Ithra’s iconic building has been lit up in green since Wednesday as part of the Saudi National Day celebrations and will be illuminated until Saturday.
The festivities will continue for a full weekend of fun, and local goods and designs will be on sale at a pop-up gift shop inside. Outside, twice nightly, the Parade of Harmony will get visitors clapping as a group of military musicians from the Saudi army march to the beat in the Lush Garden.
Always a promoter of movies, the Ithra Cinema — which recently hosted the Saudi Film Festival — will screen a selection of 30-minute short films directed, produced and acted by Saudis.
Ithra Studios will provide the chance for visitors wearing traditional outfits to have their picture taken by a professional photographer against a backdrop of one of the Kingdom’s landmarks.
The Children’s Museum will feature a range of immersive activities, as will the Children’s Oasis. The Energy Exhibit will offer a storytelling experience where guests are invited to reflect on the various stages of the Kingdom’s prosperity over time.
Expat residents and visitors are also invited to join in the celebrations.
One such guest was Phelia, who is from the US and has been living in the Kingdom for the past seven years. She brought her mother along — who is visiting from the US — after finding out about the event on the Ithra website. They were keen to explore such cultural offerings as tasting Saudi coffee, clapping along to live music and watching the traditional dances.
“We are here at one of the many days events for the Saudi National Day, which is 92-years-old,” she said. “I’m here to see the different festivities that they have. In order for you to know the true feel you have to come and experience it yourself,” she told Arab News.
Among the attendees were his oldest friends Miguel Paixao and Jose Semedo. Ronaldo also invited Madrid-based reporter Edu Aguirre and wife Julia Salmean, along with his new personal manager and agent Ricky Regufe and personal wealth manager Miguel Marques.
Ronaldo took to Instagram to share a few snapshots from the day, captioning the post: “Thank you everyone for all the birthday messages. Grateful to have spent the day with my family and friends.”
In the photos, the football superstar can be seen posing in front of a table laden with multiple birthday cakes. Another photo shared in the carousel of images shows Ronaldo taking advantage of the winter weather on what appears to be a trip to the desert, complete with a roaring bonfire and traditional tents.
Actor-DJ Idris Elba to headline techno music festival in Dubai
Updated 06 February 2023
DUBAI: Hollywood actor and DJ Idris Elba is set to headline the Dubai edition of global techno and house music festival Elrow XXL on Feb. 17, it was announced on Monday.
Emmy and Golden Globe-winner Elba is also a DJ and has performed at venues across the world, including Coachella, Sound in Los Angeles and Output in New York. His UK apperances include Ministry of Sound in London, as well as both the Creamfields and Glastonbury festivals.
His appearance at the Elrow XXL marks his first time performing in the Middle East.
Elrow XXL will be held at Dubai Design District on Feb. 17 and 18.
The festival has previously been staged in 84 cities across 34 countries, including London, Barcelona, Ibiza, Amsterdam, Madrid, Las Vegas, Antwerp, Frankfurt and New York.
“I love Dubai. And I love playing Elrow shows. I’m looking forward to this one a lot,” Elba said in a released statement.
Apart from Elba, the festival features a lineup of international DJs and artists, including Armand Van Helden, Sam Devine, Sonny Fodera, Alisha, Arielle Free, R3WIRE, Wade and Chelina Manuhutu.
Egyptian film ‘Feathers’ wins big at Joburg Film Festival
Updated 06 February 2023
DUBAI: Egyptian director Omar El-Zohairy’s “Feathers” took home the Best Film prize at the 5th Joburg Film Festival in Johannesburg, South Africa, this weekend.
The much-awarded film was the winner of Cannes Critics’ Week in 2021 and bagged awards at the El-Gouna Film Festival, Carthage Film Festival and Pingyao Film Festival, as well as last year’s Rabat International Author Film Festival.
“The jury process for 2023’s Joburg Film Festival was an amazing meeting of minds of a highly experienced and diverse African team of filmmakers,” said juror Njoki Muhoho, according to Variety.
“During the deliberations, the diversity of knowledge and skills in storytelling came into play. The respect for fellow filmmakers’ craft was evidenced in the discipline and attention in which we screened and watched the films,” Muhoho added.
Bollywood singer Kumar Sanu delights fans in Jeddah
Making his first ever appearance in the Kingdom, Sanu thrilled the audience of mostly Indian expats, serving up renditions of more than 20 songs
Updated 05 February 2023
JEDDAH: Bollywood singer Kumar Sanu wowed the crowds on Friday night as the latest celebration of Indian culture drew to a close.
Sanu was the star of the show for the two-day music festival at the Equestrian Club in Jeddah’s Al-Frosyah district, which was organized by Good Hope Events in cooperation with the General Entertainment Authority.
Making his first ever appearance in the Kingdom, Sanu thrilled the audience of mostly Indian expats, serving up renditions of more than 20 songs.
“I have been waiting to perform in Saudi Arabia and here we are in Jeddah for the first time,” he told his adoring fans from the stage.
“We have a great crowd and I am happy to see you enjoying the night.”
Also on the bill were Rachna Chopra, Biplab and Afsal, who helped ramp up the crowds with a host of Bollywood numbers.
“I am amazed by the energy that flowed from you guys,” Chopra told the crowd.
Fan Nadia Azmi, who went to the gig with friends, said: “We all are privileged to have Sanu among us in Jeddah today. We all have grown up listening to his songs since the ’80s and ’90s.
“It is wonderful to listen to him live today. I want to thank Saudi Arabia and the organizers for their efforts in making this possible.”
Junaise Babu, chairman of Good Hope Events, said the festival had been a huge success.
“It was a great feeling to see so many men, women, young and old, not only Indian expatriates but also other Asians enjoying the various musicians we brought.”
Amrina Qaiser, who introduced Sanu on stage, said: “It was an amazing experience hosting such a mega event in Jeddah for the first time.
“I felt overwhelmed and I was lucky enough to interact with the king of melody from Bollywood, Kumar Sanu.”
Sabah, the ‘Empress of Lebanese Song’ who excelled in movies and music
For this week’s edition of our series on Arab icons, we profile one of the Arab world's most popular stars
Over a career spanning seven decades, the Lebanese legend appeared in almost 100 films and released more than 50 albums
Updated 04 February 2023
DUBAI: “Empress of Lebanese Song,” “Sabbouha” and “Al-Shahroura” (The Singing Bird). These are just some of the nicknames given to the Lebanese singer and actress Sabah, whose remarkable career spanned seven decades.
Sabah was born Jeanette Georges Feghali in November 1927 in Bdadoun near Mount Lebanon. She was the youngest of three daughters. Her family life was troubled — her father reportedly bullied and neglected her, and even tried to steal her earnings from her early movies. She once told an interviewer that she was crying one day because she hadn’t had any food and one of her uncles told her parents “that I had a beautiful voice when I sobbed.” Her traumatic childhood only got worse when her brother murdered their mother because he believed she was having an affair.
It was her talent that offered her a way out. Sabah started singing aged four, and released her first song in 1940, aged just 13.
Five years later, she starred in her first movie, the Egyptian film “El-Qalb Luh Wahid” (The Heart Has Its Reasons) and adopted her character’s name — Sabah (morning). Still a teenager, she quickly became famous across the Arab world. She went on to star in almost 100 movies and release more than 50 albums, becoming internationally famous — performing in Paris, London, Sydney and New York. She reportedly had around 3,500 songs in her repertoire and carried on performing well into her eighties, finally retiring in 2010 due to illness. She died in Lebanon on Nov. 26, 2014, at the age of 87.
Egyptian filmmaker Ahmed Shafik made “El-Shahrourah,” a TV drama based on her life (Sabah was played by Lebanese singer and actress Carole Samaha), which aired in Ramadan in 2011. For background, Shafik talked with Sabah for hours about her life.
“I grew up listening to Sabah. She is a great artist, a great singer, a great actress. It was an incredible feeling the first time I went to meet her,” Shafik told Arab News.
“The (show) was based on her words. We — (writer) Fedaa El-Shandawily and I — sat with her in the hotel she stayed in until she died, and we would visit her daily. When the show was written, we read the episodes for her and it was exactly what she said,” he continued. “Her life was full of suspense and a lot of drama. At times, Sabah would tell us stories and cry, and at times she would recall memories and laugh.”
After the show aired, Sabah’s family reportedly filed lawsuits against the production house. But, according to Shafik, none of the cases came to trial because he had the recordings of his interviews with Sabah.
“Sabah herself did not file a lawsuit,” he noted. “Sabah cared for her professional career and did not care for her personal life, her family.”
The singer married 10 times and was rumored to be in multiple relationships throughout her life. “She was trying to find stability and make a family. Most of the men in her life wanted the rich and famous Sabah — not a family,” Shafik said.
In 2021, Sabah was among the Arab female artists featured in the Arab World Institute’s six-month exhibition, “Arab Divas, from Umm Kulthum to Dalida.” Maïa Tahiri, CEO of glob.art, the cultural platform that helped support the exhibition, told Arab News, “Umm Kulthum, Warda Al-Jazairia, Asmahan, Fayrouz, Sabah, Dalida … (these women) have influenced not only several generations but have created a bridge across cultures. It was very moving to see daughters with their mothers and grandmothers at the exhibition, sharing their memories and ideas, rocked by the famous songs of these incredible women who contributed so much to the Golden Age of the Arab world.
“Sabah is an icon, not just in the Middle East or the Arab World,” Tahiri added. “The fact that she acted in almost 100 movies and interpreted approximately 3,500 songs explains her global fame… Her freedom, her frankness and her love for fashion also explain the fascination people still have when it comes to her.”
Tahiri said that throughout her lustrous career, Sabah remained faithful to her dressmaker, William Khoury. “Even though she mostly performed in Egypt, it was extremely important to her to have her stage costumes made in her homeland, Lebanon. The exhibition put forward a large panel of Sabah’s outfits, revealing her appreciation for boldness,” she said.
That boldness carried over from her risqué dress sense to her personality. Lebanese radio presenter Chady Maalouf, who met Sabah many times between 2001 and her death in 2014, told Arab News, “Dealing with Sabah meant dealing with a very professional star, whether in punctuality, commitment or frankness and clarity in the answers.”
Sabah, he said, “was one of the first to carry the Lebanese dialect — through her songs — to Egypt and the Arab world, bringing it closer to the Arab public at a time when the Egyptian dialect was dominant in the world of singing and acting.”
Maalouf’s favorite interview with the star was his first, recorded in her house at the time in Hazmieh. “Sabah was always elegant, even at home,” he said. “The dominant color of the furniture and curtains was turquoise. She showed me some of her (ornaments) after our interview. One was a gift from Fayrouz and Assi Rahbani, and another piece was from the Egyptian actress Soheir Ramzi.”
An interview in 2006 he recalled “was one of the few times I saw Sabah sad. She had tears in her eyes, because our meeting coincided with an Israeli attack on Lebanon, and rumors were circulating in the press that she was celebrating her birthday when the country was being bombed.”
The conversation that has stuck with Maalouf the most, though, was when he asked Sabah why she didn’t move to the US where her daughter, son and two grandchildren lived.
“She replied: ‘I love them all very much, but there I will feel that I’ve become merely a grandmother and forget my glory, and that I am Sabah. I love myself and don’t like to be insignificant.’ Then she added, ‘I’m not selfish, but I love the artist in me,’” Maalouf said.
“I believe that this phrase really sums up her life: Janet Feghali loved Sabah and lived for Sabah. And she did it well.”