Lanterns bring touch of Cairo to Jeddah

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A stall in Jeddah’s Al-Shati’i district sells lanterns that are a hit with Saudi customers. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
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A stall in Jeddah’s Al-Shati’i district sells lanterns that are a hit with Saudi customers. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
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A stall in Jeddah’s Al-Shati’i district sells lanterns that are a hit with Saudi customers. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
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A stall in Jeddah’s Al-Shati’i district sells lanterns that are a hit with Saudi customers. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
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A stall in Jeddah’s Al-Shati’i district sells lanterns that are a hit with Saudi customers. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
Updated 11 May 2019
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Lanterns bring touch of Cairo to Jeddah

  • Kiosk selling Ramadan lanterns is a huge hit with shoppers
  • Entrepreneur took a leap of faith in what he thought Saudi customers would like

JEDDAH: Outside a makeshift store in Jeddah’s lively Al-Shati’i district, shoppers crowd around brightly colored lanterns that are shaped like crescent moons and stars. Other lanterns are on the ground, adding a jewel-like glow to the evening.   

The stall was set up by Zuhair Omar Shami and his business partner Ra’ed after they came across traditional Egyptian lanterns during a trip to Cairo.

“We started our business about eight or nine years ago, when this culture was foreign to us and nobody knew what Ramadan lanterns were,” said Shami. “I acquired these lanterns from Egypt and, through my visits, decided to go ahead and introduce them to the Saudi market.” 

Shami took a leap of faith in what he thought Saudi customers would like and it was a hit, with customers flocking to buy the festive and pretty lanterns.

The initial success encouraged him to develop the business by bringing in other items he thought people would be interested in, such as furniture and soft furnishings. 

“We get a lot of people who are seeing this for the first time,” said Shami. “They stop in their cars to peruse and ask us about our products, while others are in disbelief about finding them in the city.” 

Their shop opens five days into Sha’aban, the Hijri month preceding Ramadan, outside Al-Sawary Mall in Al-Zahra. 

From then until the beginning of Ramadan the entrepreneurs are busy at their kiosk helping customers to pick out the right lantern. 

Shami said they have never considered changing their location as it is where they started and where they became a hit. It is also where loyal customers come every year to find them. 

“We settled here because it is a lively part of the city that combines all segments of society, and that is our target audience because our prices also cater to everyone,” he said. “At the start of Sha’aban we handle backorders and deliver our items and decorate homes, gardens, and even cafes and events.”


Bassam Ghulman, deputy minister at the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah

Updated 15 min 54 sec ago
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Bassam Ghulman, deputy minister at the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah

Bassam Ghulman has been deputy minister for transportation affairs at the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah since February 2018.

Previously, he was general manager of the Haramain High-Speed Rail Project, which links the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah.

He was also a professor of contracts and construction project management at Umm Al-Qura University in Makkah.

He first joined the university as an assistant lecturer in 1994, and held several positions there, including head of the civil engineering department.

Ghulman serves as vice chairman of the board of the Saudi Council of Engineers. He was an adviser to the secretary of Makkah, having first joined the municipality there as an assistant civil engineer in 1991.

Ghulman holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Umm Al-Qura University. He earned his master’s and Ph.D. in civil engineering from the University of Oklahoma in the US.

He has participated in local, regional and international events and conferences, and has published numerous academic papers and books.

Ghulman is a member of several government committees, including the advisory board for development in the Makkah region.

He recently met with members of the transport sector at the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah to discuss early preparations for this year’s season.

Ghulman said the meeting was in line with the ministry’s vision to improve and develop services to transport pilgrims to holy sites.