Kababish: Experiencing the India, Pakistan bond

Updated 24 October 2012
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Kababish: Experiencing the India, Pakistan bond

Kababish is where most desis, a collective term for people of the Indian subcontinent, in Jeddah frequent for daily and festive shopping. It is also the place they head to when they get nostalgic about back home. The market place, situated in Jeddah’s Aziziyah district, is teeming with goods from the South Asian states of India and Pakistan. Be it traditional garments, fabrics, jewelry, accessories, food and groceries, or even expert designers from the region, this market is a one-stop shop for all things.
Like Hyderabad’s Lad Bazaar or Lahore’s Liberty Market on Chand Raat (eve of Eid Al-Fitr), Kababish is in all its glory prior to the two festivals of Eid, when excited women and children line up at shops and sidewalk stalls to buy clothes, bangles, henna, cosmetics, etc., and anxious men wait, occasionally glancing at their watches and their wallets.
Located between Prince Majed Street and Moalifeen Street, Kababish has been around for years. What has changed, however, is the increasing availability of specialized items that once necessitated a trip back home to purchase them.
Shops now show with pride their female clientele catalogues of high profile Indian designers, such as Manish Malhotra, whose creations they claim are exclusive to their stores. Designer saris and stitched blouses, once thought to be a thing of elite boutiques in plush localities in India, are now stored in special cloth cases and shown to eager customers. Some of the stores are exclusive distributors of Pakistan’s reputed fashion lines, such as Gul Ahmed and Al-Karam, both of which offer unstitched salwar suits in a variety of fabrics including khaddar, lawn, cambric, chiffon, and silk.
Attractive handmade leather slippers adorned with sequins and ethnic motifs, called khussas in Pakistan and chadawi juti in India, are also exclusive to some shops in Kababish.
Another store is selling lacquered bangles, which are molded out of pure lac and studded with sparkling and beautifully cut glass pieces in countless colors, a specialty from the south Indian city of Hyderabad, known as the “city of pearls” for its charming variety of the white beads. What’s more, the shop’s setup – the style in which the bangles and jewelry is displayed – is reminiscent of Hyderabad’s famous market, the Lad Bazaar.
Another store sells rich fabrics of Jamawar from Pakistan, which comprises intricately woven patterns in gold or silver and brocades, which earlier were hard to find here. The shop also stocks pretty embroidered laces and borders as well as plain fabrics in different colors for matching purposes.
Kababish also houses several Pakistani restaurants, one of which the market itself is named after. The restaurants are frequented not just by desis but also by an increasing number of Saudis who visit to relish authentic chicken tikka or nihari. These restaurants are also venues for year-round bazaars, which are a hit among the ladies.
The sweetshops here are buzzing with activity all year round (who needs an occasion to eat sweets?), with hot off the wok jalebis, crunchy chat and falooda being the most popular items. Street vendors are seen selling kulfi to excited children and adults alike.
A wider availability of South Asian goods that were not available earlier means good business for the traders as well as convenience for the shoppers. A flip side, however, is the prices of these exclusive products, which are way above their actual prices in their places of origin. Like they say: You can’t have it all.
Like back home, both customers and shopkeepers are accustomed to haggling, which in fact in most cases is a necessity to get the best deal.
The sprawling market of Kababish came into being in the mid-1980s, when families clustered in the neighborhood to stay close to two community schools, the Pakistan International School Jeddah and the International Indian School Jeddah. What followed was a bevy of shops opening up to cater to the various needs of the largest possible South Asian community in the Kingdom, such as authentic Indian and Pakistani food, clothing, and groceries.
In world politics, the two nations may be at loggerheads with each other, but stores in Kababish are inadvertently giving out a message of peace, where merchandise from both India and Pakistan are stocked side by side, in total harmony.

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Saudi Arabia looks to the future — by stepping 5,000 years into the past

Updated 22 April 2018
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Saudi Arabia looks to the future — by stepping 5,000 years into the past

  • Kingdom developing tourism sector as part of economic diversification strategy
  • Vision 2030 foresees 1.2 million new tourist jobs by 2030

It is the leading global event for Middle Eastern tourism and it opens on Sunday in Dubai. The Arabian Travel Market attracts the big players of the industry and the wannabes. It showcases 2,800 products to more than 28,000 potential buyers and generates deals worth more than $2.5 billion.

No wonder the world wants to be there, from spas to safaris, from Armenia to Zanzibar and all points between in both the globe and the alphabet.

But this year, one destination is set to attract more attention than any other: Saudi Arabia.

The Kingdom’s tourism industry has hitherto centered primarily on the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah; last year’s Hajj attracted around 2.35 million pilgrims, with about 1.75 million of those coming from abroad.

When it comes to non-religious tourism however, it is in the unique position of creating that industry more or less from scratch, which is an enviable place to be.

“It means we are able to learn from the mistakes of others and we can take the best from everywhere,” said Amr Al-Madani, CEO of the Royal Commission for Al-Ula, Saudi Arabia’s archaeological treasure house and home to the Unesco-listed Madain Saleh.

“And we are determined to offer the best in every way,” he added.

Al-Madani recently returned from presenting the plans for Al-Ula at a high-profile gala at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris, an occasion that coincided with the visit of Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, the driving force behind Vision2030, the ambitious program designed to revamp not only the national economy but Saudi society as a whole.

Once regarded as practically off-limits to visitors and particularly Westerners (although that was never true), Saudi Arabia is throwing open the gates, as part of plans to diversify its economy and create jobs for its citizens.

The Kingdom’s Vision 2030 economic development plan, designed to create new revenue streams to lower its reliance on oil, envisages the creation of 1.2 million new jobs in the tourism sector by 2030.

Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority in February said it planned to invest $64 billion in its entertainment sector in the coming 10 years. This investment will include the development of a countrywide network of cinemas, following the lifting of a ban last year.

As well as opening up the 5,000-year-old wonders of Al-Ula, there are plans to develop 34,000 square kilometers of Red Sea coastline and 50 outlying islands into luxury beach resorts.

The scheme has already attracted Sir Richard Branson, founder and boss of the Virgin Group, as its first international investor. He is involved in developing the islands — which he described as “breathtakingly beautiful” — as luxury destinations, and has also visited Madain Saleh.

“This is an incredibly exciting time in the country’s history and I’ve always felt that there is inothing like getting a first-hand impression,” he said after his visit.

He praised the Crown Prince for his vision, telling Arab News, “If you want to succeed you should have an idea and a plan to implement it and just do it. He is doing that and his heart is in the right place.”

Though he is overseeing the development of the Al-Ula sites, Amr Al-Madani said one plan was to offer two-center holidays: “Some days exploring the archaeology and the nature in Al-Ula and then a few days relaxing at the beach,” he said.

As well as unspoilt beaches, the Red Sea coast also enjoys the best climate in Saudi Arabia with pleasant sea breezes offsetting the heat.

The Red Sea project is expected to generate 35,000 jobs.

The Royal Commission has already recruited the first 200 future employees who will work in Al-Ula. The group — half boys, half girls — are all high school-leavers or university students from the region. They have already begun three months of training in Riyadh, learning languages and undergoing assessment by psychologists and careers advisers and will later be dispatched to several locations in Britain and the US to continue learning.

Al-Madani said Al-Ula should be ready to receive its first tourists in three to five years, eventually accommodating a million to 1.5 million a year.