SemSem’s Ramadan line has a charitable twist

US-Somali model Halima Aden has worked with SemSem in the past. (Supplied)
Updated 22 May 2018
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SemSem’s Ramadan line has a charitable twist

LONDON: Famed French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent once said that the city of Marrakesh taught him color. It seems that the Moroccan city has struck again, serving as the inspiration for SemSem’s bold Ramadan line this season.

With its mélange of cultural currents and cosmopolitan charge, the bustle of Marrakesh is manifest in SemSem’s red-based collection. A brassy fire-engine trench and gilded-blush maxi are among the highlights of the edit, available exclusively at luxury e-tailers The Modist and Ounass.

For those seeking bold, iftar-appropriate looks this season, SemSem’s berry-red jumpsuit or high-low hemmed jacquard top are both beautiful, souk-inspired statement pieces.  Floral prints appearing throughout the collection recall the Majorelle garden, Saint Laurent’s lush Marrakesh property. Separates, including tailored pants befitting the refined city-stroller, can be paired with the collection’s pleated tops or layered for dramatic effect. 

Self-consciously eschewing derivatives of slouched kaftans, the pieces all feature refined, structured cuts. True to the brand’s aesthetic, SemSem’s Ramadan collection is an unabashed ode to modern, metropolitan femininity.

Founder Abeer Al-Otaiba, who originally hails from Egypt, says this year’s Ramadan edit was “deeply personal.

“I wanted it to be beautiful, impactful and reflective of my heritage,” Al-Otaiba said.  “I enjoy the sense of purpose Ramadan represents and I try to embrace all that it has to offer. Creating this collection is an extension of this time of introspection and celebration.”

A dedicated philanthropist with a degree in civil engineering and stints spent living across the Middle East, Europe and America, Al-Otaiba created SemSem in 2015 as a way to celebrate women and children across the globe. Bestowing the label with her daughter’s nickname, Al-Otaiba’s vision has allowed SemSem to mature in a few short years, emerging at the forefront of the luxury, ready-to-wear market.

With lines for both women and girls, the brand has become a favorite of multi-tasking mothers seeking balance and an elegant wardrobe with a charitable sense of purpose. Every season, Al-Otaiba teams up with a non-profit promoting the well-being of women and children. This year, 10 percent of the sales from the brand’s Ramadan collection sold at Ounass will go to causes supported by the Dubai Cares charity.

Previously, Al-Otaiba sought to raise awareness about maternal mortality rates and youth illiteracy, supporting organizations working across Africa to empower women and children. 

Insisting on the confluence of doing good and dressing well, SemSem has become a celebrity favorite, worn by conscientious Hollywood moms like Blake Lively and Kourtney Kardashian. Showing at Paris Fashion Week and regularly written up in Vogue, SemSem has brought a jet-set chic to mother-daughter wear. 

But the line’s ethos isn’t about red-carpet glitter. Encouraging mothers to instill a sense of global awareness and dedication to philanthropy in their daughters lies at the heart of the SemSem’s mission. It’s a perfect conversation — and the perfect conversation-provoking ensembles— to have this Ramadan season.


Book Review: ‘It’s the thought of Makkah that keeps me alive’

Updated 21 August 2018
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Book Review: ‘It’s the thought of Makkah that keeps me alive’

  • Paulo Coelho’s novel highlights merchant’s powerful narrative about the pilgrimage
  • Coelho has a Guinness World Record for the most translated book by any living author

JEDDAH: One of the famous books that refers to the Islamic pillar of Hajj is “The Alchemist,” a novel by the Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho that has been translated into more than 80 languages and sold more than 30 million copies.

The novel highlights the Hajj dream when a young shepherd, Santiago, working for a crystal shop owner tells his employer about his desire to visit the pyramids, which leaves the latter asking why the young boy was so determined about to see the pyramids.

“You’ve never had dreams of travel,” the shepherd boy tells the shop owner in Tangier, the Moroccan city that used to be a part of Al-Andalus until 1062.

The crystal merchant had never thought of traveling, except for Hajj — traveling to Makkah had long been his dream and only thought.

However, the merchant explains to the boy that he lives by the book of Qur’an, and that Islam has five pillars which are mandatory for Muslims to fulfill.

After explaining the first four pillars, the merchant suddenly stops with tears in his eyes. So the boy asks him about the fifth obligation.

The merchant answers: “Two days ago, you said that I had never dreamed of travel. The fifth obligation of every Muslim is a pilgrimage. We are obligated at least once in our lives to visit the holy city of Makkah.

“When I was young, all I wanted to do was to put together enough money to start this shop. I thought someday I’d be rich, and could visit Makkah.”

The merchant refers to those who pass by his shop on their way to Makkah, and to those pilgrims who have performed Hajj and are proudly showing that off on their house doors.

However, when Santiago asks the merchant why he never made the trip and fulfilled his dream, he answers that if he did, he would no longer have anything to live for.

“Because it’s the thought of Makkah that keeps me alive.

“I’ve already imagined a thousand times crossing the desert, arriving at the Plaza of the Sacred Stone, the seventh time I walk around it before allowing myself to touch it. I’ve already imagined the people who would be at my side, and those in front of me.”

Meanwhile, the merchant’s business grows after he agrees to Santiago’s suggestion to sell tea. The tea becomes popular in the town and the merchant hires more staff.

As a result of the shop’s success, Santiago also becomes rich and decides that it is time for him to leave.

One day he wakes early and tells the merchant about his decision to leave and buy a large flock of sheep.

Santiago encourages the merchant to travel to Makkah. However, the merchant believes that he will not go to Makkah because it is “maktub,” which means “it is written,” as his destiny.

Coelho has a Guinness World Record for the most translated book by any living author.