BEIRUT: Ramadan can be a great occasion for the gathering of friends, families and communities. This sense of gathering gives artists and merchandisers an opportunity to receive exposure for their work, especially if they are bent on keeping certain traditions alive, such as calligraphy, henna design and engravings.
In the wake of this spirit, Zaitunay bay was transformed into an oriental festival. “Layali Ramadan” or “Nights of Ramadan” is a festival showcasing the best works of various artisans, chocolatiers, painters, calligraphers, henna designers and yoga practitioners (not to mention fortune tellers!)
“At first, we contacted malls and explained to them our idea of having such an event, but they weren’t having it,” Rouaida Abou Samra, the main organizer of the event, told Annahar. “This drove us to Zaitunay bay and I’m very happy it did. The management has been very generous and cooperative with our needs as exhibitors,” she added.
Abou Samra is also participating in the festival herself as a live portrait and caricature painter, among other painters who are displaying their work. The themes of the paintings displayed vary from nature to more abstract undertones.
As for the handmade accessories, they are the works of Eliane Beirouty, founder of Elo Spiritual Charms, and Nadine Chahine, founder of Calypso, who both rely on social media to sell their work. Both use different kinds of beads, crystals, semi-precious stones and Swarovski to make multi-colored bracelets and necklaces.
Beirouty relies on her own talent in making accessories, while Chahine supports her daughter in making colorful Brazilian bracelets by painting patterns on smooth stones. “I like to paint when I’m at home, and my daughter is also a dancer; so you can say we’re a family of creatives,” Chahine told Annahar. She and Beirouty deliver all over Lebanon by partnering with delivery companies.
One group initiative that has been working on keeping Arabic calligraphy alive for the past two years is “Bel_3arabeh,” which translates into “in Arabic.” It’s a team of six who work on selling paintings, mugs, narguileh, wax items, trays and other items decorated with calligraphy.
“It started as a hobby. We used to draw on mugs,” Zeina, one of the members of the team, told Annahar. “We then began using social media and relied on word of mouth to spread our message. We now have over 22,000 followers on Instagram, and the feedback we get is overwhelming.”
The team of “Bel_3arabeh” works hard to deliver all over the world, especially to Arab countries like Qatar and Dubai. As for the prices of the paintings, they can range from $65 to a whopping $5000.
Another art form present in the festival is yoga and the accessories related to it. Yogaist Celia Zawitt travels the world with her business partners seeking spirituality, as well as business contacts that she can rely on to help her buy and sell unique items at her store in Araya.
She sells handmade bracelets, wallets, singing bowls, pipes, bogues, hand bags, yoga matts and other items. “I have traveled to Nepal, Venezuela, Dubai, Egypt and other places. Each time I buy special handmade items to sell, or I hand over my own designs so they can be executed there,” Zawitt said. Her aim is to spread spirituality and the practice of yoga as far as she can.
Culinary experiences were also an essential part of the festival, as chocolatier Najwa Mhanna and Hassan Kaoury, founder of The Turkish House shop, offered their most delectable treats. Mhanna offered sweets like dates, chocolates, sugar and nuts. She also sold handmade kitchen accessories like Turkish tea cups, painted coffee cups, engraved copper trays and hand made door hangers.
As for Kaoury, he offers all kinds of dried foods that are imported straight from Turkey, like dried fruits, vegetables, sweets, spices and herbs, with and without added sugar. With a team of five, Kaoury delivers all over Lebanon. “We receive around 10 orders a day, and we’ve only been open a year or so,” Kholoud Hamieh, an employee at The Turkish House, told Annahar, adding: “We also sell online through social media.”
The festival will run until Friday May 26.
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