Be Our Guest | Dala Kakos

Lebanon has long been on our travel bucket wish-list. Mums the World Co-Founder Jenny enjoyed a child-free weekend in Beirut a few years ago, however Laura is still itching to get there. Hearing all about Dala’s recent trip has only cemented the Beirut travel bug further!

Meet Dala, a Palestinian-American mum of two. With a doctorate in Education, Dala is also the Founder of the stunning, hand crafted Misk Nursery Furniture, as well as the Chief Education & Strategy Officer of Valour Ventures, a consulting firm that specializes in education, technology and design.

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What inspires you?

We get inspiration from places we have travelled and from classic childhood ideas. For a modern crib, we try and touch upon sentimental ideas for our mother of pearl designs. For example, our Surround Warmth crib features the moon and stars, which was inspired by Lake Como’s magical night sky. The Embrace Luck, with flying fish in mother of pearl, was inspired by Mykonos.

We manufacture the cribs in Lebanon, with a 2nd generation Armenian artisan. We manufacture the bedsheets in the UK and Portugal, on all-organic cotton. Our custom-shaped organic coconut fiber mattresses are crafted in the UK, and we offer orthopedic mattresses as well. All of our accessories are customised to our cribs’ shapes and themes. My Palestinian heritage and the Palestinian tatreez pillows and dresses have always let me appreciate craftsmanship and colors and provides inspiration.

How long have you lived in the UAE?

More than 20 years! In both Abu Dhabi and Dubai

What do you enjoy most about living in the UAE?

The fact that it is a mix of Arab and European life – as well as the sun! It is lovely to wake up to a sunny day most days – when I lived in Boston it was the opposite!

Tell us about a memorable trip you have recently been on?

I recently went back to Lebanon, my husband’s home and a base for my business, MISK nursery.

Beirut-downtown

Why did you go on the trip?

For work and to see my husband’s family. Lebanon is a source of inspiration and talent for our company – we love seeing the new ideas and products that come from there. The youth there are fearless and they venture into art, music and design to express themselves. It reminds me of the US – where anyone with an interest can find a place or a person who would help them nurture that interest or talent.

How did you travel there?

We actually decided to fly quite last minute – as we get older and the family grows (we have 2 kids now) my husband and I have found that we tend to decide on trips last minute, and that we usually change dates and plans at least once each trip is planned! So last minute trips are what we do best! Sites like booking.com and Mr and Mrs Smith help a lot!

We stay at the Phoenicia Intercontinental Hotel in Beirut while in the city and at my in-laws home when we visit family. The hotel is a sentimental one for me – my husband and I met the first few times there, and we stayed there after our wedding as well! I love its location and the familiarity and convenience of the hotel and its features like the pool and kids club.

What was the highlight of your trip?

The highlight is going to our secret places to eat! I love a particular sandwich from Barbar, I’m proud of that! We also love an Armenian restaurant in Achrafieh that is so cute and romantic, with a guitar player and cozy corners – a perfect date night location. Another place to cross of our checklist when ever we go to Beirut is not touristy, but still beautiful: The American University (AUB) – my father and my husband are graduates and it’s a beautiful campus! I love college campuses, and worked at several universities in my career, so walking around the campus and seeing the greenery on the Oval, or the multitude of cats living there, always makes me smile.

Of course, the biggest highlight since we started MISK nursery is visiting our suppliers – nowhere else is there a factory where you sit inside and breath fresh air, and the trees surrounding it are green and tall, reminding you both of work and life and how both can be beautiful!

AUB

Can you recommend the best tourist attraction there?

Jeita Grotto is quite nice! A visit to the mountains, especially when there is snow during winter, is a sight to see. Some cafes there still serve sahlab, a porridgey white drink similar to hot chocolate but milky and cinnamony, doused with coconut and raisins and served hot. Honestly, try and go to a Lebanese wedding – that is one of the best experiences you can have there! The food, the décor, the celebration, the outfits, the dancing – it really is wonderful.

jeita-grotto

What beauty essentials do you always pack?

I always pack my Clarins Beauty Flash Balm – it’s a moisturizer that works for any kind of weather including the dry plane. For lips, YSL always makes nice colors and smells great! I have worn my perfume, Poeme by Lancome since 10th grade and that always comes with me. When I try and save space or change things up by bringing a smaller bottle of something different, I always feel like something’s missing or forgotten

What is your favorite holiday wear and stores?

My favorite is my black suede and faux fur gilet – it looks classy and modern and is quite versatile – and its reversible! I don’t know where its from because my mom gave it to me as a hand-me-down, and it has no tag but it really is good quality and so nice to wear. I tend towards vintage and jeans. This vacation to Beirut, I took a Self Portrait bomber from one of their first collections! Its beautiful – lilac, and peach colored. I am loving adidas sneakers for travel right now as well. I used to buy Gola from London for all my sneakers but the brand has stopped making and selling as many designs and its much harder to find now!

What was the “phrase” of your holiday and why?

Sadaf (meaning mother of pearl in Arabic) – because this is our signature feature in our MISK nursery cribs and we design around and with it for our line! So our trip included business meetings and workshop visits to check and discuss next year’s designs as well as this year’s last orders.

Embrace Adventure 5

What local delicacies did you try?

We love baklava from Lebanon, and always bring some home. There are now sugar-free versions for those addicts who want to pretend they are being healthier (there is still samneh, or ghee, in the sweets so the fat content stays the same, the sugar content just changes!) There is also Kibbeh al Ras in a restaurant called Ferdos in Ehden – grilled huge sized hand-held kibbeh balls that, when broken open in ceremony by the waiter, is pooled in um, fat. Yes, fat. It wasn’t particularly appealing the first time I saw it but aside from that vision, it tastes amazing (just don’t mop up the sauce!) It is their delicacy and going there during the summer you always see fog and cooler weather – it’s a lovely area.

Would you recommend this destination to others?

Yes – but ask local Lebanese about where to go and how best to get there as part of your planning!

Where is your dream holiday destination?

I haven’t gone to Japan yet and would love to do that one day when the children are older. I would go to Tokyo and the mountains to experience the hot springs.

Journey well,

Love

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Dubai & UK based Travel Bloggers

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