Egyptian opera takes Jeddah audience on a musical journey

Egyptian singer Sabreen Al-Nijain performs at the Cairo opera in Dar Al-Hekma University, Jeddah. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
Updated 07 July 2018
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Egyptian opera takes Jeddah audience on a musical journey

  • The show began with an instrumental version of “Zai Al-Hawa” (“Like the Wind”) by Abdel Halim Hafez
  • I have listened to a lot of Egyptian songs and coming here I was not disappointed: fan

JEDDAH: An Egyptian opera performance delighted a Jeddah audience on Thursday with a blend of music and tradition in the Dar Al-Hekma University auditorium.

University students were among the audience gathered in the auditorium. The show began with an instrumental version of “Zai Al-Hawa” (“Like the Wind”) by Abdel Halim Hafez.

Singer Sabreen Al-Nijain took to the stage to deliver a stunning performance.

The music fused traditional forms with modern instruments. After Al-Nijain, another singer, Ahmad Effat, won a standing ovation for the quality of his performance.

The orchestra played an instrumental version of “Alf Leila Wa Leila” by the late Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum.

The show ended with an eruption of applause, cheers and whistles as the performers came on stage to bid their final goodbye.

In an interview, Al-Nijain said: “I am very very happy to be performing here, the crowd is great, and the people are great. The one thing I found common between here and Egypt is that people are thirsty for good music, and they love songs that are old and traditional.

“We thank the organizers here because I feel honored. I want to perform again for the amazing crowd in the future.” 

Effat told Arab News: “Ever since I was a child I learned how to sing. When kids are supposed to be learning how to speak, I learned how to sing, so later when I received encouragement I worked harder. In the time I spent here what touched me most was the standing ovation. An artist doesn’t take money from a performance — they take the appreciation and respect they get.”

He said: “Opera is the only place that encapsulates the traditions of the Arab world, it is respected around the world.”

The orchestra’s conductor, Mustafa Hilmi, greeted the audience after the show. “I did two shows last month in Riyadh. We try to make different choices in the show, things we have never done before. People here are passionate about music and they sing along to Egyptian songs which is amazing.

“We choose songs based on trends and traditions. We try to preserve our old Egyptian songs and add something new so that the listeners of this generation don’t get bored by the same old songs.”

Sarah Ahmad, 23, who attended the opera said: “I have listened to a lot of Egyptian songs and coming here I was not disappointed. The music was great, the singers sang beautifully and the song choice was amazing.”


Opulence goes low: China opens luxury hotel in quarry

Updated 15 November 2018
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Opulence goes low: China opens luxury hotel in quarry

  • The subterranean 17-floor hotel is about an hour’s drive from the center of Shanghai,
  • ‘It’s a project that’s completely new, a project we have never encountered before’

SHANGHAI: A hotel development sunk into a disused quarry in China opened its doors Thursday to deep-pocketed clientele.
Preventing the 88-meter-deep (290 feet) pit from flooding was among the chief challenges for engineers working on the swanky 336-room InterContinental Shanghai Wonderland — part of a $288 million development that also includes a theme park.
The hotel, which is one of a growing number of bold architectural designs springing up in China, hugs one side of the pit wall, with a waterfall cascading down the opposite face.
The subterranean 17-floor hotel is about an hour’s drive from the center of Shanghai, with room charges starting at 3,394 yuan ($490) a night.
There is a floor of suites below the water level, but don’t expect to gaze directly into the depths of Shenkeng Quarry — the windows are instead buffered by large fish tanks.
“Why do we say there is nothing in the world that compares to the quarry hotel project?” Chen Xiaoxiang, chief engineer with the real estate giant, Shimao Property, said.
“It’s a project that’s completely new, a project we have never encountered before.
“There were no references, cases or experience we could learn from to solve all the difficulties,” he said.
That meant engineers were met with unexpected problems.
Before construction started in 2013, for example, heavy rainfall caused a nearby river to overflow into the quarry, filling half of it.
“If something like that had happened after construction was complete, it would have been a devastating blow,” Chen said.
Designers built an embankment around the edge of the pit to prevent that happening in future, when hundreds of well-heeled guests are sipping cocktails on the deck far below.
A pump house is used to help regulate water levels.
The waterfall is one of the development’s most eye-catching features. Adventurous guests can also indulge in rock climbing.
The project’s masterminds talk up its environmental bona fides, saying abandoned quarries often become landfills.
“This was a totally unique idea, to really do something special with a site that was forgotten and nobody knew what to do with, and to give it new life,” said Martin Jochman, a British architect with the project since it started 12 years ago.
“I never lost my belief that it would be done one day, but it is here now, and I am really excited and amazed by the whole thing,” he said.
China’s rapid economic growth has been accompanied by a construction boom that often throws up outlandish designs.
The Beijing headquarters of state broadcaster China Central Television has been nicknamed “The Big Underpants” because it resembles a giant pelvis.
A skyscraper built this year in southwestern China features a 108-meter waterfall tumbling down one side.