She’s been lucky enough to work with superstars such as Pharrell Williams and Adele, but Basma Khalifa was in for a shock when she returned to her birthplace of Saudi Arabia.

The 29-year-old, who moved to Northern Ireland when she was just three-years-old, decided to return to her roots as part of a BBC3 documentary entitled Inside the Real Saudi Arabia.


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Basma was accompanied by government aides during her time in the Middle East, due to her profession and the fact that she was making a documentary.

In one instance, Basma visited a shopping mall in Western clothes – but later changed into an abaya because the aides didn’t want her to attract attention in her usual attire.

Basma admitted that she found it difficult to adhere to some of the traditions whilst staying in Saudi with her aunt Nahla, who is a devout Muslim.

‘I was expected to fully embrace the traditional Saudi way of life. Some traditions were hard to get used to, like wearing a headscarf when out in public. But others I admired, like the respect shown for family mealtimes,’ she said.

Directed by Jessica Kelly, the one-off documentary shows Basma as she reconnects with her relatives and discovers what it would be like to live in the place where she was born.

‘All my life, I’ve been curious about my Saudi roots,’ Basma explained.

Revealing how she felt about the trip once she returned to London, Basma said: ‘Returning to Saudi Arabia has taught me so much about my Saudi roots.’

Adding that she would like to adapt strict routines such as family mealtimes into her own life, Basma continued: ‘Now, when I have my own family in the future, I know I want to champion this tradition.’

But for now, Basma is loving London life as a stylist to the stars – and one of her proudest moments was being part of the team who styled Adele for the 2016 BRIT Awards.

‘I adore my career and I am grateful for the privileged position I’m in, working in my dream job and using my imagination every single day,’ she said.

‘Seeing people in an outfit they love, like Adele sparkling in that sequined dress, makes the hard work worthwhile!’

Inside the Real Saudi Arabia is available to watch on BBC3 from January 24.