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The moment I stepped into the Fatima Bint Mohammad Bin Zayed Initiative (FBMI) showroom on Jumeirah Beach Road, I realized it was different. Despite being in a city that stocks some of the finest carpets from across the world, FBMI makes its presence felt with brilliant design statements.
FBMI, however, is more than just a store selling exquisite handwoven carpets and handicraft; it is a programme for social development in Afghanistan. In June 2010, the UAE created a partnership with Afghan investor Tanweer Investments to launch the initiative.
"Since 2006, we were looking at various sectors where we could generate employment for the impoverished people of Afghanistan,” says Maywand Jabarkhyl, Executive Director of FBMI.
“We found strong employment opportunities in the handmade carpet sector as it had plenty of export potential. Understanding the plight of women in Afghanistan, we specially wanted to recruit women so we could help them live with dignity.
“Considering that many women already possess skills in weaving and spinning, it is easier for us to recruit. All we need to do is offer them the resources they require to weave rugs such as wools, looms and basic training.”
The initiative has also allowed the large-scale import of genuine Afghan carpets directly from Afghanistan, says Jabarkhyl.
“Another significant benefit of launching the initiative is it helped prices of Afghan carpets worldwide go up to a level that is sustainable for all of us. Since we started the project, many Afghan weavers living as refugees in neighbouring countries have started to return to Afghanistan, as they are now getting fair market rates.”
FBMI currently runs three centres in Afghanistan — two in Kabul and one in Jalalabad. “Apart from creating new jobs, the programme also offers the entire community access to critical social services such as free health care and children’s education.”
The programme has already recruited more than 3,200 people and produces 6,000-7,000 handmade carpets per year.
While carpets at FBMI’s showrooms are traditionally produced from wool, they also stock products that come with silk finishes. From the traditional Mushwani kilims and Khal Mohammedi to the fastestselling Afghan carpet, Chobi Zeigler, and rugs with contemporary designs such as Gabbeh, there are a lot to choose from.
“Last year we collaborated with Norma Kamali, an internationally recognized designer, and produced a collection of 12 handmade carpets,” says Jabarkhyl.
FBMI’s Jumeirah outlet stocks more than 5,000 sq m of carpets and more than 700 pieces, with prices ranging from Dh500 to Dh3,000 per square metre.
Source: Chiranti Sengupta, Features Writer