Voices from around the world at Global Village in Dubai
Bassam Khsayem.- Photos by Shihab
Dubai - Global Village gives the ultimate taste of north, south, east and west, all under one roof.
Forget packing your bags and paying bucket loads to fly all over the world. Global Village gives you the ultimate taste of north, south, east and west, all under one roof. Kelly Clarke goes on a mission to 'Come Experience the World' by getting up close and personal with stallholders from four different continents...
Weaving his own storySitting under an aged wooden frame, Bassam Khsayem, a 40-something stallholder sits staring in my direction. Originally from Syria, he speaks little English. And originally from Ireland, I speak little Arabic.
Despite the language barrier, Khsayem is able to tell me his story. Weaving carpets since he was a young boy back home in Syria, he points towards that wooden frame above him and tells me (through a translator) that it is more than 80 years old.
"My grandfather made it. It's a weaver's mill and he passed it down to me. I use it to make these," he says, pointing all around him.
Surrounded by hordes of colourful carpets - or 'nol' as it is pronounced in Arabic - I learn that Khsayem has hand-weaved each and every carpet within sight. Nothing is done by machine; it's all done by memory.
"My grandfather taught me my craft. He lived to 113 but he was still weaving at 100."
Not just a family business, Khsayem says carpet weaving is a "generational tradition" in Syria, dating back 1,400 years. And although you may find these carpets in the homes of villagers, you will often find them adorning the houses of the rich too.
"I've weaved carpets for mayors and diplomats back home," he says.
Although some of the 'nols' boast a simple design, the intricacies of others is blatant. One, which took him 45 days to weave, shows men sat cross-legged drinking tea.
When I ask Khsayem how he weaves such a complicated pattern, he says he does it all from memory; no design template necessary.
"We're not like machines. If we make a mistake we simply just unweave it and start again."
Bent over the horizontally placed mill, Khsayem's eyes are fixated on the translator and me. Stringing and knotting thousands of threads effortlessly together, he carries on weaving a green and white design, barely glancing at the carpet to check for accuracy. It's a movement that comes natural to him.
Based in Global Village for 10 seasons, his clever craft is what keeps the visitors coming and it's what kept me talking.
A little piece of Kenya right here in DubaiWalking through the Africa Pavillion at Global Village, each step I take is met with a "hello my friend, come look". It seems to be the call of the stallholders here, and although tempting, I carry on walking.
One thing that strikes me about this pavilion is the stallholders themselves, not the spoils they are selling. Dressed in brightly coloured clothes, my eyes are immediately drawn to one man.
Standing tall and wearing a wide smile, his lemon yellow dashiki covered in little elephant prints is what first catches my eye. When I say hello, he greets me with a strong handshake and tells me his name is Abuya.
Originally from Kenya, his stall is a sea of colour. From reds to greens and pinks to purples, his ornaments - mostly depicting Africa's most recognisable animals - look simple, but the way they are hand-crafted tells a deeper story.
Made of kisii stone - a stone that is mined in abundance in Kenya - Abuya says without it, his community back home wouldn't be in work. "It is the whole community's efforts that have brought these ornaments here to Dubai. We mine for this kisii stone everyday and people in my village work together to make them look like this."
After picking the raw stone from the mine, men in Abuya's village then cut the stone using a man-saw so as to divide it into smaller pieces.
"From there, we carve out the shape with a knife, then the women sand it, polish it and paint it," he says.
Though he has been manning the business since 1980 along with his father, grandfather and brothers, Abuya says he started to learn about the kisii stone when he was just 8-years-old.
It was while sitting with his father as a young boy that his passion for stone carving came about.
"You know when you are young and you see you father doing something and you copy him, that's what I did. I was fascinated watching him turn this plain stone into something magical. I wanted to be like him."
With more than 2,000 variations of painted kisii stone on sale, he said this isn't just his business, it's a community business and it is his village's way of bringing a little piece of Kenya to the Dubai desert.
The honey man who says bees are just perfectAt just four years old, Admir Duranovic vividly remembers his first interaction with a bee.
"My father and grandfather were surrounded by them. They were buzzing above them, just centimetres from their heads, and I was fascinated by their wings, flapping frantically."
Ever since then, 41-year-old Duranovic's life has been devoted to the bee. And as a fourth generation beekeeper, it's plain to see this is his passion, not his job.
"The bee is an insect that is so perfect. I have grown up with bees all my life and I've developed a love for them. For me it's a lifestyle," he tells me.
Dotted between juicing stations and traditional dress stalls, I find Duranovic in the Bosnia Pavillion at Global Village. And it is here that you'll find a taste of Duranovic's family history too.
With 120 years of beekeeping behind them and more than 1,000 hives to their name, their stall stands out. Not only for its bold display of exotic honeys, but for its debut introduction into a region (the Middle East), which is famed for this sticky, sweet treat. Brave, is a word I use to describe him, to which he laughs.
Front and centre of Duranovic's stall is a collection of glass jars - all shapes and sizes - filled with oozing organic honey. Neatly stacked on a wooden shelf designed to imitate the recognisable shape of a natural honeycomb, it is every sweet tooth's dream.
From pine tree honey to nectar honeys, Duranovic says although Yemen may produce the "crème de la crème" of honeys, what his family offers is something completely different.
"You cannot compare honeys. The nature in Bosnia is so vast so our honey is very different. What we're bringing to Global Village is a brand new honey to the region, but one we have been perfecting for 120 years."
And when asked to divulge a need-to-know fact about bees, his passion for the distinct yellow and black insect once again rears its head.
"Without bees, there would be no life. The majority of food we eat is pollinated by bees, so no bees, no life. Also, and not many people know this, but bees never rest, they never sleep, their honey is a natural antibiotic and when it comes to their diet, they keep it very simple: they eat bee bread which is basically a fermented pollen. They are machines so I say 'power to the bee'.
For the love of shoesIt was 22 years ago when Rinkuram Sarup's father first came to the UAE. Travelling from his village in India to bustling Dubai, he was one of the first exhibitors to open a stall at the first ever Global Village.
"It was the first season and he came with just a few shoes."
With his father now 55 and his grandfather 85, selling juttis - a colourful embroidered shoe from the sub-continent - has been a way of life for Sarup's family. And like tradition dictates, he has now taken it over.
"My father and grandfather still work, they still make shoes but I come here every season."
His stall in the India Pavilion is easily recognisable. Multicoloured footwear lines the edges of the floor space and the walls are lined with soles - all different designs and colours; every inch covered.
With the family business running for more than 70 years now, luckily for Sarup, it wasn't a hard transition into the shoe life.
"I have been helping make them since I was a small boy. Nowadays I don't make so many, I design them."
Assembled by hand with intricate embroidery done by machine, Saup says he sells shoes "and only shoes".
Creating more than 1,000 original designs especially for Global Village, when I try to guess how many juttis he has on show during my visit, I massively underestimate: "3,000," I say, to which Sarup laughs. "10,000 here, about 10,000."
And when I ask him if he ever thinks about selling anything else other than shoes, he immediately respond with no, followed by a slight smile.