Forward cruising: How Riyadh’s skateboarding scene is developing

Special Forward cruising: How Riyadh’s skateboarding scene is developing
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The skateboarding community in Saudi Arabia is growing as more skateparks come on stream. (Shareef Masarani)
Special Forward cruising: How Riyadh’s skateboarding scene is developing
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The skateboarding community in Saudi Arabia is growing as more skateparks come on stream. (Shareef Masarani)
Special Forward cruising: How Riyadh’s skateboarding scene is developing
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The skateboarding community in Saudi Arabia is growing as more skateparks come on stream. (Shareef Masarani)
Special Forward cruising: How Riyadh’s skateboarding scene is developing
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The skateboarding community in Saudi Arabia is growing as more skateparks come on stream. (Shareef Masarani)
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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.


Mayyas choreographer Nadim Cherfan addresses historic ‘America’s Got Talent’ win at Lebanon event

Mayyas choreographer Nadim Cherfan addresses historic ‘America’s Got Talent’ win at Lebanon event
Updated 02 October 2022

Mayyas choreographer Nadim Cherfan addresses historic ‘America’s Got Talent’ win at Lebanon event

Mayyas choreographer Nadim Cherfan addresses historic ‘America’s Got Talent’ win at Lebanon event

DUBAI: Celebrating the historic win of Lebanese dance troupe Mayyas on the “America’s Got Talent” stage, founder and choreographer Nadim Cherfan appeared at a special question-and-answer session at the US embassy in Beirut.

“I never thought. I never planned. I never dreamed. I just went for it,” said Cherfan about the group’s meteoric rise over the past year.

The 45-minute Q&A session was broadcast on YouTube as part of the US Embassy’s Meet the Artist series. The broadcast also featured a special performance by the Mayyas — their first since winning the US talent show.

“I promise the girls I will be with them forever, that’s how I say it,” Cherfan said. “The girls will be changing over the years, some of them will be following their own dreams, but the Mayyas should live on, it’s not anymore about any of us — it’s a national pride. So we have to keep on sending this message.”

About being a group from Lebanon and his early inspiration to become a dancer, Cherfan said: “When you live in a country that has some struggles, you have to go deep to the heart to escape reality. I used to travel all around the world and experience a beautiful sensation that I can speak an international language and I can express myself whether I am angry or sad in this way, so I think dancing saved my life in a way.”

“As soon as I opened my eyes to this world and I started realizing that there’s something called theater and dance and music, I was completely taken away from the first second,” he said.

The Lebanese dance company Mayyas won “America’s Got Talent” season 17, taking home the $1 million prize and the chance to headline a Las Vegas show.

In June, the group made their “America’s Got Talent” debut and impressed judges Simon Cowell, Heidi Klum, Howie Mandel and Sofia Vergara so much that they received a golden buzzer and fast track to the live shows.
 


Lebanese designer Elie Saab unveils summer 2023 collection in Paris

Lebanese designer Elie Saab unveils summer 2023 collection in Paris
Elie Saab showed off his latest collection at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris. (AFP)
Updated 02 October 2022

Lebanese designer Elie Saab unveils summer 2023 collection in Paris

Lebanese designer Elie Saab unveils summer 2023 collection in Paris

DUBAI: Lebanese designer Elie Saab unveiled his spring/summer 2023 collection at Paris Fashion Week over the weekend.

The line featured stylistic call-backs to the 1960s with its babydoll dresses, miniskirts, crop-tops and jabot collars. However, the designer managed to retain he floaty, contemporary Saab touch he has become famous for.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by ELIE SAAB (@eliesaabworld)

The first look from Saab at his Paris fashion show fused a 1960s angelic-white crop top and a maxi skirt with an ethnic look, thanks to a construction of interlocking motifs. This fusion of different eras continued throughout the show, which sent out 68 items, The Associated Press reported.

Elie Saab showed off his latest collection in Paris. (Getty Images)

Lace detailing was a big theme and became the front of a baggy pale tracksuit top. In an anachronism that defined this Saab spring aesthetic, it was worn alongside a sheer 1990s' tulle skirt. It had a great swag and could have very well been seen at a music festival in that decade.

Saab's spring aesthetic featured tributes to nature. (AFP)

Flashes of Barbie pink and citrus contrasted with psychedelic stripes on column silhouettes, sometimes making it feel like Saab was trying to put too much in the mix.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by ELIE SAAB (@eliesaabworld)

However, the fresh white broderie anglaise, delicate crochet work and crisp cottons played into the summer theme that Saab sought to pull off, with the designer telling Vogue US that he “was just in the mood for something easy to wear, airy like a summer breeze.”

That sentiment was echoed on the fashion house’s social media accounts.

“The Elie Saab Woman drifts onto the scene in gentle warmth and movement. Her colorful confidence is embodied in the ready-to-wear spring/summer 2023 collection, exuding a timeless chic with a touch of garden freshness. Soft and sumptuous textures overlap into free-flowing expressions that carry her carefree assuredness throughout the day,” the label posted on Instagram alongside a video clip of the show.

The star-studded front row at the show featured the likes of Italian actress Monica Bellucci, US actress Eva Longoria, US influencer Olivia Palermo and Mohammed Al-Turki, the CEO of Jeddah’s Red Sea International Film Festival.

“Congrats to the Saab family for another beautiful show,” Al-Turki, who attended the event in an ensemble from Saab’s Haute Couture Men’s collection, posted on Instagram.


Amal, George Clooney host inaugural Albie Awards

Amal, George Clooney host inaugural Albie Awards
Updated 01 October 2022

Amal, George Clooney host inaugural Albie Awards

Amal, George Clooney host inaugural Albie Awards

DUBAI: Lebanese human rights lawyer Amal Clooney and her actor husband George Clooney this week hosted the first-ever Albie Awards, an event created by the celebrity couple to honor individuals who, at great personal risk, have devoted their lives to justice.

The awards ceremony, which took place in New York City, is named after South African lawyer, activist, writer and former judge Justice Albie Sachs, who spent much of his life “defending people charged under racist statutes and repressive security laws.”

Amal was spotted on the red carpet wearing a silver and gold beaded Atelier Versace column gown and strappy silver Aquazzura sandals, while George wore a black tuxedo. (AFP)

Amal was spotted on the red carpet wearing a silver and gold beaded Atelier Versace column gown and strappy silver Aquazzura sandals, while George wore a black tuxedo.

The event was attended by A-list celebrities including Oscar Isaac, Dua Lipa, John Oliver, Julia Roberts, Drew Barrymore, Ethan Hawke and Meryl Streep.


New Lonely Planet guide shines a light on Britain’s hidden Muslim heritage

New Lonely Planet guide shines a light on Britain’s hidden Muslim heritage
Updated 01 October 2022

New Lonely Planet guide shines a light on Britain’s hidden Muslim heritage

New Lonely Planet guide shines a light on Britain’s hidden Muslim heritage
  • ‘Experience Great Britain’ is part of publisher’s range of ‘anti-guidebooks’
  • It offers ‘really diverse experiences for visitors,’ contributor Tharik Hussain says

LONDON: A new Lonely Planet guide to Great Britain features an entire chapter on the country’s little-known Islamic heritage, which stretches back more than 1,200 years.

Published this month, “Experience Great Britain” is part of the publisher’s range of “anti-guidebooks,” so-called because of the unique local perspectives they offer travelers.

The guide to Britain has sections and essays titled “Legacies of Empire,” “Bristol’s Black History,” “An Other London” and “Hidden Muslim Britain,” all of which seek to shine a light on the nation’s marginalized cultures and their stories.

Tharik Hussain, the Muslim author of “Minarets in the Mountains: A Journey Into Muslim Europe,” which explores the continent’s indigenous Muslim cultures, contributed to the new travel guide.

 

 

“I think it is wonderful to see mainstream guidebooks like this finally going out of their way to include such really diverse experiences for visitors,” he said.

“So often, writers like me are brought onto such projects to tick a box and create the impression there are diverse perspectives in it, but actually we’re often asked to just write about the same things covered by the previous writers. What’s diverse about that?

“To achieve truly diverse perspectives commissioning editors must select writers from different backgrounds and then be brave and empower writers to come back with what they find interesting, even if that goes against the editor’s expectations.”

Hussain, who developed one of the UK’s first Muslim heritage trails, wrote the “Hidden Muslim Britain” chapter, which focuses on Woking — home to the UK’s first purpose-built mosque, the Shah Jahan — Liverpool and Brighton, where some of the country’s most visible Islamic legacies can be found.

These include Britain’s first Muslim cemetery — the final resting place of convert lords, ladies and Muslim royalty — and Brighton Pavilion, where injured Muslim (as well as Sikh and Hindu) soldiers fighting for Britain in World War I were treated.

The guide also tells of cultural institutes set up by the Turkish, Palestinian, Bangladeshi and Black communities in London. (Supplied/Tharik Hussain)

“The guide also reveals where to visit spectacular ‘oriental rooms’ modeled on famous Muslim palaces like the Alhambra in Spain and the Topkapi in Turkey,” Hussain said.

“This is supported by an essay called Anglo Islam that reveals how Islam came to the island as early as the 8th century, when an Anglo-Saxon king called Offa minted a gold coin featuring part of the Muslim declaration of faith in Arabic.”

The essay also tells of how Britain’s first real Muslim community “were a group of white, convert Victorians who worshipped at the country’s first mosque in Liverpool, founded by a solicitor called Henry William Quilliam, later Abdullah Quilliam,” he added.

The section on empire tells visitors where they can go to learn about “the horrors of British imperial rule,” and how to experience more positive post-colonial legacies like the stunning Neasden Temple in northwest London, built by immigrants who moved to Britain after the collapse of the empire, Hussain said.

The guide also tells of the cultural institutes set up by the Turkish, Palestinian, Bangladeshi and Black communities in London, like the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton, and offers alternatives to the usual tourist attractions, such as the Muslim History Tours and the Open City walking tours that explore London’s forgotten Chinese heritage.


Dance group Mayyas to perform in Beirut after ‘America’s Got Talent’ win

Dance group Mayyas to perform in Beirut after ‘America’s Got Talent’ win
Updated 30 September 2022

Dance group Mayyas to perform in Beirut after ‘America’s Got Talent’ win

Dance group Mayyas to perform in Beirut after ‘America’s Got Talent’ win
  • Crew ecstatic over ‘dream’ prize, says choreographer Nadim Cherfan
  • Artists will showcase their gifts at the US embassy this weekend

DUBAI: Lebanese dance crew Mayyas are set to perform for the first time since winning “America’s Got Talent” at the US embassy in Beirut this weekend.

The embassy will also host a virtual meet-the-artist session which will be released on Oct. 1 on YouTube.

“I am very happy that Mayyas will do a collaboration with the US embassy,” the crew’s choreographer Nadim Cherfan said in a video shared on the embassy’s Twitter page.

Earlier this month, the group took home the $1 million grand prize after winning the show.

“We can’t believe what’s happening,” group member Marcel Assal told Arab News after the show. “We can’t believe what we’ve achieved — giving so much energy, leaving our work and education, dedicating our time to training every day to be here to represent our country, and this is what we were looking for.

“We were very stressed out by the fact that we had to (prepare the dance) in two to three days, but when we went up on stage and heard the cheers, the audience gave us a push and an adrenaline rush that wasn’t there and we did it,” added Assal.

Cherfan said: “This win gave me an opportunity to dream again. When you have a dream and you achieve it, you start to look for another dream. So I’m very happy that there is something to look forward to now — something to dream of, something to fight for.”