New Beginnings

After completing her education at Regent’s Street College, Jehan decided she would go on an adventure and set off to Iona, an ancient island off the coast of Scotland. While Jehan would go on to write many books during her lifetime, it was here that she had her first serious attempt at writing. However, she never published what she wrote. Apart from an interest in writing, she also had a strong interest in other cultures, likely due to the wide range of places she lived as a child. Around this time, she went through a period of fascination with the Romany people of England, even befriending and attaching herself to a group, learning and recording their way of life. This would result in her first publication, an article for the Journal of Gypsy Lore Society, which was founded in 1888. These experiences ultimately culminated in her passion for collecting costumes and folk jewellery, which served as a way of preserving culture. However, Jehan had no intention of staying in England and pestered her father, who was now stationed in Malaya, for a job. He did manage to find her a job in the Governor’s office in Kuala Lumpur, but, as fate would have it, she would meet her future husband, Tareq, just before she was due to travel. Jehan and Tareq first met in an Italian café in Eastbourne called Notorianni. Tareq was a student at the Eastbourne College of Art on a scholarship from the Kuwaiti government. Jehan was living with her great aunt in Eastbourne, where she volunteered for St. John’s ambulance, driving elderly people from their homes to the hospital. Their first child, Nur, was born in London the following year and their second, Ziad, in 1958. Their third child, Nader, was born after they moved back to Kuwait. Until then, Jehan had had very little exposure to Middle Eastern or North African culture. However, during her time in Gibraltar, she and her family would get the ferry on day trips to Tangier, which she described as “the most beautiful city I have ever seen”. Perhaps the Middle East was written in her destiny.

When Jehan first arrived in Kuwait, she naturally found life to be quite restrictive and particularly difficult. However, her mother-in-law, Aisha, became quite fond of Jehan, and did what she could to make things easier, insisting Tareq took her out as much as possible. Occasionally, they would also go to Basra, where there were more restaurants and parks by the river. However, as time went on, Kuwait began to change dramatically, and she was soon given a sense of purpose.

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