DUBAI: Social media platform Instagram has teamed up with Bahraini artist Hala Al-Abbasi on three new stickers for Ramadan that were released on Monday.
The first sticker is an illustration of a mosque against the backdrop of star and a crescent. The second picture is a visual of tea and dates to represent Ramadan traditions. The last image is also an illustration of a crescent and stars.
According to Instagram Design’s account: “Hala Al-Abbasi, an illustrator in Bahrain, was inspired by her favorite aspects of the holiday, and chose to reflect on the ‘beautiful moments that we share together.’”
“Hala hopes that her stickers will be used throughout Ramadan to mark moments of celebration, from greetings to special suhoors and iftars, all the way to celebrating Eid,” the design-focused account added.
To use the stickers, you will need to open the Instagram Story tray and add your favorite sticker to your story.
In celebration of the Ramadan, Instagram has added a feature that allows you to see stories with these stickers from people you follow all in a shared story.
Al-Abbasi took to her account to share her excitement for the collaboration. “OMG I DID RAMADAN STICKERS!! THEY ARE FINALLY OUT (sic),” she shared in her stories.
“ENJOYED every process of creating these cute stickers for you guys! So you can use them as much as you can during your daily routine in Ramadan (sic),” the designer added.
US-Palestinian YouTuber Anwar Jibawi: Cooking up a storm
The Palestinian-American social-media star talks ‘influencers,’ collaborations, and working with his mom
Updated 17 September 2021
LOS ANGELES: “I didn’t want to be just a generic YouTuber who opened up a restaurant,” says
Arab social-media star, Anwar Jibawi, owner of Anwar’s Kitchen. Jibawi has branched out from the world of digital media, opening his own restaurant in Los Angeles — with a second location in the works.
Anwar’s Kitchen is a Middle Eastern fusion restaurant that serves dishes based on recipes first shared with Anwar by his partner in the restaurant business — his mother Amal.
“It’s been my dream to have a restaurant with my mom, so we did that in the middle of a pandemic,” Jibawi tells Arab News. “My mom does all the traditional homemade stuff. I love doing the fusion stuff — and that's our biggest seller. I’m always teasing my mom about that.”
The Palestinian-American influencer had millions of followers on YouTube, Instagram and TikTok before launching his restaurant. He began his online career in 2013 on the short-form video app Vine, and was eventually named one of the 100 most-famous personalities on that platform.
“My first video blew up. That’s why I took it seriously,” he says. “I would’ve probably continued doing it for fun, but once that (happened), I just treated it like a job from the get-go.”
Jibawi started out with comedy sketches filmed at home with his brothers. “I would do a magic trick where I’d disappear from the restroom and appear on the freeway on the toilet,” he says. “And there was no editing or VFX.”
Despite his quick rise to fame, the idea of “influencer” being a profitable career was still in its infancy at that time.
“Nobody understood it,” Jibawi says. “You’re trying to convince people, like, ‘Trust me. This is the future. You can make money.’ Then you go years without making money.”
At one point, he says, his mother “tried kicking me out of the house.” Thankfully — for both of them, and their many fans — that didn’t happen. Instead, Amal would quickly gain first-hand experience of her son’s digital fanbase, and become one of the main guest stars in his videos.
“I put her in the story once and everyone was saying ‘Put her in all your videos!’ I never knew how funny my mom was until I started putting her in the videos,” Jibawi says. “And then I was like, ‘Oh… this is where I get it from.’”
Amal remained a mainstay of her son’s content as he migrated off of Vine during its gradual discontinuation from 2016 and eventual closure in 2019. The pair began making a series of cooking videos on YouTube, which served as the inspiration for Anwar’s Kitchen.
In December 2020, Jibawi announced the opening of the restaurant in a video that has racked up more than 1 million views. But he is aware that there are plenty of skeptics.
“A lot of people think, ‘Oh, this YouTuber’s trying to open up a restaurant. Let’s see what this is about.’ You see a lot of YouTubers open up ghost kitchens,” he says, referring to kitchens that prepare food for delivery or takeout meals, sometimes for multiple brands, without a customer-facing, retail location. “They sell random stuff. I'm not about that. I’m about the quality of the food first and the experience second.”
It seems Jibawi puts the same effort and attention-to-detail into his restaurant as he does into his social-media content. Adam Waheed — Jibawi’s friend, fellow influencer and co-owner of LA eatery Dough Pizzeria — tells Arab News that Anwar’s Kitchen is “one of the best restaurants I’ve ever been to.”
Still, it's clear to most, including Jibawi himself, that Amal is the true perfectionist.
“She’ll take hours on one order,” he says. “Someone could come in and order 40 things on the menu, and my mom'll be, like, ‘Oh no! This is wrong.’ We had to get the chef in and get them on the same page.”
Collaboration has been central to Jibawi’s success, whether with family, fellow content creators or celebrities (he has worked with Mariah Carey, Marlon Wayans, and DJ Khaled, among others). Perhaps his most-famous collab so far, though, has been when he was given the opportunity to direct the former boxing champion Mike Tyson.
“I was scared,” Jibawi admits. “But he’s so cool. Directing him was not as intimidating as it sounds. He's just a super-genuine dude. To me it’s all about the chemistry.”
Jibawi currently works primarily with mobile-first media company Shots Studios for his online content.
“It’s awesome to be one of a handful of Middle Easterners to blow up on the Internet,” he says. He’s keeping that pride in his heritage going in his restaurant by sharing what he calls “a little taste of home” with the people of Los Angeles.
“I see myself nerding out over foodie stuff. I go to these events and conventions, and that’s a new thing for me,” he says.
He plans to continue to expand, but says he will likely keep all locations in the Los Angeles area to ensure that the quality of the food is maintained. So far, the only complaints he recalls is that customers turning up for a meal of Shawarma tacos and Anwar-style fries don’t get to meet the man himself.
“They always miss me!” Jibawi says with a chuckle. “I’m here, I would say, for probably an hour a day.”
So, whether you’re a follower of Jibawi’s content or a foodie looking to try a Palestinian family recipe with a fusion twist, there’s a reason to visit Anwar’s Kitchen.
La Banda’s last stand: ‘Money Heist’ comes to an end
Behind the scenes of the final season of Netflix’s smash Spanish hit
Updated 17 September 2021
DUBAI: Ursula Corbero knew that her final day filming “Money Heist” was coming for weeks. For once, the show’s creator, Alex Pina, had chosen not to surprise the actress, one of the breakout stars of the global smash hit, with another last-minute rewrite; the day had come, and (Corbero’s character) Tokyo’s part in the heist was over. But knowing it was coming did not make it any easier.
“On that last day, I was devastated. I had been going through the process of mourning for weeks, but I still couldn’t help being sad. I was not saying goodbye to Tokyo because I have decided that at least part of Tokyo is going to stay with me. But I was heartbroken saying goodbye to the crew that had become my family for the last four years of my life,” Corbero tells Arab News.
“This is a series that has brought me a lot of intense and positive things. I have grown as a person and as an actress, so it was a sad day. This is a very demanding job. I knew that I needed to put an ending to that and move on,” she continues. “But It’s one thing to agree with Alex that it should come to an end, and another thing when you actually have to live through the last day.”
The end of the series — in its fifth and final season — is equally devastating for fans across the world, who collectively helped the show (known as “La Casa de Papel” in its original Spanish) become a phenomenon across the world when it moved beyond televisions in Spain and onto the global streaming platform Netflix. In Saudi Arabia, it became perhaps the most popular international series of all time, and certainly the most popular in the history of the platform.
The show, about a group of criminals led by a mastermind known as The Professor who attempt the biggest heist in history, has become, in the eyes of many, more than just a program. For Itziar Ituño, who plays Raquel Murtillo — the investigator-turned-member of the criminal group known as La Banda — the show has become a symbol that acts as a rebuke of corruption.
“It’s truly a social phenomenon. You're seeing people singing ‘Bella Ciao,’ the show’s signature song, when they are protesting injustice. It’s truly amazing. It makes me feel proud that it's not just another TV series done for the sake of it. It's something that’s being used to fight against an unjust world somehow. I could not be prouder of what we’ve accomplished,” says Ituño.
The fifth and final season will air in two halves, with five episodes already released and the final five coming in December. For the cast, the final part was the most grueling to film, as the show stopped feeling like a fun crime caper and morphed into a 10-hour war film, as La Banda made their last stand against the Spanish government forces from within the Bank of Spain.
“It was already hard to play our roles, but as it went on, it got even harder. We watched as it gradually became an action movie, and we had done nothing like this. It became so complex (and) was by far the most overwhelming thing we ever filmed,” says Darko Peric, who plays Helsinki.
For Rodrigo De la Serna, who plays Palermo, the grueling shoot for the final season made his own last day of filming all the more affecting.
“We spent 10 months filming this war. When it ended, I remember the sunset, looking out past the rest of the cast as we all cried as the light disappeared over the horizon. That’s something I will remember. As much as these characters had gone through something together, so had we all gone through it together. It was very emotional,” he says.
But one question remains: will the ending live up to the expectations of the show’s innumerable fans? That remains to be seen. But according to Corbero, that was, more than anything else, what they focused on delivering for the 10 months that they shot the final season, and what she and Alex Pina would spend many nights arguing over.
“I’m tempted to give you a spoiler alert, but I won’t,” Corbero says. “What I will tell you is that in this last season, we held many conversations in order to make sure that the ending would meet those expectations because we need to give this show the best legacy possible. Too much work was at stake to throw it all away now with a bad ending. And I promise you, fans will get the ending they deserve.”
Highlights from Emirati artist Farah Al-Qasimi’s exhibit at the Contemporary Art Museum in St. Louis
Highlights from Farah Al-Qasimi’s ‘Everywhere there is splendor,’ which runs until Feb. 13 at the Contemporary Art Museum in St. Louis
Updated 17 September 2021
‘Pink Soap in Pink Bathroom’
The acclaimed Emirati artist’s latest show is a newly commissioned, photo-based installation that focuses, according to press material “on her personal family history through a lens of intimacy and interiority.” It includes many shots taken in her family home during a period of quarantine earlier this year.
‘Goat Farm Majlis’
“Mining her family photo albums for inspiration, she explores her family’s emigration from Lebanon to the US in the 1950s and expands on the experience of cultural hybridity—people living between and amidst multiple cultures,” the exhibition press release states. This image is typical of Al-Qasimi’s colorful, humorous work.
Al-Qasimi’s grandmother worked in the Kimball Hotel in Springfield, Massachusetts and this image includes a postcard from there pinned onto blue fabric. “The work alludes to the hotel’s glamor and the guests’ enjoyment — luxuries provided by immigrant workers, mostly from Lebanon,” according to the press release.
What We Are Playing Today: Educational card game Hawajeer
Updated 17 September 2021
If you enjoy clever and fun ways of learning about history and ancient cultures, check out Hawajeer, an educational card game that aims to teach people about the Thamodic alphabet used by residents of the Arabian Peninsula in ancient times.
It was created by Saudi graphic designer Rand Al-Dawood as her final graduation project at Princess Nourah bint Abdul Rahman University in Riyadh.
Inspired by the ancient symbols and script used by Thamodic tribes, examples of which can be found carved on rocks in the mountains of AlUla, Hawajeer includes 24 interactive cards that reveal the Arabic and English translations of the 24 letters of the Thamodic alphabet.
Users simply scan the QR codes on the cards using their smart phones, and augmented-reality technology is used to display the translations and meanings of the ancient symbols on the screen in the form of interactive 3D models.
Hawajeer, which is suitable for users in the 16+ age group, would make a great gift or a souvenir for tourists, and playing with them is sure to be a fun family activity. Visit hawajeer.wixsite.com/hawajeer to find more about the cards.
Malaysia’s top tourist destination reopens despite country’s ongoing COVID-19 crisis
Reopening of Langkawi part of domestic tourism bubble strategy to restore Malaysia’s reeling visitor sector
Only fully vaccinated domestic travelers allowed to visit island resort as 30,000 tourists expected in next 2 weeks
Updated 17 September 2021
KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian holiday resort of Langkawi on Thursday welcomed its first visitors in months as part of a government pilot project to revive the country’s coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic-ravaged tourism sector.
Langkawi has been reopened as a domestic tourism bubble in the face of Malaysia’s ongoing battle against the virus.
The government strategy is aimed at giving a much-needed shot in the arm to the hospitality and tourism industry — one of the top contributors to the Malaysian economy — after months of local travel curbs and if successful it could lead to other holiday destinations following suit.
Tight restrictions have been put in place and only fully vaccinated domestic tourists will be allowed to visit the island resort off the country’s northwestern coast.
Malaysia has so far recorded more than 2 million COVID-19 cases among its population of 32 million — one the of highest per capita infection rates in Asia — and new daily case figures remain high at around 20,000.
The country’s director general of health, Noor Hisham Abdullah, told Arab News the Langkawi Travel Bubble Task Force had divided the island into three zones to monitor developments. “All preparations have been made and we hope for the best,” he said.
Local officials said they were ready to receive more than 30,000 tourists in Langkawi over the next two weeks.
Nasaruddin Abdul Muttalib, chief executive officer of the Langkawi Development Authority, said: “We have put in proper procedures so that there is no spread of the virus.
“Passengers will be screened at entry points. If they show any symptoms, they must isolate, and necessary steps will be taken. We have thought of all the scenarios.”
Authorities are banking on the full cooperation of visitors as the project’s success could be key to Malaysia’s return to normal.
Tourism Langkawi chairman, Pishol Ishak, said: “Everybody has a role to play. If everybody works together hand-in-hand, this measure will be very successful and can be replicated in other parts of Malaysia.”
For Langkawi business owners and travelers flying to the resort, famed for its white sandy beaches, the reopening represents a big first step toward a return to normality.
Sheba Gumis, a 33-year-old tourist from Kuala Lumpur, told Arab News: “We have been cooped up in Kuala Lumpur for over a year now. Life was put on hold for so long. The virus will continue to live with us.”
Ahmad Firdaus, a car rental company owner in Langkawi, said it was high time tourism reopened for the sake of the industry’s survival.
“We have to go on doing businesses in this new norm. We need tourist spots to be open to gain income. Even if the situation is bad, we must learn to live with it,” he added.