Life of Spanish spy Ali Bey who posed as Arab prince set for cinema

Moroccan filmmaker Souheil Ben Barka
Updated 30 May 2017

Life of Spanish spy Ali Bey who posed as Arab prince set for cinema

RABAT: Adventurer, Orientalist, spy: The story of Spanish explorer Ali Bey Al-Abbassi is to be told on the silver screen for the first time, two centuries after his death.
Born in Catalonia in 1767, Domingo Badia y Leblich posed as an exiled Arab prince and became one of the first Europeans to set foot in Makkah.
Yet despite mixing with the Spanish royal family, Napoleon’s top officials and some of the most notable European intellectuals of his age, he has been all but forgotten since he died in 1818.
“It’s surprising that no film has yet been made on Ali Bey,” Moroccan filmmaker Souheil Ben Barka said during a break on set. The Spaniard “was a seducer. No one could resist him,” he said.
With a budget of $17 million, the veteran director’s dramatization of the explorer’s life is set for release in five languages and 40 countries in late 2018.
After learning Arabic and serving in the Spanish army, Ali Bey was charged by Spain’s King Charles IV with overthrowing the Sultan of Morocco.
On the suggestion of Napoleon’s great diplomat and foreign minister Talleyrand, he posed as an exiled Abbasid prince, born in Syria and raised in Europe.
The explorer spent two years in Morocco, but he was exposed and had to flee. He set out across North Africa, posing as a Muslim on pilgrimage.
After meeting Romantic-era French writer Chateaubriand in Cairo, in 1807 he reached Makkah, some half a century before British explorer Richard Burton’s famous journey there.
Ali Bey spent time in Jerusalem and Constantinople before heading back to Spain, where he worked for Napoleon.
But he was seen as a traitor and forced to take refuge in France.
He published a French memoir of his travels before setting off for Makkah again, apparently as a spy working for French King Louis XVIII.
He only made it as far as Syria, where he died suddenly in 1818.
Historian Christian Feucher said dysentery was probably to blame, with a remedy based on roasted rhubarb prescribed by a French doctor in Damascus having little effect.
But others believe he was poisoned by his mistress, Lady Hester Stanhope, a British aristocrat who had converted to Islam.
“She could not cope with learning that her hero was a spy, not a descendant of the caliph and the prophet as he claimed to be,” said Ben Barka.
Yet despite his extraordinary life and mysterious death, Ali Bey has received little recognition apart from a street in Barcelona bearing his name.
Shooting started in Italy in February, but much of the film was shot in May in Morocco — in the desert dunes of Merzouga, the Roman ruins of Volubilis and the sumptuous houses of Rabat and Casablanca.


Saudi Arabia to host region’s largest global gaming tournament

Updated 18 October 2019

Saudi Arabia to host region’s largest global gaming tournament

  • The PMSC World Cup will be staged at Riyadh Front from Dec. 12 to 14
  • 16 teams from the Middle East and North Africa region compete with 16 teams from the rest of the world

RIYADH: Thousands of gamers and fans from around the globe are expected to descend on Saudi Arabia when the Kingdom hosts the prestigious PUBG MOBILE Star Challenge (PMSC) World Cup for the first time later this year.

Taking place in the capital during the Riyadh Season festival of activities, the region’s most popular mobile game will test the skills of a top international field of players.

The PMSC World Cup, set to be staged at Riyadh Front from Dec. 12 to 14, will see 16 teams from the Middle East and North Africa region compete with 16 teams from the rest of the world.

Event organizers are due to officially announce the total prize money up for grabs, but the pot is expected to top more than SR1 million ($267,000).

PUBG MOBILE has taken the world by storm since its release in 2018 with in excess of 400 million downloads. Its involvement in Riyadh Season is being hailed by gaming influencers as further indication of PUBG MOBILE’s commitment to bringing innovative technologies to the region.

PUBG MOBILE is based on “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds,” the phenomenon that took the world of interactive entertainment by storm in 2017. Up to 100 players parachute onto a remote island to fight in a winner-takes-all showdown.

Players must locate and scavenge their own weapons, vehicles and supplies, and defeat every player in a visually and tactically rich battleground that forces contestants into a shrinking play zone.

Decoder

What is PUBG?

PUBG stands for PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. It is an online multiplayer battle royale game developed and published by PUBG Corporation, a subsidiary of South Korean video game company Bluehole.