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.”


What We Are Eating Today: Circolo Pizza: An authentic Italian at the heart of ancient Arabia

What We Are Eating Today: Circolo Pizza: An authentic Italian at the heart of ancient Arabia
Updated 11 sec ago

What We Are Eating Today: Circolo Pizza: An authentic Italian at the heart of ancient Arabia

What We Are Eating Today: Circolo Pizza: An authentic Italian at the heart of ancient Arabia

In the middle of the beautiful landscape of Alula, you can enjoy a delightful rich meal  at Circolo Pizza. 

Circolo Pizza is located in the beautiful Al-Jadidah district that is bustles with art and activities. 

Open for lunch and dinner, Circolo Pizza serves a delicious menu. 

The restaurant specializes in artisan pizzas, baked in wood-fired ovens, like buffalo margarita, pesto burrata, artichoke and spinach, Bresaola, among others. 

The menu also features citrus risotto, citrus, and fried goat cheese salad with a blood orange dressing, both made with regional ingredients.

You can see your pizza being baked in front of you with a beautiful view of AlUla, and you can enjoy the beautiful and serene view of the valley with the mountains in the distance while nestled on the edge of the Oasis. 

With a relaxed, rustic atmosphere and only the best ingredients, Circolo's authentic Italian dishes will keep you coming back for more. 

The portions are small, so I wouldn't recommend sharing. However, the taste is unforgettable, and every dish is different and delicious.

The restaurant also offers fresh pastas such as linguini with mushroom and truffle, AlUla citrus risotto, ravioli with butter and sage, and black pasta with lobster, which is a personal favorite. 

Their main courses contain veal Milanese, roasted baby chicken, and grilled salmon, but their baked seabass is a must-try. 

The dough of the pizza is light, and the fresh pasta is light, leaving your stomach happy and satiated. 

Make sure to save room for the delectable selection of gelato and traditional Italian sweets.

Circolo Pizza offers a complete experience: Good food, service, and view, making it one of the best restaurants to try in AlUla. 
 


Fashion Commission opens applications for second edition of Saudi 100 Brands program

Fashion Commission opens applications for second edition of Saudi 100 Brands program
Updated 07 October 2022

Fashion Commission opens applications for second edition of Saudi 100 Brands program

Fashion Commission opens applications for second edition of Saudi 100 Brands program
  • The first edition last year delivered more than 5,000 hours of specialized training
  • Graduates displayed their talent at fashion week exhibitions in New York and Milan

RIYADH: Designers in the Kingdom have been invited by the Fashion Commission to apply for the Saudi 100 Brands professional development program by the closing date of Oct. 16.

The program includes masterclasses, workshops, one-on-one mentorship sessions, and training from industry leaders and experts.

The first edition last year delivered more than 5,000 hours of specialized training, and saw graduates displaying their talent at fashion week exhibitions in New York and Milan.

The 10 program categories are: ready-to-wear, modest, concept, premium, demi-couture, bridal, handbags, jewelery and — new for this edition — fragrances and footwear.

Designers are chosen from a diverse group, with ages ranging from 20 to 70 and 85 percent female participation, as well as self-trained and graduates of international design schools. Those selected can choose a year-long international program for established brands or a six-month program for smaller brands.

Speaking to Arab News recently about the success of the first edition of Saudi 100 Brands, Fashion Commission CEO Burak Cakmak said the response in fashion capitals such as New York was “amazing.”

He added: “I was so excited to be able to take over the billboard in Times Square with ‘Saudi 100 brands’ logo, but also we had over 2,500 visitors in two weeks to our space, showing hundreds of unique pieces that came from a hundred Saudi designers.

“Everybody was positively impressed; they loved every piece they saw and started asking questions about who the designers were, and wanted to follow them and learn more about them.”


Dubai-based producer RedOne behind Qatar World Cup anthems

Dubai-based producer RedOne behind Qatar World Cup anthems
Updated 07 October 2022

Dubai-based producer RedOne behind Qatar World Cup anthems

Dubai-based producer RedOne behind Qatar World Cup anthems

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.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Balqees (@balqeesfathi)

Qatari singer Aisha teamed up with Nigerian Afro-pop star Davido and US singer Trinidad Cardona on the very first World Cup track “Hayya Hayya,” released in April this year.

In August, the World Cup crew released “Arhbo,” featuring Puerto Rican reggaeton star Ozuna and French hip-hop artist Gims.
 


Egypt's sweetheart Dalida: A unique talent born from a rare cultural mix

Egypt's sweetheart Dalida: A unique talent born from a rare cultural mix
Updated 07 October 2022

Egypt's sweetheart Dalida: A unique talent born from a rare cultural mix

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

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.”

Dalida in Rome in the 1950s. (Getty Images)

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. 

Dalida (right) with her brother Orlando. (Supplied)

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.

French actor Jacques Charrier poses with his wife, actress Brigitte Bardot (right) and Dalida at the opening of Dalida's show 'Jukebox' in 1959. (Getty Images)

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. 

Dalida and her husband Lucien Morisse in Paris, March 1961. (Getty Images)

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.

A shot of Dalida taken in 1955. (Getty Images)

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

HIGHLIGHTS: Rare photos of Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to Saudi Arabia in 1979
Updated 07 October 2022

HIGHLIGHTS: Rare photos of Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to Saudi Arabia in 1979

HIGHLIGHTS: Rare photos of Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to Saudi Arabia in 1979

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.