The cover of the book.
Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer
Royals & Artists: Emirati Women of the Golden Era by German writer Monica Mergiu is a treasure trove of information on Emirati women achievers. With their portraits brilliantly captured by Raouf Meftah, the nearly 300-page book – glossy in format, coffee table presentation in design and a mini encyclopedia by intention — details the life and work of Her Highness Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak Al Ketbi, the Mother of the Nation, to Halima Al Sayegh, who is an artist working “between ancient heritage and modern aspirations.”
Halima Al Sayegh
“I am writing about the birth of a new modern society embroidered in perfect harmony with ancient Bedoiun customs and traditions,” says the author. “I am always charmed and surprised by the splendour of this unusual, unique mélange of old traditional treasures and the high tech revolutionary side of the country.” The volume begins with a homage to the United Arab Emirates, “a Hero’s land” and a tribute to Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the Father of the Nation.
Talking about her Muse, Mergiu says that “I must confess that one of the most beautiful literary subjects for me, a source of endless inspiration and fruitful character for my writings will always be the unique personality of Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak Al Ketbi.” Emirati poet Ousha Bint Khalifa Al Suwaidi is presented in these words: “Arab Laureate Poetess, the magnificent Ousha Bint Khalifa Al Suwaidi – Empress of Emirati Poetry.” “Extremely talented, gifted with the delicacy of words, she was able to create inspirational poems,” Mergiu says.
Her poems were an “embroidery of expressions and emotional stories, bringing Nabati traditional poetry to the highest level.” Ousha was graced with the title “Fatat Al Arab” or “Daughter of the Arabs”. The book is enhanced with interviews, among which is that of Sheikha Fatima Bint Hazza Bin Zayed Al Nahyan. She is described as a person who “loves bluebells, literature and is a passionate art and sports lover.” She is also the owner of the renowned Al Shira’aa Stables, and in this capacity, is the first Emirati woman who became a judge in international equestrian competitions.
She has created ‘The Black Garment: An Oriental Story’, which is a photography collection and a tribute to the Emirati Abaya. She is also the designer of the ‘Jannah’ Collection of jewellery, which, Mergiu says, is “an emblematic tribute to Zayed, Father of the Nation.” “My artistic vision,” says Sheikha Fatima in an interview to Mergiu, “is deeply rooted in the Emirati culture and uniqueness, but its outreach is global … this wealth of heritage gives me a strong foundation in my art.” Sheikha Fatima’s artworks include video, photography and installation art. Sheikha Madiyah Al Sharqi is a “superstar of the international fashion scene,” according to Mergiu.
She is the daughter of His Highness Sheikh Hammad Bin Mohammed Al Sharqi, the Ruler of Fujairah. Mergiu says that the Sheikha’s design creations remind her of “Fujairah’s waterfalls, the shining trousers have the forms of the Hajar Mountains, and the classy chemises are somehow the symbols of the palms in the middle of the sands.” Sheikha Sumaya Bint Saqr Al Qasimi is the patron of the Umm Al Quwain Mangroves Festival along with her husband, His Highness Sheikh Saud Bin Rashid Al Mualla, the Ruler of Umm Al Quwain.
“It is a festival of fraternity, brotherhood, sisterhood, deep love and respect for the ancient customs and traditions,” says Mergiu. “It is a symbol of deep awareness about the huge importance of conserving the land’s mangroves.” Sheikha Hend Bint Faisal Al Qasimi is known as a writer, women’s empowerment activist, or “simply as the Princess of the Black Book of Arabia” - a reference to her collection of short stories. Shiekha Hend, besides being a published author, is the Founder of the House of Hend, the fashion house. She also publishes Velvet, a lifestyle magazine.
“The Black Book of Arabia,” says Sheikha Hend, “is a window into the personal lives of people whose stories of struggles, betrayal and triumphs would have been otherwise untold if I had not met them.” Sheikha Fatima Bint Mohammed Bin Saqr Al Qassimi is a jewellery designer from Ras Al Khaimah; she imparts a contemporary aura to Bedouin jewellery. “To be modern does not mean to give up legends, but to create enduring legends,” is her leitmotif. She desires “a bit of Ras Al Khaimah” with its “ancient musicality and extravagant nature” in each piece of jewellery created by her. She is inspired by Picasso.
“His forms and colours are so odd, but also perfect,” she says. Halima Al Sayegh is a teacher, writer and artist “dedicated to the old times and origins of her country and ancestors.” She comes from one of the oldest goldsmith families in the UAE. Al Sayegh loves the burqa and she has designed a special one, inspired by the Mother of the Nation, Fatima Bint Mubarak Al Ketbi. It is delicately designed with arabesques and incorporated in it is a precious traditional earring. At the time of the interview with the author, Al Sayegh was working on a historical sword, engraved with the story of her heritage.
The burqa and the sword, Mergiu says, “are two Masterpieces for Eternity.” Mergui is based in Munich and has written several books dedicated to Arab heritage and Arab women. Her literary credo is: “Culture unites people.” French-Tunisian Raouf Meftah, whose photographs embellish the volume, is an internationally awarded artist.
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