Shamsa Habtoor Is On A Mission To Leave A Legacy "That Isn't About The Finer Things In Life"

BY Olivia Phillips / Dec 10 2019 / 14:26 PM

The foodie, the charismatic one, and the ex-drummer...

Shamsa Habtoor Is On A Mission To Leave A Legacy "That Isn't About The Finer Things In Life"
Shamsa wears: Possession Pendant, Dhs49,900; Possession Pendant, Dhs26,600; Possession Open Bangle Bracelet, Dhs21,700 (two pieces); Possession Open Bangle Bracelet, Dhs40,500 (two pieces); Possession Open Ring, Dhs15,900; Possession Open Ring, Dhs10,700; Possession Ring, Dhs66,500; Traditional Watch, Dhs166,000, all Piaget. Abaya, Dhs1,735, Nafs

En masse, each of us leave our shoot thinking (somewhat mistakenly) that we are Shamsa’s new best friend. Whip-smart, firing off comebacks at warp speed and playing DJ for the day (she’s an ex-drummer), the 35-year-old is a whirlwind of vitality. Put it this way: when she finally opens her restaurant, Pulled, next year, we’ll be front of the queue, expecting the exact same energy to be infused in every dish.

“It’s all my recipes!” she says proudly. And she should be. After all, she’s not a traditional chef per se – more a hobbyist whose talent became too big to ignore.

“The secret is experimenting and not letting failure stop you from trying again,” she says. It’s a piece of advice that translates just as well outside the kitchen. “I’m not a fan of baking because one mess up and whatever you bake is horrendous. With cooking you can throw in anything. People who like to bake are perfectionists. I did used to watch my mum bake, though…”

Was she a perfectionist, then, we ask?

“I guess, but she was also very creative. She used to sit and ask you how your day was and be sketching you at the same time. My earliest memory of her was baking my dad a pistachio cake – the house would always smell like it. She was so experimental, too. Who, in the early ’90s, would think to make a Coca-Cola cake?! So that’s where I think I got it from.”

Underneath it all, Shamsa’s tale is really a love story. An ode to her mum, and a beautiful, universally connecting way of keeping her memory alive.

“It’s like when we wear her jewellery for weddings. That’s how she lives on. I also have some pieces from my dad that I love, and from my best friend who introduced me to Piaget by buying me the Possession bangle for my birthday. That bangle made me get the rest of the set because I loved it and it meant so much. But honestly, I’ll pass down everything. What am I going to keep, you know? At the end of the day, it’s about leaving a legacy that isn’t the finer things in life. None of that means anything unless you were a decent human being. My parents taught me to help those in need, and to treat people how you want to be treated. That’s my legacy that I hope to pass down – values and ethics.”

We completely agree – although a great recipe or two wouldn’t hurt, either.


From the December 2019 issue of Harper's BAZAAR Arabia

Photography by Eva Kruiper
Styling by Anna Castan
Words by Olivia Phillips

Hair and Make-up: Sharon Drugan. Videographer: Augusta Quaynor at MMG Artists. Digital Direction: Elizabeth Kelly Photography Assistant: Reymund Ronald Lozano at HotCold Studio. Fashion Assistants: Anna Smolenko, Joyce Gereige and Zach Nouri. Producer: Elle Hutchinson. Producer’s Assistant: Brian Timmer