Kuwaiti Sheikha Majda Al Sabah rejuvenates in her family’s spectacular Moroccan holiday home filled with personal treasures.
“I found it online!” exclaims Kuwaiti Sheikha Majda Al Sabah of her holiday house in Marrakech. It’s a modern method of home acquisition for an equally modern royal. For a reprieve from the demands of her mental health advocacy and running a beauty business, Sheikha Al Sabah heads to her Moroccan abode, which she shares with her mother and siblings.
With sweeping views of the Atlas Mountains and surrounded by lush olive groves, the 17,000 sqm property is undeniably grand. Upon entering, however, the aura is personal. The colors are muted earth tones and the furniture luxe but functional. Many of its original details, including antique doors, are still intact. Framed family photographs adorn several tables, including one in particular, above the fireplace, of Sheikh Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, the tenth ruler of Kuwait and the Sheikha’s maternal grandfather. It provides discreet clues to the house’s notable residents.
“We don’t believe in interior decorators,” states Sheikha Al Sabah, gesticulating about the space. “We did it ourselves and enjoyed it as a family project.” As one of the most stylish women in the Arab world, the endeavor came naturally to her.
“We wanted this house to be a place where we could all unwind. We didn’t want anything fancy. Back home, our houses are filled with important pieces; here, we wanted the complete opposite.” Her mother, Sheikha Amthal Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, sister of the late Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah, suggested they only bring over sentimental objects, including paintings by Sheikha Al Sabah, who has practiced art since childhood. Much of the decor process was carried out virtually. “It took longer than it was supposed to because we couldn’t follow up on it daily, but we tried to solve this issue by using video calls and photos, and having someone we trust be our eyes,” she shares, revealing that she visited the property for the first time just a year ago, after the family purchased it in 2016.
In person, Sheikha Al Sabah exudes warmth and familiarity. Her vivaciousness makes it difficult to envision her past struggles; experiences she once described as “the lack of feelings… Dark ideas roaming in my head as if I’m trapped in a black room with no exit sign.” This is perhaps both an indication of how far she has come and the insidious nature of depression, a field in which she has become a leading spokesperson in the region. Sheikha Al Sabah has been candid about her struggle with the disease, which was brought on several years ago following her father’s extended illness. She sought professional help and when she emerged from isolation, she strove to destigmatize the issue, sharing her experiences on social media. Today, her approachability extends to her public persona. Alongside photos of her in her day-to-day life, with her signature laidback glamour, she intersperses her Instagram and Twitter accounts with inspirational quotes and often engages directly with her followers.
Soon after coming to terms with her personal struggles, she founded the ASAP Initiative, a private campaign committed to increasing mental health awareness in the Middle East. The initiative is named after ASAP, the beauty and skincare company she co-founded in 2007. “I don’t want to say that I’m brave for talking about a subject that is still taboo,” she explains. “I had trouble, I had a setback, and it paralyzed me. I don’t want another person in this world to go through what I’ve been through. I want them to have the safest path and not to suffer.”
In her Marrakech home, Sheikha Al Sabah has experienced some of the best moments of her life. Here, she spends her days enjoying the therapeutic nature of ordinary activities. In the morning, the family heads to the chicken coop to collect eggs and milk the goats for their breakfast. In the afternoon, they go for walks by the lake or explore the densely wooded areas that surround the property. “We mostly stay home; all the activities are very soothing.” The mother of four adult children and grandmother to three smiles, “At last we can get the kids off their PlayStations.” In the evening, the family hovers around the kitchen, where Sheikha Al Sabah does the cooking. Kuwaiti dishes and spaghetti with fresh clams from the city’s souks are her specialities.
Sheikha Al Sabah nods to the salon, pointing to an unfinished mixed media piece she created during the depths of her melancholia. It was something her mother found at her Kuwait residence, brought to the holiday home, and hung without her knowledge.
“My intention was always that when I got better, I would complete it and make it less ‘angry.’ You can see the blurred kind of thinking that I was experiencing. But my mother said, ‘No, this was a very important era in your life and you have to visit it every now and then and be grateful.’ She was right. Whenever I see it, I thank God for the state of mind I am in right now.”
Originally published in the November 2020 issue of Vogue Arabia Living