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Dubai woman's celebration of prayer.

Dubai: With Eid Al Adha round the corner, Dubai-based Zara Alikhan has her hands full. The Pakistani architect is racing against time to make deliveries of her unlikely creation: an array of prayer mats with accessories to go with them.

The Bahr Al Noor prayer concept, as she calls it, has become a runaway hit among residents who have long been looking for mats that are out of the ordinary.

Zara remembers how she would vow to buy a good mat every time she prepared for prayer. Using a functional mat with brash colours and riotous patterns five times a day was getting to her. But no mater where she went, she couldn't find the ideal mat she had in mind.

"I would find myself saying no, not this one, something simple, new, different, non-rug like and so on," she recalled. "But early last year, I was feverishly inspired by the craft-traditions of the Islamic world and its complex patterns offered the haven of tranquility and simplicity I was looking for. So I decided to make the mats myself."


The tastefully crafted Bahr Al Noor collection on display at Ush Boutique in Jumeirah comprises a range of sajjadah (prayer mats) with accompanying masbaha and sibha (his and her prayer beads), even lepps salah and shaylah (prayer attire) and Quran covers as accessories.

The luxury mats, made of pure chamois or silk, are designed with a light, flexible and comfortable inner lining and are easy to fold and drape after use. They come with or without Swarovski embellishments.

"Employing modern artisan details such as unexposed stitching and minimal materials, each prayer mat is carefully handcrafted to embody the overwhelming fields of colour and geometry in Islamic design," said Zara.

For example, one collection of premium chamois mats is based on sacred Islamic sites like the Masjid Al Haram, Masjid Al Nabawi and Al Aqsa Mosque. There's another collection that draws from the eight gates of Jannah (paradise), and yet another from the five daily prayers. Each has a distinct theme and design that reflects art, tranquility, spirituality and contemplation.

According to her, the idea behind the aesthetic designs is to add value to the house, merge it with the decor as it were, far from tucking it away in a corner or inside a cupboard. Appealing to the eye, it beckons for the next prayer.

Zara said: "The focus is the ability to unite form and function and celebrate the power and beauty of prayer."

The mats can be used by all age groups. In fact, there's a separate range for kids as well. "We are coming up with special mats for those with knee problems by providing a special cushioning and lower place mats. There's a portable collection for the Haj and Umrah too," said Zara, adding that the mats can be matched with prayer beads, Quran covers and other accessories.

Made at a workshop in Karama, the collections cost from Dh350 to Dh2,500. The prayer mat alone comes for Dh500 to Dh750, depending on the material that is used.

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Publication:XPRESS (United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:7UNIT
Date:Oct 10, 2013
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