It can be challenging to write about simple subjects like luxury. While luxury is a widely well-known term, its interpretation varies with the extent of literature, research, and articles available on the topic. Therefore, what is the most advantageous perspective to examine this substantial topic? In fact, I have no idea but in such cases, I tend to explore the past to gain insight into the present, especially due to my interest in the history of the Arabian Peninsula and Saudi culture, which serves as a suitable starting point.
At first glance, one might think that luxury is linked to material possessions. This was the first idea that came to my mind, as I thought of antique Arabian jewelry, which made me feel happy. Consequently, the topic became simple for me! I unlocked a glass display case that was filled with old-fashioned silver jewelry, which was positioned to adorn our reception area. Since my childhood, I had always been curious about it, but I never had the drive to address this inquisitiveness... until now! This article will provide a chance for us to delve into research, exploration, examination, and most importantly, to ask questions together!
Not just for decoration
When we examine these jewelry pieces it was clear that they were not real jewelry items. Despite their inclusion of colored semi-precious stones, beads, and crystal elements, they lacked precious jewelry at their core. But is it quartz? Turquoise? Peridot? I don't know. When it comes to the design many of the pieces were heavy and large, with traditional geometric shapes, giving a regular appearance that was not necessarily delicate or soft. The pieces seemed more like metal squares and circles than traditional jewelry. They contained metals like silver, gold, and copper, as well as coins, and had a weighty quality to them. I began to feel that they were more than just decorative pieces. In the past, everything had a purpose and a reason, and while these metal and crafted precious metal items were designed to be worn, they were not made solely for decoration. Rather, they served as a symbol of a woman's property in ancient times and were created to make it easier to carry them wherever she went while also protecting them from theft or loss. So, is "jewelry" the right word, or perhaps "ornaments"?
The wisdom of our ancestors comes from their life experiences
If we imagine a Bedouin woman in her daily life, we can know through her pictures that she wears her full jewelry all the time. This is entirely logical, as Bedouin life is a life of travel and searching for water. Therefore, carrying your wealth with you achieves all goals: preserving it on the one hand, and showing off your social and economic status on the other. The more metal is used, the more valuable the piece becomes. As for the wisdom of our ancestors, it came from their life experiences, and the old Arabic proverb "adornment and money safe" became meaningful! I believe this is the reason for the shape of traditional Arab jewelry. Now, does this style have a place in our modern life?
Is luxury now within reach?
Let us ask ourselves, do we have the creative ability to shape our living needs into multi-purpose, sustainable "adornment and treasury " tools as they did in the past? The types of adornment have now become diverse with the diversity of fashion trends, prices, and materials, from feathers and fabrics to gold and diamonds. The variation in material prices, from precious to acceptable, is evidence that they have become within reach, but are they considered luxury then? As for treasury, banks and investment portfolios covered the idea of opening up world markets to each other, preserving wealth from theft or loss, and ensuring its transmission to future generations.
With the completion of urban life in our Arab countries, the concepts of luxury have changed. The tent was replaced with the palace, camels with luxurious cars, horses with first-class or even private planes, and herding livestock and searching for water by investing in New York and Hong Kong. Water has now become available in every home through an app on your mobile phone. We have turned towards comfort and relaxation, so is this the luxury of the year 1441 AH?
Stopping work is considered laziness, and doing it excessively is exhaustion.
In ancient civilizations, a woman not working and staying in her father's or husband's house was a sign of wealth and social status. European princesses and aristocratic ladies used to learn drawing, music, flower arrangement, and embroidery of fine white kerchiefs, skills that indicate leisure time. The same applies to ancient Arabic poetry, as an increase in weight and slow walking indicated excess food. As for the heavy expensive fabrics, excessive jewelry, and lack of movement, the popular singer Abdullah Fadhala described them as "the daughter of so-and-so is served by her servants." But today, not working is considered laziness, and doing it excessively is exhaustion. Here, I’m wondering, if an executive director wakes up at 3 am for a Zoom meeting in Hong Kong, and has another meeting at 9 pm to make a decision when the New York markets open, is this luxury? Even if she is in a palace served by servants, as the poet said. Perhaps yes, in that proving oneself and feeling successful is a very beautiful and important feeling for feeding the soul and spirit. This may be a new luxury. I do not know, but let's ask together!
The dilemma lies in the number of available choices.
However, is this possible for everyone now? And how? The technological revolution and social media have made work in various fields and hobbies easier. Access to something is widely available, but the dilemma lies in the number of available choices, and self-discovery has become more difficult than before. Besides, the collective obsession with comparison on various social media platforms. The race to compete has become an industry in itself. So, where is the well-being in all of this? Deep sleep has become an Industry worth hundreds of millions of dollars, whether it's through expensive pillows and blankets, luxurious beds, or even available applications to help with meditation and sleep... all of which aim to help with comfort, calming the mind, and soul. With all this actual and mental noise modern noise, it is not surprising that cases of stress, depression, and global psychological pressure are increasing, these are undoubtedly the diseases of the era.
So, is health a luxury? But even healthcare, medicines, and products vary in their prices as well as the variation in insurance companies. So where do we go from this loop or difficult equation?
In fact, I do not know, but I think that the concept of luxury changes with time, place, and people. Listening to beautiful music, having a home-cooked meal with family, wearing a new dress or a beautiful ring, enjoying a deep sleep, or traveling on an adventure trip, all of which are also luxurious.
But undoubtedly, luxury is an indivisible vague concept, and therefore it may be our duty to return to the equations of the past and create a luxury that meets our era's needs.
For now, let's enjoy what we want, smile and laugh because smiling is charity and a smile is free and doesn't require money. Let's define luxury as we like it... this may be luxury now...