I admit I was a bit nervous about taking a trip to Kuwait. It seemed so far away! So foreign! What on earth would I wear?! I’m half Lebanese by heritage, but my genuine knowledge of Middle Eastern culture didn’t extend much beyond the stuffed grape leaves and kibbeh my Sitto (grandmother) made for me growing up. Of course, I was excited to spend some quality time with our client and Couture exhibitor Octium, co-owned by husband and wife team Fahad Al Hajiri and Sh. Alanood Al Sabah, but even with all of their reassurances, I was seriously doubtful that everyone in Kuwait could possibly be as fabulous and warm and kind as I knew them to be, or that things would run as smoothly and carefree as they promised they would, and as things always run when we spend time together in New York City. How wrong I was to be nervous…My royal Kuwaiti experience started as soon as I landed in the airport in Kuwait City. Two men wearing dishdasha and shemagh were waiting for me as I deplaned, holding a sign with my name, including my middle name (which I suspect many of my siblings don’t even know) and whisked me through the airport into a luxe VIP lounge. I was deposited on a sofa and offered tea and water while my escorts went off with my passport to collect my luggage and take care of my customs and immigration process. About ten minutes later, the men reappeared and escorted me to a car just outside the lounge doors, where my luggage and passport were awaiting me. So this is Kuwait! And wait a minute, who am I?!
When thinking about what to write for this blog, I was at a loss. I was only in Kuwait for 4 full days, but in that time I had what seemed like a lifetime’s worth of adventures. Do I report about the private tour we received at the Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyah Museum (aka the Amricani Museum), where I saw one of the most comprehensive and breathtaking collections of jeweled arts from the Mughal Empire? Or do I talk about our visit to the Al Sadu House, where we received another private tour showcasing Kuwait’s traditional textile art form? Do I mention the beautiful Octium boutique inside of the newly built Harvey Nichols? Or do I wax poetic about the bespoke, multi-brand Octium boutique inside the luxurious 360 Mall where we drooled over jewelry and chatted and sipped espresso out of fabulous customized cups in their private selling salon? Or do I talk about the food; the copious amounts of the most delicious food? (As Fahad deftly pointed out, “You’ll never find a hungry Kuwaiti!”). And what about my trip through The Mubarkiyah, the local market, where anything from scarves and caftans to fruits and vegetables and kohl eyeliner and specialty soaps can be found?
With all of these amazing cultural experiences however, what impressed me most about my trip were the people of Kuwait, and especially our hosts, Fahad and Alanood. My time on “their turf” continually reinforced my suspicion that these are some seriously righteous people. As the “Sh” in front of her name indicates, Alanood is a Sheika of the royal family of Kuwait. Every time I mention that (boastingly, I’ll admit), I have to go on to explain that, while Alanood IS a princess, with exquisite taste in jewelry, interior design, clothing, architecture, shoes, handbags, art, everything you’d expect of a princess, she is not a diva. And there’s a big difference. Back in my bartending days I waited on numerous divas that treated me with actual disdain, and yet here’s a veritable princess who I bond with on, among many other things, our mutual love of Gangnam Style! She’s magical and charismatic and funny and she exudes a warmth and kindness that make her truly regal. And the dynamic between Fahad and Alanood is one of love and admiration; they are truly partners, both in this business that they’re so passionate about and in their family life. And with his boyish good looks and incredible sense of humor and her smoldering…well, everything, it’s no wonder they’re so happy together! Yes, mom and dad and anyone else who wonders about my single status, Fahad and Alanood are the reason I’m still single; if I don’t have what they have, I don’t want it!
At a “casual elegant” affair that Fahad and Alanood, in their typically generous style, held for us in their home on the last full day of our trip, where they brought in live musicians from throughout the region (and where I made several well-intentioned attempts at dancing Kuwaiti style…), all of their friends and family treated us like we were royalty. Artists, designers, writers, architects, academics; each and every one of them took the time to get to know us and lamented that our trip was ending so soon, offering to host various events for us upon our return to Kuwait. And this warmth and generosity, as exhibited by virtually everyone I encountered in Kuwait, is what I tried to hold on to as I slowly snaked my way through the hours long immigration line at JFK, tired, cranky and wondering where my men in dishdasha were to whisk me through the crowds and into my waiting car….