Saudi makeup artist brings historical characters back to life

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Malak Al-Qana’a at work.
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Makeup artist Malak Al-Qana’a on the right.
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Makeup artist Malak Al-Qana’a’s interpretation of mathematician Al-Battani.
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Saudi actor Mohammed Al-Zahrani playing late singer Talal Maddah and Ibn Al-Haitham.
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Saudi actor Osaid Al-Shami as Ibn Al-Khateeb. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 05 September 2019

Saudi makeup artist brings historical characters back to life

  • The General Entertainment Authority (GEA) has offered young Saudis a chance to shine with GEA Challenges, a national program to discover talent in Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH: A rising Saudi makeup artist’s passion for bringing historical characters back to life through her brushes has taken her to prestigious national platforms, to display her talent and explore promising opportunities.
Malak Al-Qana’a says she loves makeup, and that when someone likes something, it becomes easier to master.
Al-Qana’a told Arab News that her break came at Jeddah Season when she worked on the makeup for Mohammed Al-Zahrani, a Saudi actor who played the character of the late Saudi singer, Talal Maddah.
“That character was the first personality I worked on, and it was a real challenge. It was a success and that gave me an encouraging push forward,” she said.
Al-Qana’a says when she is tasked to do makeup for a certain character, she immediately goes to books to collect information about the real person’s life and how they looked.
“You can know more about someone through reading books about their works and contributions, how other people described them or what distinguishing body or facial characteristics are known about them.
All these things can help a makeup artist,” she said. She added that it used to take her some 25 minutes to finish work on a specific character, but now she can finish a maquillage session in around 15 minutes. Al-Qana’a practiced the art of makeup on more than 10 actors at Souk Okaz during the recently concluded Taif Season. Among these was Al-Zahrani, who played the character of the Arab mathematician, astronomer and physicist Ibn Al-Haitham. Al-Zahrani told Arab News that Al-Qana’a had helped him portray the characters of both Maddah and Al-Haitham. “She is such an amazing makeup artist. Her contributions at Souk Okaz exceeded our expectations. So, I will not hesitate to cooperate with her in my future works,” Al-Zahrani said.
He added that of the four female makeup artists in the Kingdom, Al-Qana’a stood out for her unique skills.
Al-Qana’a received ovations for her work creating the face of the Arab poet and philosopher Ibn Al-Khateeb, who was played during the Okaz festival by the Saudi actor Osaid Al-Shami. She succeeded in changing the innocent complexion of the young man to make it appear more like that of the philosopher. Her work on the Muslim mathematician Al-Battani, played by actor Sultan Al-Baloushi, was also applauded.
The General Entertainment Authority (GEA) has offered young Saudis a chance to shine with GEA Challenges, a national program to discover talent in Saudi Arabia.
The program, which finished accepting applicants at the end of July, will grant winners shares of SR20 million ($5.3 million), and provide training opportunities to the Kingdom’s rising stars to develop them into global artists.
GEA Challenges covered 20 entertainment categories, including musical instruments and singing, comedy writing, graffiti, animation, films, acting, prosthetic makeup, on-screen fashion, culinary arts, and circus and acrobatic performance.

Saudi pursuit of ‘green Kingdom’ goal gets a boost

Updated 18 November 2019

Saudi pursuit of ‘green Kingdom’ goal gets a boost

  • Agreement between agriculture ministry and Dubai's ICBA aimed at conserving natural resources
  • Kingdom's biosaline agriculture research and systems stands to benefit from ICBA's expertise

DUBAI: Agricultural development and environmental sustainability in Saudi Arabia will receive a boost in the coming years, thanks to a new agreement between the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) in Dubai and the Saudi Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture.

The agreement aims to enable Saudi Arabia to achieve its goal of preservation and sustainable management of its natural resources by raising the quality of biosaline agriculture research and systems.

The ministry says that the agreement will make use of the ICBA’s expertise in capacity development besides agricultural and environmental research, especially in the fields of vegetation development, combating desertification and climate change adaptation.

“It also includes training programs for Saudi technicians and farmers,” the ministry said. “In addition, it will localize, implement and develop biosaline agriculture research and production systems for both crops and forestation, which contributes to environmental and agricultural integration.”

Dr. Ismahane Elouafi, the ICBA’s director general, told Arab News: “The agreement had been in the making for about two years. That was when we were approached by the Saudi government.”

Dr. Ismahane Elouafi, ICBA Director General, at the center's Quinoa fields in Dubai. (Supplied photo)

She said: “We put forward a proposal to demonstrate how the ICBA can help the Saudi government to implement its Green Kingdom Initiative, through which the ministry is trying to restore green coverage in the country and revive old conservation practices.”

Geographical features and climatic conditions very greatly from one part of the country to the other.

In the past, experimentation with such crops as potatoes, wheat and alfalfa proved detrimental to the Kingdom’s environment and natural resources due to faster rates of groundwater withdrawal.

“The ministry wanted to put a halt to over-abstraction of water, so they went through different policies,” Elouafi said.

“They made sure, for example, that farmers stopped producing wheat because about 2,400 liters of water is consumed to produce 1 kg of wheat. It was a huge amount,” she added.

“The new strategy is to find more appropriate crops for the farming community, which is quite large in the Kingdom.”

Saudi Arabia has been trying to grow its own food on a large scale since the 1980s. 

The objective of the Green Kingdom Initiative is to reduce the agricultural sector’s water demand by finding alternatives to thirsty crops.

The agreement will require the ICBA, over the next five years, to build for Saudi Arabia a new biosaline agriculture sector. 

As part of this shift, cultivation of a number of crops, notably quinoa, pearl millet and sorghum, will be piloted in high-salinity regions and then scaled up.

“The crops did very well in the UAE,” Elouafi said. “We’re looking at Sabkha regions, which have very high salinity and wetlands, and are on the ministry’s environmental agenda.”

Another objective is “smart” agriculture, which will involve raising water productivity, controlling irrigation water consumption and changing farming behavior.

Elouafi said that getting farmers in the Kingdom to stop cultivating wheat took some time as they had become accustomed to heavy government subsidies. In 2015, wheat production was phased out, followed by potatoes a year later and then alfalfa. 

“Farmers were provided everything to the point where they got used to a very good income and a very easy system,” she said.

“Now farmers are being asked to start producing something else, but the income won’t be the same, so it’s very important at this stage that the ministry has a plan and it’s fully understood.”

The agreement envisages preparation of proposals for ministry projects that involve plant production, drought monitoring, development of promising local crop and forestation varieties, and conservation of plant genetic resources.

“We’re also discussing capacity building because the ministry is big and has many entities. Because Saudi Arabia is a large country and has the capacity to meet some of its food requirements internally, what’s required is a better understanding of the country’s natural capabilities in terms of production of the crops it needs, like certain cereals,” Elouafi said.

“The way the authorities are going about it right now is more organized and more holistic. They’re trying to plan it properly.”

Elouafi said that having a better understanding of Saudi Arabia’s water constraints and managing the precious resource is essential.


Although almost the entire country is arid, there is rainfall in the north and along the mountain range to the west, especially in the far southwest, which receives monsoon rains in summer.


Sporadic rain may also occur elsewhere. Sometimes it is very heavy, causing serious flooding, including in Riyadh.

“They (the government) are very interested in drought management systems. The Kingdom has a long history of agriculture,” Elouafi said.

“It has large quantities of water in terms of rainfall, and certain regions have mountainous conditions, which are conducive to agriculture.”

Clearly, preservation of water resources is a priority for the Saudi government. But no less urgent is the task of conversion of green waste to improve soil quality, increase soil productivity and water retention, and reduce demand for irrigation.

The Kingdom is one of at least three Gulf Cooperation Council countries that are taking steps to develop a regulatory framework for the recycling of waste into compost.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Oman are respectively aiming to recycle 85 percent, 75 percent and 60 percent of their municipal solid waste over the next decade, according to a report by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) entitled “Global Food Trends to 2030.”

Saudi Arabia and the UAE rank in the bottom quartile of the 34 countries covered by the EIU’s Food Sustainability Index, with low scores for nutrition and food loss and waste. 

The answer, according to many farmers, policymakers and food-industry experts, is a shift toward more sustainable management of each country’s natural resources.