Saudi Arabia’s culture hub Ithra announces diverse 2021 program 

Saudi Arabia’s culture hub Ithra announces diverse 2021 program 
Ithra revealed that the calendar features a slate of diverse cultural activities suited for all ages that address the fields of art, creativity, culture, knowledge and society. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 27 January 2021

Saudi Arabia’s culture hub Ithra announces diverse 2021 program 

Saudi Arabia’s culture hub Ithra announces diverse 2021 program 

DHAHRAN: The King Abdul Aziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) is set to host different cultural activities during the second Ithra Annual Gathering scheduled for this week.

The center announced the planned activities and their schedule during a meeting, which was attended by intellectuals, artists and writers.

The calendar features diverse cultural activities suited for all age groups.

Abdullah Al-Rashid, Ithra’s head of programs, said 2021 would see the launch of the Theater in Schools program, which aims to support the development of performing arts in the Kingdom. 

He said the Ithra Academy will also be launched in partnership with world-class institutions to offer training programs in different art forms to boost the cultural sector in Saudi Arabia.

Highlights of the upcoming annual gathering include the “Shatr Al-Masjid: Art of Orientation” exhibition, a deep dive into the architecture of mosques; “Seeing and Perceiving,” based on optical illusion and visual trickery; the return of the flagship creativity and innovation conference Tanween; and the annual Eid and Saudi National Day celebrations.

According to a statement, Ithra Director Hussain Hanbazazah said: “The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has led to a major transformation in how we deal with the creative and cultural industries.

“We are keen to provide innovative solutions to continue interacting with our audiences. “While the threat of the pandemic is receding, we will remain committed to providing various programs and rich content that enhance the rapid growth of the Kingdom’s creative and cultural industries.”

Ithra serves as an all-purpose cultural hub. It is a project pioneering in innovation, culture, and knowledge founded by Saudi Aramco. The ambitious center began work on May 20, 2008. 

The center’s building was designed as a collection of stones symbolizing unity by the Norwegian architectural firm, Snohetta. 

The cultural center is located at the site of the Kingdom’s first commercial oil well, the Prosperity Well.

Sotheby’s Dubai to exhibit $40 million artwork by Italian artist Botticelli

Sotheby’s Dubai to exhibit $40 million artwork by Italian artist Botticelli
Updated 8 sec ago

Sotheby’s Dubai to exhibit $40 million artwork by Italian artist Botticelli

Sotheby’s Dubai to exhibit $40 million artwork by Italian artist Botticelli

DUBAI: Sotheby’s Dubai is set to exhibit the renowned Italian renaissance artist Sandro Botticelli’s artwork “The Man of Sorrows” from Dec. 12-14.  

It will be on view to the public from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. before it returns to New York for Sotheby’s annual Masters Week sales series in January 2022, where it will be offered with an estimate in excess of $40 million.

Executed in the late 15th/early 16th century, the painting is one of the last masterpieces remaining in private hands by Botticelli. 

The artwork puts a spotlight on the artist’s spirituality, which greatly influenced his later period of work and life.

Sandro Botticelli, “The Man of Sorrows.” (Supplied)

“The Man of Sorrows” was first recorded in the collection of Adelaide Kemble Sartoris (1814-1879), a famed English opera singer, and descended in the family to her great granddaughter, who sold it at auction in 1963 for $28,000. 

Since then, it has remained in the same private collection, unseen until its inclusion in the major exhibition devoted to the Florentine master at the Städel Museum in Frankfurt in 2009 to 2010.

The work came to auction following Sotheby’s sale of Botticelli’s “Young Man Holding a Roundel” in January 2021, which was also exhibited in Dubai. 

The painting sold for $92.2 million – making it one of the most valuable portraits of any era ever sold and one of the most valuable old master paintings ever sold at auction. 

Despite the landmark sale earlier this year, works by Botticelli – from any period – remain exceedingly rare at auction. His late works in particular very seldom appear on the market, with only three other works from this period (post 1492) known to be in private hands.

Models Shanina Shaik, Sara Sampaio touch down in Jeddah 

Models Shanina Shaik, Sara Sampaio touch down in Jeddah 
Updated 06 December 2021

Models Shanina Shaik, Sara Sampaio touch down in Jeddah 

Models Shanina Shaik, Sara Sampaio touch down in Jeddah 

DUBAI: Models Shanina Shaik and Sara Sampaio touched down in Jeddah just in time for the winter festivities — and they made sure to treat their combined 10 million Instagram followers to glimpses of the Kingdom. 

Shaik, who is of Saudi-Lithuanian-Pakistani-Australian decent, took to Instagram Stories to share snippets of her trip, which included spending time at the F1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. 

“Off to the races,” she captioned a photo on her feed, in which she can be seen posing in front of a teal-colored Toyota FJ Cruiser. 

She attended the races as a guest of the Ministry of Sport, according to a pass she showed off on Instagram, and went on to share snaps of the crowded stands at the adrenaline-fueled event. 

The model also shared a short clip featuring Portuguese Victoria’s Secret star Sampaio, who made a cheeky appearance in Shaik’s video.

Earlier in the day, Sampaio shared her own clip alongside Red Sea International Film Festival Chairman Mohammed Al-Turki, who was no doubt gearing up for Jeddah’s inaugural movie festival that kicked off on Monday night. 


A post shared by Sara Sampaio (@sarasampaio)

For her part, Shaik seems to be in the middle of a jet-setting period, having just informed her followers on Instagram that she was heading back to London, from her home Los Angeles, for the holiday season. 

The UK trip came just a couple of days after the model celebrated Thanksgiving in the US with her loved ones, including her partner, record label owner Matthew Adesuyan.

According to Shaik, her trip across the Atlantic will not be a brief one. 

“I won’t be back for a long time,” she captioned a picture of her suitcase on Instagram Stories, adding “I didn’t pack light.”

She also shared a snap of her two pet dogs, writing: “So sad! I don’t want to leave my boys.”

The former Victoria’s Secret model told her 2.5 million Instagram followers that it has been a while since she took a long flight.

“Ten-hour flight wow, it’s been a while since I’ve flown that long!” she wrote.


A post shared by Sara Sampaio (@sarasampaio)

Her most recent trips include going to Miami to celebrate the Michael Kors x 007 collection in October and to Ecuador to serve as a bridesmaid for her friend and fellow model Jasmine Tookes’s wedding in September. 

And now the model can add Saudi Arabia to her packed winter itinerary.

‘All the Women Inside Me’ a complex tale of coping with family, society

‘All the Women Inside Me’ a complex tale of coping with family, society
Updated 06 December 2021

‘All the Women Inside Me’ a complex tale of coping with family, society

‘All the Women Inside Me’ a complex tale of coping with family, society

CHICAGO: Shortlisted for the 2021 International Prize for Arabic Fiction is the novel “All the Women Inside Me” by award-winning novelist and journalist Jana ElHassan. The story is about the complex life of a woman and how she copes with her family, society, and the unhappiness that plagues her. Translated into English by Michelle Hartman, ElHassan’s novel is an intimate look at the many things that seem to be out of the young woman’s control and how she navigates a path to help her survive.

Sahar is 30 years old and lives in Tripoli, Lebanon. Her story does not have a linear timeline. Instead, it is told in vignettes of memories: of her leftist father who rejects love, religion, and relationships for the sake of keeping his political persona alive; of her mother who yearns for a love that always seems too distant for her to grasp; of her husband Sami whose love she must now escape from; and of Hala, a friend whose misery matches hers but who gives her the strength to go on.

Admitting as much, Sahar observes her life just like her readers. She is disconnected from reality, which is too harsh and loveless. She believes that those who submit to reality are the ones who are caged and that she is free in her imagination to love and be loved. Although she grows up in a large house, everything has always been closed-off and separated. Each room has always been meticulously kept, not to be lived in but to show a certain decorum, as ElHassan describes: “The place was like a gun with a silencer; there was always continuous pressure on the trigger. Shots were fired and penetrated deep.”

ElHassan seamlessly weaves Sahar’s story into the city of Tripoli and its society. Patriarchy runs deep in the world of her character and so ElHassan’s story is of a woman trying to understand her position in the world, to see where and if she belongs. She explores how society reacts to this woman and pushes to the forefront the choices people have in life. Some live according to their principles, some choose joy, some choose to be miserable and subservient and scoff at those who choose independence. As for Sahar, her choice is to escape.

The hottest tickets at the Red Sea International Film Festival

The hottest tickets at the Red Sea International Film Festival
Updated 06 December 2021

The hottest tickets at the Red Sea International Film Festival

The hottest tickets at the Red Sea International Film Festival
  • Must-see movies at the long-awaited inaugural edition of Saudi Arabia’s first major film festival, which starts December 6

‘Huda’s Salon’

Hany Abu-Assad has long been one of Palestine’s most lauded filmmakers, receiving an Oscar nomination for his now-classic 2005 film “Paradise Now,” and another for 2013’s “Omar.” Both movies chronicled men struggling under occupation, uncertain of how to best live their lives for themselves, their families, or their country. With “Huda’s Salon,” Abu-Assad returns to Palestine for the first time since 2015’s “The Idol” for another true story. This one focuses on the plight of Palestinian women, however, and has been labelled a ‘feminist thriller.’ Abu-Assad’s long-time collaborator Ali Suliman brings his trademark naturalism to the role of Hasan, but it is Maisa Abd Elhadi as Reem and Manal Awad as Huda who shine most brightly, as two women caught in a suspenseful game that pushes past the trappings of the male perspective with intention.


It is unlikely that any other Arab film this year will be as hotly debated as the feature debut of Omar El-Zohairy, the latest genuine visionary to emerge from the rich world of Egyptian cinema. With this absurdist satirical drama El-Zohairy has crafted a story in which the circumstances may not resemble our own — in “Feathers,” a woman is forced to support her family after her husband is turned into a chicken — but the struggles certainly do, as the magical realist concept gives way to an unflinching look at modern society, and the very real suffering of women in rural Egypt. Already a big winner at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, the film has caused uproar in El-Zohairy’s home country, which may have denied it a potential Oscar-nomination. But doesn’t make it any less of a must-see on the Red Sea.

‘Casablanca Beats’

Morocco’s official submission for Best International Feature Film at the Academy Awards 2022, “Casablanca Beats” is a lively, often-joyous look into the country’s music culture, following a former rapper named Anas (Anas Basbousi) who takes a job at the Positive School of Hip Hop, a real-life cultural center in Casablanca. Anas’ non-traditional teaching techniques inspire his young students in ways they never thought possible, with each finding their own voice through rap, showing the intense spirit that can follow a dream ignited, as well as the pain of the societal realities that may get in the way.


Tunisia’s Dhafer L’Abidine has had a career full of twists and turns. Once a professional footballer in his homeland, he moved to London and found success in British film and television before becoming a massive star in Egypt. With “Ghodwa,” his directorial debut, L’Abidine has turned his attention back to Tunisia with a stark and serious look at the political challenges in modern Tunis. The story follows a father (played by L’Abidine) and son for whom Tunisia’s political past and present collide in ways neither is prepared for.

‘The Choice’

Ask any Egyptian director who inspired them to become a filmmaker and there’s one name that you will hear again and again: Youssef Chahine. Thirteen years on from his death, Chahine’s reputation as a chronicler of Egyptian life both big and small who showed generation after generation through his layered melodramas the many facets of what film could accomplish has only grown. If “The Choice” is your first venture into classic Egyptian cinema, you’ve picked a good place to start; this beautifully shot, thrilling adaptation of Nobel Prize-winner Naguib Mahfouz’s novel is Chahine at his best.

‘The Lost Daughter’

Given their ubiquity, we may feel that we know the Gyllenhaal family all too well at this point, but “The Lost Daughter,” the directorial debut of Maggie Gyllenhaal, shows there is plenty left to discover and that the hugely talented actor may also be one of her generation’s best filmmakers. Her adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s novel of the same name features another powerhouse performance from Oscar-winner Olivia Colman (“The Favorite”) and also gets the best out of Dakota Johnson, in this story of a woman who becomes obsessed with another woman while on holiday. It’s a film that becomes just as unsettling as you may expect from that premise.


This anthology weaves together stories from five different Saudi filmmakers — Sara Mesfer, Jawaher Alamri, Noor Alameer, Hind Alfahhad and Fatima Al-Banawi — to show different sides of a changing Kingdom. For example, an 11-year-old girl arrives at her aunt’s house one day just before Friday prayers only to find that she can suddenly express everything she had been keeping secret from her conservative parents; a bride disappears on her wedding night; and a divorced mother grapples with an anxiety disorder. The stories are bold and uncompromising, showcasing women who are destined to shape the future of Saudi cinema in front of and behind the camera.

‘The Gravedigger’s Wife’

An audience hit at Cannes, this debut from the Finnish-Somali filmmaker Khadar Ayderus Ahmed follows a man in Djibouti who discovers his beloved, vivacious wife will die unless he can come up with $5,000 for emergency surgery — a sum he has little hope of accumulating. While this intimate film is small in scale, its heart is huge, and the film’s cultural specificity and assured direction make it stand out. It’s an inviting look into an unfamiliar world that is wholly relatable, with characters you won’t soon forget and just enough social satire to leave you with plenty to discuss.


Few composers have as outsized a reputation as the late Italian maestro Ennio Morricone, and with good reason — across the 500 films he helped bring to life through his music, many have become cultural milestones, including “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly,” “The Thing,” and “Cinema Paradiso.” When Morricone passed away in 2020, the latter’s director, his old friend and collaborator Giuseppe Tornatore (head of the Red Sea Film Festival’s jury) gathered some of his most famous collaborators, including Quentin Tarantino and Clint Eastwood, for a look back at the life and work of a true genius, with all the joy and emotion that Tornatore and Morricone famously brought to the tear-stained finale of “Cinema Paradiso.”

Lebanese-Australian model Jessica Kahawaty explores Saudi Arabia

Australian-Lebanese model Jessica Kahawaty is no stranger to jetting around the world. File/ Getty Images
Australian-Lebanese model Jessica Kahawaty is no stranger to jetting around the world. File/ Getty Images
Updated 05 December 2021

Lebanese-Australian model Jessica Kahawaty explores Saudi Arabia

Australian-Lebanese model Jessica Kahawaty is no stranger to jetting around the world. File/ Getty Images

DUBAI: Australian-Lebanese model, entrepreneur and influencer Jessica Kahawaty is treating her one million Instagram fans to a tour of Saudi Arabia.

This week, the model hopped between Riyadh and Jeddah, with a pitstop in the Saudi desert, for a number of events.

She hit the ground running in Riyadh with a visit to the Times Square entertainment destination in the capital and stopped off at the Echo Beauty department store and the We Cre8 department store in The Boulevard.

“Riyadh. Wow. What a welcome. Thank you #VedaHolding a pioneer in entrepreneurship in concepts like and, for your hospitality and thank you to the people of Riyadh who found me in a quick and quiet visit to Times Square late last night after the desert and gave me the funnest welcome ever!!! Can’t wait for what’s to come soon Saudi (sic),” Kahawaty posted on Instagram alongside a carousel of images and videos of her visit.

For the occasion, she showed off a dazzling pink dress by Miu Miu.

Before her 3 a.m. trip to the mall, Kahawaty enjoyed a traditional dinner in the desert and shared a cozy-looking carousel of photos in which she can be seen enjoying kabsa in a desert camp complete with a roaring fire.

“My first Saudi desert experience with a traditional kabsa dinner (rice with lamb),” she captioned the post on Instagram.

The model, who is also an avid humanitarian, then hopped on a plane to Jeddah, during which she was treated to a meal she had been craving — a McDonald’s burger.

“They asked what cuisine I wanted, I said ‘Le McDonald’s’,” she joked on her Instagram feed.

In Jeddah, Kahawaty received a warm welcome as she arrived to stay with Saudi designer Arwa Al-Banawi before the pair enjoyed a spread of pastries and homemade goodies.

When she’s not jetting around the world, the Dubai-based 32-year-old can be found setting up charitable endeavors — evidenced most recently in her online fundraiser to support those struggling in Lebanon amid the country’s shortage of fuel, medical supplies and food in August.

“My name is Jessica Kahawaty and I, like many Lebanese expats, feel helpless watching my country and people drown in despair,” she wrote at the time.

Kahawaty said that money raised was distributed among nonprofit organizations that she personally vetted, individual families and students.