Women in Bloom - Racha, Nur, & Nour

Spring is a time of change and renewal, and these women have all, in their own unique ways, taken on challenging paths and paved the way for other women.

Racha Kamal, Nur Turkmani, and Nour Haidar are three women who met in London years ago, soon finding home in each other. Their friendship has been a cornerstone of their individual trajectories, molding their various views of the world and constantly pushing them for change.  

Racha, a business consultant, just recently joined the Salim Azzam team as managing director. Her passion and drive to creating economical opportunities in the country, merged with her ability to create a stable structure in growing organizations fits perfect with the brand. First as a fan of Salim Azzam, then as a friend, Racha was always mesmerized by the brand’s poetic sense and felt pride when talking about the brand with friends and colleagues in her network. Her addition to the team has been instrumental in allowing the brand grow and by default continue to provide opportunities locally. 

Nur is a writer and development and gender researcher. Nur balances her time between evaluating the biggest struggles in our communities, immersing herself in spaces where she can better understand the reality of each environment, while also creating various pieces of writing exploring relationships, social and political constructs and much more. As a naturally born storyteller, Nur is in awe of the craft of Salim Azzam that so clearly tells a story with each thread and pays tribute to the unique talents of Chouf. 

Nour is a lawyer and a fighter for justice. Nour creates time to support local and international institutions focusing on challenging the legal system and representing the Other - the female, the queer, the migrant, the criminal, the dissident. As a Tyre native, nour naturally looks forward to the joys and offerings of the land each season - in Spring, she enjoys walking through the thickness of citrus tress in bloom. 

Racha Kamal

What do you do?

I’m an organizational designer. I work with small companies and startups and help them build structure and workflow.

Why do you do what you do? / how did you get into it?

I started this profession to help companies spread their message by building a strong foundation that allows for that. Companies exist for a reason and are curating their way in an industry with their unique voices and approaches. My role is to make sure they have the right tools and support to keep on building and growing, allowing them to take their company’s mission and message as far as possible.

What are your aspirations for the role of women in your industry?

To unapologetically be themselves, and to lean into their empathy as women in order to thrive in roles that require a lot of emotional support for those around you.

What is a most recent win you had as a professional in your industry?

Working with a local designer from my home country, Salim Azzam; building the business side of an organization thriving creatively; and allowing it to reach its potential eventually, through reaching more people and markets. Playing a role in expanding the global platform for such a local talent by using tools and knowledge gathered from my previous experiences is a big win, and one that will hopefully open up various opportunities and inspirations for Lebanese talent locally and oversees.

What is your favorite thing about spring?

The weather - it feels like a bit of a break between winter and summer. There’s a breeze and ease to the season and it allows for the best swims in the sea. Also, of course, the strawberries!

What does Salim Azzam mean to you and how do you engage with the brand?

 A rare genuine and authentic representation of Lebanese culture and talent that is relatable enough with various cultures. Salim Azzam is a brand that allows all those that take part of it – as artisans, consumers, and employees – to dream. In this way, it allows you to tell the brand’s story from your personal view.

Nur Turkmani

What do you do?

I write and do research.

Over the past six years, I’ve done development, humanitarian, and gender research for different organisations – UN Women, UNDP, International Alert, CARE, among others. This research has been focused on social movements and mutual aid, refugee-related issues, agriculture, and poverty reduction. My approach is ethnographic and, when possible, tries its best to engage with community members as the main providers of knowledge.

Along the way, I’ve been trying to craft fiction, poetry, and narrative non-fiction. I’m also working on a novel. Although I spend much more time doing development consulting than writing ‘creatively’, the latter is the world I more strongly associate with.

Why do you do what you do? / how did you get into it?

I’m interested in how we move through the world, our ancestral lineages, who we love and why. I’m also interested in the structural and historical forces at play. How do revolutions, mass displacements, famine, and socioeconomic inequalities affect our lives?

 In short: I’m fascinated by the human spirit and body, but also how that interacts with and is shaped by material realities.

A couple of years into my career as a development consultant, I – like many others – became disillusioned by the bureaucracy of the humanitarian sector and the inaccessibility of academia. And so I wanted to give more space for language. Language as in craft, language as in archiving, holding, observing, creating. In that vein, I applied for and got into a creative writing programme and have been honing my work since.

My novel is a coming-of-age narrative about two teenagers from Tripoli who spend a decade learning and unlearning how to love one another. I’m writing their story because, for me, young love is so tender and defining, and in a context like Lebanon, is never allowed to breathe with ease.

What are your aspirations for the role of women in your industry?

I believe in finding the balance between community care and individual freedom. I’ve been incredibly lucky to come from a family, and belong to a group of friends, who create the space for both. Community and freedom are historically and philosophically loaded terms, I know, but I do think in order to thrive we need to be embedded in social networks of mutuality and care. So, to answer the question: beyond my industry – or any industry – what I want for women is to belong, but to also be allowed to not belong.

What is a most recent win you had as a professional in your industry?

I had a consulting project with UN Women on the role of women in Lebanon’s agriculture sector. Usually, these sorts of projects are very technical. You prepare an inception report, you interview women and other stakeholders, and draft a clinical report. But UN Women were incredibly flexible and open to the idea of a creative and ethnographic approach. And so I collaborated with one of my favourite humans and photographers, Gabriel Ferneini, and he took portraits of fantastic women working in agriculture while I had narrative-driven interviews with them. Being able to combine my world of consulting with that of creativity – and for that to be received so well – felt like a win.

A magical realist short story of mine, “In The Line”, recently received a Pushcart nomination, which is also lovely and validating!

What is your favorite thing about spring?

I moved into the apartment I live in last January. It was freezing, there was barely any electricity, and the huge tree I walked past every day was naked and shriveled. It’s mid-April now and the tree is dressed in green, its branches greeting the sun like an old friend. Spring reminds me that change is inevitable, but also that everything is cyclical and returning – at its own pace, in its own way.

What does Salim Azzam mean to you and how do you engage with the brand?

 What strikes me most about Salim Azzam is the point I was trying (maybe unsuccessfully) to make about my aspirations for women.

Salim Azzam engages with the community and history of Chouf, while also fundamentally creating pieces that are odd and eclectic and individual but can be worn by anyone, anywhere. For me, that’s where its magic lies.


Nour Haidar 

What do you do?

I’m a lawyer - although that title can mean many different things, it has enabled me to work across a range of intersecting issues. Starting out in corporate law, I learnt how international capital shapes our lives. I then shifted to working alongside social movements - on everything from protests to privacy. I’m trying to build a practice in which I can defend people’s rights while also making sense of what ‘justice’ can look like in our communities.  

Why do you do what you do? / How did you get into it?

 There’s something incredibly fun about finding ways to break into powerful, stale and often oppressive institutions from the outside. Legal systems have historically been used to police, disempower and control the Other - the female, the queer, the migrant, the criminal, the dissident. I wanted to break into this space and tinker with its mechanics on the inside, finding out the answers to questions like: can we use the logic of the law to assert ourselves? Will redistribution ever manifest through the law? I’m not sure, but we can start with having allies on the inside.

What are your aspirations for the role of women in your industry?

 Women everywhere, doing everything - with loud voices taking up lots and lots of space, they will undo the laws and write the news ones.

What is the most recent win you had as a professional in your industry?

In Lebanon, I worked alongside some incredibly fierce lawyers during the uprising in 2019 - our ‘win’ was reasserting the role of movement lawyering as a line of defence against the unchecked violence of the state.

In the UK, I recently received an offer to start working as a barrister - a courtroom advocate whose whole job is basically to master arguments. It feels like a huge leap forward, and a kind of ode to my grandmothers - women from صور (Tyre) who had to teach themselves how to read, and whose strength I always try to honour.

What is your favourite thing about Spring?

Walking through the thickness of citrus trees in bloom with bees & the unpredictable skies. 

What does Salim Azzam mean to you and how do you engage with the brand

Salim Azzam’s ethos and design have always felt both reminiscent and fresh, like finding a stunning new vantage point of the sea in a city you thought you knew everything about. I’m in awe of the team’s dedication to craft and creativity, and the artifacts of our time that they are creating for us.


Racha wears Salim Azzam Ghoson El Laymoun Shirt

Nur wears Orange Fig Bird Shirt

Nour wears Pink Bird Shirt

Photographed by Mohamad Al-Rifai