‘Broken Wings’ — the tale of Kahlil Gibran’s first love

“The Broken Wings” is set in early 20th-century Lebanon and tells the tragic story of Khalil Gibran’s first true love, Selma Karamy. (Supplied)
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Updated 16 January 2020

‘Broken Wings’ — the tale of Kahlil Gibran’s first love

  • The co-writer of the musical based on Khalil Gibran’s autobiographical novel on why it’s still relevant more than a century later

DUBAI: When it comes to matters of the heart, we are often asked that intimate question: Do you remember your first love? It is an experience that lives long in our memories — a feeling of belonging, connection, and emotional fulfillment with another human being. But in many cases, such feelings can ultimately be crushed by disappointment and heartbreak.

Lebanon’s beloved poet Kahlil Gibran — ranked third in the all-time list of bestselling poets — was 29 when his novel “The Broken Wings” was published in 1912 — 11 years before the publication of his iconic masterpiece “The Prophet.” 

“The Broken Wings” is set in early 20th-century Lebanon and tells the tragic story of Gibran’s first true love, Selma Karamy. “I was 18 years of age,” Gibran wrote. “When love opened my eyes with its magic rays and touched my spirit for the first time with its fiery fingers.” However, in an environment that favored honoring one’s father’s wishes over following one’s heart, Karamy is betrothed in an arranged marriage between two powerful families. 




The Lebanese-British Nadim Naaman is the co-writer and leading actor of the elaborate musical production. (Supplied)

Gibran’s book has been been reinvented as a musical, which opened at London’s Theatre Royal Haymarket and was also staged at Lebanon’s Beiteddine Festival. It’s now being performed at Dubai Opera, with three shows taking place on January 17 and 18. 

The writing and composing of this elaborate musical production took nearly two years to complete. One of its co-writers and leading actors is the Lebanese-British Nadim Naaman, who explained to Arab News why the time has come to bring the spirit of Gibran — whom he describes as “the Shakespeare of the Middle East,” to the UAE. 

“Dubai is, in my opinion, the most advanced, open-minded, and tolerant city in the region,” said Naaman, who plays the role of ‘old Gibran’ and narrates the story. “The artistic facilities here are second to none and there is an attitude now of welcoming the arts and embracing what other parts of the world can offer the Gulf. This is the mentality of Gibran, who was, a hundred years ago, championing universal tolerance, peace, and respect.” 




Gibran’s book has been been reinvented as a musical, which opened at London’s Theatre Royal Haymarket and was also staged at Lebanon’s Beiteddine Festival. (Supplied)

Naaman grew up in a household that revered the profound poetry of the man many Lebanese hail as a national treasure. As a teenager, Naaman read “The Prophet” for the first time and came to regard Gibran as a philosopher, guiding readers on how to live and how to treat one another. 

“The thing that really struck me about Gibran was how impressive it was that he’s considered a national hero when, really, he spent no time in Lebanon,” said Naaman. “He emigrated to America at the age of 12 and changed the spelling of his name because he wanted to be considered a Westerner. He published his most famous book “The Prophet” in English, not in Arabic. And he never returned to Beirut after the age of 18 or 19. Now, 100 years later, the Lebanese population is the same — they have had to leave Lebanon to pursue their dreams and careers. Gibran was kind of one of the first people to do that.”




Lebanon’s beloved poet Kahlil Gibran — ranked third in the all-time list of bestselling poets — was 29 when his novel “The Broken Wings” was published in 1912. (Supplied)

Long after the death of Gibran, it seems that his often-rebellious body of work is timely, tackling universal themes such as one’s relationship with one’s homeland, women’s rights, and challenging societal norms. All these themes, and more, are explored in this accessible musical production, which Naaman hopes will give audiences a better understanding of the complexities of Gibran the man, as opposed to the writer. 

What also makes “The Broken Wings” unique in the world of musicals is the fact that it’s one of the very few West End productions that is based entirely on an Arab personality and Middle Eastern setting. As Naaman says, “Why not have a musical that is set in Beirut? Why does it always have to be Paris, New York or London?” 

In a world where representation matters more than ever, Naaman welcomes this line of thinking. “I trained in theater in London and I never once saw the real Middle East portrayed on stage, unless it was a story about war, terrorism, or things that become clichés about the Middle East in the West,” he said. “I think we needed an injection of Gibran — people need to know that the Middle East has minds like his.” 


Yara Shahidi glows on NAACP Image Awards red carpet

The US actress was nominated for an NAACP award for her role in “Grown-ish.” (Getty)
Updated 23 February 2020

Yara Shahidi glows on NAACP Image Awards red carpet

DUBAI: On Saturday night, A-listers descended upon the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, California, for the 51st annual NAACP Image Awards. Among the stars in attendance was US actress and activist Yara Shahidi, who was nominated for the Best Actress in a Comedy Series award for her role in “Grown-ish.” While the 20-year-old didn’t take home the prize — the accolade went to her “Black-ish” co-star Tracee Ellis Ross — Shahidi was a major winner when it came to her scene-stealing red carpet look.

The US-Iranian actress stepped out wearing a mint green satin minidress covered in embellishments by Gucci and a pair of chunky metallic leather platform sandals, also from the Italian house.

As for her beauty look, Shahidi decided to embrace her natural curls on the red carpet. Glowy skin, brushed up brows, a feline flick of liquid eyeliner and a swipe of reflective gloss rendered her makeup look complete.  

The US-Iranian actress stepped out wearing a mint green satin minidress covered in embellishments by Gucci. (Getty)

Other stars who turned heads at the annual awards ceremony include “9-1-1” actress Angela Bassett who accepted the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series award wearing a mint-colored, structured evening gown by Lebanese couture duo Azzi & Osta. The dress featured a waist-cinching belt with an asymmetric neckline and was accessorized with a matching emerald-green clutch and drop earrings.

Other winners on the night included singer Lizzo, who was named the Entertainer of the Year, and “Just Mercy,” which won the Best Motion Picture award, while its lead actor Michael B. Fox nabbed the Best Actor trophy and its secondary star Jamie Foxx won the Best Supporting Actor prize at the awards ceremony that recognizes entertainers of color.

Angela Bassett accepted the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series award wearing a dress from Azzi & Osta. (AFP)

Jordan won for his role as a crusading defense attorney in the film, while Foxx won for his portrayal of the wrongly convicted man he fought for.

Elsewhere, Lupita Nyong’o won the Best Actress in a Film prize for her role in “Us,” and 15-year Marsai Martin won the Best Supporting Actress award for her role in “Little” over superstar names including Jennifer Lopez, Janelle Monáe and Octavia Spencer.

Meanwhile, singer-turned-beauty-mogul Rihanna received the NAACP President’s Award for Special Achievement and Distinguished Public Service. She called for racial, religious and cultural unity during her acceptance speech. “If there’s anything that I’ve learned, it’s that we can only fix this world together,” she stated, adding: “We can’t do it divided.”