First Published: 2006-01-11

 
Veiled Fulla is Arab answer to Barbie
 

Sartorial evolution of little Muslim girls' toy dolls mirrors broader phenomenon of Islamisation in Arab society.

 

Middle East Online

By Malak Labib - CAIRO

Mideast Barbie doll Fulla has been selling like hot cakes

Move over Barbie, veiled is beautiful. The physical ideal of Muslim girls increasingly includes the hijab, as evidenced by toy shops' best-selling doll "Fulla" and the string of showbiz stars opting to cover up.

The dark-eyed and olive-skinned Fulla has replaced her American rival's skimpy skirts with more modest "outdoor fashion" and Barbie's luxuriant blonde mane with an Islamic veil.

"Fulla sells better because it is closer to our Arab values: she never reveals a leg or an arm," says Tarek Mohammed, chief salesman at a Toys'R'Us branch in Mohandessin, one of Cairo's more upmarket neighbourhoods.

The Arab answer to Barbie has been selling like hot cakes for Eid Al-Adha, the most important holiday in the Muslim calendar, not least because it is cheaper than its American rival, although both are made in China.

Fulla is not the first Islamic doll but none of her predecessors have taken the regional market by storm like she has, selling some two million since its creation two years ago by the Emirates-based NewBoy Design Studio.

Saudi Arabia's religious police had then just banned "Barbie the Jewish doll", whose "revealing clothes and shameful postures, accessories and tools are a symbol of decadence to the perverted West."

Fulla, named after an Arabic word for a type of jasmine, was initially sold in the Gulf in a similar pink box but in more modest attire, such as the traditional abaya overdress and complete with a little prayer mat.

"Her wardrobe had to be widened to adapt to the Egyptian market. In other words, she became more modern," said Ahmed, a sales clerk at City Stars, Cairo's largest shopping mall.

Fulla can now dress her perfect albeit slightly less busty figure with tight t-shirts and jeans and wear the same colourful head scarves donned by most young Egyptian women today.

Fulla also has two female friends, Yasmine and Nada, with lighter hair.

But she is still single as no plans appear to be afoot for marketing an Islamic equivalent of Ken, as giving her a boyfriend would be seen inappropriate in conservative Muslim cultures.

But a mass marketing campaign, including TV commercials and dozens of by-products ranging from cereals to school stationery, is not the only reason for Fulla's ever-growing popularity.

The sartorial evolution of little Muslim girls' toy dolls mirrors a broader phenomenon of Islamisation in Arab culture and society, which is no longer incompatible with hip and glamour.

When a wave of Egyptian singers, actresses and belly-dancers first donned the veil in the 1970s and 1980s on the advice of influential sheikh Mohammed Metwalli al-Shaarawi, it often entailed retirement from the spotlight.

But Islamic fashion is now something to be cashed in on.

In 2002, Egyptian actress Abeer Sabry announced she ended her career to become a more devout Muslim and followed classes by Amr Khaled and Habib bin Ali, two young and very popular Islamic "televangelists".

But far from slipping back into anonymity, she was promptly drafted to present an Islamic talk show on a satellite network and says she is now hoping for a veiled comeback on the silver screen.

The former star actress, who still wears lipstick but whose hair is neatly tucked under a hijab, admitted she has not yet received any offers but insisted her modern Islamic look will pay off rather than undermine her career.

"About 70 percent of Egyptian women are veiled, and women and girls would love to see me in a new movie," she told Al-Wafd newspaper recently.

 

Drone targets Qaeda suspects in crisis-hit Yemen

Assad: US idea to train rebels illusionary

Tunisia parliament delays confidence vote on new government

New Saudi leadership aims to diversify oil-dependent economy

Is female cycling socially unacceptable in Egypt?

Egypt court orders release of Mubarak sons pending retrial

Saudi Arabia seeks greater American role in Middle East crises

Iraq army announces liberation of Diyala from ‘Islamic State’

After 4 months of fighting, Kurds expel ‘Islamic State’ from Kobane

Libya warring factions meet in Geneva to resume peace talks

Tunisia's Ennahda rejects Essid cabinet line-up

Alleged Algerian jihadist arrested in Morocco

UN Security Council to on Yemen crisis

Obama vows to maintain pressure on Qaeda in crisis-hit Yemen

Gaza announces plans to ready sea port for international travel

Barrage of rockets rains down on Syria capital

Egypt extends Sinai state of emergency by three months

Syria ambassador to UN to head government team in Moscow talks

Qatar court tells US family to decide on fate of alleged killer

Gunmen kidnap Libya deputy foreign minister from hotel room

Erdogan visits war-torn Somalia amid tight security

New violence as Egypt marks anniversary of 2011 revolt

Yemen Huthi rebels fire in air to disperse Sanaa protest

Gridlocked streets of Saudi capital turn quiet for day of mourning

Islamist websites confirm death of Ansar al-Sharia chief in Libya

World leaders head to Saudi Arabia to offer condolences

Iran parliament starts to draft law on nuclear enrichment hike

Mauritania prison siege ends with captives freed

Syria opposition demands 'radical democratic change'

Tunisia turns the page on political Islam

Iran FM pays rare visit to Saudi Arabia after King's death

Signs of uprising against Huthis in streets of Sanaa

Israel prepares for any retaliation by Hezbollah

New Tunisia PM forms cabinet with no Islamists

Saudi Arabia buries King Abdullah

Britain allowed Libya to intimidate political opponents

Gul calls to Erdogan for greater democracy

Israel Arab parties join forces ahead of snap election

Mubarak sons freed pending retrial

Hagel: US has killed thousands of jihadists

Iraq asks for more weapons to fight IS threat

Half-brother Salman replaces late Saudi King

Yemen leader resigns, leaves country in deadlock

King of Saudi Arabia dies at age of 90, Crown Prince Salman declared new ruler

Europe pleads for more nuclear talks allowance