When the granddaughter of the late HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Founder of the UAE, and HH Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, Mother of the Nation, does anything, she does it with style, commitment, and elegance. Her English countryside manor, a sprawling three-story abode with a traditional brick and tile roof, is testament to her savoir vivre. Here, Her Highness, a woman of action, can retreat to rest, reflect, and enjoy nature and her horses.
HH Sheikha Fatima bint Hazza bin Zayed Al Nahyan is the Ambassador of Cultural Development in the UAE and a patron of art, sports, and culture. To wit: she is a partner of Bulgari and created the high jewelry Jannah collection, bridging Abu Dhabi and Roman cultures. She is also Chairwoman of the Sheikha Fatima Bint Hazza Cultural Foundation and the Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Sports Academy. Her Highness founded the Al Shira’aa Stables in addition to being Chairwoman of the Ladies Club in Abu Dhabi and Al-Ain, a position her grandmother entrusted her with.
While Her Highness is constantly on the go, she also enjoys a quiet retreat, something she created with this 1870s house and grounds in the English countryside. She worked closely with a team of architects and designers, ensuring that the house reflects her interests entirely – nature, animals, wellness, and taking care of oneself. Her hands-on approach makes perfect sense as Her Highness is an interior designer herself. An avid visitor to the major design fairs, she personally handpicked eclectic elements during her visits to different cities, resulting in an international country abode. Furniture for the blue room and cloud room were sourced in India, while other elements came from Italy, Portugal, Turkey, Germany, and the UK.
She took pride in being involved in every single detail, from the wall finishes to creating new designs for various pieces, like the palm tree-inspired chandeliers in the dining room. “The chandeliers are designed to remind me of home. The whole idea behind the house was to create a home away from home,” explains Her Highness. “I travel a great deal and wanted a home, not a temporary place. I wanted reminders of the UAE but also to pay tribute to my host country.” She created a balance between an authentically British structure, preserving several historic elements like the fireplace and the conservatory, and complemented them with other styles and designs like art deco, which is one of her favorite periods. She also scoured vintage shops, choosing the handmade Tiffany lamps for the cigar room along the way.
Personal touches run throughout the house, quietly and subtly. There is a door handle in the shape of a horseshoe – it once belonged to Her Highness’s favorite Spanish stallion, Eclipse, who taught her dressage up to PSG level, before passing. The entire house is full of light and lends to ease of living. Nothing heavy nor dark, but a crispness and sense of whimsy, which adds to the comfort and gracious welcome one feels upon entering the front door. One of Her Highness’s favorite rooms is the conservatory. This is attached to the dining room with skylights and lots of natural light. The room was created to reflect her love of nature, with hand-painted silk designs printed on the walls. The dining room chairs and table are custom made by Villiers Brothers.
All of the personalized details and references are integrated into the original house and designed to reflect her lifestyle. “A lot of the work was specifically commissioned, like the Carrera staircase,” Her Highness shares. “This was carved from one stone sourced from a mountain in Italy. The idea was to challenge the material and create this large sculpture.” Another key room is the wood room, with a mahogany mantel, television, and a wooden bookcase from the 1750s. It is a room that features various vintage elements sourced in France and the UK, personally selected by Her Highness. This room is cozy, like a private members’ club. A place to sit and read and be with her friends; it offers what Her Highness describes as the eclectic nature of the entire house.
In addition to the main house, there are manicured grounds, stables, and a cottage, which has been converted into a guesthouse. The house is surrounded by an English style garden with everything from apple and plum trees to berries and a profusion of flowers. The plantations have been made to create patterns of color and various pathways. Some of them are open and easily taken, but there is also a hidden one, which leads to a secret garden. This secluded place is Her Highness’s private garden and one where she has planted her own teas. The idea of wellness is central to Her Highness and in the kitchen garden, she grows herbs. She is quite attached to this little slice of paradise and her breakfast is often sourced from this patch of green. Here, the philosophy of farm-to-table and the themes of wellness and looking after oneself are paramount. This philosophy fits in perfectly with her life as a sportswoman with a healthy lifestyle. Perhaps the most important element to this property are the stables, which are walking distance from the house, with a beautiful English courtyard style and also a breeding program. Al Shira’aa Stables also won the Nation Cup League in Barcelona and supports children to the Grand Prix team, thereby putting the UAE on the global map.
Her Highness sits on several boards and has a demanding and active professional life. She works tirelessly to support all of them, with a focus on her family legacy and heritage. These are the cornerstones of her life, which she is very proud of. Her impactful contributions to these causes are authentic tributes to the strength and love of her grandparents. Her grandmother has always been a role model for her, and she believes that everything done today is rooted in her family and ancestors. This country house is a direct expression of Her Highness and her healthy lifestyle and sense of overall wellbeing. A quiet place of one’s own to recharge and think about the challenges and exciting projects ahead.
Originally published in the Fall/Winter 2021 issue of Vogue Living Arabia
Style: Patricia Humm & Iman Alem
Hair: Stefania D’Agostino
Makeup: Nabila Merchant
Production: Dawn Moretti at Dawn Production, Ankita Chandra
Photography assistant: Maximilian Littlechilds
Makeup assistant: Romanah Merchant