The origins of le Diner Secret en Blanc dates back to humble beginnings in Paris nearly thirty years ago. Born on the lawn of Bagatelle in Bois de Boulogne in 1988, what started out as a chic picnic amongst epicurean friends has grown into an international phenomenon that spans across the globe. Although several offshoots do, in fact, commercialize the event, profit has never been the intention. Many independent organizers, Dubai’s Mr White included, stay true to the original spirit by keeping the venue a secret, the guest list exclusive, and money making out of the equation. This is the story of Dubai’s 2017 Secret White party as seen through my eyes.
My invitation came early September. The sender, who goes by the name Mr White, was unknown to me, as were was the date and venue. The dress code was chic, sophisticated, and totally white. All other details were elusive. I accepted the invite, and confirmed my attendance with my husband. I was intrigued…
As the weeks passed, I received spoonfuls of information as a date was set for December 1st. I was assigned a “gatherer”, a contact person who would guide me through the steps necessary for a flawless evening. Aside from the mandatory white attire, guests were expected to bring their own Parisian-inspired picnic. Even the food had to be white, or as close to it as possible. It also had to be packed in – you guessed it – a white bag, or preferably, a white picnic basket. Notice a color scheme here? Our tables, linens and chairs would be provided by the venue (in most other countries you must bring your own, we’re a bit spoilt in Dubai). We were expected to bring our own table settings, as well as flowers and candles if so desired. By now, you know what color…
Since it’s illegal to transport alcohol in the UAE, guests were asked to pay a nominal fee prior to the event to cover the cost of champagne. It was then that I met with my gatherer, Alina, who would give me the rundown on the do’s and don’ts of the party. I tried my best to extort privileged information: who are the organizers, where’s the secret venue? Truth be told, Alina didn’t have a clue, and like the rest of us, our countdown to the Secret White Party remained cloaked in secrecy.
On the evening of December 1st, my husband and I draped ourselves in our bright whites from head to toe – don’t ask me how I found white shoes in the middle of winter! Our food was simple as I abided by the color rules :- pasta. chicken breast, and a fat ball of burrata . Armed with our picnic, we set off in our quest to uncover Mr White’s secret venue.
Our meeting point was in a non-descript parking lot in a residential part of town. All eight hundred guests were divided among buses that would take us to our final destination. Bus drivers, bound by secrecy, remained tight lipped while we tried to guess possible locations.
Once we reached downtown Dubai, our guesses were narrowed down to some unlikely yet iconic spots in the city. As we sailed passed the Burj Khalifa, our bus made a sharp turn into a steep, winding parking lot. You could feel the buildup of excitement as the words “DUBAI OPERA” appeared at the entrance…Could it really be here ?
Stepping off the bus, I was led past a curtain through the back door. A pitch-black corridor paved with candles welcomed the most spectacular sight! Not only were we at the Dubai Opera, we were literally on stage. What a privilege it was to stand where Placido Domingo, Josee Carreras, and the cast of les Miserable have all performed! I stood there for a moment to soak it in. Surreal indeed.
Once we got to our table – elegantly laid out with chilled Champagne and Evian water – we swiftly unpacked our things. Considering the sheer volume of people, all ran smoothly and according to plan.
A trio of musicians played mellow tunes while guests dined with newly acquainted friends. It was lovely, relaxed and civilized. When I spied Zuma’s resident DJ Adrien Callier, I knew that the real party was about to start. Things were about to get much louder.
At exactly 9 pm each guest lit a sparkler, waving it the air to signal that a night of partying had officially begun!
DJ Adrien kicked off the night by blasting Daft Punk’s song “One More TIme” at record volume! With the best acoustics in town, the crowd went completely wild – you couldn’t help but get your groove on the dance floor (or on the table in my case). Virtually everyone let loose, throwing all dance related inhibitions out the window!
As I left the Opera at the crack of dawn – my body still pumping to the beat of the music – there was an image I couldn’t get out of my mind. It was truly specular to see hundreds of people, all dressed in white, gathered together in such an iconic space.
How can the organizers of Dubai’s Secret White Party possibly outdo such an amazing venue next time around? “Everyone is saying that we will never top this as this venue was so fantastic…” confides Mr White himself “Well, what we say to that it is a first, and yes, the Opera was just mind-blowing, but what we do is surprise and bring a different atmosphere each time.”
“We’re already working on surprising our guests…. One More Time…”
Let the guessing games begin…
Special thanks to the Dubai Opera, Mr White Dubai, Jasper Hope, and Dubai Night for providing photos of the event.
Photos of the author provided by www.lidijaskitchen.com