UAE: Lighting the Way

Saied Momtahan creates unique shaped lamps in Dubai. Image courtesy Saied Momtahan

A UAE-based lamp maker finds inspiration in pipes, wood and glass

BY Leila Hatoum

“Larry just sits around all day, that’s what he is good for,” says a bespectacled 53-year-old man with a smile. After all, he did invent Larry from scratch. Well, not exactly from scratch; let’s say a few metal pipes and wires topped with a standard-size light bulb. Et voila! Larry is a lamp, but not just any lamp. It is a member of a small group of touch-lamps which reflect our body energy.

In one corner stands the Explorer, carrying a backpack and a walking stick as if it is on the go. Then there is the Golfer, created to appear as if it will strike a ball; next to it the Yogi, who has already seen the light, and Billy, who—just like Larry—sits idly.

The robotic-shaped lamps are activated by touch, says Saied Momtahan, the Iran-born craftsman behind the creations.

“My brother and I started this in Iran a couple of years back in our orchard,” Momtahan tells Newsweek Middle East, as he demonstrates how a simple human touch can transform our body’s static energy into an electric charge that switches the lamps on. It seems that even pipes need a warm touch in order to shine.

Explaining how he first came up with the idea of touch lamps, Momtahan, who lives and works in the United Arab Republic (UAE), says: “There were always pipes lying around at the orchard and I like to make things. You get bored living in a garden all the time.”

Momtahan finds inspiration everywhere. The engineer graduate from the University of Texas at San Antonio says he has found “a unique way” to work with metals, pipes, wood and glass.

His favorite piece—and one he is particularly proud of—is a three-foot wooden rectangle with a base made of metal pipes and a light bulb for a head, which he likens to a “Tesla Tower.” It also features a clock that shows the voltage going through it once touched.

Although he has received orders for his designs from across the world, Momtahan is still reluctant to take his Dubai-based business to an international market. It doesn’t prove cost effective at the moment, he says.

“I don’t see myself growing this [business] elsewhere,” he says, adding that he gets “requests from abroad but it is too expensive to ship such heavy items. A piece that would cost about $230 [to create], [costs] $400 [to ship].”

However, recently the idea of mass exporting crossed Momtahan’s mind after a man from Portugal wanted to place an order for 30 to 50 pieces at a time. At first, he said no, explaining that he simply could not accommodate such a large shipment. “But now, I’ve streamlined and I have the time to do all that,” he says with determination.

“We work in a place we love, doing the thing we love. It can’t get any better,” he says as he pats Larry’s arm.

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