MANDARIN ORIENTAL DOHA, QATAR – A CULTURALLY COHERENT REGNANT OF QATARI DESIGN & HERITAGE

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DOHA, QATAR: The main entrance of the Mandarin Oriental, Doha in Qatar.

The Mandarin Oriental, Doha opened in March 2019 in Msheireb Downtown Doha, a planned, smart-city district in Qatar, and the world’s first sustainable downtown regeneration project. The sand-hued hotel overlooks the enchanting Barahat Msheireb Town Square, the largest open-air covered town square in the Middle East, encompassing 7000 sqm with the biggest retractable, climate-controlled cooling roof in the region. The design concept of the golden square references the welcoming and luxurious sitting rooms of traditional Qatari homes, and the backlit onyx cladding at night in translucent honey tones, echoes the inherent spirit of the desert. Msheireb Downtown Doha, developed by Msheireb Properties, whose Chairwoman is HRH Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, adheres to the highest standards in green building in re-creating a way of indigenous Qatari living and culture, in the centre of the capital city. Qatar is not just kicking ball by hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup, it’s venerating its history and heritage through artistic avant-garde advancement in every sphere. This 11,000 km desert kingdom is on its way to becoming a nonpareil cultural capital of the world.

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DOHA, QATAR: The Mandarin Oriental, Doha overlooks the Barahat Msheireb Town Square in Msheireb Downtown Doha, Qatar.

The Mandarin Oriental, Doha is not a glass and glimmer skyscraper tearing into the blue skies, as one is wont to think of luxury hotels in the Middle East, blazoning the apodictic wealth of the country. It confutes the very notion the second your car rolls up the narrow, stone-cobbled alleyways, especially designed thus to give you a feel of old Qatari residential neighbourhoods, but not without a distinct, contemporary finesse befitting of a luxury hotel. Brick, mortar, wood, metal and a whole lot of soul make up the architectural and design language of the Mandarin Oriental, Doha that is culturally coherent with Qatari living and the heritage of the desert nation. The ferej, an intrinsic part of Qatari homes, built to provide shade from the desert sun and for air circulation (a natural air-conditioner so to speak) for respite from the heat, makes its modern-day presence felt in the hotel’s corridors and landings.

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DOHA, QATAR: A street view of the main entrance of the Mandarin Oriental, Doha, Qatar.

The shifting shapes of sand dunes inspired the key design element for the interiors of the property. Right from the imposing entrance pillars to the walls, marble floors and ceiling reliefs, an artistic representation of sand dunes runs through the hotel consummately. The design is as conspicuous and as unobtrusive as you want it to be. If you want to see it, you can see it everywhere and if you don’t, well, then you don’t. But the sand dunes of Qatar are there, hearkening the travelling bedouin origins of Qatar to the current day on your calendar.

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DOHA, QATAR: A general view from the Mandarin Oriental, Doha of the ferej or narrow alleyway sstreets in Doha, Qatar

The fretwork sand dune panels, with a painted eggshell finish on the ceiling, with a brass veil, influenced by the awnings and canopies of Arab dhows and ocean waves, designed by the David Collins Studio and Alexander Lamont’s straw marquetry adorn the lobby of the hotel. The brass veil, alongside the straw marquetry, is a breathtaking design genius.  Lamont used dried straw stems, spliced open and flattened, inlaying them individually on wood, creating a sustainable quintessence of his own. The straw fibres reflect light, changing with the time of day in the lobby and the Baraha Lounge, lending a natural sheen to each panel.

Apart from the fretwork sand dune panels that run through the entire hotel, the rooms and bathrooms resonate with elements from the rich seafaring, maritime history of Qatar, albeit subtly. The metal studs on the walls are a contemporary interpretation of the old wooden beams that extended horizontally from the walls of Qatari homes called danshal, procured with great difficulty by the bedouins due to the lack of natural vegetation in the region, to build sturdy roofs for their clay homes. The beautiful lamp shades are asymmetrically shaped, inspired by Arab dhows and the mirrors in the bathroom hang from ropes that were used at sea for fishing and pearl-diving. The black and white tile work wall behind the bathtub and jacuzzi honours the weaving traditions of Qatari women. I love the heady fragrance the Atelier Cologne Rose Anonyme bath line, a Rose Oud, that’s congruous to the landscape’s Desert Rose crystal formations, used by Qataris as talismans for protection and spirit guidance.

A serene sense of calm envelops you, once you’re inside the pristine and quiet (I loved that!) of your room, and the plush bed is meant for sleeping, especially after an exquisite Oriental Essence treatment at the Spa with its very own indoor swimming pool. Flight fatigue what? Though I worked through most nights on my bed, and that was snug and restful too. Imagine discovering a yoga mat, a jaanamaz and a hair straightener (not just a hairdryer) in your room, not to mention the mini-bar snacks packaged in exclusively designed tin boxes bearing palm trees – this is artistic design commingling with human desires and essentials in a manner most natural and decorous.

The location of the Mandarin Oriental, Doha is enviable, given it’s a short 20-minute drive from Hamad International Airport and is adjacent to the Amiri Diwan, Qatar’s seat of government and the Emir of Qatar, HRH Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani’s palace. It is a five-minute walk to the Msheireb Museum and the redeveloped and very lively (not noisy) and alive Souk Waqif, with its Falcon Souks, a Camel Pen and of course, the Gold Souk. The Museum of Islamic Art, designed by the late I.M. Pei and the National Museum of Qatar, designed by Jean Nouvel to look like the natural Desert Rose crystal formations that are found in Qatar, with inward-curving disks, intersections and cantilevered elements, with 1.5 kilometers of gallery space, giving voice to the unique story of Qatar and its people in an immersive and experiential manner in three chapters — Beginnings, Life in Qatar and The Modern History of Qatar are a short drive away and stand testament to the invested vision of the country’s love and liberal furtherance of the arts. The recherché National Museum of Qatar is a must visit. To give you perspective, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York’s annual budget for new acquisitions is USD 30 million and the Qatar Museums’ is USD 1 billion, chaired by HRH Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani.
gettyimages-1188450522-2048x2048The food is exemplary at all the four restaurants in the hotel, and at the Mandarin and Baraha Lounges. My first meal was an Angus Beef Burger at Aqua, the alfresco rooftop restaurant and bar that serves up easy-sharing dishes like Arabic mezze, sliders and pide.  Mosaic, the specialty nine-kitchen restaurant on the eighth floor is where the vibe is relaxed and the sun filters in through the metal grills inspired by traditional windows with intricate lattice panels called mashrabiya. Even the lifts bear a prominent pearl motif on the metal grills in honour of the pearling history of the country. Volcanic Torched Tuna Sushi, the Thai Beef Salad with a Lucha Libre cocktail here are to live for! I had a Turkish Pide (flat bread made of wheat flour) with Beef Pepperoni and Olive with Oregano and Parmesan for the fist time, and it was great. Mosaic is also where the elegant Qatari ladies breakfast and that says a lot about the food. I loved the Malika Honey, a delicious Qatari honey that’s harvested from the Busaif Apiary, of which 15 beehives are owned by the Mandarin Oriental, Doha as part of their sustainability program. It’s something that should really be sold to the guests at the hotel, it’s that good. The cream-filled Pistachio and Red Velvet Croissants, the Apple Detox Water, the Beef Cecina and all things beef honestly made me extremely happy to breakfast at Mosaic everyday.

Izu, the Mediterranean cuisine restaurant facing the Barahat Msheireb town square, with three seating areas – an indoor ground and mezzanine level and the popular outdoor terrace is where the culinary artistry is at, led by Nigerian chef, Izu Ani. Chef Izu is beyond gifted – Fried Organic Eggs with Foie Gras and Truffle Sauce, the Wagyu burger, Slow Braised Beef Short Ribs with Padron Peppers, the Burrata with Cherry Tomatoes and Basil, Watermelon and Feta Salad, the Mandarin Gelato, the Le Verger drink made with fresh basil leaves, lemon and apple juice – there’s a discernible Izu addition to the simple classics, that takes his creations to a whole new level of delectable, and memorable flavours. He’d Izu’d everything I ate and drank, and loved, from the very first bite and swill to the very last! You have to be Izu’d at Izu people.

The English afternoon tea service at the Baraha Lounge, overlooking the Barahat Msheireb town square, and at the Mandarin Lounge from 2-6PM everyday, is immensely popular with the Qataris and locals. Gilded cakes, pink rose madelines and savouries with bespoke blends anyone? Gelato, the frozen dessert and gelato restaurant, also overlooking the Barahat Msheireb town square hits everyone’s sweet spot with its vast array of flavours, from vegan chocolate to Arabic coffee to anything your heart desires. If The Secret Bar at Izu is rather rad whilst Ambar is its sophisticated equal to quaff in at the hotel.

Newer luxury hotels, unlike the Mandarin Oriental, Doha, aim to make you feel like you could be anywhere in the world once you’re inside, and that just does not cut it for me. I have my own bed at home where I can imagine such inanities in my pyjamas on my own time, thanks, but no thanks! I don’t need to take a flight to Doha to imagine that I am in the Seychelles! Every morning, when I woke up and had my morning Nespresso, I knew I was in Doha and not in a ‘home away from home’. I so despise that sell! Everything in the room, and outside my window overlooking the modern ferej, told me so and this is what I loved the most about staying at the Mandarin Oriental, Doha. I felt like I was invited into the luxe confines of a Qatari home that’s most certainly not mine, or like mine, and I am a treasured guest of theirs for the weekend. And that’s how you feel like you ‘belong’ innately to a new place. The Mandarin Doha team is ebullient and professional, led ably by their General Manager, Martin Schnider.

No evening at the Mandarin Oriental, Doha felt complete without looking out at the molten glow of the Barahat Msheireb town square or a ‘cool’ walk around it, literally. Doha will always be ManDOHArin for me!

Disclaimer: Any part of the content on the rubinaakhan.com website cannot be reproduced without prior permission and crediting the website and the author.

@Rubina A Khan 2019

 

 

Shah Rukh Loves My Work The Most, Says Design Virtuoso Gauri Khan

Whilst her husband Shah Rukh Khan is the uncrowned king of Bollywood, Gauri Khan seems to have come into her own as a design virtuoso, befitting her status royale as the celluloid sovereign’s wife. Gauri Khan Designs, her eponymous design studio, is headquartered in Mumbai, but her visual representational percipience is swiftly traversing worldwide.

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Gauri Khan at Chivas 18 Alchemy in New Delhi

The modernist designer couldn’t resist turning into an alchemist of sight at the second edition of the quintuple sensory Chivas 18 Alchemy experience in New Delhi, transforming the space with her definitive luxe aesthetic. As much as her husband is the alchemist of sound with his unequivocal eloquence, she seems to speak (the reluctant conversationalist that she is) through her alluring and arresting visual artistry. Khan makes for relaxed, affable company when she’s talking business, but turns a deep, love blush when SRK Face Times her during our conversation. “It’s Shah Rukh,” she says, tossing her hair into place and arching her frame into a flattering angle to talk to him.

Rubina A Khan caught up with Gauri Khan in New Delhi for Gulf News tabloid!

You entered the world of design in 2011 and have been making enviable headway since designing homes, restaurants and pop-up events…
It wasn’t a planned effort to get into interior design. I’ve been an artist all my life, in school and college, and even after I got married to Shah Rukh, I used to do a lot of charcoal paintings at home. There’s a lot of connection to art in my life – I bought a lot of art and was intrigued by artists and read up on them extensively. Then I started designing my own home, Mannat, with my architect. A lot of people walked into the house and asked me to design for them. My friends, Yash and Avanti Birla opened Yantra about 15 years ago and they asked me at the time to join them and so did my friend, Kajal (Anand), as she knew I was passionate about art and design. But I wasn’t ready for it. Then Sussanne (Khan) asked me to do a collection for her store launch. So, it’s been a slow and steady pace for me into the world of design with friends.

What draws you to design – the creative pursuit of it or the final outcome?
Creating a first impression is what I set out to achieve when I start designing a space. Being creative and imaginative in my everyday life is tremendously exciting. All aspects of design, right from my drawing board to the actualization of it all enthralls me. When the thoughts in my headspace integrate seamlessly and are realized into tangible and tactile reality, from the inception stages to the final outcome, it gives me a great sense of accomplishment and it’s the most wonderful feeling.

How did you turn into an alchemist of sight for Chivas 18 Alchemy?
Fashion designer Ashish Soni approached me with the idea to participate in the second edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy as the alchemist of the sense of sight as the concept is based on the five human senses of sight, sound, touch, taste and smell. Given that I love the creative space that Alchemy mounts their campaigns and the way they format and execute them with immense style and finesse, I was immediately attracted to it and now I’m an alchemist too! I added the touch of blue velvet drapes to turn the outdoor garden space of Alchemy into an indoor one, akin to a palatial living room. It was challenging, but it turned out rather fluid as the velvet lent an indoor vibe to the space and the artisanal glass bottle chandeliers, custom made especially for Alchemy, added the molten hue of inviting warmth. Lighting is the key to all my spaces. It’s been a fantastic experience with Ashish, Pulkith and the Alchemy team and it was a joy to work with them. This is one of the best events I have attended and now, participated in, right from the venue to the scale and the exceptional invites… everything about it is extraordinarily stunning.

What is the key component to the alchemy of sight?
The key component for me is when I design a space on paper. When the eye visualizes what can be, which then manifests into a real space – that’s a visual delight for me. Subsequently, for it to then come to life exactly the way I envision it, to becoming the heart and soul of the design endeavor – that’s the key to my alchemy of sight. What I did for Alchemy on paper, and to now see it come to life in this luxurious and seductive a manner, makes me extremely happy.

What is your signature design move?
It depends on the project really – if I’m doing a restaurant, a young boy’s room, a nursery, a middle-aged couple’s home – each space is different. But I make sure every space I design is warm, easy, inviting and comfortable. That’s the quintessential design move that I adhere to in all my GKD work. I absolutely abhor cold, model homes.

How many hours do you work everyday?
I don’t work all the time. It is an artistic pursuit wherein I can create anytime and anywhere, whether it’s at home or at a site visit or a set. I spend a lot of time at home and I don’t have any fixed hours or schedule per se. That’s the beauty of my job.

Some Gauri Khan Designs’ tips for homes?
When I am doing up a residence, I try to make the elements come together in such a way that the owners feel comfortable and at peace in their home. My design aesthetic is luxurious and glam as I love these aspects of good living, but that doesn’t mean the home loses its warmth and comfort or that I’d put chandeliers in a baby’s nursery.

a) Make any space your own, where you belong, with your own distinct individualism. It could be anything from lights to an art piece, something that tells the story of your personality.

b) Don’t try to make a touch-me-not home where it becomes more like a museum and less of a warm, inviting home. When a home has super fancy elements with a trying-too-hard feel, the fear of disturbing the elements keeps you from enjoying the space and creates an uncomfortable aura in the home for you as well as your guests.

c) Luxurious and glamorous homes should be designed such that the owners should not find the comforts of their own homes even in luxury hotels. Despite all the luxe elements, the comfort of a home should never be compromised.

Who loves your work the most?
Shah Rukh loves my work the most. I have been attending award functions with him for 30 years and now, I’ve won my very first Excellence in Design Award this month; we both couldn’t be happier.

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Shah Rukh Khan

What’s the biggest love of your life?
Design is my biggest love! It consumes me.

What’s your dream project?
My most exciting dream project is Karan Johar’s new home. I’ve done the nursery for his kids and the terrace in his current home. Karan’s always been my inspiration and he’s been my support, in my personal and professional life, so I’m super excited to start this project. He’s a creative being himself and when I create something for him, and he appreciates it, it makes me feel like I’ve got an ‘A’ in a school report card. It makes me very happy when Karan “approves” of my work.

Any plans of opening a store in Dubai?
Dubai is home to us and I love coming to our home in Dubai. I’m looking forward to bringing Gauri Khan Designs to Dubai very soon. It’s already in the works.

This feature first appeared in Gulf News on 18 March, 2018

©Rubina A Khan 2018

RUBINA’S REVIEW: TIGER ZINDA HAI

It’s been half a decade since Salman “Tiger” Khan’s romantic action thriller Ek Tha Tiger hit theatres on Independence Day in 2012 to a resounding ka-ching at the box office, that Yash Raj Films is all too familiar with. The film ended with India’s most indispensable RAW agent Avinash Rathore aka Tiger vamoosing off to Havana, Cuba to live a life of quiet anonymity (hah!) with his Pakistani ISI agent love, Zoya (Katrina Kaif).

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The sequel’s title says it all – he’s alive and kicking up powder in Austria with his son, Junior, fighting off packs of wolves (without killing them) unarmed with bare hands, skiing down the slopes, without taking off his winter jacket even once in the sequence. It cannot get any more real than that in Bollywood. And when he’s not busy playing dad or a spy in voluntary retirement, he spray-paints his love for wife Zoya on snow-capped mountain slopes to Atif Aslam’s Dil Diya Gallan in big-eyed wonderment. Nothing much has changed for Khan and his indomitable cinematic appeal since Ek Tha Tiger, though the same cannot be said for Kaif, despite her enviable pilates lean body. This Tiger is burning brighter than ever and Khan wings the film with indefatigable ease, never mind a couple of awkward supporting cast members and an askew, inconsistent pace of the film which could have been sharper and faster.

What I loved about Tiger Zinda Hai:

  1. Sheer girl power in the film. Where in Bollywood films does a wife rescue her husband in a war-struck country and drive him around without him switching to the wheel mid-save? The said wife, Katrina, is a bad-ass Bhabhi from her current location in Austria who swivels guns better than rolling pins in Ikrit, Iraq.
  2. Salman Khan skiing on the Innsbruck slopes, fully clothed.
  3. What’s better than a shirtless Salman? A bloodied warrior Salman toting double guns saving 39 Indian and Pakistani nurses!
  4. I loved Iranian born and UAE resident, Sajjad Delafrooz’s consummate performance as the antagonist Abu Usman, but for a verbose sermon he had to give Tiger at the tail end of the film. Restrained and confident acting on his part.
  5. Horses in the action sequences remind you why fast cars and bikes use horse power units of measurement in the first place and with Salman riding one, it’s a cinema freeze frame for life.
  6. Not using divisive political tactics in the film’s narrative, but humanitarian ones.
  7. The White House representative with an uncanny Sarah Huckabee accent, sans any Trumpa Loompa.
  8. The film only has two songs picturized on the lead cast of Khan and Kaif – Dil Diya Gallan in the beginning and the second, Swag Se Swagat at the end.
  9. What Khan’s presence in the Liwa Desert does for Abu Dhabi tourism is incomparable to anything they could have envisaged for themselves. And Khan wasn’t just another mirage!
  10. I had fun watching Tiger Zinda Hai and wanted to clap in all of Katrina’s bad-ass Bhabhi scenes, and most of the cool sequences.

©Rubina A Khan 2017

RUBINA’S RADAR | FDCI’S INDIA COUTURE WEEK 2017

RUBINA’S RADAR 

The 10th edition of the Fashion Design Council of India’s (FDCI) India Couture Week 2017 (24th-31st July), was a splendacious celebration of India’s fashion vanguards at the Taj Palace Hotel in New Delhi. India Couture Week has earned its laurels for the past decade of being the best in the country with its marked excellence in fashion. And what’s a fashion week in India without some Bollywood stardust thrown in? ICW 2017’s couture catwalk had actors like Alia Bhatt, Ranveer Singh, Aditi Rao Hydari, Shilpa Shetty and many more walking for the participating couturiers.

TARUN TAHILIANI | Tarakanna:
Tarakanna was an alluring experience with an “evolved vocabulary of design” befitting the legendary status of Tahiliani and his majestic consummation of couture. His design constructs were fluid, almost seamless, in silk, velvet, brocade, Italian tulle and georgette, in hues of burnished rose, gold, olive, black, ivory, midnight blue and the de riguer bridal palette of red.  The unparalleled artistry of Tahiliani’s craft shone on the runway. As the models glided on to the breathtaking autumnal leaved set, designed to semble the end of autumn, Central Park in New York perhaps, the earthy tones came alive with the shimmering Swarovski crystal-embellished ensembles, all 85 of them, taking over the runway. The line alluded to a bride’s lightness of being, akin to her dancing in the glory of her marital coupling in bespoke designs, fitted not just to her body, but also to her soul. Scenographer Sumant Jayakrishnan’s visual aesthetic lent itself beautifully to the magnificent confluence of the Tarakanna line and the buoyancy of the human spirit it embodied. Throughout its duration, the show appeared to have suspended the audience in the most exalted place of happiness and wonderment, that stayed on long after it had ended. 

MONISHA JAISING | Opera:
Sexy is a vibe Jaising shoots for consistently, and her Opera collection wasn’t left wanting in the least. The clothes were tantalising and edgy, and a tad theatrical too, primarily made in lamé, velvet metallics, Italian organza, banarasi brocade and metallic satins. The light and set design of the runway didn’t really take you into the world of operatic tenors and high octaves that inspired her line this season, as the models walked in her evening dresses and gowns, cocktail saris, crop tops and ball skirts. The multi-faceted actor-turned-businesswoman-turned-yoga-guru, Shilpa Shetty – a flawless showstopper who nails it every single time, tripped on the brocade train of her gown, not once, not twice, but four times, as it kept getting caught on the runway floor. To say that the runway nailed Shetty, rather than the other way around, would be an understatement here. Shetty of course, let it slide and slayed it forward on the runway, with a strut only her enviable body is capable of, coupled with the radiance of her persona.

ANITA DONGRE | Tree Of Love:
Anita Dongre is a relatively new entrant in the Indian couture and bridal wear landscape, having started her couture line, Bridal, only six years ago. But, she is a veteran player, and a very successful one at that in the prêt-à-porter business of fashion for the last two decades, with her labels – AND, Global Desi, Pink City and Grassroot. Dongre opened her first Grassroot store in Manhattan, New York, recently and will be opening the doors to her Bridal store there subsequently. Her Tree Of Love collection was inspired by the Bishnoi community and their spiritual reverence for nature. Dongre married her “love for trees, rich Indian craftsmanship and music into one joyous collection” with dominant shades of blue, green and red. 
Beautiful SEWA (Self Employed Women’s Association) embroidered tabards, paired with tulle skirts, mushroo and hand-embroidered tea-length dresses with gottapatti lehengas, obi belts, embroidered flat shoes and cross-body potli bags made up the very desirable contemporary bridal line. The uncut diamond jewellery from her Pink City line as stunning. Dongre’s runway felt like an Indian summer wedding, with the metallic trees adding dramatic flair to the aureate mood board.

GAURAV GUPTA | Moondust: 
Gaurav Gupta’s knows how to haute couture the runway up. Structure and form are Gupta’s forte and he plays that well, like a consumed installation artist, with “blurred boundaries of traditional and modern couture”, choosing to “sit on the cusp of both worlds”. The Moondust collection is Gupta’s interpretation of a surreal ball Cinderella went to, in sculpted ensembles created from translucent textiles in pale tones of grey, blue, green and teal, playing with shadow and light. Handcrafted embroideries and silhouettes accentuating one aspect of the body – either the legs, the back, the arms  or the shoulders – but never all at once, kept the collection elegant and sassy. Though he was going for an immersive experience with this line, it was anything but immersive. Aditi Rao Hydari was Gupta’s showstopper and surprisingly, she was one of the best ramp walkers in the lineup of Bollywood stars.

MANISH MALHOTRA | Sensual Affair:
Manish Malhotra’s exceedingly mirrored runway for his Sensual Affair collection, seemed to be asking, “Mirror mirror on the wall, on the ceiling and on the floor, Who is the grandest couturier of them all?” Satin organzas, silk tulles, satin velvets made up the fabric for Malhotra’s lehengas, sherwanis, voluminous skirts and gowns with trains and the gorgeous fitted corsets, in ivory, soft grey, vintage rose, burgundy and teal tones. The models swirled around on the gleaming catwalk, left, right and centre in a fast-paced, synchronised rhythm, showing off 85 ensembles, with not a second to breathe. It left you wanting to see more of the clothes, with just a little bit of stay. Rapturous glamour is what Malhotra does best, be it sensual, sexual or unusual. There is no one grand couturier of them all, but t
he grandest finale to a decade of couture at the India Couture Week 2017 was undeniably Malhotra’s, with Alia Bhatt and Ranveer Singh walking for him. The raucous screams that erupted throughout the show area were deafening and most definitely burst an eardrum or two amidst the audience in the excitement of it all. Tears were shed at not meeting Singh, who seems to be the star, no, superstar of Delhi. Sure he’s popular, but really? Bhatt was an enchanting delight on the runway as always, looking like the Bollywood belle of the ball. 

Disclaimer: Any part of the content on the rubinaakhan.com website cannot be reproduced without prior permission and crediting the website and the author.

©Rubina A Khan 2017

RUBINA’S RADAR | JUSTIN BIEBER’S GOT A BELIEBER IN A KAPOOR!

RUBINA’S RADAR

Whilst Bollywood actor Ranbir Kapoor’s got girls crushing on his looks with an enviable legion of die-hard fans notwithstanding, you’d never guess who his sister Riddhima Kapoor-Sahni is a huge fan of. Justin Bieber! The Grammy award winning singer is minutes and hours away from landing in Mumbai on Sunday, May 7th for the Asian leg of his Purpose World Tour wherein he’ll be performing live for his very first show in India on May 10th at the DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai. The JB Army in India is counting down to Bieber Fever live, come Wednesday evening.

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Pattie Mallette with son Justin Bieber | Getty Images

The Delhi-based jewellery designer is a Belieber and loves his music (who doesn’t), so much so that she’s designed two bracelets from her eponymous Indian jewellery line for him and that’s not all. She’s even made one for his mother, Patricia (Pattie) Mallette too! “I hope Justin enjoys wearing my creations as much as we enjoyed making them for him and his mom, Pattie. It’s rather unfortunate that I can’t be at the show in Mumbai as I have a work exhibit here in Delhi. I would have loved to hear him sing my favourite track, Where Are You Now, live in Mumbai,” says Sahni of her welcome package for the Canadian singer.

If Bieber digs the bracelets as much as she does his music, AND wears them, it’ll be the ultimate reciprocal gesture for her from the popstar.

UPDATED: Justin Bieber did not arrive into Mumbai from Dubai, UAE today as expected, but his tour manager did. The ETA of the Bieber jet (with him in it!) will be published here as soon as possible. 

Disclaimer: Any part of the content on the rubinaakhan.com website cannot be reproduced without prior permission and crediting the website and the author.

©Rubina A Khan 2017

 

The House Of Medici Nightclub & Lounge #PartyingInPune #MediciMagic #WestinWeekend

Rubina A Khan reviews The House Of Medici, Pune: “a nightclub that takes the hashtag #PartyingInPune to an all time dazzling high”

There’s always a party in Pune, but Saturday nights in the city’s haute new nightclub and lounge, The House of Medici, is where the party is really at! The House of Medici is the Westin Pune Koregaon Park’s Florentine inspired nightclub and lounge, with a dominant Renaissance theme playing out a seductively glamorous vibe. It has people queuing up on weekends outside the imposing brown door, in anticipation of drinking and dancing the night away (yet again!) under the light of glimmering chandeliers, taking the hashtag #PartyingInPune to an all time dazzling high.

An extremely busy, 104 feet long bar, the longest by far in India, withstands a whole lot of champagne, whisky and cocktail and what-have-you libation serve-ups through the night by an affable bartending crew as the music thumps on. The music is contemporary world with a smattering of Indian and international DJ’s playing at the club, and Bollywood music is not on Medici’s playlist. The horse-shoe shaped bar seamlessly amalgamates the three bifurcations in the club’s space, each echoing the luxe vibe it’s going for. The House Of Medici unabashedly takes inspiration from the life and styles of the original Medici family from Florence, Italy that gained prominence with the Medici Bank, the largest in Europe in the 15th century and went on to become a political dynasty and a royal house subsequently. An inanimate pig called Lorenzo occupies a place of pride in the nightclub, and even though I’m not quite sure of its significance during the Medici era, it does lend a comic flair to the design, with its head full of delicious cocktails and maybe even Coldplay’s dreams! There are many reasons why the couch next to Lorenzo the bartending pig is a favourite with the club’s crowd, but one of them has got to be that it has the best light, adding virtual photoshop, making you look good, for real, not just in pictures!

The House Of Medici’s contemporary world cuisine bar eats comprises of delectable favourites like Lemongrass Prawns with Raw Papaya Salad and Sweet Chilli Sauce, Mushroom and Spinach Ravioli with Feta Salad and Potato Wrapped Tilapia with Jalapeno and Caper Tartare under the culinary expertise of Executive Chef Rahul Kaushik and Sous Chef Rishi Verma. It is a rather impressive menu and the presentation of the food is as beautiful, as it is contemporary. The House Of Medici’s Live Pantomime Acts add a novel excitement to the pre-dinner drinks ambience in the club.

You must hit up The House Of Medici when you’re in Pune next – it’s got the vibe, the music, the food, the drinks, the crowds AND the best service. There is no way you can call it a night here once you’re inside, but only in the wee hours of the morning. And that is how you get THOM’d! And if you’re still up for another round of partying, then surface at 3PM, whether you’re a Westin hotel guest or not, get some coffee into your bloodstream and head over to Mix@360 for a raging Sunday Sundowner to shoot some cold ones in this beautiful weather.

This was my fabulous #WestinWeekend with unforgettable #MediciMagic thrown in!

The House Of Medici is open for drinks:
Tuesday-Saturday 7.30PM onwards
Sunday 5PM onwards

Westin Pune Koregaon Park
36/3-B Koregaon Park Annexe, Mundhwa Road, Ghorpadi, Pune 411001 India
+91 97654 93216 The House Of Medici

@Rubina A Khan 2017

To 2017 Everyone! And To The Seductive Mystique Of Its Adventures To Come!

The year 2016 made for a hedonistic love affair with Dubai for my heart and soul. 2017 feels like another country already, and I can’t hardly wait to see which part of the wondrous world I will be LIVING, LOVING & LUSTING in next! Err, and working too 🙂 but of course!

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This is my favorite picture of 2016 that I shot in Dubai. A view of Horse, a 1.5 tonne bronze sculpture by Colombian figurative artist, Fernando Botero against the sheer magnificence of contemporary design and vision, and the tallest structure in the world, the Burj Khalifa in Downtown Dubai – a harmonious consummation of the cultural heritage of the Emirates and the “right now” of Dubai.

To 2017 everyone!

And to the seductive mystique of its adventures to come! 

©Rubina A Khan 2016|2017

Love Fuels My Soul, Says Jewelry Designer & Photographer Nadine Kanso Of Bil Arabi

Nadine Kanso is not just an artistic being; she’s a vibe. The sparkle to her vibe is as luminous as her incredible Bil Arabi jewelry designs, which I think are works of art. A celebrated photographer too, having exhibited at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London and the B21 Gallery in Dubai, Kanso was born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon and lived in Canada and the Czech Republic after her marriage and has been living in Dubai for the last 16 years. She started her jewelry line with the idea of demystifying the presence or absence of a ring on a finger, that declared a marital or single status. And she chose to say it in Bil Arabi (which literally means In Arabic) with a handcrafted ring in 18K gold back in 2006 with a “noon” or “N” in the English language.

A proud Arab, the culture and heritage of her roots drove her to create a contemporary visual language for the world through her jewelry. An incarnation of the Emirati expression of endearment, Fdeytak, turned into a bangle studded with rubies, diamonds and emeralds that was auctioned off at Christie’s Dubai. The Bil Arabi line today, a decade after its launch, includes rings, earrings, bracelets, pendants and cufflinks that draw on the inherent beauty, calligraphic shape and lyricism of the Arabic alphabet in Yellow, White and Rose gold, along with precious and semi-precious stones.

Rubina A Khan spoke to Nadine Kanso on a sun-dappled Sunday afternoon at her office in the Dubai Design District:

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Nadine Kanso

Are you the only jewelry designer in the world who does Arabic calligraphic designs on metal?
I was the first one to start the Arabic  letter in jewelry and I have used words like Hubb which means Love and Bhibbak which means I Love You which no one had really used or done before. Designers had done non-religious verses, sayings and proverbs from the Arabic language, but not the Arabic letters. So I sort of dazzled it up with my designs and made the Arabic language more contemporary.

How did you decide upon this as a career?
I’m an artist photographer and I did a photo exhibition called Meen Ana which means Who I Am and it was about the Arab identity. This was it after the 9/11 when we were looked at and perceived in a bad way, which unfortunately, still stands today. I showcased people from the region from the Arab world in my photographs in a different way, with a different view. People from different backgrounds held up sentences in calligraphy that I wrote saying My Love is Arabic, My Language is Arabic, My Future is Arabic, Talk to me in Arabic with collages. A Saudi with blue eyes and blond hair was holding up a sign saying I Look Arab but don’t judge us. So from here, I felt I needed to do something that is more spread out globally because photographs showcased in a gallery can only be viewed by a certain number of people and the reach is limited. I did cushions, scarves, teeshirts… and then I said to myself “why are we wearing Latin letters and not Arabic ones” and that’s how the first “Noon” for Nadine started and Bil Arabi was born.

What about the Arabic script fascinates you the most?
I have nothing to do with religious stuff. I’m a proud Arab and I try to keep my work and designs related to our heritage, culture and our Arab roots and the language we speak. That is what is the most fascinating part to me. There are two ways to look two ways to look at my collection – you have some designs wherein I do my own calligraphy and then there’s the classical font – I use both and people have appreciated both styles.

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The City & Birds is a limited edition, 18K Gold Handcuff, made by Nadine Kanso for DRAK / Dubai Design Week 2015, reflecting the contrasting elements of Ras Al Khor, the oldest industrial area of Dubai and its flamingo reserve and the Burj Khalifa symbolising the concrete development in the country

What is the most unusual request you have received for a custom Bil Arabi design?(Laughs) A couple of words that are slightly risqué that were made into a pendant and a ring. And we did it in diamonds as well.

From making only rings, you now make all kinds of jewelry today. Is it both for men and women?
We just launched a men’s line a year ago. It’s a silver line, so the price point is different and it is more accessible. The font is designed by me and another designer from Milan, Italy who happens to be my cousin and it is more modern and contemporary. Even if you read and write Arabic or you don’t, it’s very difficult to make out that the font is in Arabic letters.

Where can one buy Bil Arabi?
Bil Arabi is mostly available in the GCC but I would say Dubai is the home and heart of Bil Arabi. This is where I live and this is where I started. It’s available in Harvey Nichols, Bloomingdales Dubai and Sauce which is the first store I started with and they promoted me so well and pushed me and were very supportive of the local talent. Then there is SAKS Bahrain, Eye Candy Oman and in Saudi Arabia, we do pop-ups and anywhere else in the world too.

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An 18K gold handcuff designed by Nadine Kanso for DE.Fash.Struction 2015 (Telling Stories Through Fashion) outlining the UAE’s rich pearl diving heritage, using deconstructed diving nose clips, UAE pearls and gold wires for the contemporary design called ‘Taba’ meaning dive in Arabic

What is the source of inspiration for your collections?
It is about being proud of who we are, today and yesterday, and I try to make the world look at us Arabs in a different way with everything I do.

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An 18K Gold Evil Eye Handcuff from Bil Arabi

What makes you the happiest?
I find great joy in what I do and I love seeing my kids following their dreams.

What feeds your soul, to fuel your creative energy?
Love fuels my soul and creative energy. For me, the basic thing is to love life and to love everything you do. Love for me is very important, in all its forms. From loving a person to loving what I do, it all has to be very positive and fulfilling. This is where things come from and creativity comes. It’s hard to be productive when you’re sad, at least for me.

What about misery creating art and artists?
This is so typical, people thinking that you should not have money to be an artist or that you should be sad in order to be creative. I mean why?  These are connotations that applied to artists a long time ago and they were right at the time, because they felt that way perhaps, and thats’s what fueled their creativity, but that does not apply to everybody, especially today. I should not be begging on the streets to take a picture. Come on! In my photography, a lot of socio-political things form the base of what I do, but alongside that, there’s always a twist of a hopeful future in all my work. In my black and white photo series, there was a splash of color somewhere in the picture which was my way of expressing that there was hope for a better future for Lebanon. You have to always hope, otherwise it does not happen.

©Rubina A Khan 2016

I’m Not Here To Push Myself, But The Causes I Have, Says Industrialist Ness Wadia

Industrialist Ness Wadia, scion of India’s most illustrious business company, the Wadia Group, has never been one to court fame or celebrity, but somehow, headlines chase him relentlessly, turning him into India’s most recognized and “selfied-with” face in the corporate world. But behind the suit and corporate armor, is a man with a zealous philanthropic drive. Not one to talk about it though, Ness is an active force in the Wadia Group’s charitable ventures, one of them being the Little Hearts Marathon that took place on Sunday. “What a glorious way to wake up on a beautiful Sunday morning, with the pure and unparalleled energy of 12,000 kids running the marathon!” exclaims Wadia as he flags off the marathon with the Health Minister of Maharashtra, Dr Deepak Sawant, Dr Minnie Bodhanwala, CEO, Wadia Hospitals and Aditya Thackeray of the Yuva Sena.

Rubina A Khan in conversation with industrialist Ness Wadia for DNA:

How did the idea of the Little Hearts Marathon come about?
The concept was that we wanted to help kids with cardiac ailments and to promote awareness on that front as a lot of kids suffer from cardiac problems. We found out that a lot of hospitals were not looking into children’s cardiac care so the Bai Jerbai Wadia Hospital for Children (BJWHC) tied up with the Siddhivinayak Ganpati Temple Trust and formed a Cardiac Unit to help kids with cardiac afflictions. Last year, Salman Khan flagged off the first edition of the Little Hearts Marathon, with 10,000 kids participating and this year, our second marathon, we had 12,000 kids! We are planning to take it across India and other parts of Maharashtra as well to raise funds for setting up a cardiac center at BJWHC to reduce the costs and waiting time for cardiac surgeries in our community.

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Ness Wadia at the second edition of the Little Hearts Marathon 2015

Lots of marching bands, cadet corps, quite a spectacular show first thing in the morning… how do you involve these schools and their kids?
This is all voluntary work on behalf of the schools and the children, as this is a charitable organization and everything is pro bono – it’s children helping other children. Isn’t that amazing? All the staff working here are all from the Wadia Hospital, Lions Club, Rotary Club, Schools. It’s all Corporate Social Responsibility. We treat thousands of kids a year and last year was special as we treated a set of conjoined twins Riddhi and Siddhi Pawar who are now well and doing so well. This is one of the most important joys in my life. I was here most part of Diwali last year and spent it with all the kids. Spending time with them brings you to reality and makes you realise what life is about and makes you appreciate what you have and more importantly, what we, as a whole, need to give to help develop our society.

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Dr Minnie Bodhanwala and Ness Wadia with conjoined twins, Riddhi and Siddhi Pawar

From my perspective, the Wadia hospitals have been around for 86 years and we are looking to renovate and take on various expansions. We don’t publicise the Wadia Hospitals, we never have, now we are beginning to. Apart from anything, it helps with CSR and but I simply love doing it and I want to spread the awareness. Our goal is to have possibly, charitable hospitals across India, as opposed to hospitals that earn money; we have enough businesses that earn money. We do change lives here. My plea to anyone who reads this and anyone who hears about this, even if it is one rupee, please, just donate. There are lot of people are more interested in the glamour and the sensational lifestyle aspect or what one’s doing in their lives, but the work which one does in the Wadia Group has always been very low key, the family has always been low key, we are not here to blow our own trumpet and tell people what we have done and how we’ve done it and how much money we have. We are simple people. The perception is not, unfortunately. We have been involved in the building of India and we will continue to be involved in the building of India. And honestly, I am not here to push myself, but the causes I have.

Do these children feel like yours at some point given you spend time, follow their progress charts and are so involved in their lives?
I don’t know if they feel like mine, but they inspire me more to do more. It keeps me going. There’s so much to do. We have the hospital website – http://wadiahospitals.org where you can donate and help. In fact we had an argument about the amount as I firmly believe you cannot put a minimum on a donation! A man wants to put one rupee into a box, let him put it. Let him choose.

Are you looking forward to the eighth season of the IPL this year?
Sure! We (Kings XI Punjab) want to win this year. We have a great bunch of players and it feels like a good season.

This feature first appeared in DNA on 08 February, 2015

©Rubina A Khan 2015