SYRIA: Secret world of sexy women’s lingerie


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“Look within your culture to discover the unexpected. What it might be hiding from you can give you a shock.”

That is how designer Rana Salam ended a talk about her book of undergarments, “The Secret Life of Syrian Lingerie,’ at American University of Beirut.


‘Secret Life’ takes readers on a tour of the hidden intimacies and gaudy traditions of an outwardly rather conservative Arab country.

Salam (right) told listeners at her talk that “flamboyancy and excitement” characterized her three-week visit to Damascus to research the book. Walking around the old traditional marketplace, taking in sights of flashy and exotic undergarments, made her wonder if anyone living in a Muslim country would dare wear them.

Shortly afterward, she was shocked to learn that five to six factories in Damascus alone produce one of the country’s most sought-after exports, sold in markets in the Persian Gulf and North Africa.

Made with Chinese toys and other accessories, the collection of underwear Salam gathered includes bras and G-strings decorated with coconut shells, television remote controls, glow-in-the-dark toys and singing birds as well as edible lingerie with a variety of flavors.

Salam called them works of art.

She said she visited the factories as attempt to “get into the brains of these designers, to know where all the creative ideas are coming from.”

As she put it, “These are people who lack basic education about design but tend to produce one of the most creative pieces of work my eyes ever witnessed.”


When asked about her favorite pieces, Salam excitedly pointed out two: The first resembles a nest filled with singing birds, and the second is a curtain shaped bra that opens and closes by remote control.

A graduate of Britain’s Royal College of Art, Salam has been running her own London-based design studio for over a decade.

She is well known for employing Middle Eastern popular art and culture in her work, merging it with the latest design technology to create unique visions.

— Khaled Hijab in Beirut

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