Saudi play gets an Italian twist to round off Italian Language Week

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The adapted version of ‘Head over Heels in Saudi Arabia’ was performed at the Italian Cultural Club on Tuesday. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
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The adapted version of ‘Head over Heels in Saudi Arabia’ was performed at the Italian Cultural Club on Tuesday. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
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The adapted version of ‘Head over Heels in Saudi Arabia’ was performed at the Italian Cultural Club on Tuesday. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
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The adapted version of ‘Head over Heels in Saudi Arabia’ was performed at the Italian Cultural Club on Tuesday. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
Updated 24 October 2018
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Saudi play gets an Italian twist to round off Italian Language Week

  • The monologue was written and performed by Saudi playwright Dr. Maisah Sobaihi
  • Sobaihi explores in the play some of the complicated real-life situations that occur in the lives of married Saudi women

JEDDAH: Italian Language Week came to a close with an unforgettable, specially adapted performance of the play “Head over Heels in Saudi Arabia” at the Italian Cultural Club on Tuesday.

The monologue, written by and starring Dr. Maisah Sobaihi, a Saudi academic, playwright and performer who gives a contemporary voice to Arab women, tells the story of the complicated love lives of local women in an amusing and captivating way.

The evening began with a speech by the Consul General of Italy in Jeddah, Elisabetta Martini, to welcome the audience and introduce Sobaihi. The play was performed in English, with some Saudi cultural sayings, but was given an Italian twist for the occasion with the addition of some Italian words and phrases, which helped to make the whole audience feel connected to the story.

Marriage is a hot topic in Saudi Arabia and Sobaihi explored some of the complicated real-life situations that occur in the lives of married Saudi women. Even though the play is told from a female perspective, however, it is also a real eye-opener for men.

“These issues come up in every society,” Sobaihi told Arab News. “They are universal issues. It’s something we have to talk about and explore and then society comes together to provide different solutions.”

In a question-and-answer session after the play, Sobaihi expressed her pride in being a representative of, and voice for, modern Arab women.

“I’m always honored and happy to represent Arab women or to be a contemporary voice but I’m not sure exactly what that means,” she said. “What I can say is that I am an Arab woman and I have experiences that I’d like to share with the world, and sometimes I choose experiences from the Arab World. These experiences that I’ve shared with you here are particularly about Saudi women, so I choose experiences that are contemporary and I hope those voices come across.”

The audience certainly seemed to enjoy the performance and identify with the themes.

“I think she’s very talented,” said Saudi writer Ghada Aboud, author of the recently published novel “Bipolar.” “It’s extremely difficult to pull off an act such as this that depends on only one actress: the change of characters and how she was very capable of making the audience really connect with different controversial situations and really empathize and sympathize with the two different characters.”

Audience member Layal Turk said: “I loved it so much because it is purely talking about the situation in Saudi Arabia, especially from the women’s side. It was strange in the beginning because it is a one-women show butafter that I loved it. She’s really smart and a real artist.”

Consul General Martini said that blending cultures in such a theatrical way as Sobaihi had done was perfect for Italian Language Week.

“We really want to show how our cultures are similar,” she said. “Our cultures are similar in terms of content, but also when she was dropping some Italian words people could feel the meaning now. It was not like saying some words in a completely different language —she was keeping the attitude, even when speaking in Italian, so I really wanted to show that this, a theater performance performed in English and in Arabic, could even have Italian words and not lose the meaning. That was my main aim.

“Dr. Maisah is a great performer. She’s someone who can really speak to the heart of the people. and this Italian Language Week is dedicated to ‘networks.’ During the first part of the week, we discussed how the internet has changed our language, and in the case of Dr. Maisah we wanted to show how personal networks really can have an impact on the evolution of the language and the evolution of expression, how you express yourself.

“So we wanted to develop this Italian Language Week into two parts: how the internet and how personal networks can really make a language evolve.”


KSA’s Eastern Province residents welcome Sharqiah Season visitors from far and wide

Updated 3 min 17 sec ago
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KSA’s Eastern Province residents welcome Sharqiah Season visitors from far and wide

  • The Sharqiah Seasonfeatures over 80 events in cities acrossf the Kingdom's Eastern Province
  • Events in the upcoming weekends feature sports events as as well as concerts

RIYADH: Residents of the Eastern Province are no strangers to foreign visitors — the nation’s oil heartland has been welcoming them for years. But more have been arriving with the opening of Sharqiah Season, featuring over 80 events across the region’s cities.

Organized as a collaborative effort by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage alongside the General Entertainment Authority, the General Culture Authority and the General Sports Authority, it is the first of 11 scheduled festivals planned across the country in 2019.

Faisal Al-Rayisi, an employee at King Fahd International Airport in Dammam, told Arab News he was surprised by the number of people arriving for the festival. 

“People are not only coming from Saudi Arabia, but from all over the Gulf as well — Kuwait and the UAE in particular,” he said. “I’ve even seen foreigners from Europe and Asia coming through. Time was, we used to go to Dubai for our entertainment, but now people from Dubai are coming to us.”

He also mentioned how happy he was to see the festivities coming to the Eastern Province. “Jeddah has this slogan, ‘Jeddah is different,’ but now that we’re seeing the first Sharqiah Season in our region, and all of these amazing activities and concerts are happening here, I think we can safely say ‘Sharqiah is different’ now.”

The Sharqiah festival aims to deliver an extensive entertainment experience for both Saudis and visitors to the Kingdom.

The festival features events in Eastern Province cities, including Dammam, Dhahran, Alkhobar, Al-Ahsa and Jubail. Future seasons will focus on different areas of Saudi Arabia, with different entertainment options for each city. Upcoming seasons will focus on different areas, and also different parts of the year, such as Ramadan, Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha.

Turki Al-Sheikh, chairman of the General Entertainment Authority, said in a statement that  the organization’s participation in the festival aligns with its goal of improving the quality of life in the Kingdom, and discovering local talent in various entertainment industries.  

He also highlighted the importance of the entertainment sector and its contribution to the economy and the creation of jobs for locals, all important aspects of Vision 2030.

The opening night of Sharqiah Season on Thursday drew crowds of Saudis to the Alkhobar Corniche, despite strong winds and sprinklings of rain earlier in the day. Groups of friends stopping to take selfies and families with young children in tow wandered through the Entertainment Boulevard, lined with food stalls selling karak and koshari.

Earlier in the day, the mega event began with the opening of an exhibit featuring the work of Leonardo da Vinci at the King Abdul Aziz Center for World Culture (Ithra). 

The exhibit showcased some of Da Vinci’s original sketches, with several screens showing videos detailing how his designs have continued to inspire scientists and inventors in the modern era.

Sharqiah Season continues until March 30, with upcoming weekends featuring sports events such as the Red Bull Air Race and the Formula 1 H20 boat race, as well as concerts in Dammam featuring Akon, Deadmau5, Pitbull and French Montana.