"One day, we were sitting by the creek and Mohamed shared with me his dream to have a little coffee shop on the creek. Seven months later we opened it,” says Ilaria Paci, who had never worked in hospitality before, though she was the owner of two fashion boutiques. Upon moving to Dubai, she worked initially in an interior design studio, mixing her passion for design and fashion. Now she and her husband work as a supportive team. “For us, the concept was to mix our cultures and make something different from what was already available in Dubai. We wanted to have a proper family business where food, culture and love live together.” Mohamed’s dream was to have a coffee shop, to which Paci gave his family name, Mazmi. “It was to honour him and it sounded good in every language. In Italy we give family names to old-style trattorias, too.”
The location for Mazmi was an original Emirati house, complete with wind tower, which had some empty space on the first floor. “I always wanted to have a little boutique hotel,” she says. “I thought there was nothing more special than sleeping inside the Dubai souk and waking up and opening windows onto the creek, first thing in the morning.” Her decision to expand was also tempered by a desire to offer a different concept from the usual luxury hotels. “I wanted to create a place where travellers could meet locals,” she adds.