Lebanese designer celebrates Saudi Arabia’s hidden treasure through art

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Diriyah contemporary bowls on a marble tray. (AN photos by Noor Nugali)
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Diriyah contemporary bowls on a marble tray. (AN photos by Noor Nugali)
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Diriyah contemporary bowls on a marble tray. (AN photos by Noor Nugali)
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Diriyah contemporary bowls on a marble tray. (AN photos by Noor Nugali)
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Diriyah contemporary bowls on a marble tray. (AN photos by Noor Nugali)
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Miraim El-Maoula says she feels like she was born with art in her DNA.
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Miraim El-Maoula says she feels like she was born with art in her DNA.
Updated 18 November 2019

Lebanese designer celebrates Saudi Arabia’s hidden treasure through art

  • Miraim El-Maoula marks Saudi Arabia’s culture and heritage through sustainable artworks

RIYADH: Defectless, a six-month-old lifestyle brand, is inspired by revealing hidden beauty. It started by highlighting the diversity of Saudi Arabia’s landscape. Unlocking the once-hidden treasures and memorializing them into contemporary and sustainable art pieces.
“I want to create pieces that are not only aesthetically beautiful, but that tell stories of people and places and inspire human progress,” 24-year-old artist Miraim El-Maoula told Arab News.
“That is why I am so inspired by what’s happening in Saudi Arabia and the emergence of these new destinations. These destinations were hidden from the world. Now they are shocking the consciousness of many artists, me included, with the beauty of their nature, heritage, and people. They are worth being celebrated.”
Her designs are from four different regions in Saudi Arabia: Asir, AlUla, the Red Sea, and Riyadh. “That’s what I want to show people, that Saudi is not just a desert country. It is much more,” she said.
Hand sculpted from pure marble El-Maoula’s latest creation is the Guardian of AlUla. “To me, the elephant rock is a natural wonder that stood the test of time. It is proof that nature is the ultimate artist.”

I love touching material and matching colors. Creating a new piece of art brings me internal happiness.

Miraim El-Maoula

Inspired by the people of Asir and the community of the southern city, she recreated Asir Fortress in a contemporary handcrafted way. “I was inspired: On the one hand, the fortress represents the warriors who dedicated their lives to protect their lands, and on the other, Al-Qat pattern, engraved on it, represents the woman of Asir who enriched this community with their vibrant, colorful art.”

HIGHLIGHTS

• Miraim El-Maoula’s designs are from four different regions in Saudi Arabia: Asir, AlUla, the Red Sea, and Riyadh.

• Inspired by the people of Asir and the community of the southern city, she recreated Asir Fortress in a contemporary handcrafted way.

• She uses sustainable materials, such as concrete, to replicate the age-old corals. The center is covered with gold making it a beautiful centerpiece.

• A marble tray made out of gold bowls that represent the historic Diriyah buildings — home to the leaders of Saudi Arabia — when conjoined is a representation of the UNESCO heritage site.

“Red Sea Siglia” was created by her inspiration from the marine treasures of the Red Sea. “These coral reefs are 6,000 years old and irreplaceable. They are a gift to mankind that must be celebrated and protected.”
She uses sustainable materials, such as concrete, to replicate the age-old corals. The center is covered with gold making it a beautiful centerpiece.
A marble tray made out of gold bowls that represent the historic Diriyah buildings — home to the leaders of Saudi Arabia — when conjoined is a representation of the UNESCO heritage site.
El-Maoula knew from the beginning she wanted to be a designer. As a schoolgirl, she was infatuated with art class and even skipped other classes in school in order to develop her beloved passion.
“I feel like I was born with art in my DNA,” she said. “I love to look at spaces and always have an opinion on how they can look better. I love touching material and matching colors. Creating a new piece of art brings me internal happiness.”
Her first art display will be at Winter of Tantoura in AlUla.


‘American Sharqawia’: US Consul General Rachna Korhonen bids Saudi Arabia farewell

Updated 23 min 54 sec ago

‘American Sharqawia’: US Consul General Rachna Korhonen bids Saudi Arabia farewell

  • "There’s some magic in the water of the desert," says Korhonen

JEDDAH: As she reaches the end of her second mission in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, US Consul General Rachna Korhonen will soon be heading home, taking memories to last a lifetime.
Known for her love for culture and the Arabic language and for her vast knowledge of the region, Korhonen became well known as a constant supporter of Saudi women and youth in the region, participating in numerous cultural and social events in the Eastern Province and across the Kingdom.
After two more weeks in the Kingdom, Korhonen will return to the US capital to serve as the executive director of the Bureau of Near East Affairs (NEA) and the Bureau of South Central Asian Affairs (SCA) at the US State Department which supports the posts in the region, including Saudi Arabia, thus continuing her connection with the Kingdom.
With 14 years of experience as a US diplomat, she served 3 years in Riyadh in 2010, and then came back to serve as the consul general in Dhahran in August 2017. “I would say Riyadh was the start of my relationship with Saudi Arabia, and Dhahran and the Eastern Province is the culmination of the relationship,” said Korhonen told Arab News on a video call. She almost feels herself Sharqawia, a resident of the Eastern Province, Sharqia.
“Ana Sharqawia (‘I am a Sharqawia). The measure of any place is the people, it’s not about the place, it’s really about the people.”
As consul general, her role was to build relations and promote the interests of her home in the country where she was posted. Korhonen went the extra mile, she joined in the region’s celebrations and understood its traditions and culture.


Recalling her time in the Eastern Province, she said: “I’ve been getting to know Sharqawis, the people who live and work here, who have made this their home in the years since Aramco started or were born in Al-Ahsa. I think anyone who comes to the Eastern Province falls in love,” she said.
“The biggest reason I’ve gotten to enjoy myself here is (because) it has quite a bit of America here. I think it’s difficult to realize how much America exists in Saudi Arabia until you come to the Eastern Province,” she added.
As the drilling for oil began in 1935 with the help of the California Arabian Standard Oil Company (CASOC), which later became Saudi Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s oil capital has been home to thousands of Americans over the past 85 years, who have had a major influence on the region.
“Aramco is definitely a reminder of home, and you put that in with the people, the hospitality, the normal way of being Saudi which is to welcome your guests no matter who they are. You put those things together, you get the best of the United States and you get the best of Saudi Arabia.”
A native of New Jersey and big baseball fan, her love for the game didn’t stop her from supporting the Al-Ettifaq Football Club in Dammam, attending matches and singing their anthem.
Her trips to Al-Ahsa, a place she calls the most beautiful place in the Kingdom, allowed her to discover the region’s vast experiences.
Her appreciation of Al-Ahsa goes deep. Both the scenery and the hospitality of the people make it her favorite city — she even took Ambassador John Abizaid on a trip there in February.
“As you drive towards Al-Ahsa, you can see the sand changing color, from a bright yellow to a reddish color,” she said. “You start seeing the desert turning green, which is amazing to me. I’m a mountain and forest type of person and I can tell you that I now like the desert too, it’s beautiful.”
The uniqueness of Al-Ahsa called out to Korhonen and she recalls her first visit to the region in 2017. “The history, the people, the food, the culture, is very different from any place I’ve been to in Saudi Arabia, Hasawis (people of Al-Ahsa) are lovely. I think there’s some magic in the water of the desert,” she said.
Korhonen developed an interest in regional cultural events, visiting local markets picking out sheep for Eid, learning about the Saudi love for falconry and participating in the traditional celebratory dance of Al-Arda. She even has a Diwaniya, a parlor where guests are received, at her home.

When she returned to the Kingdom in 2017, Korhonen noticed the transformation of the Kingdom, noting that Vision 2030 has been the instigator for this noticeable change.
“The changes have been tremendous, I think Vision2030 is really going to really bring Saudi Arabia onto the world stage. I think some parts are already there. In the energy sector, Saudi Arabia has always been a leader,” she said. “I’m betting you right now that you’re going to see Saudi women, you’re going to see Saudi men, you’re going to see Saudi kids, Saudi art, culture and music, the traditional Saudi things, all starting to show up on the world stage.”
As the Kingdom heads towards diversifying its economy, Korhonen anticipates that the world will begin seeing more Saudi entrepreneurs with innovative ventures, as education is key. She noted that with the continuous flow of Saudi students on scholarships in the US, their return to the Kingdom will help bring forth a new business-like mindset with partnerships between the two countries that will help the Kingdom’s economy to flourish.
“It’s coming,” she noted. “I’ve seen some of the (US) businesses here, but I haven’t seen enough yet and I’d like to see more of that in the next 2-5 years, because Vision 2030 will be a success if we can get entrepreneurs to start businesses and hire more Saudis,” she added. “That to me is the key and that is what you should be bringing back from the US.”
As the end of her mission draws near, it's safe to say that we'll be seeing Korhonen back in the Kingdom in the near future.
“I’ll honestly come back because of the people, because of the friendships I’ve made here.”