Vegi Patch is a compost of thoughts on graphic design, life and knitting from an american graphic design teacher in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. I've enabled comments for everyone or you can Email me kate at kcarlyle dot com.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


I have just had one of those truly intense experiences that need months maybe years to sort out. We held a design conference on campus and invited some amazing people to come speak about their work and hold workshops with our students. Graciously excepting the invitation where Tarek Atrissi, Jonathan Barnbrook, Mohammed Harib, Nadim Karam, Anja Lutz, Teal Triggs, Will Brown and Douglas Haddow from Adbusters. In any context this would be a dream line up - at a private woman's college in Saudi Arabia it was a bit surreal. Just a tiny little bit.

From the bottom of my cynical little heart I am grateful to every one who participated, speakers, faculty, students, staff, visitors, and local dignitaries, for the amazing way it all came together. You can't throw a great party if nobody shows up, design is a dialogue, art is a visual medium. Talking to one's self is a monologue and without an audience art has no meaning.

I started the week in Mohammed Harib's workshop, where he explained how he came to produce Freej starting from a survey course he took in animation as a design student and then focused his workshop on concept building. Mohammed's story is inspirational and an example of conviction and determination in the face of clearly insurmountable odds. More to the point he has brought a sensitive and funny face to contemporary cultural issues in the UAE.

Somewhere in the middle I ended up at the Will and Doug Show as they introduced the joys of anti-consumerism and multiple ways to put graphic design chops to socially relevant use. Rise up and resist the brand! (Srsly, put that iphone down.)

I ended in Jonathan Barnbrook's workshop on typography - the project was to pick two concepts from geometric shapes, brush strokes, whisper, swearing and ugly, and then work out at least 5 letters from each.

My sketches got thumbtacked to the board along with all the rest and Jonathan included me in the crit. For the first time in a VERY long time I was on the other side in the spotlight and exposing my convoluted thought process which included chrome filters and fried eggs, very red faced, but survivable – even with Tarek Atrissi laughing at me. Jonathan was very kind.

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Royal Jordanian's got my baby

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

We Rock

Dar Al-Hekma just became the first private ACICS (Accrediting Council of Independent Colleges and Schools - accredited institution in the Middle East, second school in the Middle East period. First and only in KSA. Bunch of Women did that :)

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

After noon commute, Jeddah style

this would be the day the camera got left at home. bless the cell phone.

Our driver was all over this situation, making major moves through traffic to get us behind them... and that is a full size, standard bed (for the truck freaks) Toyota PU with a king cab.

cheers, kate

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Sunday, February 10, 2008


Ill.Fri topic is choose. I choose wings.


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Friday, April 20, 2007

Rose Water

Last weekend I got up at 6 am to catch a bus to Tief with the DAH Photo Club. We where going to see the Rose Water factory, the biggest exporting farm of ( Roses, flowers & vegetables) in the Kingdom, the baboons valley, Oldest historical Al Sharif Tree (250 years or so - cypress tree). I am not a morning person and this is earlier than I get up to go to work. So I was doing ok, id papers, good shoes, glasses, tissue paper, chap stick. And the bus was parked next to a coffee shop and a super market.

Well no money, so we stopped at an ATM - and I got a call from W who was already by some miracle at the bus and telling me the coffee shop was NOT open. Now Tief is up in the mountains and it is usually a 2 hour drive but there is a detour due to construction so right now it's a 3 hour drive. I considered going home but decided to trust in a higher power, and sure enough when we got there the counter guy was poking his head out the door of the Coffee Bean. My blood pressure immediately leveled out and with cafe 'ole securely in hand boarded the buss.

Approximately 10 minuets after we cleared the city limits I realized I had forgotten my camera, and my phone was 3/4's dead. hmmm. the higher power evidently has a sense of humor.

I reserved the camera for the high light - the rose water factory. Posted below are the photos I managed before the phone died. sigh.

It was a great trip and I have every intention or returning, with a camera. The high desert reminded me of the deserts in California, same cacti and fresh air.

cheers Kate.

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Friday, April 06, 2007

Hedgies at Continental Village

It was a lovely spring (ok scorching 37 c - 98.6 f ) day in Jeddah and Jun came to visit me, Bassma and her kid sister Ebtissam. We went for a walk around the compound and visited with some folks. See if you can find the hedgies in the photo...

This is the waterfall at the pool behind my apartment, not running right now.

Hedgies are good about posing for "look we where here shots" unlike some people we know.

Don't ask how they got up there, I only turned my back for a second - Hedgies like to climb, who knew?

Our day is posted here: Hedgies at Continental Village

Cheers Kate.

Techincal notes: I made Ebtissam from Brown Sheep Nature Spun worsted on size 8/9 needles, with no other adjustments to the pattern.

The pattern for the hedgies is by Debbie Radtke, for Fiber Trends - Hand Knit Designs. and I purchased it (online) from Two Swans Yarns.

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Friday, December 15, 2006

Texture and Light

I was privileged to go on a tour of Dr. Sami Angawi’s home a couple of weeks ago. Dr. Angawi is an expert on and an activist in the preservation of Islamic architecture in Saudi Arabia. You can find more about him here and Amar International here . He is a forward thinking and somewhat controversial figure in the kingdom so I will let you Google your own research.

His home combines the old with the new in a seamless and comfortable manner. The open style of the house echoes the multi-layered tradition of old construction, with a pool in the atrium and a garden on the rooftop. I was so taken with the details and texture of the house that I completely forgot to take photos of the exterior.

Many of the ornamental details where salvaged from old homes that were being torn down. The house is an all-new construction in the north of Jeddah. The roof top views are included to give a better understanding of the beauty of the enclosed space as a refuge from a modern urban environment.

More photos here: Photo Essay of Sami Angawi’s home.

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Monday, November 06, 2006

Rain in the Desert

We had rain last week. I emailed these photos out, not everyone understood why a flooded intersection was such a big deal. Kind of like snow in Raleigh NC it shuts the place down.

Not that it NEVER rains, just that it happens infrequently and when it does it floods because they don’t have storm drains.

I come from the world of rain, torrential pouring rain. That’s what a hurricane really is – tons of water with wind behind it. Apparently they have something similar here that is a combination of a rainstorm and a sandstorm.

Interesting concept, but honestly windblown liquid sandpaper is truly something I can live without experiencing.


Saturday, April 08, 2006


The Illustration Friday challenge this week is speed. The fastest thing in the desert is a Bedouin on an Arabian horse.

This weekend the photography club made a trip into the desert 4 hours north of Medina, 8 students and 6 assorted teachers, mothers and other chaperones. I'll write more about the trip in the next post.

One of the amazing things that happened on our expedition was a trip to a stable with Arabian horses. Our guide and the driver of the bus where locals - Bedouins to be accurate. Our guides name was Badr, which means full moon.

On the second day of the trip we drove out into the desert to look at the pass where a famous story from Islam occurred. The she-camel of Prophet Salih was a miraculous animal, which Allah brought forth from a rock.

“When Allah sent Salih (peace be upon him) to the people of Thamud, his people asked him to prove he was a Prophet of Allah, by asking his Lord to bring a living, female camel out of a boulder. Salih (peace be upon him) duly prayed and Allah immediately granted his wish. Some of those who saw this miracle at once believed, but the rest continued to disbelieve, despite the proof they had demanded. Although the Prophet Salih (peace be upon him) asked his people not to touch the camel, and to allow her to graze freely, they hamstrung and killed her. After this the Prophet Salih (peace be upon him) and his followers left his people to the wrath of Allah, Who destroyed them. (The Majestic Qur’an: An English rendition of its Meanings [The Nawawi Foundation (Chicago) & The Ibn Khaldun Foundation (London), 2000], p. 159, fn. 342)”

The pass where the she-camel was killed has inscriptions in Arabic in a very ancient form inscribed in the stone, and some not so ancient Arabic – proving once again that graffiti is universal and timeless.

A little further away are some very interesting rock formations – one of which looks a lot like an elephant… Bedouins are great storytellers with excellent imaginations – more importantly they are amazing trackers and our guide knew every inch of the desert he showed us.

So we are out in the middle of nowhere by our city standards and Badr and the driver spot two men trying to push their station wagon out of the sand while a woman and small girl watched patiently. The two of them walked over to help, along with the other American teacher (who used to work for the park service). OK, I felt guilty – I was thinking if they weren’t out in 5 minutes I would pitch in. Thankfully for everyone they rocked loose in less then ten minutes. This resulted in an invitation to come see the stables where they worked and an open invitation to ride the horses.

When we got there they put the stallion through his paces – but nobody tried to ride him. Badr it turns out, is an amazing horseman even for a Bedouin.

The manipulated photo at the top is Badr riding one of the horses at full tilt, barefoot, and a couple more here.

Sulafa (one of the students) had some riding experience and got up after Badr. She did an outstanding job of staying on, but found herself sitting in the sand with one shoe after about ten minutes.

The horses where beautiful and spirited. The mares where friendly; the stallion kept charging across the yard and pulling up just before he rammed the metal fence.

This is a photo of Margaret, the wagon pusher and horse whisperer, with a new friend.



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Friday, March 10, 2006


my front door.
my garden path.


Cover Up

Third week of class in the Spring Semester. I’ve been in Jeddah for six months. Well, I was in the states over Ramadan and for three weeks during Hajj, so in fact I was home as much as I was away. In this case Jeddah is home and the US has become away. Not because I have renounced my citizenship—but home is where you live and work. Or where your stuff is. Most of my stuff is in a storage locker in Raleigh.

There have been requests that I write about all the interesting things I am doing and all the cool stuff I am seeing… and explain why I do not have my hair covered in any of the pictures I send folks back in the states.

Regarding the last question: Consider the following for a moment; crank up the heat to 110 F, the humidity to 100%, and then wrap heavy shoulder length hair twice with 2 yards of black fabric. NO. I only wear a headscarf to enter and exit the school and whenever there are men in the building, it’s part of our dress code and there is one stashed in my bag as a precautionary measure when in public.

(The presence of men is announced by a garbled overhead pa system that no one can understand in English or Arabic—except for the word abaya—and the usual result is that everyone ducks into their offices out of sight until the all clear).

Besides when I have worn it in public places, at first glance I look enough like a local (Black hair, brown eyes) that people speak in Arabic to me... which leads to hurt feelings and confusion when I fail to respond in kind

(I have exactly 11 words in Arabic and pronounce them pretty badly – languages are not my strong point and as almost every one in Saudi uses English as the universal second language I’m afraid this will remain constant).

Finally I can’t keep a tarha on for more than 15 minutes, unless I pin it—which is just not a hip presentation. Wrapping it so that it stays in place without assistance is a Muslim form of casual chic.

The debate on Muslim women's dress is endless; much is a matter of family/cultural custom. Some of my Saudi students do indeed wear a rather comprehensive form of concealment in public. Wearing scarves over their hair (tarha), double veils (hajib) over their faces, abayas covering their clothing, gloves and socks, all in black.

The number of expiates in Saudi is enormous, both Muslims and non-Muslims. I have the utmost respect for the simple elegance with which the Muslim women around me present themselves. The range and diversity of dress is a lesson in it’s self, as is the interpretation of the term “public”. Technically women are not required to wear any cover in the school because we have an all women faculty and staff

(well, with some specific exceptions, including the board of directors —and there is a “men’s” wing to accommodate them).

In the KSA “public” as regards the modesty of an abaya, tarha or hajib is defined as “in view of men who are not blood relatives” and most of the women wear western dress at school and underneath the black in public.

Frankly, a few of my students could pass for Brittney Spears in her teens—but they are a minority. Most of the women and students wear clothing that conforms to a reasonable standard of modesty in general; Wearing long sleeves, pants, skirts, modest necklines and nothing skin tight or sheer. And it should be pointed out that the requirement for modesty extends to Muslim men as well. Note the standard Saudi male garb: floor length white thobs (pull up loose pants underneath), with long sleeves and high closed necks, head scarf and camel hobbles. It’s the hottest place I’ve ever been and you rarely see short sleeves or male limbs in public, and when you do it’s some guy from Australia or Canada.

Sadly I didn’t have to adapt my wardrobe much to conform to the schools request that faculty dress conservatively; I have worked and taught school in mostly male dominated places. I’m not saying I was driving the guys to distraction if I wore revealing cloths or let my hair down—but it was considerably easier to accomplish actual work if I didn’t. Muhammad had something there, men being somewhat simple minded and all.

The black over robe–the abaya, is required dress for women in public in Saudi Arabia but, despite what CNN and other news services say about “women” being required to cover from head to foot, a tarha (head scarf) is not.

(All those non-Muslim women reporters doing live feeds from Jeddah with ridiculous looking scarves draped artistically over their heads? I want desperately to think is a concession to the government and the religious police for the privilege of being allowed to broadcast live from the most rundown disreputable part of the historical Old Town they (the news crews) could find, but I’m pretty sure is the typical reporters completely un-researched and inappropriate use of an exotic prop).

So to recap: non-Muslim women in Saudi Arabia are not (at this point in time) required to wear a headscarf. In less “liberal” parts of the country western friends report pretty intense stares at uncovered hair—but Jeddah is not Makkah or Riyadh—and I can go most places without raising an eyebrow (assuming it was uncovered so as to be able to see it—it is a learning curve talking to an unknown draped figure who is causally interpreting for you at some falafel stand).

I'm getting on with the photo taking, but taking photos requires some planning—and a letter of permission if out and about. And this may not be completely obvious—but taking pictures of uncovered Muslim women is not allowed.

So we’ll start with inside the compound.