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How architecture influences the culture of a place

WSB Admin 28/11/2018 0

By Ummema Nazim

Let us understand the difference between modern and contemporary architecture. They are not the same. There’s world of difference between them. Modern Design refers to the period that has passed, while contemporary design is all about the present and the future.

Arches have been used since pre-historic age by many civilizations and they are still being used in the contemporary age. Islamic architecture is a combination of many elements in which Arches remains one of the most influential features. Architecture in Saudi Arabia has passed through a dramatic transformation over the years. Vernacular architecture (local architecture) is slowly being replaced by modern or contemporary style. Thus diverting attention from the main design elements of a place which leads to the disappearance of tradition and culture and that is the reason why it is important for the developers and planners to understand local architecture of a place and incorporate those elements through their design development proposal in context with contemporary architecture. Modernization can also be achieved in building construction without erasing the old style of architecture to develop the concept of contemporary design. Social and economic changes are emerging thick and fast in Saudi Arabia from building the world’s tallest tower to being the first country to grant citizenship to a robot. Increased travel and the use of social media has exposed a significant portion of Saudi society to western culture. This is also reflected in their architecture and design. We urge the designer and urban planners to appreciate and cherish local architecture of a place and develop it further with contemporary style without erasing the old building elements.

Architecture can be a powerful tool. It can offer its users the possibility to create shared memories and can connect their memories to a physical space. People identify themselves with public building and public spaces and connect them to their personal stories their cities. It is significant to maintain the culture and history of a city to make it their own because every city has its own accomplishments and tradition. As Arna Mackin says “Can we see a city as a book that constantly being written- without losing any old chapters”.


The architecture of a country is like a mirror. It gives an insight into the country’s development over the years. Many times architecture also helps us predict what type of traditions have been followed in the country over a large span of time. Hence it is important for a country to retain its architecture to keep the culture of a country intact.

Cities often exist for centuries.

Languages and nation are often short-lived-generations pass through,

Foreign people, new rulers, a multitude of languages,

The city survives it all.

Chris Keulemans

About the author:

Ummema Nazim is a licensed architect and interior designer who loves to explore new places and study them. To know more, follow her blog on . She also loves travelling, reading and cooking and has her YouTube channel “Hyderabadi Pakwan” and tune in for some authentic Hyderabadi biryani and much more.






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The Pleasures of Baking with your daughter

WSB Admin 28/11/2018 0

By Syeda Maria Sarfaraz

I snapped these photos when my 3 yrs old daughter came into the kitchen and wanted to bake a cake with me. I think she loves baking. Loves it, loves it, loves it, loves it.

Anything having to do with mixing in the bowl, adding ingredients makes her happy.

Why should we involve our kids in Baking, What are the benefits ??

BAKING BUILDS MATH SKILLS:   By measuring ingredients they learn basic maths skills like , 3 cups of flour, 2 table spoon sugar and so on .

BAKING ENRICHES ORAL VOCABULARY: When kids do not know what certain words on a recipe mean. For example, words like beat, whip, cream are important words to know when cooking, but may need some explanation (and demonstration!)

BAKING BOOSTS READING SKILLS: Learning to follow the steps of a recipe is an important reading skill that will translate later into your child being able to understand how to read directions.

In the end, I’ll say if you are involving your child in baking it is time to be ready for the messy kitchen and messy hands.. They will even break things and cry if ingredients are not going according to their imagination or according to the result they were expecting. But it is also the best way to connect with your child in the current world of iPad, iPhone and TV.

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Celebrating the holidays our way

WSB Admin 28/11/2018 0

By Sairah Zubair Khan

Celebrating the Holidays in a Muslim household in the UK, our way… How did we do it?!
Quite easily actually! For a start, we as a family of doctors could not always achieve holidays on the same day, to celebrate Eid as a family. However, the December Holiday festival was a non-negotiable, ‘get your selves’ round to Mum’s affair! My Mum or Ami as we called her, loved this season!
She would make sure that the house was clean and tidy, up to three days before. Ready for those visitors ‘who turned up’ at a moment’s notice. We would always have fresh flowers on the table, sometimes a big display. Other times in small mason jars. Ami would make a special breakfast of omelette with tomato and coriander. We would also have a traditional bread called ‘paratha’. She would ask, ‘who is hungry?!’ The paratha is rising and becoming all puffy in my pan! After breakfast and clearing up the plates, we would start the cooking for lunch.

Usually the night before the festival… my Ami would marinade a turkey, if it was the whole family. Otherwise, it would just be a chicken. Aromatics would be infused into the bird, she would use her Mother’s recipe from Lahore. As we became bigger in numbers, different family members were in charge of the vegetables and gravy. The table was laid by the younger members, under my Mum’s watchful eye! We would take a break for prayer and then have a tea break. That was the best time as Ami would serve rose Turkish delight. This was my favourite. She would finally allow us to open the chocolates, we received from neighbours! At Eid, we gave presents and food, sometimes homemade gifts to our community. In return, they would have a present ready for us, under their tree at home.

By the afternoon, the food would be permeating a delicious aroma around the house. The Grandkids would be playing and the adults chuckling, at yet another family anecdote. My Mum loved this aspect, the family all around her. She would be in her favourite chair, with a comfy shawl wrapped around her.

As it became closer to 3pm, we would settle down at the family table and wait for The Queen. As we had lunch, we would listen to her broadcast. My Mum would remark, how nice she looked and how her Grandchildren had grown up! As we finished the delicious meal, we would offer the afternoon prayer. The family would be together in unison.

Then it would be time, to find a comfortable seat on the sofa for an afternoon siesta. We usually had visitors early evening. Our neighbours would bake a mince pie for Mum. She in return would give some food she had prepared the day before, some rice or kebab. Tea would be served and there would be constant chatter, how are things…

At night time, after the visitors had gone home. We would watch a family movie or play a board game called ‘carrom board’. This is a game found in South Asia, competitive, fast and very fun! If we were still hungry, Ami would make us some wraps with the left-over turkey. A spicy mayonnaise, turkey and lettuce wrap, delicious!

Then it was time for the ‘finale’. My Ami made a delicious dessert called ‘ras malai’. Little rounds of cottage cheese, in a perfumed cardamom and rose syrup. She would adorn the dish with pistachios and sliced almonds. Only the ‘most favourite’ family member, would be given the honour to slice the nuts and decorate the dish!

Now the chair sits empty at my Parent’s home. My Ami sadly passed two years ago. The memories and love for each other, she installed in us will live on.

The festive season is about family, spending time with a loved one. Regardless of the faith and creed that you belong to. We honour our Mum’s memory by continuing her traditions and love for this special day.

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Celebrate like a Bulgarian

WSB Admin 28/11/2018 0
By Rositsa Dorovska
Picture was taken by Gancho Churkov photography
We all recognize our traditions as our cultural heritage. They are an important source of national pride and of prejudices… sometimes. In the rapidly evolving digital world, the old traditions are changing, as well. Take us, the Bulgarians and our holiday traditions, for example.

Once, our population used to be mostly rural and our economy – mostly agricultural oriented. Hence, we used to work hard predominantly in the summertime and to feast during the winter. For that reason, we have a plethora of holidays all winter long, like the so-called name days, when people are celebrating different saints, they have been named after. Later on, under the Communism, our economy was industrialized and our religious feasts were put on standby mode. After 45 years of communism in Bulgaria, the regime was substituted by democracy and the country was opened for the western world and…western lifestyle and festivities

That explains the eclectic in our holidays – a mixture of pagan rituals, orthodox and catholic customs with new western nuances.  We lead up to the December Holiday Festival with 40 days of fasting beforehand. That night we are dining with vegan dishes again and they should be odd number – 7, 9, 11. Specialties like vine leaves and peppers, stuffed with rice or beans, the obligatory bread with fortunes, are among them. After the dinner is finished, we do not put our dishes away, they are left on the table overnight. People would even dine on the floor, instead of on the table, at some households, to revive the authentic atmosphere from the past.

Another old Slavic ritual, which also is happening nowadays in some regions, is Koleduvane. The custom takes place from midnight on December 24th till dawn on 25th. It`s a carolling ritual, performed only by young men, the koledari. They are usually led by an elder one (preferably married), called stanenik. Each caroler carries a stick, called gega and is dressed in a traditional attire. While singing folkloric songs, they are going from house to house, visiting neighbours and relatives to wish everyone health and good luck.

The festive morning is always awaited with anticipation, especially from the kids.  Everyone would find a present under the decorated tree. Then comes the next family gathering around the lavish festive lunch, and that is on repeat for three days in a row. Off course eating is not the point, getting together with the loved once is…

Recently we have added various foreign rituals to our manners of celebration, such as the gingerbread decoration, or the black Friday shopping before the holidays. This is happening partly under the powerful influence of social media and some of my compatriots are not happy with the latest festivity trends. For example, every year, there is a controversy in our society, around celebrating Halloween or Valentine`s day.

While I really don’t mind westernising my feasts or to experience different cultural celebrations,I do have some worries, regarding the social media effects. Besides the Holiday ads and movies, we own the growing holiday hysteria and depression to Instagram and Pinterest. To beat these psychological disorders amidst the holidays, we could just spend more quality time offline, paying attention to our family and friends, than spending money in the mall, on presents for them.

The gifts and the stylish tables are essential for a proper festive mood, but comparing with Instagram celebrities will not make you feel happy.. Try to handmake your holidays, instead . Create or cook something for your loved once, not with the goal to impress them, but to get together and to feel the real vibe of the feast.

If you are an expat, away from your family, you can understand what it means, to be apart from loved once during that time of the year. For sure you will join them via video calls and exchanged pictures, but you will appreciate your time together like never before. Don`t let the blues to invade you if that is the case this season. Don`t hesitate to connect with other people, offer your company and don`t let the lack of snow ( if you are based in Middle East, like me), cause a lack of good mood. Happy holidays everyone!

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WSB Inspiring Women: Yousra Hamrouch

WSB Admin 27/11/2018 0

We would like to introduce you to Yousra Harmoush – WSB’s Head of Volunteerism. We are so lucky to have Yousra part of the WSB team!

She was born and grew up in Cairo, Egypt. Educated in the French School through her secondary education, she first received a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Cairo. She worked for a multinational company Valeo on automobile software but spent her free time volunteering for worthwhile causes. She created a volunteer group, which created two community schools.  She decided to change professions and hence attended the American University of Cairo and graduated with a degree in psychology.

In 2007 after being told that a career in the humanitarian field was not a “real profession” and to just volunteer, she searched and found a position in a small Egyptian NGO focused on economic empowerment and employment for youth and microcredit.  In 3 ½ years, the group maximized their international donors to 15 with a budget of 15,000,000 Egyptian Pounds!!! ($839,000 USD)!!!! Wow!

Finding fulfilment in the developmental field, she thought it was time to continue her education!  So she enrolled in and graduated from a Masters degree in International development from Poitier University in Paris. She continued to study and returned to American University in Cairo to receive a Masters degree in Psychology.

After returning to Cairo she worked with Save the Children in Egypt on an irregular migration project.

The war in Syria started…..she was called to work on a project with Save the Children in the camps in Jordan providing child protection and psychosocial support for children.  She stayed in Jordon for a year.

Back in Egypt, she worked with CARE International in Upper Egypt where she found a much different culture than she was accustomed to in Cairo. Working on educational reform projects with underprivileged children she witnessed what education can really do to impact a child’s future.

Again, she and her friends came together and opened a third community school in impoverished Cairo……childhood education is a continuing passion.


Registering in a roster for humanitarian missions worldwide, she was matched with Action Aide International – a secular, emergency and humanitarian response group working in war-affected areas in…..the DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO!!   A high-security mission due to the risk associated with the location…….as a SINGLE WOMAN! She worked for one year with Action Aide International on creating safe cities for women in one of the most dangerous locations for women worldwide.

Being successful, she moved to Tanzania for the same project (safe cities for women) for her final project with Action Aide…..another year.

During a vacation home in Cairo, she met a young man…..Tarik……knowing it was destiny they married after 6 months and she returned to Cairo to do the paperwork to move to Riyadh.  But of course, she was not idle…..she worked in Toy 1- a children’s charity that helps educate children through play.

February, 2018 she landed in sunny Riyadh……..What to do here?

She googled to find women’s groups in Riyadh and by coincidence up popped the first WSB Connect event.  She attended, met Tamara and the WSB ladies and …….here we are.

Asked about the most enjoyable part of working with humanitarian causes Yousra says it is helping people – the fulfilment of giving back and seeing good things come to reality.

The hardest part……the dark side so one talks about. The sadness, misery, negativity you witness can be a heavy psychological barrier that needs to be dealt with. But the value a person receives from knowing they make a difference is precious.

WSB is so lucky to have connected with Yousra…..Blessed.

We now have a wonderful professional to guide our group to interact with Saudi philanthropies and give back to society here.

To connect with Yousra, contact her on volunteer@wsbksa

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WSB Untold Stories: Story of a Cancer Survivor

WSB Admin 29/10/2018 0

By Maryam Mohammed Amjed

My name is Momo. I live with my family in KSA. In April 2015, I just touched my abdomen accidentally and felt something hard. I told my mother who took me to the hospital the very next day. After scans, I found out I had a very huge mass 17x15x12cm and my kidney was not visible. Doctors were surprised to see such a huge mass because I had not a single symptom.  Within two weeks, I went to the open radical nephrectomy and they removed my right kidney. I cried a lot, but as a Muslim, we have a strong belief if we lose our precious thing or get any pain (i.e. kidney was removed), in the Day of Judgment we will get a reward. I am thankful to Allah to bless me with such a lovely and supportive family and doctors.

I felt that the horrible chapter of my life was closed, but it was still there. At the end of July, my abdomen was swollen. In July till August, I went through a lot of scans and results indicated that I had 3 huge tumours in my abdomen. I had cancer but my biopsy was good as per doctors. In this time period, I swelled up from abdomen till feet. It was very difficult for me to sit, sleep, walk, drink etc. I was eating baby bites and sips. In this tough time, my Allah and my lovely family were with me. Doctors recommend me that I should go to Pakistan to a proper cancer hospital where adult oncologist and paediatrician oncologist would be under one roof because my case was rare. I was 21 years old and my tumour was a child cancer (Wilms tumour). So I went to a leading hospital in Pakistan.

My family divided  – my mother & I went to Pakistan and my sibling and father remain here. In Pakistan, one of the doctors said my cancer was on the 4th stage and spread to liver, lung etc. I was advised not to leave the country for 8 months. The doctors started my chemotherapy. I was shocked not because I am on the 4th stage, but because I wasn’t allowed to go to KSA. There is a huge difference in life in both countries. I don’t have a home in Pakistan. I was born in the Kingdom and love KSA. In my whole life, I went to Pakistan only 3 to 4 times for less than a month. Now I had to suffer both cancer and living away from KSA. This was a very emotional experience for me. I was too shocked so I stop talking and laughing. My chemotherapy started with its worst side effects. After each dose, I was admitted to the hospital due to blisters in my whole mouth and I was unable to eat for a week. I lost my hair, skin tone turns dark, my weight dropped down and I couldn’t walk properly and start using a chair while praying. A girl at the age of 21 should be worried about exams, result, universities, nail arts, makeup tricks, job, fashion and style. Instead, I was worried about my result of blood count, effects of chemo on my nails, face, and eyelids and afraid of chemo and injections. I know Allah is with me in each and every step. He gave me strength and willpower. My mother supported me in this tough time. She booked a taxi and took my wheelchair to the hospital alone, listening to the bad news with a heavy heart. She encouraged me to stand, eat, walk and talk.

After the months of pre-chemotherapy and months of radiation. I became very weak. This was all due to my poor diet as I missed my food in KSA- laban, Almarai products and kubus. Then post chemo started in the end of January 2016 and it affected me a lot. My blood pressure dropped down, my haemoglobin reached to 4, platelets were very low and blood was coming from my mouth, I had an eye haemorrhage etc. Doctors told my mom that it is very difficult for me to survive and they shifted me to CCU, blood and platelets transfusion starts. My father, sister and brother came to Pakistan. They called my mom to ask if we needed anything from KSA. I said mom ask them to bring sun cola, 7 days croissant and watermelon. I was about to die in CCU still thinking about sun cola and croissant. My family prayed a lot and Allah listen to their prayer and pushed me back to life. After 10 days, my sister gave me bits of croissant and I ate almost half a croissant. My mother couldn’t believe that I could eat anything more than 2 bites. In these 10 days, I was not eating anything except a few sips of medicated milk. I felt very ashamed of myself that I didn’t cover my face in CCU due to an oxygen mask. My father took me to back to KSA for 15 days. I start recovering and got better day by day. I started to walk with my mother’s help, I started to see, talk and laugh. Then I return to Pakistan for remaining chemo. This time, my doctors were shocked to see my new behaviour.  They felt I had completely changed after returning back from KSA. After a gap, doctors again started my chemotherapy.

I am now cancer free and happy to live each precious day Alhamdulillah but cancer left its marks. I returned to the Kingdom and got better day by day and side effects of chemo have almost disappeared. Now the situation is changed, we are going to exit the Kingdom in December 2018. I don’t know how I will live in Pakistan because I believe KSA is my country but I know Allah is with me and will support me in each and every step of life.

In sha Allah



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Restaurant Review: Olea Cafe at Courtyard by Marriott, Diplomatic Quarters

WSB Admin 29/10/2018 0

By Deepa Thomas-Sutcliffe

I recently checked out the Theme Nights at the Olea Café, a multi-cuisine restaurant at the Courtyard Marriott, Diplomatic Quarters. We went on a Thursday which is the Italian Theme Nights at Olea Café.  They have many other Theme Nights on other days as well ranging from Seafood to Lebanese to Egyptian. The Weekend theme nights are International and offer popular cuisines like Indian & Filipino for example. The theme night define the dishes on the buffet and live counter. On Thursday in keeping with the Italian theme, they have a live pasta counter. All days of the week, they have a live kebab barbecue station which is very popular with the guests. Many guests choose to sit outside and enjoy the pleasant weather in these months. I sat inside on a private table with my husband who was acting as the non-vegetarian taster for the review. I am a vegetarian foodie and do not eat meat or fish.

Italian is one of my favourite cuisines and I was delighted I chose a Thursday to check out Olea Café for the WSB Food Review. I started with the make-your-own-salad bar which had a lot of fresh ingredients and dressings, then I started nibbling on the appetisers especially the fried zucchini, the aubergine and the tomato, basil & cheese starter.   They also have ready to eat salads, a cheese platter & fruits and a wide range of bread freshly baked in the kitchen. My drink for the evening was a pitcher of Saudi Champagne.

My husband tried the mushroom soup and enjoyed the small mushroom pieces and the full-bodied taste. He loved the salmon and said it was cooked perfectly, moist and melting in the mouth. The smokey barbecue taste added to the experience. He also enjoyed the lamb chops which was very tender and cooked to the right consistency.

After a short break to talk to Chef Mohamed Rizk who has been with Olea Café for over 4 years, we resumed dining. This time I tried the live pasta counter (Arrabiatta pasta with olives, mushrooms and jalapenos) and a couple of the main course dishes. One of the must-try dishes according to the Chef was the Aubergine Melanzane layered with tomato and cheese dressing.  Then, I had a few tastes of the generous dessert counter. Some really tasty desserts and pastries there.All in all, a lovely evening.

From the Chef, we learnt that the Courtyard Marriott has Chefs who have specialised in most of the popular cuisines and can cook home dishes to suit their guest’s palette.  The buffet offers quite a variety of dishes but guests can also choose to opt for the A La Carte menu.Diners go there for the relaxed vibe and the fact that it isn’t too busy.


Theme Nights at the Olea Café 

Mondays – Seafood Night – 199 SAR per head

Tuesdays – Lebanese Night – 190 SAR per head

Wednesdays – Egyptian Night – 190 SAR per head 

Thursdays – Italian Night – 185 SAR per head 

Fridays – Saturdays – Sundays – International Theme Night  -165 SAR Per head


DQ Residents & Embassy staff have a special offer. So if you are a DQ resident or friends with one, head over to Dine at Olea Café at a special rate.

– 20%  at Olea Restaurant, Cafe & lounge

– 20 % Laundry services

– 20% discount on Massages services at the health club

– Advanced booking is required by calling : +966 11 2817300

How to go there:

Olea Café, Courtyard Marriott, Diplomatic Quarter

Al-Hada District

Abdullah bin Hufazah

Al-Sahmi Street

Riyadh 64819

Tel: +966 11 281 7300


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How Social Media Is Turning Us Into A Fake Generation

WSB Admin 29/10/2018 0

By Syeda Maria Sarfaraz

I remember the days before social media when I would get 20 phone calls per day and 50 or 60 emails, and felt exhausted by the communication. Now we’ve traded the telephone for other connection points (I only get 2-3 calls per day).

We do it because we believe that more relationships provide more opportunity.

When people think of social media, it’s thought of as posting photos, telling people how we feel or catch up with friends. Sounds simple enough, right? Wrong.

The problem social media platforms have given us is we hide behind screens, allowing others to judge us for the lives we want them to think we have, the lives we portray online.

It’s easy enough to do. Why would you post a photo of yourself you think is unattractive?

Social media is a world. We live through our screens, and many of us feel the need to pretend to do and have whatever we want and wish for.

“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” 

“Social media makes a big world smaller.” 

“Linkedin is for people you know, Facebook is for people you used to know, Twitter is for people you want to know.”

The reality is, we don’t KNOW hardly anyone.

The world was easier when we didn’t have to prove anything to anyone. We certainly shouldn’t nowadays, anyway..

We want to prove something. We want to show our friends that even though our lives probably aren’t as interesting in real life, maybe we can create something cool online, instead.

Most of us don’t have perfect lives. So why say otherwise online? Maybe because that’s the fun of it too.

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Finding the Joy in moving Home

WSB Admin 29/10/2018 0

By Lizzie Daniell

Finding the Joy whilst packing those boxes!

“Is there joy in moving house, I hear you say”, really? Well, funnily enough, there can be… eventually!

At the time that we make that decision to move, we are excited, looking forward to change and have HOPE that everything will go to plan. It is something that lots of us do and look forward to (well, once it is all over).

So why, when we take that step to box up our homes, it ends up happening alongside other major incidents in our life: new babies; planning a wedding; manic times at work; visiting relatives etc – why is that?


Most of the time we are good at managing our lives, planning for the future, and just when everything is set in stone, a curve ball chucks itself at us – circumstances beyond our control.

When things are in ‘our control’ we can stay calm, focus, get excited and tick off our ‘to-do’ list with joy, but as soon as this changes (exchange on a new home does not happen, a baby comes early) we are out of our comfort zone and start paddling upstream. HELP!!

Having just experienced this very thing (a week of work visitors with a very busy programme to support), my normal calm, happy, smiling self, changed overnight and was replaced with stress, anxiety and worry about getting it all sorted in time! I admit I don’t like these feelings and they’re not ones I’ve experienced for some time – I felt out of my comfort zone and not in control! Why was it so strange this time? Being married to the Army for so many years, I am used to moving frequently – making up those boxes and preparing the house for ‘march-out’.

What was different this time?

A different country, craziness at work, tight timescales, the current moon, being older, I am not sure, maybe all of them. But after being scooped up by my wonderful husband, and having super friends to help, I was reminded to:

  • Find that JOY;
  • Feel blessed;
  • Focus on one thing at a time – that ‘other incident’ that was happening in my life;
  • Step back and look at the task(s) ahead;
  • Ask for help and be visible;
  • And, finally, to practice what I preach… that we are never given anything we can’t handle and to believe ‘all will be well.’ And it was!

There is always a beginning, a middle and an end, and each of these stages if taken individually – under grace and in the perfect way – can work in our favour; we just need to believe….


Thank you again for joining my journey and I look forward to hearing from you, hoping you might share your experiences and whether you managed to…find the joy!


With much love and joy,

Lizzie Daniell


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WSB Inspiring Woman: Jane Welsh, Allegra Bags & Handicrafts

WSB Admin 29/10/2018 0


















A reason to get out of bed

Sometimes, you meet people with an exciting history, adventurous travel-logs or extravagant backgrounds.   Occasionally, you may be fortunate to meet a person with a moving story of their personal journey and be emotionally inspired by what they have shared.  In the lobby of the British School, Jane Welsh of Allegra was that person.

Jane had come to bring some of her beautiful, handmade, fair trade Cambodian products to sell at the school PTA Shop.  We started chatting and very soon I realised that Jane was truly an inspiration for many women who follow their partners around the world and who feel a need to do more.

An Australian citizen, married to an American, Jane had not one but two very wonderfully influential Aunts. “Light Houses” as she refers to them.  “Everyone should have a role model, someone who helps guide or point you on the right road” One aunt worked for the United Nations in an International NGOs and inspired Jane to undertake studies in Social Work.

Jane’s other aunt was her strongest inspiration; she was a Fashion Designer and had sadly passed away from breast cancer.  In her will, she had left instructions and funds for Jane to set up an organisation to help disabled women in Cambodia.

Previously, in 2002, Jane worked with the Association of the Blind in Cambodia for 3 years.  She set up a support group for visually impaired women and acid attack survivors (women who had been attacked with battery acid).  Her aunt funded many operations, surgeries, and activities.

Since this time, Jane has continued to work in international community development and in 2010 Jane relocated to Vienna as an accompanying spouse.  She and her husband had a son and naturally, the pace slowed down, being a first-time mum in a new country and language.  Jane describes this time as one of the most depressing and challenging times in her life.

It was whilst listening to Jane through what clearly was a very emotional and challenging time in her life, I realised that many of us have this time when we feel at our most vulnerable, lost or weak. It’s often then that we find the strength and inspiration to go on to do amazing things.   Jane and her family returned to the USA after 4 years, where Jane worked in sexual and reproductive health with an international NGO working in Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and Sierra Leone.   After 4 years of relentless travel and long working hours, she had a burnout.   Last November, Jane did a self-care retreat and used Ikigai (a Japanese method of finding your life’s purpose – to find your reason to get out of bed) to redirect her back to her life’s love:  working with women with disabilities in Cambodia.   Since moving with her husband to Saudi Arabia this year, she has refined and worked on her Ikigai – The Allegra Project:  Fair Trade and sustainable handicrafts made by women with disabilities in Cambodia.  These items are not only uniquely, environmentally beautiful, but each item sold helps empower women with disabilities in Cambodia.

As an accompanying spouse previously, Jane knew of potential hardships, identity and role challenges so prior to coming to Riyadh with her family, Jane and her husband decided to enter into a Post Nuptial Agreement, where they had many difficult conversations and worked together on their goals, roles and responsibilities and importantly how they work together as a team.   “This has definitely helped with the challenging obstacles that Saudi Arabia brings, especially for females and I urge any family to try something similar with their family or partners”.

Just as our conversation was drawing to a natural end, I am surprised to learn that Jane also has a passion for designing clothes for the larger figure, colourful, comfortable and affordable – watch this space.

Jane has found her reason to get out of bed in the morning – what’s yours?

Allegra Products can be purchased from many of the well-known coffee mornings, Kingdom, Ishbilia, Al Nakhla, Seder in addition to some upcoming Festive Markets, Ishbilia’s Collection Gift Store and the BISR PTA Shop.




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