Archive for the ‘Modern Fairy tale’ Category

I’m in Love with Dior!

Saturday, December 5th, 2015

Yes, I see the house of Christian Dior everywhere. At the mall, make that The Dubai Mall, I recently went to the press preview of “Le Théâtre Dior”, a gorgeous exhibit of miniature mannequins recreating lilliputian versions some of the house most famous designs.

After that, I simply had to get a bottle of their iconic Diorissimo, a scent that includes a favorite flower of mine, Lily of the Valley. I even do my brows all Dior style these days, thanks to their Diorshow Brow Styler and Structure and Style Brush-On Brow gel.

I’m addicted. Or do I have to call myself a Dior Addict?

I’m even seeing a lot of Dior at the movies, Dior and I, as well as on the gossip columns which are buzzing with speculations of who their next designer will be. From where I stand, the maison can’t lose.

Anyway, I wanted to share my piece on the traveling exhibit from The Huffington Post Style vertical. Read it in full here, but enjoy a video for now.

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More Pitti Fragranze: Scents & Sensibilities

Sunday, November 1st, 2015


The model turned perfumer Annick Goutal, a legend of the scent world, once wrote “perfume is the music of my dream.” Perhaps there is no other art that brings us back to a place and time quite like the olfactory art and yet perfume isn’t limited to memories alone. It deserves its own top place in the firmament of wearable art.

I found out at this year’s Pitti Fragranze, a labyrinth of the best the scent world has to offer held inside the atmospheric Stazione Leopolda, that I’ve been somewhat wrong all these years to pine for long lost loves and far away times when I smell a scent that reminds of an ex or of my childhood. Yes, perfume can and will do that, but it’s the scent of imagination and wonder than give it the honors it deserves. As a stand-alone, one of a kind, truly magnificent art form.

The person responsible for this newfound mindset when I look at — better yet, when I smell — a fragrance, is NY Times “nose” Chandler Burr. Burr is a perfume historian, a journalist who has been the scent critic for the NY Times, and a curator of the olfactory art. Based in NYC, Burr travels all over the world, partly in search of fantastic new scents but mostly to enlighten his fellow human beings on the true art of perfume.

In all his kindness, he let me sit in on an interview he was having with a fashion editor on the phone from NYC, while the woman pushed for him to reveal his ideas of the “best new trends” in fragrance. With class and grace, he answered by saying, “I was a perfume journalist at the Times, not a beauty writer. I didn’t focus on trends and brands, marketing doesn’t play any role for me at all. I’ve always held a different position from most of the people who deal with perfume.”

For the entire piece, some exclusive videos by Mike Figgis for Diane Pernet Paris and a whole lot more, check out my Huffington Post Style blog.

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Gotta Love Choupette (Karl Lagerfeld’s Cat)!

Sunday, June 15th, 2014

These days, Karl Lagerfeld’s cat Choupette is often in the news. The fashion news, that is. The only kind I like to read when I want to get away from the films that supply me with knowledge and culture, and often heartache. Fashion for me is like the common cat’s (pardon the pun) E! gossip shows or The National Enquirer. Wonderfully mindless, fashion news and interviews transport me to a world where anything is possible.

This one with Karl Lagerfeld from Harper’s Bazaar, about his fluffy, outstandingly cute cat Choupette, has got to be one of the most surreal I’ve stumbled across in years. With quotes like “the doctor does her manicure. She hates when we do it ourselves. The only time she makes a scandal is then.” And “she doesn’t like to eat on the floor, so I have to put the food on the table. Her dishes are by Goyard,” all by Karl himself, I giggled myself silly. And longed to be a cat.

So, Choupette, and her dishes, her princess style and her two full time maids, is my Style Icon of the week!

Read the full interview on Harper’s Bazaar

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What I Learned from Richard Gere in Abu Dhabi

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

2012-10-15-ANR_2444.jpg At this year’s dazzling Abu Dhabi Film Festival, the celebrity buzz has been deafening. After all, it would be An Officer and a Gentleman himself Richard Gere walking the red carpet on opening night, for the film Arbitrage, which is now playing throughout the Middle East. The festival has done things grand and it felt otherworldly to walk alongside the celebrities on a path that took this movie lover right under the spotlights, cameras and microphones and then threw me in the midst of all the excitement — from beginning (the film’s screening inside the Emirates Palace theater) to end (a dazzling party by the sea where even silver sequins felt underdressed).

Yet for yours truly, the highlight of the evening and the following press day for the film, would be the wisdom I learned watching the classy Gere in action, surrounded by a media frenzy and yet completely at ease among the welcoming atmosphere created by his Gulf fans. Gere in Abu Dhabi embodied a magnetic spokesperson for elegance and culture, and turned out to be a great ambassador for the West in the region.

For Gere’s wisdom, check out the full piece in the Huffington Post. N-joy!

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Happy Valentine’s Day

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

Mine, courtesy of my adorable Mom who went out early in the morning and bought these super cute cupcakes from Something Sweet. A steaming cup of home brewed espresso, the chocolate one with heart sprinkles eaten in segments of deliciousness along with small sips of coffee, and my day is PERFECTION.

Happy Love Day everyone, from all of us at The Ajnabee. You are always loved here and never a stranger.

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Anything Goes on Broadway, as New as Ever!

Saturday, February 11th, 2012

2012-02-07-417.jpg You may be asking yourself, so how relevant can a 1930s show taking place aboard a transatlantic cruise ship, starring an entertaining gangster and a plucky cabaret singer and featuring a couple of crisscrossed lovers really be in 2012 NYC? The short answer is very.

Lets go back to the year 1934 in America, the year Cole Porter’s Anything Goes debuted on Broadway, in its first incarnation of the oft revived musical. It is the year which follows President Roosevelt establishing the “New Deal” in 1933, as a response to the Great Depression, and focusing on what historians call the “3 Rs”: relief, recovery and reform. It is the year the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is established to watch over Wall Street, to make sure another Great Depression won’t happen again. And it is the year prior to the establishment of the FBI, with J. Edgar Hoover as its first, and most well-known director. So, the long answer is that the U.S. of 1934 was very much like this country of ours in 2012: uncertainly dark, changing at a dizzying speed and in dire need of strong guidance. The perfect time to watch a show that can both transport and transform its audience.


Read the entire piece on the Huffington Post.

Top image by © Joan Marcus, courtesy of the Roundabout Theater Company

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Car Insurance, Viagra & Movies 4 Free = Spam Galore!

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

Here at The Ajnabee, we get at least 50 spam messages every day. Some are innocuous, some are downright disgusting, others hilarious in their poor use of the English language, but the wide majority lie in that middle zone of nothingness. I won’t bore you with those. Instead, I am picking five comments that are ripe to be made fun of right here. I mean, who writes this stuff?! Although even in spam you can tell the character of the person behind it, some complimentary and some downright rude… Oh, last but not least, Ladies and Gentlemen, those free online translator services don’t really work. See number 3 for proof. I’ve inserted my own comments where you see ** two stars as well as included the post they commented on, which at times is almost downright absurd.

From FUNFA in Russia — re: 1/20 The Movie:

?????? ??? ???? ? ?????, ? ??????? ??? ???????????????? ?????, ??? ? ????? ??? ???????? ????. ?????? ??? ??????
??? ?????, ??? ? ? ???????. ??????????? ???????? ????? ? ? ???????! ????? ????? ????!
?????? ??? ?????? ? ?????? (????????????) ??????? ??? ?????, ???????? ????? ? ????? ?? 100 ?????-180 ???,
??????????? ????????, ?? ???????????, ????? ???????? ????????-355 ??? ?? 1 ?????.
????? ???????? ?? ??????????? ??????????!!

** I was thinking the same thing Funfa! Minus the well (I use the term loosely) hidden advert for online porn. BTW, what does your name stand for? **

From Lestymepe — re: Fab Women, a Tiger & Yummy Dates:

Tired of getting low numbers of useless visitors for your site? Well i want to let you know about a new underground tactic that makes me personally $900 per day on 100% AUTOPILOT. I really could be here all day and going into detail but why dont you simply check their website out? There is a great video that explains everything. So if your seriously interested in producing easy hard cash this is the site for you.

** YES, Lestymepe, I am indeed tired of getting comments like this one from YOU! And again, what’s with the name?! **

From idioppyHola — re: 1/20 The Movie:

Very, he made the christian dior and felt one watches across a backyard. A war onto the aircraft of replica would die the golden, old talk what bought the imaginary hallway that was delicate. Lapidus ted his watches. Same constantin am i with, replica? The prada had a only replica, cruising that a not sheltered purse because the alive rage than several vespucci problem. Team replica. He told else,’ it reached. The few rolex threw you leaped deeply skipped for replica woman. Alain was. Already heavier.

** Eh?? What language is that & can I just call you Idiop for short? **

From ai companies — re: For 2010, Resolving to Talk Once, Listen Twice:

I ran into this page on accident. This is a refreshing site so I end up spending more time than I really should have. Webmaster has done a good work on this piece, the site here is insightful. Now I am going to bookmark this internet site on delicious so that I can revisit again in the future.

** WOW, Ai, it must have hurt to run into the page on accident! **

From Filmy Online in Poland — re: Kanwal’s Healthy Corner – Happy Valentine’s Day!

The root of your writing while appearing agreeable at first, did not really sit well with me after some time. Somewhere within the sentences you were able to make me a believer unfortunately just for a short while. I still have a problem with your leaps in logic and you would do well to fill in those gaps. In the event you actually can accomplish that, I will undoubtedly be impressed.

** Here, I am thinking Filmy is allergic to chocolate-covered strawberries, which is the recipe he commented on… On the other hand, it all appeared agreeable at first, so maybe it was trying to get the strawberries to see his logic that pissed him off! Too bad we couldn’t make him a “believer”… **

Anyway, you see where I am going with this. Feel free to share your own Spam. We all get it, at one point or another…

Top image courtesy of

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Remembering Cairo Time

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

I am seldom this sentimental. But the recent turn of events in Egypt have really made me think of a film that already occupies my heart and daydreams when things are calm. Thankfully, there has been a forced professional reason for reposting all this writing of mine about my most beloved cinematic efforts and I gladly jump at the chance to revisit Ruba Nadda’s Cairo Time, a masterpiece of subtleness and deep burning romance I first watched at the Tribeca Film Festival this past Spring. Enjoy the piece but more importantly, rent the DVD from Blockbusters. You’ll thank me for it!

There are movies that for their duration, while you sit inside the darkened theater, keep you company. They feel familiar, warm and true to your own life. Then there are films that inspire you, to be different, to try something new, to achieve your yet untapped potential. There is yet a third kind, the movies that shock you, to the point of leaving you breathless once they end, a bit unsettled but probably having learned something new.

On a whole different level, perhaps combining a bit of all the above, there are movies which have the potential to change your life, move you to the point of tender tears and push you to find the kind of love, respect, devotion and kindness that is portrayed within their story, their short yet impressive time on the screen. For me Cairo Time was one such masterpiece. The film is a unique adventure featuring one breathtaking city, a brilliant script written with just the right balance of romanticism and intelligence and two unlikely leading characters who are played to understated perfection by two of the best actors alive. Though the Tribeca PAC was totally packed for the film’s opening this past Saturday, Cairo Time is still the kind of film that will always feel like a best-kept secret, a personal indulgence which you may just share with your closest friends and loved ones. In other words, a jewel of a movie.

Cairo Time is also a quiet work of art, one that doesn’t scream its message at the audience or try to prove the filmmaker’s wit and uniqueness with surprise turns and unexpected events. Instead, the film soothes you into the overwhelming grace of the Arab world, the chaos of the streets of Cairo versus the hospitality of its people, the permeating calls to prayer, the colorful souks, the smokey cafes and the unrelenting heat and dust of the city. It is in my opinion the film which best captures the spirit of Cairo, turns it into a true third protagonist, along with Tareq and Juliette, the leading man and woman in the story.

In the opening scene of the film, we see the ever-calm Juliette – played by the beautiful Patricia Clarkson – arriving into the subtle chaos of Cairo airport. As she walks out of immigration, she is met with the warmth of Arab hospitality by the lanky Tareq – played by the super-handsome Alexander Siddig – a friend of her husband Mark. Mark, we soon learn, is a UN man and is being detained by his work at a refuge camp in Gaza. He has sent his trusted friend and retired colleague Tareq to pick up his wife, update her on the situation and take her to the hotel, where she’ll await his uncertain arrival. It is in the waiting times when we slowly discover that Juliette is accustomed to being alone, because of her husband’s line of work, and she is also a strong woman, though quite reserved and feminine to the core.

Juliette’s first outing alone in Cairo proves perilous. The traffic, the noise, the unwelcome advances of young Egyptian men, her own overwhelming jetlag all conspire to create the perfect situation for her and Tareq to get to know each other. And because they are both gentle souls, with kind hearts and strong emotions – though boiling quietly just under the surface – they each and together begin to experience the kind of love that actually helps them grow and find themselves within it.


There are plenty of beautiful subtle messages in Cairo Time, among them how when a person opens their heart just a little, love then comes rushing into their life, through that tiny crack. How calm is not the same as unfeeling and one should never underestimate the power to love of a quiet soul. How we often need someone else to teach us who we really are. And how the sexiest moments in life are often those that only require a look, a breath, the slight touch of a hand. Needless to say, I found myself crying at the most unusual moments, craving the beauty of Egypt and the warmth of its people, but also yearning for the hot sun, the spiced coffee and the morning call to prayer invading one’s hotel room right before sunrise…

At the Tribeca Film Festival opening of Cairo Time, I caught up with stars Patricia Clarkson and Alexander Siddig, as well as the film’s writer and director Ruba Nadda. Indeed when Nadda gushed “I was so lucky to get this man!” about Siddig, she wasn’t kidding. As much as you may have admired him in movies and on TV, in person he is even more charismatic, graceful and kind. His sparkling eyes – yes, they actually do glisten when he speaks – put me immediately at ease while I interviewed him. I told him that every woman in the screening room at Tribeca had fallen in love with his Tareq, who has now become our idea of the quintessential romantic hero, and asked him how he played that as an actor. He humbly answered “You are way too kind! I don’t think that’s the case, but thank you for the compliment” and continued “I prepared by simply looking into her eyes” while pointing to his co-star Clarkson. About what’s next, he disclosed “I’ll be in Ruba’s [Nadda] next film. I don’t mean this to sound condescending, but for such a young woman she is phenomenally talented!” And he’ll be doing TV in the UK. Watch Siddig in Primeval on BBC America starting this January 2011.

I then talked to the positively glowing Clarkson about her role. I had been meaning to ask her about Juliette and how she played her with such understated passion. Clarkson confessed “This was an internal preparation. I didn’t want her to be me. Juliette is a woman whose emotions are on simmer, while I am always on boil!” I also asked her about the wardrobe choices for Juliette, in the first half of the film. When I watched the film during a pre-festival screening, some of the critics had dismissed Juliette as a stereotype of an American woman who wears inappropriate – read: sleeveless – clothing in an Arab country. Well, the laugh’s on them, since not only is Juliette meant to be Canadian, but Clarkson promptly answered “You can show your arms in Cairo, it’s legs that need to be covered. But I guess the people watching the film with you that day did not know that…” Indeed, chuck it up to the critics’ need to always have an opinion. And BTW, when I watched it again that evening, I confirmed that Juliette is dressed quite demurely throughout the first half of the film, in short sleeves – not sleeveless – and below-the-knee skirts. The film not only does her character justice, but is completely devoid of stereotypes of any kind.

Finally, I caught up with filmmaker Nadda – a stunning, brilliant woman with dark, luscious hair – and asked her about the choice to make the film about Cairo, as opposed to another location in the Middle East. Nadda herself is Syrian-Canadian and although she admitted that Damascus is one of the most beautiful cities in the Arab world “Cairo is the happening city of the Middle East. It was the perfect city to film because Cairo has it all: the culture, the arts, the music, the sights, the pyramids and the desert.” When introducing the film Nadda confessed that she was quite emotional being on the stage at TFF, fourteen years after having come to NYC to study filmmaking at NYU. A beautiful testament to the power of dreams.

The film also stars Tom McCamus as Mark, Elena Anaya as Kathryn and Amina Annabi as Yasmeen and features a phenomenal soundtrack by Niall Byrne, which is available on ITunes. Cairo Time is now available on DVD.

All images by Colm Hogan courtesy of IFC and TFF

Excerpts of this piece originally posted as: in April 2010

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It’s All Your Fault: A Modern Fairy Tale

Monday, December 27th, 2010

On Monday night I attended a soiree organized by a work contact of mine. It was a holiday party and I always adore those: people are in a festive mood, food is served, wine is consumed and party dresses are worn. What is there not to love?! This party, on the Upper East Side, certainly lived up to all expectations.

Channeling a bit of LA rockstar meets Kate Moss, I felt quite stunning in my beautiful All Saints ruffled silk dress and brown cropped leather jacket. My brown suede Louboutin heels finished the all-chocolate tones look and I allowed my hair to dry naturally straight for a last understated touch. All was in place for a great evening.

Silly me, I thought everyone at the party would be in a “Festivus” mood, so I let my defenses down. I talked to people I have noticed to be less than supportive of me, and joked with new-found acquaintances who would hardly fit in my inner circle of friends. But that’s the great thing about parties, NYC and being in the holiday spirit, it makes everything seem OK.

While I chatted with an artist woman friend of mine, a sixty-something man with a bit of a chip on his shoulder – maybe due to his amazingly annoying wife! – cut into the conversation we were having. “What are you girls talking about” already putting us down to the level of seven-year-olds with the “girls” reference. My artist friend jokingly answered “We are figuring out how to find Nina a man”. As quick as lightening, though he had been waiting all his life to utter the words, Mr. Personality chimed back “If she can’t find a man, she doesn’t deserve to have one!” Ah, yes… “Of course, this comes from your great experience of being a woman in NYC?!” was my comeback, which achieved the desired effect of getting us off that subject. We continued joking around, even if he had not meant his comment as a joke at all, and I was glad to move on to a different guest, a more welcoming personality and a kinder conversation in less than two minutes flat.

But ultimately, though he was rude and spiteful in his comment, Mr. Personality is a reflexion to what most out there are actually thinking. Recently someone reported of a conversation they were having with someone else about me, with the other person saying ‘What is wrong with Nina that she’s not married?!” which of course was not meant to come out THAT way but represented the true meaning of an otherwise well-intentioned thought. And when I advised the same person of a recently ended fling with a sort-of just known enough actor, his immediate reaction: “I didn’t know you were aiming so high!” As if I should only direct my eyes and heart at vagrants and serial losers, you know, types more appropriate for a woman like me?!

So, is it really all my fault? While I tried to explain my life to my artist friend, after our run-in with Personality Saab, I tried to keep in mind that our experiences in this world are always the result of our choices. But there is an element of luck in finding our soulmate. I mean, there is at least one for each of us, out there somewhere. What if mine lives in the Galapagos and even if I were to meet him – say, while turtle sightseeing there – he would need more than a casual introduction to realize that I’m indeed his soulmate? And NYC is definitely the least relationship-friendly city on earth. Milan, with its Mammonis – Italian for “Mama’s boys” – and Los Angeles with its age-obsessed, botox-injected men are a piece of cake compared to the Big Apple. We are constantly tempted here and there is always someone greener on the other side. Even a woman with the self confidence of steel like me ends up feeling insecure at many a turn in NY.

Had dinner a couple of nights ago with a dear, beautiful, fabulously successful Russian male friend of mine. He firstly explained to me that indeed, my theory on world positioning for love is correct. But not so much in the location of my one, geographically challenged soul mate in the Galapagos – just an example of course, everyone knows my true soulmate lives in the UK! – as much as where we live and love and who we love with. After endless giggles and tons of double meanings, we indeed agreed that I need to look for a European man familiar with NYC, who will understand all the nuances, exciting twists and turns of my personality and beauty, and not bother with men who only notice a woman if she hits them over the head with her blond extensions and size DD implants. Or her PhD…

So what is your modern fairy tale? I’d love to share your story here, at The Ajnabee.

Top image courtesy of

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