TheFace: Dalal Al-Afaliq, Saudi designer and entrepreneur

Dalal Al-Afaliq with her family. (AN photo by Ziyad Alarfaj)
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Updated 07 February 2020

TheFace: Dalal Al-Afaliq, Saudi designer and entrepreneur

I am an interior designer and entrepreneur. Driven by my passion for furniture, I found Villa Style in 2015. It is an interior design business and furniture store based in Alkhobar.

My professional journey was not smooth, but my passion has always helped me overcome obstacles. 

I have only one child, Abdullah, and our life as a small family has been eventful, and not always happy, but we were patient, determined and supportive of each other.

Soon after my graduation with a degree in administrative information systems, I endured a chronic health condition, which thankfully I was able to overcome. 

After that, my husband was diagnosed with cancer. His illness has been a major hindrance in our family.

During that period, I insisted on finding employment, which my father supported. My first job was at a local bank, where I worked for two years. I began as a bank teller and ended up as a branch manager two years later. However, though I was happy and fully satisfied with my progress, I had to resign to move with my husband to the US.

We lived in the US for three years where my husband worked. It was a fruitful experience, I was keen to educate myself and enrolled in several courses, including some in self-development.

After our return home, I wanted to go back to work, but my husband opposed the idea, he was pushing me to start my own business and warned me about trapping myself in the golden handcuffs of employment.

“You are a wasted energy,” he would say, “if you get employed, you wouldn’t be able to express your creativity as you wish.”

I decided to study business and began researching how to establish my own. My furnishing and design enterprise was inspired by my childhood dream to become an interior designer.

Whoever wants to start a business the right way should look up to the best establishments in the industry. My research showed that the best furniture galleries in Europe are located in Milan and Paris.

I started my company from scratch while studying business, without any experience or background in the industry. After I worked from home on my brand, my elder sister Halah and I traveled to France and Italy to explore.

After roaming around with nothing to show but our business cards, we returned home with agreements from seven different companies and placed orders for furniture to be manufactured.  

Back in the Kingdom, I managed to rent a gallery, design it and put furniture in place. I then realized I needed more people with me for help. Gradually, we added interior design services for our customers. I began with one female designer, and thankfully the office kept expanding.  

Our reputation grew rapidly throughout the Kingdom, but at the peak of my career growth, I was diagnosed with kidney failure in 2018. 

I found myself in the hospital for dialysis three times a week.

The illness slowed down the business because I could not dedicate myself to work, but I tried my best. I used to have my laptop with me in the hospital to answer my emails and sometimes I was receiving checks to sign during the dialysis.

The disease did not stop me from making my business trips. I remember going from the hospital to the airport and vice versa. It did not hold me back, even though it limited my progress, but it was not as bad as someone would imagine.

I believe I got my persistence and ambition from my father, who used to tell me as a child about his bakery business, which he started more than 45 years ago and is now one of the biggest in the region.

In March 2019, I had a transplant procedure when my brave brother Hassan donated one of his kidneys to me.

After the surgery’s success, I was able to solve all the deficiencies and fill the gaps caused by my absence during the year and a half period in just five months.

I came back with great passion and rebranded my company. I am blessed with an understanding family, my husband and son appreciate both what I do and my career’s transitional period.

My soon-to-be-achieved goal is to set up my own furniture factory, where I can design and implement what I want following my way and my style, then display my work at the best galleries in the world. I am sure it is going to happen.


Turning a new leaf: Saudi Arabia’s Jazan region ditches qat crops for coffee trees

The growth of the educational landscape in the region, in addition to the success of the coffee industry, are some factors that help the authorities combat qat abuse. (SPA/Supplied)
Updated 24 February 2020

Turning a new leaf: Saudi Arabia’s Jazan region ditches qat crops for coffee trees

  • The Khawlani coffee bean is being offered to UNESCO for inclusion on a heritage list

JAZAN: Efforts to draw the younger generation in the Kingdom’s Jazan region away from the harmful and addictive substance qat are succeeding, with even the crop being replaced by coffee trees to support the booming coffee business.
Qat, a plant that is native to the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, is a stimulant that triggers excitement and alertness. But it can also cause anxiety, insomnia and aggravate pre-existing mental health conditions.
It grew in the Jazan region along with coffee trees. But the strength of the coffee industry, combined with an increased awareness about the harmful nature of qat, has led to its gradual disappearance.
The governor of Al-Dayer, Nayef bin Lebdah, said the people of Jazan were proud of the Khawlani coffee bean. He also said that coffee beans were much more economically beneficial than qat.
“All newly planted qat trees have been completely uprooted,” he told Arab News. “All the people have found that planting coffee beans is much more feasible and rewarding than qat. Attempts to smuggle qat have also dropped thanks to the security efforts along the border with Yemen. Add to that, young people themselves have concluded that their future will be in coffee beans.”
Teacher Yahiya Shareef Al-Maliki viewed qat as an “intruder’’ and said the coffee tree was the region’s indigenous product.
“In 1970, there were only four people who used to chew qat in the entire governorate,” he told Arab News. “It then started to become common among the people here in 1995 due to opening the borders that caused importing qat from abroad.”

FASTFACTS

• In 2014, people reconsidered coffee as an alternative crop and young people started to grow coffee beans with the help of unlimited support from the governorate.

• Some 50,000 seedlings were distributed and farmers began to restore the profession of their fathers.

• The governorate replanted more than 10,000 genuine Khawlani coffee seedlings and gave them to the farmers.

The increase in qat cultivation affected the planting of coffee beans, he added, but in 2014 people reconsidered coffee as an alternative crop and young people started to grow coffee beans with the help of unlimited support from the governorate. “Some 50,000 seedlings were distributed and farmers began to restore the profession of their fathers.”
People in Jazan used to waste their time and money on qat, he said. They would gather and chew qat for many hours, he added, hours that could have been spent working. But the growth of the educational landscape in the region, in addition to the success of the coffee industry, was a factor in combating qat abuse, as young people were able to access more opportunities and improve their prospects.
The Khawlani coffee bean is being offered to UNESCO for inclusion on a heritage list.
“The preparation of the file related to the skills and knowledge pertaining to the cultivation of Khawlani coffee in the Jazan region has been completed before presenting it to UNESCO,” the Kingdom’s Culture Minister Prince Badr bin Abdullah said. If listed, he added, it would be the Kingdom’s fourth intangible cultural heritage and eighth among the total heritage items included in the UNESCO heritage list.
Saudi columnist Hamood Abu Talib said the Jazan region was the only place the beans were grown. “This festival (Coffee Beans Festival), which is being held in collaboration with the governorate (of Jazan), the farmers themselves and Aramco, is an important national economic investment,” he told Arab News.
“Many countries’ economies, such as Brazil and Ethiopia depend mainly on this product — coffee. It needs professional marketing through the media to attract visitors from inside and outside the Kingdom. This is an essential strategic transformation.
“We know that the Faifa Mountains Development and Reconstruction Authority’s strategic goal was to uproot the harmful trees of qat and replace them with profitable crops that are beneficial to the farmers as well as the whole region. These were also intruding, invasive trees. We replanted more than 10,000 genuine Khawlani coffee seedlings and gave them to the farmers.”