Once upon a time, in a land far away, lived a princess named Noor. The entire kingdom was buzzing with anticipation and excitement, for it was soon to be her wedding. After many years of waiting, she had finally met the prince of her heart. It had been a long and arduous journey to find him, and for him to find her. That’s a long story, for another day. Noor had never been so happy, and couldn’t wait for the wedding day – not for the party or the guests or the fireworks display. She just wanted to be with her prince, and him with her. And that day would seal an eternal bond, for the whole kingdom to behold. Almost everything was ready, from the sumptuous palace feast to the color of her lipstick (a deep red). Almost.
“Noor!” cried Queen Saba, “you’ve got to make up your mind!” Noor had only just turned down another tailor’s dress. In fact, she had turned down all of the kingdom’s tailors. Queen Saba, in desperation, had even sent for tailors in neighboring kingdoms. None had satisfied her wishes, and she remained stubborn. The dresses were too tight, too long, too short, too yellowish, too much lace… There was always a little too much or too little of something. Noor burst into tears, “But Mom, all these foolish tailors think I’m a doll. I just need a dress that’s ME.”
As she wept on her bed, came the sound of heavy flapping. She ran to her window, just in time to see a giant, majestic swan landing in the palace courtyard. Off the swan hopped a small, feisty old woman. “Hello”, she said to a startled guard, “I’d like to talk to princess Noor. Maybe I can help with the dress”. Noor had already run down to meet the swan. She always had a soft spot for animals, and gently stroked the bird’s long slender neck. “So, it seems you might need a bit of help with your dress?” said the woman. Noor let out a big sigh, wondering what this small lady and her giant swan could possibly do. “Come with me”, said the old lady. “We’ll go on a little trip, and see what we can find”. Noor had always enjoyed travelling, and sensed this would be an adventure unlike any other. In the meantime, the queen had come down and was chatting quietly with the woman. They were chuckling like kids, as if they’d known each other forever. “Off we go!”, said the old lady. Noor climbed on the swan with the old lady, waved Queen Saba goodbye, and flew off into the blue skies.
Noor had never flown before. It was magical, and it all felt like a dream. “Here are seven bags”, said the woman. You need to choose seven materials with which we’ll weave your dress. This dress needs to be YOU – your hopes and dreams, a glimpse into your soul, the best of what you are. Look deep into yourself, and you’ll find exactly what you need. Choose wisely.
Below them rolled the foothills of the Himalayas, with majestic mountains looming in the distance. They came across a group of puffy white clouds, and the swan gliding through them with elegance. “My dress needs a touch of cloud!” immediately thought Noor. “Clouds are immaculate white, and full of life. They’re constantly morphing into infinite shapes. They carry rain, sprinkling life wherever they go. I’m passionate about life, and I know I’ll change a million times along the way”. Noor scooped her hand into a plump little cloud, and gently put a bit into one of the bags.
They soon reached the mountains, stretching endlessly across the horizon. Noor was struck by the contrast between their beauty and inhospitality. There was no life there. The climate was simply too harsh. But the snow attracted her as if by magic. “I need snow!” she shouted. “It’s immaculate white, and it’ll go well with the clouds. Snow comes from them, after all. Many of the world’s greatest rivers, from the Amazon to the Ganges, owe their strength to the eternal mountain snow. During the dry spells, there’s always melting snow to bring life to the plains below”. The swan landed on a snowy peak, and Noor put a large snowball into another bag.
“Enough of this cold”, said the lady. “Let’s warm up”. They flew South East at full speed, and soon reached the Indian Ocean. Below was a string of small islands, and Noor caught a divine smell. “Let’s go see what it is!” The swan glided down to a golden beach, and the smell brought them to a small tree. It was covered with white flowers, each with five delicate petals. They were immaculate white, slightly spiraling around. The center of the flower was a deep yellow. “These are frangipani flowers”, said the lady. “And they have a heart of gold!”, replied Noor enthusiastically. “I sometimes have my dark moments, even mean moments. But I genuinely want to give more love to my prince than he could ever imagine. That’s my heart of gold. And the scent, it comes from another world”. She picked seven flowers, and put them in a bag.
“I need a swim”, said Noor. After so much emotion, she needed to clear her mind. The salty, crystalline water would certainly help. As she swam, a bright sparkle caught her eye. She dove down and found a large clam, its shell wide open. Inside the clam was a small white ball – a pearl! It was as if the clam was offering it to her. She gently took the pearl, and thanked the clam – who promptly closed up again. What a beautiful pearl it was. Perfectly round, with faint hues of the rainbow, but immaculate white at the same time. “I want to shine for my prince, and this pearl is exactly the shine I need. It’s not pretentious, and often hidden in shell. But it shines nonetheless”. In went the pearl into another bag.
They continued further east, all the way to China. They took a break on the shores of the Yangtze, one of those majestic rivers that flow from the eternal snows. The swan was feeding in the nearby reeds, while Noor and the old lady just watched the river go by. A small white butterfly delicately landed on Noor’s shoulder. It’s wasn’t the most beautiful of butterflies, but there was something special about it. She observed it carefully for a few moments, and then it flew into a nearby tree. The tree was full of little white cocoons, with white butterflies emerging from them. “Silk!” she exclaimed. She had never seen such beautiful silk. “My dress can only be made of silk. It’s immaculate white. It’s strong, delicate and soft at the same time, just like me. And the butterfly – from the caterpillar, it morphed into a beautiful creature, spreading its wing to fly. I want to fly with my prince”.
The day had been long, and night had fallen. The swan, Noor and the old lady were making their way back to the palace. Noor had cuddled close to the swan’s body, sheltering herself from the wind with a couple large feathers, and had fallen asleep. When she awoke, they were still up high in the night sky. How she wished she could share that moment with her prince. The stars were crisper and moon shone more brightly than from the ground. “That’s it!”, she thought, “My dress needs a dose of moonlight, immaculate white. The moon is mysterious, yet reassuring. It follows a cycle, sometimes lightening up the night sky, sometimes hiding in the earth’s shadow. People call it the “new moon” every month, but it’s always the same. A mysterious rock indeed. I feel mysterious, even to myself”. She opened another bag and captured a few rays of moonlight.
They were now close to home, and Noor was wondering what the seventh bag should contain. It seemed she was out of ideas, her mind swirling from the magnificent adventure. As the swan landed in the palace courtyard, Noor’s face showed the strain of worry. “I haven’t found a seventh material, we can’t make the dress”. Just at that moment, the swan handed her a feather. “Take this, it is my gift. It’s immaculate white, just like all your other materials. You’re beautiful, strong and full of life. But you also deserve to be protected, from all the elements this world will throw at you. The feather will keep you warm on the coldest days, will shield you from the burning sun. It’ll be gentle on your delicate skin, and make your dress light and airy”. Noor bowed to the majestic swan, and respectfully placed the feather into the last bag. She then handed the seven bags to the old lady, who, with barely a goodbye, flew off into the night.
Noor, exhausted from the trip, went straight to bed and feel right asleep. In the morning, on a chair next to her bed, lay the most exquisite dress she could have ever imagined. It had the softness of a cloud, the life of a rushing river, the smell of flowers, the shine of pearl, the strength and smoothness of silk, the mystery of moonlight and the lightness of a feather. The fit was nothing like any tailor had even managed. “It’s ME!”, she cried. I can’t wait for my prince to see it”.