Sheba magazine, which is basically a consumer guide on how to spend your husband the oil sheik's billions, had a coming-out party at the George Town Club last night. The international folk who came called each other "luv" in British accents and talked about catching planes to ah yes, Paris, London or the Gulf -- the Arabian one, that is.
A few came to catch other things. "I'm trying to find a sheik," said Debra Scott, a wholesome-looking American who stood out among the smoky-eyed Arab women like a cheesburger in Jedda.
One of those women was Zelfa Draz, editor of this first high-fashion magazine for Arab women -- the kind of women, she has said, who have little to do all day but "sit around, change dresses and flip through magazines."
Draz, who is Turkish and chic, wore black silk, black stockings, black pumps and pearls well past her navel. She has introduced her slick, Arabic-language magazine in London and Paris and last night, it was Washington's turn. "I never expected Washington to be so attractive," she confessed in between kissing cheeks and shaking hands in the George Town Club's fairly seductive living room (English carved wood walls, Oriental rugs, a jade collection, dim lighting and so on). "One always hears," Draz continued, "about Washington in terms of politics on television. You know, someone just sitting outside the White House. But there's so much going on."
So far, there have been two issues of Sheba. They include a glossy spread of Oscar de la Rentas, a profile on how Bianca Jagger keeps fit "despite an exhausting social life," a story on English country gardens and an article on where to go for a "restful luunch or tea" after a strenuous day of shopping on London's Bond Street.
But despite its appeal to the new opulence of Arab lifestyle, Sheba also bows to the dress and customs of tradition." No politics or alcohol are mentioned, and clothing although expensive, is modest as decreed by the Islamic religion.
"Nothing can go into the magazine that won't pass the government censors in Saudi Arabia," said Marian Hauk, one of Sheba's New York writers. "And that means no exposed arms, legs, and bosoms."
The relatively small Sheba party attracted Arab ambassadors, Arab businessmen and women, one State Department deputy chief of protocol and more than a few terribly thin Sheba writers who really did drink Perrier. They also looked horrified when a waiter so much as passed a puffed hor d'oeuvre in their direction.
Among the Arab businesswomen (actually, she might have been the only one) was Mobil Oil consultant Cynthia Fetterolf, who has lived in Saudi Arabia for 10 years. She, for one, deemed Sheba a necessity.
"When you've got the idea of competing wives hanging over your head," she explained, "you're going to dress well for Mr. Right."
Nouha Alhegelan, the wife of the resentative from the embassy crowd. She, however, claimed the glitzy fashion in Sheba was not for her."
"I'm a very classical person," she said, sweeping her hands along her black velvet suit and white ruffled blouse. "I'm not very fashion-conscious -- just self-conscious."
But at least one American woman was delighted with the Arabic magazine, particularly the yards and yards of a whit fur coat that appeared on a page she couldn't read.
"What is it?" marveled Joan Ambrose, wife of Myles, a Washington lawyer with throngs of Arab clients. "Looks like coyote. No, white mink perhaps." Finally, she asked Draz for a clue. Fox, it turned out.
At this point, her husband returned with a drink. She pointed out the fox to him.
"Oh yes, dear," said the agreeable Ambrose. "How about two?"