Saudi theater artist to shatter stereotypes in Edinburgh fest

Updated 12 August 2013
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Saudi theater artist to shatter stereotypes in Edinburgh fest

She may not be one of those “Hey, I recognize her!” performers yet, but her one-woman play ‘Head Over Heels in Saudi Arabia’ that will kick off at the largest international festival in the world, the 2013 Edinburgh Fringe Festival (EFF), will definitely make her rise to fame.
Maisah Sobaihi, a Saudi academic, playwright and performer, is all set to stage her amusing yet enlightening roller coaster ride into the lives of women in Saudi Arabia, whose husbands choose to marry more women.
Sobaihi will be the first Saudi woman to perform at the EFF and is confident that her performance at the festival will help expose a true illustration of Saudi women, as well as portray a common womanly bond expanding past national boundaries.
In her play ‘Head Over Heels in Saudi Arabia,’ Sobaihi puts together two interesting characters in the forefront. Layla, who is ready to get married but tired of waiting for true love, and Maryam, whose husband chooses to marry for the second time.
Sobaihi’s mere charisma in her classic solo comedy at the festival splinters the stereotype of the timid Arab woman, veiled and voiceless.
“Women’s positions continue to change in many ways,” says Sobaihi. “But I think what is unknown to many is that they feel that women were not active and have become active. I think that women have always been active and a very positive force in Saudi society. It’s just that I don’t think they were as visible as they are now. They have developed in many ways, and the most particular way is that they have become more public.”
Sobaihi describes that character Maryam in her play as more upper class of society while Layla is more in touch with the other level of society. Maryam’s husband marries another bride Layla, which results in Maryam flying off the handle at Layla and trying to dig up dirt on her.
Journeying into the lives and challenges women in Saudi Arabia face, Sobaihi’s play strokes on the rights of men in Saudi to espouse four wives and how the preceding wives react.
Brought up partially in the United States and Saudi Arabia, Sobaihi holds a doctorate in English Literature from the University of London, and a Bachelor’s degree from the King Abdul Aziz University in Saudi Arabia, while currently lecturing at a university in Jeddah.
“As the Arab temperament in general, we tend to be more private about our lives so the public has always been a challenge,” said Sobaihi.
A divorced mother of two sons in their 20s, Sobaihi begins her play by narrating her life story and eventually takes into the lives of other women in Saudi Arabia.
“I was very conscious that I didn’t want this play to be about bashing men or bashing anybody at all,” said Sobaihi. “I did stage this play in Jeddah a couple of times, though in a private gathering, and the reactions from Saudi men were positive.”
‘Head over Heels in Saudi Arabia’ educates us that women have an ordinary and widespread view, however secluded they appear in terms of culture, positively in affairs of the mind.
“We have a very private culture. Saudi women don’t really like the spotlight. But we have a responsibility to become more vocal,” explains Sobaihi in a report in Scotland’s Daily Record.
The 2013 Edinburgh Fringe will play host to 2,871 productions starting from the end of July through to August. Sobaihi performs ‘Head Over Heels in Saudi Arabia’ at Spotlites @ The Merchant’s Hall, from Aug. 11-26.
Sobaihi’s 3-minute promo video of her one-woman play promises you that you’ll go head over heels for ‘Head Over Heels in Saudi Arabia.’


Tens of thousands converge on California ‘poppy apocalypse’

A woman poses for a photo among poppies in bloom on the hills of Walker Canyon in Lake Elsinore, California, on March 8, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 12 min 30 sec ago
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Tens of thousands converge on California ‘poppy apocalypse’

  • More than 6,000 people on a recent Saturday stopped at the visitor’s center at the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

LAKE ELSINORE, California: Like Dorothy in the “Wizard of Oz,” the Southern California city of Lake Elsinore is being overwhelmed by the power of the poppies.
About 150,000 people over the weekend flocked to see this year’s rain-fed flaming orange patches of poppies lighting up the hillsides near the city of about 60,000 residents, about a 90-minute drive from either San Diego or Los Angeles.
Interstate 15 was a parking lot. People fainted in the heat; a dog romping through the fields was bitten by a rattlesnake.
A vibrant field of poppies lures Dorothy into a trap in the “Wizard of Oz” when the wicked witch, acknowledging that no one can resist their beauty, poisons the wildflowers and she slips into a fatal slumber until the good witch reverses the spell.
Lake Elsinore had tried to prepare for the crush of people drawn by the super bloom, a rare occurrence that usually happens about once a decade because it requires a wet winter and warm temperatures that stay above freezing.
It offered a free shuttle service to the top viewing spots, but it wasn’t enough.
Sunday traffic got so bad that Lake Elsinore officials requested law enforcement assistance from neighboring jurisdictions. At one point, the city pulled down the curtain and closed access to poppy-blanketed Walker Canyon.
“It was insane, absolutely insane,” said Mayor Steve Manos, who described it as a “poppy apocalypse.”
By Monday the #poppyshutdown announced by the city on Twitter was over and the road to the canyon was re-opened.
And people were streaming in again.
Young and old visitors to the Lake Elsinore area seemed equally enchanted as they snapped selfies against the natural carpet of iridescent orange.
Some contacted friends and family on video calls so they could share the beauty in real time. Artists propped canvasses on the side of the trail to paint the super bloom, while drones buzzed overhead.
Patty Bishop, 48, of nearby Lake Forest, was on her second visit. The native Californian had never seen such an explosion of color from the state flower. She battled traffic Sunday but that didn’t deter her from going back Monday for another look. She got there at sunrise and stayed for hours.
“There’s been so many in just one area,” she said. “I think that’s probably the main reason why I’m out here personally is because it’s so beautiful.”
Stephen Kim and his girlfriend got to Lake Elsinore even before sunrise Sunday to beat the crowds but there were already hundreds of people.
The two wedding photographers hiked on the designated trails with an engaged couple to do a photo shoot with the flowers in the background, but they were upset to see so many people going off-trail and so much garbage. They picked up as many discarded water bottles as they could carry.
“You see this beautiful pristine photo of nature but then you look to the left and there’s plastic Starbucks cups and water bottles on the trail and selfie sticks and people having road rage because some people were walking slower,” said Kim, 24, of Carlsbad.
Andy Macuga, honorary mayor of the desert town of Borrego Springs, another wildflower hotspot, said he feels for Lake Elsinore.
In 2017, a rain-fed super bloom brought in more than a half-million visitors to the town of 3,500. Restaurants ran out of food. Gas stations ran out of fuel. Traffic backed up on a single road for 20 miles (32 kilometers).
The city is again experiencing a super bloom.
The crowds are back. Hotels are full. More than 6,000 people on a recent Saturday stopped at the visitor’s center at the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California’s largest park with 1,000 square miles (2,590 sq. kilometers).
But it helps that the masses of blooms are appearing in several different areas this time, and some sections are fading, while others are lighting up with flowers, helping to disperse the crowds a bit.
Most importantly, Macuga said, the town’s businesses prepared this time as if a major storm was about to hit. His restaurant, Carlee’s, is averaging more than 550 meals a day, compared to 300 on a normal March day.
“We were completely caught off guard in 2017 because it was the first time that we had had a flower season like this with social media,” he said. “It helps now knowing what’s coming.”