Not like Istanbul’s historic Grand Bazaar, the famous Emirati souk hosted by the Artisans of the Emirates, or ARTE, is a baby – only seven years old. But it has quickly grown from its humble beginnings of about 30 “artisans” or craft exhibitors from the United Arab Emirates in the network to over 3,000. ARTE “markets” are held at the public center of Dubai Festival City; ARTE “souks” are held in Times Square Center. These expositions are not everyday occurrences; usually once-per-month dates are advertised on ARTE’s homepage.
For example, the next souk event is scheduled for September 14, the next market event October 5, in their respective locations. Usually, about 200 merchants set up shop on an exhibition day.
And the marketing people who made that ad announcement weren’t kidding – handmade in the UAE is the number one criterion for any item on display. Imported goods are a no-no.
Crafts have to have been created in the UAE, and by the stallholders themselves. That also means that these craftspeople are truly passionate about their work; they can’t slip some cash to a friend to cover their “shifts” at their stalls to do their business.
Some of these artisans aren’t your everyday run-of-the-mill craftspeople. They “think outside the box” and find new ways to create things of beauty.
Table decorations from driftwood collected on the beach is just one example of something rare and beautiful, not to mention environmentally smart, that will be on display September 14.
The plight of small business (tiny business!) owners like these individual artisans is felt by ARTE co-founders Paul Townsend and Miriam Walsh tell The National: “It can be very difficult to set up a small boutique…you need serious money. We’re offering a cheap alternative so that people can test the market and see if a product actually works… We’re not in it for the money; we’re there to promote handmade products in Dubai. There is a huge number of people in this city with a lot of talent who need to be seen and appreciated.”
And there is the proof, ladies and gentlemen: where there is art, there is love.
If you’re in Dubai and in the mood for a shopping spree, choose a day when ARTE is coming out and strutting its stuff!
P.S. ARTE also sells some items on Etsy here!