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.”


Middle East's love affair with the moon and space

Updated 11 min 5 sec ago
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Middle East's love affair with the moon and space

  • The UAE and Saudi Arabia are inaugurating a new era of Arab space exploration
  • Saudi Prince Sultan entered the history books when he journeyed into space on Discovery in 1985

RIYADH: It was a sleepy afternoon in Saudi Arabia, just days before schools were due to start after summer vacation. 

Fifty years ago today, Saudis joined the world in gathering around TV sets to watch a live broadcast of what was once thought impossible: American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took man’s first steps on the moon. 

Armstrong famously said: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” True to his words, advancement in space has skyrocketed since the Apollo 11 mission, opening up doors for space scientists to reach for the stars.

It was only 16 years later that Saudi Prince Sultan bin Salman became the first Arab, Muslim — and royal — astronaut to travel into space. Before traveling to Houston for the Apollo mission anniversary, he sat down with Arab News in an exclusive interview to talk about his NASA mission aboard the space shuttle Discovery in June 1985.

Prince Sultan, recently appointed chairman of the Saudi Space Commission, was only 13 when he watched the historic moon landing on TV. The picture quality might have been poor and the sound garbled, but footage of the landing captured his imagination.

“Humans made airplanes and made advances in industry, but for humans to leave their own planet, that’s really something else,” Prince Sultan told Arab News. 

Most Saudis and residents living in the Kingdom watched it on Saudi channels 1 and 3, owned by Saudi Aramco.

Hessah Al-Sobaie, a housewife from Al-Dawadmi, recalled watching the moon landing from her grandparents’ backyard as an 11-year-old. “It felt weird watching a human walk on the moon,” she told Arab News. “I remember the endless questions I asked as a child.”

It has been more than 30 years since space last had an Arab visitor (Syria’s Muhammed Faris became the second Arab in space on board USSR’s Soyuz spacecraft in 1987). But this September, the first Emirati will become the latest Arab visitor when he joins a team of astronauts at the International Space Station (ISS).

Hazza Al-Mansoori will travel to space on board a Soyuz-MS 15 spacecraft that is due to take off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Sept. 25.