Photographers reveal Egypt’s hidden gems in show for a good cause

Photographers reveal Egypt’s hidden gems in show for a good cause
This is the group’s fourth charitable exhibition. (Supplied)
Updated 21 November 2019

Photographers reveal Egypt’s hidden gems in show for a good cause

Photographers reveal Egypt’s hidden gems in show for a good cause
  • Cairo Saturday Walks are a group of photographers who go on adventures every week to take pictures across the city
  • The team is now exhibiting its work for charity at a gallery in the city

DUBAI: The Cairo Saturday Walks team, a group of photographers who go on adventures every week to take pictures across the city, are now exhibiting their work for charity at a gallery in the city.

The exhibition brought together more than 50 local, international, professional and amateur photographers who are displaying their work in the Maadi district until Nov. 22.




The youngest participant is 13 and the oldest is 60. (Supplied)

All proceeds from the gallery will go to the restoration of a public facility in one of the underserved areas that the group has walked in and photographed during the past, according to the founder of Cairo Saturday Walks Karim El-Hayawan.

This is the group’s fourth charitable exhibition.

El-Hayawan described the practice as an “organic experience,” during which photographers discover the city’s hidden gems.




The group is displaying its work in the Maadi district until Nov. 22. (Supplied)

What started off as a one-man weekly walk is now a practice shared by 500 photographers.

El-Hayawan’s journey began after he took a basic introductory course in photography. “I did not have time during the week to work on my photography assignments. I used to go out every Saturday to take pictures and I used to post on my account. Then a lot of people started asking me ‘Where are these places? Where do you go? We want to join,’ although (these places) exist 10-15 minutes from anywhere in Cairo, but people did not notice them or had forgotten them,” he told Arab News.




The photographers walk around and discover the city’s hidden gems. (Supplied)

The group has a library of more than 15,000 pictures accessible on Instagram through #cairosaturdaywalks.

“We ask people who join us to share their pictures on that hashtag, with the intention of having a long-term documentation of Cairo,” El-Hayawan said. “Everyone takes pictures from his/her own perspective. It is extremely neutral; everyone takes pictures of whatever they want.”

In two to three years, people can go back to this documentation and see that Cairo looked this way at this time,” he said.




All proceeds from the gallery will go to the restoration of a public facility in one of the underserved areas that the group has walked in and photographed during the past. (Supplied)

A typical Saturday for the photographers starts off at a cafe. “We meet in the morning at a coffee shop and we take a little bus that we rent every Saturday and we just hit the road to somewhere random and we get lost. We call them to pick us up from wherever we reach at the end of the day. The idea is that it has no structure and I really aimed at that from the very beginning,” El-Hayawan said.




What started off as a one-man weekly walk is now a practice shared by 500 photographers. (Supplied)

The youngest participant is 13 and the oldest is 60, but El-Hayawan said that anyone can join the walk and share their pictures.

“I found out about Cairo Saturday Walks from Instagram. The spirit of people I walk with is just amazing. Also, the fact that I am Egyptian yet I still get amazed by Cairo’s streets is what pushes me to explore more every week,” Yara Wael, a 17-year-old photographer, told Arab News. 


Saudi Arabia’s most popular, and expensive, scent comes with a warning note

Lead or dye is frequently used to give the impression that agarwood is of high quality, while some stores add materials to dilute and compromise Oud’s quality. (SPA)
Lead or dye is frequently used to give the impression that agarwood is of high quality, while some stores add materials to dilute and compromise Oud’s quality. (SPA)
Updated 24 July 2021

Saudi Arabia’s most popular, and expensive, scent comes with a warning note

Lead or dye is frequently used to give the impression that agarwood is of high quality, while some stores add materials to dilute and compromise Oud’s quality. (SPA)
  • Oud sales are soaring in festive season, but some buyers are vulnerable to production scams and fraudulent sales practices

ALKHOBAR: Saudis’ love of oud — one of the most expensive scents on the market today — may run deep but when it comes to price and quality, many struggle to tell the difference.

The result, experts warn, is that some buyers are vulnerable to production scams and fraudulent sales practices.
Oud’s warm woody scent comes from the heart of the agar tree found mostly in India, Cambodia, Indonesia and nearby countries, with the cost of 1 kg of resin rising from SR2,000 to SR6,000 ($500-1,600) or even higher.
The oil is extracted from trees up to 150 years old, and Gulf countries are among the biggest importers of the product.
Considered a rarity, the oil is commonly used on special occasions, such as Eid celebrations.
Despite its popularity, many find it difficult to judge the quality of oud, with experienced salesmen agreeing that the buyer’s trust in the seller remains a key ingredient in any purchase.
Mamdouh Al-Tamimi, an Aramco employee, enjoys agarwood, amber, musk and rose water oud bought from stores at Al-Maaqilia and Deira markets in Riyadh. Recently he has switched to a single store because he believed the salesman was honest.
“I trust him, so I go to the store three or four times a year,” he said.

FASTFACT

Oud’s warm woody scent comes from the heart of the agar tree found mostly in India, Cambodia, Indonesia and nearby countries, with the cost of 1 kg of resin rising from SR2,000 to SR6,000 ($500-1,600) or even higher.

Al-Tamimi said that he prefers liquid oud, agarwood oil, musk and amber with fragrant perfumes, especially during summer, and also enjoys good-quality oud incense.
Video posts shared on social media recently claim to show how some stores cheat customers by using lead to extend oud’s storage time and make its scent last longer.
Dr. Hamad Al-Kathiri, a consultant at Lamsat Bakhoor Company, which specializes in oud products, said that fraud is a growing problem in wood and liquid oud manufacture, with lead or dye frequently used to give the impression that agarwood is of high quality.

Lead or dye is frequently used to give the impression that agarwood is of high quality, while some stores add materials to dilute and compromise Oud’s quality. (SPA)

Some stores also add materials to dilute and compromise quality, he told Arab News.
“Of course, the common goal is greed as these stores want to make quick profits.”
Al-Kathiri said that in recent years online purchases of oud products have increased significantly, while customer preferences for types of oud have changed.
“One of the key reasons is the exorbitant price of the exquisite types of oud,” he said.
Trust in the seller is a major consideration for online shoppers, although many experts warn against buying online.
“The fact remains that it is difficult to know if an oud product is original because only experts know that and are able to protect customers from falling into fraudsters’ traps,” Al-Kathiri said.
He said that men are often interested in the quality of the oud, its name, size and scent, while women generally care only about the fragrance.
Al-Kathiri said that regardless of cost, buyers are advised to test no more than three scents in a single visit to an outlet.
Customers can ask for a sample to try at home in order to judge its quality, he added.
The scent of oud lingers for varying amounts of time depending on type and quality, with some types remaining on clothing for more than two days.
“I believe there is no such thing as original and non-original oud. It is all about quality. You can say this is a good quality oud and that is not,” he Al-Kathiri said.
Mahmoud Al-Falahi, manager of Malaysia-based Almoheet Oud Company, said that natural oud is produced from trees over 70 years old, without any improvements or enhancements.
However, some oud investors add lead or dye to add weight or to make the product “more dense,” he said, warning that it is extremely difficult to tell altered oud from the original.
The most common scam is increasing the weight of an oud product to boost its price, he said.
“Some stores would rather cheat to make quick profits than stay authentic.”
Al-Falahi advised buyers to test only two types of oud when they visit a store in order to judge the difference between the scents and to see if the fragrance lingers for the desired amount of time.


New exhibition explores nature through British-Arab eyes

English-Moroccan creator Jessica El-Mal, lead artist and one of the co-producers of the installation, said her inspiration for the project came when the UK was still in lockdown. (Supplied)
English-Moroccan creator Jessica El-Mal, lead artist and one of the co-producers of the installation, said her inspiration for the project came when the UK was still in lockdown. (Supplied)
Updated 23 July 2021

New exhibition explores nature through British-Arab eyes

English-Moroccan creator Jessica El-Mal, lead artist and one of the co-producers of the installation, said her inspiration for the project came when the UK was still in lockdown. (Supplied)
  • Manchester-based installation highlights stories of migration, diaspora
  • Lead artist: ‘After the year we’ve just had, this project and exhibition is the lightness we all need’

LONDON: A new mixed-media exhibition exploring the history, achievements and experiences of Arabs in Britain through the lens of people’s relationship with nature and green space has launched in the north of England.

Free to visitors and run by the Arab British Centre, the Manchester-based installation highlights stories of migration, diaspora, and the intricacies of the Arab-British experience in all its intersections and diversity. 

Themed around the idea of nature and named “Jarda” — “garden” in Moroccan Arabic — artists will give audiences a chance to “walk in nature through Arab eyes.”

English-Moroccan creator Jessica El-Mal, lead artist and one of the co-producers of the installation, said her inspiration for the project came when the UK was still in lockdown and when parks, fields and forests became people’s only outing.

The women-led exhibition encourages visitors to appreciate the green spaces available to them, while also exposing audiences to the Arab experience in modern Britain.

“Working with this group of amazing women has made me appreciate Manchester, myself and my femininity in a whole new way. After the year we’ve just had, this project and exhibition is the lightness we all need,” El-Mal said.

Amani Hassan, program director at the Arab British Centre, said: “Since it was first launched in 2019, our Arab Britain theme has set out to explore the history, achievements and experiences of Arabs in Britain.”

The program aims to overturn preconceptions, challenge prejudices, retrace the ways the Arab world has influenced and shaped British culture and society, and celebrate the contributions of Arabs in the country, past and present. 

“Jarda highlights the universal comfort and connection we can all find in nature through intimate and personal reflections on home, belonging and the power of community,” Hassan said.

“We hope that visitors to the museum enjoy their walk in nature through Arab British eyes and are encouraged to reflect on their own connections to it.”

The physical exhibition will be accompanied by a digital offering that will give people free access to a host of creative activities that aim to encourage people to reflect on their own connections with green spaces.

“Jarda” is open now, and will run until Oct. 10 in Manchester’s People’s History Museum.


Art installation ‘Beirut Narratives’ is a testimonial from a traumatized city

Art installation ‘Beirut Narratives’ is a testimonial from a traumatized city
The text-based installation “Beirut Narratives” is currently in display in Lebanon. Supplied
Updated 23 July 2021

Art installation ‘Beirut Narratives’ is a testimonial from a traumatized city

Art installation ‘Beirut Narratives’ is a testimonial from a traumatized city
  • Text-based installation offered residents ‘a silent, anonymous way of protesting’ after the devastating port explosion

DUBAI: “I burst into tears.” “I was shaking.” “My chair flew me right above ground.” “No right to dream.” “Bitter feelings.” “Apocalypse.” 

These are some of the brief-but-harrowing testimonials from survivors of the catastrophic Beirut Port explosion of August 4, 2020, which are now being publicly displayed on the streets of the Lebanese capital as part of the text-based installation “Beirut Narratives.” The installation was conceived by Lebanese sisters, architects and co-founders of Architecture et Mécanismes, Celine and Tatiana Stephan. 

From the banking crisis to price inflation and fuel shortage, it has been a surreal year of lows for most Lebanese civilians. On the day we had arranged to discuss the sisters’ latest project, Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri resigned after failing to form a new government. 

The text-based installation was conceived by Lebanese sisters, architects and co-founders of Architecture et Mécanismes, Celine and Tatiana Stephan. Supplied

“Each one of us is thinking: ‘How can people still be so adapted to such a situation, in terms of the economic crisis and the socio-political situation?’ Everything is happening all at the same time,” Celine told Arab News. “People are, I believe, tired and frustrated. What we’re trying to do, as architects, with this urban installation is to rethink the city.”

Unlike many young professionals who are hoping to migrate or have already left the country for better opportunities abroad, Celine and Tatiana have decided to stay for now, for better or for worse, in their home country. “Beirut is like a parent to us,” said Tatiana. “When your parents are getting old, you just don’t leave them behind and go. You help them, support them and push them to be better.” 

Continuing the theme of family, Celine added: “I have two daughters. I would like them to live in Lebanon and see change happening and be part of that change. Despite its misery, chaos, and lack of infrastructure, it’s a city that inspires us at all levels.”

The Stephan sisters gathered testimonials from a diverse group of people, including friends and family, firefighters and healthcare workers. Supplied

In recent months, the pair turned their attention towards buildings and spaces in the neighborhoods of Gemmayze, Karantina and Mar Mikhael, which have been damaged and stand empty in the aftermath of the blast. In a commemorative manner, these silent and neglected buildings are given their own voice. 

“We wanted to make those buildings talk, because it’s somehow like a new way of manifestation,” explained Celine. “It’s a silent, anonymous way of protesting,” added Tatiana. 

The Stephan sisters gathered testimonials from a diverse group of people, including friends and family, firefighters and healthcare workers, all of whom were releasing pent-up anger and sadness and were willing to share their experiences of that horrific day. Children also contributed drawings to the project. 

Children also contributed drawings to the project. Supplied

For the Stephans, it was all an emotional and healing experience. “We sat with those people, we talked to them, we cried, we heard every single story. I still have goosebumps now,” said Celine. 

Divided into three categories — descriptions, emotions, and reflections — the testimonials were written out with red, black and white spray paint onto pieces of brown jute, later transformed by stitching into bold tapestries or “fragments.” According to the Stephans, who did the spraying and stitching, the use of jute was intentional, as it is accessible and serves as a reminder of the durable material used to transfer wheat into the silos at the Port of Beirut. 

The sisters and their collaborator, the Lebanese-Danish creative consultant Mira Hawa, went to different sites, personally hanging the fragments, which is in itself a risky task. “We had to go to the edge of a high building, on the 11th floor, and the wind was extremely strong. We had to improvise, we didn’t know how to install it because it was huge and there was a lot of wind,” Tatiana said of one of their challenging experiences near the port. 

The testimonials were written out with red, black and white spray paint onto pieces of brown jute, later transformed by stitching into bold tapestries. Supplied

Seeing the women lead the installation process on site was surprising for some. “Men were coming out in their sleeveless vests, with their big muscles, hanging over their balconies to see who these three girls were,” said Hawa. “One of the first comments we got was: ‘Who’s going to help you? Where are the guys?’” 

Despite encountering difficulties in accessing some buildings, they persisted and installed the work on 13 buildings. For some, the fragments proved to be too intense — akin to rubbing salt into a wound. 

“Some people were very disturbed when they saw the piece,” said Celine. “I remember one time we were not even installing; we were trying to talk to an NGO to discuss the possibility of installing. The owner of a building was there and he was really destabilized and he started crying. We felt really bad and asked ourselves so many questions: Are we making the right choice?” 

The project also tackles the notion of speaking up in an environment that often suppresses inner thoughts and feelings related to trauma. Supplied

Tatiana echoed Celine’s sentiments, highlighting how sensitive this whole project has been. “I felt that for some who were engaged in the piece, you feel in their eyes as if you put a knife into a wound,” she said. But overall, the project was positively viewed and embraced by locals. It brought out a sense of community, with many assisting the women during the arduous installation process. 

“We were touched by everyone who wanted to help, who offered us coffee, or water. They barely have anything to eat and drink,” remarked Celine. 

“Beirut Narratives” ticks a number of boxes, acting as a form of cultural activism, supporting the Lebanese people and offering them a sense of justice. The Stephans and Hawa hope that one day these fragments can also travel abroad, igniting empathy with the Lebanese diaspora. The project also tackles the notion of speaking up in an environment that often suppresses inner thoughts and feelings related to trauma. 

“We have a very painful habit in the Middle East, that every time something (bad) happens we just get on with it. I think it’s about time we stopped and made some noise,” said Hawa. “When you see the pieces on the street, it’s very bold, it’s very raw and prominent. You cannot ignore it.”


Pop-culture highlights from across the region

Pop-culture highlights from across the region
Photographed by Kishore Das. Supplied
Updated 23 July 2021

Pop-culture highlights from across the region

Pop-culture highlights from across the region

DUBAI: From indie electronica to live performances, and adorable animals to wilting trees, these are the pop culture moments you might have missed from the region.

Kishore Das 

The Indian photographer was one of five winners of the Dubai-based Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum International Photography Award’s (HIPA) June Instagram photo contest, the theme of which was “Your Pet.”

HIPA Secretary General, Ali bin Thalith explained the reason for the theme in a press release, saying: “The relationship between humans and their pets is deeply ancient. The quality of its emotions is complex; it’s rich in detail, situations and beautiful in its spontaneous reactions.”

Das won for this image taken in 2016 at the Sacribel Elephant Camp in India’s Karnataka state. “I was catching a scene in the distance when I suddenly noticed this little elephant playing with one of the caretakers near me. I wanted to capture this perfect emotional moment, so I had to use my 70-300 mm zoom lens. One of the reasons that I love this photo is because it was the baby elephant who approached and showed his closeness and interdependence,” Das said in the press release. 

It's a major win for Das, who only began a full-time photography career in February last year, after quitting his job in IT.

Gurumiran

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by miran gurunian (@gurumiran)

The veteran of the Beirut indie scene (real name Miran Gurunian) pays tribute to his Armenian roots with his latest single “Partsratsoum.” The song is based on a poem by Vahan Tekeyan, an Armenian poet and activist, known as The Prince of Armenian Poetry.

“I related a lot to the story — which is a popular poem in schools,” Gurunian told Arab News. “I composed the music to reflect the theme, which is about the advice offered by a father to his son: Aim, reach, and rise high, but take along your loved ones, because the higher up one reaches, the colder and lonelier it gets.” The track has a jazz-y, folk-y feel, with Makram Aboulhosn’s double bass, Delaney Stöckli’s cinematic string arrangement and Dani Shukri’s stuttering drum beat underpinning Gurunian’s typically tasteful guitar work. And it was written in a single day. “Everything fell into place effortlessly,” Gurunian said. 

Zahed Sultan 

“Born to a Kuwaiti father and Indian mother, I had the fluidity to straddle both cultures; navigating being bullied and feeling shame to find my (super)power,” the London-based multimedia artist wrote of his latest single, “Hindi Majnoon.” He described the track — auto-tuned vocals over a pounding Bollywood-style beat — as “a tribute to people who were ‘othered’ for being different in whichever way while growing up.” The accompanying video, shot between Kuwait and London, is, he said, “a journey through industrial crevices and societal tropes laced with nostalgia to bring you closer to the experience of migrant ‘workers’ living in Kuwait.”

Tayar

The Arabic indie duo (singer-songwriter Ahmad Farah and producer and filmmaker Bader Helalat) have released a new two-track EP called “Khams Sneen.” The title track started out as a folk song, according to Farah, but has since morphed into a largely synth-driven indie-pop number. It’s heavily inspired by US duo MGMT, Farah told Arab News, because “they wrote a lot of songs that discussed childhood and also had a sense of absurdity.”

Sara Naim

The Dubai-based photographer’s striking 2019 image “Broken Palm” is part of “Chemistry of Feeling,” a community exhibition of analog photography that runs until Sept. 21 at Dubai’s Gulf Photo Plus. “Drawing on the delicate connections between a tumultuous past year for human relationships and photography, this exhibition locates moments of slowness, micro- and macro- revolution, introspection, and the folding priorities of the present, captured in film format,” the gallery says of the show. “We invite viewers to engage with these varied personal stories, and in the process, meditate on what it is to feel, care, and see in a fraught contemporary landscape.”

LUMI 

The much-lauded, often-inactive Lebanese duo — Marc Codsi and Mayaline Hage — dropped the title track of their new EP “Eternity,” a four-track record written between 2019 and 2021 “while our home country Lebanon and the rest of the world went through unprecedented turmoil,” the duo said on social media. The record is “rooted in the feelings and emotions triggered by these strange times.”

On the title track, Hage’s dramatic vocals float over increasingly urgent instrumentation, which, they said, “resonates like an ode to transcendence, to what is above and beyond human experiences and resides inside of us, in a longing to stay connected to that energy. We find ourselves transported in a frenetic and delicious race, suspended between a wild and aggressive electronic rhythm and a transcendent voice coming from another dimension.”


REVIEW: ‘Gunpowder Milkshake’ — Navot Papushado’s thriller is all froth, no flavor

REVIEW: ‘Gunpowder Milkshake’ — Navot Papushado’s thriller is all froth, no flavor
“Gunpowder Milkshake” was directed by Navot Papushado. Supplied
Updated 23 July 2021

REVIEW: ‘Gunpowder Milkshake’ — Navot Papushado’s thriller is all froth, no flavor

REVIEW: ‘Gunpowder Milkshake’ — Navot Papushado’s thriller is all froth, no flavor
  • What could have been a celebration of female empowerment delivers condescension and confusion

AMSTERDAM: “Gunpowder Milkshake” director Navot Papushado is clearly a fan of the “John Wick” movies, in which Keanu Reeves stars as a stoic, multi-talented assassin facing off against hordes of other assassins in a series of staggeringly executed, stylishly shot fights, set in a world with its own hierarchy and rules, and a few neutral zones where violence is prohibited. And why not? The three “John Wick” movies are great.

In “Gunpowder Milkshake,” Karen Gillan stars as a stoic, multi-talented assassin facing off against hordes of other assassins in a series of stylishly shot fights, set in a world with its own hierarchy and rules, and a few neutral zones where violence is prohibited. Sadly, that’s where the similarities end.

The film stars Karen Gillan, Lena Headey and Angela Bassett. Supplied

Unlike the “John Wick” movies, the fight scenes in “Gunpowder Milkshake” are not staggeringly executed. They are clunky affairs that feel overstaged — like an amateur-dramatics group’s interpretation of a Hollywood fight scene. And Gillan, so popular as Nebula in “Guardians of the Galaxy,” is disappointingly uncharismatic as this movie’s heroine.

She plays Sam, the daughter of legendary hitwoman Scarlet (Lena Headey) who was forced to forsake Sam 15 years ago to go on the run, having killed someone who was ‘off-limits.’ In the present day, Sam is herself a stellar contract killer working for The Firm — the shadowy cabal for whom Scarlet was a regular Employee of the Month.

The movie is supposed to be a fun 90 minutes or so of great action sequences. Supplied

When a contract goes wrong and Sam kills the son of the boss of another criminal enterprise, The Firm decides it can no longer protect her. So she must also go on the run, accompanied by a young girl whose father she has just shot and who has no other relatives to look after her.

Pursued by a plethora of angry men (none of them a three-dimensional character or a worthwhile opponent), Sam and the young girl, and Scarlet (who turns up when Sam needs her most), and three female “librarians” (actually arms dealers for assassins) must fight for their lives. Women vs. men, see? But the women are the better fighters, yeah? It’s so transparent that it’s kind of insulting.

The movie is supposed to be a fun 90 minutes or so of great action sequences. Certainly, the lack of effort apparent in the dialogue and character building backs that up. And that’s fine. But when those sequences are not particularly thrilling (at no point is there any suggestion that the women are in danger of losing), what’s left?