Shooting for the big time: Regional snappers in Nat Geo photography show

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Contestants of “I am a Nat Geo Photographer”
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Contestants of “I am a Nat Geo Photographer”
Updated 20 March 2018

Shooting for the big time: Regional snappers in Nat Geo photography show

DUBAI: National Geographic Abu Dhabi (NGAD) launched the latest season of “I am a Nat Geo Photographer” last night. The four-part reality show pits four amateur photographers from the region against each other as they strive to capture a shot worthy of publication in “National Geographic Al Arabiya” magazine. The 2018 season is based in the United Arab Emirates.
Emirati artist Obaid Al Budoor, Saudi Hesham Al Humaid — a Dammam-based health-management technician, Lebanese artist Cynthia Ghousoub, and Egyptian freelance photographer Amina Sabry will face off in a series of challenges throughout the show.
The winner will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Tanzania worth over $10,000, during which they will receive guidance from Nat Geo experts, in addition to $7,500 worth of Nikon equipment.
Saudi media personality Tariq Edrees hosts the show, and main judge Marwa Abu Laila — founder of Photobia and publisher of “Photo Egypt — is joined on the judging panel by award-winning Saudi Nat Geo photographer Tasneem Sultan; Iraqi photographer Mohamed Al Daou, head of research and development at the Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum International Photography Award; Red Bull photographer Naim Chidiac; and photojournalist Jack Dabaghian. Each episode will also feature celebrity guests, including martial arts expert Rio Altaie, fashion designer Faissal El-Malak and Los Angeles-trained actor Deepak Venugopal.
Al Humaid is, understandably, thrilled to be taking part. “To be a National Geographic photographer is a huge thing,” he said in a statement. “It’s a dream for me. A NatGeo photographer, in my view, has unique characteristics; he is a person that can handle tough circumstances and can adapt to any situation.”
He believes his “love for adventure” will be a benefit, but admitted: “My weakness is my shyness, which limits my abilities.”
Appearing in front of, potentially, millions on a pan-Arab TV show should help cure that.

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

Crique du Soleil in Riyadh. (Arab News)
Updated 24 September 2018

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

  • Crique 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.