By Alex Maguire
Photos Lynda Higgs
Its that time of the year again. The children are soon off school and the packing list is done. But there’s one detail: what to buy as a memento from Kuwait for relatives, friends and loved ones abroad.
Many keep on searching for that gift genuinely made in Kuwait and that reflects Arab culture and traditions. While the retail market may be buoyant, there are few tasteful presents available that can be worn both in Kuwait, as well as in other cultures.
One such exception is jewelry. And Arabesque Designs Q8, a local personalized jewelry venture run by British mother of two Maryann Horne, has just launched its summer collection to fill this gap.
The new pieces are inspired by Kuwait’s cultural and heritage and use themes such as a camel or a teardrop to frame someone’s name, initials or a special word. The jewelry includes cuff-links for men and pendants, rings and charms for ladies and miniature models for children.
“The Arabic script is the most beautiful in the world”, says Maryann Horne. “Most people don’t realize how striking their name can look as a hand made piece of silver or gold calligraphy jewelry.
“Add to it a desert theme and the result is tasteful while being exotic and typical of Kuwait”, she says.
The hand made silver and gold jewelry makes ideal gifts for people who are trying to find a thoughtful present, easy to pack and genuinely made in Kuwait in the heart of souq Mubarakiya.
Maryann Horne decided to use themes such as the Arabian coffee pot, the Dallah, the Hamsa, the Arabian camel or the teardrop to reflect Kuwait’s hospitality and culture. She says it was it is the perfect gift as also tells a story about Kuwait.
“Our clients are mostly western expats who are very discerning about what they buy”, she explains. “They want quality and originality, but they also want souvenirs that can take home and offer as a memento from Kuwait and that means something”.
A former reporter and humanitarian worker, the British born designer is widely traveled. She has used her experiences in off the beaten track places such as Afghanistan, Libya, Djibouti and Indonesia where people believe deeply in certain symbols that through centuries have become art forms.
“What we are basically doing is taking a symbol that is widely known, packed with significance and popular and making it personal to the wearer by engraving their name or a special word”.
One of the most poplar pieces in the collection is the Hamsa, also known as the Hand of Fatima. The symbol is known across the Muslim world, from Indonesia to the Spain as a sign of protection. It is believed to ward off evil and protect the wearer.
The model, which comes as a pendant, bracelet, ring and key ring has been adapted to accommodate one name or a series of initials. The name of the wearer is drawn in the center of the hand and fills the entire frame in calligraphy inspired swirling script.
Other models which reflects local customs are the camel and the coffee pot. They are made as pendants, but also small charms that can be placed on a bracelet or a key ring.
“These are ideal gifts for children as they love animals and associate camels with long exotic journeys across the desert. Having a camel charm with their initials engraved in it is a very cute gift that can be kept for a lifetime”, says Maryann Horne.
The shapes are not always easy to replicate. The camel had to be redone over ten times. “The first camel looked like a dog when we first designed it and the coffee pot had a beaker that wouldn’t have poured a single drop of coffee”, recalls Maryann Horne.
But she says the end result was like anything in Kuwait: if you try hard enough and wait long enough, generally it will be worth the wait. A bit like a long camel journey. Or that cup of coffee that time has brewed into a special and sweet treat.