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Traditional costumes and heritage of Saudi Arabia

Traditional costumes and heritage of Saudi Arabia

Tue, Jul 13, 2021 7:55 PM - 9:30 PM Gulf Standard Time (UTC+4)

Register here.

A special 90-mins webinar with Richard Wilding, Trustee, Mansoojat Foundation speaking on Traditional costumes and heritage of Saudi Arabia

The Zay Initiative aims to promote an understanding of the evolution of regional culture, building up public awareness and appreciation of this unique heritage, reaching out to like-minded individuals and institutions nationally, regionally and globally. In addition to seasonal or touring exhibitions and museum loans, the collection is accessed through the digital archive (Collection), first of its kind on a regional level, fortified by a pop-up glossary in both Arabic and English. The Zay Initiative aims to empower women regionally and globally by bringing their untold stories to life.

The Five Pillars of the Zay Initiative are: • Collect, document and conserve Arab dress and adornment.• Present and contextualise through a digital archive and blog.• Encourage intercultural dialogue to highlight our shared humanity.• Inspire and educate designers to create for a sustainable future.• Empower women regionally and globally by bringing their untold stories to life.

We look forward to welcoming you to this talk entitled:


The costumes and jewellery of Saudi Arabia reveal a great diversity of regional and tribal identities, reflecting the Kingdom’s contrasting urban and rural, settled and nomadic, desert and mountain environments. The Arabian Peninsula sits at the centre of ancient pilgrimage and trade routes, and this has resulted in centuries of cultural influence from textiles, beads and jewellery passing through the region.

Despite this fascinating cultural history, there has been only limited research and documentation of the costumes of Saudi Arabia. Over the past eleven years Richard Wilding has worked with Mansoojat, a group of Saudi women in Jeddah, to document the Kingdom’s traditional costumes and heritage. The results of this work have been published in Traditional Costumes of Saudi Arabia (ACC Art Books), a 320 page book released in 2021.

In this talk, richly illustrated with his photography, Richard Wilding describes the research trips undertaken with Mansoojat throughout the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, his photography of the Mansoojat costume collection and the process of editing the resulting publication. After the presentation, Richard will be joined by his Mansoojat colleagues in Jeddah to answer questions from the audience.


Richard Wilding is a London-based curator, writer, filmmaker and photographer. He specialises in the production of exhibitions, books and films documenting heritage, cultural identity and costume in the Middle East, and is currently working on projects in Iraq, Iraqi Kurdistan, Syria and Saudi Arabia.

Richard is a trustee of the Mansoojat Foundation, a charity formed by a group of Saudi women to preserve and document the traditional costumes of Saudi Arabia. Richard has conducted numerous research trips through Saudi Arabia with Mansoojat and has undertaken studio photography of Mansoojat’s unique collection of costumes and jewellery. In 2016 he produced a film with Mansoojat about the costumes and heritage of Saudi Arabia and he has recently co-edited and produced the book Traditional Costumes of Saudi Arabia, published by ACC Art Books in 2021. The publication features essays on the diverse regional and tribal identities of Arabia by a number of Saudi academics and local experts.

Since 2012, Richard has been Creative Director of Gulan, a UK-registered charity that promotes Kurdish culture. He has worked on community projects in Iraqi Kurdistan and with the Kurdish diaspora in the UK. In 2019, Richard co-founded Eye on Heritage as a platform for local filmmakers in Iraq, Syria and the wider Middle East and North Africa region to present their heritage and culture to an international audience.

Richard has given public talks for the Royal Society for Asian Affairs, Leighton House Museum, Asia House and the Ismaili Centre, London. He has given lectures for the Reconciliation and Peacebuilding programme at the University of Winchester, for the Department of Archaeology at the University of Reading, for the Sackler Research Forum at the Courtauld Institute of Art, London and at the University of Exeter’s Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies.


Dr Reem Tariq El Mutwalli, is a published author, lead curator and public speaker. With over 30 years of experience, she is an expert consultant in Islamic art and architecture, interior design, historic dress and UAE heritage.

She is also the founder of the Zay Initiative. A non-profit UK registered initiative advancing the preservation of cultural heritage, through the collection, documentation and digital archiving of Arab historical attire and their stories. Our goal is to empower and sustain global cross-cultural dialogue to inspire creative minds.


Raised in the Middle East, educated in the UK, Emma has a profound understanding and passion for bridging gaps regarding culture and business, whilst navigating geo-political environments.

Emma is a highly motivated, award-winning, experienced project leader, communications and business development professional with over 15 years’ experience.

As the Festival Director of Dubai Lynx from 2011 to 2016, she strategically grew the event and left a legacy, building the foundations that sees the festival thrive across multiple markets today. Now an entrepreneur and mother, Emma set up ‘Chameleon’, helping businesses reach their potential whilst ensuring they do better for good.

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