Review: ‘The Republic of False Truths’ is an intricate tale of love and opposition

Review: ‘The Republic of False Truths’ is an intricate tale of love and opposition
“The Republic of False Truths” is by Alaa Al-Aswany. (Supplied)
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Updated 05 October 2021

Review: ‘The Republic of False Truths’ is an intricate tale of love and opposition

Review: ‘The Republic of False Truths’ is an intricate tale of love and opposition

CHICAGO: The 2011 revolution has just begun in Egypt. Readers may know how this story ends, but have yet to discover the complicated lives and details of Alaa Al-Aswany’s band of characters in “The Republic of False Truths.” Internationally acclaimed and award-winning author Al-Aswany takes readers into the heart of Cairo at the beginning of the Arab Spring. Originally published in 2018 and translated from Arabic into English by S.R. Fellowes in 2021, this is an intimate journey into the people’s revolution that amplified voices from every political and social corner of Egypt.

The story features Gen. Ahmad Alwany, a 48-year-old pious Muslim whose duty is to secure the republic and its citizens, and who believes that the “Egyptian people is like a child: If you leave it to decide for itself, it will do itself harm;” Ashraf Wissa, an out-of-work actor who is a cynic at heart until he is thrust into the revolution; Asmaa Zanaty, who is fiercely independent and married to the principles instilled in her through her grandfather and her education, and who must fight zealots for the love of her country, help lift the new-found voices of the youth and struggles to loosen Egypt’s grip from the upper echelons of corrupt society; and Danya, a medical student whose aristocratic background creates a film over her eyes until the revolution hits the medical department at her university. The revolution brings people together and pulls others apart. It helps bloom a new love for one another and for country, but also strengthens hatred in others, further solidifying the division between those who want change and those who do not.

Complex lives fill “The Republic of False Truths,” where words are twisted and ideas about life are molded around people’s personal experiences. The republic is where wealth attracts wealth and power attracts power, but also where a willingness to change grips those who seek it. Ideas flow as steadily as the people on the streets when they realize that Egypt can emerge from the grips of dictatorial power. This story is about weighing odds, balancing passions and prioritizing a newer, brighter future.

Among the generational and social differences, Al-Aswany’s characters — a general, a sheikh, a television personality, a young engineer, and others — must decide what is right for themselves, uniting in selflessness to protect their country. And while there is devastation, loss and terrible violence against the youth and women, Al-Aswany’s characters commit themselves to their truths. What ensues is an intricate tale of love and opposition that brings readers together to witness miracles and disasters, as well as the courage that takes hold when opportunity arises.

Honayda to be first Saudi label on display at luxury London store Harrods

Honayda to be first Saudi label on display at luxury London store Harrods
Updated 12 August 2022

Honayda to be first Saudi label on display at luxury London store Harrods

Honayda to be first Saudi label on display at luxury London store Harrods

DUBAI: Saudi fashion label Honayda will become the first designer from the Kingdom to be displayed at luxury London department store Harrods. 

The womenswear brand, known for its strong roots in Saudi culture and led by creative director Honayda Serafi, will go on display at the store from Aug. 22.


A post shared by HONAYDA (@honaydaofficial)

“Proudly announcing that Honayda’s latest collection is now showcased at one of the world’s most iconic department stores, Harrods. A curated selection of exclusive pieces will be available on the eveningwear floor, inaugurating the first Saudi fashion designer in store,” read a post on Honayda’s official Instagram page.

A curated selection of exclusive pieces from Honayda’s “A charm from Afghan” collection will feature in the eveningwear section of Harrods, located on the first floor.


A post shared by HONAYDA (@honaydaofficial)

The brand has made waves regionally and internationally, including with celebrities such as Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Lupita Nyong’o, Ashanti and Eve, who have worn the brand at major events around the world.

Renowned Croatian cello duo 2CELLOS to visit UAE, Egypt on farewell tour

Renowned Croatian cello duo 2CELLOS to visit UAE, Egypt on farewell tour
Updated 12 August 2022

Renowned Croatian cello duo 2CELLOS to visit UAE, Egypt on farewell tour

Renowned Croatian cello duo 2CELLOS to visit UAE, Egypt on farewell tour

DUBAI: Popular Croatian cello duo 2CELLOS, made up of Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser, are ready to hang up their bows, but not before a farewell world tour that will include the Middle East this year.

"The Dedicated Tour" is headed to Hurghada, Egypt, on Nov. 18 and in Dubai the following day as part of the tour.


A post shared by 2CELLOS (@2cellosofficial)

The two musicians have already performed sellout shows in France, Belgium, Germany, Italy and Austria.

2CELLOS play instrumental arrangements of pop and rock hits, as well as classical and film music, and have featured on US television series, including “Glee” and “The Bachelor.”

The duo rose to fame in 2011 after their cover of “Smooth Criminal” became a YouTube hit, receiving over 3 million views in the first two weeks. Their debut eponymous album was released in 2011, with covers of songs by rock bands such as Nine Inch Nails, Coldplay, Nirvana, Muse and Kings of Leon.

Egypt's Mohammed Tarek is ‘on a roll’ as he lends his voice to Warner Bros.’ ‘DC League of Super-Pets’

Egypt's Mohammed Tarek is ‘on a roll’ as he lends his voice to Warner Bros.’ ‘DC League of Super-Pets’
Updated 12 August 2022

Egypt's Mohammed Tarek is ‘on a roll’ as he lends his voice to Warner Bros.’ ‘DC League of Super-Pets’

Egypt's Mohammed Tarek is ‘on a roll’ as he lends his voice to Warner Bros.’ ‘DC League of Super-Pets’
  • The social media superstar has millions of followers, but still works his day job

DUBAI: It’s a strange life being a content creator. Take Egyptian social-media star Mohammed Tarek, for example. He’s a dentist by day — graduating earlier this year after six years of exhaustive study in Egypt — but in his free time he makes comedy videos, often talking directly to his phone. He puts on voices and does parodies from his bedroom, putting together whatever bits come to mind when he wakes up in the morning before work. By all accounts, he’s a humble, normal person who spends his time with his friends and family. But you’d never know it when he goes to the mall. There, he is a superstar, swarmed by fans. 

“I still remember the first time I got stopped back in 2016,” Tarek tells Arab News. “I was just walking with my sister in the mall, and this girl came up to me. She said, ‘Hey! I love your videos!’ I was like, ‘What? You actually watch my videos?’ She said, ‘Yeah, I would love to take a picture.’ I was stunned. I said, ‘No, I want to take a picture with you!’”

Getting stopped by strangers has become a regular occurrence for Mohammed Tarek. (Supplied)

Since then, getting stopped by strangers has become a regular occurrence for Tarek, who has won legions of fans across the region, amassing 4.3 million followers on TikTok, another 2.3 million on Instagram, and more than half a million on YouTube. He’s even caught the eye of the biggest movie studios in the world, recently getting the nod to voice Aquaman in the Arabic-dubbed version (reanimated so that the character’s mouths move properly with the spoken Arabic) of Warner Bros. summer animation blockbuster “DC League of Super-Pets” — a role played by New Zealand comedian Jermaine Clement in the English-language version. It was a call he never saw coming.

“It’s not the most random thing that’s ever happened in my life, but it’s pretty random,” he says. “The call I got to get the role was insane. I was sitting in uni, just minding my own business, and somebody just called me from this random number, right? I answered it, and they're like, ‘Hey, do you want to be Aquaman?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, sounds good!’” 

Mohammed Tarek voices Aquaman (second from left) in the Arabic version of ‘DC League of Super-Pets.’ (Supplied)

Voice acting has always been one of Tarek’s dreams. He has amassed dozens of his own characters that poke fun at different Egyptian cultural archetypes. 

“I’ve always been a fan of voiceover work. Growing up, I found it crazy how people could put so many emotions across just through their voice. The animation is there, of course, to express something, but the voice is the main thing. The voice is what you remember. I would grow up watching Arabic-dubbed cartoons and movies, so being able to move into that world is really full circle for me, and I love it just as much as I thought I would,” says Tarek. 

Like most comedians, growing up, Tarek’s first audience was his family, using his personality to cheer them up in the darkest of times. 

“I’m the youngest, with two older sisters. I remember one day, my sister came home crying from school. She was really devastated. My father tried to calm her down, but nothing worked. I said to myself, ‘I need to fix this.’ So all I did was come up to her and crossed my eyes. I said, ‘Hey, look at me!’ She burst out laughing. I thought, ‘This is the thing I’m going to do from now on,’” says Tarek. 

Tarek was born in Saudi Arabia, moving to Egypt just as he entered his teens. There, he used comedy to fit in with his new classmates, who were very different from the ones that he had known and had initially intimidated him. His plan worked, and he even won over his teachers in the process.

After six years of exhaustive study, Tarek recently graduated from MSA University in Egypt. (Supplied)

“I used to write songs about my teachers, taking the melody of popular songs and rewriting the lyrics to suit each of them. The students would laugh, but the teachers would actually laugh with us too. I would stand on a podium in front of the class and they would sit behind me and loved it. My parody songs became a yearly ritual in our school,” he says. 

Tarek first moved into content creation in the early days of YouTube on the now-defunct short-video platform Vine. But he never really expected to find an audience beyond his own home.

“Each of my videos would have five views,” he says. “Four of them would be me, and the other view would be my mom.” 

But in 2016, Tarek made two covers that were similar in spirit to the ones he used to write about his teachers, taking popular songs by Adele and Hozier and singing new lyrics from the perspective of one of his Egyptian characters. He thought nothing of them — until the view count started to climb.

“I woke up one day and thought, ‘What is going on? Why do I have a 100,000 views?’ Then it was ‘Why do I have five million views? What is going on?’ That was the moment when people really started to respond to me,” says Tarek. 

As his star rose, he refused to abandon his plans and launch himself fully into content creation, deciding to stick in school and make videos when he found the time. It’s a choice he doesn’t regret, even now as he’s finally practicing dentistry, but it’s been more exhausting to balance than he usually admits to people.

“I have a lot of friends who are in the social-media area, and they’re exhausted from all they do. I have a lot of friends in the dentistry area, and they’re all burned out. None of them can really relate to what I go through. I’m tired from being a content creator and I’m tired from being a dentist every day. Who does that? Whenever I’m feeling low, it all just hits me. But right now, I’m doing fine,” he says with a smile. “Right now, I’m on a roll.” 

Tarek isn’t content with just social media and dentistry, either. The shift into acting with “DC League of Super-Pets” is one that Tarek is taking seriously, and one that he plans to pursue fully.

“Right now, I’m trying. I'm starting to take acting workshops, which is a huge step for me, because I would never have done that back in the day. Nobody believes it, but, naturally, I’m a really shy person. I was the timid, naïve guy sitting in the corner because I didn’t want to deal with people. A part of me doesn’t understand myself right now, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop,” says Tarek. 

“I have no idea where I’m going to be five years from now. I’m just going to keep going. If I get offered an audition, I’ll go. I’m going to take any opportunity that’s in front of me. You just have to work, you know what I mean? I truly believe that,” he says. “And I know that’s going to take me wherever I’m supposed to be.”

Award-winning Bahraini chef Tala Bashmi looks to reinvent Gulf cuisine

Award-winning Bahraini chef Tala Bashmi looks to reinvent Gulf cuisine
Updated 12 August 2022

Award-winning Bahraini chef Tala Bashmi looks to reinvent Gulf cuisine

Award-winning Bahraini chef Tala Bashmi looks to reinvent Gulf cuisine
  • The chef patronne at Fusions by Tala trained in Switzerland at the Michelin-starred Prisma
  • She was recently named Best Female Chef in the Middle East and North Africa by 50 Best

TORONTO: For 33-year-old Tala Bashmi — chef patronne at Fusions by Tala in the Gulf Hotel, Manama — modernizing Bahraini and Khaleeji cuisine feels like a “responsibility.” 

Bashmi grew up in Bahrain, and actually began her career at the Gulf Hotel, before heading to Switzerland to train at Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois and the Michelin-starred Prisma. 

Fusions by Tala in the Gulf Hotel, Manama. (Supplied)

She returned to Bahrain in 2014 and worked her way up through the ranks at the Gulf Hotel to eventually head Fusions by Tala, where she’s determined to reinvent Gulf cuisine. She was recently named Best Female Chef in the Middle East and North Africa by 50 Best.

“I always saw a gap for a different version of Middle Eastern and Khaleeji cuisine,” Bashmi tells Arab News. “I want to compete on a global scale by elevating our cuisine technically, visually, and flavor-wise,” she says. 

Here, Bashmi offers some advice and a delicious fish recipe to try at home.

Tala Bashmi's Seabream Carpaccio. (Supplied)

What’s your top tip for amateur cooks?
Don’t rush things. For the first two years of my career, I wasn’t even allowed to cook. It was purely preparation. I believe all young chefs should start that way and not jump the gun. When you rush things, you end up burning something. You (eventually) want to combine perfection and speed, but speed alone is not beneficial. 

Also, there’s nothing more dangerous than a dull knife. A dull knife will slip and, most likely, cause injury. So, invest in a good quality knife and keep it sharp. 

What's one ingredient that can instantly improve any dish?
I can think of a few. There’s olive oil. And invest in good salt — not iodized table salt! Whenever I travel, I always get salt that’s local to the region. I’m a firm believer in the fact that the simplest local ingredients can elevate or transform a dish.

What is your favorite cuisine?
Currently, it's Korean. The entire experience of making your own Korean barbeque is fun. With its fermented and pickled elements, it relies heavily on the traditional umami taste, which I enjoy a lot.

What is your favorite dish to cook?
I really enjoy cooking seafood, especially when it's fresh from the market. I love clams. I make a type of curry that has clams and local crabs in it, which you leave to simmer on the stove. When you cook all day, every day, you want to make your meals quick and tasty. 

What’s the most difficult dish you prepare?
Desserts at the restaurant have a lot of elements and are relatively time-consuming. There is the cooking, chilling, setting, assembling, and layering. I’d say my lavender dessert — lavender sponge, blueberry jelly, white-chocolate mousse, and lemon crème brûlée — is the most difficult to prepare.

What are you like in the kitchen? Are you a disciplinary or are you more laid-back?
I was lucky enough to work under a second chef who showed me that you can be kind, gentle, and forgiving in this environment, without being disrespected. So, I follow his example. I don’t like to put people down because everyone learns differently. I want my team to feel happy, comfortable, and confident when they come into the kitchen. Patience and learning to deal with different personalities are important. 

RECIPE: Chef Tala’s pan-seared faskar with vine leaf risotto


90g Faskar fillet; salt; pepper; 30g butter; 3g thyme; turmeric (optional); 150g of Arborio rice; 20g onion (finely chopped); 70g vine leaves; 10g lime juice; 10g parmesan cheese; cooking oil; vegetable stock or water


Instructions (fish):

Pat your fillets to dry them. Season with salt, pepper, and turmeric (optional).

Heat a non-stick pan to almost smoking point. Add 2 tbsp of oil per fillet.

Place the fillet (skin side) with a weight on top.

Cook for one minute, until skin is golden-brown. 

Turn the heat to low, add thyme and 10g of butter. 

The residual heat will finish cooking the fish (time depends on thickness of fillets)


Instructions (risotto):

On low-medium heat, melt 10g butter in a pan, add onion, sauté until translucent. 

Stir rice into the mix.

And one ladle of veg stock (or water) at a time, making sure broth is fully absorbed.

Meanwhile, blanch the vine leaves in hot water for one minute or until softened. Finely chop.

Cook risotto for 20 minutes, stirring regularly. It should be al dente, but creamy.

Add remaining butter, cheese, vine leaves, salt, and lime juice. 

Serve hot.

REVIEW: Netflix’s ‘The Sandman’ adaptation is a long-awaited triumph

REVIEW: Netflix’s ‘The Sandman’ adaptation is a long-awaited triumph
Updated 12 August 2022

REVIEW: Netflix’s ‘The Sandman’ adaptation is a long-awaited triumph

REVIEW: Netflix’s ‘The Sandman’ adaptation is a long-awaited triumph
  • Comic-book series finally gets the TV treatment it deserves after escaping development hell

LONDON: For decades, Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman” epic has been one of the go-to examples of why comic books should be acknowledged as much, much more than outlandish adventures starring superheroes bedecked in garish spandex. 

Despite this (or perhaps because of it), bringing the sprawling saga to the screen — big or small — has been a tortuous process, with countless iterations promising much before, inevitably, falling by the wayside.

Tom Sturridge as The Sandman. (Supplied)

So Netflix deserves some credit for the mere existence of “The Sandman” — a 10-part series developed by Gaiman, David S Goyer and Allan Heinberg and starring British actor Tom Sturridge as Morpheus, the lord of dreams and nightmares. When Morpheus is captured by an occultist and held prisoner for more than 100 years, his kingdom (the Dreaming) falls into ruin, with the balance between dreams and nightmares lost, and rogue entities blurring the lines between the waking world and the fantastical nature of human imagination. After escaping, Morpheus must regain his throne and restore the balance before irreversible damage is done.

“The Sandman” boasts an incredible ensemble cast, with star turns across the board. Jenna Coleman, Stephen Fry, Charles Dance, Patton Oswald, Joely Richardson and Boyd Holbrook are particularly enjoyable, while David Thewlis puts in a staggeringly unsettling performance as one of the many threats Morpheus must prevent from rending the human world asunder.

Tom Sturridge as Morpheus and Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Death in ‘The Sandman.’ (Supplied)

Props, too, to Sturridge for not buckling under the weight of such a momentous character — one beloved by decades of readers. While his performance, at times, relies on such intense whispering as to almost be shouting, Sturridge makes Morpheus a believably fallible protagonist, and a charismatic guide through Gaiman’s fantastically vivid world.

“The Sandman” is many things — fantastical, dark, malevolent, violent, shocking, horrifying and heartwarming — and often several of those at the same time. Weaving such a fanciful tapestry is no mean task, especially in a genre about to get a lot busier with new “Lord of the Rings” and “Game of Thrones” series on the way. 

“The Sandman” does more than hold its own, however, and while there may be some fans unhappy at some of the tweaks made between page and screen, this remains epic, dazzling, complicated fantasy.