World’s oldest ghost image found on British Museum Babylon tablet

World’s oldest ghost image found on British Museum Babylon tablet
A bearded man being led to the afterlife by a woman on an ancient Babylonian clay tablet. (Photo: The British Museum)
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Updated 16 October 2021

World’s oldest ghost image found on British Museum Babylon tablet

World’s oldest ghost image found on British Museum Babylon tablet
  • Artefact, nearly 3,500 years old, never exhibited as male and female figures so faint
  • Curator: ‘It is a Guinness Book of Records object, because how could anybody have a drawing of a ghost which was older?’

LONDON: The oldest depiction of a ghost recorded in human history has been discovered at the British Museum.

The image, on an ancient Babylonian clay tablet nearly 3,500 years old — acquired in the 19th century — shows a bearded man being led to the afterlife by a woman, with his hands held out before him, tied together.

Dr. Irving Finkel, curator of the Middle East department at the museum, said the tablet — which has cuneiform text accompanying the image, and which has never been on public display — was meant to help the living remove unwanted spirits by aiding them to settle unfinished business.

The nature of the tablet, Finkel said, had been missed for years because the image of the ghosts is so faint and only visible under certain light, while it is also significantly damaged. 

“You’d probably never give it a second thought because the area where the drawings are looks like it’s got no writing,” he told The Guardian.

“But when you examine it and hold it under a lamp, those figures leap out at you across time in the most startling way. It is a Guinness Book of Records object, because how could anybody have a drawing of a ghost which was older?”


Saudi Arabia’s Desert X AlUla to return for second edition in 2022 

Saudi Arabia’s Desert X AlUla to return for second edition in 2022 
Updated 08 December 2021

Saudi Arabia’s Desert X AlUla to return for second edition in 2022 

Saudi Arabia’s Desert X AlUla to return for second edition in 2022 

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s site-responsive contemporary art display Desert X AlUla is returning for its second edition in 2022. 

The event, which launched in 2020, will take place from Feb. 11 to March 30, in the Al Mutadil valley, across the Elephant Rock sculpture in AlUla. 

The list of the artists selected for the exhibition will be announced in January. (livingmuseum.com)

Desert X AlUla, which is part of AlUla Arts, will present works by Saudi and international artists. Under the theme of “Sarab,” the exhibition will explore the ideas of a mirage and the desert oasis. 

The list of the artists selected for the exhibition will be announced in January. 

In the 2020 edition, some of the artists that took part in the project were involved in the creation of Desert X installations in California, and they created artworks based on AlUla’s ancient civilizations and sand and rock formations.


Hany Abu-Assad’s ‘Huda’s Salon’ continues director’s tradition of challenging himself

Hany Abu-Assad’s ‘Huda’s Salon’ continues director’s tradition of challenging himself
Updated 08 December 2021

Hany Abu-Assad’s ‘Huda’s Salon’ continues director’s tradition of challenging himself

Hany Abu-Assad’s ‘Huda’s Salon’ continues director’s tradition of challenging himself
  • Tense drama, set in occupied Palestine, screens at the Red Sea International Film Festival

LONDON: If a story makes Hany Abu-Assad wake up in the middle of the night, it’s fair to say it’s probably one worth telling. The Golden Globe-winning, Oscar-nominated director recalls waking up at 4 a.m. and spending the next four hours writing out the idea for what would become “Huda’s Salon” — a tense, spy drama that will open the Red Sea International Film Festival on Dec. 6 — after a conversation with his wife and long-time producing partner, Amira Diab.

“I had this story about a salon that was recruiting Palestinian girls to work for the occupation’s secret service by putting them in a shameful situation and blackmailing them,” Abu-Assad told Arab News.

“Huda’s Salon” is the taut, character-driven story of Reem, a young mother who visits a Bethlehem business for a haircut and winds up trapped by the salon’s owner, Huda, unless she agrees to spy for the occupation. (Supplied)

“It was in the newspapers, and I was struck by it. It stayed in my mind. Two years ago, my wife wanted to explore something about women in Palestine, and I told her about this idea,” he recalled. “She asked me what the story was, and I didn’t know. So, we slept on it. Then I woke up at 4 a.m. and started to write. During the night, my head must have been working on it.”

“Huda’s Salon” is the taut, character-driven story of Reem, a young mother who visits a Bethlehem business for a haircut and winds up trapped by the salon’s owner, Huda, unless she agrees to spy for the occupation. At the same time, Abu-Assad’s film focuses on Huda’s interrogation by Hasan, who begins to comprehend the gravity of the impossible situation faced by a woman equally trapped by the shame of her past actions.

Abu-Assad is a director equally at home with documentary, biographical and fiction moviemaking, but “Huda’s Salon,” he explained, could only have been made as a story. 

Abu-Assad is a director equally at home with documentary, biographical and fiction moviemaking, but “Huda’s Salon,” he explained, could only have been made as a story. (Supplied) 

“A documentary would have been impossible. I don’t think victims would want to talk to me because of the troubles they would still face if they did so. And, for sure, the secret service isn’t going to talk about it,” he explained. “In fact, one of the only victims who came forward, 15 or 20 years ago, wrote a letter and then committed suicide. So, a fictional story was the only way.

“But the way I shot the film was like a documentary,” he continued. “Most of the scenes are in one shot, where the audience feels like they are trapped in the same time and place as the characters. We walk with the characters, we sit with them. When there are no edits, you are living at the same time as them, second by second. You are almost a mirror for them. And it’s shot with a handheld, too, which adds to that impression.”

In order to pull off such a feat, Abu-Assad needed actors he could trust to control the scenes, who were capable of driving the story for the audience to follow. To that end, the director wrote the parts for actors he had worked with before: Maisa Abd Elhadi (Reem), Manal Awad (Huda) and Ali Suliman (Hasan).

“Huda’s Salon” was suitably new, challenging and scary for Abu-Assad. (Supplied)

“I called them all after I had the story but before I started the script,” he explained. “I told them the idea and that I wouldn’t write it unless they participated — especially Maisa, because she needed to be vulnerable, not only physically but emotionally. You need brave actors to do that.”

The close-up, often claustrophobic nature of the movie is a world away from Abu-Assad’s previous film, 2017’s “The Mountain Between Us” starring Idris Elba and Kate Winslet. But it is in line with his commitment to selecting projects that challenge — and scare — him.

“This is why I love it. Without challenge, I can’t do this job. It’s hard, but I’ve always challenged myself to go to extremes and discover new things. I don’t want to do another version of previous films ‘Paradise Now’ or ‘Omar.’ I have to come up with something new, and I might fail, but at least I will learn.”

“Huda’s Salon” was suitably new, challenging and scary for Abu-Assad.

Caption

“To do an entire movie in two locations, with three characters, almost always in one shot, with a handheld — which I’d never done before — was certainly a learning process. You have no idea if it’s going to work, if a shot will work in favor of the story or of the characters,” he said. “But otherwise, you work on automatic pilot. You know what’s going to happen because you’ve done it before, and you know what mistakes you’ve made, so you don’t make them again. It becomes boring.”

Up next for Abu-Assad — and part of the reason for his involvement in the Red Sea International Film Festival — is a desire to continue challenging himself and learning.

“For the last eight years, I have been working with my wife, and we’re excited to explore working in the Arab World, in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, to widen our borders beyond Palestine. We have several ideas, and we want to explore them with producers from the Arab World. I can’t wait.”


Lineup of Arab stars unveiled for MDLBEAST SOUNDSTORM festival in Riyadh 

Lineup of Arab stars unveiled for MDLBEAST SOUNDSTORM festival in Riyadh 
Updated 08 December 2021

Lineup of Arab stars unveiled for MDLBEAST SOUNDSTORM festival in Riyadh 

Lineup of Arab stars unveiled for MDLBEAST SOUNDSTORM festival in Riyadh 

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s MDLBEAST revealed on Tuesday the lineup of Arab pop stars who will perform at its music festival, SOUNDSTORM.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by @mdlbeast

Eleven singers will hit the stage throughout the four days of the festival, from Dec. 16-19, in Riyadh.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by @mdlbeast

Elissa, Majid Al-Mohandis, Rashid Al-Majid and Mohamed Hamaki will perform on Dec. 16, while Asala, Balqees and Myriam Fares will entertain fans on Dec. 17.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by @mdlbeast

On the third day, Tamer Hosny and Wael Kfoury will perform, while Amr Diab and Nancy Ajram will close out the event. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by @mdlbeast

“SOUNDSTORM 21 will bring together 200+ artists that tailor to the taste of all festivalgoers attending,” said Talal Albahiti, COO and head of talent booking and events at MDLBEAST. “Announcing this exceptional line-up of Arab pop stars is an exciting moment for fans who are keen to experience this unique blend provided by electronic dance music global headliners with the Arab world’s most popular artists.”


Nicole Scherzinger, Halima Aden head to the UAE 

Nicole Scherzinger, Halima Aden head to the UAE 
Updated 07 December 2021

Nicole Scherzinger, Halima Aden head to the UAE 

Nicole Scherzinger, Halima Aden head to the UAE 

DUBAI: US singer Nicole Scherzinger is set to head to the UAE for the Global Citizen Forum, which will take place in the emirate of Ras Al-Khaimah on Dec 12. and 13. 

And she’s not the only star slated to attend the event — US-Somali model Halima Aden landed in Dubai on Monday ahead of the forum, and promptly took to Instagram to share snaps with her 1.4 million followers. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Halima (@halima)

The two-day event invites artists, entrepreneurs, economists, changemakers and leaders to discuss “human mobility and steps towards a more sustainable future.”

Aden, 24, shared a sneak peak of her beach view at the Mandarin Oriental Jumeirah hotel in Dubai on her Instagram Story on Monday. 

Global Citizen Forum’s annual summits – previously hosted in Dubai, Toronto, Monaco and Sveti Stefan – have each welcomed more than 500 guests from more than 65 countries.

Alongside Aden and Scherzinger, there are a number of guests and speakers who will attend the event, including Grammy-nominated DJ and record producer Steve Aoki, US actress Eva Longoria, part-Saudi supermodel and philanthropist Shanina Shaik, award-winning filmmaker Craig Leeson and more. 

A fundraiser Gala will close the event on Dec. 13, where international talents are set to light up the stage, including Longoria – who has been honored with the 2021 Global Citizen Forum Award, Scherzinger, Aoki, Dutch DJ Afrojack, and Grammy award-winning artist Wyclef Jean.

The event will be hosted by British host and author June Sarpong, US journalist Richard Quest and Emirati entrepreneur Sara Al-Madani. 

Aden’s inspiring story began in a Kenyan refugee camp, where she was raised before emigrating to the US with her family at age seven.

The UNICEF ambassador went on to make headlines as the first woman to wear a hijab in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant, where she was a semi-finalist. The Muslim model was also the first contestant to wear a hijab throughout the competition and the first to favor a burkini during the contest’s swimsuit round.

Shortly afterwards, she made history as the first hijab-wearing model in New York Fashion Week after she made her runway debut in 2017 at the Yeezy Season 5 show. 

In November 2020, model made the decision to walk away from the industry, claiming that it did not align with her faith. She announced her return in May 2021, after adding a clause to her contract with IMG Models to ensure she would never have to remove her hijab.  


‘I’m living these stories,’ says Hind Al-Fahhad, one of the Saudi directors behind ‘Becoming’

‘I’m living these stories,’ says Hind Al-Fahhad, one of the Saudi directors behind ‘Becoming’
Updated 07 December 2021

‘I’m living these stories,’ says Hind Al-Fahhad, one of the Saudi directors behind ‘Becoming’

‘I’m living these stories,’ says Hind Al-Fahhad, one of the Saudi directors behind ‘Becoming’

DUBAI: Five Saudi female directors will present their new drama “Becoming” at the Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah.

The 70-minute, Arabic-language film features five short narratives, each reflecting on Saudi society and the changes it is undergoing. 

Produced by the festival, “Becoming” focuses on problems confronting female characters — from a divorced mother struggling with anxiety attacks to a middle-aged hairdresser considering an abortion.

The five filmmakers behind “Becoming” include Hind Al-Fahhad, whose work mostly portrays women and the psychological and physical challenges they face. 

“I feel that their stories are relevant to me,” she told Arab News. “I’m still living them and they’re all around me.”

Al-Fahhad launched a creative career as a photographer in 2006. “I’m attracted to images and the idea of expressing myself visually,” she said.

At the time, there were no opportunities to study film direction in Saudi Arabia, but the self-taught Al-Fahhad trained herself by reading, watching films and attending workshops. 

Hind Al-Fahhad’s work mostly portrays women and the psychological and physical challenges they face. (Supplied) 

Five years later, she began experimenting by directing short films, such as the award-winning “Basta” (“Peddlers”), showcasing her productions in Gulf film festivals.

“Every day, I’m discovering,” she said, explaining what she enjoys most about her artistic profession. “I experience a story, a situation in every film. I feel like I’ve entered people’s homes and their stories.” 

Like most film professionals, Al-Fahhad’s interest in movies began at an early age, watching videotapes and listening to stories of her grandmother visiting local cinemas in the 1970s.

Al-Fahhad is optimistic about the revival of cinema in the Kingdom, as well as the encouragement of aspiring independent filmmakers in her country. (Supplied)

This family story, in particular, inspired Al-Fahhad to work on her upcoming film “Sharshaf” (“Fitted Sheet”), which will be filmed in 2022.

She is optimistic about the revival of cinema in the Kingdom, as well as the encouragement of aspiring independent filmmakers in her country. 

“The situation is different now. We are living the dream,” she said.

“I believe things have gone back to the way they used to be. Saudi society is starting to look like other societies worldwide. It has its dreams, stories and experiences.”