How Canadian-Lebanese architect Samir Saddi is trying to rebuild the Arab world

How Canadian-Lebanese architect Samir Saddi is trying to rebuild the Arab world
This is an image of Ibn Toulon Mosque in old Cairo. (Supplied)
Short Url
Updated 29 May 2021

How Canadian-Lebanese architect Samir Saddi is trying to rebuild the Arab world

How Canadian-Lebanese architect Samir Saddi is trying to rebuild the Arab world
  • The Beirut-born architect has dedicated his life to documenting traditional Arab architecture and encouraging others to incorporate heritage into modern designs

DUBAI: After recently coming fifth in the UNESCO International Competition for the Reconstruction and Rehabilitation of Mosul’s Al-Nouri Mosque with his team, Samir Nicolas Saddi has big plans for heritage rehabilitation around the Middle East.

The Beirut-born Canadian-Lebanese architect, who founded the Arab Research Center for Architecture and Design of the Environment (ARCADE) back in 1990, has dedicated his life to documenting the fragile traditional environment in the Middle East and proposing innovative approaches to sustainable architecture — as he did in the UNESCO competition.

“The aim of rebuilding Al-Nouri Mosque is very symbolic, given the level of destruction occurring in the Arab world,” he told Arab News. “It was especially symbolic for me as I am very concerned with how to rebuild the Arab world, particularly the countries which have been devastated by war. So it was a great opportunity.”




A tragedy happened when Saddi was preparing to visit Syria to document Aleppo. (Supplied)

Saddi’s team of architects from France and Dubai looked at how to integrate the mosque within Mosul’s architecture, which he describes as having a “unique historic pattern.” Their aim was to find a way to make it available for local people to rebuild, based on their knowledge of their own architecture.

“We had a lot of passionate discussions about architecture in the Arab world, especially the historic cities,” Saddi explained, as he spoke of his interest in opening up the Gulf to young French consultancies. “My role was really to inform the team about the Middle East. I might also be working with the team on other projects and opening up France to the Middle East and to the Arab world, which is great, because the Arab world — especially the GCC — is mostly collaborating with American and British consultants.”
Saddi’s own journey dates back decades, starting in Lebanon when he finished his studies as an architect in 1974. At the time, it seemed the country was heading into a fruitful and prosperous era, and Saddi was already working with a large architectural firm on projects to be developed over the next 10 years. But all of that abruptly came to a halt when the country’s devastating civil war broke out in 1975. “At first, we thought it would only last a couple of months, and then it took 19 years” Saddi told Arab News.




Old Aleppo souks. (Supplied)

“I realized that there was no time to document what Beirut was because we had immediately entered into a zone where people were fighting and my aim was really to document Beirut city center, which was an amazing place, and other places in the capital,” he said.

For Saddi, documenting historic or traditional architecture was crucial in such a fast-moving world in which time seemed to be running out for such places.

A similar tragedy happened when Saddi was preparing to visit Syria to document Aleppo, Damascus and other ancient Arab cities with rich heritage. “But the war happened, so Aleppo was gone, and so on and so forth,” Saddi said. “I visited Aleppo in 2000 for a couple of days and I took some pictures but today, it is ruined.”




For him, old Jeddah — also known in Arabic as the Balad — is one of the most significant of those cities. (Supplied)

The main idea behind ARCADE, he said, is to “document these places because, at least, if you have documentation, you can photograph the urban architecture, and later on elaborate a lot of research that will consolidate modern contemporary architecture and projects.”

He mentioned the fact that international architects commonly work on projects in the Gulf and the Middle East today, despite not really being familiar with the essence of the region’s architecture. “So the design is often coming from far away and is not related to the reality of the people on the ground,” he said.




He spent three years taking photos of old Jeddah, from 1994 to 1997. (Supplied)

Saddi is now working with his peers in Europe on a book about historic Arab cities in the Middle East. For him, old Jeddah — also known in Arabic as the Balad — is one of the most significant of those cities. He spent three years taking photos of old Jeddah, from 1994 to 1997, with the aim of safeguarding the old city and participating in its redevelopment.

Old Cairo is another city that ranks high on his list. “Today, it is a very big project,” he noted. “In 2017, I had time to go and really document the historic Cairo, which is amazing, and there is a lot to do. Today, it is a real project — Egypt is keen on restoring and rehabilitating Old Cairo.”

He described it as a “monumental zone” with exceptional buildings representing a perfect example of Islamic architecture, along with old churches. “Cairo is really very important to preserve,” he said.




Old Cairo is another city that ranks high on his list. (Supplied)

Saddi spoke of many other cities in the Arab world which he believes it is crucial to rehabilitate so that people remember and recognize them as the beacons of rich urban architecture that they are.

Ultimately, his goal is to demonstrate to the world the Middle East’s unique heritage, while communicating to the younger generation of architects and urban planners in the Arab world how crucial it is to develop their architecture based on their heritage.




Old Tripoli. (Supplied)

“We should not copy,” he said. “In the last 50 years, architects were unfortunately copying the heritage, but it is not about that. It is about going further and really connecting with this heritage and continuing its spirit, like what is happening in Mosul.”

For Saddi, such projects are not about simply recreating the past, but rather about introducing a new spirit that is connected to the past. “This is my hope — that somehow we can achieve this through publications and workshops, which is why I created ARCADE,” he concluded. “It is about research. Unfortunately, the Arab world is not yet keen on allocating budgets for research. The west was — and is still — allocating huge budgets towards this, but not the Arab world although we have the means to do it, so it is a shame. But I have hope for the future.”


Six DYI resistance exercises to build muscle at home

Six DYI resistance exercises to build muscle at home
Updated 19 October 2021

Six DYI resistance exercises to build muscle at home

Six DYI resistance exercises to build muscle at home

DUBAI: Nora Hameidani, founder of Dubai’s Barre Effect fitness studio, shows you how to build and maintain strength in or out of the gym. Try these simple yet effective barre moves to help you build lean muscle in the comfort of your own home.

Pushups

Start with hands slightly wider than shoulders, fingers pointing forward. (Shutterstock)

Targets: Arms/chest/shoulders

Start with 10 reps, build up to 3 sets of 10

Start with hands slightly wider than shoulders, fingers pointing forward.  Place knees slightly behind your hips, tuck hips under.  Bend your elbows wide and slightly downwards, hips lower with chest, keeping abdominals engaged, then press arms to straight.  For a challenge, legs can lengthen.

Tricep Dips

Bend and straighten your elbows, lifting and lowering your hips, keeping your elbows pointing backwards and your chest proud. (Shutterstock)

Targets: Triceps/shoulders

Start with 15 reps, build up to 3 sets of 15

While sitting tall with your legs bent in front, place hands under shoulders, with fingers pointing towards your hips.  Bend and straighten your elbows, lifting and lowering your hips, keeping your elbows pointing backwards and your chest proud.

Forearm Plank

Keep your legs straight and a hips distance apart, keep hips in line with shoulders or slightly above shoulder height. (Shutterstock)

Targets: core/arms/shoulders

Holding still for 30 sec, build up to 3 sets of 30 sec

Lying on your front, place your elbows under shoulders, pointing your fingers forward and keeping your forearms parallel.  Keep your legs straight and a hips distance apart, keep hips in line with shoulders or slightly above shoulder height. 

Bicycle Crunches

Start lengthening one leg at a time to the high diagonal, simultaneously rotating your chest, shoulders and arms towards the opposite, bent leg. (Shutterstock)

Targets: abdominals/obliques

Alternating sides for 30 sec, build up to 3 sets of 30 sec

Lying on your back, bring your legs to a tabletop position with your knees bent 90 degrees on top of your hips.  With your hands behind your head, elbows wide, engage your abdominals to lift your head, neck, and shoulders off the floor.  Start lengthening one leg at a time to the high diagonal, simultaneously rotating your chest, shoulders and arms towards the opposite, bent leg.

Wide 2nd Pulses

Pulse hips at knee height, in small, controlled movements for only about an inch. (Shutterstock)

Targets: Inner and outer thighs/glutes

Pulsing for 30 seconds, build up to 3 sets of 30 sec

Place your feet out wide, bending your knees so they stack on top of your heels. Externally rotate your feet so that your knees track through the middle of your foot. Pulse hips at knee height, in small, controlled movements for only about an inch.

Lunges

Keeping front leg still and stable, pulse back knee in small, controlled movements, only about an inch, toward the floor. (Shutterstock)

Targets: Thighs/hamstring/glutes

Pulsing 1 set of 30 seconds on each leg, build up to 3 sets of 30 seconds per leg

With your feet parallel, hips distance apart, bend both knees and step right leg directly back.  Bend both knees to a 90-degree angle, front knee on top of heel, back right knee bending slightly behind the torso. Keeping front leg still and stable, pulse back knee in small, controlled movements, only about an inch, toward the floor.


From Beyonce to singer Tinashe, Arab label Marzook snaps up celebrity fans

From Beyonce to singer Tinashe, Arab label Marzook snaps up celebrity fans
Updated 19 October 2021

From Beyonce to singer Tinashe, Arab label Marzook snaps up celebrity fans

From Beyonce to singer Tinashe, Arab label Marzook snaps up celebrity fans

DUBAI: Kuwaiti label Marzook is continuing to snap up celebrity fans, with US singer Tinashe and superstar Beyonce spotted sporting its curved creations in recent days.

Tinashe, famous for her hit song “2 On,” showed off a pill-shaped bag by the brand during a photoshoot for A Book Of digital and print magazine this month.

The singer was photographed in a retro look, complete with a white hairband, larger-than-life hair and a sleek cat eye. Styled by Wilford Lenov, the ensemble featured a glittering Marzook bag called the Pill Dusty Pink.

Meanwhile, Beyonce was photographed with the Kuwaiti arm candy in Italy over the weekend.

The world-famous singer was photographed outside Alexandre Arnault’s wedding to Geraldine Guyot in Venice, Italy, on Saturday. Guyot is the founder of the French brand D’Estrëe, while Arnault is the son of one of the world’s richest men, LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault, and the executive vice president of product and communications at Tiffany & Co.

The singer showed off a bag by Marzook during a recent photoshoot for A Book Of magazine. (Instagram)

For the occasion, Beyoncé opted for a Tiffany-blue silk gown and heels with a Dolce & Gabbana double-breasted wool coat. She accessorized the look with a Marzook crystal orb purse and Lorraine Schwartz diamond jewelry.

Helmed by Kuwaiti siblings Fahad and Shouq Al-Marzooq, the Beirut-based accessories brand was established in 2014. The brother sister duo started off in the fashion industry by designing pieces for their family and friends and quickly went on to garner worldwide attention and sign celebrity collaboration deals.

In 2019, US influencer and model Sofia Richie, singer Lionel Richie’s daughter, collaborated on a new line of handbags with the label.  

 “When you’re one of social media’s most popular style stars, your style influence is extremely crucial.  Sofia’s style is very much aligned with the Marzook girl, who rather than follows trends, creates trends,” the fashion label wrote on its website at the time.

The collaboration featured Marzook’s perennial favorite, the spherical Lucid Classic bag, in a new set of neon shades — “Powerful Pink, Neon- Z Green and Traffic Cone Orange.”

And those are not the only celebrities who have shown love for the Arab brand.

Kylie Jenner showed off a crystal-covered orb bag by the label on her birthday in 2018, triggering many a newspaper headline.

The accessories house’s bags have been sported by the likes of human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, actress Lupita Nyong’o and model Cara Delevingne.

The label’s line of accessories consists of exotic leather and skins, precious metals and resins in pill or spherical shapes.


Angelina Jolie’s iconic Elie Saab gown nabs spotlight at ‘Eternals’ premiere

Angelina Jolie’s iconic Elie Saab gown nabs spotlight at ‘Eternals’ premiere
Updated 19 October 2021

Angelina Jolie’s iconic Elie Saab gown nabs spotlight at ‘Eternals’ premiere

Angelina Jolie’s iconic Elie Saab gown nabs spotlight at ‘Eternals’ premiere

LOS ANGELES: Actors Angelina Jolie and Salma Hayek brought Hollywood glamor to the world premiere of Marvel Studios’ latest comic book adaptation, “Eternals,” this week.

Jolie attended the red carpet with her four children, who she shares with her ex-husband Brad Pitt.

For the ocassion,  46-year-old actress lent her daughter Zahara her sequined Elie Saab gown that she wore to the Oscars in 2014, sparking many an international headline.

It’s not often mother-to-daughter hand-me-downs include iconic dresses by a Lebanese designer.

“My kids are all mixed with vintage, and in my old Oscars dress,” she said. “We did all vintage and upcycled my old stuff,” Jolie told Entertainment Tonight on the red carpet.

Angelina Jolie at the 2014 Academy Awards. (AFP)

Directed by Chloe Zhao, who won best director and best picture for the film “Nomadland” at the Oscars earlier this year, “Eternals” boasts one of the most diverse casts of any Marvel movie.

Actress Salma Hayek arrives for the world premiere of Marvel Studios’ “Eternals” at the Dolby theatre in Los Angeles. (AFP)

“I hope it just starts to normalize what should have been there in the first place,” Jolie told Reuters. “I hope people watch these films in years to come and we don’t even think about it as being diverse.” 

The film stars Syrian refugee-turned-actor Zain Al-Rafeea as part of the star-studded cast, who plays the role of a villager who comes across the Eternals when they arrive on Earth.

Delayed a year due to the pandemic, “Eternals” will finally hit cinemas on Nov. 5 in the Middle East. 


What We Are Reading Today: The Mechanization of the Mind by Jean-Pierre Dupuy

What We Are Reading Today: The Mechanization of the Mind by Jean-Pierre Dupuy
Updated 18 October 2021

What We Are Reading Today: The Mechanization of the Mind by Jean-Pierre Dupuy

What We Are Reading Today: The Mechanization of the Mind by Jean-Pierre Dupuy

In March 1946, some of the greatest minds of the 20th century — among them John von Neumann, Norbert Wiener, Warren McCulloch, and Walter Pitts — gathered at the Beekman Hotel in New York City with the aim of constructing a science of mental behavior that would resolve at last the ancient philosophical problem of mind and matter. The legacy of their collaboration is known today as cognitive science.
Jean-Pierre Dupuy, one of the principal architects of cognitive science in France, reconstructs the early days of the field here in a provocative and engaging combination of philosophy, science, and historical detective work.
He shows us how the ambitious and innovative ideas developed in the wake of that New York meeting prefigured some of the most important developments of late-20th-century thought. Many scholars, however, shunned the ideas as crude and resented them for being overpromoted.
This rejection, Dupuy reveals, was a tragic mistake and a lost opportunity.


More Middle East personalities could be next Madame Tussauds Dubai wax models

More Middle East personalities could be next Madame Tussauds Dubai wax models
Updated 19 October 2021

More Middle East personalities could be next Madame Tussauds Dubai wax models

More Middle East personalities could be next Madame Tussauds Dubai wax models
  • The museum opened its 25th branch in Dubai last week

DUBAI: Additional Middle East personalities could join the list of famous Arab figures on display at Madame Tussauds Dubai.

“We listen to our customers; we listen to their feedback. So, we will always be updating the figures and enhancing the products,” Sanaz Kollsrud, general manager of Madame Tussauds Dubai, told Arab News.

The museum opened its 25th wax attraction in the city on Oct.14, making it the brand’s first branch in the Middle East. 

Maya Diab at Madame Tussauds Dubai. (AN_Photo)

The famous attraction has a total of 16 figures from the Middle East region. These include talents from the music industry — such as Lebanese singers Nancy Ajram and Maya Diab — and athletes that were made exclusively for the branch in Dubai.

“At the moment, Madame Tussauds has 25 wax attractions around the world, including the US, Europe, and Asia. I’m sure that the brand will look at opportunities to expand at a later stage,” Kollsrud said.

Dubai has been a perfect choice for the Middle East branch, as it is a global tourist destination. The general manager said the museum is also located near a major attraction in the city, Ain Dubai, and is surrounded by a variety of retail and dining options.

Donald and Melania Trump at Madame Tussauds Dubai. (AN_Photo)

When asked how the museum chooses the figures it wants to display, Kollsrud said there is a lot of research behind figure selection, including customer research.

“It took about 18 months to put together a figure list, during which we looked at the popularity of the celebrities regionally and globally, especially within the UAE,” she said.

To keep the figures clean and protected, a team of artists works daily to make sure the statues are in perfect shape, the general manager said.

Lewis Hamilton at Madame Tussauds Dubai. (AN_Photo)

She added that a team of 20 artists completes one wax figure within four to seven months. 

They even insert real hair strands, which can cost $190,605.

"There is a sitting involved with the talent, where they come and we do around 500 measurements, including head to toe," Kollsrud said.

The tourist destination consists of seven themed rooms and includes over 60 lifelike wax figures.

Chinese President Xi Jinping at Madame Tussauds Dubai. (AN_Photo)