"I love new experiences and look forward to challenges. I believe that if something doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you."
Like many entrepreneurs, Fouz Al-Sabah doesn’t like to make it easy for herself. Just a few months after starting khaleejesque.com, a thriving lifestyle and culture magazine that revolves around everything new, exciting and beautiful in the Arabian Gulf countries, she moved to London.
Already highly educated, Fouz went to London to study for her masters in Cultural and Creative Industries at King’s College London, but this didn’t stop her from working on the magazine that she had co-founded with Noufa Al-Sabah. “It proved to be a very challenging, yet exciting experience” she remembers, “and both Khaleejesque and I have been growing ever since.”
New experiences, new ideas
Covering the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman, Khaleejesque takes its unusual name from ‘khaleej’, the word for ‘gulf’ in Arabic. As the website says, ‘we’re the Gulf answer to Arabesque, but instead we are Khaleejesque.’
The magazine covers fashion, lifestyle, culture, travel, entertainment, technology, art and design and personal perspectives of the people who live and work in this diverse part of the world. As Creative Director and co-founder, Fouz has a curiosity about the world around her, and this is apparent in her background, too. “I graduated from AUK (American University of Kuwait) with a BBA in finance and marketing, because I was fascinated by both, to be honest,” she says. “I also minored in visual performing arts because I had to have a creative outlet in between the business classes I was taking.”
This hunger to learn and find new experiences runs throughout the magazine and was one of the initial catalysts for starting Khaleejesque. “Noufa and I wanted to work on a project that highlights inspiring people, places and stories in Kuwait. Sensing that there were more than enough local blogs to cover those topics, we were curious to know what was happening right across our borders. In a pre-social media era, we quickly realized we had no idea what our neighbors were up to and couldn’t find any resources that gave us insight into the contemporary lifestyle and culture of the youth there.”
The idea grew and grew, and after receiving increasingly positive feedback, the pair formerly started Khaleejesque Media Est. in 2011. Khaleejesque now consists of a print and digital magazine, an online store and they also run events. It is a celebration of creativity, and something that Fouz is proud of every day. “Landing in the field of media and journalism wasn’t planned,” she says. “But I noticed those fields combined my passion for creativity and business in a way that I hadn’t thought of before. I have opportunities to work on design and editorial projects, as well as managing marketing campaigns and planning business strategies. Managing a creative business isn’t the easiest thing in the world, but I wake up excited every day because no two are ever the same.”
Speaking to your audience
Being connected lets Fouz and her team engage directly with their passionate audience, helping them create a better product and react in real time. “Facebook and Instagram have been indispensable, since we push and publish all of our content through those platforms. We also connect with our readers through those platforms to hear their feedback and actively engage with them.”
In 2016, Khaleejesque finished an extensive redesign and relaunch which shows the thoughtful approach that has been taken towards communication from the start. “We initially decided to launch the publication in English,” remembers Fouz, “so that readers outside the Arab Gulf countries will be introduced to our culture and because there were many Arabic publications already in the market. Many people criticized us for that and claimed we were ashamed of our language and culture, but it was the opposite. We didn’t want to compromise our publication by adding Arabic content right away and waited until we had the capability to hire quality writers and translators. We then took 8-months to redesign the magazine and rebrand Khaleejesque, before officially launching it as a bilingual publication in January 2016. It took us a lot of time, but we’re proud to have a beautifully designed publication with quality editorial.”
Fouz’s passion drives her and she’s keen to share her knowledge and help other entrepreneurs to realise their dreams. “I always say I’m enthusiastic by default. I love new experiences and look forward to challenges. I believe that if something doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you. I’m driven by the fact that as a young Muslim Arab woman, I have a responsibility to show my community and the world what my generation is capable of.”
Learn more about Fouz and Khaleejesque/