Saudi woman fights cancer and opens a Saudi restaurant in NYC
Success often stems from the heart of an ordeal. This is personified by the story of Saudi artist and businesswoman Najlaa Felmban. Cancer changed her, led her to different experiences, most notably opening the first Saudi restaurant in New York City.
Felmban graduated from Umm Al-Qura University in Mecca, specializing in grammar and linguistics. She also worked as a teacher, but it was her passion and talent as an abstract artist that prompted her to explore options and eventually, with the help of her husband, open one of the largest abstract art companies in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA).
"My husband and I accomplished a great success with the abstract arts company that we opened in Jeddah and spent 10 years managing and building. Thanks to God, we achieved many important projects. The company has played a major role in supporting and shaping the Saudi abstract art movement. Amidst our great success, I got cancer. "
Felmban explained that when she was diagnosed with the disease, she changed her plans, mindset, life, family relationships, and goals. She began her treatment, including surgery in Jeddah, then traveled to the United States to complete the treatment.
It was normal that her family would accompany her on this trip—not knowing when or if she would return. They were forced to close the art company after astounding success, because they had been running it themselves.
Stand up again
"In the United States, I started taking chemotherapy sessions. My children joined high school as my husband and I were planning for them to complete their education in America. My treatment in America encouraged us to start a new beginning, therefore we decided to open a restaurant specializing in Saudi food, as there wasn’t [one] in New York.”
"We are a small family whose members are very close to each other, so with my efforts and that of my husband and children, we were able to start the project. My husband exerted a great effort to understand the nature and laws of a city which is different in its mechanisms and way of implementing projects in it. Thanks to God, everything went fine.”
Thanks to God, Felmban was given the power and energy to start her new project that she named “The Hejazi Hut.” She was able to present Saudi cuisine in a distinctive and attractive way to the people of New York, a city full of different races and cultures.
Felmban explained that “The Hejazi Hut” symbolizes the Hejaz region of Mecca, Jeddah, and Medinah, pointing out that all Muslims know the sanctity of this area and it refers to the quality of food provided by the restaurant, saying: "Hejazi cuisine is rich in variety of dishes due to the different veins in it.”
"Saudi Arabia is an extended country that has different ethnicities that mingle with each other, where each one had its own culture, that appears in its customs and traditions, and its cuisine which is rich with its different flavors," said Felmban.
"Since I am a Saudi, I like to represent this culture and convey it to American society, and make others see part of this rich civilization with its own individualities, especially New York, which is similar to us in presence of different races," she said. She noted that she wanted her restaurant to be the place where Saudis and Gulf people who long for traditional cuisine could find it in her restaurant. She considers her restaurant as an incubator for Saudi culture and a window through which others look to get to know the Saudis very closely.
The New Yorkers liked the Saudi food. "New York is an area where there are different races, and this difference made its people accept different types of food and accept everything new, so I had no fear regarding this. Thank God, customers reactions were positive, some even come and ask for certain kind of food which he has already tried and enjoyed.”
والله يتمم شفاءها ويكرمهم بواسع رزقه.