‘The Pact We Made’: Exploring family life in Kuwait

“The Pact We Made” is Layla Al-Ammar’s debut novel. (Supplied)
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Updated 07 September 2020

‘The Pact We Made’: Exploring family life in Kuwait

CHICAGO: Layla Al-Ammar’s debut novel, “The Pact We Made,” takes readers to Kuwait and the rituals and life of a Kuwaiti family. A mother and father live with their two daughters, one of whom is married. The approaching thirtieth birthday of Dahlia, the unmarried daughter, has the family on edge. Her marriage prospects are a source of tension with her mother, furthering her anxiety and keeping her distant. To her mother she is an anomaly, but a buried secret in Dahlia’s past has been slowly transforming Al-Ammar’s main character.

Readers first meet Dahlia as she entertains a suitor, a man who, like Dahlia’s mother, is thankful that she did not try to become a doctor, despite her good grades, because a wife’s place is in the home. Dahlia’s life is made up of only rituals, no choices: Morning rituals, cultural rituals, familial rituals and marriage rituals. The only time she can find an escape is when she draws — a hobby but not a worthy career, according to her father — and when she’s away from her family with her best friends Mona and Zaina.

But even as Dahlia escapes her familial pressures, she is never quite herself. At night, panic grips her as a yathoom, a devilish entity, sits on her chest until she cannot breathe and then crawls back into hell. The secret deep inside her is eating away at her. Neither Mona nor Zaina can help, because what has trapped Dahlia is her lack of control over her own life, her own body and her own future, as she reflects that “here, in this country, we are taught to listen to others, to subjugate our desires to the wisdom of the collective, the tried and true of tradition. Seek the approval of the masses, of society. Heed, above all, your parents. Protect your reputation and the honor of the family.”

Al-Ammar presents a story of families that enjoy the privileges of vacations abroad and certain freedoms and friendships that keep them afloat amid traditional struggles between generations. Dahlia has two lives, one created with a semblance of choice while the other has no choice at all. There are insights into loneliness and societal pressures that Al-Ammar weaves gracefully into a story that is difficult to tell. Healing must follow, and Dahlia will find out how, one way or another.

Keke Palmer shows off Lebanese design in new music video

Updated 42 min 38 sec ago

Keke Palmer shows off Lebanese design in new music video

DUBAI: American singer and actress Keke Palmer released her latest single “Dreamcatcher,” turning to Lebanese couturier Georges Hobeika to design her eye-catching look.

The 27-year-old, who gave us hits such as “I Don’t Belong to You” and “Man in the Mirror,” wore a gold, asymmetric gown plucked from the Baskinta-born designer’s Spring 2020 couture collection. The dazzling creation boasted a high slit and iridescent sequins and beading throughout. A delicate knot detail further accentuated the hitmaker’s waist. 

Hobeika’s Spring 2020 couture collection, which was presented at The Théâtre National de Chaillot Couture in Paris during Haute Couture Week in January, drew inspiration from the idyllic shores of Sardinia, Italy. 

The look was put together by Palmer’s longtime stylist, Mikiel Benyamin, the US-Egyptian stylist whose celebrity client list includes Bella Thorne and Saweetie, among others. The Egypt-born creative, who got his fashion start with a number of styling internships, went on to make a name for himself after putting together the memorable looks for Cardi B’s hit “Bodak Yellow” video.

Hobeika, on the other hand, recently made headlines after US hip hop star Nicki Minaj announced her pregnancy with a series of images, one of which sees the star wearing a floor-length veil custom-made by the Lebanese designer. 


Keke’s new single Dream Catcher.... SHE stuns in @georgeshobeika @jenniferfisherjewelry & @alevimilano

A post shared by MIKIEL BENYAMIN (@maikeeb_kills) on

Singer Hailee Steinfeld also recently turned to Hobeika to unveil her latest single via Zoom on the “Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.” For the virtual performance, she opted for a black, strapless mini dress with an asymmetric hemline and a cascading tulle train.

Indeed, celebrities constantly turn to Hobeika to dress them in his creations for some of their most important events. Case in point: Singer-turned-actress Jennifer Lopez who chose an elegant off-the-shoulder black gown for the 2020 Screen Actors Guild Awards and before that, a cream-colored, backless gown encrusted with gems at the 2020 Critics’ Choice Awards.

Meanwhile, it’s not the first time that the “Scream Queens” star has donned a design by an Arab designer. The US actress rocked up to the 2019 MTV VMAs in Los Angeles wearing a sunny yellow column gown by Kuwaiti couturier Yousef Al-Jasmi. She accessorized the glamorous look with a rhinestone encrusted 1980s cell phone.