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Archive for the tag “Interviews”

Interview with Faran Tahir: Pakistani-American Muslim in Hollywood

Best known for his role as Raza in Iron Man and Captain Robau in Star Trek, Pakistani-American actor Faran Tahir talks exclusively to Anousha Vakani for Jeddah Blog about his career, his upcoming works and his recent acting workshop conducted right here in Jeddah.


Faran speaks to Jeddah Blog

Faran Tahir comes from a family of actors and writers, so we asked him what it was like growing up around artists and to what degree that influenced his decision to get into the acting field: “Your environment can of course have a significant influence on who you are, although no one in my family pushed me to pursue this as my career, on some level, I always knew that this is what I wanted to do.” His father, Naeem Tahir, an actor, scholar and dramatist also appeared in the immensely popular Pakistani movie Khuda Ke Liye. In a 2013 interview with Geek Mom, Faran Tahir explains that he loves stories; whether he’s reading them, attempting to write them or bringing them alive onscreen, as it has been a part of him and his family for decades.

Faran Tahir as Raza in Iron Man

Faran Tahir as Raza in Iron Man

Faran Tahir has appeared on stage, alongside drama and films. He has acted in episodes of Law and Order, The West Wing, Charmed and Grey’s Anatomy to name a few. His films include Picture Perfect, Elysium and Escape Plan. When asked which the better experience was, he replied, “To me, it depends what story we are trying to tell. Different stories require different mediums.” He adds that he doesn’t have a favourite role as, “The way I see it is that one should always give everything one has got to every role otherwise you are doing that character a disservice.”

Faran Tahir as Captain Robau in Star Trek

As Captain Robau in Star Trek

The actor also admits that he is careful when choosing roles that may represent religion in a negative light, he goes on to say that while there are challenges to being a Pakistani Muslim in Hollywood, “There are times when one wants to not be labeled as anything but just ‘actor’. However, things are changing. There are better and more layered roles. Part of it is because we are increasing in numbers and because the market has become more global.”

Faran Tahir in Escape Plan [3]-1

Faran in “Escape Plan” with heavyweight icons of action Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger

We asked him about his latest venture Flight World War II opening in cinemas tomorrow, “It’s a science fiction movie. I play a pilot of a commercial airline. We take off from Washington DC for London and are hit by a freak lightening storm which throws us back in the past. The passengers and crew then discover that we are now flying over Nazi Germany during World War II. It is my job to bring the passengers and my crew home safely.”

The trailer for Flight World War II can be viewed below.

About other future projects, “I just did a CBS pilot for the series Super Girl. If that goes to series I might have a recurring role on that. I am starting a movie late summer called The 11th, and later this year, I will go play the title role of Othello in Shakespeare’s Othello.”

Jeddah was great. It has a wonderful artistic pulse. I would love to return if I am invited again.

Faran conducts acting workshops on and off, and he recently conducted a workshop in Jeddah on the invitation of the US consulate, “It is my way of connecting with other artists. It is important that we share our knowledge and experience. Jeddah was great. It has a wonderful artistic pulse. I would love to return if I am invited again.” Stay tuned for the release of Flight World War II on the 2nd of June, which, judging by the trailer, is going to be a thrilling ride.

Interview with Zahid Jamal, RJ of Bindas Radio

Zahid Jamal grew up as an expat in Jeddah. Having developed an interest in the Urdu language, and hosting shows at school, he went on to not only become a successful chartered accountant with one of the Big Four firms, but also moonlights as an RJ with UK-based Bindas Radio.

In this interview he chats to Jeddah Blog about what it was like growing up in Jeddah, his career, passion for working in radio and his feelings about the city he once called home.

Bindas 1

Tell us about your connection to Jeddah.

I grew up in the streets of Al-salama, Al-Rowda and then Al-Aziziah in Jeddah where I was raised as Zahid Jamal. I saw Jeddah transforming from old to new in the 90s and have seen all the new extravagant structures constructed in front of my eyes. Although I hail from Karachi, I consider myself more a Jeddawi.

Living as an expat in Jeddah, how did you manage to forge a connection with your home country, and especially to the Urdu language?

I was educated at the Pakistan International School Jeddah(PISJ), in Aziziah, spending the usual weekends picnicking in Obhur, beach resorts and playlands like Bahra-tul-Qatar – an oldie would know what I am talking about here. Living in Saudi Arabia, but studying in a Pakistani school and learning to be more Pakistani is one of the phases which every expat would have gone through in KSA. I also went through this phase where I was made a Pakistani in a Pakistani school, as we used to travel on Pakistani passport to and from Pakistan.

We were lucky enough to have watched the Pakistani drama called Tanhaiyan on Saudi Channel 2 in Ramadan, and this was when I was first introduced to Pakistani dramas. My Urdu language skills improved further as I watched not only more Pakistani drams but Moin Akhtar and Anwar Maqsood on PTV (Pakistan’s national television channel). This gave me an opportunity in my school to imitate Moin Akhtar, and I began hosting events at my school. My Urdu teacher once told me to try out for an audition in Radio Pakistan due to my voice and the level of Urdu he recognized in me.

From hosting events at school, how were you introduced to the world of radio?

In 2003, I completed high school and left for Karachi to study chartered accountancy. I realized that Radio Pakistan was an old phenomenon in Pakistan and it was now FM radio stations taking the youth by storm, so I used to listen to the radio while studying for the most complex studies in CA.

In 2006, when I successfully cleared my exams, my passion of hosting and public speaking took me to knock on the doors of those FM stations and ask for an audition. Luckily, there was an upcoming station, HOT FM 105 whose office I spotted by chance as no one knew it would be airing soon. So I went in, gave an audition and was selected. Finally Zahid Jamal transformed into ZJ, as I was neither a qualified RJ nor a DJ, hence I was simply ZJ.

Tell us about your reasons for returning to Jeddah?

I worked in radio for two years while completing my CA articleship with one of the Big Four audit firms, Ernst & Young in Karachi and this was the time when I got a good job offer from E&Y in Jeddah in 2008. I bid farewell to the FM radio in Karachi and decided to return due to the unstable security situation in Pakistan, and my parents living in Jeddah.


From being an expat in one country to another. You then moved on to the UK. What led you there?

I continued my efforts in the E&Y Jeddah office, and joined British online radio, so that I could fulfill my passion in the not-so-bachelor-friendly Saudi Arabia.

In 2010, I was offered a position in E&Y London which I accepted happily due to the reason of being called an expat even when I have spent my entire life in Jeddah. I will always need permission to live there, so I decided to leave Jeddah and settle in London when I had an offer from my own company.

I now work in E&Y London office as an executive auditor and do online radio as an extracurricular activity.

Any old memories of Jeddah you would like to share? What do you miss about this city?

I love Jeddah. Jeddah represents me; it’s global and modern, but the Islamic lifestyle is what I carry wherever I go. It gave me the confidence to work and grow up living and interacting with different nationalities. I miss Ramadan in Jeddah and the food. I call it food heaven; halal food at a reasonable price. Who can forget to mention Al Baik? – always top of my list when I visit Jeddah from time to time.

Due to obvious reasons, it’s not easy for single and young professionals to work and live a lifestyle they want in Jeddah. I assume life is much easier for married couples, especially now that women have started working alongside men, although it’s very hard for expat women to find a job other than teaching.

Also, I don’t see a platform for expats living in KSA to voice their opinions and experiences about the usual life matters they are going through. I found Jeddah blog very useful myself, and I guess Bindas Radio would give another platform to the people living in KSA, especially Jeddah, due to my presence at the radio to share their experiences with the rest of the world.

Tell us about Bindas.

Bindas Radio is a British online radio which is managed from Canada and the UK. We are broadcasting live globally and can be reached through our website . You can also download our app and then we will just be a click away from you. We have RJs from Canada, Saudi Arabia and the UK. We have some more to come from other parts of the world. You can also find us on Tunein which is a radio stations application to listen to any radio in the world.

Although we are playing more Urdu/Hindi content these days, we have international radio presenters, and based on our listenership we will start focusing more on English and maybe even Arabic if there is a demand from listeners. Anyone can listen to our radio.

We are in the startup phase currently and we are coming up with some excellent ideas which will be more beneficial to our listeners. Fingers crossed, there will be much more happening on the airwaves on Bindas.

Dont forget to tune into my shows every Sunday from 3pm – 5pm (GMT) and every Wednesday from 10pm-12midnight (GMT). Keep it locked, keep it Bindas!

You can also follow Zahid via Twitter and Facebook.

Uzma Raheem – A Beacon of Hope for Children with Exceptional Needs

In this blog post, I am particularly proud to be able to introduce you to a lady who has, and continues to inspire me and countless others. Her non-stop positive attitude is infectious and the sheer energy, determination, drive and passion she draws upon and imparts to those around her makes me wonder whether she might just be super-human. Uzma Raheem is a force of nature, and a shining source of support and hope to many families here in Jeddah. Jeddah Blog writer Anousha Vakani sat down with Uzma earlier this month to chat with her about the inception and growth of the Hope Center, its success stories and the challenges she faces.

Uzma Raheem after winning her 9th International award in 15 years.

Uzma Raheem after winning her 9th International award in 15 years.

The Hope Center needs little introduction – the people of Jeddah, the rest of KSA and even abroad have watched it grow from a summer programme held in a tiny apartment to a full-fledged multi-cultural institute that has won a total of nine international awards in just fifteen years. Yet, the Center’s founder and directress, Uzma Raheem, speaks to us about the Center’s growth with paramount humility. She is not oblivious to the lives she has touched but her pride lies in the teamwork and dedication that is the foundation of this ‘life-skills institute,’ as she prefers to call it.

Baking activity with the children.

Baking activity with the children.

She admits that not even in her wildest dreams did she imagine that her efforts would grow to this magnitude. Even receiving a licence from the Ministry was inconceivable, let alone gaining both national and international recognition and awards. However, she says the Center is not just about her efforts, “it is a community project, a joint effort with so many supporters and well-wishers. We have very dedicated, compassionate staff and in fifteen years we have managed to establish our credibility in the market so yes, people know that Hope for Exceptional Needs does deliver.” However, it’s not an easy task – one struggle is that of finding trained staff. The Center started off with just two or three volunteers at one time working with an average of six to nine students. It has grown to a full-sized institute with fifty staff members but it is still a struggle. One reason for this, Uzma Raheem notes is that, “universities are churning out students but guess what? They’re taking their degrees and working in other fields that pay more. You cannot get into this field with a commercial mindset, especially if you’re working with disabled children. You’ve got to have the compassion as well. If you’re thinking of the rewards of both this life and the after, then yes, come in to this field where the salary may not be that high but the job satisfaction is tremendous.”

The children with their toys.

The children with their toys.

The job satisfaction is another factor we discuss, and her contentment is hard to misplace. She mentions the success stories, of fourteen children who have been integrated into mainstream education, one who has gotten a job and one who has gotten married. “Three children came into the center who could not even walk and today when I see them running in the hallways, I think my heart leaps behind them. I sleep with a lot of peace in my heart. It’s that fantastic.” When asked about the struggles that come with her job, she sighs and admits that there are many, as with any other job. “Apart from the financial aspect and the shortage of resources, I have to say the children are the easiest part of my job. One of the most difficult parts is actually dealing with the parents. While some parents come in with this wealth of knowledge and acceptance of what their child is going through, and that’s half of our job done – when the parents meet us midway – some parents are, unfortunately less educated or educated and in denial or under severe depression – those are the families that are a challenge to work with, but it is part of the package.”

Martial arts training at the Center.

Martial arts training at the Center.

Among others, the center offers physiotherapy, occupational therapy, hydrotherapy and speech and hearing therapy. While they do not set an age limit, Uzma Raheem encourages parents to admit their children as early as possible. “A young child is like freshly kneaded dough and you can mould them out into any shape you want, whereas an older child is like slightly stale dough and if your try too hard to make any shape out of them, they break.”

The children on a visit to Makkah. Hope for Exceptional Needs.

The children on a visit to Makkah.

Religion is also a major point of focus at the Hope Center. The Muslim children are taught basic du’as, the ritual of wudu and etiquette for visiting the Holy Mosque. Regular trips are also made to Makkah where the children make tawaaf and implement all that they’ve learnt. “I think religion plays a big part, and not just for the children but for us as well, in finding comfort that a higher power is looking after our children,” Uzma Raheem muses as a wrap up to our brief but enlightening conversation. To learn more about the Hope Center’s programmes and to follow their progress, join Hope- for exceptional needs on Facebook. Check out their website too, expected to go live in a few days’ time.

The Road Home. An Exclusive Interview with Director and Film-maker Rahul Gandotra.

Rahul Gandotra’s short film, The Road Home was short-listed for the Academy Awards in 2012. The Road Home is a short film about a boy named Pico who runs away from Woodstock, a boarding school in the Himalayas, with a return ticket to Britain in hand. Pico may look like he belongs in the Himalayas or that he’s from an Indian descent but his British nationality is something that others around him find hard to accept. Pico tries to get to New Delhi and encounters people who softly push him into realizing that others don’t see him the way he sees himself. After finishing his undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan, Rahul attended the London Film School for Masters in Film Directing. For his Masters thesis he traveled to the Himalayas to shoot for The Road Home. He released the short film for free, and intends to make a full-length feature using the same plot. The trailer and additional information can be viewed on The Road Home Official Site. The underlying issues in the movie are pertinent in understanding today’s globalized society, and particularly poignant for the expat community. The short film leaves you with a deeper understanding of certain emotional issues surrounding globalization and the lingering feeling of displacement it leaves in many people. We at Jeddah Blog were very excited when Rahul Gandotra agreed to be interviewed, and our brilliant and resourceful writer Zareen Muzaffar set out to capture this exclusive story. You will all be surprised also, by a certain connection Rahul has with Saudi Arabia. Read on to discover more about Rahul Gandotra, his short movie, his life and experiences. How did you enter filmmaking and what was the journey like? I was pursuing professional sports at university when I got injured. To pass my time I picked up a camera which later graduated into a video camera and I started taking photography and film-making courses. At the same time I was about to graduate from university and started applying for management consultant jobs. My professor who had seen my work during the course told me I should seriously think of getting into the field. I think my fear of going into film-making had to do with the fact that I was disappointed with a lot of the films out there. So you could say the interest was there, but I kept delaying the decision till the very end. I started making short movies on my own. Sure, I was making mistakes but I was learning on my own. Honestly, I just slipped into this film-making profession and it has been a long path. The Road Home was part of my master thesis project. What led you to make this short film. How did this concept and idea come to you? While I was in Prague for a year, one of my teachers really encouraged me to make a movie about my life. I became interested in the idea, especially as I had built some connections, and had even written a script whose theme revolved around the search for home and identity. The topic was very close to me. The idea kept on flipping in my head till I decided to make an autobiographical account of my time spent at Woodstock.  Search for home and a search for identity became the main underlying theme of my short.

Rahul Gandotra filming on set.

Rahul Gandotra filming on set.

How long did it take to film this movie? I didn’t have the proper film budget but it took 2 years for the whole process and six to seven months to write the script. Once the script was finalized we got into some intense pre-production. We spent about two months in India shooting for the film. While you were making this movie, did you have a particular audience in mind? Who were you reaching out to? In a way it was in defense of my ‘self’ and my experiences as a traveler. There was always this constant question of who I am. It gets frustrating with time because how you feel is different from what people see you as. When I went to India to shoot the movie, I was introduced to this book Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds by David C. Pollock and Van Ruth E. Reken. The book is basically about the children who have been raised in multiple cultures during their foundational and developmental years, such that they don’t really fit into any one culture. That book described me really well. I realized these are the type of people I am making the film for and that this film is for anyone who questions where they are from, at any time of their life. Any one who has had an outsider experience or has left their country can relate to this movie. You have traveled extensively and lived in different countries. Tell us about your experiences as an expatriate (particularly while you were in the Middle East). I was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, grew up in eight countries across Europe, the Middle East, Asia and America. I lived in Riyadh between the age of 6 and 9. So my memories are from a child’s perspective. It was a lot of fun, I went to an American school, and lived in a compound. I spent some time living in Yanbu as well. The time I spent in Saudi Arabia was very enjoyable and I am sure my parents’ experiences were different than mine. So, where do you feel ‘at home’? Nowhere [laughs] Would it be safe to say home is everywhere? No [laughs again] What do you think is the impact of globalization on one’s authentic self? Does it survive? I would say in my case, it is a very extreme version because I have moved around quite a lot. I think it’s a double-edged sword. At one end, I had a very unique upbringing, for example I didn’t have to read about Ramadan, I lived through it while I was in Saudi Arabia. The sound of call to prayer is very soothing to me, so for me, all these are good memories. It may be something completely different to another person, so it depends on one’s personality too. You get to see the world in the flesh rather than reading about it. On the flip side, I moved around so much I feel I’ve lost the sense of community. I’ve lost count of the number of times I had to throw away things and then had to buy them again. Building your community and home again gets tiring. People think its a vacation, but its not. They associate travel with vacation but it’s not the same thing. You are not coming back to your surroundings, you are building it all again. There are some unintended consequences of moving around too much; you forget how long it takes for people to put their trust in you or how long it takes to build your community. Can you tell us about your next project? I have written a full-length feature version of The Road Home and that will be my directorial debut. Working with Andreas Eigenmann, I have turned Pico’s story into a coming-of-age adventure road movie. The feature script is faster-paced than the short. Lastly, since The Road Home was an autobiographical account, what would you tell Pico, or how would you address the internal conflict he goes through in the movie? That’s a tough question. When I was a nine year old, I wasn’t so eloquent or knowledgeable. I didn’t have the third culture book to tell me whats happening. There is a certain level of restraint, and its too much to ask of a nine year old. I read that a lot of third-culture kids handle culture in 3 ways: There are chameleons, the ones who blend into the society and basically avoid sharing their rich history; there’s the wallflower, those who avoid people and don’t interact much and then there’s the screamer. They are the ones who say “I am going to tell you who I am no matter what you think I am”, and obviously Pico and myself is the screamer. I wouldn’t stand anyone telling me who I was, and the number of hours of discussions I’ve had in life are too many to count. Ironically, if I hadn’t been through all these experiences, I probably wouldn’t have made the film. It has been something that has been a large part of my life. Special thanks to Rahul Gandotra for sharing his thoughts and views with us. To see more, you can go through this sampler pack  including commentaries, interviews, photos, wallpaper, internet resources, and a link to the film for free.

What do you miss about home living here in Saudi Arabia?

I started out asking expat ladies in Jeddah which things they miss from their home country, and which were unavailable in Jeddah. I expected I would get a long list of grocery items in response, but some of the more detailed answers surprised me a great deal. I was also pleasantly surprised by the number of responses I received, and even though I know this’ll make a long blog post, I’d like to include them all.

Chilgozas,  Pine nuts

Pine nuts (chilgozas)

Among the edibles that people missed the most were cottage cheese (their own special local brand), falooda (a type of noodle in the form of a dessert eaten in Pakistan), chilghozay (roasted pine nuts) and ‘andaa shamee burger’ (burger filled with chicken and egg).

Clothing was another item whose absence is felt in Jeddah. In particular ‘lawn’ a very light, breezy material available in the Indian sub-continent and ready-made, quality shalwar qameez (long shirts and pants worn in South-East Asia). A recurring issue with regards to buying clothing here in Saudi Arabia is the absence of fitting rooms for ladies and the difficulty one faces in buying clothes without trying them on first resulting in much time and effort wasted when the ill-fitting clothes have to be returned.

Rehab, an expat from Egypt said she missed “getting out early in the morning on Fridays and Saturdays to the club in marvellous weather at temperatures of about 19°C”.


Exotic tea

One of the more moving responses was from Naureen who wrote: “I miss the people-ness of back home, the feel of a house full of humans, peering eyes, helpful hands, encouraging and reprimanding voices. I miss the chaos and the clutter, the disorder, and the synergy that seems to hold it all together miraculously and running forever. I miss the presence of three generations under one roof and the sense of security, continuity and connectedness it brings. I miss unexpected visitors. I miss the frequency and mystery of doorbells. I miss the fact that my child feels eternally loved and at peace and doesn’t need to be ‘entertained’ artificially like he needs to here. I love the luxury of having nature close at hand, my front lawn, my back garden, Model Town Park. Grass, mud, rain in full force, puddle water. I miss the free phone calls to my sister and friends. I miss the feel of seasons, the ruthlessness of extremes. The scorching, unforgiving heat and the chill biting to the bone. I miss the ceremonial ‘baksa-unloading’ (unpacking of suitcases) sequence before each season.”

Understandably, ladies missed being able to drive for the sheer convenience of it, and walking openly in the streets without getting strange glances from strangers.

Mandy, a lady from Canada says, “I miss driving my car, going to the movies and trying on clothes in a store. Getting something home and finding it doesn’t fit or looks awful on is such a pain. Shops being open all day would also be nice. Apart from those things Jeddah has a pretty good variety of goods available. I do find it hard to get good tea here so I have people send it to me or bring it from South Africa, Canada or UK.”

Basant, kite-flying festivities

Basant, kite-flying festivities

Qurratulain Sikander who originates from Lahore in Pakistan remembers, “the gol gappas from Liberty Market, Dahi Bhallay from Punjab University Bridge, and of course the Bhel Puri from Chatkhara!!! Sadly none have ever been brought here…and nothing here has been at par of that taste :(. I miss my freedom of owning and driving my own car/ second closet, which was my means of transport and my room outside the house. I miss the wedding season and the Basant (kite-flying) season. The celebrations, dressing up, food, hangama, dancing – nowhere else in the world is it the same!”

“I miss shops being open all day, driving somewhere to get something quickly, walking down streets looking in people’s front gardens and windows! seeing what girls are wearing out and about. BUT only missing it a little bit.” remarked A, a lady who recently moved to Jeddah.

'Flower heaven'.

‘Flower heaven’.

Alina Farhan, who hails from Lahore, Pakistan pines, “I miss the way the air smells in Lahore, like old dried leaves being burnt, like the earth after a sudden downpour, like the car/ motorcycle/ noisy rickshaw exhaust fumes coupled with the motia (jasmine) garlands the little boys at the traffic lights are selling, like when you enter Y-Block Defence and you can smell Packages from miles away, or when you cross McDonalds and you can literally see apple pies and cappuccinos swimming in front of your eyes, like when I reach Ami’s place and the lawn has been watered, or when you enter the house, you know what’s cooking for lunch – chicken pulao (rice) and yellow daal (lentils) and chicken karahi. I miss the sights of Lahore Liberty and the crazy shopping, lawn prints, exhibitions helter skelter, greenery so beautiful it makes your heart sing, flowers during spring. Have you ever been to the flower exhibitions or Defence Club or LUMS during spring? It’s like flower heaven. And then social butterfly type Aunties going around in their Honda’s with sunglasses perched high up their foreheads, picture perfect make-up and clothes, wearing the latest Gul Ahmed, the tongas (horse carts) and the donkey carts on the same road as an Audi. M.M. Alam road’s cafe crazy generation. But above all else I miss my people. One can still get food here. You just need to go to Azizyah and you can get halwa poori and samosay and everything. There’s even a great place for gol gappay and paans but for people there is no substitute.”

Ladies' Fitting Rooms

Fitting Rooms

Another lady, Amina, wrote the following in response to the things she missed the most in Jeddah: “playing in the rain, the ability to haggle on prices because you speak the same language, shopping because you have try-rooms and don’t have to change 75% of your purchases because you under-estimate your size all the time, and the ability to play and shout and giggle with your kids in a public place without people looking at you.”

A big thank you to all the lovely ladies who took out the time to answer the question posed and articulate their thoughts – you all know who you are!! And thank you to those of you who are regular readers of Jeddah Blog 🙂

Revisiting That Jeddah Podcast: An Interview with Diana, co-host and blogger.

We’ve written about That Jeddah Podcast before – about why they’re awesome and why we ‘like’ them. We ‘like’ them for their randomness, their charming quirkiness and their cast of characters. This time Anousha Vakani speaks to Diana, co-host and blogger, about the inception of the podcast, the process of recording each episode and much more! 

How and when did you start the podcast? Where did you get the inspiration to start a podcast and how did you launch the idea?

I’m a fan of podcasts. I especially like informative ones like Stuff You Should Know and Neil deGrasse Tyson’s StarTalk, and comedy ones like The Nerdist and (the now-defunct) The Exploding Sandwich.

In 2009, I recorded fake interviews with my friends in Jeddah, and later that year, posted them on my blog as a joke. Early 2010, perhaps also as a joke, Fayiz Melibary set up an iTunes account for a Jeddah Podcast, and this was what “forced” me to just go ahead, make it official and register it in the iTunes podcast directory.

What advice would you give someone who wanted to start a podcast in Saudi Arabia? Is it generally easy or difficult to set up and maintain?

Launching a podcast is extremely easy because of its nature. You record an episode, post it online whenever you like, for free, and subscribers can listen to it whenever and wherever they want.

Whether or not the process of maintaining a podcast is difficult really depends on the producers. I encourage Jeddawis to podcast, it’s an easy enough platform to use if you’re looking to express yourself.

If you can commit to learning how to do it, and you have a general topic you like to discuss with friends, I say go for it. That Jeddah Podcast ultimately wants to be a one-stop-shop place for people to find podcasts that cater to the Jeddah community. Contact us, maybe we can help you.

Who are your listeners and what feedback do you get from them?

When TJP first started out, I thought it would only attract my friends as listeners, mainly because it features them. In the past couple of years, though, it has attracted the attention of many other English-speaking Saudis and expats within the Kingdom, including other cities like Riyadh and Dammam. We also have listeners from abroad, some of them Saudis who want to get updates about home, some of them non-Saudis who just want to get an idea of what it’s like living in Saudi Arabia.

It’s one of the most awesome things about having a podcast, being able to connect with these people with whom I have something in common – a hometown.

Generally, the feedback is good. We get requests on topics they’d want us to cover, or we get asked questions about places in Jeddah, common practices, recommendations. We’re not “experts” on Jeddah, but it’s nice to be treated like one.

What process do you go through to record one episode?

Outside Saudi Arabia, a podcast is the lowest-maintenance project you can start, but in Jeddah, there are challenges. Some of the things I’ve had to do were: schedule guests and co-hosts to record with me, find a quiet venue to record in, learn some technical things about podcasting (sound editing, feeds, some HTML/CSS), write or brainstorm topics for each episode, and promote the podcast on social media platforms. It takes lots of time and hard work, like most anything, really.

But then also, the beauty of having a podcast is that it doesn’t have to be “conventional radio,” if that makes sense. Every now and then, I’d record a “rogue” unscheduled episode, where I just show up with a mic/recorder at a hangout with friends and record what’s being said. No need for formality.

How do you decide on topics? What topics do you think come up again and again? And what topics do you avoid?

As a general rule, we stay away from the topics of government and religion. We pick topics we know well. When in doubt, I always just think: “would I listen to this episode?” We like sci-fi, pop culture, fitness, the internet, music, the sciences, languages, literature; these things interest us, and we try to stay within the bounds of our interests. Otherwise, they come off as pretentious. Nobody wants that.

We always seem to come back to topics about Jeddah, which is a good thing. There are many episodes about our culture here, what it’s like to live here, what places we go to, what we do at certain social situations.

You were mentioned on BBC a few months ago, what was that like?

That was a nice spike in our traffic. I wish I could say it propelled us to celebrity status.

Do you think you are contributing to some sort of change in Saudi Arabia or in the way the rest of the world might view Saudi and its people? 

That’s huge. The quick answer is “no”. We’re not political. We like information, and we like entertainment, and that’s what we have to offer.

We’re implementing some (good) changes, or additions, to the podcast as we speak. We are going to introduce more team members, more podcasts and more segments. If this contributes some good to the society, hey, how about that.

The Mad Traveller Comes to Jeddah!

Paul Hudspith, British Airways cabin crew member, has been making videos of his travels every week since 2004. Paul always travels with his (very cool) Brompton foldable bicycle, cycling even under the sweltering sun of Saudi Arabia. The Mad Traveller’s videos can be found on his YouTube channel bromptonglobetrotter

While Paul had already been to Riyadh earlier in 2011, he most recently made a video on his visit to Jeddah where he talks about the scorching weather, the beautiful architecture, the open-air art museum around the Corniche and his visit to Balad. We were very lucky to catch hold of Paul and speak to him about his travels, his videos and his visit to Jeddah. 

Paul, you work for British Airways. Is this what inspires your love of travelling?

I’ve worked as a cabin crew with BA for nine years now and yes, the job does inspire me a lot but it’s mainly exposure to nature programmes as a young child that really gave me a huge appetite to explore the wider world around me. The job is really more of an excellent tool to enable many of my dreams to become a reality.

Paul's first camera operator and fellow Couchsurfer member, Mo.

Paul’s first camera operator and fellow Couchsurfer member, Mo.

Of all the Mad Traveller videos you’ve made around the world, which is your favourite?

I’ve been making videos ever since my first trip as crew – which was to Warsaw, Poland on an extremely cold winters’ day in January 2004. Since that first not-so-confident presentation, I’ve developed my shows to the programme format you’ve seen.

Choosing a favourite is always tricky but I would say my top three are: Hong Kong, San Francisco and Tokyo. India is also a fascinating place.

Paul's second camera operator and fellow Couchsurfer member Toni Riethmaier.

Paul’s second camera operator and fellow Couchsurfer member Toni Riethmaier.

You mentioned some myths and preconceptions about Jeddah in your video. What surprised you the most?

The myths and preconceptions I mentioned referred to Saudi Arabia in general and I would say that the biggest surprise so far has been how amazingly peaceful the cities are. There’s an eerie sense of calm everywhere you go. The allowing of men to wear shorts also came as a surprise.

A visit to the Gold Souk. Paul buys gold on his visit to Jeddah.

A visit to the Gold Souk. Paul buys gold on his visit to Jeddah.

Your favourite part of Jeddah?

My favourite spot in the city was the coast (Corniche) – beautiful clear waters and an easy ride along the shore line, and some very quirky public displays of art!

Cycling along the Corniche.

Cycling along the Corniche.

How long did it take you to film the video?

The video took around 6 hours to produce and included the time it took to cycle from Jeddah airport to the hotel. The second half was then filmed in the evening.

Presenting on the Corniche.

Presenting on the Corniche.

 How did you come to choose Jeddah as one of your destinations?

It wasn’t solely my idea to come to Jeddah – I was rostered to operate the flight as crew. I’m randomly rostered to fly to an average of  any 4 global cities served by BA from London per month which could be anywhere in North or South America, Asia, Africa or the Middle East.

And finally, here is the final Mad Traveller video, This Week in Jeddah:

Delectable Desserts with Lama Al Khereiji

For our latest blog post, Zareen Muzaffar managed to chase down Lama Al Khereiji as she participated in the Brides Bazaar at Dar Al Hekma College held on the 5th and 6th of March 2013, and chatted with her about her love of baking.

Anyone who has been to Jeddah knows this city has an amazing variety of food to offer. International franchises and local delicacies offer a unique combination to food lovers. And who doesn’t like desserts? Making home-made desserts and baked goods is a fast growing business for home makers as well as professional connoisseurs. Lama Al Khereiji is a young and passionate chef who creates unique baked goods for her clients.

Could you resist these?

Could you resist these luscious chocolates?

“I discovered my passion for baking and dessert decoration when I was very young,” explains Lama. “I watched cooking channels and went through numerous printed recipes to begin with. Then I completed several courses to enhance my skills, and now I have more than 14 types of delicious desserts with unique presentations”.


Carrot cake – looks almost too good to eat?

For children, there is a wide variety of desserts to choose from: cupcakes, cake pops, and birthday cakes customized according to your preference of characters. For adults, there are some intricately designed cakes good for birthdays or any other special occasion.

Delightfully fun cupcakes.

Delightfully fun cupcakes.

She operates her business from Khalidiya district in Jeddah and one of her famous offerings include Nutella cookies, an all-time favorite for children and adults alike. Some of the popular items include Galaxy, Oreo and carrot cupcakes, Malteasers Mudcake, and pistachio cake. She also offers the famous local favourite Basbousa bites.

Oreo Cake

A cake for Oreo lovers.

Lama markets her desserts on Instagram and holds online competitions occasionally.

If you want to place an order or to inquire more about Lama’s desserts, she can be reached at 0506040909.

CREAM – Meet the Style Specialists

As irresistible and luscious as its name, CREAM is a pleasure that is hard to resist. This exclusive outlet has well-established itself among fashionistas as a concept store – a  very selective, high-end lifestyle boutique that focuses on modernity and femininity.

CREAM specializes in style and is constantly in touch with the very latest catwalk designs. They are trendsetters, rather than followers of fashion. Jeddah Blog was lucky enough to score an exclusive interview with Dana Malhas, the driving force behind CREAM and we were able to delve a little into the idea behind setting up her own boutique, and what it is that inspires her.

What was the inspiration behind CREAM? Can you describe your journey towards setting up your own boutique?

When I graduated from the American University in Beirut and moved back to Jeddah, I noticed that there was a huge gap in the market for “up and coming designers”, the market was saturated with either high end brands like Gucci, Burberry, Armani..etc or low-end Brands like Zara, Bershka, Top Shop & so on. There was nothing in-between. I was 22 years old at that time, and like most girls, I was obsessed with fashion and everything related to it, especially styling & buying! So I decided to turn my passion into a business. I wanted to open a boutique where I can buy everything I like as I travel the world, style it the way I want, and fill in this gap in the market. I wanted to bring to Jeddah a lifestyle store where up and coming designers from all around the world meet, a boutique that has everything a girl needs, a place that has talented designers regardless of their age or nationality.. and CREAM Boutique in Beirut was the best candidate for that as it was my personal favourite boutique to shop in when I travel. So I brought it to Jeddah, expanded it majorly, started discovering new designers, and turned it into my fashion heaven. The best part is that I buy for my store, like I buy for my closet!

Vibrant Green mini-Clutch

Read more…

A Bonny blithe blue: An Interview with Layla of Blue Abbaya

The blue of ‘Blue Abbaya’ is a shade apart, merging a spirit of deep inner freedom and an infectiously positive attitude. Jeddah Blog chats with Laylah of Blue Abbaya, investigating the meaning of her blue, and generally, a lot of this and that.

The blue abbaya is both a symbol and an attitude for Laylah’s blog. It’s a posture of being respectful to local traditions while setting oneself apart from the crowd through personal taste. It is one of those blogs where the author’s personality comes out very strongly. You will recognize her ‘voice’ at once, and are unlikely to confuse it with another. Your instinct will tell you to stay on the good side of this blithe but aggressively positive person. She is witty and sharp-tongued on a good day, and best to avoid on a bad day, we reckon. And her blog comes with a warning for the humorously challenged.

Reading her blog, one traverses two regions equally mysterious to many – Finland and Saudi Arabia, and her blog pierces the mystery of both lands to offer us a window into both cultures through the eyes of somebody who embodies them both to some extent.

After surviving the tragic-comical challenge of a wedding à la Saoudienne, it’s been a mildly bumpy ride, to say the least, but her Finnish hardiness has helped her keep her feet firmly on the ground. Some unavoidable, amusing and enlightening comparisons between the Finnish and the Saudi way of life, whether they emerged unconsciously as survival tactics, or as a conscious reflection about the cultural polarity she embodies, make for some delightful traipsing for the culture vulture. Scandinavian ice and deserts of Arabia are physical reliefs, but like all environment, they become landscapes of the mind at some point. In ‘Blue Abbaya’, blue is the colour of the Finnish sky, and the abbaya is a cultural norm of Saudi Arabia. In its name and its nature, the blog is defined by the richly opposed but co-existing worlds that the author is part of, and the best and worst of which peppers her real and virtual space.

Read more…

Interview: All You Wanted To Know About Susie of Arabia

Jeddah Blog talks to Susie of Arabia about blogging, transitions, and the highs and lows of life in Saudi Arabia.

Prominent among the voices in the Saudi blogosphere are those of non-Saudi women married to Saudi men. As narratives of cultural experiences, this data is significant because the authors bring a natural ease of expression, documentary zest, outspokenness and an analytical bent of mind to bear upon their superset of experiences in Saudi Arabia. Being married to Saudis, they have a direct canal to the culture that they are tackling through the deep end – direct immersion. Where their clarity of observation, their willing embrace of a foreign culture, and the amusing contrasts between an Eastern and a Western culture meet, a thing of great value and beauty is created. ‘Susie’s big adventure’ was among the earliest blogs written by an expat. Along with Carol Fleming of the well-known American Bedu, Susan has revealed her true identity, and shared very real and personal details on the blog. From the fairy-tale romance that led to her marriage to a Saudi, to her reasons for the move to the Kingdom and perhaps, most courageously and significantly, an intimate account of the emotional journey that the move was, what it meant in terms of cultural learning, loss of personal freedom, the real frustrations and difficulties of adjusting to a second culture diametrically opposed to her native culture, and finally, the apprehensions as the mother of a teenager straddling two completely different cultures. Read more…

Greenbox Museum: Pure Green Landscape of the mind

Aarnout Helb, the creator and curator of the museum of Saudi art in Amsterdam redefines green as well as the limits and power of human thought in a delightful and instructive conversation with Jeddah Blog.

The museum of contemporary Saudi art, Greenbox Museum, is a museum, it is safe to say, like no other. It is ‘kept’ by a man who is, it is safe to say, like few others. The museum is not located, as you would expect, in the well-known cosmopolitan cities of Riyadh or Jeddah, or for that matter, anywhere in the Kingdom or the Middle East. It is located, roughly a continent away, in the city of Amsterdam. It is not housed in a glossy high rise the likes of which dot the Middle East, but in a small and cozy space a little bigger than 6 by 12 square meters, on the fifth floor of an inconspicuous building, a stone’s throw from the better known Van Gogh Museum. Its creator and keeper is not a Saudi or a Muslim, but a Dutch who has never stepped foot inside the Kingdom, but who nonetheless looks to the gates of Mecca for guidance. “In the Quran, I read that Mecca is a guide for all human beings. For the moment, that includes me, and nobody should object.” Ostensibly, the museum’s aim is to serve no purpose but thought alone, and at present, it houses a small but significant collection of works by roughly six Saudi artists, displaying a range of works selected solely for the force of ideas they represent.

Aarnout Helb, the creator and curator of Greenbox Museum of contemporary Saudi art, talks to Jeddah Blog about how the museum came into being, how it stands today, and where he sees it headed.

Aarnout, you are a Dutch who has never visited Saudi Arabia, and yet, you are in a way, the ambassador for its art. Isn’t that just a little bit strange?

Karl May was a German, who never visited America, and was a successful writer of cowboy and Indian stories. I’m no less and no more strange than that.

The museum was born of your connection with Islam. What exactly is your connection with Islam?

My connection with Islam goes back all the way to my childhood. I inherited a box of family memorabilia with a postcard that belonged to my grandfather. It had been sent to him by his uncle. On this postcard, the word ‘Allah Taalah’ was inscribed on the four corners, and my grandfather’s uncle had done the calligraphy himself. He was Dutch, born of a Dutch father and a Javanese mother, himself married a Javanese wife, and converted to Islam.  Apart from the postcard, I received several colourful stories about him in my legacy. So, you can say that Islam was present by token since childhood. Then, living in the Netherlands, I was no stranger to Islam. It has always somewhat ‘been in the air’. To quote an example, Mohammad is the most popular name for newborns in Amsterdam and other big cities here. However, I became involved more directly with it in recent years, when I started reading the Quran myself.

A foot in several cultures: The rare and enchanting legacy that was passed on to Aarnout, and which informed, to a great extent, the course of his life. (Image by Aarnout Helb)

The museum itself was born out of the confluence of a couple of incidents. On a visit to Singapore, in the Malabar mosque, I accepted the Imam’s invitation for a cup of tea, and over tea, I asked him if he could show me where it was written in the Quran that respected and interested travel to Mecca was forbidden to non-Muslims. I’m a lawyer by training, so I wanted to understand what the legislation was that led to this assumption. Well, he couldn’t answer me, and having left the discourse, I’m not really bothered by the question any more – Saudi Arabia is very hot anyways to my knowledge- but to some extent, my museum is the metamorphosis of this legal question. If I couldn’t go to Mecca, I could bring Mecca to me indirectly. I conceived the museum as a virtual voyage to Mecca. Another factor was crucial in the creation of the museum. A Dutch film maker, Theo van Gogh, who I used to meet at my barbershop, was murdered by a confused young Dutch Muslim. Theo made documentaries, and in his own way, was trying to understand Islam. His manner was often offensive to Muslims, but I do know that he was genuinely trying to understand them and paying them respect instead of ignoring them. The incident made me realize that we are divided in the head, and that nothing will change unless things are not set right in our heads. The museum was conceived as a space for a healthy, open-minded and ongoing discussion, leading people in through curiosity.

From the looks of it, Abdulnasser Gharem was turning the same question over in his mind not so long ago. ‘The Road to Makkah’, stamp painting by Abdulnasser Gharem. Image from

You see the museum as a space of the mind?

Essentially, yes. I collect artworks based on the merit of their ideas, and use them as portals to ideas. I’m hosting a space in which ideas can flow freely, in an open, non judgmental way. My space is very limited in terms of square metres, but  large in terms of the mind. I have long passed the official White Cube museum in terms of facebook ‘likes’. The museum is not about paintings and statues and its intention is not to place art on an elevated position. It is about ideas, visual communication, research, curiosity and all of that in a pleasant way. Wearing a white dress does not mean the world is white and researching what goes on in terms of visual impulses we receive all day, actually strengthens people against all the misleading commercial and political information that is carried around, and which is, more often than not, the cause of misunderstandings and conflicts.

Outside views of the museum.

Limited in square metres, but infinite in possibility, imagination and the power to bridge divides.

Limited in square metres, but infinite in possibility, imagination and the power to bridge divides.

 What’s with the colour green?                                          

‘Talisman X-Ray’ by Ahmed Mater

The merit of ideas alone: ‘Allah’ from ‘The Language of Existence’ by Louloua Homoud.

The green on my walls first of all reflects my wish to take a designated interest. It’s like my statement of purpose. When I established the museum to research what different people make in terms of visual art from Mecca, I still wasn’t clear about the exact direction and about my later decision to house only art from Saudi Arabia. So, taking a cue from the first painting that entered the museum, which happened to be a very green landscape painting by Jan Heyse of a region down south in the Netherlands, I started painting the walls green. While I was still painting the walls, I realized that the color is also that of Islam. At this time, I acquired some work from the series ‘Yellow Cow’ by Ahmed Mater, and later, some more work by Saudi artists through the Edge of Arabia initiative. But I had works by non-Saudi artists as well till this time. The defining moment came when I realized in the course of my correspondence with Saudi artists Lulwah Al-Homoud, Reem Al-Faisal, and Maha Malluh how much they enjoyed this interest in art from their country, and that there was no such museum in KSA itself. That was the moment I decided to remove everything else and collect only works by those who share in having custody of Mecca. Mecca is the symbolic centre of Islam, all Muslims look Mecca-wards while praying. That was the key concept, I thought about the direction of the eyes of all Muslims. In that sense, I’m an artist, I see the oneness of things, and I will not compromise on the conceptual premise by sending eyes in all directions of the world. So, the green on my walls is the stamp of that conceptual commitment.

Do you collect based on a particular criterion? Is there a pattern? How is it going to be in the future?

I go by the ideas that the works represent. My museum is the size and nature of a cabinet of curiosities, and I intend to keep it that way. My aims are modest. I work on a small private budget. I don’t wish to expand beyond a certain limit and get into the whole business of getting sponsors. In the future, I intend to collect two works each year by young artists.

Regarding the whole concept of Islamic art, what is your perspective? Doesn’t concept art and its high creativity clash with the traditionally understood (or misunderstood) role of the artist as a re-arranger or a passive creator instead of an active one?

This is important. The greatest of all Dutch writers that ever lived, Multatuli, noted somewhere that artists and poets are only re-arrangers and never creators. I totally agree with this concept and this small museum – in some ways only an installation of a lawyer with a sketchbook – is of this serving and open minded character. Everything in the museum was handed to me from elsewhere at different moments in time and the only thing I do is take rational decisions, based on all that I know and meet, to channel a process that I earnestly believe that I do not own. My perspective to your question is that the concept of Islamic art is terribly damaging to Muslims. A wise man, perhaps long ago in Isfahan, once wrote on a new dinner plate, in his most accomplished handwriting, that there is only one God and that his name is Allah. The next day, or many years later, a Western ‘art expert’ got his hands on this plate and defined it as being of another God than his own and so completely defeated the artist’s intention. I think, to truly and strongly answer your question, that ‘Islamic art’ is a colonial coinage and definition and that Museums for Islamic art around the world are actually British prisons for the creativity of Muslims. Have you ever noticed how often such museums are consulted by people from European museums with colonial and anthropological collections?  I will tell you this. This little space that is Greenbox Museum breaks free of this tradition and is filled with ideas about the unity of all things. It by far transcends such heavily consulted Arab or Islamic projects in the Gulf or elsewhere, whatever their very best of intentions.

How do you feel about the profile of your museum as it is evolving now, the profiles of visitors and facebook ‘likers’? This museum of contemporary art from Saudi Arabia is attracting ‘likers’ from all over the Muslim world.

The museum has no predictions, no prognosis and no business model. As I said, I think Greenbox Museum transcends what others do in terms of art museums in relationship to Islam. That is how I interpret the ‘likes’ I gather on facebook. They are from Tanger in Morocco to Port Darwin In Australia, where somebody from  Indonesia lives who dresses his young son as a Saudi. The visitors in Amsterdam are less than I would like but there is so much to do here and I take things slowly, not wanting to spend money on advertising.  Most ‘likers’ are now from Indonesia, then Pakistan, and recently, a lot of Muslims from India as well as Algerians and Tunisians have been discovering the museum page. There are now 4500 Saudi Arabians who like the page.

What are the profiles of your real visitors? Do they consciously come looking for Saudi art or are they just dropping in to see just ‘a’ museum? What are their reactions?

They consciously come  looking for Saudi art and sometimes even fly in against my advise but combine it on a first visit to Amsterdam with the Van Gogh Museum. I do have the occasional Dutch lady and gentleman who have seen all other museums. In general, when they come, they spend at least an hour, viewing the work and then discussing with me. Western visitors always have simplistic clichés about Islam and Saudi Arabia and art related to the two, but I hope the museum does its part in realigning their perspective, if not dispelling the clichés altogether.  Of all visitors their surprise is complete, and although personal opinions and reactions vary, they all meet the unexpected. It opens people’s eyes. I think nobody walks out of the museum indifferent.

From what you tell, the museum came about as a happy accident. What would you be doing if you weren’t researching and collecting Saudi art?

‘Only Allah knows the unseen’.

Green is also the colour of fertility. The landscape of our mind is often rife with misconceptions, prejudices and false ideas about the nature of things. More than anything else, perhaps, the green of Greenbox represents the will and the courage to pluck out these weeds and to restore the pure green landscape of the mind.

All images reproduced courtesy the Greenbox Collection unless specified otherwise.


–          Naima Rashid

NobleBirth HypnoBirthing: An Interview with Andy Mayer

HypnoBirthing is a unique method of relaxed, natural childbirth education, enhanced by self-hypnosis techniques. HypnoBirtNoble Birthhing provides the missing link that allows women to use their natural instincts to bring about a safer, easier, more comfortable birthing.

Jeddah Blog spoke to Andy Mayer, Director of NobleBirth, currently living and working in Jeddah about the relatively new HypnoBirthing services available to expecting parents in Jeddah.

JB: Hi Andy! Firstly, how long has HypnoBirthing been practised in Jeddah, and how are classes conducted?

Andy: Hi! HypnoBirthing classes in Saudi Arabia are a new service. The classes are taught either privately in your own home or in groups with other expectant parents in Jeddah when applicable. Occasionally parents fly an educator to their city in the Middle East for private sessions. Recently we worked with a wonderful couple in The Emirates and another in the South of France.

JB: Why do parents opt for HypnoBirthing?

Andy: Parents choose to prepare for the birth of their baby using NobleBirth HypnoBirthing mainly because they have a desire to be in control and not fearful during labour or because their obstetrician has referred them to the course. Many parents would like to minimise drug use in labour so learn techniques to achieve this very wonderful goal. Some women just want to sleep better during pregnancy so the techniques give them that ability. Occasionally women having an elective c- section will attend classes because it prepares them for the surgery.

Read more…

Amal Al-Sultan’s Handmade Accessories

Amal Al-Sultan‘s handcrafted accessories are the perfect addition to any home. She designs pieces especially for their owners. From custom-made baby towels, to pillows, quilts and coasters, there is plenty to choose from. Every piece is handmade and can be crafted for that special person or occasion in your life.

Jeddah Blog got in touch with Amal Al-Sultan to find out more about her successful home-based business.

Amal, how long have you been living in Jeddah? Tell us about your family.

Amal:  I am Saudi and I’ve been living in Jeddah almost all of my life. I’ve lived in Riyadh, Bahrain and the US. I am married with 3 children and my children are all married with kids of their own !

Have you always loved stitching? How and when did you get the idea of starting up your own enterprise?

Amal: I started cross-stitching when I was young and I loved sewing too. I made lots of stuff for my house, my kids and grand-kids. When people saw my work they asked me to make things for them. That was when I thought of making it my business. It started 8 or 9 years ago.



Have you had any formal training in this field?

Amal: Yes, I took classes in quilting in NYC, then added cross stitching to them. Everything I make is one of a kind, and mainly for babies and little ones. Due to the time I spend on each quilt they are quite expensive. That is why I don’t make big quilts. All my work is handmade by myself. I don’t have help because I sign my name on it.

What is the price range of the quilts you make?

Amal: The quilt prices vary depending on the cross stitch they have, They start from SR1,500 upto maybe SR3,800 or even SR4,000 . I bring all the materials I use for babies from USA.




What other items do you make other than quilts?

Amal: I make diaper bags, pockets for toys, towels, things to carry babies in (like wraps ) when they get out of hospitals, bibs, gift bags, framed pictures, names on anything. cards I cross stitch on T shirts and PJs. I also make coasters which are quite popular. I try to do different things to keep my business going, but If I think there is anything requested of me and I can’t do it, I will say so upfront.

How long does a typical quilt take to make, let’s say from order to delivery?

Amal: A quilt will take up to four weeks. All other items maybe one to two weeks.

Do you get individual orders only or do you invite people to view your products?

Amal: I have had three exhibitions already, one of which was very successful.Now I’m trying to sell what I have made already.

For more information you can visit Amal’s website, or drop her an email.


Living the Dream – An Interview with Jane Stoops Smith

We, at Jeddah Blog, believe that beyond stereotypes and preconceived notions about people and places lies gold. For those who know how to dig for it. We are happy to showcase individuals who didn’t spend their stay in the Kingdom complaining about all that was wrong with the place, and who instead, interacted with the place in a positive and meaningful way. NaimaRashid tracks down Jane Smith, who fits our bill perfectly. We thank Jane for her time and for all the information she shared.

Few dare to dream, and even fewer make their dreams come true. Jane Stoops Smith, an 8 year-old girl from the sleepy little town of Yakima, Washington, saw a picture of the pyramids of Giza, and vowed to herself that she would see as much of the world as possible. Like someone possessed, she started writing to embassies of different countries for information and brochures. The fat packets from random embassies would be mailed to her, and away from the vigilant eyes of her mother, she would pore over them in wonder and amazement. She did that for ten years. At 18 years, right after high school, she joined the US army, and with her husband, Victor (also in the army), together they lived their great big travel dream. To date, they have been to thirty countries, and to some, more than once. ‘I have fulfilled my dream to an extent that even surprises me sometimes’, she says.

Dreams of pyramids, deserts, and faraway lands: a young girl gets dreaming of travels around the world.”Yakima, my home town, was a nice little place, but I was bored silly. I didn’t see any future for myself in that place, and needed to get out as soon as possible.”


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