A romance for the ages thrills opera lovers in Riyadh

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The Opera Lebanon production of ‘Antar and Abla’ thrilled music lovers on Friday and Saturday at the Princess Noura University in Riyadh.
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The Opera Lebanon orchestra in full flow at the Princess Noura University in Riyadh. (AN Photo)
Updated 25 February 2018
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A romance for the ages thrills opera lovers in Riyadh

RIYADH: Opera came to Saudi Arabia at the weekend with performances of a classic Arabian love story in front of an enraptured audience in Riyadh.
The Opera Lebanon production of “Antar and Abla” thrilled a stadium full of music lovers on Friday and Saturday at the Princess Noura University.
“It was a wonderful initiative that portrayed Arabic culture and heritage through a musical interpretation, for the whole family to enjoy,” said Muna AbuSulayman, who saw the show on Friday.
And if the audience loved the performers, the performers were equally delighted with the audience. “You could feel the their energy. It was magnificent,” the Lebanese soprano Lara Jokhadar, who played Abla, told Arab News after the show.
The singer who played Antar, Wadih Abi Raad, also from Lebanon, told Arab News: “The audience were very responsive to the opera, even, if we may say, thirsty for the opera and this kind of classy entertainment.
“I love it and loved the audience’s honest response to our performance. They felt our performance wholeheartedly and we felt their earnest response. It’s a pleasure and an honor to perform for educated people, like the Saudi people, and they were earnest in their feelings. I am happy and joyful. I would do it again with pleasure, for the lovely Saudi people.”
The opera retells the legendary story of a sixth-century Arab warrior and poet, Antar, and his forbidden but undying love for his beautiful cousin, Abla. Composed by Maroun Al-Rahi, Antoine Maalouf and Nayer Nagui, it had its premiere in Beirut in July 2016, and has also been performed in Bahrain.
‘The General Entertainment Authority encouraged us to do an Arabic opera rather than an international one,” said Amira Al-Taweel, chief executive of the sponsors, TIME Entertainment.
“The story stems from our heritage and culture. I very much enjoyed it as did the audience. After the show, I asked the team of performers for their honest opinion of how it went, and they answered that this was the best audience they have performed in front of until now.
“We are so happy and proud!”


First group of Sri Lankan Muslims begin Hajj journey

Updated 17 July 2019
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First group of Sri Lankan Muslims begin Hajj journey

  • 4,000 to partake in this year’s pilgrimage after Saudi Arabia increased quota

COLOMBO: Nearly 180 Sri Lankan Hajj pilgrims left for Saudi Arabia on Monday night, but not before thanking the Kingdom for the comprehensive facilities offered to them.

Mohamed Hashim Mohamed Haleem, Sri Lanka’s minister of postal services and Muslim religious affairs, said that this year’s issuing of Hajj visas was smooth due to the new e-Hajj services introduced by the Saudi government. 

“We were able to process all 4,000 Hajj visas efficiently. All of them were issued well in time,” Haleem said.

He added that officials from his ministry will be available at the airport to assist the pilgrims with their departures.

The minister said the flights of pilgrims this year will be ferried by both Saudi Arabian Airlines and Sri Lankan Airlines. Haleem, who intends to participate in this year’s Hajj, said that the last flight of Sri Lankan pilgrims will leave Colombo on Aug. 7.

Sajjath Mohammed, a journalist from Madawala News, praised the e-Hajj service, saying: “The biometric services for the visas were available to pilgrims in Kandy and Batticaloa in addition to Colombo, the capital of the island.”

Rizmi Reyal, president of the International Airline Ticketing Academy in Sri Lanka, said that this year the Hajj services from Colombo have been enhanced to give a better experience to the pilgrims. He thanked the Saudi government, the Muslim Religious Affairs Ministry in Colombo, the Saudi Embassy in Colombo and the Sri Lankan Embassy in Riyadh for playing their part in these improvements.

The Sri Lankan government will also send a medical team to attend to any urgent needs of the pilgrims before they are taken to the nearest medical facilities in the two holy cities.