‘Letters from Beirut’ addresses the crises in Lebanon

‘Letters from Beirut’ addresses the crises in Lebanon
Tessa (left) and Tara Sakhi. (Clemente Ciarrocca)
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Updated 17 June 2021

‘Letters from Beirut’ addresses the crises in Lebanon

‘Letters from Beirut’ addresses the crises in Lebanon
  • The Sakhi sisters’ Venice installation gathers messages from survivors of the Beirut Port blast

DUBAI: Let’s talk about it. That is the simple message the Lebanese-Polish architects and sisters Tessa and Tara Sakhi are hoping to convey through their poignant installation running until November 21, in parallel with the Venice Architecture Biennale. “Letters from Beirut” is a six-meter wall of 2,000 handwritten letters. Peeking out of pouches, they reveal personal thoughts of survivors from the Beirut Port blast in August 2020, which claimed over 200 lives.

Although Lebanon has witnessed a series of intense conflicts in its recent past, it is fair to say that this recent calamity, along with a prolonged financial crisis and a non-existent government, has left a mark on the Lebanese unlike any other previous event. “Our life flipped from one day to another. We felt uprooted,” Tara told Arab News. “Our parents told us that during the civil war the country was working economically, but with the pandemic and everything that happened with the central bank, Lebanon has really crashed this time.”




“Letters from Beirut” is a six-meter wall of 2,000 handwritten letters. (Supplied)

To start afresh, the sisters — co-founders of the design and architecture firm T Sakhi —decided to move to Venice. The more time they spent there, the more similarities they recognized between the historical centers of Beirut and Venice in terms of their open Mediterranean culture, housing layouts, and proximity to water. “We feel that maybe now we can give much more to Lebanon from outside and hopefully one day we will eventually come back,” said Tessa.

One of their ways of ‘giving’ to the Lebanese community back home is by spreading their voice. “It’s a healing process,” said Tara, who, with her sister, was in Beirut during the explosion. “We didn’t get any acknowledgement. There hasn’t been any active decision made by the government, or economic reforms to make things advanced, to give people a glimpse of hope. Nothing has been done.”




Peeking out of pouches, they reveal personal thoughts of survivors from the Beirut Port blast in August 2020, which claimed over 200 lives. (Supplied)

To bring their project to life, the sisters set up an online platform, inviting civilians to share their messages, which would later be written out by Tessa and Tara on pieces of recycled paper. The letters — in Arabic, English and French — contain grief, anger, resistance, and stories of love. “How does it feel to be born elsewhere?” one asks. “Why is humanity so destructive?” “No to resilience, yes to resistance.” One simply states: “Beirut kills.”

“It was ups and downs,” remarked Tessa of this cathartic practice of writing the messages out. “Physically, it was very tough. You can feel people’s pain in their letters.” Each pouch also contains a tiny yet symbolic seed of a vegetable or herb, notably Lebanese-grown coriander and zucchini.




'Letters From Beirut' was created by sisters Tara and Tessa Sakhi. (Perine Renard)

The pouches were donated by the UAE-based Irthi Contemporary Craft Council, a heritage-preserving organization that advocates female empowerment socially and economically. Made of felt, the pouches were created by 37 Emirati craftswomen living in Sharjah. Their skilled manner of hand weaving, adhering to similar techniques utilized for producing baskets, is native to their culture. Three Emirati female university students were also involved in producing the recycled pieces of paper.

This isn’t the first time the Sakhis have explored the timely idea of walls and their restrictive, political implications in their body of work. “It’s an element of separation and segregation that’s used in Lebanon a lot,” explained Tara. “We want to actually take that and turn it into our advantage and see how we can communicate with a surface of separation.”




The pouches were donated by the UAE-based Irthi Contemporary Craft Council, a heritage-preserving organization that advocates female empowerment socially and economically. (Supplied)

“Letters from Beirut” is meant to be an interactive and uniting memorial, where biennale visitors can take a pouch until they all disappear from the wall. In a way, this engagement enables the victims’ voices to be heard and remembered around the world. “There were people who decided to frame the letters in their homes,” noted Tara. “For us, this is incredibly beautiful to see that our creation has a life that’s continuing.” Visitors are also invited to scan a barcode at the site, allowing them to donate money to Lebanese NGOs that are supporting restoration efforts and children’s education in post-blast Beirut.

The installation is a response to the central theme of the biennale: How will we live together? In the case of Lebanon, according to the Sakhis, the way to live together is for citizens of different generations and professional backgrounds to collaborate — a sense of unity that was heightened in the aftermath of the blast. It’s about sharing ideas and having conversations again.


Iraq gets back looted ancient artifacts from US, others

Iraq gets back looted ancient artifacts from US, others
Updated 03 August 2021

Iraq gets back looted ancient artifacts from US, others

Iraq gets back looted ancient artifacts from US, others
  • The majority of the artifacts date back 4,000 years to ancient Mesopotamia and were recovered from the US in a recent trip by PM Mustafa Al-Kadhimi
  • Iraq’s antiquities have been looted throughout decades of war and instability since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein

BAGHDAD: Over 17,000 looted ancient artifacts recovered from the United States and other countries were handed over to Iraq’s Culture Ministry on Tuesday, a restitution described by the government as the largest in the country’s history.
The majority of the artifacts date back 4,000 years to ancient Mesopotamia and were recovered from the US in a recent trip by Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi. Other pieces were also returned from Japan, Netherlands and Italy, Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein said in a joint press conference with Culture Minister Hasan Nadhim.
Nadhim said the recovery was “the largest in the history of Iraq” and the product of months of effort between the government and Iraq’s Embassy in Washington.
“There’s still a lot of work ahead in this matter. There are still thousands of Iraqi artifacts smuggled outside the country,” he said. “The United Nations resolutions are supporting us in the international community and the laws of other countries in which these artifacts are smuggled to are on our side.”
“The smugglers are being trapped day after day by these laws and forced to hand over these artifacts,” he added.
The artifacts were handed over to the Culture Ministry in large wooden crates. A few were displayed but the ministry said the most significant pieces will be examined and later displayed to the public in Iraq’s National Museum.
Iraq’s antiquities have been looted throughout decades of war and instability since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. Iraq’s government has been slowly recovering the plundered antiquities since. However, archaeological sites across the country continue to be neglected owing to lack of funds.
At least five shipments of antiquities and documents have been returned to Iraq’s museum since 2016, according to the Foreign Ministry.


Mideast, North Africa region to get 50 Best Restaurants list in 2022

Mideast, North Africa region to get 50 Best Restaurants list in 2022
50 Best Restaurants lauds Trèsind as one of the best dining establishments in Dubai. Courtesy
Updated 03 August 2021

Mideast, North Africa region to get 50 Best Restaurants list in 2022

Mideast, North Africa region to get 50 Best Restaurants list in 2022

DUBAI: In February 2022, some of the most lauded restaurateurs, fine chefs and food lovers will congregate in the UAE for the reveal of the 50 top restaurants in the region.  

It’s been announced that The World's 50 Best Restaurants, owned and run by William Reed Business Media and established in 2002, is launching a new regional restaurants list and awards program that will be hosted in Abu Dhabi early next year.

It will be the first time that a Middle Eastern country will play host to the prestigious event, which is informally known as the Oscars of fine dining.

“We are delighted that Abu Dhabi will be playing host to the awards ceremony, as the UAE capital has been establishing itself as a culinary force over recent years,” William Drew, Director of Content for 50 Best, said in a released statement.

Middle East & North Africa’s 50 Best Restaurants is the latest regional restaurants list and awards program since 2013, when both Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants and Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants were established. 

The list, which was born out of the magazine pages of Britain’s “Restaurant” is now widely regarded as the most highly influential ranking of its kind.

The inaugural Middle East & North Africa’s 50 Best Restaurants list will be revealed in a live countdown, along with a series of special awards, culminating in the announcement of The Best Restaurant in the Middle East & North Africa 2022. 

“The diversity of cuisines and restaurants across this wide region will ensure this new list is a vital addition to the international gastronomic landscape,” added Drew.

The ranking will be determined by 250 voters, made up of anonymous restaurant experts from 19 countries across the region, based on their best restaurant experiences. Dining establishments cannot apply to be on the list.

Meanwhile, a program of events, including a forum, chef masterclasses and dining events, will be hosted in the UAE capital in partnership with the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi from Feb. 4-11, as part of the Abu Dhabi Culinary Calendar.

Some events will be open to the public on a ticketed basis, with details to be revealed later.

The gala awards ceremony is set to take place on Feb. 7.


Lebanese artist Nadim Karam creates memorial sculpture at Beirut Port

Lebanese artist Nadim Karam creates memorial sculpture at Beirut Port
Nadim Karam's 'The Gesture' (2021). Supplied
Updated 03 August 2021

Lebanese artist Nadim Karam creates memorial sculpture at Beirut Port

Lebanese artist Nadim Karam creates memorial sculpture at Beirut Port

DUBAI: A towering sculpture made of scrap metal from the wreckage following last year’s explosions at the Beirut Port on Aug. 4 was unveiled at the site on Monday. Titled “The Gesture,” the giant memorial sculpture is the work of Lebanese artist, architect and Beirut resident Nadim Karam, who said he wanted to honor the families of the victims of the explosions that left more than 200 dead, more than 6,000 injured and over 300,000 people displaced. Karam said he also wanted to show “the will of the Lebanese people to continue to go on.”

Nadim Karam's 'The Gesture' (2021). Supplied

The massive work, which, when seen from afar, seems to tower over the destructed silos with its commanding presence, was funded by several private companies and individuals. “It is a giant made of ashes, traces from the explosions, scars of the city, that still exist everywhere in Beirut,” Karam told Arab News. “The work represents the scars of the people that still have not healed. This figure is every single one of us and a reminder that we are the living energy of Beirut.”

One year after the Beirut Port blast damaged the lives of thousands of Lebanese and tore apart large chunks of the city, which to this day remains in a process of reconstruction, no top officials have been held accountable. Efforts to investigate the root cause of the explosions have stalled and the Lebanese, with their country in a continual state of freefall due to a collapsed banking system and stagnant government, continue to live in a state of trauma, with many fleeing the country for a better life elsewhere.

Nadim Karam's 'The Gesture' (2021). Supplied

While Karam hopes the Lebanese will support the massive sculpture, some have raised questions as to whether artwork should be placed at the Beirut Port when justice still has not been served. Many will agree that the fact that the sculpture has been made from scraps of steel from the site is a powerful statement in itself, which Karam and others hope will recall the importance of solidarity among the people and the desperate need for answers. As Karam says, “‘The Gesture’ also represents the will of the Lebanese to know the truth about what happened. Only when we know the truth will we have justice.”


Chefs Fariyal Abdullahi, Nasim Alikhani to dish up dinner for this year’s Met Gala

Chefs Fariyal Abdullahi, Nasim Alikhani to dish up dinner for this year’s Met Gala
The menu for this year's Met Gala is a collective effort by10 New York-based chefs. Supplied
Updated 03 August 2021

Chefs Fariyal Abdullahi, Nasim Alikhani to dish up dinner for this year’s Met Gala

Chefs Fariyal Abdullahi, Nasim Alikhani to dish up dinner for this year’s Met Gala

DUBAI: For the first time, the Met Gala is introducing a sustainable plant-based menu for its annual event taking place this year on Sept. 13, 2021. 

Guests will be treated to a healthy dinner curated by a group of 10 notable New York-based chefs and Instagram influencers, handpicked by Ethiopian-Swedish chef Marcus Samuelsson and Bon Appétit.

Among the chefs selected is US-Ethiopian Fariyal Abdullahi and American-Iranian Nasim Alikhani.

Abdullahi is the culinary manager of R+D Kitchen in Dallas, while Alikhani spearheads a hot spot in Brooklyn, New York, called Sofreh.

They join other New York-based chefs, cookbook authors and culinary enthusiasts Emma Bengtsson, Lazarus Lynch, Junghyun Park, Erik Ramirez, Thomas Raquel, Sophia Roe, Simone Tong and Fabian von Hauske.

“I am honored to participate in an initiative that highlights the incredible work of these 10 New York chefs at the Met Gala,” said Samuelsson in a press release issued from the Met. 

“After a difficult two years for the restaurant industry, this will showcase the work and tell the stories of a dynamic group of chefs while presenting an exciting menu of delicious, plant-based dishes. The gala offers an incomparable opportunity for emerging talent to elevate their careers and share their perspectives and craft.”

In the weeks leading up to the gala, the 10 chefs will share plant-based recipes via Instagram Reels, powered by a partnership with the photo-sharing social media platform.

The Met Gala is an annual fundraising gala that celebrates New York’s the Costume Institute’s new exhibition on a changing theme. It typically occurs on the first Monday in May, however, due to COVID-19, it is set to take place as a smaller affair on Sept. 13.


Bella Hadid revives noughties fashion in new Miss Sixty ad

Bella Hadid revives noughties fashion in new Miss Sixty ad
Bella Hadid is one of the most in-demand models in the world at the moment. File/ Getty Images
Updated 03 August 2021

Bella Hadid revives noughties fashion in new Miss Sixty ad

Bella Hadid revives noughties fashion in new Miss Sixty ad

DUBAI: Noughties fashion is back, and it doesn’t appear like it’s going anywhere anytime soon. Whether it was Blumarine’s Paris Hilton-inspired Fall 2021 collection or the recent resurgence of Ed Hardy, the fabulously gaudy and over-the-top aesthetic of the 2000s in fashion is inescapable. Some of the decade’s most notorious brands have also made a return, including denim label Miss Sixty, which is now being fronted by Palestinian-Dutch model Bella Hadid. 

This week, the brand unveiled its Fall 2021 campaign, which featured the 24-year-old catwalk star rocking a blond bob and striking various poses while wearing pieces from the label’s most recent collection, which included a long-sleeve striped T-shirt emblazoned with the brand's name on the bottom paired with form-hugging black pants and a silver chain belt.

Bella Hadid for Miss Sixty's Fall 2021 campaign. Instagram

The Miss Sixty brand was one of the top labels to define millennium-era style and was wildly popular in the 2000s, with celebrities including Paris Hilton, Mischa Barton and Hilary Duff rocking their low-rise jeans and statement belts.

After fading out of style in the last decade, the denim brand made a resurgence earlier this year, tapping Hadid to serve as the face of Miss Sixty last February.

Hadid announced the exciting news via Instagram earlier this year. 

“Just signed my newest contract as the face of @misssixty,” she wrote at the time. “I have so many vintage pieces that I have collected over the years and I can’t wait to pair it all with the new! This is a dream, I’m so excited to see what we do together in the future!”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Bella (@bellahadid)

Indeed, Hadid certainly is a fitting choice for the revival of Miss Sixty.

In addition to being one of the most in-demand models in the world, Hadid is also known for taking past, and often-times polarizing, fashion trends from the early 2000s and making them look fresh again.

From bedazzled cropped T-shirts and flared jeans to monogrammed baguette bags and newspaper boy caps, there’s almost no defining Y2K fashion trend that Hadid hasn’t rocked in weeks past. All that is really needed to complete her looks is a hot pink Motorola Razr or an iPod Nano.