AlUla Arts Festival: Saudi Arabia’s cultural oasis hosts a packed season of international exhibitions

Special Alicja Kwade, In Blur, installation view. (Desert X AlUla 2022/Lance Gerber)
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Alicja Kwade, In Blur, installation view. (Desert X AlUla 2022/Lance Gerber)
Special Ayman Zedani, installation view. (Desert X AlUla 2022/Lance Gerber)
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Ayman Zedani, installation view. (Desert X AlUla 2022/Lance Gerber)
Special Claudia Comte, Dark Suns, Bright Waves, installation view. (Desert X AlUla 2022/Lance Gerber)
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Claudia Comte, Dark Suns, Bright Waves, installation view. (Desert X AlUla 2022/Lance Gerber)
Special Dana Awartani, Where The Dwellers Lay, installation view. (Desert X AlUla 2022/Lance Gerber)
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Dana Awartani, Where The Dwellers Lay, installation view. (Desert X AlUla 2022/Lance Gerber)
Special Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim, installation view. (Desert X AlUla 2022/Lance Gerber), installation view. (Desert X AlUla 2022/Lance Gerber)
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Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim, installation view. (Desert X AlUla 2022/Lance Gerber), installation view. (Desert X AlUla 2022/Lance Gerber)
Special Muhannad Shono, installation view. (Desert X AlUla 2022/Lance Gerber)
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Muhannad Shono, installation view. (Desert X AlUla 2022/Lance Gerber)
Special Zahra Alghamdi, installation view. (Desert X AlUla 2022/Lance Gerber)
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Zahra Alghamdi, installation view. (Desert X AlUla 2022/Lance Gerber)
Special Jim Denevan, Angle of Repose, installation view. (Desert X AlUla 2022/Lance Gerber)
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Jim Denevan, Angle of Repose, installation view. (Desert X AlUla 2022/Lance Gerber)
Special Shadia Alem, I Have Seen Thousands of Stars and One Fell in AlUla, installation view. (Desert X AlUla 2022/Lance Gerber)
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Shadia Alem, I Have Seen Thousands of Stars and One Fell in AlUla, installation view. (Desert X AlUla 2022/Lance Gerber)
Special Stephanie Deumer, Under the Same Sun, installation view. (Desert X AlUla 2022/Lance Gerber)
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Stephanie Deumer, Under the Same Sun, installation view. (Desert X AlUla 2022/Lance Gerber)
Special Sultan Bin Fahad, Desert Kite, installation view. (Desert X AlUla 2022/Lance Gerber)
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Sultan Bin Fahad, Desert Kite, installation view. (Desert X AlUla 2022/Lance Gerber)
Special Zeinab Alashemi, Camouflage 2.0, installation view. (Desert X AlUla 2022/Lance Gerber)
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Zeinab Alashemi, Camouflage 2.0, installation view. (Desert X AlUla 2022/Lance Gerber)
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Updated 17 February 2022

AlUla Arts Festival: Saudi Arabia’s cultural oasis hosts a packed season of international exhibitions

AlUla Arts Festival: Saudi Arabia’s cultural oasis hosts a packed season of international exhibitions
  • The AlUla Arts Festival and Desert X demonstrate the huge social and cultural changes underway in Saudi Arabia
  • The Al-Jadidah Arts District is part of a major economic transformation underway in the Kingdom’s historic AlUla

ALULA: On a sandy street framed by the region’s distinctive ancient rock formations, foreign visitors peruse a row of artisan craft shops selling fragrant oils, patterned abayas, delicate jewelry and embroidered bags, many of them handmade by the people of AlUla.

This is the scene today in the Al-Jadidah Arts District of AlUla Old Town, just one small part of a major transformation underway in Saudi Arabia’s historic northwest, turning this scenic desert region, roughly the size of Belgium, into a vibrant cultural oasis of galleries, sculpture parks and art schools.

It is here where the first AlUla Arts Festival opened on Feb. 13, offering visitors a thrilling program of carefully curated contemporary exhibitions and gigantic outdoor sculpture installations by a host of local and international artists.

One exhibition, “What Lies Within,” staged in AlUla’s Maraya Concert Hall, features works from the private collection of Saudi collector Basma Al-Sulaiman.

“This is really a celebratory moment for us,” Saudi artist Lulwa Al-Homoud, who curated the exhibition, told Arab News. “Basma Al-Sulaiman has been working all these years to collect and preserve Saudi contemporary art.”




Sultan Bin Fahad installation view, Desert X AlUla 2022. (Courtesy the artist and Desert X AlUla, photo by Lance Gerber)

The exhibition features works by major Saudi artists, including Manal Al-Dowayan, Shadia Alem, Mohammed Al-Ghamdi, Lulwa Al-Homoud, Musaed Al-Hulis, Hussein Al-Mohsen, Adel Al-Quraishi, Rashed Al-Shashai, Noha Al-Sharif, Dana Awartani, Abdulnasser Gharem, Maha Malluh, Ahmed Mater, Filwa Nazer, Saddek Wasil and Ayman Yossri Daydban.

“I and the artists have been working outside the Kingdom to promote Saudi art,” said Al-Homoud. “It hasn’t been as easy as people think but all of these efforts are recognized now and we are celebrated.”

Also on the festival agenda is a photography exhibition staged by “Cortona on the Move,” an international festival of visual narratives, curated by Arianna Rinaldo and Kolhood Albakr and set across various buildings in Al-Jadidah. The new arts district will also host Cinema El-Housh, showcasing the work of Saudi arthouse filmmakers.

The festival, which closes on March 31, is running in tandem with the second Desert X AlUla, which opened on Feb. 11. This striking event sets the contemporary works of 15 Saudi and international artists against the extraordinary desert landscape of AlUla.

Under the theme “Sarab,” this year’s Desert X exhibition explores ideas of mirage and oasis, both intrinsic to desert history and culture, that have taken on complex worldwide significance over time.

Invited to consider these ancient concepts, participating artists have responded with new works that address dreams, camouflage, fiction, dis/appearance, extraction, illusion and myth, while also examining the dichotomy between the natural and man-made worlds.

“The artworks discuss how we will form future societies, relate to the land and how growth happens and how you revitalize in different ways through technology,” Neville Wakefield, the founding director of Desert X, told guests at the VIP opening of the exhibition.

“All of these themes are important to the desert but important to the world at large,” he said.




Khalil Rabah, Grounding, Desert X AlUla 2022. (Courtesy the artist and Desert X AlUla, photo by Lance Gerber)

Among the international participants in AlUla’s jam-packed season of culture is Pierre Sigg, a Swiss art collector who has lived in Saudi Arabia for almost 30 years. His new Sigg Art Residency opened in the Al-Jadidah Arts District in mid-January.

“I was attracted by the beauty of AlUla,” Sigg said during the residency’s opening. “I wanted to play a more active role in the art world in a wonderful landscape and thought I could make better use of it, while providing a place for artists to evolve their thinking rather than simply supporting them through collecting.”

Sigg’s residency is hosting artists from the US, France, Switzerland, Japan, Sweden, Peru, Germany and Saudi Arabia.

The mission of the residency is to “build cultural bridges, with a special focus on artists challenging history and artistic heritage through the lens of digital and technological innovation.”

Indeed, building bridges and forging cultural dialogues through art between Saudi Arabia and the international community is the very essence of what AlUla is trying to achieve.

“We believe in the power of dialogue,” Nora Aldabal, executive director of arts and creative industries at the Royal Commission for AlUla, told Arab News.

“By 2035, AlUla will be home to 15 landmark destinations for culture, heritage and creativity, each designed in careful dialogue with the region’s unique natural landscape, including museums, galleries, research centers and arts districts.”




Serge Attukwei Clottey, Gold Falls, Desert X AlUla. (Courtesy the artist and Desert X AlUla, photo by Lance Gerber)

The promotion of the arts and the creative industries is a central pillar of Saudi Arabia’s economic reform and diversification agenda.

The AlUla Arts Festival demonstrates not only the huge potential for the arts internationally in AlUla, but also the great social and cultural changes underway in the Kingdom.

“Art, before the last few years, was not as important to Saudi people,” Saudi artist Al-Homoud told Arab News.

“That soft power was not important to the people or to the public but now it is changing. Only the elite cared about art. But now everyone cares.”

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Twitter: @rebeccaaproctor


Romanian Jordanian footwear designer Amina Muaddi pulls off stellar summer with Beyonce video, Greece pop up

Romanian Jordanian footwear designer Amina Muaddi pulls off stellar summer with Beyonce video, Greece pop up
Updated 14 August 2022

Romanian Jordanian footwear designer Amina Muaddi pulls off stellar summer with Beyonce video, Greece pop up

Romanian Jordanian footwear designer Amina Muaddi pulls off stellar summer with Beyonce video, Greece pop up

DUBAI: From accessorizing US singer Beyonce in her latest music video to opening a pop-up installation in Mykonos, the Jordanian Romanian footwear designer Amina Muaddi has been making headlines with her latest work. 

This week, Beyonce released a teaser for her song “I’m That Girl,” the opening track in her latest album “Renaissance.”

In the 3-minute video clip, the US superstar wears fishnet stockings from Muaddi’s 2021 collaboration with Austrian brand Wolford.

Beyonce wore fishnet stockings from the Amina Muaddi x Wolford collection. (YouTube)

The Amina Muaddi x Wolford collection featured form-fitting tights and leggings, alongside bodysuits, dresses and a sinewy catsuit with built-in heels that are meant to hug the body like a glove. The designers opted for latex, lace, viscose jersey and sustainable leather in the offering. 

One of the labels Beyonce championed in her music video is luxury fashion house Alaia, which was founded by late Tunisian couturier Azzedine Alaia.

She also wore pieces from renowned labels such as Burberry, Mugler, Bottega Veneta, Balenciaga, Miu Miu, Jimmy Choo, Christian Louboutin and many more. 

Meanwhile, Muaddi, the designer to the stars, gave her 1.3 million Instagram followers a look into her pop-up installation in Mykonos. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by AMINA MUADDI (@aminamuaddi)

She shared images of the display and wrote: “If you’re in Mykonos this Summer, stop by our pop-up installation at my favorite shop @luisaworld in Nammos Village, Psarou Beach. Drop 2/22 available in store.”

Last week, the footwear designer released a new campaign for her latest collection titled “Drop 2/22,” which starred Egyptian Moroccan model Imaan Hammam and celebrated her Arab roots. 

The short clips, shared on Muaddi and Hammam’s Instagram accounts, were shot in Cairo. 

The footage was captured by British Egyptian filmmaker and photographer Dexter Navy and featured Hammam in multiple scenarios, including standing alongside a white Arabian horse and posing atop intricately woven rugs.

She posed for pictures alongside women and men wearing traditional outfits and head and face covers decorated with jewelry. 

Muaddi’s offerings feature strappy square stilettos, satin pointed-toe pumps and transparent platforms that are embellished with the designer’s iconic sparkly detailing. 

The collection not only features the designer’s glitzy creations, but also her expanded handbag and jewelry collection.


Egyptian star Mai Omar is first judge for Miss Universe Bahrain 2022

Egyptian star Mai Omar is first judge for Miss Universe Bahrain 2022
Updated 13 August 2022

Egyptian star Mai Omar is first judge for Miss Universe Bahrain 2022

Egyptian star Mai Omar is first judge for Miss Universe Bahrain 2022

DUBAI: Egyptian actress Mai Omar has been announced as the first judge for the Miss Universe Bahrain 2022 contest. The superstar announced the news in an Instagram post, along with the official Miss Universe Bahrain account.

“I am so thrilled to be a part of this historical project and I believe in this platform that empowers women, encourages young individuals to voice out their advocacies and at the same time have an amazing experience sharing their wonderful and inspirational stories with the world,” Omar said.

The new Miss Universe Bahrain will be revealed to the public during the show’s broadcast on Sept. 11, two weeks after she is crowned on Aug. 26.

Nadeem Deyani, who made history last year by being the first woman from the country to participate in the global pageant, will crown her successor at a gala event, the location for which has not yet been revealed.


Egyptian musician Ali Loka gets his own Spotify mini-documentary

Egyptian musician Ali Loka gets his own Spotify mini-documentary
Updated 13 August 2022

Egyptian musician Ali Loka gets his own Spotify mini-documentary

Egyptian musician Ali Loka gets his own Spotify mini-documentary
  • ‘I still carry the same attitude and work ethic. I never tire of this process,’ viral music star tells Arab News

DUBAI: For Egyptian singer-songwriter Ali Loka, music is about telling personal stories. As Spotify’s latest RADAR ARABIA artist, he now has the opportunity to tell those stories to a wider audience through his own mini documentary.

“I don’t sing about anything that I didn’t go through, feel very deeply or have seen someone close to me live through,” said Loka in an interview with Arab News.

“If you listen deeply and want to know more about me, you’ll hear everything that has to do with me, all my personal stories and everything that’s happening in my life. All the small intimate details that I cannot talk about face to face are in my music. Music is how I can express everything that’s happening to me.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Ali Loka (@aly_louka)

The music streaming platform worked with Loka to release a mini-documentary, where fans can follow Loka around Cairo, from the stage to downtown to Giza, to get an intimate look at his journey from starting as a solo artist to joining a band and then going solo again.

The film also looks into Loka’s viral track “Matkhafeesh Yamma,” which dropped in November 2021, taking the singer-songwriter to new levels of stardom. The song is currently the most-streamed Egyptian song outside of Egypt on the platform, with 73 percent of its Spotify streams coming from non-Egyptian markets.

But the song’s success can be attributed to Loka’s dedication to his art and a prolific work ethic.

“Before ‘Matkhafeesh Yamma’s’ release, there was a lot of work in the making. ‘Matkhafeesh Yamma’ was released in November 2021 and before that, my team and I had released about 20 tracks. Since 2020, we have released around 30 tracks. The inspiration for the track came from within. It was the feeling I was going through and felt the need to say out loud,” said Loka.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Ali Loka (@aly_louka)

One of his bigger musical dreams is to perform in front of the pyramids in Cairo. “And not just in the area but right in front of Khofu, the biggest of the pyramids. I want the pyramids to be distinctive in the background, not too far away,” said Loka.

About his future plans, Loka said: “I have some releases coming and tracks that I am working on. This time, they are even more organized than before. It is the same working process that I have been following all my life. I still carry the same attitude and work ethic. I never tire of this process. I am also shooting a music video to get released in August.”


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 14 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.