Society / The Seen

King Tut, Belly Dancer Twins and Poolside Sheikh Make This Prominent Houston Architect’s Birthday an Egyptian Fantasyland

River Oaks Mansion Party Proves 80 is The New 60

BY // 05.24.18
photography Dave Rossman

King Tut looked on approvingly from his post in the side garden pavilion of the River Oaks home as close to 100 of architect/professor Shafik Rifaat‘s friends and family celebrated his milestone 80th birthday. After watching the native of Egypt carouse with the belly dancers and boogie well into the night, all agreed that his 80 is the new 60.

A convincing replica of King Tut’s sarcophagus, belly dancers flown in from Los Angeles, the sounds of Moodafaruka and the gilded transformation of hosts Sheridan and John Eddie Williams‘ backyard into an Egyptian fantasy was the work of the birthday boy’s close friend Richard Flowers of The Events Company. Guests partied beneath gilded chandeliers strung on wires that stretched between trees and sat at party tables covered in shimmering gold cloths and sprouting 3-foot tall palm trees.

In acknowledgement of the invitation calling for “poolside Egyptian sheikh” attire, several men wore authentic galabeyas (dishdashas) from Dubai, including Ceron, Mark Sullivan and Mike Mayell. Caftans were de rigueur for many femmes including Karen Mayell, Lynn Wyatt, Phoebe Tudor, Melinda Berkman, Patsy Fourticq, Cynthia Allshouse and Meg Goodman.

The party was the vision and generous gift of the Williamses, close friends of Rifaat for nearly three decades. Sheridan worked for months with Flowers and restaurateur extraordinaire Tony Vallone on the elaborate plans.

Tony’s catering crew, led by Scott Sulma, oversaw the bountiful buffet tables laden not only with Tony’s always-spectacular cuisine but also lavish Middle Eastern fare. Before the buffet tables were brimming with beef tenderloin, stuffed grape leaves, stuffed peppers, grilled lamb, mouth-watering shish-kabob, moussaka and Tony’s famed flaming red snapper (Rifaat’s favorite), guests were tempted by the cold seafood bar that brimmed with raw oysters, Gulf shrimp, Tony’s famed giant lump crab meat and lobster.

After dinner and two gyrating performances by the “Belly Twins,”  the show-stopper birthday cake from Susie’s Cakes & Confections was presented. Baker Susie Edwards crafted a masterful gilded confection of the sphinx resting before a massive chocolate pyramid.

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Celebrants: University of Houston College of Architecture & Design dean Patricia Oliver,  Susanne Byram, Vesta and Dr. Pedro Frommer, Gregory Fourticq, Janet Gurwitch and Ron Franklin, Nancy and Rich Kinder, Bucky Allshouse,Lynne and Joe Hudson, Karen Mayell, Melinda and Dr. Norman Berkman, Lynn Wyatt, Phoebe Tudor, Vesta and Dr. Pedro Frommer, Sharon Adams, Patrice Ferguson and John Camp, John and Becca Cason Thrash, Diane Lokey Farb, and tons more family and close friends.

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