Thursday, January 12, 2006
Barbie loses out to veiled rival
The Fulla doll is designed to appeal to a Muslim market.
Step aside Barbie - a veiled doll with, as her creator describes it "Muslim values", is proving a popular choice in Egypt's toy stores.
Fulla, dressed in a traditional Islamic headscarf and overdress, comes with her own pink felt prayer rug.
Some parents who would not want to buy Barbies for their daughters are choosing to give them Fullas instead.
Creators NewBoy Design Studio launched the doll in 2003 and sales have proved strong in the Middle East.
Fawaz Abidin, the Fulla brand manager, said: "You have to create a character that parents and children will want to relate to.
"She's honest, loving and caring, and she respects her father and mother."
Fulla is still single and there are no plans for an Islamic equivalent to Ken, Barbie's former boyfriend. However, a Doctor Fulla and Fulla as a teacher are planned - both respected careers for women.
Fulla is believed to be the best-selling girls' toy in the Arab world
Her extensive wardrobe has been modernised for the Egyptian market to include jeans and the type of colourful headscarves worn by many young women.
Tarek Mohammed, chief salesman at Toys'r'Us in Cairo, said: "Fulla sells better because she is closer to our Arab values - she never reveals a leg or an arm."
The surge in sales of Muslim girls' toys, including the veiled Fulla, comes amid new enthusiasm among Muslim women for wearing the veil.
As worrisome as many in the West (both cultural conservatives and liberals) might see this in terms of the prevailing cultural trends and attitudes in Egypt, and what that might mean for Christians and other religious minorities (and the fears are justifiable, given the plight of many Coptic Orthodox Christians), there is another side to this picture, and one cultural conservatives cannot ignore. It all boils down to this: if all the West has to offer Islamic culture is Paris Hilton, then their rejection of modern "western values" will be more than justifiable.