Nabilah & Zayyaan
The Storyteller Series
Nabilah and Zayyaan
This is a project I am very excited to share with you. Titled “The Storyteller Series” it is a series of interviews focused on women who are filled with a great sense of wanderlust. Women who yearn to explore the unknown and experience new things, whilst making memories to last a lifetime. I hope it will inspire us all to hit the road or catch a flight and see all that the world has to offer. I myself have not travelled very often but the memories of the experiences I’ve had, still resonates with me very strongly today.
I still maintain that nothing opens the mind and softens the heart quite like travelling does. When visiting places where the people live with little to nothing, we become more grateful for the tiniest blessings in our lives. When exploring the great outdoors, it leaves you in awe in of the vastly different and beautiful landscapes that have been created, pondering about His Infinite Abilities & Power. The long journeys make you grateful for your health and for being able to endure them. Delving deeper into sites with historical significance opens your eyes to the atrocities that happened in the past (and realise how not much has changed). It also encourages us to look past our differences and value what we have in common. This ultimately, is what Minimal Exposure is about. It’s why we use prints and pattern inspired by various cultures in our collections. To see the beauty in all and respect and appreciate them.
To kick off the first part in our series, I met with best friends, Nabilah and Zayyaan. I’ve known the two of them for about 10 years now, since we studied at the same university, but in different design fields. Zayyaan, fashion design and Nabilah, graphic design. Together, they have travelled to Spain, Morocco, Italy, Greece, London and Oman. The pair have always inspired me in so many ways. I remember the time around the first trip they took together. We were all celebrating our 21st birthdays that year and as is customary in Cape Town, famililes usually tend to throw huge parties. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with that tradition, it was refreshing to see these two young go-getting females shun the “norm” and do things their way. Their adventurous spirit unyielding, they set off for many places together after that, simultaneously working hard at the shoe company they set up together.
After completing this interview with them, it is evident that they are the Yin to the other’s Yang.
Enjoy the read! It’s a lengthy one, so get comfy and get ready to feel the wanderlust!
Hello ladies! Please tell us a little bit about yourselves?
N – I’m an expat wife and mom. I’m originally from Cape Town, South Africa, but moved 8 years ago to Doha, Qatar where I stayed and worked for 3 years. I met my husband there who is Croatian, and a year after we got married moved to Zagreb, Croatia.
Z – I’m a Muslim from Cape Town South Africa. I enjoy travelling, cooking AND eating the food I cook, love nature and doing outdoorsy things, I dislike small talk, obnoxious mean spirited people and snakes ß---major fear! I generally love old or ancient things, which I will gladly try to incorporate into my wardrobe or décor. My philosophy in life is: block out the background noise and always stay focused on what YOU need to achieve to suit your life. People these days are too fixated on titles, fame and keeping up with etc etc . My early twenties were dedicated to fashion (work/study), but I am currently pursuing a different interest through my studies, which I am very excited about.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Z - Calm, adventurous, thoughtful.
N- Creative, Adventurous, Foodie.
What do you do for a living?
N - I’m a professional makeup artist based in Zagreb.
Z - I’m currently working towards my BA in International Relations.
What do you do on a “normal day?”
Z - It varies from day to day really, but generally my day is dedicated to my studies and any work tasks set out for that day or week, I always try to include a coffee run or two, some fitness activity (which I’m failing miserably at the moment) to end my day off usually.
N - Every day is different for me! I’m a freelance makeup artist so on weekends mainly I work doing makeup on private clients/brides for events and weddings. During the week I work on my social media for my business and film makeup tutorials. I go to yoga twice a week to keep fit as I love working out.
Nabilah: Thea Kaftan (available in green and orange) Zayyaan: Keffiyeh Kimono in green.
How did you both meet and how long have you been friends for?
N - We have been friends for a long time! We met during high school when we were about 16 years old, so we have been friends for 15 years altogether. We were friends on high school through mutual friends, but not as close friends as we are now, at the time.
After high school we both went to study at the same university, I studied graphic design and she studied fashion design so we were in the same design building. We became close friends as all our other friends went to study at different universities and we knew each other so started hanging out more often together, going out together on weekends etc..We both discovered we have a lot in common to each other even though we are so different from one another! The adventurous and fun sides of both of us sealed the deal for our friendship, we were kindred wanderlust spirits!
Z - We attended the same high school, we were in the same grade 8 class but only really started hanging out in grade 12 and became super tight in university, we both attended CPUT. I would say 13 years of friendship.
Where was the first place you travelled to together?
Z - We opted for an overseas trip for our 21st birthdays instead of a big party; I think it’s safe to say we’re both not big on huge celebratory parties. I think it’s a waste of money quite frankly, but to each its own, I know people love celebrating their 21sts in Cape Town with a big bash and if that pleases them then they’re entitled to that of course. That said we decided to go to London Morocco and Spain, and it was sooo exciting, honestly just a rollercoaster of adventures.
N - Around my 21st birthday we went to London, Morocco and Spain together along with my older brother. It was the 1st time I was on a plane so it was all very exciting and new to me! I loved the feeling of the unknown while travelling and I was completely travel hooked after that trip!
What inspired you to take that trip?
N - We had our own business together then so we could save money to travel, which we did. I suppose many people that age were spending their money on new clothes, shoes, and other material things, but we saved to travel, that was always number one on our list of what we wanted to do.
Z - Uhmm I don’t really remember, I think we both were very keen on London also we did not need a visa for London at the time so it was hassle free going there. I honestly don’t remember what drew us to Morocco and Spain at that time, but I did not regret it one bit, in fact I would love to return to Morocco again soon, inshallah.
How many countries have you visited? Solo and together?
Z - Uff I’m not too sure, but all have been good experiences.
N -Wow, I travelled a lot as I also worked as a flight attendant in the Middle East for 2 years after my backpacking adventures with Zayyaan. I’d say about 35 countries, maybe a bit more, to pin point the exact number would be difficult!
Nabilah: Djelleba Tunic in grey. Zayyaan: Dahlia Tunic in black.
What was the most memorable trip together?
N - Our 2nd backpacking trip to Turkey and Greece.
Z- Greece and Italy.
Who’s the most organized when planning your trips together?
Z- Probably Nabilah.
N - Probably me! I’m not the most organised person, but for certain things, such as in my job or travelling plans I’m very organized.
The funniest thing that happened on a trip?
Z- In general, trying to explain to people that South Africa is a country and not a direction. Yess there are still people who don’t know about SA. Also trying to explain why we are not black and from SA (we get that question a lot) it always ends up being amusing.
N - Too many funny moments on our travels together! Speaking Afrikaans to each other was the best while travelling. Nobody could understand us as its not widely spoken around the world. So it sounded like a very exotic, foreign language to other travellers or the locals of the countries we visited.
When Zayyaan missed one of her flights from Athens, by mistake though, she got mixed up with the times. She stayed in Athens a few more days and had a great time there! So many good things came out of bad situations for us while travelling.
And when she misplaced her passport on the Gatwick Express when we were travelling out of London to catch our flight to Spain. She found it though eventually, like she always does and we were off on our travels, there was definitely a lot of panic during that time of looking for it!
Some of the characters that we met on our travels were truly unforgettable though. Some of the backpacking hostels were also hilarious when we saw it in real life, but we were young and on a travelling mission so we didn't actually mind as we were barely at the hostel, only to sleep. Some of our trips, I don't know how we managed, as there was so many buses, ferries, etc. to catch on time.
Navigating together trying to find our accommodation in the middle of the night in a foreign country was also exciting, but dangerous at the same time. Like I said we were young and simply on a travelling mission!
The worst thing to have happened on a trip?
N -Nothing in particular, good situations always came out of seemingly bad situations and we always moved on and made the most of living in the moment.
Z - I’ve had a few, but one situation was when I was travelling to the airport in Athens. It was a politically unstable period in Greece and I had decided to take the train to the airport… Biiig mistake, the train ended up stopping mid-way through my trip to the main station and all the passenger had to get off the train. I obviously had no idea where I was and most of the people could not really speak English, so I ended following them and the train track which runs through the city with suitcase in tow and made my way to the main station, where I had to get the train that goes directly to the airport. You know that moment when you’re late and everything just goes wrong, well this was one of those moments. My train probably stopped at four stations and I’m sure at one station we stopped for almost 20min at this point I was convinced I would miss my flight. I eventually arrived at the airport and while I’m dragging my suitcase up the escalator (because I’m sooo very late) my handle that I used to pull my bag loosened from its socket and so my bag basically slid down the escalator, luckily no one was in the way otherwise I’d probably have been sued for someone’s injury or something. Anyways I eventually got to my check-in counter only be told that check-in is closed and that I could not get on the flight. After much deliberation and begging they eventually allowed me on the flight back home.
Zayyaan: The Keffiyeh Dress in saffron. Nabilah: The Keffiyeh Dress in pink.
Why do you travel? What about it do you enjoy?
Z - Love the sense of adventure, the spontaneity that comes with each trip, seeing and experiencing different cultures, shopping, and of course seeing the insane beauty we’ve been blessed with on this little globe.
N - For me it’s the unknown. I love exploring foreign things and learning about different cultures. The best school for me was definitely travelling. It teaches you to get out of your safe bubble and discover that there’s so much more to the world then your home town.
Why do you think it is important to travel?
N - I think it makes you more aware of what’s happening around the world and also makes you open-minded.
Z- Sometimes it makes you count your blessings.
Is there a place/people/culture that really resonated with you? Why?
Z - Hmmm tough one, but I could totally see myself living in Positano, Italy one day.
N - I really loved Turkey. I have Turkish heritage so perhaps the connection to the country is in my blood as well! The people are very friendly, food is amazing and the country has so much to offer travellers. It also not too expensive to travel to, so on a budget it’s an ideal country to visit.
What are your travel essentials?
N -Passport, money, credit card and cellphone/ camera. That’s essentially all you need! Also an open mind set and no expectations is the best attitude to travel with. To plan too much and constantly focus on documenting everything on your trip on social media can also kill a trip. Keeping a journal, going with the flow sometimes, and simply absorb being in that moment at that time is the best feeling while travelling.
Z - My camera phone of course, swimsuit, peanuts & biltong, Havianas, sunglasses, travel pillow, passport copies and travel guide.
Z- Summer: kaftans, swimsuit and Havianas. Winter: gloves, shawls and good thermals
N - Depends where you are travelling to. The trick is not to over-pack! Been there done that, high heels, hairdryer and GHD was packed in my backpack once. With us, we packed for all different occasions! If you are backpacking to keep it as light as possible and pack in products that are multipurpose and clothing that’s easy wearing and can be worn different ways is useful. Also take a good book and keep your journal close for long bus and ferry rides.
Zayyaan: White Rosette Kimono
What is your favourite thing about travelling?
N - The feeling of complete freedom.
Z - Getting to see all these amazing sights you’ve read about; were taught at school or saw on Instagram. I live for those spontaneous, completely random moments that comes with every adventure, oh and experiencing the culture and the food of course. Sorry I always struggle with favourites.
Which is your favourite country or city and why?
Z - Hmm that word favourite again. Maybe Turkey in summer as it has a bit of everything with regards to, culture, history, food, shopping, thriving nightlife, BEAUTIFUL landscapes and people.
N - I love New York, such a great energy about it! Cape Town is still my number one though after all the countries I’ve visited there’s no place like home.
Where would like to travel to next and why?
N - I’d love to travel to Portugal with my husband, it looks amazing! It’s also close to Croatia so perhaps this year we will plan that trip.
Z - I haven’t been to South America yet sooo, maybe Mexico or Bolivia, Brasil would be nice too, I have no idea really… cross that bridge when I get there.
Favourite treasures/purchases from your travels?
Z - Antique silk saris from India (god knows when I’ll get to wear them) extremely old leather saddle bag from Morocco, oud burner from Dubai and old dagger from Doha.
N - Memories.
Nabilah: Djelleba Dress in taupe. Zayyaan: Dahlia Dress in grey.
What home comfort do you miss the most when travelling?
N -My mom’s home-cooking.
Z - None, actually that depends on where I’m travelling at a particular time.
What has been the most interesting item of food you've tasted?
Z - In Damascus I ate this sweet biscuit which consisted of black seeds, don’t think I’ll ever forget that taste, definitely wasn’t love at first bite.
N - Frogs legs, in Paris.
Which country has the friendliest people?
N - Oman. The Greek and Turkish people are also very friendly and hospitable.
Z - Definitely India.
What's the best piece of travel advice you've received?
Z - Don’t keep all your money in one spot.
N - Loved this poem back then and still do, I have it written in my travel journal:
The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost:
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.
What's the worst piece of travel advice you've received?
N - None. Everyone’s travelling needs are different. Personally we both don't like travelling with organised tours, so glad we planned our own trips and had the time to travel to some places off the beaten path.
Z - To travel with a bank card only. Don’t do it!
Zayyaan: Keffiyeh Kimono Jacket in black worn with our Culottes in taupe. Nabilah: Djelleba Top and Culottes in black.
What's been the weirdest thing you've seen?
Z - Can’t recall anything.
N - In Vietnam, the outdoor markets had the strangest produce to sell, I saw some animals I wouldn't think of eating! But that is their culture after all, for me it may seem strange but for them its food.
What's the most interesting thing you've learnt?
N - Who you travel with is very important. Zayyaan made the perfect travel partner as we both have similar travelling goals and are both adventurous, so we will try out new and interesting things on our travels and want to explore off the beaten path.
Z - That your strange, may be someone else’s normal -vice versa, there’s a billion people on this earth a billion perspectives, perceptions and notions. What may be culturally acceptable to me may be unacceptable to another, it doesn’t make it wrong or right… just different and that’s ok. I think in this increasingly globalised world it is important for us to share, learn and understand each other’s cultures.
What has surprised you about yourself?
Z - I can be a ruthless negotiator when I don’t like you.
N - That I can travel alone! I took 2 solo trips, 1 to Cairo, Egypt, and one to Cappadocia, in Goreme, Turkey.
What's your top travel tip?
N - If you really want to travel, then cut down on some luxuries and save up! Trust me it’s worth it! Anything is possible and there is so much to the world than your home country. Travelling really ignites something deep down in one’s soul, it sets your soul on fire and you feel so alive!
Z - Try to keep copies of your essential travel documents somewhere safe, and pack in some spare clothes in your carry-on bag in case your suitcase goes missing or arrives a day or two later.
Nabilah: Djelleba Top & Culottes in black and the Keffiyeh Kimono Jacket in beige.
What's the most reliable source of travel advice?
Z - I love reading the comments section on trip advisor, also family & friends.
N - Definitely do some research of countries before your trip, but leave some for the imagination. Don't over research or over-plan. Let your itinerary change up a bit along the way and try and take as much advice from the locals on your travels. You get to see and experience the things that are not overly touristy!
What's been the best street food you've had?
N - In Turkey.
Z - My Falafel sandwiches in Syria.
A place that most lived up to the hype?
Z - Rome.
N - The Seychelles. It’s so beautiful, perfect for a romantic getaway. Italy as a whole is also very beautiful and has a lot to offer.
What was the most challenging thing you've done?
N -Letting go and going with the flow can be challenging at times!
Z - Carrying my backpack filled with crap.
Would you rather see a lot of places or get to know one really well?
Z - See a lot of places, but also that depends on the country.
N - It really depends. A country like India is huge and one could spend months exploring it. When I travel abroad, I usually try and combine 2 countries Im interested in. So not too many, like tourist companies love doing, I find this could be exhausting. Students can travel for longer whereas the working class in 9-5 jobs are more limited with time and leave The traveling arrangements of families as opposed to single travellers are also very different. So it really depends on the time you have for travelling and financial situation. I know that for myself my travelling needs has changed now that Im a mother of a young child. I would go to destinations thats child friendly or Id visit my family in South Africa. If me and my husband travel alone, we want to relax and not do too much, swim, eat, shop and chill out on the beach!
What is your dream travelling experience?
N - I’d still love to travel to South America one day!
Z - Travelling from South Africa to the North of Africa in a Land Rover.
Zayyaan: Keffiyeh Dress in red. Nabilah: Keffiyeh Dress in black.
Photography: Rizqua Barnes
Make-Up Artist: Nabilah Harron
Art & Creative Direction: Saara Jappie