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.’”

Arabic calligraphy: Ancient craft, modern art
For the Saudi Ministry of Culture's Year of Arabic Calligraphy in 2020/21, we take an in-depth look at how the craft has developed from ancient to modern times.



Megan Fox can’t get enough of Lebanese label Andrea Wazen

Megan Fox can’t get enough of Lebanese label Andrea Wazen
Megan Fox rose to prominence for her role in ‘Transformers.’ Instagram
Updated 23 October 2021

Megan Fox can’t get enough of Lebanese label Andrea Wazen

Megan Fox can’t get enough of Lebanese label Andrea Wazen

DUBAI: It seems that Megan Fox cannot get enough of Lebanese footwear label Andrea Wazen. The 35-year-old actress is often photographed wearing the Beirut-based designer’s creations, including this week when she stepped out for an off-duty stroll in Los Angeles championing the brand’s Denver pumps in black.

The “Transformers” star elevated her mesh sandals with a faux leather cropped blazer and boyfriend jeans from her recently-launched collection with fast-fashion retailer Boohoo, paired with a bright blue JW Pei handbag.


A post shared by Maeve Reilly (@stylememaeve)

Last month, the star wore Wazen’s heels to the REVOLVE Gallery Private Event in New York City.

Fox opted for a pair of clear pointed-toe heels with gold-strap detailing, called the Dassy Sunset PVC Pumps.

She matched her heels with a sporty pale yellow jacket and matching flared pants.


A post shared by Megan Fox (@meganfox)

Also in recent weeks, Fox shared photos on Instagram wearing a pair of transparent shoes designed by Wazen that featured green criss-cross detailing.

Meanwhile in July, the star championed the designer’s lace-up Mandaloun heels in blue.

Fox isn’t the only celebrity fan of the Lebanese label, however.

In fact, Andrea Wazen is shaping up to be the next big footwear brand to watch.

Since launching in 2013, the label’s strappy sandals and stilettos have made their way onto the pedicured toes of A-listers and It-girls across the globe, including Beyonce, Hailey Bieber, Khloe Kardashian, Kylie Jenner and Addison Rae, who have all championed Wazen’s creations.

The London-born designer, who is the younger sister of Lebanese fashion blogger Karen Wazen, launched her eponymous, celebrity-approved label in Beirut following stints with some of the most renowned footwear designers in the world, including Christian Louboutin and Rupert Sanderson.

After picking up leading shoe magazine Footwear News’s prestigious Emerging Talents Award and being named Accessories Designer of the Year by Fashion Trust Arabia last year, Wazen joins a lineup of inimitable Arab female footwear designers who have seen both critical and commercial success with their brands, including Jordanian-Romanian Amina Muaddi, Kuwaiti designer Najeeba Hayat of Liudmila and Lebanese-Australian Katrine Hanna.

El Gouna Film Festival ends with ‘Feathers’ nabbing top prize

El Gouna Film Festival ends with ‘Feathers’ nabbing top prize
‘Feathers’ also won the Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival’s Critics Week. Supplied
Updated 23 October 2021

El Gouna Film Festival ends with ‘Feathers’ nabbing top prize

El Gouna Film Festival ends with ‘Feathers’ nabbing top prize

DUBAI: Egyptian director Omar El-Zohairy’s “Feathers” took home the Best Arab Narrative Film at the closing ceremony of El Gouna Film Festival on Friday.

“Feathers” tells the story of a mother who dedicates her life to her husband and children. When a magic trick goes wrong at her four-year-old son’s birthday party, an avalanche of coincidental absurdities befalls the family. The magician turns her husband, the authoritarian father, into a chicken. 

Despite its big win, the film — which won the Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival’s Critics Week — sparked controversy at the event and on social media. 

Some Egyptian filmmakers and actors, including Sherif Mounir, Ahmed Rizk and Ashraf Abdel Baqi, left the screening of the film last week because they thought the movie was offensive to Egypt.

Meanwhile, the top prize in the three main categories of Feature Narrative, Documentary and Short Film went to Finnish director Teemu Nikki’s “The Blind Man Who Did Not Want to See Titanic,” “Life of Ivanna” by Renato Borrayo Serrano, and “Katia” from Russian director Andrey Natotcinskiy.

Egyptian director Ali El Arabi’s “Captains of Za’atari” won Best Arab Documentary film, while director Mounia Akl’s “Costa Brava, Lebanon” won the inaugural El Gouna Green Star Award for raising awareness on environmental issues and the Fipresci award for Best Debut Film.

Thousands flock to Saudi capital for inaugural gaming extravaganza RUSH Festival

Thousands of video game lovers descended upon the Riyadh Front on Friday for the RUSH Festival. (Huda Bashatah/ Arab News)
Thousands of video game lovers descended upon the Riyadh Front on Friday for the RUSH Festival. (Huda Bashatah/ Arab News)
Updated 23 October 2021

Thousands flock to Saudi capital for inaugural gaming extravaganza RUSH Festival

Thousands of video game lovers descended upon the Riyadh Front on Friday for the RUSH Festival. (Huda Bashatah/ Arab News)

RIYADH: Thousands of video game lovers descended upon the Riyadh Front on Friday to kick off five days of gaming, shopping, cosplay, local food and entertainment at Saudi Arabia’s inaugural RUSH Festival. The e-sports games event is taking place until Oct. 26 in the Kingdom’s capital as part of Riyadh Season 2021.

“I’m honored to be here, it’s very entertaining,” said Othman Kisha, 23 year old software engineer from Riyadh.

Thirteen thousand tickets sold out on the first day, said Salah Chukri, one of the organizers behind the event. The first day of the gaming convention brought visitors ­— some dressed as their favorite video game characters — together to participate in a host of interactive games, compete against each other for prize money and pose with some of their favorite influencers and figures in the world of e-sports during meet and greet sessions. 

(Huda Bashatah/ Arab News)

“I love how with Riyadh Season, it’s sticking with the culture and giving everyone entertainment, such as the games and yesterday’s WWE (Crown Jewel) — it’s amazing how all these things are integrated with the culture of Saudi Arabia,” he said.

With a focus on the whole of the gaming industry, from console and PC gaming to mobile and esports, RUSH Festival aims to give video game aficionados the opportunity to access and experience the latest tech in e-games and the chance to interact with each other in real life, and online.

(Huda Bashatah/ Arab News)

“I’m in love with FIFA, I also love playing Call of Duty and will see other games here (at RUSH). I’m planning to play against Mosaad Aldossary. I want to be the first one to beat him,” said Kisha, referring to an award-winning gamer.

Additionally, the region is playing host to the PUBG Mobile e-sport tournament for the first time ever, after decamping from Los Angeles to Riyadh, with 16 teams hailing from all parts of the globe participating, including Saudi Arabian-based e-sports teams, “Power” and “25.”

“Our being here at the festival tonight let us know that we have the ambition to be innovators and to do a lot of great things,” said the 29-year-old founder of “25 E-Sports” Khalid Al-Shammari, better known by his gamer tag “KLOoODE25” — pronounced Khalloodi.

(Huda Bashatah/ Arab News)

“The e-sports gaming scene in Saudi Arabia is developing at a fast rate. In the next few years, we’re going to witness e-gaming compete at the level of sports like professional football and basketball. 

“It’ll become something foundational in sports,” he said.

25 E-Sports plays competitively in many games including FIFA, RocketLeague and Call of Duty. In over 600 championships this year alone, the gaming group came out top three in all of them, according to Al-Shammari, who personally loves to play Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto. 

“We hope to see more visitors from all over the world here in Saudi Arabia, participating and enjoying festivals like RUSH and the Riyadh Season,” he concluded.

Miss Universe UAE reveals its first 15 finalists

Miss Universe UAE reveals its first 15 finalists
Updated 23 October 2021

Miss Universe UAE reveals its first 15 finalists

Miss Universe UAE reveals its first 15 finalists

DUBAI: Miss Universe UAE has unveiled 15 out of the 30 finalists set to compete in the inaugural beauty pageant.

Organizers took to social media on Thursday to reveal the names of the first contestants, along with their ages and where they live.

The finalists from Dubai include Dilnoza, 23, Alma, Emilia, Natalia, and Anita, all 24, 25-year-olds Sara and Reem, Bahar and Victoria, 26, Franki, 27, and Anna and Asher, 28.

Jasmin, 22, and Razan, 28, from Abu Dhabi, will compete in the next stage. The one contestant from Sharjah was named as Marwa, 23.

Fifteen contestants, out of the 30 models, will be selected on Nov. 5 and the Miss Universe UAE winner will be announced on Nov. 7.

For Thursday’s announcement, the models were all dressed in covered gowns by Dubai-based label Amato Couture.

On Wednesday, pageant organizers revealed that former Miss Lebanon Nadine Nassib Njeim would be on the jury panel for the event.

In a video shared on the organization’s Instagram page, the 37-year-old Lebanese actress said: “I am very happy and honored to announce that I will be part of the official jury of Miss Universe UAE.”

To join the pageant, participants had to be aged between 18 and 28, and live in the UAE.

The committee includes founder and chief executive of Dubai’s Yugen Events, Josh Yugen, Dubai-based fashion designer Furne Amato, former British-Filipino beauty queen Maggie Wilson, philanthropist Alaf Meky, humanitarian Zel Ali, and general manager of Emaar, Sharihan Al-Mashary.

To adhere to the region’s culture, organizers revealed at a recent press conference that the swimwear segment would be eliminated from the competition. The event will feature contestants giving a personal statement and displays of couture activewear and evening gowns.

Miss Universe, which began in 1952, is the world’s biggest pageant. It was previously owned by former US president, Donald Trump.

IMA in Paris celebrates Lebanon’s artistic talent in new exhibition

IMA in Paris celebrates Lebanon’s artistic talent in new exhibition
Updated 22 October 2021

IMA in Paris celebrates Lebanon’s artistic talent in new exhibition

IMA in Paris celebrates Lebanon’s artistic talent in new exhibition
  • Highlights from ‘Lights of Lebanon,’ which presents more than 100 works from 55 artists in a show of solidarity with the Lebanese people

DUBAI: The Insitut du Monde Arabe in Paris is one of Europe’s most important repositories of Arab art and culture. In its latest exhibition, “Lights of Lebanon,” the institute “celebrates the prodigious creativity of modern and contemporary artists from Lebanon and its diasporas.”

The exhibition is split into three periods, running in reverse chronological order: 2005 to the present day (“Lebanon, a country of never-ending  reconstructions”), 1975-2005 (“The somber years”), and 1943 to 1975 (“The Golden Age”).

“What has always been the strength of the Lebanese … is that the fragility of their state never stopped them from moving forward, from building, even if they lived in constant risk. In short, they live in the present, without obscuring personal and collective memory,” the IMA’s museum curator Eric Delpont says in the show catalogue. “It seems to me that in the West, especially in Europe, we couldn’t do this, because we need a sense of security.”

Many of the works on display were donated by the prolific collectors of Arab art Claude and France Lemand. It was Claude who came up with the title of the show, explaining that he sees artists as the “Lights of Lebanon.”

“I mean above all those who have made Beirut the city of light of the East, who have shone at all times of its tormented history, even if over the decades, the dominant clans — who defend only their interests — have plunged Lebanon into political, economic, financial, social, health and even cultural chaos,” he says in the catalogue. “But Lebanon remains a country from which the light shines.”

Here, Arab News presents some highlights from the exhibition, which Lemand describes as just “just a drop in the ocean, as far as this devastated country is concerned, but at least we have the satisfaction of having motivated and even inspired many artists, of all generations.”

Zena Assi

‘Holding On By A Thread’

Assi is one of several artists from the diaspora featured in the exhibition. Claude Lemand felt it important to stress that the show was dedicated to “all those who have links with the country” and believes the fact that the diaspora is so widespread shows that “Lebanon is not just Lebanon; it goes far beyond the small country and its small population and it echoes throughout the world.”

Assi is a multidisciplinary artist currently based in London. This incredibly detailed 2012 piece is typical of her works, which — the exhibition brochure explains — are “punctuated with visual references to eastern cities, particularly Beirut, and the difficulties endured by migrants from different backgrounds – anonymous tightrope walkers clinging onto life by a thread. Her fragmented cities reflect the migratory and urban violence, and the violence in Beirut. Bundles of memories, identity-based burdens, and emotional baggage, she describes their wanderings in cities that are represented as a kaleidoscope of symbols and codes: graffiti on the walls, billboards, contemporary souks, and luxury goods.”

Shaffic Abboud

‘Cinema Christine’

Abboud is widely regarded as one of the — if not the — most important modern Lebanese artists. He is best known for his paintings, several of which feature in the “Lights of Lebanon” exhibition, and particularly for his richly textured abstract works, but this piece is something of a curio. It was created in 1964 for his daughter Christine and was inspired by the picture boxes of itinerant storytellers who would travel from village to village, enthralling the children. “Cinema Christine” is a working model of such a box, complete with magic lamp and narrative scrolls.

Ayman Baalbaki

‘The End’

Baalbaki’s bleak dystopian image was selected to open the show — presumably a deliberate statement that Lebanon has now reached rock bottom (perhaps tempered with the hope that, from such a point, the only way is up). The artist has spent much of his career exploring the numerous conflicts in the region through his art — his images of veiled fighters have proved particularly popular. This piece, created over the last five years, is less confrontational but equally powerful.

Etel Adnan

‘Al-Sayyab, The Lost Mother and Child’

The much-revered artist, writer and poet is still prolific today, aged 96, and is widely regarded as Lebanon’s greatest female artist. She is best known for her colorful impressionist landscapes, but has described her artist books (or ‘leporellos’) such as this one as “particularly important” parts of her portfolio. In the leporellos, inspired by Japanese folding books, Adnan complements her writing with drawings in ink and watercolor. “I avoided using traditional calligraphy, although it is wonderful, to highlight my personal writing, which, in its very imperfection, brings the person writing into the work,” she states in the show catalogue, which goes on to explain that Adnan uses the horizontal, foldable format to “create works that can be extended into space — ‘a liberation of the text and images.’”

Fatima El-Hajj


El-Hajj’s work is displayed in the second part of the exhibition (“The somber age”), but — as Claude Lemand explains in the catalogue — her vibrant work can be seen as defiance in the face of the violence and destruction that surrounded her as she began her artistic career around the time that the Civil War broke out in the mid-Seventies. “She experienced the entire civil war and all the wars and misfortunes that followed; she still suffers in body and soul, but she has never painted war scenes or scenes of destruction,” he says. “For her, painting is eternal; she’s developed thinking and a world that transcends war and death.”