The Blue House: International experts join hands to rebuild a symbol of hope for Beirut 

The Blue House: International experts join hands to rebuild a symbol of hope for Beirut 
The Blue House in August 2022 after restoration work. (Justine Chalfoun)
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Updated 23 September 2022

The Blue House: International experts join hands to rebuild a symbol of hope for Beirut 

The Blue House: International experts join hands to rebuild a symbol of hope for Beirut 
  • UK-based Honor Frost Foundation and the Beirut Heritage Initiative have restored an iconic building near the Beirut Port

DUBAI: The explosion that ripped through Beirut Port on August 4, 2020, devastated the Lebanese capital. Two years later, the city has not yet recovered from the damage and deaths caused that day.

The blast wrecked hundreds of heritage buildings located in the city’s historic neighborhoods of Mar Mikhaël and Gemmayzeh, many of which were already in a state of disrepair. The government has shown little interest in repairing them. The buildings that have been restored have relied largely on privately funded initiatives.

One such building is Medawar 479, also known as The Blue House. Situated on Beirut’s waterfront, close to what was the epicenter of the explosion, and previously a restaurant, this charming and significant site was one of the original shoreline’s cluster of more than 25 heritage buildings, many of which were destroyed in the explosion.




The Blue House on August, 7 2020. (Getty)

The Beirut Heritage Initiative was launched in the aftermath of the explosion to act as an independent and inclusive collective for the restoration of the city’s built cultural heritage. The BHI approached The Honor Frost Foundation, a maritime archaeology charity, in 2020 to collaborate on restoring The Blue House. Work began in November 2021.

“We launched BHI a few days after the blast. It was founded by architects, heritage experts, and activists that wanted to fundraise for the heritage buildings, mainly in Beirut, which were affected by the blast,” architect Yasmine Dagher of the BHI told Arab News. “In late 2020 we contacted the Honor Frost Foundation and proposed to them several buildings that used to be on the shoreline to have funding for the renovation of the buildings and HFF selected one out of the two buildings that we proposed.

“The funding for the renovation comes in exchange for the usage of the space for a certain number of years,” she continued.




A shot of Beirut Port in 1890 - The Blue House is on the waterfront, second from the left. (Supplied)

The owner of the building is now returning to the top floor of The Blue House, while the Honor Frost Foundation will occupy the first floor, she explained.

The late Honor Frost was an early pioneer of marine archaeology, and had a special connection with Lebanon, so it is fitting that the charity will now have an office in Beirut. The country was a key site of exploration for Frost from 1957 onwards, after she had completed her training under Jacques Cousteau’s diving partner, Frédéric Dumas.

Her work led her to the ancient harbors of Byblos, Sidon, and Tyre, where she researched and documented coastal landscapes, harbor archaeology, site-formation processes, and anchors.

It was at these ancient sites that Frost’s interest in stone anchors began. In Byblos she spotted a series of them built into the Bronze Age temple and discovered similar anchors off the nearby coast, thus improving our knowledge of ancient maritime trade patterns.

Since its launch in 2010, the HFF has invested $3.3m in Lebanese projects, including creating an underwater archaeology course— the first of its kind — at the American University of Beirut, in addition to the granting of scholarships and the Beirut Port Project, a survey of the port area that provides an important overview of the city’s maritime cultural landscape.




Repainting the interiors. (Justine Chalfoun)

“She never thought of herself as a (female pioneer),” chair of HFF trustees, Alison Cathie, told Arab News of Frost. “She simply thought of herself as someone who was doing something for the world.”

And the charity that shares her name is carrying on that work, with the restoration of The Blue House. Once the home of an important merchant, but most recently a restaurant, The Blue House was erected in 1890. It is a fine example of the style of Beirut houses of the late 19th century. Its north façade would once have offered stunning, expansive views out over the Mediterranean Sea.

The restoration work was carried out over the course of a year and included structural consolidation and reconstruction of the pitched roof and the north façade, as well as interior work.  Architect-restorer Joe Kallas, supported by Distruct Solutions, Awaida for Construction and Engineering, and Yasmine El-Majzoub from the BHI team led the restoration process, which has actually revealed numerous previously unknown — or perhaps forgotten — features of the building.

Restoration work included the reinstation of a set of previously capped triple arches that formed the principal bay window overlooking the harbor. During the work, it was discovered that the central span had been vaulted and made into a rectangular shape during the 20th century.




Reconstructing the arches. (Yasmine El-Majzoub)

The team have now reinstated the original façade design, reusing materials found on site and employing traditional craft techniques to preserve the identity of the building. Among the highlights of the restoration work are the windows, which have been renovated, and rebuilt where necessary, in Lebanese cedar wood, using historic archives to recreate the original design and murals, which had lain hidden for decades, in delicate blue stenciling. These were uncovered and restored in the central halls on the first and second floors.

The restoration work is now fully complete. The next phase, the BHI team say, involves furnishing the home for occupation in spring 2023.

The Blue House was chosen as a focus for the HFF’s work chiefly for its commanding position on the former shoreline. But it will also provide a fitting office for the charity in Lebanon on completion, an office that will double as both a workspace and occasional exhibition space.   

“We have also done a complete assessment of the maritime archaeology at the port of Beirut for Lebanon’s director of antiquities,” Cathie said. “When it comes to rebuilding, they will know what goes where.”

“We hope this restoration project will encourage more people to visit the house and appreciate its heritage,” Dagher added. “Before the blast, heritage buildings were very private; not a lot of people had access to these kinds of buildings. The owner of The Blue House wants people to have awareness of it, and for Lebanon’s heritage to be accessible to citizens and to visitors.”


Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai questions lack of Muslim representation in Hollywood

Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai questions lack of Muslim representation in Hollywood
Updated 30 September 2022

Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai questions lack of Muslim representation in Hollywood

Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai questions lack of Muslim representation in Hollywood

DUBAI: Pakistani activist and Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai addressed the lack of Muslim representation in Hollywood films during Variety’s recent Power of Women event in the US.

Yousafzai, who was honored at the event, said: “I’ve been doing activism for more than a decade now, and I’ve realized that we shouldn’t limit activism to the work of NGOs (non-governmental organizations) only: There’s also the element of changing people’s minds and perspectives — and that requires a bit more work.”

The 25-year-old, in her new role as a content producer, pointed out that despite Muslims making up 25 percent of the population, there was “only 1 percent of characters in popular TV series.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Malala (@malala)

Addressing A-list guests including American politician Hillary Clinton and her daughter Chelsea, US actress Elizabeth Olsen, talk show host Oprah Winfrey, and the American former actress, and wife of British Prince Harry, Meghan Markle, she added: “You’re often told in Hollywood, implicitly or explicitly, that the characters are too young, too brown, or too Muslim, or that if one show about a person of color is made, then that’s it — you don’t need to make another one. That needs to change.

“I’m a woman, a Muslim, a Pashtun, a Pakistani, and a person of color. And I watched ‘Succession,’ ‘Ted Lasso,’ and ‘Severance,’ where the leads are white people — and especially a lot of white men.

“If we can watch those shows, then I think audiences should be able to watch shows that are made by people of color, and produced and directed by people of color, with people of color in the lead. That is possible, and I’m going to make it happen,” Yousafzai said.
 


Rapper Post Malone to perform in the UAE in December

Rapper Post Malone to perform in the UAE in December
Updated 30 September 2022

Rapper Post Malone to perform in the UAE in December

Rapper Post Malone to perform in the UAE in December

DUBAI: Nine-time Grammy Award nominee Post Malone is set to perform on Dec. 3 at Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Park in celebration of the UAE’s National Day.

The rapper, who sold 95 million singles and 13 million albums in the US alone, is expected to sing a selection of hits from his catalogue, including “Rockstar,” “Psycho,” “Sunflower” and “Better Now,” as well as new tracks from his latest album “Twelve Carat Toothache.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by @postmalone

“I’m excited to be returning to Abu Dhabi and performing for the incredible audience there again,” said Malone, whose real name is Austin Richard Post, in a released statement. “The crowd for my last show there were electric and I can’t wait to take to the stage and perform for my fans in the Middle East. Together, we’re going to enjoy a fantastic weekend.”

The 27-year-old singing sensation performed in Abu Dhabi in 2018 for the Formula 1 Yasalam After-Race concerts.

Malone, who is the eighth best-selling digital artist of all time, rose to fame for his unique blend of hip hop, pop, R&B and trap genres and subgenres.


REVIEW: ‘Andor’ might test ‘Star Wars’ fans patience, but it could just be worth it

REVIEW: ‘Andor’ might test ‘Star Wars’ fans patience, but it could just be worth it
Updated 30 September 2022

REVIEW: ‘Andor’ might test ‘Star Wars’ fans patience, but it could just be worth it

REVIEW: ‘Andor’ might test ‘Star Wars’ fans patience, but it could just be worth it
  • New show is short on lightsabers and spaceships, but big on color and atmosphere

LONDON: For all the “Star Wars” universe’s recent movie missteps, its TV storytelling has never been in a better place — recent shows such as “The Mandalorian,” “Visions” and “Obi-Wan Kenobi” have been some of the most enjoyable material to slot into the galaxy far, far away since George Lucas originally put pen to paper in the 1970s.

But that comes with an added layer of pressure too, like that hanging over “Andor” — the latest show to be added to the growing pantheon of “Star Wars” small-screen entries. The series is a prequel to a prequel, in fact: “Andor” charts the origins of Cassian Andor, the (then) haunted Rebel soldier who sacrificed his life to help steal the plans to the Empire’s first Death Star in “Rogue One.”

In “Andor”, Cassian — played again by Diego Luna — is a wayward soul, angry at the universe for reasons (presumably) yet to be revealed, and desperate to find a way to fight back against the growing tyranny sweeping across the galaxy. That is, until he meets Luthen Rael (Stellan Skarsgård), a member of the Rebel Alliance who believes that Cassian may be a key addition to the burgeoning resistance.

Of the first three episodes, there’s little more to say than that, largely because “Andor” is redefining the notion of a slowbuild show. We’re treated to flashes of Cassian’s youth, and reasons why he hates the Empire so much, and we learn about his life on the planet Ferrix, which finds itself under the heel of an authoritarian regime in a drawn-out introduction that has little action. 

But what we do get is the “Star Wars” universe painted in detail more intricate than we’ve seen before. There are no Jedi, no sprawling space battles or (cough) trade disputes to drive the story forward, so “Andor” treats us to a gritty, realistic look at what it might actually be like to live in this fantastical universe. 

For “Star Wars” fans, it’s a wonderful tour through a level of minutiae never glimpsed before in live action. And while the lack of fireworks early on might deter casual viewers, or those not familiar with the franchise, that level of expectation that surrounds new “Star Wars” outlets will probably be enough to buy the show the time to realize its true potential. 


South Asians in UK honored for their outstanding achievements

South Asians in UK honored for their outstanding achievements
Updated 30 September 2022

South Asians in UK honored for their outstanding achievements

South Asians in UK honored for their outstanding achievements
  • Pratik Dattani, the director of the Asian Achievers Awards, said: ‘The aim of the evening is to recognize changemakers from across the South Asian community in the UK’
  • This year’s awards were presented in 12 categories, one of which, the Woman of the Year Award, was renamed as a tribute to the recently deceased Queen Elizabeth II

LONDON: Influential and inspirational South Asians in a range of fields in the UK were honored recently, during a prestigious ceremony in London, for their outstanding achievements.

Established in 2000, the Asian Achievers Awards, one of the most prominent and long-established celebrations of its kind, returned for its 20th edition after a two-year hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizers chose to pay tribute this year to the legacy of Queen Elizabeth II, who died on Sept. 8, and renamed the Woman of the Year Award in her honor.

“The aim of the evening is to recognize changemakers from across the South Asian community in the UK,” Pratik Dattani, the director of the awards, told Arab News. “It really is the cream of the community and everyone really worth celebrating.”

This year’s awards were presented in 12 categories: art and culture; business leadership; community service; entrepreneur and professional of the year; media; sports; health; innovation; uniformed and civil service; women of the year; and lifetime achievement.

The proceeds from the event, held at JW Marriott Grosvenor House in London, will go to Pardada Pardadi Educational Society UK, a charity that helps underprivileged children across India and South Asia. (AN Photo)

“It means a lot to have South Asians in prominent positions because it’s about leadership in the community, mentorship, and having visible role models,” Dattani said.

He added that the current mayor and the deputy mayors of London come from South Asian backgrounds, the UK cabinet during the past 12 years has included, on average, four ministers of Indian or Pakistani origin, and the richest person in the UK is of South Asian origin.

“This just shows the immense contribution we make to the cultural, social and economic fabric of the country, he said.

“South Asians in the UK are here to stay but the growth, the economic success and the community success of the South Asian community will grow and the awards will continue to be the place in the UK, and across Europe, where we recognize South Asian excellence.”

This year’s awards paid tribute to the legacy of Queen Elizabeth II, who died on Sept. 8, and renamed the Woman of the Year Award in her honor. (AN Photo)

Dattani said that the proceeds from the event, held at JW Marriott Grosvenor House, will go to Pardada Pardadi Educational Society UK, a charity that helps underprivileged children across India and South Asia. In all, he said, it raised more than £150,000 ($165,945), with additional commitments of more than £100,000.

UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman received the newly renamed Queen Elizabeth II Woman of the Year award, which her parents accepted on her behalf.

“I think from the start, our mantra has been: ‘Suella you’ve got to study hard and you’ve got to do well if you want to get anywhere,’” said her mother, Uma Fernanades.

“And I think being of ethnic minority, and also being a lady, it’s harder still and (requires) us to work doubly hard, and she has done that.

 

 

“Another thing I used to say to her, whenever she passes an exam or she gets a degree, I always used to say, ‘This is not just for you, it’s for the whole community out there and you’ve got to learn to share it.’ And I think I would want to know that she’s setting an example; that she’s just an ordinary woman, just like anybody else, but if you want to achieve something, you can do it.”

Capt. Harpreet Chandi MBE, an officer and physiotherapist in the British Army, received the Uniformed and Civil Service Award. She recently completed a 700-mile solo, unsupported expedition to the South Pole that took 40 days.

“When I had the idea, I didn’t know anything about Antarctica; I literally typed into Google, ‘How do you get to Antarctica as a modern-day explorer?’” she said. It took her about two and a half years to actually get onto the ice.

“I became the first woman of color to do a solo expedition but that was just a journey — then I got back and I did about four months of school talks and reached about 18,000 students, just hoping to inspire the next generation,” Chandi said.

Capt. Harpreet Chandi MBE, an officer and physiotherapist in the British Army, received the Uniformed and Civil Service Award. (AN Photo)

She is preparing to return to Antarctica in a month with the aim of becoming the first woman to complete a solo, unsupported crossing of the continent. She plans to cover 1,100 miles in 70 days.

“My aims are hopefully to inspire people to push their boundaries and show that, actually, it doesn’t matter what you look like or where you’re from, you can go and achieve anything you want and no barrier or boundary is too (great),” Chandi said.

“I really want to encourage people to step outside of their comfort zone and do whatever they want and achieve whatever they want.”

Prema Subaskaran, chairperson of Lycahealth and KIMS Hospital, won the Outstanding Achievement in Healthcare Award and said it was a “great privilege” to be recognized for her efforts.

“I’m really passionate about health care and I really wanted to become a doctor and serve the people, but because of the civil war (in Sri Lanka) and family commitments, I couldn’t and I had to stop my degree in the middle,” she said.

Prema Subaskaran, chairperson of Lycahealth and KIMS Hospital, won the Outstanding Achievement in Healthcare Award. (AN Photo)

“Then I always wanted to set up a business that could facilitate philanthropic work through the field of medicine by working with like-minded people, so this is how I set up Lycahealth in 2015.”

With a focus on providing patients with a complete diagnostic pathway and secondary care, Lycahealth last year acquired KIMS Hospital, the largest independent private hospital in the English county of Kent.

“We play a critical role in Kent to provide outstanding health care to the local community, as well as becoming a big employer in the local community,” Subaskaran added.


Newly launched website gives Islamic art global exposure

Newly launched website gives Islamic art global exposure
Updated 29 September 2022

Newly launched website gives Islamic art global exposure

Newly launched website gives Islamic art global exposure
  • islamicart.me was launched t­o promote Orthodox Christian artists Hilda and Lena Kelekian, who create artwork with verses from the Qur’an
  • ‘I thought it would be a good idea to finally get her very unique art pieces (out there),’ founder Anthony Azoury said

DUBAI: A Lebanese patron has launched a website to give Islamic art made by creatives Hilda and Lena Kelekian, who are of Armenian, Cypriot and Lebanese descent, international exposure.

Anthony Azoury launched islamicart.me to expose new clients to the Orthodox Christian creatives who create artwork with verses from the Qur’an.

“Hilda has been getting a lot of interest worldwide,” Azoury told Arab News. “She has a lot of clients from the UAE, Saudi Arabia and all the Gulf region – and even in Europe. So, I thought it would be a good idea to finally get her very unique art pieces (out there).”

Hilda paints on goat and cow skin, while Lena is a ceramicist. 

“There shall be no compulsion in religion,” Hilda Kelekian. (Supplied)

In an interview with Arab News, Hilda, who has been painting for over 30 years, said that she contacts imams to make sure that her writing, her art and her techniques are correct. 

“I find melody in Arabic letters. When I write, I don’t follow the schools of Arabic letters like the school of Kufi. I have my own (style) in the way I write,” she said, referring to a style of Arabic calligraphy. “I know all the rules and I am in touch with multiple sheikhs so that when I am drawing I obey the rules of the Islamic sect.”

“When I open the Qur’an to copy a verse, I have to obey the style. There are little details that I must obey. I must be clean when I am painting,” she added.

 

 

Hilda, who is an award-winning artist, creates and mixes her own paint that makes the colors visible on animal skin. 

It takes her a minimum of one month to finish one painting. “To be more productive, I start so many paintings together,” she said. 

The website, which went live last month, ships the artworks to countries around the world.

“In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful,” Hilda Kelekian. (Supplied)

Hilda has exhibited her work in the US, Spain, Venice, France, China and more. 

Lena is a multidisciplinary visual artist, iconographer, art therapist and ceramicist.

She has hosted 17 solo exhibitions in 13 countries and has taken part in more than 202 collective exhibitions in 62 countries.

Her work is on display in 32 institutions around the world, including in London and Italy.