Arts & Culture The Hope Issue

Dana and Reem Al Khalifa: The dynamic sisters of Bahrain

In spite of their privileged position in the region, the Al Khalifa sisters never rest on their laurels.

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By Georgie Bradley

In some families, siblings are polar opposites from each other. In other families, they are evidently cut from the same cloth. In the Al Khalifa family, sisters Reem and Dana sit on either end of the same illustrious spectrum, each owning their end of the bargain, so to speak.

Unless you know by chance that Bahraini sisters Reem and Dana are related, it’s not immediately apparent. Existing in their own right and realms, Reem and Dana forged separate pathways – wellness, beauty and fashion – but with the same guiding light from their parents– “they helped us follow our passions – they never stood in our way, they were very supportive,” says Reem. 

Dana Al Khalifa is the style maverick behind TheOverdressed, a blog space for the finer luxuries in fashion, which has also developed into a full fledged brand extension by way of The Overdressed Pavilion, where a luxurious selection of jewellers from around the region and world showcase their modern pieces that are glamorous yet affordable during Jewellery Arabia – one of the most prestigious retail jewellery events in the Middle East.

Dana Al Khalifa is the style maverick behind TheOverdressed, a blog space for the finer luxuries in fashion. Image: Dana Al Khalifa.

Reem Al Khalifa has brought discerning and ethically-conscious beauty to Bahrain and the region with Green Bar Inc. It is an emporium of deliciously scented production from organic luxurious skincare, to exotic botanical oils and saffron lip balm – it’s everything you need to treat your body like a temple.

It was Reem’s own curiosities for Bahrain’s natural resources that led her to “explore plants and be resourceful with them, by harmonising business with nature and culture”. Images: Green Bar.

For Reem, she followed the footsteps of her businessman father who was as supportive as he was encouraging. But it was her own curiosities for Bahrain’s natural resources that led her to “explore plants and be resourceful with them, by harmonising business with nature and culture”. For Dana however, her path wasn’t as targeted – and still isn’t necessarily, she says. “I never knew what I wanted to be. I sometimes think I still don’t know.”

Green Bar’s products are natural and organic. Images: Green Bar.

A brief and banal stint in a law firm soon redirected her to a more impassioned purpose: “I was encouraged to do law, and I did. But then I entered the corporate law world and hated every single day I sat in a fluorescent-lit office. I was not inspired, I wanted to work hard but it wasn’t happening, so I found a way in which I can channel my passion for luxury and went full steam ahead with TheOverdressed.”

Now both sisters are at the helm of their empires, celebrated for their wins and moves in and around the island of Bahrain and beyond. Never settling for the done thing or meeting expectations, Dana and Reem continue to add feathers to their very fashion-forward caps. Reem cites her career highlight when “a close friend of ours proposed she invest in me to open a café.  It allowed my mind to open up and gave me energy for more. It seems like the more you do, the better you get at things” – a philosophy adopted also by Dana, who expanded to The Overdressed Pavilion, adding even more value to her delectable and tasteful curations.

Reem cites her career highlight when “a close friend of ours proposed she invest in me to open a café.” An image of GB Cafe in Bahrain. Image: Green Bar.

When the going gets tough – especially when the market has been slow-moving –Reem shifts into fifth gear. “When you are at a cross roads and things need to change, I put on my thinking cap AND I put on my bad cop suit,” says Reem. “My business has taught me to toughen up – I navigate my problems knowing so much is at stake, that sometimes I have no option but to do the things I don’t like.”

Dana on the other hand has a more tranquil approach to curveball scenarios: “I never think it’s the end of the world because there’s so much to be grateful for. Everything is salvageable, nothing is a total and utter disaster unless it has to do with your health – nothing is a problem if it doesn’t touch your health.”

In spite of their privileged position in the region, the Al Khalifa sisters never rest on their laurels. With Green Bar Inc, Reem has cultivated a culture of progressivism in how we interact and appreciate nature – which she fiercely protects. It is her mission to raise awareness about Bahrain’s natural resources: “We are helping the environment by planting more roses, pollinating more palm trees, bringing more bee hives (we need organic beeswax for Green Bar, so we aren’t allowing the natural resources to waste).” Reem is bridging the gap between retail and education.

Dana too is authenticating her passions like Reem. “If people go back to basics and scratch the surface down to authenticity, fashion would be a much more sustainable place. Our desire to create new content drives us to consume retail like it will end tomorrow. My message is quality over quantity. My message is, like Reem, authenticity. My message is artisanal.”

Reem describes Dana as “very just, she doesn’t like seeing anyone cheat their way through something. She’ll catch a lie, she’s very honest, and she is brave.” Image: Taken by Bahraini photographer Ishaq Madan.

Speaking of each other, Reem describes Dana as “very just, she doesn’t like seeing anyone cheat their way through something. She’ll catch a lie, she’s very honest, and she is brave.” For Dana, it’s Reem is “the most generous person I know. She’s painstakingly specific. She is my go-to aesthete,” a quality which Reem acknowledges, too as “I am very discerning, which makes some people categorise me as difficult. I need things to be very authentic in order for me to enjoy them.”

As different as the Al Khalifa sisters are from each other, they are bound by a central value system of wanting to impart a service or product that is equally as transparent in information as it is exquisite in touch and aesthetic.

Perhaps it’s their stringent privacy – “I value the privacy of my family and especially my children and husband, who have no desire to appear on my social media,” says Dana – while Reem isn’t front and centre online either – and the allure that comes with that, but the Al Khalifa sisters are nimbly and thoughtfully changing the landscape for women in business. They’re always looking for new and innovative ways to project their passions for the world to love, as well.

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Georgie Bradley is a British-Greek editor and journalist based in Dubai after a lifetime in Bahrain – which she still frequents on a monthly basis. She is also a certified crisis counsellor for women victims of domestic violence, having volunteered for Women’s Crisis Care International in Bahrain. Elevating the voices of the region’s change-makers is what makes her tick.

The views of the authors and writers who contribute to Sekka, and the views of the interviewees who are featured in Sekka, do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Sekka, its parent company, its owners, employees and affiliates.