x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Sougha provides a local touch to Etihad amenities bags

Etihad Airways partners with Sougha to produce unique, weaved amenity bags on all its flights.

Sougha amenity kits will be handed out on all Etihad flights. Courtesy Etihad Airways
Sougha amenity kits will be handed out on all Etihad flights. Courtesy Etihad Airways

Travellers boarding Etihad Airways flights this week will notice their amenity bags have been given a significant upgrade.

The Abu Dhabi carrier has partnered with Sougha, the Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development initiative to preserve Emirati heritage, boost employment and promote and sustain the work of local artisans, in offering its handmade bags on all Etihad Diamond First, Pearl Business and Coral Economy cabins. By March, all the amenity bags handed out will be made by Sougha’s artisans, providing the project with international exposure to the carrier’s almost ­12 million annual passengers.

In varying sizes – and with the addition of Korres products for business and Le Labo for first class – the bags feature colourful, centuries-old Sadou patterns, an intricate style of weaving that was traditionally used on blankets, cushions and Bedouin tents. Inside each one is a card explaining the origin.

The partnership gives a massive boost to Sougha’s significant success story. The initiative was launched in 2009 with just seven craftsmen in Gayathi, a remote town in the Western Region. It has grown to 400 artisans, half of them now producing their own work, half in training, and spread to Dibba, Khorfakkan, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah and Ajman. And the Sougha product line – including bags, clutches and iPad cases – is for sale online and in retail outlets and souqs across the UAE.

The growth of the project means handiwork that was in danger of being lost forever has now been revived, says Ibrahim Ahmed Al Mansoori, Sougha’s chairman and Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development’s chief operating officer.

“It’s a product with a story about the history of the country, about the heritage of the country,” he says.

“We are very happy that we are able to not just show it, but sustain it for the next generation going ­forward.”

The Etihad/Sougha partnership officially launched this week at The Galleria on Al Maryah Island, where Etihad’s chief commercial officer Peter Baumgartner explained the company was responding to demand from passengers. It’s fitting, as Sougha translates to “traveller’s gift” in Arabic, that Etihad would capitalise on the appeal of local handicrafts. And it all stems from a single Sougha item the airline began offering in its in-flight shopping magazine, which soon expanded into a double-page, made-in-the-UAE spread.

“What we realised was that the product was extremely successful,” said Baumgartner. “People travelling to Abu Dhabi want to bring home a souvenir, something that reminds them of their time here. This is something that tells a story.”

amcqueen@thenational.ae