The art of thoughtful gift giving has often been a dilemma, but twenty three-year-old Noura Ebrahim took it to a whole new level by making dolls that look just like their owners.
Graduated in 2018 from Azhar El Zagazig, Noura had the urge to start her own project: Doll Store. Through her passion towards art and drawing, she used to draw portraits for people in her close circle. When she found it both energy-draining and time-consuming with her studying schedule, she tried out a bunch of other things until she found herself in doll making.
“I was then never able to leave it because the fun continues to increase. When I made my first doll, I created it out of very simple stuff at home. It looked very funny, but I decided to upload it on Facebook for fun. I got so many great reactions that I decided to try making more,” she says.
Inspired by the movie Saghira Al Hob, she started making dolls in boxes and giving them as gifts to her friends and children in the family. “They were really impressed because they were different, new, and unique. Nobody else has that very same doll,” she adds.
Noura explains that despite Egypt and El Sharqiyya’s conservative nature, her most vital reason to launch her own project was to achieve financial independence. “Here in Zagazig, they stick to the idea that ‘we won’t make you need anything’ why do you want to pay your own bills?” she says.
Throughout our conversation, Noura kept coming back to this point to emphasize its extreme vitality for girls nowadays. “Girls need to know how to work and generate their own income. No matter how their family makes them financially secure, they can never guarantee what the future holds” she explains. Noura also believes that girls don’t necessarily work because they need money, it can be to develop themselves or their community.
“I stayed for a year without telling my father the details of my project. He sees me working, but he thought it was just for fun. He learned about it from a report for DMC channel. He highly supported me when I was doing it for fun, but didn’t realize how profitable it became afterwards,” she says.
Since she takes customized orders, Noura gets exposed to people from all sorts of backgrounds. She recently made a Nikabi doll for a man who wanted to gift his Nikabi fiancée. Plenty of people reacted to the post, some praising her display of diversity, and others criticized the idea of dolls with Nikab in general. “I could not be racist or discriminatory and refuse to do so. I’m not tryin to symbolize anything. If I was asked to draw a cross for a Christian girl, I’d do the same too,” Noura says.
Another aspect that makes Noura’s dolls more special is the fact that she totally avoids using plastic in doll making for children to protect them from all the harmful substances and chemicals. Hence, all her dolls for children are fabric-made, even the doll’s hair.
Noura’s persistence to maintain the dolls’ quality makes Egypt’s lack of materials one of her hardest challenges. Her goal is to make people buy Egyptian products instead of more expensive, imported ones.
She also faces some issues with convincing people that the handmade field isn’t about playing around. “It’s a whole other science. You learn a lot about its creation, sewing, and more,” Noura adds.