A myriad of emotions are felt for the historic Dubai Creek. Its gently flowing waters remind some of the days gone by, while for others the Creek has been the source of love, life and longing.
American national Alyssa met the love of her life Mahmoud Khsayem, a Syrian weaver, by the Dubai Creek back in 2019. Today the couple run Magic Rugs, a home-grown weaving studio in Al Seef, a place that inspires a love of the Arabic craft, culture and tradition through the beautiful woven home items, such as carpets and rugs.
When I meet Alyssa by the creek, she looks happy and is expecting her first child, a girl, in June. Her days are busy, planning for Iftar, growing her business with her husband and dreaming about the new member of her family. “Mahmoud and I met in 2019 when I was a tourist in Dubai. I was on a trip with my mother, and we were shopping in Al Seef after a picturesque Dhow Cruise of Dubai Creek. I had a small tabletop loom back home in the US and had recently gotten very interested in weaving. I was delighted to see Mahmoud’s big Syrian loom and even more delighted when he let me use it! I stayed for two hours weaving and then returned every day of my trip. It was love at first weave,” she says.
There were plenty of things that worked for the couple, despite the cultural differences. “Mahmoud and I both love weaving and all fiber arts. We have different styles, but we like to experiment together and learn from each other,” says Alyssa.
The couple also share a deep love of Dubai and the opportunities it offers them. She says, “We find Dubai to be diverse, friendly, and safe. It’s a great place for an international couple! Sometimes it reminds Mahmoud of Syria, and sometimes it reminds me of the US. The UAE is so special because there’s always something to do, no matter what you’re interested in. We love the mix of old tradition and new technology and the blending of so many different cultures.”
The Syrian connection
Alyssa eventually moved to Dubai and it was only natural that she wanted to be part of the family business. She explains, “Mahmoud comes from a family of weavers in Aleppo, Syria – they have been in the carpet business for hundreds of years. It’s in his DNA! He started weaving as a young child, working closely with his father in their factory. We hope to carry on the tradition with our daughter.”
For the couple, running the store has been a lot of fun. “We meet people from all over the world, both tourists and residents. We become friends with all our customers, and we love for them to leave our store with an appreciation for Arabic culture and heritage,” says Mahmoud.
Alyssa and Mahmoud have worked hard to make the business grow and reach a greater audience. “We make a very good team because we always listen to each other and like to try new ideas. And it’s so much fun to work with your best friend every day! Mahmoud is the brains behind the items because he knows so much about carpets and rugs. I manage our communications, but my greatest contribution was my idea for weaving lessons!” says Alyssa.
Magic Rugs offers personal and group lessons every day, all taught by Alyssa and Mahmoud. “Our students have loved learning to weave! Everyone makes their own small rug and takes it home - kids and adults! We have taught people from dozens of different countries, both residents and tourists and everyone has enjoyed it! We have some families that come over and over again. Our weaving workshops are each two hours long and require prior booking,” explains Alyssa.
According to the couple, weaving great for improving dexterity and motor skills in young children. It’s a very relaxing activity, and it allows for total freedom and creativity. “We have many different colors and types of yarns, and we like to let our weaving students experiment and have fun,” says Mahmoud.
Blend of modern and traditional styles
Mahmoud says the rugs he weaves are a mix of modern and traditional weaving styles. “They are bright colours because this is the Syrian style. We have handmade rugs and machine-made rugs. We like to use elements and designs of traditional weaving, but we rearrange them into new, modern patterns. At Magic Rugs, we have a large loom we both use for custom weavings. Customers can choose their colors and designs, and we weave them in our store. We also sell carpets and rugs from other countries. We also have a collection of fine secondhand carpets that we clean, repair, and restore.”
Building a life by the historic Creek has been a beautiful journey for this couple. “We love being on the Dubai Creek. It’s a beautiful historic area that’s unlike anywhere else in the world. It’s a very special place, and we love that we have built a life here, from our first time meeting at Dubai Creek in 2019,” says Alyssa.