Today I am taking our followers back to my trip to Abu Dhabi, and specifically to the extraordinary Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi. Commissioned by Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan, the late president of the UAE- it was built to unite the cultural diversity of the Islamic world with the historical and modern values of architecture and art. Designed by Syrian architect Yousef Abdelky, the building magnificently rises to such an occasion, drawing on Persian, Mughal, Egyptian, Indo-Islamic, and Moorish elements to tell the story of Islam and Art. Accommodating more than 41,000 worshippers on grounds spanning 30 acres, it is nothing less than extraordinary.
Its construction was truly global at scale. More than 3,000 workers took part in its construction, with artisans and materials coming from India, Italy, Germany, Turkey, Morocco, Pakistan, Malaysia, Iran, China, the UK, New Zealand, Macedonia and the UAE. The structure is predominantly composed of natural materials like marble, stone, gold, semi-precious stones, crystals and ceramics due to their longevity. Its courtyard, pictured above, measures about 180,000 square feet and is considered to be largest example of a marble mosaic in the world.
The Mosque, unsurprisingly, features a number of special and unique elements. The carpet in the main prayer hall, pictured below, is considered to be the world’s largest carpet, made by Iran’s Carpet Company and designed by Iranian artist Ali Khaliqi. It measures 60,570 square feet and it took 1,200-1,300 carpet knotters to complete. It weighs 35 tons and features 2.2 million knots!
The mosque also features seven chandeliers from Germany company Faustig, incorporating millions of Swarovski crystals. Surrounding these are walls inscribed with the 99 names of God in traditional Kufic calligraphy, designed by the prominent UAE calligrapher Mohammed Mandi Al Tamimi. Three calligraphy styles are used throughout the mosque and were works by Mohammed Mandi al Tamimi of the UAE, Farouk Haddad of Syria, and Mohammed Allam of Jordan.
The initial entrance to the mosque features this stunning floral inlay that gives the appearance of vines growing out of the floors and up the walls. It is extraordinary!
Finally, one of the most beautiful parts of this glorious place is the hall of columns in prayer hall. These 96 columns are clad in marble and inlayed with mother of pearl. The pools alongside them serve to reflect these elegant structures, imparting a breathtaking and quiet calm to this extraordinary space.
As Diana Vreeland so famously noted, the eye has to travel. And there are few places I have been that provide such a feast for both the eyes and spirit. The craftsmanship on display here is without comparison. It is truly one of the beautiful sites of the Arab and Muslim worlds, and I wish more people could see it in person, particularly to counterbalance misconceptions about that part of the world. To experience a beautiful space such as this one brings the glory of humanity’s creation and God’s together in a single space- and that in itself is a wonderful thing.
You guys, I miss Kauai so much. Being back in New York in 20 degree weather is making me realize just how much I hate winter, hate being cooped up in my apartment, hate being cooped up in the office- in that order (just kidding- I hate them all equally). It’s been hard to even write this post because it makes me so sad not to be there. WOE IS ME.
Kauai is absolute paradise. Known as the garden isle, it has a population of 67,000 (sparse, perfect) and is approximately 6 million years old (resulting in the most astonishing cliffs and valleys, beaches and dense tropical vegetation). As our helicopter pilot Trevor told us “It takes a lot of years to build beauty like this.” (<–How obnoxious was starting a sentence with “our helicopter pilot, Trevor”, on a scale of 1 to 10?)
We arrived Tuesday just before sunset and immediately noticed the party was on outside on the terrace. We raced to our room to drop our bags, put on acceptable attire (why, you don’t travel in big white sneakers like your aunt Mary Martha from Tampa?), and head straight out to the hotel’s expansive 180 degree deck overlooking Hanalei Bay for sunset drinks and dinner. We stayed at the St. Regis Princeville and this quickly became a tradition every night- running up to the terrace, grabbing a much desired table with gorgeous views of the bay, and waiting for the most epic sunsets. The St. Regis does a champagne sabering every night as well (a nod to a favorite practice of their founder), and as they do, they tell an ancient island story very animatedly (as we quickly realized- it’s the same story every night); it was always great fun and got everyone in the mood for the rest of the evening!
A few highlights from our 5 days in Princeville:
^The hotel pool, where M and I practiced headstands and holding our breath under water like little kids. For the record, he would probably urge me to confess that I can’t do either exceptionally well, though like the insecure child I still am I demanded an A for effort. The hot tub was also a favorite. As always.^
^The beach on Hanalei Bay, where we wiled away many hours reading books and looking for crabs. Plenty of coral and fish for the snorkelers in our midst (The guy next to us emerged from the water with his snorkeling mask on one day and proudly proclaimed “YOU GUYS, IT LOOKS LIKE MARS IN THERE”. I think that’s an endorsement)^
^ Hiking the mind-blowingly beautiful Napali coast on our second day. It is an 11 mile path in total and typically takes hikers 2 days to do; but most stick to the first 2 miles to a hidden beach and the 2 miles back, as it’s a rigorous 10/10 in terms of difficulty. Proud to say that all of my stairmaster skilllllz served me well as I felt like I was flying through it. It felt so good to be warm, active, and surrounded by such beauty. The coast is absolutely immaculate and the views from the hike were superb. Pro tip: Next time I would bring a backpack as I had to makeshift a beach bag into one and tie it to my arms with little room for circulation as it was full of water and snacks, haha- but I would do it again in a heartbeat. Plan to arrive at the trail head between 8-9 am to get a spot.^
^More views of the breathtaking Napali coast^
^Our awesome wrangler!! My favorite car ever. We cruised around a ton with the top down, listening to weird Hawaiian radio and discovering new beaches at every turn. Loved it so much, highly recommend renting a car out there, particularly a wrangler so you can drive offroad!^
^The roads are gorgeous. I took a ton of pictures that basically look like this, which we all know are imminently frame-able. 😉 ^
^Friday we took a helicopter tour of the islands with SUnshine Helicoptor and despite the death stares we received when we rolled into the safety demonstrations 10 minutes late (like can we live?! We were on holiday time okay!), we had an EPIC time up there. I am terrified of heights so frankly I was low key scared out of my mind all morning, and clutched M’s arm in a death grip as we floated up, up and away. But minutes into it I had gained my courage and thought it was absolutely amazing. Would totally do it again and thought the views, particularly in the later afternoon with the sun reflecting off of the water, was just exquisite. Such a treat to do something like that^
Not pictured but not forgotten
Tropical Taco – the most incredible, insane fish tacos. They are SO BIG and SO DELUSHUS. 10/10, would eat again (and we did; like every day. Not mad about it)
Kilauea Lighthouse & Wildlife Refuge – A beautiful lighthouse (the Westernmost one in the US!) and bird refuge where you can take binoculars out at your leisure and roam the grounds as really great bird experts tell you what you are looking at. Loved this so much. I was overwhelmed at all the birds. “Look- there’s an albatross!” I gleefully told my husband. “You’re an albatross,” he responded. True love, you guys.
The roosters. Kauai is known for its wild chicken population (brought by the European settlers because of course they brought something as random as chickens to a place where you can get the best fish everywhere you go). The actual story is cooler and involves a hurricane freeing all of the chicken fight chickens at once and allowing them to roam free and populate the island. Whichever you believe, the chickens are a hilarious addition to the island.
Our lovely friends from Sacramento that we met and had a serious friend-affair with the last 2 days of our trip. They were the best and our last night on Kauai was especially fun because of them. Love you guys!
There were so many more memories to share but this was a start. We love you so much, Kauai. Thank you for showing us the barefoot Aloha spirit in its best form. This was truly one of my most favorite trips ever and I will never forget it.
I guess everyone kind of knew Hawaii was amazing since it is such a beloved destination for lovahs on honeymoon, but I truly had no idea how mind-blowingly amazeballoons it actually was until we landed in Honolulu. Yes, we knew it was amazing upon emerging from an 11 hour flight from NYC and awaiting our connecting flight to Maui in an outdoor airport garden filled with tropical plants and Hawaiian pigeons (<–note, not an actual species, but basically thinner and prettier than their NYC counterparts, SORRY BECKY); we felt the warm sun on our faces and we were sold. Real talk, I love the airport in Honolulu more than I like some of my favorite places in New York. That’s how much I loved Hawaii.
I’m thankful to say it got exponentially better from there. Below- a snapshot of our first leg- 2 nights and 2 days in Wailea, Maui.
Maui is bananas. It feels like a mix of Miami (minus the bachelorette parties with girls of widely ranging weight wearing matching tank tops and clutching BYO inflatable swans), and Malibu (inclusive of gorgeous beaches and maximally chill vibes) with a dash of just magic. It was sunny and hot and gorgeous every minute. We stayed in Wailea on the West Coast of Maui, at the Andaz Hotel, which was very Zen chic and brand new. Both the location and hotel itself came highly recommended, and we were happy to have adored both.
^The Open Air Lobby at the Andaz. That’s totally a life size Japanese rock garden in the middle there. Life goalz for entry into our future mansion in Malibu (right babe?!) ^
^ Our Room. Hard to leave in the morning, perfect for sunset watching at night. Not pictured- team shower that legit could fit a starting lineup. If you are into that sort of thing.^
^ A peak at the infinite infinity pools on the property. ^
^Morimoto – the site of an incredible dinner our second night, where my husband ordered way too much sushi and we practically had to roll ourselves upstairs. Fun note, we were told that people have indeed tried to dive head first into the 3 foot deep pool surrounding the hotel, to injurious endings ^
^ The Wailea Beach walk that extended 2 miles from our hotel to it’s end, through perfectly manicured grass and hovering above silky sand beaches and plunging down lava cliffs. ^
^ Another look at the Wailea beach walk. We were out there speed walking at 7 am with all of the other 80 year olds on vacation. ^
^ This tree was like the tree of life. So beautiful. One day we walked by and saw an old couple underneath it, just staring out at the horizon together and we both thought, they are doing life right ^
^ Another look at the pools. We spent a lot of time chilling, reading, swimming and the like. I read three whole books this vacation! Another post to come on those. I’M SO LITERARY ^
1) A brief trip to the Wailea shopping center, a mall comprised of a Prada, Gucci, and approximately 25 local boutiques selling the same Hawaiian print shirt. In case you want a pair of $700 loafers to go with your Tommy Bahama chic (which actually is the ideal Dad outfit so maybe I’m not their core consumer?). Reader, we bought a Hawaiian shirt.
2) The floating bed swing we whiled away an afternoon in, reading as the sun descended and the light got more and more golden. WANT one of these please.
3) The breakfast at the Andaz which was, unequivocally, the most insane hotel breakfast I’ve ever had: every fruit and fresh juice imaginable, every breakfast meat and egg dish and cheese and pastry, and all of them maddeningly delicious. I’d honestly go back to Maui for that breakfast alone since I’m basically Chris Farley (“FEED ME DAMNIT I’M STARVING”)(RIP).
As you can probably tell we didn’t vear too far from the vast property apart from swim in the frothy ocean – nor did we care to. It was a perfect 2 days, after which we were super relaxed and ready to take on Kauai! Stay tuned.
Hi! Is this thing still on?
I’ve just returned from a little under a week in Chicago and San Francisco, the former for my father’s 70th birthday and the latter for some meetings which went pretty well.
(You don’t care about my meetings, I know this- but I felt the need to share).
And now I am back in the snowy tundra that is New York, thankfully working kicking off this morning working from home while the wind roars outside of my window. Thanks to a unique-to-New-York-problemo, our radiators are operating in overdrive and my apartment is a sauna. But I can’t open the balcony door lest a foot of snow blow into the apartment, so I am working half clothed today, which adds a certain je ne sai quoi to the day.
Some favorite moments from the last week:
Presenting our gift to my Dad, which was 4 tickets to the New York Phil when they play Beethoven’s 9th in the spring. It has been his favorite piece since the dawn of time and we walked down the aisle to it together at my wedding and the stars have never aligned to see it in person. I am so thrilled to have he and my Mom in town for the weekend and to share what i hope will be an incredible night at Lincoln Center!!
My nieces and nephews, always and forever. We have 8 (soon to be 9) and they are all an absolute dream. My God baby decided to wage war on my husband this weekend which was kind of hilarious, so there was alot of animated back and forth between them. Case in point: Her: “You not a good person. You not good”, Him: “I’m watching you” (as he pointed to his eyes and then to her, which was hysterical).
After dinner at my brother’s house Friday night, the kids turned off the lights in the living room and turned up the dance music and had a full on disco. Of course, one by one we all joined in and danced, my Mom and Dad, my siblings and me. It was the perfect Friday night.
My Mom’s food, as per usual. I swear it tastes better every time we go home. I must have eaten 25 kibbehs over the course of the weekend- NOT mad about it.
Being home sitting in front of the fireplace- it was the perfect reset I needed after this crazy January that was so full of stress about our political situation. I was reminded that so long as I have my family, I have everything,
San Francisco was lovely too, albeit completely drowned in rain. I don’t see the outside of offices or restaurants anyhow when I’m there so I was kind of feeling the moody, dark vibe. We had a particularly awesome dinner at Hakkassan with a group of clients I have truly never loved more, so that was pretty clutch. Sometimes life gives you lemonade straight out.
On that note, I have to get back to it. All of my love and promise to come back with more pictures later (and a new layout soon because this one is horrific. Thanks for nothing WordPress.)
In retrospect, it was probably a fool’s errand to start a blog given I’ve been in New York what feels like only a handful of days this month, but I’ve just returned from London and it was a wonderful trip. I have some notes and memories to share!
I stayed at the Stafford in Mayfair, and it was one of my favorite hotels ever, which is saying a lot – a perfect mix of Victorian grandeur (prints and chintz and chinoiserie galore) and modern comfort (all marble everything in the bathrooms, pristine and updated facilities). The hotel also has an incredible history- originally conceived as a private residence in the 17th century and owned by Lord and Lady Lyttelton (daughter of the then Earl Spencer). Most notably, the hotel served as a club for American and Canadian officers stationed overseas during World War II, and its famous wine cellars were used as air raid shelters. Below, a few no good, very bad iPhone photos to punctuate some highlights:
^^ Beautifully wallpapered hallways and whisper quiet carpet abound @ the Stafford ^^
^^ A sneak peak at my room – please note those glorious corniced curtains and those velvety teal chairs. Off to the left there was a stunning powder area to do makeup. #Goals for our next bedroom ^^
^^ One of many seating areas with fireplaces downstairs, where I had breakfast with my dearest friend and beloved bridesmaid from boarding school ^^
^^ I still have no idea what muesli actually is but this one was delicious and probably one of my favorite room service breakfasts ^^
^^ The American Bar- where every available surface is crammed with artifacts, knickknacks and signed photos donated by patrons over the years. The ceiling was lined with baseball caps from every American school or club imaginable!^^
^^The beautiful Fortnum and Mason, where my friend and I stopped in for chocolates after a long Italian lunch in Mayfair^^
^^ One of the many awesome shopping “arcades” filled with beautiful boutiques. I may have gone a little nuts with the shopping given the favorable exchange rate – especially with the menswear for the Mr. which I couldn’t resist! ^^
^^ Tea for one at the classic Ritz Hotel ^^
^^ That one night we went to Peyote with college friends and ordered tacos. For purposes of scale, these were each the size of my pinky finger. London – get it together on the Mexican front por favor! ^^
^^ Birds on thin ice (1) and in softer waters (2) in the beautiful St. James Park- one of my favorites in London ^^
Other memories (not pictured) : Two days in my clients offices trying to force reason (an uphill battle if there ever was one, followed by many private tears), conversations with a handful of ignorant pro-Brexit black taxi drivers (thankfully there is a silencing button in the back seat!), drinks at Soho house, a late dinner at Nobu, a 75th birthday dinner for my lovely friend B’s even lovelier father- which was probably the highlight of my trip, a late night in South Ken for after dinner cocktails and countless moments in between. Thank you London for a wonderful couple of days! I love you I love you I love you – but I’m happy to be home.
We just got back from Los Angeles yesterday and it was honestly one of the most relaxing, joyful, wonderful trips in recent memory. We absolutely love LA, and every trip is a little different. But this is our 3rd time celebrating the New Year there and it is the best way to unwind from the intensity of the Holiday Season and start the New Year feeling refreshed.
A few of the many highlights from our trip:
1. The View from our terrace at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills. It, and the hotel, were absolutely heavenly. Our first morning, we had breakfast set up with the french doors open and it was unbelievable.
2. The pool at the hotel, which we frequented every day while the weather was gorgeous, ordering up Diet Cokes and quinoa salads and feeling like a million bucks. There was an open air gym to the right as well that was so lovely, working out with the breeze coming through was as close to amazing as any workout could possibly be.
3. Christmas decorations at the hotel, which were absolutely gorgeous. Lots of white hydrangeas, gold ornaments, and lights as far as the eye could see. It was really unique and so gorgeous.
4. Afternoon walks around Beverly Hills (after we had our fill of the pool), which is absurdly beautiful and pristine and basically felt like Little Arabia given how few Americans and how very many Arabs were there. I’ll take it.
5. The greatest photography gallery, La Mouche, on Beverly Drive. It made me want a house with tons of big white walls to fill with their incredible photographs.
6. The best Bat Mitzvah gift I’v ever seen, for the special little lady in your life. Spotted at Kitross on Robertson Boulevard.
7. The most incredible interiors store I’ve ever seen in my life; I wanted to spend hours here and it took me straight back to the Amalfi coast. And other promising interiors in Venice.
8. Returning to the scene of our engagement exactly 1 year later, on the Palisades Park. We will never, ever, forget how incredible that day was.
9. Spending the weekend with our dear friends in Santa Monica, ringing in the New Year with a massive feast that we made from scratch. We started the night with a variety of cheeses, moved onto caviar and blinis with creme freche and shrimp cocktail, followed by fresh pasta with homemade tomato sauce, grilled steak with smashed potatoes and lemony dijon salad, and the piece de resistance: flourless chocolate cake. It was the most epic dinner of all time, and we enjoyed every bite of it over the course of the 4 hours we spent ingesting it, alternately warming up around the fire place and returning to the table for our next course.
10. Returning to Venice to walk the canals and our pleasant surprise at how much they had refilled since the drought; this time last year they were almost completely dried up. A great reminder of how precarious our environment is and how important it is to conserve the resources we have. Also a reminder of how much we want one of those insane houses.
11. The beaches of Santa Monica (1) and Malibu (2- Westward Beach). New Years day at Westward Beach was a particular treat; we took a beautiful hike up the cliffs and then came back down to the most beautiful day on the beach. My husband and friend Z from business school also did a polar bear’s swim in the icy pacific, while Z’s wife and I looked on from our sunny and warm blankets. It was the perfect way to kick off the new year. Stopping at the Reel Inn for fish tacos on the way back was icing on the cake.
And with those wonderful memories and our quickly diminishing tans- we bid farewell to 2016 and California, and bid hello to 2017 and all of you in this New Year! I hope you all had an incredible final few weeks of the New Year, and a great start to what is sure to be- at the least- a very interesting one.