Saudi Comic Con creates showcase for buried talent

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Naif Alkhairallah working on the Black Bonds novel.
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Naif Alkhairallah working on the Black Bonds novel.
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Naif Alkhairallah working on the Black Bonds novel.
Updated 08 April 2017
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Saudi Comic Con creates showcase for buried talent

JEDDAH: The literary world’s most legendary writers – Herman Melville, Anton Chekhov, Franz Kafka and Virginia Woolf among them – all had day jobs. Chekhov worked as a tutor and caught and sold goldfinches. An Italian insurance company employed Kafka.
Toiling through a mundane existence by day and allowing the creative juices to flow late into the evening is often the lot of a writer. And Riyadh-based Naif Alkhairallah, 37, has a lot in common with his literary forbearers. He is a banker by day and author and comic artist by night. He is also a prime example of the many Saudi night owls who answer the call of creative writing.
Alkhaiallah’s debut novel “Black Bonds” is one of the few books at the Middle East Film and Comic Con (MEFCC) written in Arabic. Comic Con opens today in Jeddah
“MEFCC is the reason ‘Black Bonds’ is out,” Alkhairallah told Arab News in an exclusive interview prior to the launch of the first Saudi Comic Con (SCC).
“It was the event that ignited the dormant energy/skills that helped me to come up with ‘Black Bonds,’” he added.
As a child, Alkhairallah got to know about superheroes through Sesame Street, where they used to feature a sketch of Spider-Man.
“Since then, I became fascinated by the world of superheroes and comic books,” he said.
He prefers the term fan over geek, as the later means – at least to Alkhairallah — an unfashionable or socially inept person, which is unjust for art and story enthusiasts.
“Black Bonds” is about witchcraft, but is not inspired by a certain comic character. Rather it is the horror genre that fascinates Alkhairallah. “Most of the horror stories/movies usually take place in foreign countries,” he said. “Nothing would fit a Saudi horror/thriller story more than magic and witchcraft,” he added.
Digging into the novel’s concept, a dark future awaits “Sager,” the main character, in a story that takes place in Saudi Arabia with an unexpected turn of events.
“Black Bonds” is about the choices people make that might seem right and appealing but whose results might be disastrous.
According to Alkhairallah, the idea of magic that exists in the Arab world is huge, but no one ever talks about it. “It’s like a taboo, but this is the subject that I’m covering.”
One of the names that helped in the making of his debut novel is Abdulrahman Al-Tamimi who, he said, is an excellent scriptwriter and adds value to the story line.
Enthusiasts of the genre Alkhairallah explores say that illustration and storytelling are two skills the Saudi artist possesses. The artist said that he cannot judge which skill is better than the other, as the journey will reveal which of them he excels at more.
Alkhairallah said that there are some interesting ideas popping up for future projects but for now he is keeping them on the side. He is fully occupied with his day banking job and the book.
Alkhairallah joined Dubai’s MEFCC in 2013, where he was inspired yet shocked by the amount of talented Arabs making their own comics.
As the SCC unfolds today, Alkhairallah was lost for words to describe his excitement to meet the local comic fans in Jeddah.
“The country is appreciating the buried talents –- creating a venue that would give them the courage to show the world their abilities,” he said. “Such young talents will definitely feed the industry not only in the Kingdom but also in the whole region.”
Three announced celebrities: Mads Mikkelsen, Julian Glover and Giancarlo Esposito will bring a western touch to the Saudi event. The somewhat cross-cultural pollination in Thursday’s SCC is only showing Alkhairallah the beginning of a new era in the Kingdom’s entertainment industry.
The three-day event promises Saudi-based fans an exceptional weekend. Saudis, according to Alkhairallah, are not only into Marvel/DC comics, but they are fond of the Japanese animations, either Arabic dubbed or subtitled.
The artistic gene runs in Alkhairallah’s family who, he said, is blessed to have their support.
Alkhairallah’s passion for superheroes started in childhood. “I remember tightening the bed sheet as a cape.” His favorite superhero of all time is Batman.
A translated version of Go Nagai’s Japanese manga “Grendizer” was the first comic book Alkhairallah laid hands on.
Believing in oneself and practicing are two major tips Alkhairallah gives aspiring talents. “If you can dream it, you can do it,” he concluded.
The inaugural SCC, organized by Time Entertainment and supported by General Entertainment Authority, runs through Friday at the Take Off Center, the commercial hub of Saudi Arabia. 


Saudi camel racing no longer an all-male affair, says Princess Jamila

Updated 23 March 2019
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Saudi camel racing no longer an all-male affair, says Princess Jamila

  • Princess Jamila’s camel will compete in a race marking the conclusion of the King Abdul Aziz Camel Festival
  • King Salman will attend the grand finale of the 46-day event

JEDDAH: A camel owned by a woman will compete in an official race in Saudi Arabia for the first time, a senior figure in the sport said on Friday.

Fahd bin Hithleen, chairman of the board of directors of the Saudi Camel Club and the newly appointed president of the International Camel Organization (ICO), said the race is part of the closing day of the King Abdul Aziz Camel Festival on the outskirts of Riyadh, which began on Feb. 5 and ends on March 23.

“The camel race will end this Saturday with the participation of the first female in camel racing,” Hithleen said on his official Twitter account. “I congratulate Princess Jamila Bint Abdulmajeed bin Saud bin Abdulaziz for breaking into the camel world and wish her all the success.”

The festival finale will take place in the presence of King Salman.

Princess Jamila said that camel racing is no longer exclusively the preserve of men, as the ongoing reforms in the country continue to empower Saudi women and open up new opportunities for them across the Kingdom.

The Kingdom established the ICO, the first global group of its kind for camels, on Thursday with the participation of representatives from 96 countries. Riyadh was chosen as the location for its headquarters and Hithleen was appointed to serve a five-year term as its first president.