‘The Houses of Beirut’ — preserving a city’s architectural heritage

The original version of the book, published in both English and French, was, Julie said, popular among the Lebanese. (Supplied)
The original version of the book, published in both English and French, was, Julie said, popular among the Lebanese. (Supplied)
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Updated 03 December 2021

‘The Houses of Beirut’ — preserving a city’s architectural heritage

The original version of the book, published in both English and French, was, Julie said, popular among the Lebanese. (Supplied)
  • Why two sisters chose to republish their mother’s children’s book following the Beirut Port explosion

DUBAI: Twenty-four years ago, Nayla Audi published her only book: “The Houses of Beirut.” It was created for children — an oversized book in the shape of a house — but at Dubai Design Week last month, adults, too, were opening the ‘doors’ of its cover to reveal the old-school watercolors (created by Audi’s friend, the painter Flavia Codsi) within. 

The book’s current revival was made possible by Audi’s two daughters, Yasmine and Julie, who published a new edition in the wake of the Beirut Port explosion last year, having found a copy of the book — a nostalgic memento of their childhood — that had survived the damage inflicted on their family home in the city’s Gemmayze neighborhood.




Nayla, Yasmine and Julie Audi. (Supplied)

“It really affected us personally,” Julie, who lives in London, told Arab News. “We thought we needed to do everything we can to preserve this book — to re-edit and try our best for these houses to stay. We grew up taking all these things for granted. But now, with a bit of maturity and age, we also realize that it’s important for us to continue what our mom started.”

The original version of the book, published in both English and French, was, Julie said, popular among the Lebanese. 

“A lot of people in our generation kind of grew up with this book,” she explained. “Through this project, people sent us messages saying: ‘It reminds me of my childhood.’ Or, ‘This was my favorite book growing up.’”

The book’s detailed and idyllic images take the reader through small-but-significant moments of daily life: Students arriving home from school, youngsters running around with the Lebanese flag; a street vendor filling a basket with vegetables, and the serene blue of the sea beside the corniche.




(Supplied)

But, as the name suggests, it is the tall traditional houses with their red-tile roofs and triple arches, which can be seen throughout the streets of the Lebanese capital, that take center stage. 

“She realized how important the heritage houses were in Beirut and how important it was for us — we were very little at the time — to have them as a memory,” Yasmine said.

Many of those heritage houses, some of which were built over a century ago, were seriously affected by the explosion and the sisters have stipulated that all proceeds from the sale of the book will be donated to the Beirut Heritage Initiative, launched in 2020 to restore badly damaged historical buildings.




(Supplied)

Apart from the fact that their mother wrote it, “The Houses of Beirut” is intensely personal to the sisters in other ways. Julie and Yasmine (and their cat) actually feature in the charming, colorful pages and they grew up in one of the depicted heritage houses — the ‘White House’ of the book. 

“The interior has an open, traditional layout — the living room in the middle and the rooms on the side,” Yasmine said. “When we were growing up, the balcony was our favorite place. It was kind of like our playground.”  

For the reprinting of the hand-bound book, the sisters kept the story as it was, (although they printed the English version only) and even turned to the same family-run printing press — Anis, established in the late 1950s — that published it in the first place. Like many businesses in Beirut, Anis was practically destroyed, so getting things off the ground has been a struggle. 




(Supplied)

“We kept coming back to the fact that we’re doing this, also, to help Lebanon,” Yasmine said. “So, why would we print the book somewhere else and not help the actual artisans in Lebanon, who have been affected by the economic crisis and everything that’s been happening?”

Both Julie and Yasmine were born in the US, but feel a strong attachment to Lebanon. They flew to Beirut after the explosion and that experience reinforced their belief in the necessity of chronicling the city’s architectural traditions. 

“It’s this cycle, which is sometimes a bit sad when you’re from Lebanon, of how every generation has to go through these hardships,” said Julie. “There are so many issues nowadays, but preserving our heritage is really important.”


US rapper Russ to perform at Usyk-Joshua rematch in Jeddah this month

US rapper Russ to perform at Usyk-Joshua rematch in Jeddah this month
Updated 10 August 2022

US rapper Russ to perform at Usyk-Joshua rematch in Jeddah this month

US rapper Russ to perform at Usyk-Joshua rematch in Jeddah this month
  • The 29 year old achieved 10 billion streams on Spotify and Apple Music without the backing of a major label and was listed in Forbes magazine’s 30 under 30 list in 2019
  • He emerged during the 2010s from the Atlanta-area underground music scene, releasing dozens of independent singles and albums, all of which he made freely available to download

RIYADH: Rapper Russ Vitale is set to perform live at the world heavyweight title rematch between boxers Anthony Joshua and Oleksandr Usyk on Aug. 20 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Commonly known simply as Russ, the 29-year-old American rapper, singer, songwriter and author, who first performed in the Kingdom in 2019, lists other American rappers and the classic rock he listened to as a youngster among his inspirations.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by RUSS (@russ)

One of the most popular rappers in the world, he achieved 10 billion streams on Spotify and Apple Music without the backing of a major label, has performed sellout global tours, and was listed in Forbes magazine’s 30 under 30 list in 2019.

Russ emerged during the 2010s from the Atlanta-area underground music scene, releasing dozens of independent singles and albums, all of which he made freely available to download. His mainstream breakthrough came in 2017 with the platinum-certified top 10 album “There’s Really a Wolf,” before he cracked the top five of the Billboard 200 with “Zoo” in 2018 and “Shake the Snow Globe” in 2020, followed by the release of companion albums “Chomp” and “Chomp 2.”

Most recently, he collaborated with Ed Sheeran for new single “Are You Entertained,” on which Russ switches between singing and rapping.

The heavyweight title rematch between Usyk and Joshua is considered one of the biggest in the history of the sport. When they met in September 2021 at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Usyk dominated the contest, earning a unanimous decision victory and three world heavyweight titles to become unified Heavyweight World Champion.


Forward cruising: How Riyadh’s skateboarding scene is developing

Forward cruising: How Riyadh’s skateboarding scene is developing
Updated 09 August 2022

Forward cruising: How Riyadh’s skateboarding scene is developing

Forward cruising: How Riyadh’s skateboarding scene is developing
  • Popularity of the sport growing amongst teenagers in the Kingdom’s capital
  • LocoSonix founder Safi Marroun: I see great potential in the sport as it’s becoming increasingly integrated into the Saudi culture

RIYADH: Sitting on the upper level of LocoSonix, a skate shop based in Riyadh, Saudi skateboarder Shareef Masarani is approached by a young girl. The mixture of excitement and shyness overwhelm her expressions as she presents a board she picked out from the shop.

“I just wanted to ask you, I am buying this board. Is it cool?” She wanted his input on buying her first ever skateboard after seeing he was at the shop through Instagram Live. 

“The Hydroponic is good, as a startup board, yeah … That’s actually a good choice,” he responded. 

The girl had found his account on Instagram one day, and later on met him at the Riyadh Boulevard skatepark. The coincidence inspired her to hop on her very own skateboard for the first time. 

Masarani has been a skater on and off for almost 20 years, beginning his journey at 15. After leaving his job as a chef to focus on growing the skate community in Saudi Arabia, he has become somewhat of a go-to resource for all things skateboard-related for many up-and-coming skaters, alongside his 11-person skate community Sandlifers.

Masarani went from pursuing skateboarding as a hobby while living in the US to becoming a learning resource and collaborating with big-name brands such as Vans and Mountain Dew.

One of his young client’s mothers called him one day, thanking him for his work. Not only were her daughter’s skills improving, but she became a more outward and confident person as a result. 

“Her personality developed. At the house, she’s a quiet kid, she doesn’t talk to anybody. Now, it gave her confidence and gave her a personality, she’s talking with the family. It changes people, it really does,” Masarani told Arab News. 

“When you learn a trick, you do things that you didn’t think you could do,” he said. “I’ve seen what it did to me, and I would love to kick start it here in the Middle East,” he said.

Masarani’s client, 15-year-old Reef Khalid Hassan, said her training helped her manage the tricks she aimed to master. His support inspired her to keep going. 

“Ever since I met him, he’s been telling me that I could be something … Masarani also helped me with explaining to me how skateboarding works, different tricks and how to think in the right mindset,” she told Arab News. 

“You need to know when to bail and when to commit,” he told her during a lesson. 

Hassan started skating on her own a few months back and has become one of the rising young stars in the Riyadh skate scene, according to Masarani.

“A few months ago, I used to need a little bit of help with a couple of tricks, so I got a month’s training, which helped me a lot,” she said. 

Her first two tricks were a revert and an ollie. “It felt really good, actually, because I tried for so long until I got it … Skating gives me something to look forward to because there are more tricks (to learn) every day,” she said. 

But the skate scene was not always this popular in Saudi Arabia. According to Masarani, only a few groups of people, including Sandlifers and some Filipino residents who had brought the practice from their country, were skating until 2020. 

That is when Al-Nakheel skatepark opened to the public. Slowly, more parks became accessible like the private Diriyah club and the purpose-built Riyadh Boulevard skatepark, which rents out gear on the spot.

As his following increases, Masarani has been using Instagram as a learning tool for others. He utilizes the app’s live feature as a platform to answer common questions that people have around the sport, or to demonstrate which of LocoSonix’s goods are best to purchase for your needs. 

“That’s my goal. I want people to be better than me,” he said.

Masarani is also a partner of LocoSonix, the only specialized skate shop in the Kingdom, and frequently shows off their newest gear. Walking into the active lifestyle store is like entering an art gallery. 

“I see great potential in the sport as it’s becoming increasingly integrated into the Saudi culture,” Safi Marroun, founder of LocoSonix, told Arab News.

“The moment you learn how to balance on a board and start to ride around with your own board, you have entered a new way of living. LocoSonix brings together the artist, the pro players, and those who want to just have fun on wheels.”

LocoSonix is planning to create skateparks to promote the sport in 2023.

Skateboarding has recently been legitimized with its recognition as an Olympic sport by the International Olympic Committee, making its debut appearance at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

In the Kingdom, the Saudi Arabian Extreme Sports Federation recently concluded two rounds of skateboarding camps in Riyadh, with 111 participants. It also held its first two-day skateboarding and aggressive in-line skating competition that hosted 38 female and male participants.

“I see (the scene) becoming bigger, if people continue doing what they’re doing. Like anything, if they stay consistent with it, it’s only going to get bigger,” said Masarani.


Will the Middle East get its own version of ‘America’s Next Top Model’?

Will the Middle East get its own version of ‘America’s Next Top Model’?
Updated 09 August 2022

Will the Middle East get its own version of ‘America’s Next Top Model’?

Will the Middle East get its own version of ‘America’s Next Top Model’?
  • Local media reported that the regional edition will be called “Arabia’s Next Top Model” 
  • Read on for our picks of who we would like to see sit on the judging panel of the possible Middle Eastern version

DUBAI: A Middle Eastern franchise of “America’s Next Top Model” is in the works, according to local media reports.

Although official confirmation is yet to be made, local media reported that the regional edition will be called “Arabia’s Next Top Model.” The production team is reportedly looking for a well-known host and judges in the modeling and fashion industries. Read on for our picks for who we would like to see sit on the judging panel of the possible Middle Eastern version.

The hit US show, which premiered in May 2003, was created by US supermodel Tyra Banks, who also serves as an executive producer. It was developed by TV producer Ken Mok and writer Kenya Barris. 

In the show, aspiring female and male models compete against each other in a series of challenges in order to win career opportunities in the modeling industry.

More than 50 spinoffs of the show were released around the world, including “Germany’s Next Top Model,” “Asia’s Next Top Model,” “India’s Next Top Model” and others.

Arab News contacted various TV production houses affiliated with international iterations of the show, but none had responded at the time of publication.

Although the production house is yet to confirm the news, here are our picks for who we would like to see sit on the judging panel of the possible Middle Eastern version.

Mona and Huda Kattan

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Tyra Banks (@tyrabanks)

The powerful women behind Huda Beauty and perfume brand Kayali would be the perfect judges, although their camp has not made an official announcement about their potential involvement in the show.

Banks, who created “America’s Next Top Model,” did meet Mona at an event in Abu Dhabi in March 2022, and posted that she was “a true beauty.”

The pair previously starred in a Facebook reality show titled “Huda Boss.”

Shanina Shaik

Part Saudi model Shanina Shaik would give the show a healthy dose of star power. The former Victoria’s Secret model has posed for a number of fashion houses and has appeared in the pages of Vogue Arabia. Although her social media accounts feature no mention of a potential starring spot on the show, here’s to hoping we will see her in the Middle East soon.

Jessica Kahawaty

The Lebanese Australian model, entrepreneur and humanitarian would be an ideal judge given her history as Miss World Australia 2012. She has starred in campaigns for international fashion houses and is a red carpet and front row regular at events around the world.

Kris Fade

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Kris Fade (@krisfade)

The popular radio host is known for his sense of humor and would certainly lighten the atmosphere on the competitive show.

Amira Al-Zuhair

Saudi model Amira Al-Zuhair recently hit the runway for Dolce & Gabbana, Giorgio Armani and Lebanese couture label Georges Hobeika. The young star could be the ideal mentor for other up-and-coming models in the Middle East if she is picked to appear on the rumored show.

Elie Saab or Zuhair Murad

Elie Saab is a renowned Lebanese designer. (AFP)

Who better to handpick an up-and-coming model than the Arab world’s most famous designers? Elie Saab, Zuhair Murad, Georges Hobeika and Georges Chakra are all options for who we would like to see take a seat on the judging panel.


MBC Studios starts shooting Saudi Arabia’s ‘Rise of the Witches’ in NEOM

MBC Studios starts shooting Saudi Arabia’s ‘Rise of the Witches’ in NEOM
Updated 09 August 2022

MBC Studios starts shooting Saudi Arabia’s ‘Rise of the Witches’ in NEOM

MBC Studios starts shooting Saudi Arabia’s ‘Rise of the Witches’ in NEOM
  • 10-part series based on writer Osamah Almuslim’s fantasy bestsellers
  • ‘True homegrown production in front and behind the cameras’

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s MBC Studios announced this week that its production team has started shooting the Kingdom’s fantasy adventure “Rise of the Witches.”

The team is filming in NEOM, the smart city in northwest Saudi Arabia.

The 10-part series, based on the best-selling Saudi mythology books by Osamah Almuslim, is said to be the Kingdom’s biggest show to date that features a local cast and crew.

It is set in ancient Arabia and tells the story of a war between two rival witch covens.

The show stars actors Ida AlKusay and Sumaya Rida as the two lead witches.

The series is directed by Irish filmmaker Declan O’Dwyer and British director Craig Pickles.

The show, produced by “The Crash” (2013) producer Dominic Barlow and MBC Group’s Zeinab Abu Alsamh, is a Shahid Original and will be available on the streaming platform later this year.

“‘Rise of the Witches’ is a true homegrown production, and features recognizable and new faces, with talent both in front of and behind the cameras coming from our very own MBC Academy and MBC Talent hubs,” said Abu Alsamh, the general manager of MBC Studios KSA, in a statement.

“This series will no doubt make household names of the cast — this outstanding fantasy adventure is not one to be missed!” she added.


Saudi Arabia’s AlUla unveils 2022 calendar and announces new festival  

Saudi Arabia’s AlUla unveils 2022 calendar and announces new festival  
Updated 09 August 2022

Saudi Arabia’s AlUla unveils 2022 calendar and announces new festival  

Saudi Arabia’s AlUla unveils 2022 calendar and announces new festival  

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s historic city of AlUla on Tuesday announced the lineup of its key events and festivals taking place this year. 

Under the umbrella of AlUla Moments, the series of events will start from September and will see the return of the Kingdom’s music festival Azimuth, AlUla Wellness Festival and Winter at Tantora. 

The season will also introduce a new addition to the calendar, The Ancient Kingdoms Festival. 

Azimuth, the three-day-celebration of music, art and food, will feature a mix of international and Arab celebrities who will hit the stage during the Saudi National Day weekend from Sept. 22 to 24. 

The Wellness festival, which debuted in March this year, will take place after Azimuth from Sept. 29 to Oct. 16. It will be anchored by Five Senses Sanctuary – a purpose built spa, fitness and wellness retreat which will bring the world’s best practitioners together with local talent. 

The new event, the Ancient Kingdoms Festival, starts on Nov. 11 and will run until Nov. 27. 

It will bring the past into the present with experiences inspired by the significance of 7000 years of successive civilizations on the Arabian Peninsula.

Visitors will be able to discover the geological and historical significance that cities like  Khaybar, AlUla and Tayma have globally. 

The festival will also offer a series of music, arts and outdoor events at the key heritage sites of AlUla including the popular Hegra After Dark. 

This year’s Winter at Tantora, which will run from Dec. 21 to Jan. 21, will bring experiences like immersive arts, outdoor theater, high fashion and more.