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Bisat Al-Reeh Festival rolls out the red carpet for traditional handicrafts
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 27 - 07 - 2012

Lebanese accessory designer Maggie Baroud with her products.Roberta Fedele
Saudi GazetteJEDDAH — The five-day 2012 Bisat Al-Reeh (Magic Carpet) Festival opened on Tuesday night at Al-Harthy Jeddah Exhibition Center where female entrepreneurs from Saudi Arabia and various Arab countries are showcasing an eclectic range of original and refined handicrafts including women's clothing and accessories, artworks, furniture pieces, carpets and even culinary specialties.
Exclusively catered to a female audience, the annual festival has represented, for the past 12 years, a traditional and anticipated Ramadan event in Jeddah.
Hosted by the National Home Health Care Foundation, Western Province, the exhibition raises funds to support charity programs and activities undertaken by the foundation. It also facilities cooperation between different charities, which will benefit from the event's income.
Many Saudi businesswomen see the festival as a way to sustain charity initiatives and find at the same time an yearly outlet that facilitates local visibility.
“Saudi businesswomen are working hard to affirm themselves and these kind of occasions represent excellent platforms to advertise their projects," said owner of Jade Jewelry Company Sukania, who has a stand at the exhibition.
“I import jewels mainly from Italy, Greece and India and I have been exhibiting here since the launch of my activity. The variety of goods and ideas displayed attracts many visitors including members of the royal family and high society to which I have the unique chance to show my collections," she added.
The festival also offers a platform to sustain Saudi businesswomen and artists willing to advertise their products with Saudi brands like Sleysla, Art of Heritage and Saudi Spirit that are based on the philosophy of combining social utility, high quality and heritage. All of these brands employ people in need and try to recreate national motifs, symbols and icons in a modern way by using traditional fabrics and materials.
Saudi creativity also irradiates from the works of various Saudi artists like interior designer Al Jawara F. Al Saud who is known for her modern, unconventional and humorist pieces and painter Reem Nazir.
Nazir is a Jeddah-based artist who has showcased her artwork in London, Buenos Aires, Moscow and Santa Fe. She is famous for representing beautiful landscapes of her homeland and images of women in traditional Eastern societies.
Some of her paintings were reproduced for this occasion over handbags made of high quality materials. “Inspired by her homeland's customs and traditions, the idea of reproducing oil paintings on bags and pieces of furniture is new. Nazir takes a stand at this exhibition every year but this is the first time she sets up something different from a traditional paint gallery," said Tarek Alireza, the husband of Nazir, who is currently in London.
“Nazir had mainly two tutors: Past President of the Chelsea Art Club Freddie Deane and Portrait and Figurative Artist Aris Raissis. However, I consider her a self-taught artist that found inspiration from her roots and upbringing in the Middle East," he added.
The Lebanese and Turkish style of Orient 499, Iwan Maktabi, Rummana and Noor Collection add glamour to the exhibition. Founded by Aida Kawas and Frank Luca, Orient 499 is a famous boutique in the heart of Beirut that brings to Jeddah the eclectic mixture of its in-house collections and also the beauty of textiles and original handicrafts from Syria, India, Damascus, Istanbul, Cairo and Uzbekistan.
Iwan Maktabi carpets collection is another Lebanese brand selling Armenian, Iranian, Turkish, Tibetan, Indian and Afghan carpets. The company also holds in-house designs and productions like the Tamrin and Imperial Collections that can be customized according to the tastes of the clients and are shown here for the first time.
“Tamrin means exercise in Arabic. When I designed this collection I got inspired by the calligraphy exercises of master calligraphers in Ottoman Turkey and decided to reproduce them using the Tibetan weaving technique.
As for the 15 Imperial carpets, they are in pure silk and represent a revival of the ancient Ottoman, Persian and Mogul carpets," said owner of Iwan Maktabi Carpets Collections Mohammed Maktabi.
Maktabi Company is also famous for its vintage and patchwork collections based on the concept of recycling with an added value. “We take old carpets from the 19th century that have lost their value and we remove the color through a chemical process and add modern colors in the end," explained Maktabi, who expressed his satisfaction for the progress of the festival.
“We have been exhibiting here for seven years and in the last two years the festival has improved a lot in quality. It attracts Jeddah's most interesting clients. The organization is good, the bazaar is in the scale of major exhibitions, the mood is friendly and the products are very eclectic."
The wide range of merchandises displayed includes culinary products. Particularly attractive are two different kiosks selling traditional Hijazi products and famous Italian oil, pasta, tuna and parmesan brands imported by Villaggio restaurant.
Visitors can go to the exhibition every night from 9 P.M. to 2 A.M. and find refreshments at Paul's, a famous French bakery and patisserie whose stand is positioned at the center of the bazaar.
Various other food stands are also set up at the festival, which will end on Saturday.

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