LOS ANGELES: A Saudi architecture and urban planning scholar, who has released a series of original artworks, told Arab News how her work is helping to bring different cultures together.
Dina Abdul Karim said she discovered a unique beauty in the buildings, streets and sidewalks of US cities where she teaches at universities.
Now she’s sharing her perspective and more in an ongoing series of original artwork.
“I like that creative capacity of architecture, but I wanted to do more art, and now I think my art is very much influenced by my architectural background and my training and planning in urban design,” she said.
Born in Saudi Arabia with mixed Middle Eastern heritage, Abdul Karim’s art combines American architecture with her pan-Arabic culture.
Using symbols such as the damask pattern, which Dina identified as being appropriated by western culture, she expressed how her identity has also been melded with “Americana.”
“I use different patterns from the Middle East and I overlay them with suburban with aerial views of suburban roofs and suburban homes in ways that really cannot unravel the two because we are assimilating in cultures we live in and we’re assimilating even with some degree with cultures we don’t live in,” she said.
After seeing a radical shift in how people interact with cities during the COVID-19 pandemic, Dina hopes to use her position as an artist and educator to promote the exploration and appreciation of public spaces and to help others see the beauty that she sees.
“People adorn in cities a lot more than any flower pots or other items of street furniture. I wish people can come to the public realm and think of it as their living room and dining room and where they can explore and play and celebrate together.”
Dubai-based producer RedOne behind Qatar World Cup anthems
Updated 07 October 2022
DUBAI: Grammy Award-winning Moroccan-Swedish producer RedOne, who calls Dubai his home, is the man behind all three Qatar World Cup official tracks. And the third track, released on Friday, has yet another UAE connection: Emirati Yemeni artist Balqees.
“Light the Sky,” released on Friday, also features the vocals of Iraqi singer Rahma Riad and Morocco’s Nora Fatehi.
Egypt's sweetheart Dalida: A unique talent born from a rare cultural mix
For this week's edition of our series on Arab icons, the late singer’s brother explains how she captured hearts across the world with songs in several languages, including Arabic
Updated 07 October 2022
PARIS: In May 1987, the Cairo-born French-Italian singer Dalida — one of non-English-language-music’s biggest-ever stars — took her own life. Her 54 years had been filled with both great success and great tragedy. Three of her partners had previously committed suicide, and Dalida had attempted to take her own life in 1967 after the suicide of her lover, the Italian singer and actor Luigi Tenco.
Despite the trauma of her personal life, though, her career was a story of almost-unbroken achievement. She packed out venues across the world, her songs (sung in nine languages) sold in huge numbers, and she was even a hit on the silver screen in films including legendary Egyptian director Youssef Chahine’s 1986 release “The Sixth Day.”
In France, where she lived most of her adult life, she was an undisputed superstar — a poll in 1988 published in Le Monde ranked Dalida second, after General de Gaulle, among personalities who had the greatest impact on French society. She continues to influence pop-culture today, with many of her hits being remixed as dance numbers.
Here, her younger brother Orlando — with whom she co-founded their own record label in 1970, in order to give her more control over her career — shares his memories of his legendary sister with Arab News.
Tell us about growing up with Dalida. What was she like as a kid?
Dalida — who was called Iolanda at the time — grew up with my brother and me, the youngest. My name was Bruno, but when I arrived in France and started my career, I was given the name Orlando. We grew up with the same education, in the same neighborhood, the same atmosphere, and yet we were totally different. If my brother and I had a very joyful, very happy childhood, this was not the case for Dalida. She was a little sick when she was little (she had an eye infection and underwent several operations) and, growing up, she always had this desire to go elsewhere — a desire to know the world, to rise, to learn, to be cultivated. She always had this goal: ‘One day, you will see who I am.’ She wanted to ‘become someone.’ She built herself with this goal in mind.
How connected did she feel to Egypt?
We lived there; we were born there. We bathed in its atmosphere. Egypt, at the time, was a country of unique sweetness, with a cultural mix that was extraordinary — all these languages, all these cultures, all these religions, all these people who rubbed shoulders, who were dating… There was no discomfort, no aggression. There was such a sweetness of life. We had a beautiful childhood in Egypt. Dalida adored Egypt, she always remained faithful to it, and, moreover, after a few years, she began to sing in Egyptian.
What made your sister such a special talent?
This particular talent, we can’t explain it. She had many talents, which were enriched by her voice — this tone which belonged only to her, indefinable; this warmth of the voice, this burst of sunshine. Above all, I think her voice was born from the Mediterranean, it’s a voice tinged with the sun, from the Orient. And the fact that she was of Italian origin and sings in French meant that she had a peculiar accent. Since 1955, this unique voice and the personality that went with it have taken over the world. Dalida has created immortal titles in all languages. To talk about the Middle East, “Helwa Ya Baladi,” for example, has become an anthem for the whole Arab world, and “Salma Ya Salama” too. The hundreds of songs by Dalida, all different, make her unique, because everyone finds something that touches them, a slice of life or the presence of Dalida. She knew how to do everything. She passed with truly astonishing ease from a song like “Je suis Malade” or “Avec Le Temps” to songs like “Gigi L’Amoroso” or “Salma Ya Salama” or to disco. Perhaps thanks to her place of birth and this plural culture, which remained in her memory and accompanied her during her adolescence, she had the chance and the power to sing in all languages. She drew on this mix and it made her career. Dalida will remain unique.
What do you remember about her sudden success? How did it affect her? And you?
I was the witness to her story, and I became the witness to her memory. Dalida and I were accomplices — fans of theater, cinema and song. And I always encouraged her even though I was younger than her. I always accompanied her on her journey — her desires, her dream. I was always her confidant, even when she left for Paris. When I arrived in the capital in my turn, I sang a little too, but after five years I joined the adventure by her side and I never betrayed her — I served her and I keep doing it. So it was a career that we lived together, and I was a spectator, an admirer and also, later, her producer. In 1966, I became her artistic director and in 1970, we founded our own business. Even today, I take care of her as if she was still here. Dalida made me her universal legatee because she knew that I would continue to defend her memory and her interests, and that’s what I am doing.
When did you first notice that her depression was getting worse? Was it something she struggled with throughout her life?
She used to say, “I succeeded in my professional life, but in my personal life, I did not succeed.” Why? Because she gave everything to her job, to her audience. She wanted to be Dalida, so she became Dalida. She did everything for Dalida and put aside her private life, which suffered as a result. This is the reason why she could not keep the men in her life, because after a while the men saw Dalida in front of them, not Iolanda. She always put her job first, and that’s why she found herself alone. It couldn’t last.
Towards the end, she realized that she was alone, childless and without a companion by her side. She began to understand that giving everything for her career — even if it was what she had wanted — had taken away her life as a woman, a wife and a mother. And, little by little, all this led her to have dark thoughts, made her depressed. But despite the dramas, she also had a life full of joy, satisfaction and happiness.
She experienced this terrible tragedy in her life of having three partners who committed suicide. These are things that you can’t explain. After a while she had had enough, maybe she thought she had done everything, and had everything. I don’t think Dalida wanted time to do its work either; she wanted to escape from time. She wanted to leave in full glory and in full beauty.
What do you think she was most proud of?
Dalida was not proud. Despite her status as an international star — an icon even today — she was always a humble woman. She never thought she had ‘succeeded,’ so she kept it simple, knowing well who she was. It was Iolanda who built Dalida — this blonde international star — but also this timeless Dalida.
What kind of a cultural legacy do you think she left?
Dalida is one of those rare artists who had a passionate connection with her audience. People loved Dalida passionately, even new generations. Today, people who weren’t even born when she left us love her and listen to her songs. In Montmartre, the bust on Place Dalida, installed in 1997 following a decision by the mayor of Paris at the time, Bertrand Delanoë, has become a cult place. Statistics show that in Montmartre the two most visited monuments by tourists from all over the world are the Sacré-Coeur and Place Dalida. And now there’s even a tour that starts at Dalida’s house on Rue Orchampt, goes to her final resting place in Montmartre cemetery, and then back to Place Dalida where her statue is, which tourists come to touch like a lucky charm.
HIGHLIGHTS: Rare photos of Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to Saudi Arabia in 1979
Updated 07 October 2022
DUBAI: At the Riyadh International Book Fair, which ends Oct. 8, auction house Sotheby’s is showing a photo album of the late Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to Saudi Arabia in 1979. Here are three gems from that visit:
1. Here, she and her husband Prince Philip are welcomed by Prince Abdulmohsen bin Jiluwi (L), governor of the Eastern Province and Prince Majid bin Abdulaziz (R), governor of Makkah.
2. Queen Elizabeth II in Riyadh, walking with King Salman (to the right of the queen) and Prince Majid bin Abdulaziz (far right). To the left of the queen, her husband Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, walks with Prince Sattam bin Abdulaziz, then deputy governor of Riyadh (far left).
3. In this unique image, Queen Elizabeth II stands with three kings of Saudi Arabia: (from left) King Fahd (1982-2005), who was Crown Prince at the time of her visit; King Khalid (1975-1982), who was the ruler at the time the queen visited; and King Abdullah, who ruled from 2005 to 2015.
Hollywood star Rami Malek says ‘Amsterdam’ was a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ experience
The Egyptian American actor, Christian Bale, and acclaimed filmmaker David O. Russell discuss Russell’s latest movie
Updated 07 October 2022
DUBAI: Rami Malek was searching for this. After the Egyptian-American actor won an Academy Award for his acclaimed performance as Queen’s late frontman Freddie Mercury in 2018’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” he didn’t want his meteoric rise to plateau. He wanted to work with the best artists in the world, he wanted something that felt unlike anything else, he wanted a project with a message he believed in. He wanted “Amsterdam.”
The film, which opens in the Middle East this week, is the latest from David O. Russell, the Academy Award-nominated filmmaker behind “The Fighter” (2010), “Silver Linings Playbook” (2012), and “American Hustle” (2013). In Malek’s eyes, it is all he had hoped for and more. It’s a film aimed at the best of us, following three people seemingly broken by a society that appears to have no use for them, who choose love — for themselves, for each other, and for the world around them — to fight for what is right, however oddly they go about it.
“You’ve probably heard this, and I hope it’s not a cliché to say this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. This is a film that just spoke to me,” says Malek, who filmed “Amsterdam” after becoming a Bond villain in “No Time to Die” and a police investigator opposite Denzel Washington in “The Little Things,” both released in 2021.
“It’s based on something as simple as weighing love versus hate, and that resounds throughout the film. It delivers as this great comedic thriller, along with this shocking, untold history, but all the while has these themes that just resonate with all of us,” Malek continues.
That’s not to say that “Amsterdam” is as bright and cheery as you may first expect, based on the effervescence of its leads, which include Oscar winners Christian Bale and Margot Robbie. The film, set in the 1930s, follows three people dealing with post-war injuries attempting to solve the murder of a young woman that happened right in front of them, and take down the larger conspiracy that is bent on pinning the crime on them, among other horrid deeds the trailer doesn’t want to spoil. Malek plays Robbie’s brother — an eccentric, extremely wealthy philanthropist.
While the film gets extremely dark at times, for Russell, that’s exactly why he needed characters that would not feel tainted by the darkness all around, and a handful of the most charismatic actors in the world to play them. It’s an idea he got from watching Jack Nicholson star in Roman Polanski’s “Chinatown” (1974).
“I didn’t understand the importance of this when I first saw ‘Chinatown,’ to be honest. But I noticed they had a sense of humor, they had a love of life, they had a confidence, and a gleam in their eye. They had tragedy from their past. But, nevertheless, it did not stop them,” Russell tells Arab News.
For Bale, the only way to move forward from tragedy is by finding that gleam in your eye.
“Hope and optimism are really truly the only answer because, as I think it still says in the film, the alternative is no good,” says Bale.
Filling out the cast is a true murderer’s row — pardon the pun — of talent, with Anya Taylor-Joy playing Malek’s wife, Taylor Swift their close family friend, and Robert De Niro as a retired general, with a three-time Oscar winner behind the camera — cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (“Gravity,” “Birdman,” “The Revenant”), affectionately known in Hollywood as ‘Chivo.’
“This cast is an orchestra, and everybody’s playing their own instrument and it’s gorgeous. It was one of those sets where you’re not running back to your trailer, because you want to watch what’s happening. And beyond all this, these are people that are at the top of their game,” says Malek.
In the film, Amsterdam becomes a metaphor for the happiest time in their lives, the place they are fighting to get back to. For Malek, looking back on his experience in filming it, his own ‘Amsterdam’ is now the set of the film itself.
“I think when we were done with this film, I asked myself, what is my Amsterdam? What is that moment where I had emotion, but I also had this great connection with human beings that led me to a place where I was able to transcend? And I think for me, that will be a part of a film that will have audiences feeling that as they walk out. That is something that will be a sacred thing for me long after this film premieres,” says Malek. “And yeah, it’s going to stand the test of time.”
Saudi style star Tamara Al-Gabbani on how to stand out at Paris Fashion Week
Influencer collaborated with Net-a-Porter for many looks during fashion week season
Al-Gabbani pulled off number of fashion-forward ensembles with help of stylist Wafa Nasser
Updated 06 October 2022
Shyama Krishna Kumar
DUBAI: Saudi designer and fashion influencer Tamara Al-Gabbani is back from her “manic and exhilarating” Paris Fashion Week trip and it was one for the books, she told Arab News.
“It’s like that feeling you get after doing CrossFit for 10 days and you can’t feel your legs anymore,” she said.
She attributed part of the intense nature of the trip to having her stylist and assistant both miss the trip for various reasons.
“The main challenge was definitely that I didn’t have my stylist and assistant with me. Unpacking alone took me six hours. The second challenge was that we didn’t predict that the weather would be cold and rainy. We didn’t really prepare for that,” she added.
What followed was an intense shopping exercise in Paris, while Al-Gabbani had her stylist Wafa Nasser go over all the choices with her on the phone.
“She was on the phone with me the whole time and we were selecting all the boots and everything we needed because of the change of weather conditions. And we were re-creating looks while I was in Paris and shopping right before the shoot, which was in a few hours and we had to do all this last minute over the phone,” Al-Gabbani said.
But even before she arrived in Paris, Al-Gabbani had her work cut out for her. Behind the glitz and the glamor of an influencer’s life is steady teamwork, rigorous attention to detail, and a lot of preparation.
“My stylist and I began our prep three weeks in advance. But because she was in Riyadh and I was in Dubai and then at New York Fashion week, we had to work virtually to put all my looks together. We worked online for five days straight to decide on all the looks. And this time, we collaborated with Net-a-Porter for most of the looks,” she added.
On her favorite styles from her Paris trip, Al-Gabbani picked out her Saint Laurent and Coperni outfits. The Coperni ensemble combined a yellow twisted cutout cady blazer with an eye-catching mint-green crochet skirt, all perfectly brought together with season-favorite Barbie pink Bottega Veneta heels.
The Saint Laurent look featured a more masculine silhouette with a single-breasted tailored blazer dress in denim. Al-Gabbani paired this with thigh-high white boots and chunky gold hoops.