EASTERN MYSTIQUE

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Published on March 06, 2019 with No Comments

Azara Beautique’s founder, Mona Alyedreessy, speaks to MUHIBAH on Middle Eastern beauty rituals and the importance of being sustainable.

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What are some of the key ingredient highlights from the Middle East that you have brought to Azara Beautique?
Our signature products use mineral-rich Zam Zam water, Palestinian and Syrian extra virgin olive oil, organic camel milk, Yemeni sidr honey, royal green Omani hojari frankincense, Omani myrrh, blackseeds, Madina roses, figs, neem, moringa, Arabian Sea salt, ajwa dates and cherry seeds (mahlab). There has been a lot of research on these ingredients, such as by Ibn Al Baytar and of course, the advice of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) found in the book of Prophetic Medicine, that have shown both the medicinal and beauty qualities of these ingredients.

Yours is probably the first and only skincare range that uses the Zam Zam water as one of its essential ingredients. For those not familiar with Zam Zam, what would you like them to know and how does it benefit the user?
Zam Zam mineral water is only found in a 35 metre-deep well in Makkah, the holiest city in Saudi Arabia. It is considered to be a holy water by Muslims, due to the story of Abraham. Aside from this many western scientists, such as Dr. Knut Pfeiffer from Germany, consider Zam Zam to be the purest form of water on earth because of the amount of bicarbonates (366mg/l) found in it, which is even higher than the pure water obtained from the French Alps. Zam Zam water is antibacterial, alkaline and germicidal in nature because of its fluoride content and is rich in many vitamins and minerals such as calcium and magnesium that help to detoxify the skin and body. It was also found that Zam Zam water has amazing cell-repairing qualities to help people heal from various illnesses. As a result, Zam Zam has become an essential ingredient that is used in our products, which makes it unique to other brands.

Azara fiercely supports small local businesses. Why is this important to you?
I believe the coming together of small businesses creates loving communities, which is why we find it so important to support them now more than ever especially when large factories mass produce their products at a fraction of the cost. One of the Moroccan families we work with who does our wooden soap boxes was struggling to keep the craft going when we first met them, threatened by mass retail. We hired this family, much to their delight, and they continue to make all of our wooden spoons and mask bowls that amaze people every time they see them.

How do you select the right communities to work with when you source for the ingredients?
We make sure that we get the freshest and best quality ingredients. The purer the grade, the better the results. If we are unable to travel then we assign the job to a trusted contact in each country to source them for us. We buy from farmers who are extremely passionate about what they do and are knowledgeable about the benefits of everything they grow and produce. We learnt so much from them, as they provide us with valuable information that has been passed down to them from generations.

Are there any traditional beauty regimens you grew up with that have made it into an Azara product today?
My mother, Dr. Samira Zaidan, has been a homeopath for over 25 years and always believed in traditional medicine. Many of the recipes and ingredients we use in Azara Beautique have been with me since I was a child. For example, Omani myrrh was applied to our skin whenever we were cut so that it would heal quickly and a bag of cherry seeds was placed in our hands whenever we had a fever to decrease the body temperature, so we made soaps out of them that can be used in the same way. Our unique hair and face mask recipes, too were taken from my grandmother who used to create beauty products for her sisters and were later used on our hair when we were young. My sisters and I used to think it a great treat whenever my mother would get the hair mask mix out and pamper us.

Do you face any challenges in sourcing your ingredients, e.g. Yemeni sidr honey, in light of the current conflict in Yemen and the Middle East?
Our pure sidr honey comes straight from trusted organic bee farmers in Yemen who transport the honey over the border into Saudi. It is from there our contacts are able to bring it to us. Unfortunately due to the political crisis and war in Yemen, many bee farms were shut down and so it has become difficult to obtain high quality sidr honey like before, though we haven’t had any problems in sourcing it until now.

How would you like to grow your business? What is your long-term vision for the business?
We would really love to start our expansion plans by partnering with prestigious department stores in the UK and hopefully International ones, too. As ours are luxury and handmade products from rare and expensive ingredients, we will be selective with the places in which they are stocked, as we do not wish to mass produce millions of products via factories and machines. We encourage and strongly stand by the continuation of traditional handmade skills and crafts and hope to eventually have our own store one day that will lead to us opening branches in different parts of the world.

As a Muslim woman, how are you championing inclusivity, such as the employment of other Muslim women?
As a Muslim business woman I feel the hijab has empowered me in the sense that I have earned people’s respect and love due to them seeing how I put so much love and care into creating products and going out of my way to meet the needs of each customer. I created the brand to reflect how I am as a person, from the design aspect to the customer service provided and being a woman who wears hijab only adds to that value in a climate of widespread Islamophobia. I do not promote the brand as an Islamic brand; it is more reflective of my cultural heritage, whereas my treatment of customers, my integrity, professionalism, generosity and manners reflect the teachings of my faith.

With regards to employment, the people I bring into the team are those who are as passionate as we are about the ingredients we use and the products we make and do not necessarily need to be hijabis. It is extremely important to me that the people who work with us work as a team with the same intentions and goals: to serve our customers with the highest quality products that are made with the same level of love and care. To find hijabi women with this mindset and passion is an asset to our company, for sure.

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