DUBAI: Moroccan-Egyptian-Dutch model Imaan Hammam treated her 1.4 million Instagram followers to a snapshot of life in Cairo this week, sharing carousel of images and videos of her time in the Egyptian capital.
The Netherlands-raised Hammam, who is a runway regular and has starred in campaigns for the likes of Versace and sports giant Reebok, seemed to enjoy her stay in Cairo, captioning her post “impeccable vibes.”
The model posted a photograph of record album covers, including the likes of Algerian icon Warda Al-Jazairia and legendary Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum.
She also shared snaps of daily life in the city — a meal at a streetside cafeteria, including what seemed to be the Egyptian staple molokheyya, a dish of stewed jute leaves — as well as shots of the nightlife and an artsy video of an elderly man with a shisha pipe.
The catwalk star, who was born to an Egyptian father and Moroccan mother in the Netherlands, has spoken about her heritage before, including her Egyptian roots.
She was one of three Vogue Italia cover stars for the magazine’s July 2019 issue that focused on themes of identity and genetics.
For her part, Hammam revealed some interesting results after taking a DNA test for the magazine.
“A dream come true! My first ever @vogueitalia cover and it’s a very, very special cover for me because it’s all about DNA. I’ve done my DNA test to find out more about my roots and heritage! Finding out that I am 70% Egyptian — which I kinda knew — and 10% Sudanese and 7.6% Senegambian and Guinean (sic),” Hammam posted on Instagram at the time, alongside a shot of her magazine cover.
“I’m only 22 (and) knowing where I come from will help me understand who I am,” the model told Vogue Italia, adding “Islam taught me that regardless the blood, we’re all sons of the world.”
Hammam is one of the most in-demand models in the industry. The now 25-year-old was scouted in Amsterdam’s Central Station before making her catwalk debut in 2013 by walking in Jean Paul Gaultier’s couture show.
Since then, she has appeared on the runway for major fashion houses, such as Fendi, Prada and Moschino, and in international campaigns for DKNY, Celine and Tiffany & Co.
Hammam also has been featured in leading fashion publications, such as Vogue and V magazine.
Egyptian actor Asser Yassin talks starring in ‘The Eight,’ ‘Suits Arabia’
The Egyptian actor on his stellar year starring in ‘Suits Arabia’ and ‘The Eight,’ his intense preparation process, and getting more involved on set
Updated 30 June 2022
DUBAI: At this point, 2022 might as well be deemed the year of Asser Yassin. The Egyptian actor already dominated the global conversation in Ramadan as the lead in “Suits Arabia,” a remake of the beloved American legal series. Less than two months later, Yassin has followed it up with what is poised to be the series of the summer — MBC’s flagship crime thriller “The Eight,” which already has garnered rave reviews and big ratings.
“The ambition of ‘The Eight’ is something I’ve never experienced before,” Yassin tells Arab News. “The production budget is in line with a top show in Hollywood — the highest I’ve ever worked on. The crew was very international. But, most important for me, the character was someone I’d never played before, and he kept revealing himself as we went.”
Yassin plays Adam, a man who suddenly finds himself at odds with the gang he’s long belonged to, surviving his own execution only to set off on a path to revenge. The character, created by Saudi writer Turki Al-Shikh, turned out to be a greater challenge to figure out than Yassin had anticipated.
“For each film or series that I do, I write an extensive background history for the character just for myself, to figure him out. For this, I couldn’t find a reference to any other character, not only that I had done, but in any other film. He just felt different. It was really interesting to me,” Yassin continues.
Yassin himself is a lifelong cinephile, a man who abandoned his degree in engineering against his family’s wishes because his love for film was so great. During what little free time he had at university, he starred in short films with his friend, who happened to be the son of the legendary Egyptian realist Khairy Beshara, who during the Eighties and Nineties made some of Egypt’s most significant films, such as “El Towk Wa El Eswera” and “Yom Mor... Yom Helw.”
Beshara saw some of the two friends’ films and told his son that he wanted to work with Yassin. It was a moment that changed his life.
“He’s my second father, a man I still call constantly,” says Yassin of Beshara. “He changed the way I saw myself, how I saw film, and how I saw life itself.”
Yassin has modeled his own career after actors such as Al Pacino, Tom Hanks, and others, he says, pushing himself to the limit on nearly every project he takes — sometimes too far for his own physical and mental health. Adam, however, a desperate character with violence in his heart, did not make him think of any of the films he’s long admired. For Adam, he had to go to people he knew.
“First and foremost, I thought of my grandfather,” he says. “Adam doesn’t take no for an answer. He’s an idealistic guy who’s driven to revenge after the events of the first episode after his sister and fiancé die. My father and my grandfather come from rural Egypt. There, we understand revenge, and we understand family.
“My grandfather was a superb man, a military man, extremely well-read. But when I was four years old, he came to me and said, ‘Asser, there are only four people you go to jail for. Your father, your mother, your brother and your wife. You kill for these people,’” Yassin continues.
When he sat down to write his character’s background history, he also thought of the father of one of his best friends, a surgeon who, in his free time, hunted ducks on the land he owned in Beheira, near Alexandria in Egypt.
“During the revolution, he was there hunting by himself. There were a group of people who decided that, since there was no security, they would go and take over the land. They went in with shotguns. To their surprise, he decided to fight back. Bullets started flying back and forth until he took to his car to run. They pursued him, still shooting, until his car flipped. They left, because they thought he’d died, but he survived,” says Yassin. “I imagined Adam sitting in the passenger seat of that car next to him.”
Yassin’s dedication on set was just as intense. With time, he’s learned to dedicate himself to the project overall, rather than just to his own performance.
“That’s something I’ve been doing on the last couple of projects,” he says. “I consider the whole show mine. I’m always there to give it my all, even if I’m not in the shot. It’s my project, it’s my baby. I literally spill blood for it, whether it’s in stunts, in anger or in stress. It was like that on ‘Suits’ as well. I’m there every moment with this intention in mind.”
On “The Eight,” that sometimes meant stepping in during moments of crisis. In one key stunt, a car packed with explosives was supposed to flip, after which Yassin’s character was supposed to escape in a helicopter. Yassin knew, as it the vehicle was one of the older Range Rovers with a low center of gravity, that it would be nearly impossible to pull off without proper preparation. “That went back to my engineering degree again,” he says.
As the sun went down, Yassin sat with the stunt coordinator. The explosives in the car went off, but the vehicle didn’t flip. As the filmmakers scrambled to figure out what to do with a shot that was already blown, Yassin took matters into his own hands.
“I threw everything I had aside, ran into the scene, got onto the helicopter, and left,” he says. “We had to get it done.”
Ultimately though, while Yassin has grown to have the kind of outsized presence on set that is reserved for only the top leading actors, his goal is not to take charge, but to create a space conducive to creativity, from top to bottom.
“I hate negativity, because in the end we’re creating. If I have tension with a colleague, I have to smooth it over somehow, or give it time until it fades away,” he says. “I have to have a strong relationship on set with everyone, from the actors to the director to the cinematographer to the gaffer. We all have to be on the same frequency. We’re all equal, at the end of the day. You can’t do well when you’re the only one doing well.”
While Yassin’s dance card is full at the moment — he’ll be a lead character in the “Sons of Rizk” sequels and has two other films in the works — he is hoping that “The Eight” will come back for multiple seasons, especially due to the response it’s already gotten thus far, both in Saudi Arabia and across the region.
“I think it’s an amazing project. It’s so rich,” he says. “There’s so much left to reveal in this character, and I hope we’re able to let this story unfold in season two.”
UK’s Arab-focused SAFAR Film Festival is back and bigger than ever
Updated 30 June 2022
DUBAI: “There’s a growing demand for Arab cinema from UK audiences,” Amani Hassan, program director at the Arab British Center in London, which organizes the SAFAR Film Festival, tells Arab News.
This is a landmark year for the festival, which runs from July 1-17. As well as being the 10th anniversary of its debut, it marks SAFAR’s transition to an annual event and sees it expand to venues in Wales and Scotland, as well as England. Ten cinemas across the UK will be screening the festival’s 22 titles between July 1 and July 17.
As the only festival in the UK dedicated to promoting films from across the Arab world, SAFAR plays an important role not only in the cultural exchange to which the Arab British Center is dedicated, but in the development of Arab cinema. As Hassan points out, “We’re showing some films that haven’t been shown in their home countries.”
This year’s theme is “The Stories We Tell,” with a program curated by Rabih El-Khoury, exploring, he said in the press release, “the devices used by Arab filmmakers to push cinematic boundaries, reclaim overlooked histories, and present new perspectives to audiences both at home and abroad – importantly, on our own terms.
Among the 22 films showing at Safar is “Becoming” — an omnibus film consisting of five stories, each by a different female Saudi filmmaker. Hassan tells Arab News that she pushed to have it included in SAFAR this year: “I saw it at the Red Sea Film Festival in Jeddah, and I thought it was pretty amazing to be sitting and watching a film made by five Saudi females in Saudi.”
She stresses, however, that the film is in the program on merit — not for some form of tokenism. “It wouldn’t have been included if we didn’t think it was a good film,” she says.
“Becoming” joins four other films getting their UK premiere at SAFAR: Darin J. Sallam’s acclaimed “Farha”; Omar El-Zohairy’s “Feathers,” which won the Grand Prize at Cannes International Critics Week; Eliane Raheb’s “Miguel’s War”; and Leila Bouzid’s “A Tale of Love and Desire.”
All five films are prime examples of the “new perspectives” El-Khoury is looking for, and of the ever-increasing quality of Arab filmmaking — something Hassan has noted in the six years that she has been involved with SAFAR.
“They are telling stories about topics that perhaps wouldn’t have been possible five or 10 years ago,” she says. “That’s what I find really interesting.”
UAE-based Tashas Group announces expansion into Saudi market with Diriyah restaurant
It plans to bring its Flamingo Room concept to a three-storey building on the banks of Wadi Hanifah in the heart of Riyadh by the end of the year
Updated 47 min 28 sec ago
LONDON: One of the most successful hospitality companies in the Middle East has announced it will expand into Saudi Arabia by the end of the year.
Tashas Group, which was founded in 2005 by South Africans Natasha Sideris and her brother Savva, plans to bring its Flamingo Room concept to the heart of Riyadh by the fourth quarter.
Curating the concept specially for the Kingdom’s market, the group will open the destination restaurant in a three-storey building inspired by Najd architecture in Diriyah, on the banks of Wadi Hanifah.
“Flamingo Room is the ultimate expression of my South African roots and the epitome of old-school dining with a contemporary twist,” said Sideris, the group’s founder and CEO.
“After its major success in Dubai, we think it is time to expand and widen our horizons across the region and hopefully globally,” she added.
“We have been moving forward on the global hospitality scene; we have now reached the point where we are able to make significant strides in our expansion plans.”
Sideris said that the up-and-coming neighborhood of Diriyah, with its blend of historical architecture and cutting-edge commercial offerings, is the ideal location.
“I think there’s gap in the market, internationally and locally, for what Tashas Group offers with our concepts,” she said.
“Ideally, we like to select places close to a city center with a residential hub so that we catch housewives, ladies who lunch, parents picking up kids from school, and businesspeople.”
The group, which was founded in South Africa and operates out of Dubai in the UAE, has seven brands under its umbrella: tashas, Le Parc by tashas, Flamingo Room by tashas, Avli by tashas, Galaxy Bar, Collective Africa, and 1701.
In addition to its expansion into Saudi Arabia, in the next six to 12 months the group plans to open five other locations, in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, South Africa and London.
“While we started our business in South Africa, we are spearheading our growth from the UAE,” Sideris said. “I am immensely grateful to our team that is bringing my vision to life and for the opportunities that the region presents to expand our footprint as well as our concepts.
“The support we have received from the community over the past eight years is amazing and I am happy to call Dubai my home.”
For Maison du Mec’s solo show, Lebanon-based designer Joseph Achajian presented the traditional pillars of suiting – jackets, crisp white shirts and trousers – with a modern twist.
For Permu, designers Heyun Pan and Jing Qian presented daily ensembles and occasion wear that featured skin-tight tops, bucket hats, backwards-facing blazers and jackets with cut slits, puffed sleeves and exaggerated shoulder pads.
Filipino designer Fernandez is known for his couture looks that are driven by his love for traditional artisanal craft. He constructed thae wardrobe full of crystals and elaborate beading made by local craftspeople.
KA-1’s show featured streetwear with multifunctional pockets, quirky straps and elastic tapering on trousers in desert tones of ecru, khaki and olive green.
Model Bella Hadid supports Arab creatives on social media
Updated 29 June 2022
DUBAI: US Dutch Palestinian supermodel Bella Hadid this week took to Instagram Stories to spotlight some of the Arab world’s on-screen talents.
The catwalk star republished a post shared on the non-profit advocacy organization Institute for Middle East Understanding’s account that shines light on Palestinian creatives that have been making headlines internationally, including Josie Totah, Michael Karim Malarkey and May Calamawy.
Totah, a Palestinian Lebanese talent who has been nominated for the Critics Choice Awards in the past, is taking a lead role in Apple TV+’s upcoming drama series “The Buccaneers.”
It is an eight-episode series inspired by the unfinished novel “The Buccaneers” by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edith Wharton.
Hadid’s post also paid tribute to Malarkey, who plays Enzo in the hit series “The Vampire Diaries.”
Born in Beirut, the Palestinian actor and musician also stars in season 4 of HBO’s “Westworld” that premiered this week. He features alongside a star-studded, award-winning cast including Evan Rachel Wood, Thandiwe Newton and Jeffrey Wright.
Among the stars that Hadid told fans to look out for are Palestinian actresses Leem Lubany and Hiam Abbass.
Lubany is famous for her role in the 2013 film “Omar,” and Abbass, a European Film Award nominee, stars in Hulu’s thriller “The Old Man” that premiered on June 16.
The series, in its second season, is based on the award-winning novel with the same name by US novelist Thomas Perry.
Another leading Arab star lauded by Hadid is Calamawy, the Egyptian-Palestinian actress who recently starred alongside Oscar Isaac and Ethan Hawke in Marvel’s miniseries “Moon Knight.”
Calamawy, who is best known for her role in the Golden Globe-winning sitcom “Ramy,” is one of the show’s leads, Layla El-Faouly.
Hadid has always been vocal about her support for Palestine and its creatives.
She uses her social media accounts to show her support for the diaspora and to raise awareness about military violence toward Palestinians.
Last year, she joined demonstrations in New York to protest Israeli attacks on Palestinians living in Gaza.
She frequently calls out Instagram for “shadow banning” her Palestine-related posts. “Are we not allowed to be Palestinian on Instagram? This, to me, is bullying,” she previously wrote on Instagram. “I am proud to be Palestinian.”