Hidden Treasures: The jewelry of Saudi Arabia goes on display in Dubai

Hidden Treasures: The jewelry of Saudi Arabia goes on display in Dubai
Two royal items in the exhibition: (left) A malachite, gold and diamond brooch gifted to Princess Ceeta Al-Dammer, wife of the late King Khalid; and a diamond ring belonging to one of King Abdul Aziz’s daughters. (Supplied photos)
Updated 31 March 2019

Hidden Treasures: The jewelry of Saudi Arabia goes on display in Dubai

Hidden Treasures: The jewelry of Saudi Arabia goes on display in Dubai
  • The items are on display in Dubai for the first time in an exhibition organized by L’École Van Cleef & Arpels
  • The pieces in the Art of Heritage collection reflect the history and lifestyle of various tribes and regions

DUBAI: More than 300 priceless items of jewelry from Saudi Arabia, from Bedouin belts to the brooch of a princess, went on display for the first time in Dubai this weekend, telling the story of the Arabian Peninsula as a crossroads of civilizations and influences.

The pieces in “Hidden Treasures: Jewelry from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” represent just a fifth of the collection that the Art of Heritage group in Riyadh has been assembling and preserving for more than 30 years, comprising artwork, crafts and objects that reflect the history and lifestyle of various Saudi tribes and regions since the 19th century. With another collection from Art of Heritage being exhibited in Bahrain until May, there is talk about its pieces forming the basis of a museum.

“You’ll get to see just how diverse and varied Arab culture and identity is, and how each piece is an exchange and an interpretation of places, ideas and customs,” Pramod Kumar KG, the curator of the exhibit, said at Thursday’s opening in the Dubai Design District. The exhibit was organized by the French jewelry design school L’Ecole Van Cleef & Arpels.

Each piece, with exquisite details, tells the story of identity and diversity. While the pieces were worn by women in Saudi Arabia, they reflect influences from all over — from coiled, Celtic-style bangles to abstract African designs, Egyptian snake-design bracelets, and shimmering cascades of Indian and Austrian coins. “From the works of the pilgrims that came to Makkah and stayed on and created different crafts … to the goods and influences from the trade routes that passed through, to the newer styles and creations by designers in the Kingdom, the Art of Heritage Museum, when it opens, will be one of a kind,” said Kumar KG.

Art of Heritage was established as a cultural trust, and its objects include jewelry, textiles and garments, carpets, furnishings, ethnographic material, wooden doors, books and manuscripts, maps, photos, audio and video recordings, and printed ephemera.

The trust aims to promote research and study while fostering the revival of Saudi art, craft and culture among newer generations.

Since its establishment in 1986, the collection continues to expand under the guidance of its board, led by Princess Sara Al-Faisal bin Abdul Aziz, Princess Moudi bint Khalid, Princess Haifa Al-Faisal and Princess Basma bint Majid bin Abdul Aziz.

The exhibit demonstrates that besides their role as decorative objects, women’s adornments tell a vast story of connections that reached the very heart of Arabia and amalgamated with existing traditions. “We also wanted to show how Arab culture, as retold through jewelry, is more than just an Islamic culture; it’s very rich, very diverse and very old,” said Kumar KG.

A pair of unique gold tasseled earrings from 1920 illustrates the amount of intricate detail that went into Egyptian-inspired design: A tipped hook with lower registers of filigree, pearl circlets, bezel-set stones, and a conical middle with delicate floral and crescent-shaped tassels embedded with turquoise and ending in dangling pearls.

Traditionally, turquoise stone has been associated with providing protection against the “evil eye” or hasad (envy), and the pearls with femininity and eliteness.

A 1940 ring of gold, silver and diamonds that once belonged to a daughter of the founder of Saudi Arabia, King Abdul Aziz, is an example of the early modern influence of Europe on the Kingdom, with diamonds as a stone of choice instead of the more commonly used coral, turquoise or glass. The ring is also a design innovation with its use of multiple gem setting styles.

A necklace from 1950 of silver, coins, glass and cotton, known as Iqd, has three cylindrical charm pendants that often carried verses from the Holy Qur’an as protection for the wearer.

Connected to red glass beads with dangling tiny silver tassels, the Maria Theresa Thaler coins, with an image of the empress, were renowned worldwide for their purity of silver, and so were frequently used in jewelry across the Arab world.

Another royal piece that is sure to capture the attention of anyone who sees it is a 1970 brooch that was exclusively designed and gifted to Princess Ceeta Al-Dammer, wife of the late King Khalid. The country’s emblem of crossed swords topped by a date palm, adopted in 1950, is made of gold and diamonds, and is mounted on a green malachite, a color that symbolizes paradise, life and hope in Islam.

Allegiance to Saudi Arabia is usually demonstrated by emblazoning the emblem on garments and textiles by way of embroidery. Common Islamic motifs include the crescent moon, stars and geometric designs, along with calligraphic Arabic words and verses. 




The French jewelry design school L’Ecole Van Cleef & Arpels, which organized the exhibit. (Supplied photo)

On the second floor of the exhibit, the powerful impact of what women wore can be felt as the jewelry in all its weight is draped on the busts of blackened mannequins. The faceless figures allow the visitors to imagine themselves wearing the headpieces, from a 1940 black turban of wool, silver and coral — where the talismanic coral rings were added or removed depending on the wearer’s financial wherewithal — to burqas and caps with tassels and embroidery.

“Women were proud of who they were, and they wore it for everyone to see. They maintained and nurtured cultural traditions, and passed them down to their children through their jewelry,” said Kumar KG.

There is also an impressive early-20th-century bridal collection of gold, ruby and precious stones, with an almost shield-like gold necklace and elaborate bangles ending with chains of gold linked to finger rings that would have made any bride shine.

While what they wore made them stand out, one interesting feature in most of the jewelry was tiny bells that alerted others to the presence of women nearby.

It was tradition for men to avert their gaze as a woman passed to respect her presence. At the same time, it was bound to create a sense of allure as one heard a woman pass yet was unable to look at her.

This exhibit is one of four organized by L’Ecole Van Cleef & Arpels that are currently on at the space in the Dubai Design District.

The others are “Pearl Merchants: A Rediscovered Saga between the Gulf and France at the Dawn of the 20th Century”; “Precious Art Deco Objects,” a selection of boxes from the collection of Prince and Princess Sadruddin Aga Khan; and “The Fabulous Destiny of Tavernier’s Diamonds,” a display of replicas of 20 exceptional diamonds sold in the 17th century to French King Louis XIV.

The exhibits are being offered along with courses in jewelry history and design, talks and movie screenings. “We are, beyond doubt, extremely happy to open the doors to the public and look forward to engaging with them on this creative art of jewelry journey,” Marie Vallanet-Delhom, the school’s president, said in a statement before the show.

“The varied range of free activations will provide unique experiences under the tutelage of well-known experts, which will broaden your horizon and knowledge of discovering the enamoring world of fine jewelry.”

Besides the cultural and historic significance, “Hidden Treasures: Jewelry from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” demonstrates the beauty and craftsmanship found in the smallest and most timeless of objects. 

_________

On April 11, there will be a special talk on the exhibit at 6:30 p.m. at Hai D3 in the Dubai Design District.

 


Meet the Lebanese animator Louaye Moulayess living out his Disney dream

Meet the Lebanese animator Louaye Moulayess living out his Disney dream
Updated 16 April 2021

Meet the Lebanese animator Louaye Moulayess living out his Disney dream

Meet the Lebanese animator Louaye Moulayess living out his Disney dream
  • Louaye Moulayess on why ‘Raya and the Last Dragon’ is his most personal project yet

DUBAI: Lebanese animator Louaye Moulayess was born and raised in a divided nation. With Disney Animation Studios’ “Raya and the Last Dragon,” his latest major project, he had the chance to tell the story of a fictional land not unlike his own, and to lay out a path forward for how it may be united again.

“When I saw the screening of the film, I realized what the movie is about: It's about trust and what we can do if people come together. Coming from the Middle East, I really like that,” Moulayess tells Arab News. “You see all these different lands inspired from countless places, and basically you see them individually. But if they are so beautiful individually, what can they do if they come together?

Louaye Moulayess is a Lebanese animator. (Supplied)

“That message resonates a lot with me coming from Lebanon, as all this especially applies to Lebanon,” he continues. “I was really proud to be part of something that just tells that story. I like that message. I know It sounds simple, but if we can just show this to kids and families, for me, that would make me happy.”

“Raya and the Last Dragon,” directed by Don Hall and Carlos Lopez Estrada, is set in the fictional kingdom of Kumandra, which is not based on the Middle East, but Southeast Asia. In this fantasy version of that region, humans and dragons once lived in harmony, before mistrust and political division tore the kingdom apart, causing the dragons to disappear and chaos to ensue. The film follows a princess named Raya who sets off on an adventure to unite the kingdom and bridge the gaps between the various warring factions.

“Raya and the Last Dragon” is Moulayess’s latest major project. (Supplied)

Moulayess wants people in the Middle East watching the movie to apply the film’s message of togetherness and collaboration not only to politics, however, but to all aspects of life.

“It applies especially to Lebanon, but I don’t want just that. Yes, you can apply this politically, but you can also apply this to your (apartment) complex, you know what I mean? It can be global, but you can also apply it to your circle of friends. This is the appeal for me. It doesn't have to be political. It doesn't have to be big,” says Moulayess.

Moulayess himself started small — growing up primarily in the Lebanese village of Elissar. From a young age, sitting on the couch with his brothers and sisters, Moulayess fell in love with Disney movies, and saw their ability to convey a powerful message. He knew, even back then, that was what he wanted to do with his life.

“Raya and the Last Dragon” is directed by Don Hall and Carlos Lopez Estrada. (Supplied)

“I felt something good. I'm like, ‘I want to be part of this.’ That was the first step. The problem was, I didn't see anybody do art (among) my family and friends. So I started doing computer science. And since there was starting to be computer animation, I said, ‘Maybe I can do something with the computer.’ I did computer science for a year. Didn't work. I didn't like it. It wasn't for me, basically,” says Moulayess.

Moulayess started researching, trying to figure out how he could get from his small village on the Western edge of the Mediterranean to the halls of Disney or Pixar on the other side of the world.

One day, he stumbled upon someone who could possibly help him, an animator at Pixar in San Francisco. Overcoming his nervousness, he decided to send him a message out of the blue.

Moulayess worked on the “Ice Age” films, “The Peanuts Movie” and “Ferdinand,” before finding a home at Disney, first animating “Frozen 2.” (Supplied)

“I was around 16 or 17. I emailed him and said, ‘Listen, I'm from Lebanon, this is the situation: I want to do animation. Can you help me?’ He was very kind, he replied right away. He told me, ‘Since you don't have a portfolio, try to go to this animation school in San Francisco. It’s expensive, so you’re going to have to have a job on the side.’ He just gave me a lot of good advice. And it's because of him that I made the decision to go to that school specifically,” says Moulayess.

When he’d completed his studies, he managed to land an internship at the place he had been dreaming of: Pixar.

“And guess who my mentor was? It was that animator. I said, ‘Hey, I want to show you something.’ I showed him the email I sent him when I was 16. I looked him in the eye and said, ‘I'm here because of you.’ And it was honestly a great moment. It was like everything had aligned to have him as my mentor.”

In “Raya and the Last Dragon,” he was able to put himself in the film a little more literally than you may imagine. (Supplied)

Moulayess went from working on “Cars 2” at Pixar to Blue Sky Studios, working on the “Ice Age” films, “The Peanuts Movie” and “Ferdinand,” before finding a home at Disney, first animating “Frozen 2” before taking on “Raya and the Last Dragon.” At Disney, Moulayess is not only able to add his own voice to the legacy of the greatest animation studio in history, he’s also able to thrive precisely because of his background and perspective.

“I'm very proud to be here because of the diversity that they try to push every single day,” he says. “They understand that diversity will bring more to the table. I grew up in Lebanon, and I saw movies that maybe somebody else didn't see or shows that somebody else didn't see, I read books, I saw Arabic calligraphy, I saw my culture, and I have stories to tell that my gym teacher used to tell me from the village where he grew up. I mean, who else has that stuff?

Moulayess worked on “Cars 2” at Pixar to Blue Sky Studios. (Supplied)

“At the studio, the chief creatives understand it's in their best interest to bring diversity because it means more stories, more personality. I think studios around the world are starting to understand this as well,” he continues.

In “Raya and the Last Dragon,” which he considers his most personal project among the 15 films he has so far worked on, he was able to put himself in the film a little more literally than you may imagine. In fact, one of the most memorable bit characters in the film was entirely Moulayess’ creation.

“I'm gonna give you my process,” he says. “Basically, I get asked to do shots. And for fun ones, I like to shoot references of myself in the room. I put a tripod, and I just act out the performance as much as I can. I'm a terrible actor, but I try to hit the beats that I want to hit. There’s one character holding flowers who has a very comedic moment in the film. I feel it's me, I put myself in this character. I shot the references. The directors, Don and Carlos, were laughing for, say, two to three minutes. That made me happy. They said, ‘Do exactly that.’ So I animated him exactly to my reference video. I feel that it's me in the screen.”

Moulayess smiles. “I’m going to tell you the truth,” he says. “I’m incredibly lucky.”


REVIEW: Superhero comedy ‘Thunder Force’ is a lot of hot air

REVIEW: Superhero comedy ‘Thunder Force’ is a lot of hot air
Updated 16 April 2021

REVIEW: Superhero comedy ‘Thunder Force’ is a lot of hot air

REVIEW: Superhero comedy ‘Thunder Force’ is a lot of hot air
  • Netflix’s all-star movie has more holes than a supervillain’s scheme

LONDON: Back in January, when Netflix dropped a star-studded teaser trailer for its 2021 film slate, one of the most enticing snippets was for “Thunder Force” — a superhero buddy comedy starring Melissa McCarthy and Octavia Spencer as a crime-fighting duo determined to clean up the mean streets of Chicago. The brief glimpses promised a self-aware nod to big-budget, special-effects-heavy blockbusters, but with a family-friendly air and a supporting cast with serious comedy chops (Jason Bateman, Bobby Cannavale and Pom Klementieff).

Sadly, if you saw that trailer, then you’ve seen most of the movie’s best bits already. The central premise of “Thunder Force” offers up the chance of a very different, very funny take on the superhero genre. Rough-around-the-edges forklift operator Lydia (McCarthy) is visiting her overachieving, estranged best friend Emily (Spencer) and accidentally sets off a machine in the latter’s lab, granting herself the power of superstrength that Emily had been developing for five years. After the obligatory training montage (Emily has the power to turn invisible), the pair must reconcile and protect Chicago from the ‘Miscreants’ — villains with superpowers — terrorizing the population.

“Thunder Force” is on Netflix. (Supplied)

McCarthy’s husband Ben Falcone serves as writer and director (the fifth time he has helmed a movie starring his wife), but can’t seem to get past low-brow physical comedy into anything more substantial. With the genre so overpopulated by the (mostly) very good Marvel movies, “Thunder Force” needed to be smart, funny and different if it was to stand out. It’s none of those things.

McCarthy and Spencer do have decent chemistry, but the script serves as little more than a string of opportunities for McCarthy to do impressions, overly labored running gags, (literal) toilet humor, or simply crude crotch jokes. Klementieff, at least, has some fun as powerful miscreant Laser, and Cannavale goes full pantomime baddie as The King, but it’s tough to imagine what convinced Netflix regular Bateman to say yes to the role of pincer-armed henchman The Crab. It’s a character that bears more than a few similarities to the movie as a whole: not especially funny, not really dark – just bafflingly weird.


Dubai’s LPM: Great food in a relaxed atmosphere

Dubai’s LPM: Great food in a relaxed atmosphere
Updated 16 April 2021

Dubai’s LPM: Great food in a relaxed atmosphere

Dubai’s LPM: Great food in a relaxed atmosphere
  • Sampling some simple French classics at the award-winning Dubai restaurant

DUBAI: The best way to describe eating at Dubai’s LPM — the restaurant formerly known as La Petite Maison — is to compare it to having a meal inside an exquisite art gallery.

The interiors are washed in light, natural colors, with beige leather seats and white linen tablecloths, giving it an elegant and sophisticated vibe. In fact, it felt as if we had been transported to a café in France.

The interiors are washed in light, natural colors, with beige leather seats and white linen tablecloths. (Supplied)

The white walls are bathed in warm lighting and adorned with original artworks. Wooden boxes and modernist sculptures are dotted throughout the whole area. It truly felt like we were eating at a gallery or an swanky house. But while LPM is definitely high-end and refined, it’s also cozy and welcoming.

As you approach your table, you’ll notice that it’s not empty. A pair of juicy tomatoes and zesty lemons are waiting for you. To be honest, we thought it was part of the decor until one of the waiters explained that guests can cut up the tomatoes, squeeze some lemons on top and season with salt and pepper as an appetizer as they wait for their food. Staff regularly circulate with a large basket of bread, baked in-house, too.

The roast baby chicken is marinated in lemon and cooked to perfection. (Supplied)

Even these little touches are delicious — fresh and of high quality. So it’s no surprise that the venue was recognized as the best French restaurant in Dubai by Time Out in its latest awards.

One of the simplest but most delectable dishes we had was the poivrons marinés à l’huile d’olive. The sweet red peppers marinated in olive oil were seasoned with garlic and paprika, translating all the vegetable’s natural flavors while adding a hint of sourness and smokiness.

This dish is snails with garlic butter and parsley. (Supplied)

The next dish we selected is not for the squeamish — and I speak as one who’s been terrified by bugs and creepy-crawlies since childhood. You might have guessed, it’s the escargots de Bourgogne (snails with garlic butter and parsley), and I thoroughly enjoyed it, despite my misgivings.

The texture of this protein-rich dish is unlike anything else. It could be described as akin to mushrooms, but the snails are meatier and tenderer. There is a hint of saltiness mixed with the creaminess of butter. This dish is definitely a must-try at LPM — a French classic beautifully done.

The gâteau au fromage frais (cheesecake) with berry compote is light and flavorful. (Supplied)

Another highly recommended option is the coquelet au citron confît — one of the best chicken dishes I have ever had in Dubai. The roast baby chicken is marinated in lemon and cooked to perfection; the meat itself is so juicy and tender it feels like you are eating pâté or chicken purée. The delicate flavor of the chicken is perfectly complemented by the smokiness of the roast.

For a perfect finish to your meal, we would definitely recommend the gâteau au fromage frais (cheesecake) with berry compote. It is light and flavorful and the pronounced vanilla flavor of the creamy, silky cheese contrasts with the fruitiness and sour tang of the berry compote.

The sweet red peppers marinated in olive oil were seasoned with garlic and paprika, translating all the vegetable’s natural flavors while adding a hint of sourness and smokiness. (Supplied)

LPM uses simple ingredients including salt, pepper, lemon, parsley, olive oil and butter to elevate its mix of southern French and Italian cuisine — emphasizing their intrinsic flavors. But what really sold us on the place, apart from the great food, is the casual atmosphere. It’s homey, welcoming and artistic, and a real change from many of Dubai’s other high-end restaurants. And while several of the dishes are expensive, there is plenty on offer at a cost that won’t leave your wallet empty.


Forbes recognizes young Pakistani chef focused on empowering women

Forbes recognizes young Pakistani chef focused on empowering women
Zahra Khan was recently listed on the Forbes ‘30 under 30’ list. (Supplied)
Updated 16 April 2021

Forbes recognizes young Pakistani chef focused on empowering women

Forbes recognizes young Pakistani chef focused on empowering women
  • Zahra Khan is a mother of two who runs Feya cafes and shops in London, employs 30 full-time staff and donates 10% of profits to coaching for women
  • Khan launched Feya Cares at start of pandemic in collaboration with Young Women’s Trust, which works to achieve economic justice for young women

RAWALPINDI: A Pakistani chef and entrepreneur who runs her own cafe and shop in London has been recognized for her achievements in retail and e-commerce by Forbes, which put her on its prestigious “30 under 30” list this month.

Zahra Khan, who is 30 years old and the mother of two girls, is the founder of two of London’s culinary hotspots — Feya Cafe and DYCE. She is a graduate of the Tante Marie Culinary Academy and is committed to encouraging female equality in business.

Khan opened Feya Cafe on Bond Street just months after the birth of her first daughter in 2018. The award-winning dessert parlor DYCE opened soon after, followed by the flagship Feya Knightsbridge in December 2019.

Speaking to Arab News, Khan said she was nominated for the Forbes list by her team and did not expect to be recognized.

“I had just woken up and I knew the list was going to be released [on April 9], but they were meant to send an email as well and my inbox was empty, so I was a bit disappointed,” Khan said in a phone interview. “But then I pulled up the list anyway to see. As I started scrolling down, I saw my name. It was an amazing feeling!”
 

Forbes ‘30 Under 30’ honoree Zahra Khan at her office desk in London. (Supplied)

This is how the Forbes listing describes Khan:

“Immigrant Zahra Khan defied Pakistani cultural stereotypes and launched a career in the UK focused on empowering women. The chef and mother of two runs Feya cafes and shops. She employs 30 full-time staff, hires female illustrators to design packaging and donates 10 percent of retail profits toward professional coaching for women.”

Khan said she initially went to university to study medicine but then turned towards the culinary world, graduating from the Tante Marie Culinary Academy in Woking, England, before launching Feya, whose wares include chocolates, specialty spices and jams.

Khan has been nominated for the NatWest Everywomen Awards 2020 (The Artemis Award), London Business Mother of the Year 2020 (Venus Awards), Business Owner of the Year and Businesswoman of the Year (National Women’s Business Awards 2020) and Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2019 (Federation of Small Businesses UK).

“In Pakistan, we don’t have as many opportunities for women as men. I recognize that and I also realize that I’m lucky that I’ve got the opportunity to actually move and experience living in different countries,” said Khan, who studied at Ryerson University in Toronto before going to culinary school in the UK.

“It was an eye opener, I learned so much and I wanted to bring about change when I was in the position to give back.”

 

Forbes ‘30 Under 30’ honouree Khan tackles a recipe in her kitchen in London. (Supplied)

Khan launched Feya Cares at the start of the pandemic in collaboration with the Young Women’s Trust, a feminist organization in London working to achieve economic justice for young women.

Feya Cares tackles issues faced by women within the professional space, such as racial and gender inequality; 10 percent of the profits from the sale of Feya Retail products are donated to the Young Women’s Trust. Feya Retail is the line she launched around the same time that features various luxury products such as teas, jams and chocolates.

“Every woman can run her own business, even if it is a small-scale, home-based venture,” said Khan. “I want to show that it can be done.”


What We Are Eating Today: Roxy and Lala in Jeddah

What We Are Eating Today: Roxy and Lala in Jeddah
Updated 16 April 2021

What We Are Eating Today: Roxy and Lala in Jeddah

What We Are Eating Today: Roxy and Lala in Jeddah

Roxy and Lala is a mother and daughter business inspired by the family’s grandmother, who has Spanish roots and used to be a very good baker in her hometown in Peru.
The Jeddah brand offers a type of cookie called “Alfajor,” an Andalusian cookie dating back to the 8th century. It is a variant of the popular Castilian sweet known as alaju (a sweet made of almond paste, nuts, breadcrumbs, and honey) and the name derives from the Arabic word Al-Fakher, meaning luxurious.
The recipe for Alfajor, which is made of butter, eggs, sugar, corn starch, flour, was brought to Spain by the Arabs, and the colonizing Spaniards later introduced it to America.
Roxy and Lala offer the classic Alfajor cookies with different fillings, including the original filing of the homemade “dulce de leche,” a caramel mixture that requires a lot of attention, Nutella, Italian meringue, and peanut butter.
If you want a present for your loved ones, the brand offers a Ramadan box with 30 pieces and more, with a small Ramadan lantern and Ramadan wrapping paper.
For more information and order, visit their Instagram @roxyandlalaco.sa or the website roxyandlala.com