Show will go on after El Gouna Film Festival site blaze in Egypt

Show will go on after El Gouna Film Festival site blaze in Egypt
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(Top) The El Gouna main hall (Bottom) The main hall engulfed in flames.
Show will go on after El Gouna Film Festival site blaze in Egypt
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The fire was eventually brought under control. (Supplied)
Show will go on after El Gouna Film Festival site blaze in Egypt
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The fire was eventually brought under control. (Supplied)
Show will go on after El Gouna Film Festival site blaze in Egypt
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The fire was eventually brought under control. (Supplied)
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Updated 13 October 2021

Show will go on after El Gouna Film Festival site blaze in Egypt

Show will go on after El Gouna Film Festival site blaze in Egypt

DUBAI/ CAIRO: The fifth edition of the El Gouna Film Festival in Egypt will proceed as planned, organizers said Wednesday, after a blaze ripped through the site's main hall just one day before the event was set to kick off.

“GFF extends its gratitude to the Civil Defense Forces and the Red Sea Governorate for their immense help in extinguishing the fire that took place earlier this morning in one section of the Festival Plaza. It’s important to note that the 5th edition of GFF will proceed as planned,” read a statement from the Chairman of Orascom Development Holding Samih Sawiris.

Sawiris said in an Instagram Story, recorded by a celebrity photographer known as Rashad Studios, that the fire was a result of a short circuit in one of the stores near the main venue.

Images shared on social media earlier in the day show the structure engulfed in flames.

The fifth edition of the film festival is set to take place in the resort town from Oct. 14-22 after being postponed by a month last year due to COVID-19.

No injuries have been reported.

This is a developing story. 


Everything you need to know about Ain Dubai’s opening weekend 

Everything you need to know about Ain Dubai’s opening weekend 
Updated 21 October 2021

Everything you need to know about Ain Dubai’s opening weekend 

Everything you need to know about Ain Dubai’s opening weekend 

DUBAI: Ain Dubai, the world’s tallest and largest observation wheel, is opening to visitors this weekend. 

To celebrate the launch, organizers are hosting a packed schedule of free activities that will take place across the outdoor plaza.

On Oct. 22 and 23, the celebrations will kick off with a host of family-friendly activities, alon with 12 food stations, from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

At 5.30 p.m., UAE-based DJ Dany Neville will play music inspired by the sunset for an hour.

Ain Dubai’s official celebration will commence with the inaugural light and drone show at 8.30 p.m. on Thursday. 

On Friday, light shows will take place on the wheel at 6:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m., 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. 

The plaza will also host six artists, including Moh Flow, Shebani, Freek, Michele, Molham and Mougleta, from Flash Entertainment and Virgin Radio Dubai’s Regional Artist Spotlight (RAS) initiative until 10:30 p.m.

Entry for the opening weekend at the plaza is free. However, visitors will need to purchase tickets at Ain Dubai’s website to experience a ride on the wheel. 

Ain Dubai – or Eye Dubai in Arabic – stands over 250 metres. It will offer visitors a 360-degree view of the city and its coastline.

It will have 48 capsules, which can carry more than 1,750 visitors at once, with each of the 30-square-meter capsules having the capability to be converted into fine-dining venues for up to a dozen guests. 


Louvre Abu Dhabi showcases historic cultural links between China, Islamic world

Louvre Abu Dhabi showcases historic cultural links between China, Islamic world
Updated 21 October 2021

Louvre Abu Dhabi showcases historic cultural links between China, Islamic world

Louvre Abu Dhabi showcases historic cultural links between China, Islamic world
  • Second international exhibition of the year explores artistic exchange stretching back centuries

DUBAI: Over the past decade the world has watched as China has expanded its economic presence in the Gulf region, becoming the biggest trading partner and external investor for many Middle Eastern countries.

Yet what many forget is that China’s relationship with the Arab world dates back to antiquity — to the time of the Silk Road and the birth of Islam in the Arabian Peninsula.

Thanks to Arab explorers, such as the 14th-century adventurer Ibn Battuta, and the expansion of trade activities in Europe, business and cultural exchange flourished between China and the Arab world.

The show includes over 200 masterpieces from the Louvre Abu Dhabi in partnership with the Guimet Museum in Paris. (Supplied)

What many analysts refer to as China’s “new Silk Road” is, in essence, a return to this shared past, one that is explored through the exhibition “Dragon and Phoenix: Centuries of Exchange between Chinese and Islamic Worlds,” on display at the Louvre Abu Dhabi until Feb. 12, 2022. 

The show includes over 200 masterpieces from the Louvre Abu Dhabi in partnership with the Guimet Museum in Paris, and showcases the cultural and artistic exchange between the two civilizations for more than 800 years up till the 18th century. 

The exhibition pays tribute to the Dragon, representing China, and the Phoenix, referring to the Islamic world, with artifacts dating back to the establishment of the first Arab merchant colonies in the trading city of Canton in the 8th century.

Fabulous animal, dragon. (Supplied)

Objects reveal the journeys of tradesmen and explorers from the Arab world through Central Asia and across the Indian Ocean to China and South-east Asia. 

“Dragon and Phoenix: Centuries of Exchange between Chinese and Islamic Worlds” was curated by Sophie Makariou, president of the Guimet Museum, in collaboration with Souraya Noujaim, scientific, curatorial and collections management director, and Guilhem Andre, Louvre Abu Dhabi’s chief curator of Asian and medieval art.

“The exhibition gives visitors the opportunity to compare artworks, set side by side, from different regions that are connected by overwhelming aesthetic and symbolic similarities,” Andre told Arab News.

The exhibition also includes paintings, silverware, ceramic, glassware, manuscripts and luxury fabrics. (Supplied)

“The works appear similar at first glance, but when you uncover their history and provenance you are made aware of the many threads of inspiration and cultural exchange which run between the Chinese and Islamic worlds. Each of these items and the materials used represent mediums for artistic exchange between these great cultures.”

Masterpieces on display include the Louvre Abu Dhabi’s rare Yuan dynasty (1279-1368) gold cup with dragon-shaped handle from China, which may have been made for a nomadic dignitary.

Another highlight is the Panni Tartarici (or Tartar cloths) — Mongol silk fabric with gold threads — from the Guimet collection.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a cultural program, including weekend family film screenings. (Supplied)

A calligraphy section features paintings and calligraphies by Wen Zhengming (1470-1559), Dong Qichang (1555–1636) and Zha Shibiao (1615–1698) on loan from the Guimet Museum. These works correspond to the exquisite letters of Arabic script found in a selection of illuminated manuscripts from the Qur’an.

The exhibition also includes paintings, silverware, ceramic, glassware, manuscripts and luxury fabrics. 

“Wherever trade routes exist, artistic and cultural exchange exists in parallel,” Andre said. “With every exhibition, we hope that visitors come away with an understanding that, as humans, we have more in common than we realize, whether historically or in the present day. Exhibitions such as this allow us to trace the routes of exchange and inspiration between peoples and cultures that have been present for thousands of years and will continue to be sources of inspiration.” 

Vase with dragons and clouds. (Supplied)

The exhibition will be accompanied by a cultural program, including weekend family film screenings. 

Andre said that the exhibition is the Louvre Abu Dhabi’s most important show of 2021. With the opening of Expo 2020, this is a pivotal year for the UAE in terms of cultural exchange, he added. 

In 2022, the Louvre Abu Dhabi will feature a performance piece by local artist Ahmed Al-Areef. Starting in October, educational activities and programs will include daily express tours for adults, Take Me to Asia interactive events with museum educators, “MakeandPlay” activities inspired by the exhibition, and masterclasses.


Lebanese design star Racil Chalhoub on how the pandemic changed her outlook on creativity, management

 Lebanese design star Racil Chalhoub on how the pandemic changed her outlook on creativity, management
Updated 21 October 2021

Lebanese design star Racil Chalhoub on how the pandemic changed her outlook on creativity, management

 Lebanese design star Racil Chalhoub on how the pandemic changed her outlook on creativity, management
  • ‘Beirut makes me want to dress up more than London does,’ says Racil Chalhoub

PARIS: Racil Chalhoub was 10 years old when she told her mother she wanted to be a fashion designer. They had gone to see a Marinelli fashion show at the Hotel Georges V in Paris when — blown away by what she had seen — the young Chalhoub turned to her mother and said: “That’s exactly what I want to do!”

In 2015, her dream came true when she launched her line of tuxedos for women — Racil — in London. The name is not an exercise in self-promotion, but a tribute to her mother, with whom she shares not only a first name, but also a keen and quirky fashion sense. She has since expanded her line to include dresses and tops.

In 2015, her dream came true when she launched her line of tuxedos for women — Racil — in London. (Supplied)

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, bringing the fashion industry and most of the world to a halt, Chalhoub — who was born in Lebanon, raised in Paris, and now lives in London, took the opportunity to pause, reflect and refocus her efforts.

Out of that time, a new collection was born earlier this year: an explosion of colors counterbalancing the black leggings and gray sweatshirts worn during lockdowns. For her Fall/Winter collection, black was replaced by brown and fresher colors, including coral, fuchsia, yellow and many more.

In her London apartment towards the end of summer, Chalhoub reflected on the past peculiar year, and discussed her inspirations and desires for her next collection with Arab News.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by RACIL (@racil)

How would you say the COVID-19 pandemic has affected your creative process and your daily work?

There are two complementary aspects in my field: creation and management — whether that’s regarding the brand, the business, the employees... The pandemic has really affected both of those aspects.

Creatively, it’s hard to stay inspired when you’re locked up at home, alone, for several months. Especially when you’re worrying about other things — the business, the employees, and family in Lebanon. So, honestly, I was facing a bit of a creative block. There are three elements that are always on my mood board: First, my mother, who is my muse and inspires me a lot, but whom I hadn’t seen for nearly a year. Second, (discos, clubs and) parties — and all of a sudden, we can’t go out. And third, the street. I walk a lot. I can find inspiration in a park or café, people-watching. During COVID, none of these three elements were present.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by RACIL (@racil)

It was only when I managed to escape from London in the summer to meet up with friends on vacation, to soak in the sun, roam the streets — when I was able to live a little again — that I found inspiration. Then I would sit in my corner and draw.

As for the management side, that was also difficult, because I came home one day and then never went back to the office. I have a team of 12 girls, whom I consider family. If I’m not doing well, the chances are they’re not doing well either.

So this period allowed me to think a lot about the structure of the company and the brand: what my identity is and where I’m heading. Coming out of all this, would I want the same thing as before? How could I adapt without losing my vision? I mean, with COVID we realized that the first thing we can live without is a suit or a tuxedo. A tuxedo is usually used to go to a gala or to a dinner, which we weren’t doing. We wear a suit to go to the office, where we weren’t going. But, at the same time, it’s what I love. It’s my brand’s DNA and I don’t want to lose that. So, why not translate it in a more relaxed way? I felt I couldn’t resume where I left off: I needed something different. So, in September, I decided to rebrand. I designed a new logo, launched new pieces, new categories and started new collaborations.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by RACIL (@racil)

I was feeling very restricted even before the pandemic. I had started this brand with this DNA and I really felt like it was the only thing I could do. So COVID was both an opportunity and a great excuse to say, “I’m going to try this, because it’s my brand. I’m going to allow myself to do it, and I’m going to see how my customers react.” And, so far, the reactions have been quite positive.

Would you say this new collection is more focused on the essentials?

For me, a jacket is essential. I’ve remained in that lane, but with different ‘essentials,’ adapted a little more to today's lifestyles. I have reduced the size of the collection, too. And I also worked a lot slower, which was quite stressful, but a lot more enjoyable as well. Before the pandemic, my days were always very stressful. It was a constant race. Then, all of a sudden, it was like we’d unplugged everything. So then we had to work out how to reconnect everything. But one thing I’m sure of: I cannot afford to run that fast anymore.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by RACIL (@racil)

We’re in a situation where we have to accept that some things are beyond our control. Before, if a delivery from a factory was late, I’d go crazy. Now I just do what I can. I can set a schedule and do everything I can to make everything work as it should, but you have to accept the slowdowns and setbacks. In the fashion business, where everything is so fast, this is refreshing.

Taking things day-by-day, not knowing what tomorrow holds, and realizing you can’t control everything… Would you say that resembles the Lebanese outlook?

That’s the Lebanese attitude, indeed. We still live day-by-day.

Do you still have a strong bond with Lebanon?

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by RACIL (@racil)

I was born in Beirut, but I grew up in Paris and I didn’t live in Lebanon for long. But my family is there. I have lots of friends there. It’s a country I adore and which touches my heart infinitely. Before the pandemic and the various crises affecting Lebanon now, I would always take my dresses, my tuxedos, and my heels when I visited Beirut. I knew there would be great parties; that we were going to go out and see people. Beirut often makes me want to dress up more than London does.

I definitely think Lebanon influences me. I like the attitude of Lebanese women, who like to go out, to look beautiful, to dress well. They have this glamorous side.

So, you take inspiration from France, Lebanon and England?

Yes. I think every country has offered me something different. I have a very Parisian side to my everyday look, which is both a little nonchalant and quite chic at the same time. Fashion in London is very funky and colorful. You can really express yourself. There is a great contrast between French and English looks. All of that mixed together gives something quite unique, which I try to represent with Racil.


THE BREAKDOWN: Tania Nasr discusses her artwork ‘Déchirure’ (Tear)

THE BREAKDOWN: Tania Nasr discusses her artwork ‘Déchirure’ (Tear)
Updated 21 October 2021

THE BREAKDOWN: Tania Nasr discusses her artwork ‘Déchirure’ (Tear)

THE BREAKDOWN: Tania Nasr discusses her artwork ‘Déchirure’ (Tear)

DUBAI: The Paris-based, Lebanese ceramicist discusses a work created in 2020 in the midst of Lebanon’s socio-economic downfall. 

My background is, in fact, not in art. I have a PhD in anthropology and I worked in France’s Museum of Natural History. My husband had an opportunity to move to China, so we moved there and then to Singapore. I was in the intellectual field for so many years and wanted to do something with my hands. 

I took some art classes and after one ceramics class, I said: ‘OK, this is it. This is what I really want to do.’ What I like about pottery is the way that you can touch and move the clay. You have a dialogue with the clay. It’s very relieving, very natural. And your brain doesn’t work. I mean it works, but not in the same way. 

My goal is always to push the clay as much as possible. I tear it, make holes in it and then I patch it. It’s always like a game with the clay. For me, it’s like a metaphor for life: It’s never smooth, there are always accidents, cracks, and you have to keep going. 

Tania Nasr has a PhD in anthropology and she worked in France’s Museum of Natural History. (Supplied)

I grew up in Lebanon and I left when I was 17. The story of this country is you always have to leave it. When I wasn’t living there, I had this ideal image of it. I have memories of Lebanon’s mountains and their colors — red, yellow, purple. They always moved me. You can see on the horizon one mountain after another, they’re like lines. When I began to do artistic pottery, I began to mix different clays and make horizons, a little bit like landscapes.

My pieces are round but with this piece, I opened it up a little bit more. It’s much more destructured. I think it’s directly linked to the whole ambiance in Lebanon. I didn’t have a plan for what I was doing; it was quite natural. When I looked at my piece, I thought it was chaos — much more so than my other works. We had two years of chaos in Lebanon. There’s a little bit of violence in the work too.

I particularly like this sculpture, because it’s a change in my work and it’s really a link to the time I spent in Lebanon. I won’t sell it. I’ll keep it for myself. 


Celebrating Spain’s links to the Arab world at Casa Arabe

Celebrating Spain’s links to the Arab world at Casa Arabe
Updated 21 October 2021

Celebrating Spain’s links to the Arab world at Casa Arabe

Celebrating Spain’s links to the Arab world at Casa Arabe
  • How the Spanish cultural institution honors the country’s long-standing ties to Arab art and culture

DUBAI: Have you ever wondered how the Spanish capital, Madrid, got its name? It’s a surprising story, not least because of its Arabic links. Many historians claim that when the North African Moors dominated the Iberian Peninsula up to the end of the 15th century, this fortified city was called Magrit — a word derived from the Arabic ‘magra,’ meaning a flow of water; a reference to the Manzanares River that runs through the city.

The Moors left an enduring, well-documented influence on Spain — from language and food to architecture. More than 3,000 words in the Spanish language have Arabic roots, and Madrid is reportedly the only European capital built by Arabs.

Nuria Medina Garcia is Casa Arabe’s cultural programs coordinator. (Supplied)

One of the last remaining Moorish traces in Madrid is the derelict limestone Arab Wall, erected during the 9th century next to the quaint Emir Muhammad Park. Another Arab-related monument in much better condition is the Casa Arabe, a notable cultural institution that celebrates its 15th anniversary this year. Its mission — to promote and develop the cultural ties between Spain and the Arab world — isn’t always straightforward, considering the turbulent political landscape of the Middle East.

“Our mission is not accomplished. There are still many things to be done, and maybe more than before,” Casa Arabe’s cultural programs coordinator, Nuria Medina Garcia, tells Arab News. “All of us remain hugely enthusiastic. We believe in what we do. I couldn’t really see myself working anywhere else.”

Another headquarters is located in Cordoba, a southern hotspot of Andalusian culture. It has hosted numerous exhibitions by reputable artists, including the late Moroccan photographer Leila Alaoui. (Supplied)

Garcia, a Spanish social anthropologist who formerly worked in Jerusalem, has been a leading member of the institution since it was founded in 2006 (it was officially inaugurated by King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain in 2008). We meet inside the center’s large conference room, lined with paintings by Arab artists. Casa Arabe’s elegant red-brick building used to be a school, constructed in the late 19th century in a style known as Neo-Mudejar, a kind of revival of Moorish architecture.

Casa Arabe works closely with Spain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to promote Arab culture in Spain through roundtable discussions, lectures, publishing, language courses, performances, and concerts. Another headquarters is located in Cordoba, a southern hotspot of Andalusian culture. It has hosted numerous exhibitions by reputable artists, including the veteran Algerian printmaker Rachid Koraichi and the late Moroccan photographer Leila Alaoui. Upcoming shows will delve into contemporary female artists from the Arab world and art from Mauritania.

Most recently, the center showcased a group photography exhibition entitled “Barzakh: Between Worlds,” that focused on the lives of young people in the Maghreb.

The center showcased a group photography exhibition entitled “Barzakh: Between Worlds,” that focused on the lives of young people in the Maghreb. (Getty)

As evidenced by recent events in Afghanistan, the Middle East continues to grapple with heavy socio-political dilemmas, from religious extremism to mass migration. In Garcia’s own experience, stereotypes of the region, its diverse population and traditions persist.

“There is a huge difference between a Moroccan and a Saudi — the same as there is a difference between a Spaniard and a Norwegian,” she says. “That’s really basic. It may sound absurd but you still find in Spain, and I’m sure in many other countries in Europe, that merging of concepts. Misconceptions come not only from the average citizen, but also from journalists, I have to say.”

This exhibition is by the veteran Algerian printmaker Rachid Koraichi. (Supplied)

The lack of effort to understand aspects of contemporary Arabia and its presence in Spain is part of the problem, according to Garcia, as well as a general apathy towards such attempts.

“Sometimes I have the feeling we pay little attention to all of this,” she continues. “I think because it is so present. I mean, it is so obvious to us that we don’t make an issue out of it.” Nevertheless, the Casa Arabe’s work is not all in vain. Several international NGOs, universities, intellectuals, and artists are vocally appreciative of its activities, seeing it as a vital meeting point of open dialogue and a place to share ideas.

It is the kind of place that embraces its paradoxical past and present. “We don’t see Casa Arabe as an invasion, we see it as part of our history,” explains Garcia. “At one time, we were Romans. At another time, we were Visigothic, and then we were Andalusian. All of these different periods compose our identity. To neglect that is simply a silly thing — you are neglecting the richest part of our history.”