Camel Cuteness: Souvenirs from Jeddah
Having been in Jeddah town for around five years now, and having gone back at least eight times, I was fast beginning to feel like I had exhausted all options for my ‘Arab souvenirs’. Friends and families back home had had just about enough of our regular take-homes of assorted dates and fancy nuts from Roasters. Most of the souvenir shops at Jarir Mall and Red Sea Mall were drastically over-priced.
When I come back to Jeddah, I often bring back traditional stuff for my Arab colleagues, something deeply traditional, with a strong feel of place, like Ajrak-printed bedsheets, embroidered cushion covers, and winter shawls. It leaves them elated and asking for more. I was looking for something along those lines, something that makes a very strong statement without necessarily inducing bankruptcy.
As they say, if you’re not a Muggle, magic finds a way to happen. So, where do I hit upon this goldmine of cuteness? In the departure lounge at the airport. Yes, apparently a new or a very recent addition, because I did not see this before, a brand called The Camel Company, which operates from Dubai UAE, has a whole range of souvenirs including notebooks, pens, wallets, cups, decorative plates, cushion covers, key chains, mouse pads, coasters, fridge magnets, paper weights and such.
The motifs are very Arab with a strong dash of color and spunk. The most refreshing part is definitely the colour palette, with bright and deep colours that just leap off the racks and beg purchase. The images for the brand are mostly clichés of the Arab landscape and way of life, but they are very artfully appropriated for a fun effect. They would have to be Arab in the broadest sense of the word, not necessarily Saudi per se, but I don’t think the benefactors of these souvenirs would be overly fussy about that.
I don’t know what takes the cup for cuteness, the multi-hued camel with the drooping lower lip, the palm-sized Bedouin girl and boy in authentic Bedouin costume, the mosque sprouting out of desert ground on a set of coasters, the notebook with the ornate calligraphy or the fridge magnets that look like little jewels. For the moment, they look like they’re all winning, and I’m taking them all!