adopts the design of a traditional Moroccan tea kettle while incorporating the industrial technique of extrusion to supersize its volume and make it even more useful. Srone Tray: this tea tray is actually quite entertaining. At face value, it looks like a simple, yet warped, piece of black plastic. But, as soon as you place your hot tea on it, the heat reveals intricate zellige-like designs on the tray. It links the functional use of a tray with the cultural Moroccan design and the tradtional ritual of tea. Younes the Design Machine This can’t be emphasized enough, but, Younes eats, sleeps and breathes design. Never one to be idle, he has

Opposite page: Duret’s Pouf. Top: Zelli Bookcase, Beldi Tea Kettle, the Srone Tray, and clock with “Arabic” numbers. Below: arabesque-carved couch; White Zelli Bookcase. Younes Duret ©

been approaching the design world from multiple angles. “I have been working on several projects. For example, I launched my online radio: Nessradio (www.nessradio. com) as an outet for sound design. I also constantly try to expose people to different types of design through my blog, Design Maroc ( I have also been working on the fitting of a restaurant and club for Marcel Chiche, the owner of the Comptoir Darna in Marrakesh.This project combines all of my creativity, conceptual logic and even some of my products. I have been working with Marcel and his son Grégory, and the interaction between their field and mine creates a real alchemy that gives us the opportunity to try new things.” Younes tries to participate in international events as much as he can, hoping to not only share his experiences and designs, but also to see others’ designs. “Above all else, I have a great passion for global design, hard work and the encouragement of the general public. It makes me realize how much this work is important and must be developed in Morocco.”

edgy Hanin Al-Oufi The Designer

Hanin Al-Oufi is a bright and extremely talented furniture and product designer. Armed with a Bachelors and Masters in three-dimensional design, Hanin started her journey into the product design industry.

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“I was initially really interested in interior design, but when I flipped through the course catalog, 3D design attracted me the most…I have learned the ability to transform any two dimensional design to form an actual three dimensional piece. The best part is when you design and you go through the different phases of the process choosing the concept, material, who is it for, and why is it made.”



After hours of university workshops conducted by only the best technicians in the field, Hanin honed her skills through projects that required use of diverse machinery and techniques such as welding. Two of her very first designs were a chair made out of wood and a watch prototype made out of plastic sheets. The rest, as they say, is history. We tracked down this incredibly talented young lady to learn more of what she has been up to.

The Interview

Do you find it challenging to modernize Islamic art? It is very challenging. Because of globalization and modernization throughout the world, I have linked this concept to my work and am able to combine our past with our present and come up with my own signature designs.

Is your line of products going to expand? What can we expect in the future? Yes it will, definitely! I am working on different products at the moment. Though I’m developing many products my design will always revolve around a modern Islamic design in an either obvious way or conceptually.

Hanin Al-Oufi ©

Where can people buy your products? E-mail me at:


What is the name of this product? And what is it made off? Trilogy is the name of my piece; it represents the three layer tables combined with their pattern. It is made of transparent acrylic sheets bended from the sides to form the tables and the images are printed on the back of each piece. Each table has a different design, however, when they are placed under each other, the Islamic pattern becomes one.

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What material do you use to portray this modern image of “Islamic Art”? The pattern was screen printed on the back of each acrylic sheet before the sides were bent. I have been influenced by the patterns on our Holy Quran book, and came up with my own. I have used both my hands and a computer software program to come up with the final pattern that is shown on the tables.


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Nada Debs



The Designer

Nada Debs was born in Lebanon, raised in Japan, studied in the United States, lived in the United Kingdom, and finally settled back in Lebanon to open her own store in the heart of Saifi Village in Beirut. She is known in Beirut as “the darling of interior design” and her store is now a true destination on its own. Oasis catches up with Nada, the designer that has managed to make Middle Eastern design fun.

The Interview

Most of us will instantly recognize your work from your signature and no doubt exquisite pieces of mother-ofpearl inlay furniture and plexiglass products infused with calligraphy and arabesque. You emphasize the beauty of Middle Eastern craftsmanship by infusing it with minimalism creating your very own genre of contemporary Middle Eastern products and furniture. How do you define your style? I call my work East & East, stemming from the fact that I was raised in the Far East (Japan) and am from the Middle East. It is a fusion of Middle Eastern-Arab craft with the minimalism of Japan. I would say it is a reflection of the modern Arab.

Your “floating stools”, amongst many of your products, are in the chicest homes around the Middle East. You’ve also designed some of these private homes as well as countless public places. Where can we see your touches around the world and what space would you like to design? I have been involved in many projects such as the revamp of Fakherldine Restaurant in London, the interiors of Liza Restaurant in Paris, the Hotel Daniel in Paris, and accessories work for the W Hotel in Qatar. I have a lot of other design projects in the works. I am currently designing a lot of products from my new boutique store for home accessories including a new Nada Debs jewelry line. And, I would love to take an old hotel and revamp it to create a ‘Nada Deba’ boutique hotel. We would love to know which artists or designers inspire you. I appreciate the works of:  Patricia Urquiola, Hella Jongerius, Tadao Ando, Campana Brothers, and Bernard Khoury.  Today, young designers look up to you. What advice would you give them?  

Do you find it challenging to modernize traditional Middle Eastern art or Islamic art?

Always look for ideas that have not been explored before and use your uniqueness to bring it out!  

Yes, working with traditional craftsmen is extremely difficult because they are set in their ways. It’s a daily struggle!

Nada Debs keeps coming up with innovative ideas and continuously explores new ways to portray her love for that modern Arab chic and sophisticated feel.

What has been the most challenging material to work with?

Nada Debs Saifi Village, Beirut O de Rose, Dubai 21/21 gallery, NYC

A lot of my work is using mother of pearl, but the challenging part is using it in different materials such as in resin and in concrete.

Nada Debs Š

Noora Hefzi By Jasmine Bager The Designer

“I create designs I would love to wear,” Saudi clothing designer, Noora Hefzi lovingly refers to her work. Hefzi designs jallabias which are colorful, conservative and both classy and sassy. They are molded for both women with traditional taste as well as those who simply want to wear passion, literally, on their sleeves. With the encouragement of her grandmother, she began dressing-up Barbie dolls in her own designs at the tender age of five, with leftover scraps of fabric from the sewing machine. Her passion for fashion grew as she realized that the mass market was producing duplicate clothing in stores and she yearned to wear her own individual style. She started making personalized dresses for herself and her mother, as well as modifying those pieces that she found in the stores. After all, she reasoned, “The worst thing is to go to an event and find someone else wearing the exact dress you have on, and that happens even with celebrities in red carpet events.”

Photographer: Hind Al-Mulla. Model: Graciela. Noora Hefzi ©

Hefzi earned a BA degree in Design Management from the American University of Sharjah, UAE, but her love of customfashion compelled her to pursue her own clothing line post graduation. She pulled inspiration from pages of old fashion books and magazines, and by visiting the local fabric market during her travels. She credits growing up in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, and being exposed to “The West,” with shaping her designs into what she refers to as, “an Arabic fusion with a touch of tribal/bohemian style.” She creates collages of brightly colored fabrics and traditional lines, patched together in a mosaic of wearable art. Her dream would be to create a garment for style-and-humanitarian-icon, Queen Rania of Jordan, who she says,” would really pull off my designs gracefully.”

The Product

The process of creating each piece may be considered its own form of art. Hefzi explains, “when I start designing in my studio, I put all the fabrics in front of me and start mixing and matching colors and patterns that I think would compliment each other.” The one-of-a-kind garments, consisting of silks, chiffons, velvets and beadings, are created individually by a team of professional tailors who take between two to four weeks to process. Each piece ranges in price between 2,800 and 4,500 S.R. and is delivered worldwide. The newest Noora Hefzi collection is the Ramadan/Eid collection. She also recently began designing pieces for young girls as a new challenge, and plans to open a boutique in the near future. To order, visit:

Mona Ibrahim & Ebon Heath The Designers & Product

Thousands and thousands of hand-cut letters from Tyvek are strung together by fishing wire to form lyrics of songs, poems and other passages of texts. These great big sculptures are the work of Brooklyn-based graphic designer Ebon Heath. The sculptures attempt to free letters and words from the confines of 2D space and let them engage with a larger physical environment. Heath explains one view of his work: “The structures are a physical representation of our language as object. This ‘visual noise’ permeates all aspects of modern culture, especially urban living. From the signs, billboards, stores, and t-shirts that yell with type for attention as you walk down any high street. All the audio and verbal noise, from music we plug our ears with to the din of countless conversations, screams and whispers. With new media of texting, online, and transmitted technology there is even invisible noise silent to the eye surrounding us all. It is this cozy womb of information, data, or chorus of cacophony that my mobiles hope to represent as well as reveal. Making the invisible visible.” In his Middle East debut, Ebon Heath exhibited his series of typographic mobiles, also known as Stereo.type, in Dubai. The exhibition was complemented by a jewelry collection, which was the first collaboration between Heath and renowned jewelry designer Mona Ibrahim. Ibrahim is known for her love of tribal cultures and their art, customs, natural landscapes, bold colors, and striking design. Her 2007 Mesh collection caught the eye of Cirque De Soleil cast members and they wore many of her designs during their shows in Dubai. When it came to the collaboration there was no doubt that this pair of designers would bring the letters and formed words to life. Language was unleashed. “I was not looking at jewelry in this way before I came to know Mona, working with jewelry has changed it because I have to think about how the body supports it and how it wraps around the body and how sentences can wrap around an arm or hang from an ear.” Heath The collection of laser cut typographic jewelry includes earrings, cuffs, wraps, neckpieces and broaches. Words never looked better. The collection is exclusively available at 50°C at Souk Al Bahar, Downtown Burj Dubai.

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The Best Loukoum In the heart of Beirut lies Gruen Eatery. The restaurant carries the name of Austrian-born architect Victor Gruen who designed the 20-story landmark mall in the 1960s. The eatery is a haven for socialites, business crowds and people like us with a very serious sweet tooth. The chef blends Southern California and Lebanese flavors to create modern takes on favorite dishes. The front counter displays a mouthwatering array of homemade pastries and ice cream. We strongly recommend you try their “loukoum” (or, Turkish Delights). They are simply delicious and melt in your mouth instantly. Simply the best loukoum we’ve tasted so far! Gruen Eatery Gefinor Center, Hamra, 01-755322 Beirut- Lebanon

The Taste of Luxury

have enjoyed, adding a European modern appeal, while maintaining an elegant

+9661-462-9269 | | The boutique is located next to the Diplomat Patisserie branch at the end of Uruba Street, at the intersection with King Abdul Aziz Road.

where to find us Riyadh: Harvey Nichols Faisaliah Center Tel: 966 1 273 4444 Riyadh Al Nahda Philanthropic Society Riyadh Cities | Design & Lifestyle Store Centria Mall (First Floor) Tel: 966 1 218 0007 Riyadh Art of Heritage Centria Mall (Second Floor) Tel: 966 1 4616609 Riyadh DNA Boutique Takhasussi Street Tel: 966 1 4199966 Riyadh Diplomat Oruba Street Tel: 966 1 4629269 Riyadh

Nu Age Gallery King Fahd Road Riyadh Intercontinental Hotel Hotel Bookstore Riyadh Luthan Spa Tel: 966 1 4807799 Riyadh Yibreen Spa Takhasussi Street Tel: 966 1 441 1115 Riyadh Mayass Sericon Buildings Off Olaya Street Riyadh Watermelon Tahlia Street Riyadh Cafe Blanc Tahlia Street Riyadh

Diesel Olaya Street Riyadh

Via Vision Architecture Firm Riyadh

itechia Kingdom Mall Tel: 966 (1) 2112092 Riyadh

Alzheimer’s Association Alzheimer’s Center Riyadh

Tahlia street Tel: 966 (1) 2178244 Riyadh Al Hayat Mall Tel: 966 (1) 2056959 Riyadh Sharg Plaza exit 15 Tel: 966 (1) 2442263 Riyadh Al-Faisalia Mall wii Tel: 966 (1) 2734201 Riyadh Life & Sid Boutiques Nujoud Center Riyadh Vibe Boutique Centria Mall (first floor) Riyadh Hewar Gallery Kingdom Center (52nd floor) Tel: 966 1 2111 200/300 Riyadh

King Khalid Airport Airport Bookstore Riyadh

Jasmine Box Tahlia Street Jeddah I Love Hishma Ana Gheir Mall Tel: 217 8244 Jeddah Tara Jarmon Ana Gheir Mall Tel: 217 8244 Jeddah Papermoon Basateen Mall (First Floor) Tel: 966 2660 38 94 Muntazah 2 (Ground Floor) Tel: 966 2668 93 38 Jeddah Virgin Megastores Roshana Center Tahlia Street Jeddah Oriana Spa Cornich Road Attalah Shopping Center Tel: 966 2 616 0202 Jeddah Zouari Spa Tel: 966 2 6656161 Tahlia Street Jeddah King Abdulaziz Airport Airport Bookstore Jeddah


Mahat Tahlia Street Jeddah

Athr Art Gallery Serafi Mall - Tahlia Tel: 966 2 2845009 Jeddah

Mayass Palestine Street Tel: 966 2 667 0528 Jeddah

Art of Heritage Ana Gheir Mall ground floor Tel: 966 2 6617798 Jeddah

Newbury Boutique Le Mall, 2nd Floor Tahlia Street Jeddah

Cugini Al Hayat Plaza Al Rawdah Street Tel: 966 2 6612099 Jeddah Life & Sid Boutiques Al Rawdah Street Tel: 966 2 6642188 Jeddah

Tche Tche Cafe Jeddah Berts Cafe Jeddah Cast n Crew Jeddah Watermelon Jeddah

Cafe Blanc Jeddah Teayana Jeddah

Eastern Region Desert Designs King Abdullah Street Tel: 966 38984734 & 8894747 Ext-25 Khobar itechia Jarrir plaza Tel: 966 (3) 8686412 Dhahran Meridien Hotel Hotel Bookstore Khobar Galerie O Khobar Papermoon Dhahran Mall (Ground Floor | Gate 11) Tel: 966 3868 43 88 Dhahran Rashed Mall (Ground Floor | Gate 8) Tel: 966 3896 02 58 Dhahran Farm Supermarkets Dammam Khobar Dhahran Saudi Aramco Dhahran Saudi Aramco Ras Tanura Casper & Gambini Khobar

Nationwide Carrefour Danube Jarir Bookstores Panda / Hyper Panda Tamimi / Safeway Compounds Compound Bookstores

International Amman: Dar Al Anda Bahrain: Albareh Art Gallery La Fontaine Papermoon: (Seef Mall-ground floor-gate 6) (Aali Mall- ground floor- gate 3) Beirut: Art Lounge Virgin Megastores Malik’s Naufal Librairie Antoine Berlin: Do You Read Me?! Dubai: Green Art Gallery Five Green The Third Line Gallery London: AlSaqi Bookstore NewYork: Nicolla Hewitt Communications Oman: Bait Muzna

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One Last Thing

Oasis Magazine Turns Two! We celebrate our two years with the feedback received from you, our readers. Here is some of what you had to say:

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“Congratulations. You have outdone yourselves with each issue.” Deena



“FANTASTIC!!!! It’s amazing how a magazine is capable of making me proud to be Saudi and part of its amazing youth. Oasis is becoming a mean of representation, where it’s used to define a new identity to the more eloquent and educated Saudi youth.” Sara “Oasis is amazing. Great content, creative layouts…” Catherine “I admire the valuable work you are doing in promoting Saudi Arabia globally. Your magazine is very impressive, and your efforts to change the perception of KSA is admirable. I can see you are making a real difference, and I applaud you for your creativity and your leadership in getting the message out.” Amir “Finally, a publication we can be proud of.” Seeta

If you decide not to keep me forever please recycle

Š Oasis Magazine

Oasis Magazine - Issue 9  

Oasis Magazine, Saudi Arabia, Middle East, Edgy, Middle East guide to art, fashion, young arabs