DUBAI: Almost four months ago, as Dubai authorities announced sweeping precautionary measures to combat a rise in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the UAE, a 29-year-old entrepreneur did the unthinkable – and launched an e-boutique.
Rita Bennani’s business venture, Beldi Bazaar, is a platform that celebrates the universally admired artistic craftsmanship of her native Morocco.
“My friends and family told me not to launch, saying that this was not the time to do so. But then I thought that it didn’t matter because I needed to start and see how it went. It was the best decision I made because there was a huge movement to support small businesses during the pandemic,” she told Arab News.
Bennani, who has a background in event planning, moved to the UAE in 2017, and recalled how former colleagues often asked her to bring back keepsakes from Morocco, triggering the idea for her startup.
“I found that in the UAE, it’s not really common to find Moroccan products, except carpets. And for me, Morocco is so much more than just the carpets,” she said.
Bringing a touch of Morocco to Dubai, Beldi (meaning “traditional” in Moroccan Arabic) Bazaar has provided interior design aficionados with understated and earthy colored home decor items – including delicate coffee cups and bowls, luxury tagines and orange blossom candles, and hand-stitched textiles designed by the north African country’s traditional artisans.
“I have a strong relationship with a group of women who come from remote villages in the Atlas Mountains. Every single hand-woven blanket and cushion that we have in Beldi Bazaar was made by them. Through Beldi Bazaar, I really wanted to empower women,” she added.
Bennani, who was raised in the Moroccan city of Casablanca, prioritized promoting modern brands that “showcased Moroccan savoir faire.”
Through every hand-picked item available on the platform, Bennani aims to embody the pillars of Moroccan visual and social culture, from presenting diverse color palettes of blues and browns to expressing a sense of warm hospitality to all online visitors.
“What makes Moroccan products – such as ceramics, wood, or zelij – really special is the use of techniques that have been passed on from one generation to the next,” she said.