Tuesday, October 24, 2006


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Last month I referenced a previous post about the Muslim doll Fulla and I received emails from several blogders unable to get any response from the URL, so, here is the entire post! (Originally posted January 11, 2006).

Fulla Re-visited

(EGYPT) 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 about 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.

Eid Al-Adha*
*The holy day is celebrated by Muslims who cannot make an annual pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, one of the five duties of the religion and commemorates the prophet Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son. The holy day also serves to remind Muslims of their personal commitment to their faith:
Eid ul-Adha (Arabic: عيد الأضحى) occurs on the tenth day of the Islamic month of Dhul Hijja. It is one of two Eid festivals that Muslims celebrate. Eid ul-Adha is celebrated by Muslims worldwide as a commemoration of Prophet Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his son for God.

It is celebrated on the 10th day of the month of Dhul Hijja (ذو الحجة) of the lunar Islamic calendar, after Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. This happens to be approximately 70 days after the end of the month of Ramadan.

Muslims believe that God revealed in a dream to Ibrahim (Prophet Abraham) to sacrifice his son Isma’il. Ibrahim and Isma’il set off to Mina for the sacrifice. As they went, the devil attempted to persuade Ibrahim to disobey God and not to sacrifice his beloved son. But Ibrahim stayed true to God, and drove the devil away. As Ibrahim prepared to sacrifice his son, God stopped him and gave him a sheep to sacrifice instead. The story is also a part of the other Abrahamic religions (see the Binding of Isaac).

While Eid ul-Fitr is considered to be three days, Eid ul-Adha is supposed to be four days. The first day is the primary holiday, on which men, women, and children are expected to dress in their finest clothing and perform prayer (Salah) in a large congregation. Muslims who can afford to do so sacrifice domestic animals, usually sheep, as a symbol of Ibrahim's sacrifice; this sacrifice is called "Qurbani." The meat is distributed amongst their neighbors, relatives, and the poor and hungry. The charitable instincts of the Muslim community are demonstrated during Eid ul-Adha by the concerted effort to see that no impoverished Muslim is left without sacrificial food during this day. Coming immediately after the Day of Arafat (when Muhammad pronounced the final seal on the religion of Islam), Eid ul-Adha gives concrete realization to what the Muslim community ethic means in practice. (from Wikipedia)

Moral decay is happening all around us. We witness it on a daily basis. Our children need toys that deflect the worldliness and greed. In 2005, I posted a blog entry about a doll that has taken the Middle East by storm: Fulla! The creators of Fulla recognized the need children have for toys of good character: "...Our advertising is full of positive messages about Fulla's character. She's honest, loving, and caring, and she respects her father and mother." With black hair, auburn eyes and a wide selection of head scarves, she's Mecca to Barbie's Malibu. In the Fulla television ads I've seen on satellite, the doll has a sweet high-pitched voice, and sings in Arabic. She is also shown baking a cake for her friend, praying and reading before bed. Fulla is the direct opposite of that greedy fashion-conscious Barbie! A little envy here, as I wish the Fulla-type doll was marketed and embraced here in America.

I found Fulla and other items of interest on e-Bay (HERE)...

The NY Times had just gotten wind of two original news articles about Fulla, both of which appeared in the St. Petersburg Times Floridian, around the same time I posted my original blog entry. The following is derived from both sources:

DAMASCUS, Syria, Sept. 21 - In the last year or so, Barbie dolls have all but disappeared from the shelves of many toy stores in the Middle East. In their place, there is Fulla, a dark-eyed doll with, as her creator puts it, "Muslim values."

Fulla's creator, NewBoy Design Studio, based in Syria, introduced her in November 2003, and she has quickly become a best seller all over the region. It is nearly impossible to walk into a corner shop in Syria or Egypt or Jordan or Qatar without encountering Fulla breakfast cereal or Fulla chewing gum or not to see little girls pedaling down the street on their Fulla bicycles, all in trademark "Fulla pink."

Fulla is 11-1/2 inches tall, like Barbie, and has long black hair with dramatic burgundy streaks. But her look is more demure - a few mascaraed lashes frame big brown eyes and a hint of fuchsia tints her dainty mouth.

Young girls here are obsessed with Fulla, and conservative parents who would not dream of buying Barbies for their daughters seem happy to pay for a modest doll who has her own tiny prayer rug, in pink felt. Children who want to dress like their dolls can buy a matching, girl-size prayer rug and cotton scarf set, all in pink.

Fawaz Abidin, the Fulla brand manager for NewBoy, tells the newspaper "This isn't just about putting the hijab on a Barbie doll, You have to create a character that parents and children will want to relate to."

Though Fulla will never have a boyfriend doll like Barbie's Ken, Mr. Abidin said, a Doctor Fulla and a Teacher Fulla will be introduced soon. "These are two respected careers for women that we would like to encourage small girls to follow," he said.

On the children's satellite channels popular in the Arab world, Fulla advertising is incessant. In a series of animated commercials, a sweetly high-pitched voice sings the Fulla song in Arabic ("She will soon be by my side, and I can tell her my deepest secrets") as a cartoon Fulla glides across the screen, saying her prayers as the sun rises, baking a cake to surprise her friend Yasmeen, or reading a book at bedtime - scenes that, Mr. Abidin said, are "designed to convey Fulla's values."

A series of commercials seems more familiarly sales-oriented, starring young Syrian actresses who present Fulla silverware, Fulla stationery, Fulla luggage and, of course, new accessories for Fulla herself. "When you take Fulla out of the house, don't forget her new spring abaya!" says one commercial.

In Damascus, a Fulla doll sells for about $16, in a country where average per capita income hovers around $100 per month. And yet, said Nawal al-Sayeedi, a clerk at the Space Toon toy store in the city's upscale Abou Roumaneh neighborhood, Fulla flies off the shelves.

When Iman Telmaz took her two young daughters back-to-school shopping recently, disaster struck. Ms. Telmaz had promised the girls, 10-year-old Alia and 5-year-old Aya, new pink Fulla backpacks for the start of the school year, and the stores were sold out.

Ms. Telmaz resolved to keep looking. "The children love their Fulla dolls," she said. "Aya is starting school for the first time, and has specially asked for a Fulla backpack. For these girls, it has to be Fulla."

It has to be FULLA for bloggers, too--- several have had knee-jerk reactions to the NY Times piece. Most are very mean-spirited or make fun of the dolls. No wonder many of the good Muslim people have stopped speaking out in their own defense!

RELATED: A young girl's response to anti-Islamic sentiment...
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  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Another new doll of interest to this topic is Saghira , a doll our company has been working on since 2005 and is only now in the middle east markets as it previously was sold only in Morocco.

    Saghira's web site is at

  3. Not only is Fulla growing in popularity, she is likely to knock Barbie of her perch - its a perfect example of a western company not aware of cultural functions in a foreign market. This is an international girl fight and we should definitely keep it in the public sphere.

    Sasha Jovanovic
    Diverse Prophet


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