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Original design, creativity, local brands and anything Made in UAE are things Saffron Souk is passionate about and Dubai-based Natoof is one small business that brings all these things together in one delicious package.
Mariam, the Emirates-born founder of Natoof started her business eight years ago with an aim to provide creative design solutions for both everyday life and business needs. Mariam is a talented graphic designer and her Saffron Souk shopfront showcases Natoof’s Arabic calligraphy and creating custom designs of names, words and monograms for your business or personal use.  

Here’s what Mariam had to share with Saffron Souk about herself and Natoof…

1. Natoof’s logo, shown here embossed in to paper

What sort of products do you market?
For the online market, I offer custom Arabic calligraphy work, I consider this a small way of making art accessible for everyone.

My main business revolves around creating logo and identity design designs, branding, stationery whether for personal or business needs. Plus designing wedding invitation suites.

When and why did you decide to start your own business?

I always wanted to go on my own since the college but wanted to refine my skills before doing that – so after graduation I worked directly as a graphic designer then as a brand manager from 2002 till 2008 before quitting the day job and establishing "Natoof".


1-3. Mariam’s bespoke Arabic calligraphy is available for order at

What’s the best thing about setting up your own brand?
Working according to your vision. You don’t have to apply or follow any rule book, it is your own experience – what works for you doesn’t have to work for someone else. I just keep reminding myself "that I don’t have to do what everyone else is doing."

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced?
Pricing my work and time, I have gone through many phases to exactly provide the accurate pricing that is fair to me and to clients – it was a big challenge, when you search for it on Google you see people providing you with excel sheet on how to calculate your time value for creating a design – and honestly I found that useless it may work for others but not for me. You have to work on your own method, you need to check the market price and then with your experience you have to set your rates.



1-3. Mariam’s designs give the traditional art of Arabic calligraphy a modern slant

What do you love about selling online?
The fact that I have buyers from all the over the world, I sold to people living in Australia, Singapore, UK, Ireland, USA! Plus it is easier and more convenient to set up – you can focus on what you do in contrary to having a physical shop with very high rent.

Any exciting news to share?
Besides my design job, I have published a book back in 2012 "Mawahib" the Arabic word for "Talents". The book focuses on showcasing Arab graphic designers, illustrators & photographers from the UAE. So now I am preparing for the second volume and it is going to be ready very soon.

1-2. Mawahib, a directory of local designers, illustrators and photographers is developed and produced by Mariam. Volume 2 is out soon – that is exciting!

If you won the lottery what would be the first thing that you would do?
Free all the caged birds.

Who would you most like to meet?
Oprah Winfrey or Maria Shriver.

What do you think you’d taste like?
Probably a caramel, because I love it so much.

Who is the best super-hero? Superman, Batman or Spiderman?
I always go for Spiderman!



1. Mariam’s graphic design is is versatile as demonstrated by this calligraphy canvas…   2. Lettering work on this t-shirt…   3. And on the cover of this doodle notebook, where Arabic and English typefaces are combined so cleverly

What are you reading right now?
I love books and reading. Currently on my shelf "Little blessing, The signature of all things and the Gravity of Birds". Hope to finish them in a month or so.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a journalist writing and reporting about the news around the world, like Brenda Starr.

What’s the best career advice anyone ever gave you?
I can excel in anything and any field that I set my mind to. It is all in your head.

How many foreign languages do you speak?
Currently just one "English", but I hope to learn Spanish. I have my learning CD box laying on my desk for the past decade!!



1-3.  Examples of Mariam’s bespoke wedding invitation sets. Choose Natoof’s invitation wording or contact Mariam via her online shop for enquiries

What is your golden rule?

Don’t over promise, but work hard to exceed the expectations.

Do you have any pets?
Yes, parrots! love them like my own children.

If you could retire tomorrow what would you do?

I will travel to few selected destinations and then settle and live in Annecy, South-Eastern France.

If you could try out for any job for a day, what would you like to try?
Probably get an adventurous job with the National Geographic channel and report a segment related to nature and animal habitat! Because you only live once on this earth, so why not!

What top tips can you share with other shopkeepers?

In my opinion, consistency is the key to establish a good image and reputation about your business.

For example, on all you social media accounts you need to have one look and feel, and I think if you are active on Instagram, you need to be active on Twitter and Facebook. I find it irritating to check shop’s account on Twitter and see their post is dated to 3 years ago while on their Instagram they post daily. So be consistent with your presence, you have different audience for each medium.




Mariam designs identity graphics and stationery sets for both personal and corporate clients. A calligraphy option for small businesses is also available

What are your favourite finds from the Saffron Souk market?
I heart stationery items so I liked the Arabic greetings cards from Yislamoo… Biha Designs have some lovely and cute canvas and notebooks… The local sayings pencils from Saffron Souk… And those camel milk soap from The Camel Soap Factory.

Why do you find the website appealing to shop at?

I love finding unique items, or customized products and hope Saffron Souk attracts such sellers.