Photographer Faisal bin Zarah’s exhibition is a love letter to the Kingdom 

Photographer Faisal bin Zarah’s exhibition is a love letter to the Kingdom 
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Faisal Bin Zarah's artworks "Otherworld" (left) and "Nufud and Tuwaiq" (right) showcased at Lakum Art Space in his first solo exhibition. (Lakum Art Space/Mohammad Fattal)
Photographer Faisal bin Zarah’s exhibition is a love letter to the Kingdom 
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(Lakum Art Space/Mohammad Fattal)
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Updated 03 October 2022

Photographer Faisal bin Zarah’s exhibition is a love letter to the Kingdom 

Photographer Faisal bin Zarah’s exhibition is a love letter to the Kingdom 

 

RIYADH: Photographer Faisal bin Zarah’s first three-day solo exhibition, “Raw Kingdom,” transformed Lakum Art Space in Riyadh into a vivid love letter to Saudi Arabia — a result of 15 years of hard work.  

The exhibition, which took place from Sept. 27 to Oct. 2, showcased photos of the vast spaces of the northern region to AlUla in the west, and the beautiful landscapes of Riyadh in the central region. 

“Every Saudi knows his work, but they don’t realize it’s Faisal,” Dana Qabbani, the exhibition’s curator, told Arab News. “His photos are in the passport sector, in the Absher app, all the ministries that you think of. His commercial work is very known.” 

Spending a large part of his life photographing for commercial purposes, Bin Zarah found that the copious amounts of time and effort spent on his unique shots made them more valuable than a mere business transaction.

He views his work as something to be contemplated and reflected upon. In a single exhibition, he rerouted his path from corporate to creative. 

“A photo that took me two years in the making should not be posted on a website or used for commercial or advertisement purposes. A better use of it is to consider it as a piece of fine art,” Bin Zarah told Arab News. 

But how does one transform a commercial photographer’s work into an art piece? For the exhibition’s curator, the challenge was not within the content, but the presentation.

“We chose the best materials to showcase his work and we chose a certain sequence for these (photographs), we sort of gave his work a timeline. We took you on a trip,” Qabbani said. 

“I did this art gallery because everything you see is our limited edition prints exclusively for collectors and art enthusiasts,” he added.




Photographer Faisal Bin Zarah, for only three days in his first solo exhibition “.RAW KINGDOM,” has transformed Lakum Art Space into a vivid love letter to Saudi Arabia, a result 15 years in the making. (Lakum Art Space/Mohammad Fattal)

Bin Zarah believes that the widespread use of his images for social media or commercial advertising purposes will degrade the value of his work.  

“To me, a photo is much deeper than a click of a shutter and you’re able to see it. It’s a message. It’s an idea. It’s a story. I am a storyteller,” Bin Zarah said. 

The story of this long-awaited love letter springs from love itself: Bin Zarah began his journey with photography when his wife gifted him his first camera in 2007 and taught him the basics, which he proudly proclaims. 

He began to visually feed his eye through photo-sharing websites like Flickr until he found his style, gravitating towards land and cityscape photography.

His work is two-fold: One aspect of it focuses on the growing civilization and the other industrialization in Riyadh.

He describes his shot of the full moon rising over Faisaliyah Tower in his work titled “Lift Off” as a “moment of joy.” 

For someone working in the telecommunications field during the day and taking caring for four children, he sees his photography escapades as a getaway from all the stress and negativity.

“This time is enjoyment to me. This is what drives me … When you create something, anything— even Lego or puzzles — once you finish, there’s a reward, you get the sense of achievement and completion. This is what I get when I complete a project,” Bin Zarah said. 




The exhibition, which took place from Sept. 27 to Oct. 2, showcased photos of the vast spaces of the northern region to AlUla in the west, and the beautiful landscapes of Riyadh in the central region. 
(Lakum Art Space/Mohammad Fattal)

His unique angles even impressed the owner of the Kingdom Tower,  Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, who has the photo of it hanging in his office. 

At Lakum Art Space, it was showcased as part of Bin Zarah’s “Dawn to Dusk” photo series, which takes you on a trip to various sites in Riyadh through the turning of the sun. 

His dedication is apparent in his work. Bin Zarah spent two years awaiting the full moon every month to capture the perfect moment as it grazed both the Faisaliah and Kingdom towers in his moon series.

“His work ethics really made this a piece of cake to curate, to install, so what I loved is that it wasn’t just a photography exhibition, it’s basically taking someone’s career from A to Z, a different destination,” Qabbani said. 

The other aspect of his work pursues his love for traveling to discover gems within the Kingdom. With that, he hopes to inspire people to venture into these spaces and appreciate their beauty. 

“My message is: We have an amazing vibrant Kingdom from north to south, east to west, and it has so many undiscovered jewels, untouched by humans or others. I’m only a person that’s showing one side of the beauty. The real beauty is when you visit the place physically and see it,” Bin Zarah said. 

In his AlUla collection, he features various self-portraits taken under the night sky of the city’s northern part, Al-Gharamil, encapsulating all the stars within single shots, found in his works “Interstellar” and “Message to the Galaxy.”

Bin Zarah uses a Sony A7R Mark IV, a 60 megapixel camera, with a variation of zoom and wide lenses to capture even the smallest of details. Standing parallel to his work easily gives the audience the instinct to reach out and feel the texture. 

He quite frequently uses drones and stitching methods to ensure that the details are vibrant enough even for the human eye to spot. 

“I am going to usual places and trying to capture them in an unusual way … By design, the drone camera is wide. So it will capture the whole thing even if you are at 200 meters, but nobody used it to cover a 4 square km area. I did a sky scan in order for me to show these amazing details,” he said.

In his astonishing “Earth’s Veins,” he took 21 photos from a 500 meter distance, stitched together to reveal the red dunes and mountains near Thadig, a historical city north of Riyadh. 

The unusual landscape scene stretches across 3 km formed by wind and rainwater that pushed through the crevices of the land. 

As a photographer who’s been traveling across the Kingdom for years, his work acts as documentations of the landscape before the initiation of several giga projects under Vision 2030, such as NEOM and Qiddiya. 

He sees the projects as elevations to these spaces, not tampering with the environment. They actually reflect the underlying history of the region.  

“NEOM, which is The Line, is mirror. So it will not intervene with the environment. It will be within it … Saudi Arabia is the land of civilization. The history of the whole earth started from the Arabian peninsula,” Bin Zarah said. 

“The new projects are good for the citizens, and I’m so happy that they are putting in mind the environment. They’re not destroying anything and are actually conserving it.”


Egyptian soprano, Bocelli-Jameel recipient Laura Mekhail charms Jeddah

Egyptian soprano, Bocelli-Jameel recipient Laura Mekhail charms Jeddah
Updated 29 January 2023

Egyptian soprano, Bocelli-Jameel recipient Laura Mekhail charms Jeddah

Egyptian soprano, Bocelli-Jameel recipient Laura Mekhail charms Jeddah
  • In an exclusive interview after the performance, Mekhail told Arab News that receiving the Bocelli-Jameel scholarship at the Royal College of Music was the most amazing experience she ever had

JEDDAH: The second recipient of the Andrea Bocelli Foundation-Community Jameel Scholarship was awarded to Egyptian talent Laura Mekhail in 2021, who enthralled a Jeddah audience with her stunning performance on the Hayy Jameel stage on Jan. 28.

Mekhail is the first Arab woman to receive the scholarship, as the inaugural recipient was French soprano Clara Barbier Serrano.

The Arab soprano performed next to Italian pianist and composer Daniele Ciminiello, who had coincidentally also performed with Serrano last year at the same venue.

Mekhail performed classics by composers such as Mozart and Puccini, and Arabic songs including ‘El Helwa Di’ by Fairuz. (AN Photo by: Abdullah Al-Faleh)

During the show, Mekhail took her audience on a spectacular journey through the history of opera, covering classics by legendary composers such as Handel, Mozart and Puccini, followed by Arabic songs such as “Ana Albi Dalili” by Laila Mourad, and “Sahar El Layali” and “El Helwa Di” by Fairuz. She completed her performance with breathtaking renditions of English songs “I Could Have Danced All Night” and “Pure Imagination.”

In an exclusive interview after the performance, Mekhail told Arab News that receiving the Bocelli-Jameel scholarship at the Royal College of Music was the most amazing experience she ever had.

FASTFACT

Laura Mekhail is the first Arab woman to be awarded the Bocelli-Jameel Scholarship in 2021, which was previously awarded to French soprano Clara Barbier Serrano. The Bocelli-Jameel scholarship was established in 2019 with the aim of supporting emerging talents to study opera at the Royal College of Music in London.

“It is truly a dream come true to study at the Royal College of Music. It is now the top school in the world, and it’s not easy to get into. I cannot believe that I am one of the very few people who get to be there and receive this amazing education that will put me on different stages all around the world.”

The same performance also took place at the Kingdom’s cultural and historic destination AlUla at the award-winning Maraya Concert Hall on Jan. 27 where Mekhail performed next to Andrea Bocelli.

She described the thrill of singing with the legendary talent.

“I felt so comfortable. I thought I would be scared or shaky, but he made me feel like it was going to be fine. He encourages and believes in young talent. So, it felt amazing to sing next to him.”

Mekhail discovered her passion for singing during her childhood when she was part of a church choir in Cairo. She has performed at the Cairo Opera House, and the influences on her singing include many Arab musicians, along with Bach and Rossini.

She studied music performance at West Virginia Wesleyan College in the US, where she was a member of the a cappella choir and worked closely with Dan Hughes, the director of Choral Activities, whom she credits for heavily influencing her vocal development.

After graduation, Mekhail taught singing at the Chesterbrook Academy for six years before deciding to pursue a career as a professional soloist.

Mekhail’s performance at the Hayy Jameel stage is the latest development in the rising star’s professional musical career.

The seating arena was fully packed, including the theater balconies. Music enthusiasts from elders to teenagers cheered “Bravo!” after every aria and song.

Mekhail said that the heartwarming response from her Saudi audience energized her to keep singing.

Menwar Azraie, 64, a Saudi educational supervisor in the field of fine arts who attended the show with his wife, told Arab News: “I am a big fan of opera and I always like to encourage young talents. I like to attend opera gigs at the Muse music club here in Jeddah.

“I was invited to attend today’s amazing show by my daughter. I am extremely thrilled as the show perfectly captured the essence of a professional Italian opera, and what doubled my joy was that the show combined Western and Middle Eastern music styles using only the human voice and a piano. It was truly a dose of happiness, and I would love to see more of it.”

His wife Wafa Mustafa said: “I love arts and classical music, and the vibes of today’s performance were absolutely magical.”

The opera scholarship is open to students from around the world. Community Jameel, which supports the scholarship, and Art Jameel, which runs Hayy Jameel, are sister organizations founded by the Jameel family of Saudi Arabia.

The Bocelli-Jameel scholarship was established in 2019 with the aim of supporting emerging talents to study opera at the Royal College of Music in London.

Mekhail shared some words of advice for young Arab sopranos and classical singers in the region.

“You have to be persistent in your dream because it is not easy to be a classical singer, especially if you live in the Middle East,” she said. “And even if you go abroad and try to achieve that dream, it is really hard and competitive as there are very, very few Arab people in the international community. Do not be frustrated. Just be persistent. Keep following your dream. I promise you are going to get there.”

 

 


Darah pavilion showcases Saudi Arabia’s history, heritage

Darah pavilion showcases Saudi Arabia’s history, heritage
Updated 29 January 2023

Darah pavilion showcases Saudi Arabia’s history, heritage

Darah pavilion showcases Saudi Arabia’s history, heritage
  • Al-Beiz added that the Darah’s history center had produced about 22 publications highlighting the Hijaz area, the Two Holy Mosques, and other places from Saudi Arabia’s history

RIYADH: The King Abdulaziz Foundation for Research and Archives is taking part in the 54th Cairo International Book Fair.

Darah pavilion boasts scientific, cultural, and intellectual publications to highlight the history, geography, and heritage of the Arabian Peninsula and Saudi Arabia.

The fair, which is being held at the Egypt International Exhibition Center, brings together more than 1,000 publishers and visitors from about 50 countries, while in excess of 500 cultural events will be held on the sidelines of the showcase, which runs until Feb. 6.

Abdulrahman Al-Beiz, who is in charge of the Darah section, said that the pavilion has some 85 titles on Shariah sciences, the geography of Saudi Arabia and the Arabian Peninsula, Saudi-Egyptian relations, and publications that focus on the history of the Grand Mosque in Makkah.

He added that the pavilion also houses more recent works, as well as a collection of popular and prestigious publications, including an atlas of Makkah holy sites, in Arabic and English, along with books that tell the Kingdom’s history, and accounts of travelers’ tours in the Arabian Peninsula.

HIGHLIGHT

The pavilion has some 85 titles on Shariah sciences, the geography of Saudi Arabia and the Arabian Peninsula, Saudi-Egyptian relations, and publications that focus on the history of the Grand Mosque in Makkah.

Al-Beiz also referred to the increasing demand for the Darah’s books, noting that some had been so popular they had sold out, reflecting an enthusiasm on the public’s part to learn more about the Kingdom’s history and culture.

He added that the Darah’s history center had produced about 22 publications highlighting the Hijaz area, the Two Holy Mosques, and other places from the Kingdom’s history.

Meanwhile, the pavilion of the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah and Guidance has noted the huge turnout of visitors at the fair.

The Kingdom’s pavilion, which aims to showcase Saudi Arabia’s care for Muslims around the world, has been praised by those visiting it, who have also expressed their appreciation for the country’s efforts in spreading moderate Islam and promoting a culture of tolerance and coexistence.

 

 


John Legend serenades Riyadh at Diriyah E-Prix

John Legend serenades Riyadh at Diriyah E-Prix
Updated 30 January 2023

John Legend serenades Riyadh at Diriyah E-Prix

John Legend serenades Riyadh at Diriyah E-Prix
  • “John Legend has been one of my favorite artists, especially because he’s an R&B singer and this is something that I actually follow and listen to — specifically him,” Saad Mohammed, who was present at the concert, told Arab News

RIYADH: American singer and songwriter John Legend performed at the Diriyah E-Prix on Saturday.  

The renowned artist played some of his most popular songs, including “All of Me,” which peaked on the Billboard 100 charts for three consecutive weeks, as well as “Green Light,” “Nervous” and “All Night Long.”

“John Legend has been one of my favorite artists, especially because he’s an R&B singer and this is something that I actually follow and listen to — specifically him,” Saad Mohammed, who was present at the concert, told Arab News.  

“I don’t want to brag but I want to be the best you’ve ever had, Riyadh…We’re going to have some fun, I promise,” Legend said.

With stunning visuals as his backdrop, the singer encouraged the audience to dance along with him to the pop anthem “All She Wanna Do” and to join in singing the chorus to “All of Me.”  

“You sound so beautiful,” Legend told the crowd.

HIGHLIGHTS

• John Legend played alongside others including Egyptian singer Mohammed Hamaki and French Montana.

• Starting off the night’s festivities was Saudi DJ Dani Bogari.

Mohammed said he was ecstatic that he no longer had to travel abroad to experience live entertainment shows by big acts such as Legend and French Montana.

“Part of our culture is hospitality and getting to experience this with foreigners and expats makes me happy. It’s as if you’re able to cook well but can’t share this talent that you have, and now we can finally do it,” he said, referencing Saudi’s portfolio of extraordinary events and celebrations.

Another audience member, Dalal Mohammed, said: “I came for John Legend, honestly, and he sang my favorite song, ‘All of Me!’” she told Arab News excitedly, describing the performance as a “dream.”

She too expressed her joy at being able to attend concerts and other events just five minutes away from her home, instead of having to travel abroad to do so.

“I love that international singers are coming to know our culture and hospitality and to see the new Saudi,” she said.

In her second time at Formula E, Fatima Al-Attas commended the event’s choice of music and artists.

“I am a fan of John Legend, and what’s nice is that he’s a really good performer and he seemed to enjoy the show and that had an effect on us, so we had more fun,” she told Arab News.

Legend played alongside others including Egyptian singer Mohammed Hamaki and French Montana, who took to the stage to deliver a trap setlist following Legend’s show.

“This is my first time in Saudi since 2019, so let me reintroduce myself. Let’s go!” the Moroccan American singer said onstage, kicking off the setlist with “All the Way Up.”

“I came for French Montana, of course. My favorite song is ‘Unforgettable,’ and I’m excited to hear that,” Dubai-based Rana Baeshen told Arab News.

Baeshen initially came to experience the Riyadh Season and visit family, taking the opportunity to also see Montana live.

“This country is developing so rapidly. I’m happy with what I saw here tonight,” she said.

Starting off the night’s festivities was Saudi DJ Dani Bogari following racer Pascal Wehrlein’s win.

Bogari told Arab News: “I’m absolutely immersed in joy. It’s my first time playing on such a large stage, so it feels incredible.

“It feels like there are lots of opportunities for local talent, so today being part of this experience, being alongside John Legend and French Montana — I don’t think there’s anything that I can say to describe it.”

While his performance diverged from his typical Afrohouse sound, his beats complemented the headlining R&B performances, as he mixed more lyrical and dance music into his set.

“When there’s a culture of music, it really means that this country is growing in the right direction. It’s creating positive energy within the people,” Bogari said.

 

 


KSrelief chief meets with UNRWA commissioner-general

KSrelief chief Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah meets with UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini in Riyadh on Sunday. (SPA)
KSrelief chief Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah meets with UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini in Riyadh on Sunday. (SPA)
Updated 29 January 2023

KSrelief chief meets with UNRWA commissioner-general

KSrelief chief Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah meets with UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini in Riyadh on Sunday. (SPA)
  • Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah and Philippe Lazzarini discussed issues of common interest related to relief and humanitarian efforts

RIYADH: The supervisor general of King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center met with the commissioner-general of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East in Riyadh on Sunday.

Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah and Philippe Lazzarini discussed issues of common interest related to relief and humanitarian efforts and ways to enhance cooperation between KSrelief and UNRWA.

They also discussed UNRWA’s participation in the third Riyadh International Humanitarian Forum which will take place in February.

On Tuesday, UNRWA appealed for $1.6 billion in funding for schools, healthcare and aid in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, where most Palestinian refugees or their descendants from various Arab-Israeli conflicts live.


Saudi Arabia, Turkiye discuss financial audit cooperation

Saudi Arabia’s General Auditing Bureau president meets Turkish delegation in Riyadh. (SPA)
Saudi Arabia’s General Auditing Bureau president meets Turkish delegation in Riyadh. (SPA)
Updated 30 January 2023

Saudi Arabia, Turkiye discuss financial audit cooperation

Saudi Arabia’s General Auditing Bureau president meets Turkish delegation in Riyadh. (SPA)
  • Yener stressed the importance of cooperation between the two agencies, and both parties also discussed other topics of common interest and ways to enhance them

RIYADH: The president of Saudi Arabia’s General Court of Audit, Hussam Al-Anqari, met the president of the Turkish Court of Accounts, Metin Yener, and his accompanying delegation, in Riyadh on Sunday, for a meeting also attended by the Turkish ambassador to the Kingdom, Fatih Ulusoy.
Al-Anqari noted the importance of this visit, which comes in the framework of promoting cooperation and joint work between the General Court of Audit in the Kingdom and the Court of Accounts in Turkiye.
The visit seeks to exchange expertise, improve performance efficiency and develop human resources in both agencies.
Yener stressed the importance of cooperation between the two agencies, and both parties also discussed other topics of common interest and ways to enhance them.
The accompanying delegation was briefed on the General Court of Audit’s experience in the areas of financial auditing and performance control.
Last week, Al-Anqari received Auditor General of Pakistan Mohammed Ajmal Gondal and his accompanying delegation in Riyadh.
Al-Anqari emphasized the importance of the visit in terms of promoting collaboration between the two countries, enhancing efficiency and developing human resources in both supreme audit institutions.
For his part, Gondal affirmed his keenness to build upon the existing cooperation between the two agencies.