Marvelous Mayfair: 48 hours in the exclusive London neighborhood

The Mayfair area of London. (Shutterstock)
Updated 11 December 2018

Marvelous Mayfair: 48 hours in the exclusive London neighborhood

  • One of the most lavish areas to be in London, Mayfair
  • Truly something magical about West London

DUBAI: It’s the most expensive property in the British version of “Monopoly,” reflecting its lavish status, so a trip to London’s Mayfair isn’t going to be a budget getaway. But there’s more to this affluent area than high-end shopping — all you have to do is take the time to explore. Mayfair is home to numerous art galleries, restaurants, cafés, parks, and more, and the festive period offers the perfect backdrop, with spectacular decorations.

There’s truly something magical about West London during the holidays, so if you have never visited the English capital in the colder months before, it’s well worth the extra thermals.
Covering the well-known areas between Oxford Street, Regent Street, Piccadilly and Park Lane, Mayfair is home to several prestigious properties and landmarks, including Claridge’s, The Dorchester, The Ritz and Green Park. It’s also cemented its reputation as an international art hub, thanks to the big-name galleries scattered all over.

One that definitely shouldn’t be missed is The Royal Academy of Arts in Burlington House, which dates back to 1768, making it the oldest fine arts society in the world. It marked its 250th anniversary with a newly expanded campus this year. We visited the Oceania exhibit (which runs until December 10), featuring 200 fascinating pieces spanning 500 years, all exploring the history and identity of the continent, and including work from New Guinea, New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga, and Australia. Fun fact: Meghan Markle’s first solo appearance as a royal saw her attend the opening of this exhibition.
Food in Mayfair is an art form in itself. You’ll be spoiled for choice, with everything from Indian fusion to Japanese on offer, and many halal options available too. For lunch, book a table at the exceptionally Instagrammable NAC Mayfair, a staple of the area and one that continues to delight with its incredibly friendly service and delightful dishes. Must-tries are the truffled mac and cheese, plus the ridiculously delicious crushed milk-chocolate cookies, served with the nicest ice-cream we have ever sunk a spoon into, and topped with Frosties.
Dinner will require a little more planning. We were lucky to find a table at the trendy Hide — which earned a Michelin star just five months after opening earlier this year. It’s best to reserve as soon as you book your flight. Launched by acclaimed British chef Ollie Dabbous — a self-described “mixed grill” who was born in Kuwait and is of Lebanese-French heritage — Hide is the place to see and be seen; chances are you’ll bump into a celeb while you are there. The à la carte menu is reasonably priced (mains are around $45), with dishes made of seasonal offerings, sourced from small farmers and suppliers across the UK.

Claridge's hotel. (Getty Images)

While we did mention earlier that there’s more to Mayfair than shopping, there’s still nothing wrong with a spot of retail therapy while you’re there. But skip the big chains and famous designers, and opt for the more unusual merchants instead.
Browse Burlington Arcade, the renowned covered shopping destination that opened in 1819, before stopping at British perfumers Penhaligon’s for a one-on-one perfume-profiling session. Based on your hobbies, interests and personality, an in-house expert will be able to find the perfect fragrance for you.
For another quintessentially British experience, cross the road to Lock & Co. Hatters, the world’s oldest hat shop, founded in 1676. Having dressed figures including Winston Churchill, Charlie Chaplin, and royals from the GCC, this institution sells all types of hats for men and women. Even if you don’t end up buying anything, it’s worth a visit just for the experience.
All that walking will no doubt leave you feeling hungry, so make your way to the Sheraton Grand London Park Lane, which has teamed up with Lock & Co., to host a special millinery-themed experience that includes sandwiches, and hat-shaped cakes and scones all served in the brand’s signature hat box. It’s the perfect way to end your shopping trip.

Jeddah souvenir shop offers a window to city’s history

Mohammed Sales Albadni fought for his passion and love for his city. (AN Photo by Abdulrahman Mira)
Updated 11 July 2020

Jeddah souvenir shop offers a window to city’s history

  • Shop crafts versions of Jeddah’s historical buildings in miniature size

JEDDAH: Of the most prominent features of old town Jeddah is its historic buildings. With their intricate wooden designed windows and balconies, Made in Jeddah lets you take a part of history back home in miniature size.

Made in Jeddah, a quaint souvenir shop owned by Mohammed Sales Albadni — a native of the city who grew up with a passion for showing its most unique features — is one of the only souvenir shops with original works in the city.

Growing up selling goods in his father’s shop, Albadni was accustomed to seeing foreigners walking around and taking pictures of buildings in Jeddah’s historical downtown. He befriended many tourists and learned some English. With time, many of the neighboring shop owners and their families moved uptown for better opportunities, but Mohammed remained.

“Living in Al-balad is different, you see foreigners walking and taking pictures of the buildings and the life of the locals, it’s something that made me think that there is something much more special about this area,” he said.

In 2014, he decided to pursue his dream and opened his souvenir shop “Tethkar Jeddah,” which roughly translates to Jeddah Souvenirs, hoping that it would become a significant part of the area.

He began by importing low-cost goods from China but was disappointed by the shop’s performance; it wasn’t doing as well as he’d hoped. But one visitor changed everything.

A Saudi customer from the central region entered his store one day and said: “Why open a souvenir shop, when there is nothing special to show about Jeddah?” That question moved Albadni to bring a little bit of Jeddah to his costumers.

Surrounded by buildings that date back over 300 years, the unique homes of Jeddah’s historical downtown tell a story. Builders would mine for coral limestones in the nearby coastline for building foundations. The woodwork was intricately designed by architects from the Levant region and each window or balcony — known as the Roshan — would be painted in green, blue or brown.

Mohammed turned his shop’s story upside down by crafting his own version of the buildings in miniature size, using the same material in the buildings surrounding him today. He would extract the same coral limestone and even carved the miniature Roshan works on his pieces.

Made using local craftsmen and materials, these miniature gifts were bestsellers as soon as he added them to his store.

“I wish business owners walked an extra step and worked hard to localize their products. It will enhance the Saudi economy and encourage companies to make Saudi products since the government has eased the process of starting businesses,” said Albadni.

Mohammed’s path wasn’t easy, but his financial shortage didn’t stop him. Instead, he fought for his passion and his love for his city. He wasn’t as successful as he’d hoped when he opened the shop, but things picked up for the better. “Made in Jeddah” is not a common tagline, but Albadni’s belief in it is what made the difference to his now-popular store.