Charitable Christmas in a historic setting

BEIRUT: The Sursock Palace, in Rue Sursock, Ashrafieh, was built in 1860 during the Ottoman Era and is a spectacle to behold. But this historic setting is now playing host to “Christmas at the Villa,” a charity event bringing together some of Lebanon’s best designers and artists.

“We selected a nice collection of sculptors and painters and fashion, furniture, and jewelry designers,” Sandra Ghattas, managing director of GATA Events & Promotions, the gala’s primary organizer, told The Daily Star.

The first day of the event brought together a number of well-known personalities in Lebanese high society to browse jewelry, art and fashion – for a good cause. Earrings, rings, necklaces, and other jewelry of various twisting and turning designs and colored in bright sapphire, deep black, shining gold or silver, sprinkled the tables. Fur coats, jackets, dresses, purses, clutches, and shoes were also on display.

Ghattas brought together “creative minds at the service of society,” she said, in order to help fundraise for a good cause. Designers rent out tables to display their work at the Villa from Dec. 11-13 and a percentage of the table fee goes to the Bassma, a Lebanese nonprofit humanitarian organization that helps impoverished families around Lebanon.

While the Lebanese national anthem played in the background, Minister of the Economy & Trade Alain Hakim cut the red ribbon at the Villa’s entrance shortly after 3 p.m. Thursday, officially inaugurating the gala.

(The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

Fashion designers like Zobaida Akkari sold a variety of jackets of beautiful colors and the latest designs, while Maya Khalil displayed her lightly colored dress designs. In an adjacent wing of the villa, where an Ottoman-style hammam is located, is Bassma’s stand.

“We help deprived families achieve self-sufficiency,” said Maya Hage, Bassma’s vice president, adding that part of the proceeds will fund their efforts to help impoverished Lebanese, of all sects, with things like child education, medical aid and support, and house renovation. The group works mostly with Lebanese families in the Beirut area, including the suburbs, but this year it will also host a lunch for around 2,500 Iraqi refugees in coordination with UNHCR and the Chaldean Archbishop.

While many of the trinkets and clothes on display are classical, there is also place for a Lebanese-style funky design in the main salon. La Rose de Sim’s collection displays different Lebanese themes including a bag designed to look like a Lebanese passport and others that depict various scenes and architecture around Beirut.

Further along in one of the corner salons, accessory designer Maggie Baroud adjusted her display. “This started as a hobby but not any more,” she said about her handmade accessories. She travels around the Gulf, Europe and the United States to sell her products but she said she preferred events like this. She had skipped an event in Jordan that her daughter was attending in her place, to attend the gala Thursday. Her jeweled accessories sparkled as patrons sifted through the selection looking for Christmas gifts.

The holiday cheer has led many of Lebanon’s top designers to proudly provide their talents to help the impoverished.

Across from Baroud is a ceramics stand where Hana Kaaki, a professional visual artist, was displaying her collection of ceramic art. “This private exhibition shows the steps through life,” she said, starting with birth and working its way through death. The ceramics on display were mostly red and black and depicted such visuals as the bust of an old man.

“I’m very happy to give to charity and at the same time meet people involved in such an atmosphere and [artistic] movement in this country,” Kaaki said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 11, 2014, on page 3.




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