The Untitled Chair Project: A Collection of Portraits on Polaroids Inspired by the UAE

What would you do if you knew you had the choice to save a stranger’s life? What if I told you that the chance was in front of you at this very moment and involved very little discomfort or sacrifice?

Before the photographer Sean Blake lost his best friend Doug to Leukemia back in the mid 90’s, he made a vow to spread awareness about the need for bone marrow donors. The Untitled Chair Project, a photography initiative that has gone viral, is Sean’s heartfelt return on his promise to Doug.

Sean Blake's Camera

Sean Blake's Camera

Polaroid snaps of the artist and jewelry designer Nadine Kanso

Polaroid snaps of the artist and jewelry designer Nadine Kanso

When I invited Sean for a fancy cup of tea at the Ritz Carlton in Dubai, I was delighted when he showed up with his own seat—a neon red chair, which lit up the tastefully beige lobby and drew a number of curious but not unfriendly stares. Sean, who is originally from Texas and has the height, firm handshake and easy laugh of a fellow southerner, unbuckled a weathered messenger bag with “hub” the word for love in Arabic painted across the flap. He clumsily dropped a retro blue camera onto the table causing the china teacups to rattle dangerously.

The chair (which is from IKEA and covered in signatures) and the camera (which is a Diana F+) are the equipment Sean has used to spread a message of awareness across 92 countries in a most unusual way, beginning in the UAE. Sean tells me, “When I moved here I quickly made Emirati friends, and the way they offered hospitality and shared their culture completely changed my life. I wanted to do something to give back to the society.”

Sean's "love" bag and cool red kicks

Sean's "love" bag and cool red kicks

10259959_896949557001376_6818950263402391829_n

Having the long-term commitment to Doug steeping like mint leaves in the teapot of his mind, Sean did a little research and found out that of the 15.5 million registered bone marrow donors worldwide, only 90 are from the region. The number was so low simply due to a lack of awareness. A bone marrow transplant may be the best treatment option or even the only potential cure for patients with leukemia and more than 80 other life threatening diseases. Most patients don’t find a matching donor in their family and are completely dependent upon the donor database. Matches for bone marrow are needle in a haystack rare and typically come from the same ethnic group as the patient, which means that in order to save lives it is absolutely dire that more people register as potential donors.

Rather than pass out pamphlets or deliver a lecture, Sean began to snap pictures of the chair at various UAE landmarks and posting them online with GPS coordinates. He remembers, “First back in 2011, I offered a one of a kind polaroid to the first people to comment, which led me to send the originals all over the world. They went viral. I asked everyone to take a snap with the polaroid I'd sent them somewhere in their town and post it on social media, and soon I was getting back responses from all over Europe, Latin America, the USA, and Middle East.”

GPS Coordinates: 25.337267 55.390241

GPS Coordinates: 25.337267
55.390241

Phase two of the project (which remains ongoing) involves offering cost-free photography shoots to anyone who is willing to take on a commitment to the cause. Here are the rules according to Sean: “The participant gets to pick the location and time and I don’t give him or her any direction. They can show their personality and do anything they want with the chair as long as it doesn’t involve gazing directly into the camera.”

For each session Sean uses one pack of old school film containing only enough to snap ten photographs on the Diana F+. At the end of the session the participant chooses one to get signed and matted, which creates an opportunity for them to share the message with friends and family. Then they sign the chair as a sort of contract.

Nihal at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi, UAE

Nihal at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi, UAE

Sean's stories of the shoots are glorious. There was Nihal, the kind Sudanese woman who befriended Sean and his wife in line at a visa-granting office and asked to be shot outside Abu Dhabi’s iconic Grand Mosque. There was the artist Nadine Kanso who has a heart as golden as the jewelry she designs. There was even a Malaysian tourist who shared the photo with his mother, who turned out to be a famous vegan blogger and in turn encouraged a huge audience of Asian readers to become registered donors. The list goes on and the photos, one after the next, feel spontaneous and dream-infused as the film that Sean chose for the project.

Valentina from Solbiate Arno, Italy in Ras Al Khaimah

Valentina from Solbiate Arno, Italy in Ras Al Khaimah

I was embarrassingly ignorant about how to register and donate bone marrow, and assumed the process was painful and time-consuming, but Sean set me straight by explaining that it’s simply a matter of asking one’s family physician to swab a piece of cotton against the cells of the inner cheek and send the data in for analysis at a lab. That swab gets analyzed in a lab in order to identify your tissue type. If the information is an exact match for someone who is desperately in need of a donor, then you’re notified immediately. Otherwise your data goes on a list of potential future matches. I nearly teared up when Sean said, “All I want to do is prevent someone else having to go through the pain that our family went through in losing Doug.”

A shoot on the beach boardwalk of Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi

A shoot on the beach boardwalk of Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi

The Lebanese artist and designer Nadine Kanso

The Lebanese artist and designer Nadine Kanso

After our tea (which thankfully did not involve any broken fine china), we wandered among the galleries in DIFC, where Sean shot me writing a poem in my yellow notebook while seated on the red chair beside a favorite pink sculpture. I was honored to sit on the chair and will be asking my physician to assist in adding my name to the list of Bone Marrow donors at our next appointment. Who knows…it might just save a stranger’s life one day.

Here I am in DIFC on a rainy morning, in conversation with the red chair

Here I am in DIFC on a rainy morning, in conversation with the red chair

Good Ideas: You can follow Sean Blake and learn more about how you can get involved with The Untitled Chair Project here: http://theuntitledchairproject.blogspot.ae

To read more about registering to be a donor visit: http://bethematch.org

Photo Credits: Courtesy of Sean Blake and the Untitled Chair Project

10171624_879189028777429_1169046034413512676_n

Related posts:

Share your thoughts

Khalid Mezaina's Porta-Mosque

It’s all about a messy bedroom art studio, pencil stubs, pocket-sized sketchbooks, and a day job. Khalid Mezaina has teamed up with Capsule Arts to release a limited edition print for Ramadan. The piece highlights the GCC institution of the porta-mosque, temporary mosques that can be found all over the region to give people the chance to pray while driving on major highways, working in construction zones, or living in rural areas away from a formal, permanent sacred space. By using his signature whimsical graphic style to illustrate an informal cultural institution, the print elevates the porta-mosque to pop culture status.

Read on for my interview with the Dubai-based illustrator known for his documentary take on UAE life. Our discussion is punctuated by Khalid’s photography of local porta-mosques:

Porta Mosque 1

DL: What was it like to grow up in Dubai and when did you first start documenting life here through drawing?

KM: Looking back, growing up in Dubai seemed to be like any other normal childhood. The fast changes happening in the city felt normal to me because I assumed it was happening everywhere else as well! It was only when I grew up that I realized that the city changed so much in such a short timeframe. I look at it as growing up ‘with’ Dubai, rather than growing up ‘in’ it. Just like me, I think the city was, and still is, evolving, defining who it is and its place in the world.

Porta Mosque 2

DL: Is the porta-mosque particular to the UAE?

KM: I don’t think porta-mosques are specific to the UAE. They actually exist all over the region where there are construction sites, real estate developments or a labor force community. Even though these mosques are so simple in their construction, they still have so much character and individuality to them. These mosques tell stories about the communities that congregate within their space, and how religion is important and sacred no matter what social class you come from.

DL: How did you go about researching porta-mosques to illustrate for your print?

KM: I drove around Dubai (and other nearby UAE cities) taking quick photographs of existing porta-mosques for reference. Once back in the studio, I worked on one drawing, extracting elements and recreating my own version of a porta-mosque as a final illustration. Once I was satisfied with the penciled version, I inked the drawing, which is what you currently see as the final version.

Porta Mosque 4

Porta Mosque 3

DL: How and where do you typically draw and are you ever tempted to try other styles or mediums?

KM: As cliché as this might sound, I draw everywhere! From doodling during slow meetings, to sketching during my travels, I try to draw at every given chance. I carry sketchbooks with me everywhere, so all my artworks/illustrations always begin as a pencil drawing in my sketchbook, which I later ink and scan to modify as final versions.

I’ve always dabbled with other styles and mediums over the years. The two techniques I equally enjoy are drawing and screen-printing. But nothing ever satisfies me as much as drawing with a pencil/pen on paper.

The artist Khalid Mezaina as photographed by Tulip Hazbar

The artist Khalid Mezaina as photographed by Tulip Hazbar

DL: What is your studio like? Messy, neat-freak clean as a pin, covered in gum wrappers?

KM: My studio is also known as my bedroom. And my bedroom is absolutely messy! I am not proud of its current state and I wish I could be more organized. But this is what happens when everything you own is confined to a private, inhabited space. Definitely not messy to the point where you’ll find gum wrappers (I don’t chew gum)! But what you’ll find are lots of books, lots of magazines, lots of music, and lots of visually stimulating belongings I’ve collected over the years.

DL: You manage some significant arts initiatives at Tashkeel by day. How do you balance a full time job with your own artistic practice? Advice, please!

KM: Balancing a full time job with my own creative practice is very difficult. Both need equal attention and both need to be moving at a constant pace. I do find it a struggle at times. But overall I seem to be doing ok. My advice for anyone in a similar situation would be not to have both practices opposing each other. In fact, both should feed off each other and help rather than hinder. What I learn at Tashkeel definitely impacts my personal practice, and vice versa.

The limited edition print at Capsule Arts by Khalid Mezaina. Image courtesy of the artist and Capsule Arts

The limited edition print at Capsule Arts

Good Ideas: To learn more about the print visit Capsule Arts.

In the charitable spirit of Ramadan, the artist and Capsule Arts will donate 25% of the proceeds from each print to The Big Heart Campaign, a Dubai-based fund that supports Syrian refugee children in countries including Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Jordan.

Photo Credits: Photographs of the porta-mosques were taken by Khalid Mezaina and are shared with his permission.

Related posts:

Share your thoughts

The Antiquities Artist: Kate Toledo

Kate Toledo has slicked back pink hair and the enchanting mannerisms of a classic Hollywood film star, including the habit of calling everyone darling. As a native Kiwi transplanted to Brazil and most recently the UAE, her accent is soft and untraceable, which makes her all the more mysterious. We met as students in Chelsea College of Art’s short course on curating and I wanted to learn more about the woman who dresses in muted whites and grays, yet paints in brilliant colors and is known for her line of antiquity-inspired screen printed silk scarves.

Inside Doha's Museum of Islamic Art designed by architect I.M. Pei

Inside Doha's Museum of Islamic Art designed by architect I.M. Pei

The 12th century Persian dove incense burner from the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha that initially jump-started Kate's commitment to Middle Eastern art

The 12th century Persian dove incense burner from the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha that initially jump-started Kate's commitment to Middle Eastern art

The artifact inspired a painting

The artifact inspired a painting

A few months later I got my wish and was sipping sparkling San Pellegrino in Kate’s Dubai villa one afternoon, snooping through her art collection and bookshelves. When I visit someone I always go straight to their bookshelf to see what they read—I’m not even coy about it. Looking over someone’s books can be more personal than scrounging through their bathroom medicine cabinet or shoe closet. The art collected by Kate and her husband whom she affectionately calls Doc— was mainly Middle Eastern, frequently sourced from Rose Issa’s gallery, and the books, crammed two rows thick are from the library of Kate’s late father—like father, like daughter—Kate only reads historic biographies. There was also a pronounced obsession with furniture and artifacts originating from Maoist China.

Unusually enough, Kate’s own paintings and scarves were scattered throughout the living and dining rooms. Unlike most artists, who would rather be buried alive then surrounded by their own work, it doesn't make her crazy. She confided, “Darling, the things I’m drawn to come from museums and are usually so precious and irreplaceable that I could never own them because they belong to everybody.” For this reason, her entire practice is heavily influenced by antiquities found in museum collections.

Kate in her pre-pink hair days at the Ras al Khaimeh Fine Arts Fair, 20 February 2014. Explaining the story behind the Lynx scarf to RAK's Crown Prince at the  Banyan Tree Al Wadi

Kate in her pre-pink hair days at the Ras al Khaimeh Fine Arts Fair, 20 February 2014.
Explaining the story behind the Lynx scarf to RAK's Crown Prince at the
Banyan Tree Al Wadi

This habit of documenting and reinterpreting artifacts began twenty years ago in the soaring cathedrals of Brazil, a country she found herself transported to after a whirlwind romance culminating in marriage to Doc, a Brazilian plastic surgeon she met by chance one sun-drenched Christmas on the island of Tortola. Even though she was meant to jet back to Wellington (where she was based at the time), Kate reminisces, “I did a massive detour and stopped off in Sao Paulo” and ended up staying for Carnival. “My introduction to Brazil was dressing up as Carmen Miranda in a hat with all the plastic fruit on top, dancing samba down the main boulevard in Rio.”

When she first arrived in Rio, Kate dressed up just like Carmen Miranda, the Brazilian actress, dancer, and singer

When she first arrived in Rio, Kate dressed up just like Carmen Miranda, the Brazilian actress, dancer, and singer

It was while settling into the tempo of life in South America that she began to paint in order to make sense of her coordinates in relation to her adopted culture, eventually enrolling in three years of art school. Her work during that period was all on canvas and in response to the ornate details of Brazil’s Catholic icons.

The painting gave birth to a silk scarf

The painting gave birth to a silk scarf

The inner sanctum of Kate Toledo's Dubai-based studio

The inner sanctum of Kate Toledo's Dubai-based studio

Two daughters and several art exhibitions later, Kate and her family relocated to Dubai. Although she liked the city from the start, it took her Carnival-soaked eyes some time to adjust to the subtlety of pigments in the Middle East’s dunes and traditional coral buildings. Initially everything was sand-colored and as an artist who had always relied heavily on the rich symbolism of colors, she experienced a case of creative agoraphobia. But this period of compression eventually led her to grow, “I was forced to pay more attention the repeated patterns prevalent in Islamic architecture—beginning with the windows and doorways in the old houses of Al Fahidi (formerly known as Bastikiya). A trip to the fabled Museum of Islamic Art in Doha later, and her imagination was completely taken with a Persian 12th century incense burner shaped like a dove. She bought a copy of the catalogue and ran her manicured fingers over the artifact’s glossy image and description, turning it over and over in her mind as though it held a secret she was meant to open.

Al Fahidi District in Dubai. Courtesy of Al Fahidi Historic District Culture Centre

Al Fahidi District in Dubai. Courtesy of Al Fahidi Historic District Culture Centre

A pair of Syrian earrings from the Museum of Islamic Art's permanent collection

A pair of Syrian earrings from the Museum of Islamic Art's permanent collection

An incense burner in the shape of a lynx from the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha

An incense burner in the shape of a lynx from the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha

It began with quite a large painting inspired by the incense burner. Then another of a fierce lynx, and finally a pair of shining gold Syrian earrings—the kind a bride might have received as part of her dowry hundreds of years ago. Next came the visit to the 2012 Grayson Perry exhibition, “The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman” at London’s British Museum. Kate recalls, “By chance I visited the museum’s gift shop and found a scarf by the artist. I was able to purchase it and thought, well now even though I don’t have a signed work of art, I do have a bit of Grayson Perry. I’d always been painting on large canvases and I realized I could also make my art accessible to collectors who didn’t have enough space or money for the original.”

1477492_487255334721549_1206331441_n

She immediately got to work adapting her paintings to screen printed scarves constructed from silk and produced in a family run workshop in Cuomo, Italy. The dove scarf came out in 2012, followed by a series of others, all of which can be found draped elegantly across the shoulders of women at art openings, or rolled and tied in loose knots around the heads of stylish 20-somethings in the city’s beachside cafes. As a garment and object of art, the scarf—whether worn as a hijab (veil) for traditional reasons or not—could not be more grounded in the every day lives of women in the Middle East. Before I caught a cab home in the boiling summer heat, Kate led me to her inner sanctum—her studio—which is a surprisingly tidy nest of paint tubes, dog eared art books. “Darling,” I wanted to say to her, “Let’s dye my hair pink, light some candles, and paint here all night.”

600977_403422433104840_1256083101_n

Good Ideas: Visit Kate Toledo’s virtual studio for paintings and scarves here. To view her collection of scarves in Dubai, plan a trip to Be You Boutique or Boom and Mellow.

Photo Credits: Courtesy of Kate Toledo

Related posts:

Share your thoughts

Emirates Hydroponics Farms: Growing Green in the Desert

A few months ago I took an impromptu road trip with the photographer Rebecca Rees and the trusty Open Skies intern Bob (who is actually a stunning blonde, not a boy as her name might imply). It was the first hot day of the season but we were on our way to interview and photograph Rudi Azzato, the horticulturist heading up Emirates Hydroponics Farms, and were looking forward to an in-depth tour of leafy greenhouses. I pictured us strolling through rows of fresh herbs in glamorous straw hats, learning how to harvest everything we need from the sand. I was naïve.

Rows and rows of fresh basil. Photo by Rebecca Rees.

Rows and rows of fresh basil. Photo by Rebecca Rees.

The farm specializes in fresh herbs and varieties of fancy lettuce. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Rees.

The farm specializes in fresh herbs and varieties of fancy lettuce. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Rees.

The farm is positioned outside Abu Dhabi and the drive was only meant to take 45 minutes. We zoomed past malls, an aluminum smelter,grazing camels, and into the desert. Just a straight shot. An hour and 45 minutes later we began to wonder. 30 minutes more and we admitted defeat and the gas tank was verging on empty. There were no gas stations, no place to turn around, and we had missed our interview time. The only other cars on the road were 18 wheels hauling towards an unidentifiable horizon. Whoops! Just as Rebecca and I began to panic (luckily Bob was unflappable and plied us with melting chocolate chip cookies), we sighted a gas station. Was it a mirage?

Here is what we saw when we get lost. Date palms, sand, and well….more date palms.

Here is what we saw when we get lost. Date palms, sand, and well….more date palms.

Finally we found a helpful road sign

Finally we found a helpful road sign

Once we found our GPS coordinates we decided to stop the car and document our hilarious mishap.

Once we found our GPS coordinates we decided to stop the car and document our hilarious mishap.

After we’d fueled and managed to turn around, we admitted defeat and drove back two hours to Dubai but not until we took a few photos to document the desert trek. Well that was (not really very) fun! I solemnly swear to to use Google Maps whenever I drive anywhere ever again. Perhaps it's also time to go out with a few of my most intrepid Emirati friends and finally learn some desert survival skills.

Thankfully for all of us, Rudi agreed to reschedule the following week and the result of our tour was published in the July issue of Open Skies Magazine. I’m still remembering the heads of fancy lettuce and zingy basil I was given to take home. By adding just a little olive oil, vinegar, and Saudi feta, it was the best salad I’ve had in years. Here’s to a time in the not too distant future when everyone in the GCC might be able to eat delicious produce grown safely, affordably, and locally.

A rotating growing system perfectly allocates water and light to each plant. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Rees

A rotating growing system perfectly allocates water and light to each plant. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Rees

You can read an excerpt of the feature below:

“Examining a handful of UAE soil it seems nearly impossible that anything beside date palms could grow green and tall here, or at least without wasting gallons and gallons of water, a commodity arguably more valuable than gold. The supermarkets seem to agree – push a shopping trolley through the produce section and it’s common to find apples from South Africa lettuce from Iran and cherries from the USA — all marked at a steep price to cover the import costs of keeping food fresh and safe for consumption on their long international journey. But it might not be crazy talk to imagine a time in which the majority of crops needed to nourish the region’s population will actually be grown cost-effectively in the Gulf.

Rudi Azzato (right) inspecting a growing plant with one of his team members in a naturally cooled greenhouse. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Rees

Rudi Azzato (right) inspecting a growing plant with one of his team members in a naturally cooled greenhouse. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Rees

Situated halfway between Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the sleepy desert village of Al Bahia is Emirates Hydroponics Farms, a farm that has adapted modern technology from Holland to the arid UAE climate, and is actually able to grow fresh produce year round in an environmentally conscious way.

The brains behind it all, Rudi Azzato greets us in a sharp tie and dress shoes. It’s an unlikely look for a farmer, but as soon as Rudi begins to speak about the place to which he has devoted the last nine years of his life, picking up heads of lettuce to inspect the roots as he strolls through his domain, it becomes obvious that he is not afraid of his hands dirty, literally. Rudi manages a staff of just 24, which efficiently works 20,000 square metres.”

JPEG

You can download a PDF of the complete feature localknowledge.

Or you might prefer to read the article on the hip new Open Skies app here.

1402041472

Good Ideas: Emirates Hydroponics Farms regularly offers school tours to educate students about professions in agriculture and cutting edge farming concepts. To learn more visit http://emiratesfarms.com

Photo Credits: A special thank you to my road trip partner in crime, Rebecca Rees for the vibrant images.

Related posts:

Share your thoughts

My First Majlis: Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization Hosts a special exhibition from the Vatican

I was recently a guest at my very first Emirati majlis held at Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization. A majlis is a space in a home that is specifically set aside for discussion. Most of the time it is designated for men or women only, although it can also be a meeting place for multi-generations of an extended family to come together for discussions, celebrations, or even to grieve.

Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization is a stunning historic building set along the water

Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization is a stunning historic building set along the water

The majlis was an event held in conjunction with a remarkable exhibition at the museum, “So That You Might Know Each Other: The world of Islam from North Africa to China and beyond,” in collaboration with the Vatican Ethnological Museum. The exhibition is symbolic of a mutual desire for interfaith and intercultural understanding and came about as the result of the vision of Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Ruler of Sharjah, in celebration of the emirate’s appointment as Capital of Islamic Culture for 2014.

The building once served as a major souk where the people of Sharjah would pick up everything from carpets to everyday groceries like honey and coffee

The building once served as a major souk where the people of Sharjah would pick up everything from carpets to everyday groceries like honey and coffee

The planetarium tucked away upstairs takes my breath away each time I stand in its presence. The dome is an homage to the tradition of astronomy in the Arab world and the continued role that the moon and stars play in the practice of Islam even today

The planetarium tucked away upstairs takes my breath away each time I stand in its presence. The dome is an homage to the tradition of astronomy in the Arab world and the continued role that the moon and stars play in the practice of Islam even today

Stepping into Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization for the first time, I was overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of the building’s architecture. The space is a former souk and the long hallways and high curved ceilings incorporate many principles of traditional Islamic design. Sneaking upstairs for a quick peek at the planetarium, I fell hard and fast for the gorgeous cobalt dome hand-laid in striking mosaic tiles, commemorating Islam’s connection to the heavens and stars.

My majlis experience began with an engaging private tour of the exhibition with curator Dr. Ulrike Al-Khamis, who brought the artifacts to life by pointing out what each display said about material culture in early 19th-20 century Muslim communities. Each of 70 artifacts presented were hand-selected and researched by Sharjah Museums Department and come from all over the Muslim world, including communities in Asia. Although I’m not usually one to enjoy a guided tour (I sometimes find them to be too dry for my taste), I found my imagination snapping with interest as I visualized what it would have been like to visit a café in 19th century Iraq or embroider a tapestry with a group of Uzbek women more than 100 years ago.

Elements of traditional Islamic design can be discovered in nooks and crannies throughout the gorgeous building

Elements of traditional Islamic design can be discovered in nooks and crannies throughout the gorgeous building

The lute is the instrument that has probably had the most impact on Middle Eastern music. This beauty is a short-necked variety inlaid with mother of pearl and originating in Morocco in the late 19th or early 20th century.

The lute is the instrument that has probably had the most impact on Middle Eastern music. This beauty is a short-necked variety inlaid with mother of pearl and originating in Morocco in the late 19th or early 20th century.

Perhaps the most common social setting in the Arab world is a cafe or teahouse traditionally filled with men (and nowadays women too), playing backgammon, sipping mint tea, and smoking a shisha. The shisha or hookah has its origins in 16th century Iran and India. This particular artifact originates from Iraq in the late 19th or early 20th century and proves that people spent their leisure time in much the same way as we do today

Perhaps the most common social setting in the Arab world is a cafe or teahouse traditionally filled with men (and nowadays women too), playing backgammon, sipping mint tea, and smoking a shisha. The shisha or hookah has its origins in 16th century Iran and India. This particular artifact originates from Iraq in the late 19th or early 20th century and proves that people spent their leisure time in much the same way as we do today

Following the tour, we were asked to remove our shoes, step onto a carpet, and sit comfortably on low, embroidered cushions. An Emirati hostess passed around dainty porcelain teacups of strong coffee and a platter of dates, while Dr. Al-Khamis led a discussion about our perceptions of the exhibition and the implications concerning Islam’s diverse reach across borders and ages. Although ‘So That You Might Know Each Other’ runs through 14 June, I plan to return to Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization over the summer to write a poem or two under the planetarium dome and explore the extensive permanent collections.

Taking thorough notes along our tour and truly enjoying learning about women's embroidery circles, dress and weddings around the Muslim world

Taking thorough notes along our tour and truly enjoying learning about women's embroidery circles, traditional dress and weddings around the Muslim world

This ornately embroidered velvet jacket from early 20th century Bethlehem would still be considered fashionable today. This particular design may be inspired by British colonial military uniforms and sadly replaces the more traditional Palestinian embroidery that the area once was known for

This ornately embroidered velvet jacket from early 20th century Bethlehem would still be considered fashionable today. This particular design may be inspired by British colonial military uniforms and sadly replaces the more traditional Palestinian embroidery that the area once was known for

Dr. Al-Khamis explained that this Suzani tapestry was woven by a community of 19th century Uzbek women who would sit and share their stories, problems, and jokes as they worked. The tapestry was part of a young bride's dowry and you can almost hear the tears and laugher sewn by hand into the vibrant pattern

Dr. Al-Khamis explained that this Suzani tapestry was woven by a community of Uzbek women who would sit and share their stories, problems, and jokes as they worked. The tapestry was part of a young bride's dowry and you can almost hear the tears and laugher sewn by hand into the vibrant pattern

Here we are seated in a traditional majlis, sipping strong Emirati coffee and nibbling politely on dates while learning about how the space is typically used in locals' homes. I want a majlis in my house!

Here we are seated in a traditional majlis, sipping strong Emirati coffee and nibbling politely on dates while learning about how the space is typically used in locals' homes. I want a majlis in my house!

Good Ideas: Admission to Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization is nominal (5 AED per adult and 10 AED per family), which makes it the perfect summer destination for you and your entire family. 'So That You Might Know Each Other' runs through 14 June, 2014 but there is a strong permanent collection and the planetarium is worth a visit alone. To plan your visit (or to check out the other 15 museums that fall under the directorship of Sharjah Museums Department) go here.

Related posts:

Share your thoughts