Friday, April 16, 2010

Iceland's Uzbek Connection...

The volcanic eruption dominating the news today reminded me that Iceland's First Lady, Dorrit Moussaieff, comes from a prominent Bukharian Jewish family that traces its roots to the dyer of Ghengis Khan's robes. Here's an excerpt from a February, 2009 profile in the Times of London:
...That is because the Icelandic first lady comes in the zippy form of Dorrit Moussaieff. She is sitting in the splendid drawing room of her Belgravia apartment, which is panelled with wood and decorated with porcelain and paintings by Toulouse-Lautrec and the preRaphaelites. At 59, dripping in jewels and with her nut-brown hair freshly blow-dried by Nicky Clarke himself, she looks closer to 35.

Her husband’s entire government may have just resigned but she seems unruffled by the political turmoil. “He is currently attending to an entirely new administration,” she acknowledges. So why did he not resign, then? “Nobody asked him to. More champagne?”

I accept a glass of bubbly, mixed with pomegranate juice. Five minutes later she is suggesting we go to an art opening at “Charlie Saatchi’s”, inviting me to dinner and urging me to bring my four children to Iceland in half-term. Although she doesn’t take a glass herself, she clearly cares not one jot that the comparisons to Marie Antoinette are starting to loom dangerously large.

She is wearing a selection of goodies that are almost as opulent as the room. Apart from the diamond cubes in her ears, one of her (three) diamond necklaces is set with a dark-green antique mogul emerald as big as a matchbox. Of the necklace itself, she is briskly dismissive. “The diamonds are insignificant,” she comments. “What’s significant is the emerald.”

A scion of the Israeli Moussaieff jewellery dynasty, born in Israel, she came to London at the age of 13 with her parents.

She followed her father into the family business and was, in her jewellery-selling heyday, rumoured to be earning a seven-figure salary. She had been a fixture on London’s party circuit for years before she met Iceland’s president, Olafur Ragnur Grimsson, in 1999 at a lunch party in South Kensington; four years later they were married. Moussaieff has now taken the Icelandic cause to her bosom, splitting her time between Reykjavik and the splendour of her London apartment. She’ll bang Iceland’s drum all right, but not in sackcloth and ashes.