Archive for October, 2011

Seattle Arab Festival 2011 ~ Photos by A Crafty Arab

October 31st, 2011 3 comments

The Seattle Arab Festival took place in early October at the Seattle Center. I was unable to attend, but I’m sharing photos from the event, thanks to Koloud ‘Kay’ Tarapolsi, who attended as a vendor, blog photographer and member of the Seattle  Arab community.

Koloud is a Libyan American who developed her brand A Crafty Arab to promote a positive image of Arab culture by creating jewelry, crafts, and handmade educational tools that are fun and colorful. She sells her items online, at local stores in the Pacific Northwest and at festivals such as the Seattle Arab Festival. (To find out more about A Crafty Arab, keep reading.)

Here are a few of Koloud’s photos from the Seattle Arab Festival 2011.

First is Koloud selling her crafts. 

The performance stage (below). So sad I missed this!

A Morocan-themed booth

A few of the food booths

Cafe Palestine

Booth with educational resources from AmidEast

Booth for the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace & Justice … A topic close to my heart.

One of the booths for kids. Yay!

Finally, a glimpse of the jewelry from A Crafty Arab.

More about A Crafty Arab

Kholoud created the brand A Crafty Arab in 2008 to strengthen Arab American heritage and language. She sells her handmade Arabic crafts and cards at A Crafty Arab. Below are a few examples of her crafts.

Blue Hamsa Earrings ~ Hand of Fatima

 Um Kulthuum pin (!!)

 Arabic “Ramadan Kareem” greeting card

 Arabic-themed light switch cover. So crafty!

Poster featuring the Arabic alphabet. A must-have for young Arabic-speaking kids.

More about Koloud ‘Kay’ Tarapolsi

Koloud left Libya with her family when she was 7 years old. Shortly afterwards, her parents were granted political asylum and allowed to live in the US. She grew up in Oklahoma, but moved to Seattle in 1992 after a friend sent her a postcard of Mt. Rainer. She started making handmade Arabic greeting cards when she couldn’t find any to give to friends. Soon she was getting requests and now also makes Farsi and Urdu cards. Trying to stay unique, she started adding humor to her cards and crafts. Koloud lives in Redmond, Washington, with her husband, 3 young daughters and a cat named Shems (Arabic for sunshine). Here is a 4-minute video of a TV show featuring Koloud. (It’s mostly in Arabic, but easy to get get the gist.)

Kholoud has A Crafty Arab Blog. You can also find A Crafty Arab on Facebook. In the Seattle area, you can find Koloud’s crafts at: Seattle Public Library Friend Shop (Downtown Seattle), Ventures (Pike Place Market), Al-Andalus (Greenwood), and Happy Delusions (Renton).



Weekend in Istanbul (Part III)

October 22nd, 2011 7 comments

Earlier I  wrote about my Weekend in Istanbul:

          Part I – Where we stayed,  What we visited, What we ate

          Part II – Where we  shopped, Where we went

Here is my  final post about my weekend in this complex, multi-layered city.

What  We Saw

To me,  Istanbul was tidy and charming (at least the areas that I saw). The city was  full of clean streets, green boulevards and hills. (Think San Francisco.) Here  is one of many winding cobblestone streets that I saw.

Istanbul  is a colorful city in many ways.


Even the  buildings are colorful. On some streets, every building is a different color.

When the  weather is nicer, Istanbul would be a fabulous place for sitting in sidewalk  cafés. (This photo was taken by someone else on a sunny day.)

What Surprised Me

I knew  that Istanbul is famously divided by the Bosporus strait which cuts the city into East and West, Asia and Europe. What I hadn’t considered was the Golden  Horn, which divides European Istanbul and the Sea of Marmara, which provides water to the south. All this meant that Istanbul has miles and miles of waterfront and so many beautiful views of water, boats and bridges. I loved this.

One can  get right up close to the water in the many cafés and restaurants that line the waterfront. This photo was taken from a place where we ate lunch outside (Assk  Café). Luckily there were heaters.

I was surprised by how darn cold it was. First, I thought it would be a “nice change” from the sun and warmth of Dubai. Then the rain made me homesick for Seattle. After that, I was just cold, wet and a little bit miserable. Even though I had  the proper coat and shoes (for once), I was freezing.

We spent a lot of time riding in taxis, waiting for a taxi or searching for a taxi. Also, we had various communication breakdowns with drivers. I only knew one word in Turkish: merhaba, which means “hello.” I relied heavily on this word. (It’s the same word in Arabic.)

There were a lot of stay dogs in Istanbul. What surprised me was how healthy, well-fed and docile they looked.

What I Bought

Aside from  too much Turkish delight, this is what I bought. I love the handmade tiles of  Turkey.

Here’s a  detail of the hand of Fatima trinket. These types of things were very cheap.

I also bought a Turkish teapot. The top is for strong tea that is slowly brewed over the hot water below. The tea is diluted with the water from the bottom. This tea-brewing method creates a unique taste. I used to think this was a samovar. No, it’s just a teapot.

This is a  samovar. (We didn’t buy it. It was in the Ritz-Carlton lobby café.)

What I thought

I found the Turks to be a smiley, cheerful people (except for one guy). This is what I noticed coming from a place that’s not particularly smiley.

Also, at first glance, Istanbul appears truly secular. Of course, there were gorgeous mosques all over the city. But from my perspective (coming from the UAE), it didn’t have the feel of a Muslim country. I realize there’s a reason for this, due to Turkey’s own unique history and Ataturk’s reforms and laws against the hijab. I also realize it’s a different story outside the city.

Above all, Istanbul felt like Europe. Well, according to the map, we were in Europe.

Lonely Planet calls Istanbul one of “the  world’s great romantic cities.” I believe that. In fact, what I saw of Istanbul reminded me more of Paris than any other city I’ve been to.

So, my first  impression as a weekend visitor was that Istanbul is more European than Middle Eastern, more secular than Muslim. Also, the city is so old, complex and layered, so rich with history, architecture… well, with everything. I got the impression one could spend a lifetime there and still not explore everything.

May my next trip to Istanbul be longer and filled with sunny weather and lots of time spent antique-shopping and sitting in sidewalk cafés.

Question: What are your impressions of Istanbul? 

Weekend in Istanbul (Part II)

October 20th, 2011 9 comments

Earlier, I shared Part I of our weekend in Istanbul: Where we stayed, What we visited & What we ate.

Here’s more about that trip.

Where We Shopped

I wanted to buy something not available in Dubai, and I was set on Cukurcuma, the antique district in Beyoglu. Unfortunately, we had trouble finding the area. (Later, I discovered we were so close but had missed it!) The next day was Sunday and many shops were closed, and some streets were closed due to the Istanbul City Marathon. Alas, antique-shopping was not meant to be.

We settled on the Grand Bazaar, a famous and colorful souk, a sprawling labyrinth of over 4,000 shops. Here we found the usual Middle Eastern  handicrafts, carpets and kilims, pottery, jewelry, leather and more. There were even some antiques, but none called out to me.


I’ve been to other souks in Arab cities, and the Grand Bazaar reminded me most of the Muslim Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem. However, the Grand Bazaar felt much bigger—downright overwhelming. It seemed to go on forever. I was buying things left and right because I was afraid I would never find that shop again. We entered at one gate, wandered, shopped and browsed for several hours, then left from another gate, exhausted and unsure of where we were.


This bazaar was the one place that felt Middle Eastern to me. The bargaining was intense. We had to go back and forth, back and forth, just to agree on the right price for one teapot. Here are a few things we saw in the Grand Bazaar. Lots of pottery.

Whirling dervishes.

More whirling dervishes. 

And pomegranates, too.

There were many beautiful things that I didn’t take photos of. Actually, I didn’t linger at any shop unless I planned to buy something because the shopkeepers were quite aggressive.

Where We Went

We also went to Istiklal Caddesi, a bustling pedestrian boulevard in Beyoglu, and near our hotel. We went twice; both times it was raining. Still, it was the weekend, and the promenade was filled with locals strolling under umbrellas.


This promenade was in sharp contrast to the bazaar. We found modern restaurants, boutiques, cafes and businesses like Starbucks, Nike and The Gap. This was the place to see the young people, who struck me as stylish and hip, and above all, European.

And the architecture was European, too. So quaint compared to Dubai. Here was one of many cute buildings.

The avenue had a streetcar running from one end to the other.


I noticed that shops were grouped according to type–jewelry shops, music stores, lighting boutiques, etc. There were lots of charming side streets. Off one of them was the antique area that we never found.

As always, we gravitated to Starbucks. I like to visit Starbucks in various countries. For me, it’s not globalization, but a little piece of home. As we sat by the window, keeping warm and watching people enter and shake raindrops off their umbrellas, I almost felt like I was in Seattle.

Meanwhile, I saw so few women wearing hijab, I was thinking that one sees more women in headscarf in Seattle than in this part of Istanbul.

Below are some of the more Turkish sights of Istiklal Street.

Coming up next: Part III: What we saw, What we bought, What surprised me & What I thought

Question: What is your favorite area of Istanbul?