Arab students reunite in London to raise money for Yemen eye surgeries

About 400 students, representing their different ethnicities and backgrounds, flooded the prestigious Porchester Hall in central London. (Supplied/QMUL Arab Society)
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About 400 students, representing their different ethnicities and backgrounds, flooded the prestigious Porchester Hall in central London. (Supplied/QMUL Arab Society)
The annual intercollegiate event was sponsored by the UK-based London Arabia Organization. (Supplied/QMUL Arab Society)
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The annual intercollegiate event was sponsored by the UK-based London Arabia Organization. (Supplied/QMUL Arab Society)
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Updated 09 April 2022

Arab students reunite in London to raise money for Yemen eye surgeries

The annual intercollegiate event was sponsored by the UK-based London Arabia Organization. (Supplied/QMUL Arab Society)
  • About 400 students, from Saudi Arabia to Algeria, with a variety of different accents, flooded the prestigious Porchester Hall in central London
  • All profits from this year are going to UCAN charity to provide cataract surgeries in Yemen

LONDON: Arab students from seven universities gathered for the first time in two years in London to celebrate their heritage and cultural diversity, while raising money for eye surgeries in Yemen.

“We have such a strong community here in all the different London universities and universities outside, so it really shows that no matter any politics, any religion, we come together because we share a love for our culture and a love for our countries and that’s what’s most important,” Ayah Magdi El-Hanafi, co-president of Queen Mary Arab Society, told Arab News.

The 20-year-old environmental science major, who is of Egyptian Tunisian descent, said the event was also open to non-Arabs and people from different backgrounds.

“We’re not keeping it to ourselves. We want everyone to share and love our culture the way we do,” she added.

The London native, who said she longs to feel close to her heritage, was “amazed and glad” to see Arab students “reaching out to the UK” and sharing their culture with born and bred Britons.




The students were entertained throughout the evening with stand up comedy, a traditional Moroccan folk group, and a DJ. (Supplied/QMUL Arab Society)

About 400 students, from Saudi Arabia to Algeria, with a variety of different accents, flooded the prestigious Porchester Hall in central London, representing their different ethnicities and backgrounds.

The annual intercollegiate event was sponsored by the UK-based London Arabia Organization, a nonprofit company that aims to strengthen cultural ties between London and the Arab world. It included Arab societies from Queen Mary, King’s College, University College London, London School of Economics, Westminster, Kingston and City universities.

This year’s Arab Ball is the biggest one yet, Yunus El-Asri, organizer and vice president of QMUL Arab Society, said, with more people and societies getting involved, in line with their general social, charity and educational events that aim to bring the Middle Eastern community together in the UK capital.

“This year, for the first time, we’re also running it as a nonprofit and all profits from this year are going to a charity called UCAN (Uniting Communities of Africa’s North) that provides cataract surgeries in Yemen to cure people who can’t see,” Moroccan mechanical engineering student El-Asri, 21, said.

20-year-old Moroccan Kurdish Shirin Sirdi, the Queen Mary’s Arab Ball officer, said that though the majority of students at the event were born in London, she was proud to see so many come from abroad, especially Arab women, who were dressed in glittery gowns, traditional dresses, and stylish, colorful suits.

“The majority of the members of our society from Queen Mary’s are actually women, and more often than not, it’s events like these that give people a chance to dress up and come and meet new people,” Sirdi, who is studying international relations, said.

“Something like this doesn’t come often and it’s really hard to get so many Arabs in one room. But it’s just fantastic to see everyone excited, singing Arab songs, dancing to Arab music, enjoying Arabic food, and all in the heart of London. We’re very, very happy that we managed to organize something to this scale as well,” said Faris El-Sayad, 21, originally from Egypt.




(L-R) Faris El-Sayad, Hassan Yassin Bushnag, Aisha Qadi, Shirin Sirdi,  Yunus El-Asri, and Ayah Magdi El-Hanafi. (AN Photo/Sarah Glubb)

The fourth-year dentistry student said that it is important to bring Arabs together where they can enjoy themselves and some great food, but also remember their cultures and origins, and support people in Yemen.

Psychology student Aisha Qadi, 20, from Saudi Arabia, said that the event provided a “wonderful opportunity” to see hundreds of Arab students far away from home.

“Coming to the UK as well, you don’t see many Arabs in the community, so in this event, bringing all the Arabs, not just from one university, but so many different universities, just gives us that closeness and we feel like we’re back home,” said Qadi, who is also a member of the Arab Ball Committee.

Eritrean Hassan Yassin Bushnag, 20, co-president of QMUL Arab Society, said charity is an important aspect not only in Arab culture, but also in Islam, so raising money for a good cause was “essential.”

Although not Arab, Bushnag’s parents grew up in Saudi Arabia and he feels passionate about Arab culture, and wants to show people that he has embraced it.

“There’s quite a bit of stigma against the Arab community, and I just wanted to show that there are better parts to Arab culture, me being someone that’s embraced it and kind of shown it,” said the biology student.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by U C A N (@ucanuk)

 


Dubai’s Orfali Bros Bistro nabs top spot at MENA’s 50 Best Restaurants awards as Myazu voted Saudi Arabia’s best eatery

Dubai’s Orfali Bros Bistro nabs top spot at MENA’s 50 Best Restaurants awards as Myazu voted Saudi Arabia’s best eatery
Japanese eatery Myazu in Riyadh has been named the best restaurant in Saudi Arabia. (Instagram)
Updated 30 January 2023

Dubai’s Orfali Bros Bistro nabs top spot at MENA’s 50 Best Restaurants awards as Myazu voted Saudi Arabia’s best eatery

Dubai’s Orfali Bros Bistro nabs top spot at MENA’s 50 Best Restaurants awards as Myazu voted Saudi Arabia’s best eatery

ABU DHABI: Japanese eatery Myazu in Riyadh has been named the best restaurant in Saudi Arabia by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants MENA list in a ceremony held in Aby Dhabi on Monday night as Dubai’s Orfali Bros Bistro nabbed the overall top spot.  

The ranking is voted on by a body formed of 250 restaurant experts in the region, known as the Academy. Each member casts seven votes for those that are – in their expert opinion – the best dining experiences in the MENA region.

The top 10 consisted of eateries from around the region, with a heavy showing from Dubai, including Moonrise in Dubai at number 10, Zooba (Zamalek) in Cairo at number 9, Fakhreldin in Amman at number 8, Kinoya in Dubai at number 7, George & John in Tel Aviv at number 6, 3 Fils in Dubai at number 5, Ossiano in Dubai at number 4, Fusions by Tala in Manama at number 3, Trèsind Studio in Dubai at number 2 and Orfali Bros Bistro in Dubai at number 1.

“Also crowned The Best Restaurant in the UAE, this Dubai establishment is the restaurant embodiment of three brothers from Aleppo, Syria. The dining experience here is focused on storytelling, where every flavour, ingredient and technique has played a special part in the trio’s story. The atmosphere, with the rhythm set by the work in the two-storey kitchen overlooking the dining space, is fun, indulgent and at times nostalgic,” the organization posted on Instagram shortly after the announcement.

Commenting on Saudi Arabia’s best restaurant, the organization posted: “Under the leadership of chef Ian Pengelley, (Myazu) is a spot where harmony reigns in texture, aromas and flavors. Some dishes push the envelope of gastronomic craftsmanship while others focus on Japanese fan favorites, but all are set apart by a sophisticated presentation that has become part of this restaurant’s DNA.”

 

The eatery ranked number 18 on the list, just after Tawlet Mar Mikhael in Beirut.

Meanwhile, the Middle East & North Africa’s Best Female Chef Award 2023 went to Palestinian chef Salam Dakkak and this year’s Estrella Damm N.A. Chefs' Choice Award went to Moustafa Elrefaey of Zooba in Cairo.

 


Sundance Film Festival 2023 closes with three Mideast filmmakers winning awards  

Sundance Film Festival 2023 closes with three Mideast filmmakers winning awards  
Updated 30 January 2023

Sundance Film Festival 2023 closes with three Mideast filmmakers winning awards  

Sundance Film Festival 2023 closes with three Mideast filmmakers winning awards  

DUBAI: The 2023 Sundance Film Festival — which took its final bow this weekend in Park City, Utah, after its first in-person edition since 2020 — saw three Middle Eastern films winning awards, including “The Persian Version,” “Shayda” and “Animalia.”  

Iranian American director Maryam Keshavarz’s “The Persian Version” won the Audience Award and Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award in the US Dramatic Competition.  c

The film follows a large Iranian American family gathering for the patriarch’s heart transplant when a family secret catapults the estranged mother and daughter into an exploration of the past.   

It was one of three films at Sundance this year to be directed by Iranian women, the others being “Joonam” and “Shayda.”  

Noora Niasari’s “Shayda” took home the Audience Award in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition. The film follows Shayda, a brave Iranian mother, who finds refuge in an Australian women’s shelter with her six-year-old daughter. But when her estranged husband re-enters their lives, Shayda’s path to freedom is jeopardized.  

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Animalia (@animaliathefilm)

The third regional film to win an award at Sundance is “Animalia” by Morocco's Sofia Alaoui, who took home the Special Jury Award for Creative Vision. The film follows a young mother-to-be as she experiences an alien invasion with a sense of dread that slowly turns into liberation.  


Actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas glitters in Lebanese label Elie Saab

Actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas glitters in Lebanese label Elie Saab
Updated 30 January 2023

Actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas glitters in Lebanese label Elie Saab

Actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas glitters in Lebanese label Elie Saab

DUBAI: Actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas has a well-documented penchant for Arab designers. The Indian star, who crossed over into Hollywood, has been pictured donning looks from regional labels on plenty of occasions, including designs by Zuhair Murad and Nicolas Jebran, to name a few. 

Now, Chopra has taken to Instagram Stories to share a photograph of her latest look — a glittering get up by Lebanese designer Elie Saab.  

“When your fit deserves a closet selfie,” she captioned the casual snap.  

The jewel-toned look consisted of a floral midi dress paired with a matching bomber jacket.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Priyanka (@priyankachopra)

The former Miss World, who is married to US singer Nick Jonas, has sported Arab designs in the past and is also known for championing up-and-coming brands.  In 2021, Chopra made an appearance in Dubai and opted for a striking, saffron-colored design from sustainable Moroccan couture house Benchellal. 

The orange air mesh blazer dress featured a draped shawl cape and pockets and was plucked from the label’s ninth collection. She wore it with slim-fitting black trousers and pumps. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Priyanka (@priyankachopra)

Chopra also supported rising US Lebanese label Monot in 2021 by showing off a white, custom draped dress by the label during a product shoot for her haircare range.  

The actress and entrepreneur walked the red carpet at the second iteration of Jeddah’s Red Sea International Film Festival in December 2022 in a lavish gold gown by Lebanese designer Nicolas Jebran, complete with a matching overcoat.  

Arab designers have increasingly become the “go-to” for Indian celebrities at major events. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Ami Patel (@stylebyami)

Ami Patel, one of India’s leading celebrity stylists, previously explained Bollywood’s love affair with Middle Eastern design talent to Arab News, saying: “I think Middle Eastern designers understand the Indian body type and silhouette very well. They know exactly what Indian celebrities want and cater to them.” 

Dubai-based Syrian designer Rami Al-Ali, who just unveiled his latest collection on the sidelines of Paris Haute Couture Week, agreed, telling Arab News in a previous interview: “Bollywood stars are also celebrities in the Middle East world.” 

“Since the Middle East is actually aligned with the industry, they are definitely keener on dressing Indian stars and even willing to customise and size outfits for our actors,” added Rai, in a bid to explain why stars such as Chopra, who started off in Bollywood, have an affinity for Arab designs. 


Canadian model Winnie Harlow spotted at Formula E Diriyah E-Prix in Saudi Arabia

Canadian model Winnie Harlow spotted at Formula E Diriyah E-Prix in Saudi Arabia
Winnie Harlow attends the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Scott Garfitt)
Updated 29 January 2023

Canadian model Winnie Harlow spotted at Formula E Diriyah E-Prix in Saudi Arabia

Canadian model Winnie Harlow spotted at Formula E Diriyah E-Prix in Saudi Arabia

DUBAI: Canadian model Winnie Harlow was spotted in Saudi Arabia this weekend attending the Formula E Diriyah E-Prix.

 The model was part of the thousands of fans who watched on as 22 of the fastest electric race cars ever built raced for the second time this weekend.

 “The experience at Formula E is unmatched and I’ve really enjoyed the vibe, people, atmosphere, and racing. I’ve been to Saudi Arabia a few times and always have a great experience, so I love that Formula E is in Diriyah,” Harlow said in a released statement.

“Living in a more sustainable world and being able to enjoy motorsports at the same time is incredible,” she added. 

Harlow rubbed shoulders with the likes of John Legend, Martin Garrix, Miguel and French Montana, who performed at the event’s after-race concert series.

Netflix series “Emily in Paris” star Lucien Laviscount was also in attendance.

“I’m a massive fan of motorsport and anything to do with cars. Seeing the new GEN3 race car on track for the first time was insane,” he said in a released statement. “It looks like a fighter jet on wheels and sounds like it’s from a sci-fi movie. Formula E are leading the world in electric car innovation. I’m in line for an electric vehicle and this has really given me a taste.”


Review: More dungeons and more dragons — ‘The Legend of Vox Machina’ season two is a ‘critical’ hit  

Review: More dungeons and more dragons — ‘The Legend of Vox Machina’ season two is a ‘critical’ hit  
Updated 29 January 2023

Review: More dungeons and more dragons — ‘The Legend of Vox Machina’ season two is a ‘critical’ hit  

Review: More dungeons and more dragons — ‘The Legend of Vox Machina’ season two is a ‘critical’ hit  

DUBAI: It would not be an understatement to say that we are living in the golden age of television when it comes to sheer diversity in terms of content. That much is evident when a Dungeons & Dragons game that started out in someone’s living room is now a full-blown animated series on a massive streaming platform — and it has returned for a second season.   

 “The Legend of Vox Machina” is based on the hugely successful D&D actual play series Critical Role, in which players livestreamed themselves playing the tabletop game. The adult animated series made fans in its debut season for its ability to carefully balance juvenile humor with immense character depth, set against a lore-heavy fantasy setting.   

Season two builds on that promise and comes back even stronger with greater character arcs for its seven main characters: Half-elf rogue Vax’ildan (Liam O’Brien), his ranger twin sister Vex’ahlia (Laura Bailey), half-elf druid Keyleth (Marisha Ray), gnome bard Scanlan (Sam Riegel), goliath barbarian Grog (Travis Willingham), his BFF gnome paladin Pike (Ashley Johnson) and human gunslinger Percy (Taliesen Jaffe). This is an impressive feat to achieve given that the episodes have a run time of under 30 minutes.   

The new season picks up exactly where season one left off — with a group of large and ancient dragons attacking the city of Emon. Our motley crew of mercenaries/heroes, clearly underqualified for the job of defeating these powerful beings, must now go on a continent-hopping jaunt to retrieve magical artifacts that will help them in this mission.   

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by FanologyPV (@fanologypv)

It is helpful here to remember that “TLOVM,” unlike any fantasy series or movie that you may have watched so far, is not based on a book or video game: It is based on a story created by a group of friends as they played a game over several years, albeit with an audience watching on Twitch and YouTube.   

And, hence, what makes the animated show such an engrossing watch, despite having a story that may seem familiar to most fans of fantasy media, is that “TLOVM” manages to accurately capture the bond between the players and translate it into endearing television.   

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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And while the personal stakes are dialed up to 11 this time around, the larger plot is not ignored either. As big as the emotional punches are, they are matched in intensity with the beautifully realized action scenes and set pieces, which will again feel familiar to anyone who has ever played a role-playing game with their friends.   

With Critical Role announcing that they will also be animating their second campaign, Mighty Nein, for Amazon, and if you are a fan of all things magic, camaraderie and epic battles, there has never been a better time to tune in and let “Vox Machina” enthrall you.