Yemeni-Emirati singer Balqees named in Forbes’ Arab 30 under 30 list

Balqees Fathi has been selected as one of the region’s most influential personalities under the age of 30. (@balqeesfathi)
Updated 07 March 2018
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Yemeni-Emirati singer Balqees named in Forbes’ Arab 30 under 30 list

CAIRO: Yemeni-Emirati musician Balqees Fathi has been selected as one of the region’s most influential personalities in the “Arab 30 under 30” list, recently revealed by Forbes Middle East.
The singer was chosen as the most influential personality in the music category.
Forbes credits her participation in the first female-only concert in Saudi Arabia last December as part of the reason she made the list. She also headlined the Sharjah World Music Festival in the same month.
The 29-year-old star was also a brand ambassador for Pantene in 2016 and for L’azurde, a jewelry brand, in 2017.
Forbes Middle East has issued its first list of Arab movers and shakers under the age of 30, who are revolutionizing their respective fields through innovative ideas.
“With over 60 percent of the population under the age of 30, the very first class of Arab 30 under 30 is a dynamic mix of social entrepreneurs, artists, celebrities and intellectuals,” reads Forbes Middle East’s website.
The list features Palestinian singer Mohammed Assaf, 29, who was awarded a recording contract and gained a legion of adoring fans when he won Arab Idol in 2013.
Another high achiever is the UAE’s new Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence Omar bin Sultan Al-Olama, who at 29 is responsible for selecting the learning tools for the country’s smart government services.
Egyptian footballer and Liverpool striker Mohammad Salah was also featured on the list. The 25-year-old is currently the second highest goal scorer in the English Premier League.
In October last year, he led Egypt to its first football World Cup finals since 1990, after having scored five goals in the qualifiers.


Cirque du Soleil in Saudi Arabia: The perfect tribute to a rich culture

Updated 25 September 2018
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Cirque du Soleil in Saudi Arabia: The perfect tribute to a rich culture

  • Cirque du Soleil created a spectacular show in Riyadh
  • They paid tribute to Saudi culture and heritage

RIYADH: The circus — a place that is almost synonymous with joy and delight. Since time immemorial, circuses have been places of celebration and glee, and few as much as the premier name in the industry: Cirque du Soleil.

The show has had a devoted fan in me since 2006, when I attended a performance of their production “Quidam” and my definition of the word “circus” was turned upside-down. Their unique approach to art, performance, costumes and music has secured their status as a household name and a benchmark for all other circus shows to be measured against.

On Sunday night, Saudi Arabia’s National Day, the circus brought their incredible acrobatics to Riyadh’s King Fahad Stadium and it turned out to be a night to remember.



Prior to the event, Cirque’s Vice President of Creation Daniel Fortin offered little in the way of spoilers but hinted that we would see something the likes of which we never had before. With the promises of exclusive new acts, music, costumes and stage tricks piquing my excitement, I joined a throng of green-and white-clad spectators flooding the stadium. Performing to a sold-out crowd, the show kicked off at exactly 8.30 p.m. and the magic truly began.

Barely five minutes into the show, something stole over me as I settled into the rhythm of the music, something I saw flickering over the faces of those in the crowd around me: Recognition. We were seeing ourselves, our identity, echoed back at us, but with a twist. We saw ourselves through someone else’s eyes — someone respectful and admiring.



As a Saudi youth today, it has become an unfortunately common occurrence to face negativity from various outsiders, born of ignorance or fear. It has become dreary and repetitive to have to continually defend my people and my culture from those who have no wish to understand us.

But at this show? I saw my country once more through the eyes of an outsider, but this time, it was different. I saw my culture and my heritage lauded, celebrated, delicately fused with that tangible Cirque du Soleil flair. The attention to detail was careful, almost loving, but also daring and outlandish. It was a glorious fusion of classic Saudi aesthetics with the ethereal, bizarre beauty of Cirque du Soleil.


The symbolism was not always obvious, sometimes it was subtle, constrained to the beat of a drum or hidden in a snatch of song. Other times, it was blatant and bold, in the sloping hump of an elegantly clumsy camel costume, or the billowing of the Bedouin Big Top in the gentle breeze. And yet, unmistakeably, I felt the Saudi influences in every note of the performance. It felt like an homage, and yet it did nothing to diminish its own identity. It remained unquestionably a Cirque du Soleil performance, only below the usual circus frippery, there was a ribbon of something else that lay coiled beneath the surface. Something bright, vibrant green. Saudi green.

The spectacle rounded off with an astonishing display of fireworks, so plentiful that for a moment, the sky glowed bright as day. To me, each one felt like a promise fulfilled. A dream achieved. A miracle witnessed. Here, on my own home soil, it was the perfect tribute to a rich and vivid culture.