Startup of the Week: Building bridges and reviving a dying skill

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Updated 12 May 2020

Startup of the Week: Building bridges and reviving a dying skill

  • They focused on two types of embroidery; breem, which is done by hand with a silk and cane thread, and sarma, using cane thread and involving stuffing by hand to give the embroidery thickness

Art in any form can serve many different purposes including making money or reviving dying skills. It can also help build cultural bridges and strengthen ties between nations.
Jida Choura’s business not only generates cash but preserves the 200-year-old Syrian embroidery techniques of breem and sarma, which she has been introducing to the younger generation of Saudis.
The 27-year-old’s startup, ByJida, offers products such as prayer mats and tablecloths.
Choura graduated from the University of the Arts London where she studied illustration and design and moved to Jeddah after getting married.
The initial aim of her venture is to raise awareness of the Syrian art in Saudi Arabia and then promote it on a global stage.
She got the idea for her business while furnishing her house in Jeddah with her own decorative designs.
“It is a tradition that when you get married, people come to your house to congratulate you. When my in-laws came over to my place, they asked me about the different decorative items in my house. To their surprise, I told them that I designed them myself,” Choura told Arab News.
Inspired, she started designing and creating different products for family and friends with people asking her to customize items to suit their needs and tastes.
As demand grew, she began looking for opportunities to work with textile companies and to hone her skills went to Syria in search of artisans experienced in embroidery.
However, due to the war in Syria, many people had fled the country and she was only able to find four people in the capital Damascus who still carried on the art. “Trying to find people to work with was the biggest challenge I had to face, as this is a dying art,” she said.
“Also, convincing the embroiders who were all in their 50s to work for a woman of my age was challenging. Some of the embroiders I was working with were called into war and shipping fabric from Syria to here was also a challenge.”
They focused on two types of embroidery; breem, which is done by hand with a silk and cane thread, and sarma, using cane thread and involving stuffing by hand to give the embroidery thickness.
Currently, her products are being sold in Homegrown, Crate, and via Instagram.
Choura said: “Every selection that we put out is something special. We have worked with Zahra Breast Cancer Association to raise awareness. Our collections usually depend on where I get my inspiration from, for instance, we did jewelry pouches which were inspired by the beautiful springs in Montreal.
“The one thing I am most proud of is raising awareness about this kind of embroidery in Saudi Arabia and being able to slowly make my brand grow. Another thing I am proud of is training young embroiders in Syria. In the end, the money that I get from my products, a huge part of it goes to keep the workshop operational and keeping the art alive.”
Choura added that she was hoping to expand her product range to include table runners and jewelry pouches.


Saudi Arabia calls for international action over decaying Red Sea oil tanker

Updated 14 min 24 sec ago

Saudi Arabia calls for international action over decaying Red Sea oil tanker

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia has called for strong and decisive international efforts to deal with the global threats posed by a decaying oil tanker moored off Yemen’s Red Sea coast.

During a virtual meeting on Wednesday of the UN Security Council to discuss the stranded FSO Safer vessel, which is loaded with more than 1 million barrels of crude oil, the Kingdom’s permanent representative to the UN, ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, highlighted the “grave risks” the ship presented.

The 45-year-old tanker has been anchored about 60 km north of Hodeidah since the start of Yemen’s civil war five years ago. Iran-backed Houthi rebels agreed on Sunday to allow a UN inspection team access to the ship for a maintenance check.

Al-Mouallimi said: “I would like to express our appreciation for convening this session to discuss the hazardous situation of the tanker and the dangers it is posing to the environment and maritime navigation in the Red Sea.

“The grave risks associated with this floating oil tanker threaten to cause harm to the Southern Red Sea and to the world at large as it is situated in the proximity of Bab Al-Mandab (Strait), through which vital international maritime navigation passes through between Asia and Europe.

“This dangerous situation must not be left unaddressed, and the Security Council bears primary responsibility for securing the safety and security of the area,” he added.

The envoy told delegates that an oil spill from the FSO Safer could have the potential to be worse than the devastating 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska.

He pointed out that loss of oil from the ship could also result in the closing of the port of Hodeidah for months, leading to severe shortages in the supply of fuel and other essentials to the people of Yemen, and severe long-term damage to the region’s fishing industry.

Marine life, the environment, and Saudi shores would also be seriously and adversely affected, he added, and toxic gases and black clouds from any major spillage would damage agricultural land in vast areas of Yemen and Saudi Arabia.

“The Security Council has already asserted the need to confront the risks associated with this situation and warned against the catastrophic consequences that would result if this situation remains unresolved. The Security Council did so in its resolution 2511 (2020) and its press statement issued on June 29, 2020,” said Al-Mouallimi.

“We took notice of the announcement made recently by the spokesperson of the UN secretary-general that the Houthi rebels have agreed to allow access to the tanker.

“We remain suspicious of the Houthis plans and intentions, and request that the Security Council must remain vigilante and should stand ready to declare strong and decisive measures to deal with this situation and eliminate the risks posed by it.”

The ambassador said that the Kingdom stood ready to take all necessary steps that the Security Council may deem fit to handle the situation.

“The council must not allow such reckless and irresponsible behavior to stand. The council must ensure that a political solution for the conflict in Yemen is found based on UN Security Council Resolution 2216, the GCC initiative, and the outcome of the National Dialogue Conference, acknowledged by the international community as the elements of international legitimacy.”