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Why Vogue Arabia’s Third Anniversary Issue is a Vibrant Celebration of Arab Women and Culture

Vogue Arabia, March 2020, Assala Nasri, Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi, Yousra, Hassan Hajjaj

From left: Assala Nasri, Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi and Yousra photographed by Hassan Hajjaj for Vogue Arabia March 2020

It was while walking through the souk in Riyadh that I came up with the concept of our anniversary covers. But before I tell you how this happened, let me just take a moment to say, three years of Vogue Arabia – wow! Saying that time flies when you live in a dynamic city like Dubai is one of those clichés that you often hear, but my Vogue Arabia experience really feels as such. In just three years we’ve had such incredible high moments that make me proud of the work that the team and I craft. Besides providing an accurate representation of the style of Arab women, we’ve offered a window into their accomplishments and talents – a positive message I consider so important in a region where women’s roles are constantly being reinvented and challenged, and where women are so often misrepresented. We’ve also tackled topics that many considered taboo – from domestic violence and honor killings to mental health – always with access to the world’s leading opinion leaders and celebrities. And let’s not forget our serious commitment towards supporting Arab designers, as they are the foundation of the region’s fashion ecosystem. I truly hope that as a reader you feel represented and fulfilled as you enjoy the content we share in the print editions and on our online platforms. This is your magazine, and you are the reason we do this work.

Now, back to the souk.

As I lost myself in the small streets with tiny stores, I couldn’t help but notice the vibrant colors popping out from everywhere: teapots painted in white, red, and green, fabulous beaded headpieces from the Aseer province, flowery fabrics on big pillows and throws to make the house more joyful… I believe that maybe because women in the Gulf wear black abayas and veils in public, there’s a preconceived notion that the Arab world doesn’t embrace color. From that moment I knew that, in March, we needed to have a vibrant and colorful magazine, and the tagline “Pop Arabia” immediately came to mind.

Dubbed the Andy Warhol of Marrakech, no one could better bring this concept to life than Moroccan photographer Hassan Hajjaj. Thankfully, when I met him for the first time in his studio in London – which is filled with colorful kaftans, babouches, and some of his most iconic images – he said yes straight away. Working with Hassan was an absolute dream, and I would also like to thank him for receiving us so well at his Marrakech riad, always filled with music, the best tea, and Moroccan sweets.

Leading in the arts and entertainment industries, Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi, Assala Nasri, and Yousra were the A-list cast I always dreamed of for this project. They are women of different generations and countries, but have in common enormous doses of talent and the admiration and respect of their industry peers and fans across the Arab world. Spending three days in Marrakech with these women was unforgettable, from crossing the medina undercover in blacked-out tuk-tuks, to sharing the energy during our shoots. I am also honored that they have chosen to open up about their lives so candidly, both the good and the bad.

Now, please join us in this optimistic and fun celebration of Arab culture, painted with all the colors of the crayon box. The party starts now.

Originally published in the March 2020 issue of Vogue Arabia

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