Peace sisters! Peace Road that is, the brand name of bespoke handbags dreamt up, designed and made in Dahab from beautiful recycled gelabeya by New Zealander Bronwyn Jones. These gelabeya are long dresses worn by local Bedouin women daily for work and for special occasions alike. When walking on the street they cover all with a black abeya and schall so tourists would hardly ever get to see these sometimes stunning clothes unless invited into a Bedouin home. The gelabeyas, usually made in India or China, have beautiful beadwork and embroidery decorating the neck and sleeves and Bronwyn incorporates these into pockets and other features on her truly original bags.
For a “win, win” situation, Bronwyn believes in supporting the local community through women and buys the old gelabeyas that would usually end up as rags or covers around the women’s’ homes. She even has a couple of women now who source the used garments for her for a small commission and so far the supply keeps up with demand.
When she has a new delivery, Bronwyn washes and displays the gelabeyas in her small central workshop hanging them along the wall. Decorative as they are, these give the whole workshop a festive feeling when you enter. She also photographs each gelabeya and posts them on her Facebook page so customers can choose via the internet. Choosing is not easy, one usually wants them all!
Together with the customer, she selects the base fabric, usually a bright canvas that compliments or contrasts the gelabeya colouring. Currently there are three main patterns to choose; smaller shoulder style with lots of zips and compartments perfect for travel and daily handbag use, a larger hand bag variations with end compartments large enough to fit drink bottles – ubiquitous item here in hot Dahab, and another large shoulder bag that takes practically everything a girl could need. I used one of this style when I last travelled and used it for my carry-on luggage; it swallowed my netbook, reading book, scarf, travel papers, etc with plenty of room to spare. The advantage of a shoulder bag (the trap easily fits across the body) is that I can access everything without removing it – unlike a backpack. I also feel they are more secure as you can keep the bag close to me; I have had my wallet stolen out of a backpack style bag on the Paris Metro when I only travelled on it for about 2 minutes! – another story.
Bronwyn Jones first came to Dahab to establish a casual restaurant in the bay area. She successfully grappled with the mire of Egyptian bureaucracy, recruited and fired numerous staff members finally succeeding in making the restaurant one of the most rated on Trip Advisor. Such are the personal skills and aptitude that she brings to any business, it is revealing that once she left the business its popularity plummeted and now no longer exists.
She left Dahab travelling through Asia on her way back home to New Zealand, attended to personal and family matters but always felt she had unfinished business in Dahab. They say that once you have drunk form the waters of the Nile you leave part of your heart forever in Egypt and that you will always desire to return. Dahab is like this too – a special little oasis with a big magnet.
The magnet varies for everyone – some it is the scuba diving, the technical diving, the free diving, the snorkelling, the yoga on the beach, the almost constant sunshine, the clear starry skies, the full moon over Saudi Arabia, the inexpensive accommodation , the camels and goats wandering the streets, the horse riding in the desert, the camel safaris. Bronwyn loves the beach life, the palms, the friendly community and the ambience of Dahab.
Peace Road is an actual main road here in Dahab – running from south to north through this small seaside village on the Gulf of Aqaba. Peace by name, peace by nature if you ask the majority of inhabitants of this town – a mixture of Bedouin (mostly Muzeina tribe), Egyptians from the Nile valley or delta, and foreigners who are drawn to the idyllic shores.
A trained fashion designer and skilled pattern maker, Bronwyn is able to bring her professionalism to every personally made bespoke bag. The first Peace Road bags were made of fabric printed with Egyptian Kayameya patterns that have been printed from the intricate appliqué that lined the insides of the fabulous tents hand made by the tent makers in Cairo. She still makes these popular bags as well in various designs but it is the gelabeya bags that really catch the eye. Every bag takes on a life of its own as she builds a relationship with each customer when considering which parts of the gelabeya to recycle where; every gelabeya bag is unique.
These bags are infused with life, starting from the original artisan’s beautiful hand work adorning clothing items turned into functional and stunning accessories carrying Peace Road proudly throughout the world.