Heritage is more than history

Marhaba <<First Name>>

Welcome to our first newsletter of 2020. We are already one month into the third decade of this Millenium. The future is here and we are ready to be part of it.

When talking about heritage, history, and preserving the past, we can often make the mistake to think of it as old, dusty, past tense, and boring. But this is not what The Zay Initiative is about. 

We care passionately about the past, about our history and our heritage. That is why we work so hard to keep it alive, to learn from it, to record the stories, and to help it grow into the future. We believe our heritage should be part of our present and our future. 

Our founding fathers, and the Arab architects, scientists, mathematicians, artists and explorers that came before them, set us on this path of using the past to build the future.

We are delighted to have you with us on this journey. Without you, our readers, supporters, advisors, sponsors, and friends, this road would have been far harder and far lonelier.
This year started off busy and exciting. Read on to learn more about what The Zay Team has been up to, and what we have planned for the rest of 2020.

Ma'a Salama
The Zay Team

a Thawb Najdi, originally from the Nahid region of Saudi Arabia, dating back to the 1950s. A gift from Marjorie Ransom.

Our new-look website and blog

We started the new decade with a fresh new website that is easy to navigate in both English and Arabic.

Our Digital Archive has a fresh look and new search features, making it easier to research and find specific items, or to learn about garments from a specific region or style. It is a work in progress and will be updated as we receive new items. As a subscriber, you would have received login details for easy access. 

The blog is growing as we keep adding new posts. The aim of the blog is to demystify Arab dress culture, to explain terminology, styles, regional differences, and customs in a way that is informative, entertaining and easy to understand. 

We have also welcomed  Sigrid van Roode onboard as a new contributor. Sigrid is a specialist in Bedouin jewellery and her monthly posts will focus on jewellery and embellishments from across the Arab world. We are looking forward to learning from her.

January blog posts


Jewellery is an unmistakable part of the traditional dress in the Arab world. It is not only beautiful adornment but fulfils many other functions as well. In this post, the many stories that jewellery can tell us will be introduced.


Marjorie Ransom’s renowned collection of Yemeni Jewellery is a rare and valuable contribution to the world of cultural heritage preservation. Her intimate knowledge of the Yemeni land and people – both the wearers and the makers of these treasures – is a gift to the world. We had the pleasure and privilege to welcome Marjorie to Dubai, to spent time with her, learning about her collection and introducing her to ours.


The Zay Initiative had the privilege to be part of several events over the past few weeks:

Al Shindagha Days: A new cultural festival on the banks of Dubai Creek at the newly revamped Al Shindagha Museum Precinct. The Zay Initiative had a pop-up stand called Anatomy of Dress Installation, where visitors could learn more about Arab dress and 'try' it on for themselves with our unique cut-out outfits. The stand was a crowd favourite.

Dubai Cultural Textile Group

Dr Reem el Mutwalli addressed the Dubai Cultural Textile Group sharing with them about her passion for Arab dress, the Zay Initiative, and an overview of the history of UAE dress and costume. 

Africa Fashion Week Middle East (AFWME)

Dr Reem el Mutwalli joined the panel of Africa Fashion Week Middle East to discuss ‘Exploring the possibilities in our regions under the concept of Afro and Arab Futurism.’

Fellow panellists included:

Dr Petar Stojanov Innovation and Future Strategist
Salma Awwad, Editor in Chief, Haper’s Bazaar Arabia
Rumana Nazim, Founder, The Edit

In the media

We are always grateful for the media's interest in The Zay Initiative. During January we had coverage in:
  • The National
  • Al Khaleej
  • Villa88
  • Grazia
Read the full articles here.
Catching up with friends: Linda MacConnell, Marjorie Ransom, Jessica Tsimprea Maluch, and Buthaina Al Kadi

Coming up

Behind the scenes, we are always working on future projects. Here's a few things you can look forward to:

February on the blog:
  1. We had the privilege to meet photographer Anita van der Krol, who lived in the UAE from 1975-1980 when she documented everyday life in the Emirates. Her unique collection of photographs are now a valuable source of cultural reference.
  2. The next instalment in Sigrid van Roode's jewellery series. 
Events to look forward to:

We are working on an exciting exhibition called Draped in Heritage. More detail will be revealed soon.
We always look forward to meeting you in person or receiving emails and messages from our readers, followers and friends. Please get in touch to share your story, join our volunteer program, or to learn more about how you can become part of The Zay Initiative's journey.

Ma'a Salama
The Zay Team
The Zay Initiative
Copyright © 2020 The Zay Initiative, All rights reserved.

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