Celebrities born in the Arab world

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The “Matrix” trilogy star was born in Lebanon’s capital of Beirut on September 2, 1964. (AFP)
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The “Confessions of a Shopaholic” star was born in Muscat, where her father worked as a banker for the United Nations, in 1976. (AFP)
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The “Leon: The Professional” actor was born to Spanish parents in Casablanca in 1948. (AFP)
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The British comedian, actor and writer was born to English parents in Yemen’s southern port city of Aden. (AFP)
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The Indian actress (pictured here with her husband Aamir Ali) was born in Kuwait in 1984. (AFP)
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The US actress, perhaps best known for her role in the Emmy-winning TV show “Big Love,” was born in Dhahran in 1960. (AFP)
Updated 21 April 2018
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Celebrities born in the Arab world

Arabs love to boast of any famous person who was born and/or raised in our homeland (or have even visited it). To help you out at your next dinner party, here’s a list of A-listers that were born in the MENA region.
Lebanon: Keanu Reeves
The “Matrix” trilogy star was born in Lebanon’s capital of Beirut on September 2, 1964 to an English mother and Asian-American father. He barely lived in Beirut before moving around with his family until his parents’ divorce when he was just three years old, but hey, Neo was one of us for a while.
Oman: Isla Fisher
The “Confessions of a Shopaholic” star was born in Muscat, where her father worked as a banker for the United Nations, in 1976. The family moved to Scotland before heading to Australia, where Fisher spent the majority of her childhood before finding fame on Aussie soap “Home and Away.”
Morocco: Jean Reno
The “Leon: The Professional” actor was born to Spanish parents in Casablanca in 1948 and lived there until the age of 17, when he left to study acting in France. The glum-faced thesp went on to star in several blockbusters, including “Mission Impossible,” “Godzilla,” and “The Pink Panther.”
Yemen: Eddie Izzard
The British comedian, actor and writer was born to English parents in Yemen’s southern port city of Aden. Izzard rose to fame in the 1990s with his surreal, good-natured stand-up, and has gone on to appear in a number of box-office Hollywood hits, including “Ocean’s 11” and “The Lego Batman Movie.”
Kuwait: Sanjeeda Sheikh
The Indian actress (pictured here with her husband Aamir Ali) was born in Kuwait in 1984. She moved to Mumbai to help a friend open a dance academy before landing the role of Nimmo in TV show “Kyaa Hoga Nimmo Kaa” in 2005. Sheikh recently starred in the romantic drama series “Love Ka Hai Intezaar.”
Saudi Arabia: Melora Walters
The US actress, perhaps best known for her role as Wanda Henrickson in the Emmy-winning, Mormon-baiting TV show “Big Love,” was born in Dhahran in 1960. The well-respected actress is a favorite of acclaimed director Paul Thomas Anderson, appearing in several of his movies.


Rare silk Qur’an helps preserve Afghanistan’s cultural heritage

Updated 23 May 2018
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Rare silk Qur’an helps preserve Afghanistan’s cultural heritage

  • Each of the Islamic holy book’s 610 pages was produced by hand in a painstaking process that took a team of 38 calligraphers and artists specializing in miniatures nearly two years to finish
  • Turquoise Mountain began work in 2006 in Kabul with the aim of preserving ancient Afghan craftsmanship, including ceramics, carpentry and calligraphy

KABUL: One of the only Qur’ans ever made from silk fabric has been completed in Afghanistan — a feat its creators hope will help preserve the country’s centuries-old tradition of calligraphy.
Each of the Islamic holy book’s 610 pages was produced by hand in a painstaking process that took a team of 38 calligraphers and artists specializing in miniatures nearly two years to finish.
Bound in goat leather and weighing 8.6 kilograms, the Qur’an was produced by Afghan artisans, many of them trained at British foundation Turquoise Mountain in Kabul.
“Our intention was to ensure that calligraphy does not die out in this country — writing is part of our culture,” Khwaja Qamaruddin Chishti, a 66-year-old master calligrapher, said in a cramped office inside Turquoise Mountain’s labyrinthine mud-brick and wood-paneled complex.
With the Qur’an considered a sacred text, calligraphy is highly venerated in Islam and Islamic art.
“When it comes to art we cannot put a price on it. God has entrusted us with this work (the Qur’an) ... and this means more to us than the financial aspect,” Chishti continued.
Using a bamboo or reed ink pen, Chishti and his fellow calligraphers spent up to two days carefully copying Qur’anic verses onto a single page — sometimes longer if they made a mistake and had to start again.
They used the Naskh script, a calligraphic style developed in early Islam to replace Kufic because it was easier to read and write.
The decoration around the script, known as illumination, was more time-consuming, each page taking more than a week to complete.
A team of artists used paint made from natural materials, including ground lapis, gold and bronze, to recreate the delicate patterns popular during the Timurid dynasty in the 15th and 16th centuries in the western city of Herat.
“All the colors we have used are from nature,” Mohammad Tamim Sahibzada, a master miniature artist who was responsible for creating the vibrant colors used in the Qur’an, said.
Sahibzada said working on silk fabric for the first time was challenging. The locally sourced material — all 305 meters (1,000 feet) of it — was treated in a solution made from the dried seeds of ispaghula, or psyllium, to stop the ink from spreading.
Turquoise Mountain began work in 2006 in Kabul with the aim of preserving ancient Afghan craftsmanship, including ceramics, carpentry and calligraphy.
It hopes the silk Qur’an will generate demand for more handmade Islamic religious texts that could create employment for its artisans and help finance the institute.
“We will show it to other Islamic countries to see if it is possible to create job opportunities for graduates to work on another Qur’an,” said Abdul Waheed Khalili, the organization’s Afghan director.
For now, it will be kept in a specially made hand-carved walnut wooden box to protect its delicate pages from the elements at Turquoise Mountain’s offices, which are in the restored Murad Khani, a historic commercial and residential area in Kabul’s oldest district.
There Turquoise Mountain has trained thousands of artisans with the support of Britain’s Prince Charles, the British Council, and USAID.
“The copying of the Qur’an onto silk is very rare,” country director Nathan Stroupe said.
He said the project has been “an amazing way to train our students at an incredibly high level in a very traditional type of work.”
“If a book collector in London... was interested in it, we would be thinking in the $100,000 to $200,000 (price) range,” he added.