The Saudi fashion designer inspired by her bedouin roots in AlUla

Lama Al-Bluwi says her inspiration was mainly bedouin heritage. (Supplied)
Lama Al-Bluwi says her inspiration was mainly bedouin heritage. (Supplied)
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Updated 11 December 2020

The Saudi fashion designer inspired by her bedouin roots in AlUla

The Saudi fashion designer inspired by her bedouin roots in AlUla
  • Jeddah-born Lama Al-Bluwi’s yearning for her heritage has found expression in a remarkable collection
  • Hand-drawn portraits printed on local fabrics in modern cuts speak to her family’s bedouin roots in AlUla

DUBAI: Growing up in Saudi Arabia’s coastal metropolis of Jeddah, Lama Al-Bluwi always felt somehow detached from her family’s bedouin roots in AlUla far to the north. Now her yearning for this rich cultural heritage has found expression in a remarkable fashion collection, which melds the traditional fabric designs of her ancestors with the latest modern trends.

Young Saudis across the Kingdom are looking deep within their own heritage for inspiration, and Al-Bluwi is no exception. The 23-year-old’s prizewinning collection debuted last winter, just months after she graduated in fashion design from Jeddah’s Dar Al-Hekma University.

“My inspiration was mainly bedouin heritage and I tried to depict heritage in a more fashionable and modern way,” Al-Bluwi told Arab News. A college prize for the Most Creative Fashion Collection motivated her to enter her designs for AlUla Season — a festival celebrating local creativity.




Born and raised in Jeddah, Al-Bluwi remembers traveling to the family’s farm in AlUla every winter while growing up. (Supplied)

What makes Al-Bluwi’s work distinctive are the hand-drawn portraits of the bedouin that she prints onto local fabrics, making her coats, jackets, crop-top hoodies and oversized T-shirts an instant hit on Instagram among customers tired of the more predictable high-street fare.

“I have always drawn bedouin portraits, so I mixed all my ideas to present a fashionable collection for my senior collection and my senior project at university,” she said.

Born and raised in Jeddah, Al-Bluwi remembers traveling to the family’s farm in AlUla every winter while growing up. She recalls with fondness the warmth of the local community and the proud culture of the bedu — nomadic Arabs who inhabit the region’s desert expenses. “I find something real in them and that sense of being, of authenticity and of realness inspires me,” she said.

“The simplicity of their life is what fascinated me. I find them very hardworking and very inspiring people in so many ways. They are very generous, and I love that. The way they appreciate their heritage is really touching and they find a lot of pride in where they come from.”




What makes Al-Bluwi’s work distinctive are the hand-drawn portraits of the bedouin that she prints onto local fabrics

AlUla is host to a breathtaking ancient walled city, packed with historic mud-brick and stone houses. Situated in the Madinah region of northwestern Saudi Arabia, it is also home to the Kingdom’s first UNESCO World Heritage site — the 2,000-year-old Nabataean wonder of Hegra, also known as Mada’in Saleh. Given AlUla’s increasing prominence as an archeological landmark on the Middle East tourist trail, the local population is naturally proud of their history and culture.

Despite the annual visits to her ancestral home, Al-Bluwi's childhood and early education in Jeddah left her feeling far removed from her heritage. Curious about her roots and eager to look beyond the cultural bubble of “the Jeddah scene” as she calls it, Al-Bluwi delved deeper into her origins.

This personal journey soon found creative expression. After an initial interest in the fine arts, encouraged by a love of sketching and family trips to European museums, Al-Bluwi discovered her passion for fabrics.




Fashion designer Lama Al-Bluwi’s creations salute her AlUla roots, above and inset, while hand-drawn portraits of bedouin, below, are a hit among customers. (Supplied)

“I used to beg my mother to go with me to a museum,” she recalled. “None of my family was interested but I made them go and they loved it, but I was the one who initiated it.”

And although AlUla and bedouin heritage form the foundation of her work, her designs were also influenced by a dash of Japanese culture, particularly the concept of wabi-sabi — the art of imperfection.

“Everything that is raw and imperfect is perfect, rather than being polished,” she said. “That was my main concept. When you see my garments, you will notice that the seams are inside out, and the edges are raw. I implemented the imperfections in my designs.”

A love of “weird, imperfect things” motivated her research. “I don’t like seeing something polished, so I started to go into the history of imperfection, and I came across this Japanese philosophy,” she said. “I read more about it, researched it and found it amazing.”




Lama Al-Bluwi's yearning for AlUla's rich cultural heritage has found expression in a remarkable fashion collection. (Supplied)

Al-Bluwi says there is no dearth of interest within Saudi Arabia in her creations, and many of her friends enjoy wearing them. “I love it when a product gives you a sense of identity or presents something to you,” she said.

At the same time, she hopes to make her mark beyond the Kingdom by spreading awareness of her culture and heritage near and far.

Despite the strain placed on small businesses and the fashion events calendar by the coronavirus pandemic, Al-Bluwi says her business is blossoming, with growing interest from abroad. “That people from other cultures find (my collection) interesting made me very happy,” she said.




Lama Al-Bluwi's designs were also influenced by a dash of Japanese culture. (Supplied)

Catering for an international client base will not only help Al-Bluwi build her brand but also broaden the global appeal and appetite for Saudi Arabia’s bedouin heritage.

“It is important for us as artists or designers to change our perspective on that,” she said, referring to an earlier reluctance to engage with the global marketplace. “We are doing that slowly, but a lot of people have seen my collection, so we are going in the right direction.”

Although she has missed out on promotional events this year, the pandemic has given Al-Bluwi time to hone her skills and to learn from others in Saudi Arabia’s burgeoning fashion industry. “I have learnt that it is very important to have a really good platform or website where everyone can see your work, and not be over-depend on events,” she said.




Young Saudis across the Kingdom are looking deep within their own heritage for inspiration. (Supplied)

With the Saudi government investing heavily in young entrepreneurs as part of its Vision 2030 economic diversification plan, Al-Bluwi is excited to see more designers spread their wings.

“I’m so happy to be alive at this time in Saudi Arabia. What they’re doing here is beautiful. They are supporting us in so many ways — not just in fashion but in a lot of sectors in the country,” she said.

“It’s a lovely thing to see. It makes us push ourselves even more in the best way possible and it makes me proud of all our talent because we truly all drive each other.”

Twitter: @CalineMalek

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‘Let’s Make it Green’ campaign plants 10 million trees across Saudi Arabia

The campaign focused on planting native tree species which have adapted to Saudi Arabia’s environment and require limited irrigation. (Supplied)
The campaign focused on planting native tree species which have adapted to Saudi Arabia’s environment and require limited irrigation. (Supplied)
Updated 23 April 2021

‘Let’s Make it Green’ campaign plants 10 million trees across Saudi Arabia

The campaign focused on planting native tree species which have adapted to Saudi Arabia’s environment and require limited irrigation. (Supplied)
  • Efforts will continue to plant more trees, in line with the ‘Green Saudi’ and ‘Green Middle East’ initiatives

RIYADH: A campaign to plant 10 million trees in 165 sites across the Kingdom to develop vegetation cover and limit desertification has been successfully completed.

The Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture and the National Center for Vegetation Cover announced the success of the “Let’s Make it Green” campaign that was launched in October 2020. 

The campaign covered all of the Kingdom’s 13 provinces. The Eastern Province topped the list with more than 2.6 million trees planted, followed by more than 2.1 million in Madinah, over 1.3 million in Makkah, around 1 million in both Jazan and Riyadh, 462,000 in Qassim, and 270,000 in Asir.

Baha reached nearly 300,000, and more than 142,000 trees were planted in the Northern Border, followed by Jouf with more than 113,000, then Hail with about 85,000, Tabuk with over 75,000, and finally Najran with nearly 52,000 trees.

The campaign focused on planting native tree species which have adapted to Saudi Arabia’s environment and require limited irrigation. (Supplied)

The CEO of the center, Dr. Khaled Al-Abd Al-Qader, said that the campaign planted endangered trees and shrubs in areas that were environmentally degraded due to overgrazing, logging, uprooting, and urban sprawl.

“The campaign focused on planting native tree species which have adapted to Saudi Arabia’s environment and require limited irrigation,” he added.

The ministry ensured that the campaign was aligned with sustainability and water conservation requirements and by using treated wastewater or seawater for irrigation, in line with the best international practices.

The center and ministry worked in cooperation with various governmental authorities, private sector organizations, environmental associations, and community groups.

Minister of Water, Environment and Agriculture Abdul Rahman Al-Fadli said: “What we have accomplished is the result of the support and directions of the Saudi leadership to make the Kingdom a pioneer in protecting the Earth, achieve the international objectives in protecting the environment, increase the vegetation cover, reduce carbon emissions, combat pollution and land degradation, and preserve marine life.”

Efforts will continue to plant more trees, in line with the “Green Saudi” and “Green Middle East” initiatives, he added.

Al-Qader said that the “Let’s Make it Green” campaign has recovered biodiversity, rehabilitated degraded vegetation cover sites, promoted positive behaviors to preserve the nation’s environment and improve the quality of life in Saudi Arabia.


Volunteers in Asir donate 2 million hours of their time

Volunteers in Asir donate 2 million hours of their time
Updated 23 April 2021

Volunteers in Asir donate 2 million hours of their time

Volunteers in Asir donate 2 million hours of their time

MAKKAH: More than 11,000 volunteers in Asir region have donated more than 2 million hours of their time as part of an initiative that aims to encourage people to get involved in their communities, in particular with efforts to tackle the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Nashama Asir initiative was launched last Ramadan to boost voluntary work and raise awareness in the region of its importance, in support of government efforts to increase participation.

“It was launched by the Coronavirus Crisis Management Chamber in Asir, under the leadership and vision of Asir Gov. Prince Turki bin Talal,” Nasser Qmeshan, who is supervising the initiative, told Arab News.

“It came as a response to the significant societal readiness to assist the government in its efforts to address the coronavirus pandemic and its repercussions.”

It was necessary to develop a strategy, identify targets and set up a mechanism to ensure the efficient implementation of the project, he added. The strategy that was developed by the chamber included a vision for the initiative, specific fields of work, and clear goals.

“Those able to provide ideas, financial support or volunteer services in certain health, economic and social fields can apply through the initiative’s website,” said Qmeshan. “The site was visited by about 4,000 people in the first week after the initiative was announced.”

“Hundreds of activities not requiring assistance — such as financial support, in-kind support and physical preparation — were referred to the bodies that would directly benefit from them,” said Qmeshan.

“As for those that required assistance, a project was set up, partners were identified and approached, an action plan was developed, and standards were set along with performance indicators and launch mechanisms.”

HIGHLIGHT

  • The Nashama Asir initiative was launched last Ramadan to boost voluntary work and raise awareness in the region of its importance, in support of government efforts to increase participation.
  • Specific projects included the provision of quarantine facilities, hygiene tools, and food baskets for families and employees who were struggling as a result of the pandemic, along with fundraising support.

Specific projects included the provision of quarantine facilities, hygiene tools, and food baskets for families and employees who were struggling as a result of the pandemic, along with fundraising support.

In response to the initiative 11,077 people volunteered to help and so far they have carried out 2,008,841 hours of work.

Some of the activities were technical in nature, Qmeshan said, such as one “where a qualified group of young Saudi volunteers helped with maintenance work at family homes during the lockdown period.

“The requests for this service were processed automatically and the service was provided free of charge, while taking into consideration all precautionary health measures,” he added.

The initiative also helped to improve awareness of health and security issues among the residents of Asir region. Announcements and advice from the health and security authorities were translated into a number of languages, for example, and volunteers supported the work of the healthcare sector by highlighting the importance of social distancing and other precautions to slow the spread of the disease. They also provided healthy meals for workers during Ramadan, along with other types of community assistance.

Another project is helping municipalities implement pandemic precautions in markets and shopping centers. “The implementation of this project will start with the reopening of markets by the end of the holy month of Ramadan,” said Qmeshan.

A specialized, medical-manufacturing project was proposed to develop and manufacture spare parts for ventilators, along with various types of protective equipment, using 3D printers in engineering laboratories at King Khalid University.

Qmeshan said that dozens of officials and tribal delegations, including princes, ministers, tribal sheikhs and social figures, have visited the initiative’s operations center.


83 Jeddah outlets shut for COVID-19 breaches

83 Jeddah outlets shut for COVID-19 breaches
Updated 23 April 2021

83 Jeddah outlets shut for COVID-19 breaches

83 Jeddah outlets shut for COVID-19 breaches

JEDDAH: Authorities in Jeddah have shut down 83 commercial outlets for breaching coronavirus disease (COVID-19) protocols.
Municipalities in the Kingdom have stepped up their efforts to ensure compliance with COVID-19 safety measures designed to protect public health.
The municipality of Jeddah governorate carried out 4,166 inspection tours of commercial centers and facilities and identified 116 violations for issues related to overcrowding and the failure to effectively use the Tawakkalna app. Authority officials in the Red Sea port city urged people to report any suspected breaches of COVID-19 regulations to the 940 call-center number.


KAICIID-organized forum of experts look to counter hate speech in Europe

KAICIID-organized forum of experts look to counter hate speech in Europe
Updated 23 April 2021

KAICIID-organized forum of experts look to counter hate speech in Europe

KAICIID-organized forum of experts look to counter hate speech in Europe

RIYADH: The King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz International Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID) organized an expert forum on combating hate speech in collaboration with religious institutions and other organizations.
The meeting was held in cooperation with the European Council of Religious Leaders, the Religions for Peace in Europe, and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.
The consultation aimed to explore pathways and efforts to combat hate speech in Europe by strengthening ties between religious and political entities and civil society.


Saudi aid agency KSrelief delivers 423 tons of dates to WFP in Jordan

Saudi aid agency KSrelief delivers 423 tons of dates to WFP in Jordan
Updated 23 April 2021

Saudi aid agency KSrelief delivers 423 tons of dates to WFP in Jordan

Saudi aid agency KSrelief delivers 423 tons of dates to WFP in Jordan

AMMAN: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief) delivered 423 tons of dates to the UN World Food Programme (WFP) headquarters in Jordan. 
Saudi Ambassador to Jordan Naif bin Bandar Al-Sudairi signed the shipment’s memorandum of delivery that was received by Alberto Correia Mendes, the WFP’s regional director.
Al-Sudairi said that the KSrelief donation to the WFP is part of the Kingdom’s commitment to its international obligations to support the needy wherever they are, noting that this project comes in continuation to the support provided by the Kingdom to its brothers in Jordan.