Emirati photographer Hussain Al-Moosawi discusses his friendly facades

Emirati photographer Hussain Al-Moosawi discusses his friendly facades
Hussain Al-Moosawi is an Emirati photographer and graphic designer . (Supplied)
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Updated 14 January 2021

Emirati photographer Hussain Al-Moosawi discusses his friendly facades

Emirati photographer Hussain Al-Moosawi discusses his friendly facades
  • The Emirati photographer and designer explains how his exploration of architecture allowed him to feel at home in his country again

DUBAI: Sometimes when we paradoxically find ourselves feeling out of place in a city or country we call home, we might be able to rekindle a sense of who we are through cultural means — whether it be food, music, or language.

For Emirati photographer and graphic designer Hussain Al-Moosawi, who went to study in Australia in 2005, returning in 2013, an effective way of warming up again to his urban surroundings was through architecture.

“I was overseas for eight years and for Dubai — or the UAE in general — that was a time when a huge real estate boom took place. I would come back once a year and not see new buildings, but a new cluster, a new neighborhood. With time, I could not make sense of what was happening and I didn’t feel like I belonged to it,” Al-Moosawi tells Arab News. “So, when I came back to my city, my place, (for good), it was alien to me, because my knowledge as a designer was not mature and the space was different. At a subconscious level, I wanted to document that, to feel connected again to the place. I had to renavigate the space by looking at small details. The typologist in me wants to understand that landscape; my quest is to make sense of space.”




“Bin Ghatti Vista” is from “Facades of the UAE.” (Supplied)

Al-Moosawi involved himself in a number of projects and the resulting images may come as a surprise to outsiders (perhaps some residents too), who have likely been exposed to the UAE as a glitzy, skyscraper-lined destination of movers and shakers. Nearly five years ago, he started photographing the uniquely colorful and patterned fences around construction sites in the UAE’s residential neighborhoods.

“It’s the state of being temporary that gives these fences the license to be whatever they want. To express freely. To be yellow or pink, or a bit of both. They teach us a lesson to be free,” he wrote of that project — “Under Construction” — in a statement.

Meanwhile, in 2019, Al-Moosawi dedicated time to capturing interior and exterior details of 40 places of worship — for a variety of faiths — across the UAE, all of which have been collected in a book, backed by the UAE’s Ministry of Culture and Youth, called “In Search of Spaces of Coexistence in the UAE.”




“Liwa Tower” is from “Facades of the UAE.” (Supplied)

“It took me six years, possibly, to reintegrate and I’m honored when I say that these projects did connect me back to the community,” he says.

For the past three years, Al-Moosawi has been following what he describes as his “life calling” — developing a pictorial database documenting the geometrical facades of buildings from the seven emirates: Classical and contemporary, high-rise and low-rise, flamboyant and brutalist.

What instantly stands out in “Facades of the UAE” — which can be viewed in a group exhibit at Dubai’s Gulf Photo Plus until January 30 — is the bedazzling and repetitive aesthetics of symmetry.




This picture is from “Under Construction.” (Supplied)

“There is a natural appreciation of symmetry to the human eye,” he says, comparing the facade’s visual appeal to that of a symmetrical human face. The varying facades are full of character with their earthy tones and glassy blues, not to mention the sheer variety of window shapes. Beyond their surface, though, the buildings also reflect the influence of a wide range of foreign design styles on the country since its unification in 1971.

“Many architects who were commissioned from the 1970s and 1980s came from the region, whether it was the Arab world or the Indian subcontinent,” Al-Moosawi explains. “But from the 1990s onwards, when the international firms came in, things got a bit messy in terms of how to build. I think it’s very important to mention that in those days usually the owner of the building would commission the architect or contractor directly. (That doesn’t happen nowadays) because real estate companies took over. Today, whatever you see around you, even towers, has been commissioned by real estate firms so you don’t have that individual touch.”




This picture is from “In Search of Spaces of Coexistence in the UAE.” (Supplied)

As you’d expect from his photographs’ meticulous composition, Al-Moosawi describes himself as systematic, trusting his instincts and clearly knowing what he’s seeking when clicking the button. He says that it can be a challenge driving around and finding the perfect building or location for his project. He has so far captured around 100 buildings.

“I love architectural details. You zoom out and you see windows, a portion of the buildings and then facades,” he says. “There are so many different kinds of zoom-ins, zoom-outs, and I think facades are a good crop to give people an impression about a city.”

Ultimately, Al-Moosawi hopes his repertoire of images will be featured in a series of books – classifying the facades according to era, location, style – that can be of use to architects for analytical purposes. “Architecture is very important. People care about it, but they need to be shown these things in a specific way, because sometimes without you showing it in such a way, they don’t pay attention,” he says. “The greatest achievement for me is when someone tells me, ‘Now I started noticing these buildings.’”

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Netflix working on film about Syrian refugees-turned-sports stars Sarah, Yusra Mardini

Netflix working on film about Syrian refugees-turned-sports stars Sarah, Yusra Mardini
Syrian refugees and swimmers Yusra and Sarah Mardini pose for photographers with the trophy at the Bambi awards on Nov 17, 2016 in Berlin. AFP
Updated 40 min 22 sec ago

Netflix working on film about Syrian refugees-turned-sports stars Sarah, Yusra Mardini

Netflix working on film about Syrian refugees-turned-sports stars Sarah, Yusra Mardini

DUBAI: Netflix has announced that it has teamed up with Egyptian-Welsh director and screenwriter Sally El-Hosaini on a new film titled “The Swimmers,” based on the true story of Syrian refugees-turned-Olympians Sarah and Yusra Mardini.

The film tells the story of the two sisters and competitive swimmers and their miraculous journey as refugees from war-torn Syria to the 2016 Rio Olympics, where Yusra competed as a swimmer as part of the Refugee Olympic Athletes (ROT).

Lebanese actresses, and real-life sisters, Manal and Nathalie Issa will portray Yusra and Sarah Mardini in the upcoming movie.

They will be joined by Arab-Israeli actor Ali Suliman, Egyptian actor Ahmed Malek, Syrian actress Kinda Alloush and “The Good Karma Hospital” star James Krishna Floyd, who starred in El-Hosaini’s last film “My Brother the Devil,” which won the World Cinema Cinematography at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.  

Rounding out the cast are German actor Matthias Schweighöfer and YouTube star Elmi Rashid Elmi.

The forthcoming film will be produced by Working Title’s Eric and Tim Bevan, Ali Jaafar and Tim Cole. Stephen Daldry is the executive producer.

“The Swimmers” is set to begin production this week, shooting in the UK, Turkey and Belgium.

It is slated for global release on Netflix in 2022.


Finish him! ‘Mortal Kombat’ stars reflect on bringing hugely popular game to life

 Finish him! ‘Mortal Kombat’ stars reflect on bringing hugely popular game to life
Updated 21 April 2021

Finish him! ‘Mortal Kombat’ stars reflect on bringing hugely popular game to life

 Finish him! ‘Mortal Kombat’ stars reflect on bringing hugely popular game to life

LOS ANGELES: The cinema adaptation of much-loved video game Mortal Kombat recently hit the silver screen — and fans can breathe a sigh of relief as it’s a fairly faithful take on the hugely popular game in that the plot and characters are mostly an excuse to string together a series of fight scenes.

For action fans and players of the famously gory fighting games — which featured the ominous and oft-quoted phrase “Finish Him” just before violent wins — while not flawless, the movie is a victory.

“A lot of people grew up with these iconic video games and these pop culture icons,” said Ludi Lin who plays series mainstay Liu Kang. “The more I grow the more I learn that I’m still a kid inside. I think a lot of adults pretend to be someone that they’re not. So, I want these characters and this story to tell people that ‘your childhood actually meant something.’”

The film features several of the franchise’s iconic characters testing their might in a tournament to defend Earth and earns its audience, and its R-rating, with its fight scenes, choreographed and expertly executed by experienced stunt performers, including members the Jackie Chan Stunt Team, a group of stuntmen and martial artists who work alongside the legendary actor.

“All the actors or most of them in this film have extensive martial arts training,” Max Huang, who plays fighter Kung Lao, told Arab News. “Acting or stunts, that’s all part of the whole process in order to create a great film. So having an understanding of creating action definitely helped me to then be in front of the camera and pull off certain types of movements.”

The cast is noteworthy not only for its fighting ability but also for mostly featuring actors of Asian descent — a definite positive in Hollywood, where filmmakers have long been accused of whitewashing.  

“It familiarizes people with the culture of who we are and with seeing us in a different light… we are telling and controlling the storyline,” said Lewis Tan, who portrays series newcomer Cole Young. “I think that that will have an ever-lasting impact eventually, but there’s obviously a lot more that needs  to be done.”


Happy meal: Arab K-Pop fans share excitement over McDonald’s new BTS deal

Happy meal: Arab K-Pop fans share excitement over McDonald’s new BTS deal
The BTS meal is coming to McDonald's in May. File/AFP
Updated 20 April 2021

Happy meal: Arab K-Pop fans share excitement over McDonald’s new BTS deal

Happy meal: Arab K-Pop fans share excitement over McDonald’s new BTS deal

DUBAI: US fast food giant McDonald’s has tapped Korean pop sensation BTS to promote a new meal, and Arab fans of the boy band can hardly contain their excitement.

Many supporters of the seven member group took to their social media to express their anticipation for the Grammy-nominated boy band's meal that will be launching starting next month in nearly 50 countries, including Oman, Bahrain, UAE, Qatar and Morocco in addition to the US, India, Singapore and more.

“From today, I will just eat at McDonalds,” wrote one Twitter user in Arabic.

Another user from Saudi Arabia mentioned McDonalds in their Tweet, urging them to make the meal available in the Kingdom.

“I am not a fan of McDonald’s, but I changed my mind because of this meal. Provide it to us like you did for the Arab countries on the list,” the user wrote.

Another Twitter user wrote in Arabic: “Wait a minute, I discovered something. A few days back, Suga said he is hungry and a few days later, they collaborated with McDonald’s. He was probably giving us a hint, but we were clowns. WE WANT THE BTS MEAL IN EGYPT (sic).”

Dubbed the “BTS meal,” it will include chicken McNuggets, fries and two dips.

The burger chain has seen its revenue outside the United States drop during the COVID-19 pandemic. The company is tapping on promotional campaigns through celebrity endorsements and limited-time menu items to get customers back into restaurants as economies reopen with the roll-out of vaccines.

The BTS meal follows similar US-only deals with singers J Balvin and Travis Scott, which McDonald’s says boosted sales in the later half of last year.

The spike in demand during the Travis Scott promotion caused the company to temporarily run short of ingredients to assemble its signature Quarter Pounder burgers at some restaurants.


Lebanese style icon Karen Wazen fronts Ralph Lauren campaign with her children

Lebanese style icon Karen Wazen fronts Ralph Lauren campaign with her children
Lebanese influencer and designer Karen Wazen stars in new Polo Ralph Lauren campaign with her children. Instagram
Updated 20 April 2021

Lebanese style icon Karen Wazen fronts Ralph Lauren campaign with her children

Lebanese style icon Karen Wazen fronts Ralph Lauren campaign with her children

DUBAI: Lebanese influencer and designer Karen Wazen was recently tapped to front a new campaign for Polo Ralph Lauren, and she is sharing the spotlight with her family. Wazen features in the campaign images with her three children, twin girls Karlie and Kay, and her son George.

“Ah so happy to share with you our Family Campaign for @PoloRalphLauren!!” exclaimed the Dubai-based fashion blogger on Instagram, alongside the campaign images. “There are no words to explain the love and emotions I have for my family... they’re my biggest blessing and pride,” she added, thanking Polo Ralph Lauren for “capturing these beautiful moments together.”

It’s not the first time that the American brand has shone a spotlight on an Arab family for a major campaign.

Back in December, the label released a campaign titled “Family is Who You Love,” featuring a diverse cast of siblings, parents and children, among them Saudi sisters Sakhaa and Thana Abdul as well as British-Moroccan model Nora Attal and her family.


Actress Jameela Jamil defends US singer Demi Lovato in body positivity row

Actress Jameela Jamil defends US singer Demi Lovato in body positivity row
Jameela Jamil is well known for her body positivity organization ‘I Weigh.’ File/ AFP
Updated 20 April 2021

Actress Jameela Jamil defends US singer Demi Lovato in body positivity row

Actress Jameela Jamil defends US singer Demi Lovato in body positivity row

DUBAI: British actress Jameela Jamil took to her social media account to defend US singer and actress Demi Lovato due to a body positivity controversy this week. 

Lovato, who is best known for her role in Disney’s musical “Camp Rock,” recently called out a popular Los Angeles-based frozen yogurt shop The Bigg Chill, stating that the store’s diet options could lead some people to feel uncomfortable.  

"Finding it extremely hard to order froyo from @thebiggchillofficial when you have to walk past tons of sugar free cookies (and) other diet foods before you get to the counter,” said the “Cool for the Summer” singer, who has been vocal about her struggles with eating disorders in her documentary “Dancing With The Devil.” The 28-year-old urged the business to “do better” along with the hashtag #dietculturevulture.  

Jamil was quick to come to Lovato’s support, after the singer’s comments garnered some backlash online. Taking to her Instagram Stories, the “The Good Place” star wrote, “Ok, I want to try to avoid making the story bigger than it already is. But if an eating disorder advocate says she sees products that are positioned as guilt free, and it is potentially triggering, that doesn’t mean she’s too stupid to remember that diabetics exist. It just means that we need to change the marketing of products that are for people’s medical needs.”

She added: “That’s all @ddlovato was asking for. It doesn’t make her a monster. It doesn’t mean she disregards people’s illnesses. She’s just one of few celebrities reminding us to look out for mental illness. Guilt free is diet culture terminology.”

The British-Pakistani-Indian actress is a major advocate for body positivity.

The 34-year-old, who became a household name with her activism and role as Tahani Al-Jamil on NBC’s “The Good Place,” routinely takes to her platform to encourage people to respect their bodies and often gets candid about her struggles with eating disorders and body dysmorphia that she grappled with in her teenage years.

Jamil is also well known for her body positivity organization “I Weigh,” that focuses on self-worth and body positivity beyond weight, encouraging people to weigh themselves by their positive attributes, as opposed to numbers on a scale.