Saudi icon Mohammed Abdu — ‘The Artist of the Arabs’

Saudi icon Mohammed Abdu — ‘The Artist of the Arabs’
Mohammed Abdu performs in Riyadh on March 9, 2017 — the first major concert in the kingdom's capital. (Supplied)
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Updated 26 November 2022

Saudi icon Mohammed Abdu — ‘The Artist of the Arabs’

Saudi icon Mohammed Abdu — ‘The Artist of the Arabs’
  • In our latest Arab Icons feature, we profile the Saudi singer, oud player and composer who remains one of Khaleeji music’s biggest draws 

DUBAI: With a career spanning 60 years, Saudi singer and oudist Mohammed Abdu, dubbed ‘The Artist of the Arabs,’ has been an inspiration to many — and not just for his music.  

Abdu was born in Asir province, Saudi Arabia, on June 12, 1949. His father, a fisherman, died when Abdu was just three years old, leaving behind his wife and five other children.  




Mohammed Abdu performing in Kuwait in 2001. (Supplied)

Unable to provide for her children, Abdu’s mother surrendered her children to Ribat Abu-Zinadah — a local Yemenite hospital for orphaned families. She then petitioned King Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud to find her children places at an orphanage, which he did. Abdu spent the remainder of his childhood in an orphanage in Jeddah. 

“This was really the actual struggle,” Abdu once said in an interview on Rotana’s “Ya Hala” show. “I remember every moment and every detail in my life. God gave me a memory that helps me remember things from when I was one. My struggles were of a child who wanted to be like the rest of the children in his neighborhood. They were all rich. I would see this and dream of reaching this level one day.”  




Saudi singer and oudist Mohammed Abdu, dubbed ‘The Artist of the Arabs,’ has been an inspiration to many. (Getty Images)

This was Abdu’s motive to work hard and build a name for himself. His got his first job when he was only seven, as an assistant to a mailman. He also raised money by helping housewives with their shopping and selling fruit and vegetables on the street.   

While he was interested in music as a kid, Abdu’s dream was to be involved with sailing or seamanship, like his father. He even joined a shipbuilding institute. But eventually, he abandoned the idea of becoming a sailor and turned to his true calling: music.  

Abdu began his music career in the 1960s when Saudi presenter Abbas Faiq Ghazzawi invited him to sing on the radio show “Baba Abbas.” Two songs in particular — “Al-Rasayel” and “Ab’ad” — became extremely popular. Both remain part of his live sets today. 

“Ab’ad” was a hit around the world, with Iranian and Indian translations both garnering airplay, and even European bands performing covers of the track.  

With his strong voice and distinctive style of oud playing — reminiscent of the Syrian-Egyptian virtuoso Farid Al-Atrash, Egyptian composer Baligh Hamdi, and fellow Saudi Talal Maddah — Abdu toured the world. It was at a concert in Tunisia in the 1980s that he first received the soubriquet “The Artist of the Arabs,” from then-Tunisian President Habib Bourguiba. 

At the end of the Eighties, Abdu took an abrupt sabbatical from music after the death of his beloved mother. It would be eight years before he performed or released another track.  




Egyptian singer Carmen Soliman, who partnered with Abdu after winning the first season of “Arab Idol,” releasing the 2014 Khaleeji track “Akhbari.”  (Getty Omages)

Aside from being an acclaimed performer, Abdu is also a talented composer in his own right. He wrote several of his own tracks, including “Al Remsh Al Taweel,” “Ya Shoog” and “Ya Sherouq Al Shams,” but has also written for other stars, including the Egyptian singer Carmen Soliman, who partnered with Abdu after winning the first season of “Arab Idol,” releasing the 2014 Khaleeji track “Akhbari.”  

Soliman told Arab News that composer Abdul Latif Al-Sheikh was the driving force behind this perhaps unexpected partnership. “He wished for a collaboration like that to happen, and he worked a lot until he made it happen,” she said. “I would like to thank him for choosing me. I could not believe it at the time. I felt like I would have a song in my history that would never be forgotten. And everyone would know that this song was composed by Mohammed Abdu. 

“He was my favorite singer to listen to,” she continued. “To me, Mohammed Abdu is a legend (whose like we will not see again). I love his voice. He has an amazing, strong voice. Through it, he can reach the hearts of the audience. I love his music.”  

Soliman cited “Ma’ad Badri,” “Ala El-Bal” and “Shebeeh El-Reeh” as some of her favorite Abdu songs. “His performance in these songs is non-replicable,” she said.  

Soliman also praised Abdu’s humility, which she said is not common among artists these days. “That, and his humor,” she said. “You feel like you are sitting with someone from your family. He is very down-to-earth and close to the heart.”  

Soliman is not the only singer who hails Abdu as an icon. Saudi artist Hassan Eskandarani, who is also a researcher of Saudi songs, told Arab News: “Mohammed Abdu is an independent school. He sang to all categories. 

“I can’t give my opinion on an artist who has (such a long) career,” he added. “Mohammed Abdu lives through three generations from the beginning of the Sixties. He played a pivotal role in expanding Khaleeji music outside of the Kingdom. I hope he keeps singing until he decides to stop.” 

Eskandarani says Abdu is “a stage master,” who has had a major influence on his own live performances.  

“Not everyone who sings a song on stage is a (real) singer,” he said. “Mohammed knows how to choose (songs) the fans like, so they engage with him.” 




Mohammed Abdu signs his record-breaking deal with Rotana on Nov. 8, 2022. (Supplied)

Abdu remains a vital and relevant musician. Only this month, he reportedly broke the record for the biggest acquisition of an artist’s back catalog (which includes an astonishing 122 albums) in the Middle East when Rotana announced on Nov. 8 that it had bought the rights to his works.  

“Rotana signed the largest deal of its kind in the Middle East – the agreement to purchase the full artistic content of Arab artist Mohammed Abdu,” the label announced on Instagram.  

Chairman of the Saudi General Entertainment Authority Turki Al-Sheikh said at the event: “It is a courageous move from Mohammed Abdu to give up (these precious) works that he worked hard on for 60 years. It is similar to someone giving away one of his children. 

“We at the General Entertainment Authority support the archiving of the artistic history of Saudi artists,” he added. “However, Mohamed Abdu remains ahead of the rest of the artists.”  


Christie’s Dubai turns itself into a garden of jewels to attract Gulf collectors

Christie’s Dubai turns itself into a garden of jewels to attract Gulf collectors
Updated 31 January 2023

Christie’s Dubai turns itself into a garden of jewels to attract Gulf collectors

Christie’s Dubai turns itself into a garden of jewels to attract Gulf collectors

DUBAI: Christie’s Dubai has transformed itself into a veritable garden until Feb. 3 to present its latest jewelry-selling exhibition, “Garden of Wonders,” featuring pieces estimated between $10,000 to a whopping $4.5 million. 

Partnering with A2Z, an art advisory service founded by Abdulrahman H. Al-Zayani for private clients in the Gulf who wish to expand their jewelry collections, the exhibition is an opportunity for visitors to dive into an exotic garden filled with jewelry inspired by nature.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by A2Z (@a2zadvisory)

The exhibition features a finely curated selection of pieces made from precious gemstones including diamonds, sapphires, emeralds and rubies alongside a large selection of important natural saltwater pearl pieces, including pearls originating from the Gulf region. 

“It is a privilege for Christie’s to work with A2Z. Our friend, Abdulrahman, has been a colleague for years now, but he was a collector even before he was a colleague. He’s always had good eyes and is an esteemed friend,” said Julien Brunie, senior director and international head of private sales jewelry at Christie’s, in an interview with Arab News.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by A2Z (@a2zadvisory)

Brunie went on to explain how the partnership with the art advisory is a way for Christie’s to ensure quality and selectivity in the pieces they offer. 

“Christie’s is the world’s leading auction house since 1766. We have a fabulous network of experts, clients, friends and collectors. But we don’t have Christie’s branded pieces to sell. So, we bring to the market what we think is the best,” added Brunie. 

The exhibition is led by a stunning diamond bracelet by Harry Winston comprising 99 emerald-cut diamonds of 141.00 carats in total with a central stone of 11.32 carats. Made in 1975, this comes from a private collection in the Middle East. 

Al-Zayani, who founded A2Z advisory in 2018, spoke about the designers and jewelers to watch out for at the exhibition. 

“We have bigger, older names such as Harry Winston, Cartier and Van Cleef. And then from the newer names, we tried to collect or curate from all over the world. This time we’re starting from India with jewelers like VAK, for example. Vishal (Kothari) is a very young, dynamic guy based out of Mumbai, and he works very nicely with cutting stones. His prices are not steep yet. He just recently showcased his work at Bergdorf Goodman in New York. So, he’s fun,” said Al-Zayani, adding other up-and-coming names like Greek designer Nikos Koulis, Brazilian designer Fernando Jorge, and London-based jeweler Noor Fares to the list. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by A2Z (@a2zadvisory)

Al-Zayani also pointed to the establishment of Christie’s Dubai as a catalyst for the growing interest in jewelry collection in the Middle East. “I think Christie’s has definitely added a lot by creating this space in Dubai International Financial Center. They’ve spent beautifully on it, and it’s next to the nicest restaurants. It’s a very nice atmosphere and, most importantly, you feel so safe. Even if you’re walking on the street with a $10 million ring, there’s no way anyone’s going to touch you,” he said. 

Brunie chimed in to also point out that the Middle East, in general, has always had good taste when it comes to jewelry.

“We were discussing only yesterday about the collection in the region and that it’s rare to find outdated pieces in the region. You find classic pieces. That’s something that speaks to the taste for good jewels here,” said Brunie.  
 


Lebanon-born Nina Ali exits ‘Real Housewives of Dubai’ 

Lebanon-born Nina Ali exits ‘Real Housewives of Dubai’ 
Updated 31 January 2023

Lebanon-born Nina Ali exits ‘Real Housewives of Dubai’ 

Lebanon-born Nina Ali exits ‘Real Housewives of Dubai’ 

DUBAI: “The Real Housewives of Dubai” cast member Nina Ali is exiting the show after just one season as the Bravo reality series gears up to start filming season two.  

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by LipstickMommy (@nina.ali)

“It was an honor to be a part of the debut season of The Real Housewives of Dubai, and to help Bravo bring this beloved franchise to the city I call home,” Ali posted on Instagram. “I’m grateful to the network, Andy Cohen, and the team at Truly Original for welcoming me into this extended family and for embracing the diversity of riches Dubai has to offer.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by LipstickMommy (@nina.ali)

Ali also added that she has some “exciting opportunities” coming up.

“2023 has already brought many exciting opportunities my way, including an emerging new business, new home and new adventures, so for now I’ll be moving my attention away from the show to allow myself the space to focus on new challenges,” the businesswoman, entrepreneur and mother of three added. 


Dubai’s Orfali Bros Bistro nabs top spot at MENA’s 50 Best Restaurants awards as Myazu voted Saudi Arabia’s best eatery

Dubai’s Orfali Bros Bistro nabs top spot at MENA’s 50 Best Restaurants awards as Myazu voted Saudi Arabia’s best eatery
Japanese eatery Myazu in Riyadh has been named the best restaurant in Saudi Arabia. (Instagram)
Updated 13 min 1 sec ago

Dubai’s Orfali Bros Bistro nabs top spot at MENA’s 50 Best Restaurants awards as Myazu voted Saudi Arabia’s best eatery

Dubai’s Orfali Bros Bistro nabs top spot at MENA’s 50 Best Restaurants awards as Myazu voted Saudi Arabia’s best eatery

ABU DHABI: Japanese eatery Myazu in Riyadh has been named the best restaurant in Saudi Arabia by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants MENA list in a ceremony held in Aby Dhabi on Monday night as Dubai’s Orfali Bros Bistro nabbed the overall top spot.  

The ranking is voted on by a body formed of 250 restaurant experts in the region, known as the Academy. Each member casts seven votes for those that are – in their expert opinion – the best dining experiences in the MENA region.

The top 10 consisted of eateries from around the region, with a heavy showing from Dubai, including Moonrise in Dubai at number 10, Zooba (Zamalek) in Cairo at number 9, Fakhreldin in Amman at number 8, Kinoya in Dubai at number 7, George & John in Tel Aviv at number 6, 3 Fils in Dubai at number 5, Ossiano in Dubai at number 4, Fusions by Tala in Manama at number 3, Trèsind Studio in Dubai at number 2 and Orfali Bros Bistro in Dubai at number 1.

“Also crowned The Best Restaurant in the UAE, this Dubai establishment is the restaurant embodiment of three brothers from Aleppo, Syria. The dining experience here is focused on storytelling, where every flavour, ingredient and technique has played a special part in the trio’s story. The atmosphere, with the rhythm set by the work in the two-storey kitchen overlooking the dining space, is fun, indulgent and at times nostalgic,” the organization posted on Instagram shortly after the announcement.

Commenting on Saudi Arabia’s best restaurant, the organization posted: “Under the leadership of chef Ian Pengelley, (Myazu) is a spot where harmony reigns in texture, aromas and flavors. Some dishes push the envelope of gastronomic craftsmanship while others focus on Japanese fan favorites, but all are set apart by a sophisticated presentation that has become part of this restaurant’s DNA.”

 

The eatery ranked number 18 on the list, just after Tawlet Mar Mikhael in Beirut.

Meanwhile, the Middle East & North Africa’s Best Female Chef Award 2023 went to Palestinian chef Salam Dakkak and this year’s Estrella Damm N.A. Chefs' Choice Award went to Moustafa Elrefaey of Zooba in Cairo.

 

Here is the full list of restaurants: 

1.           Orfali Bros Bistro, Dubai

2.           Tresind Studio, Dubai

3.           Fusions by Tala, Manama

4.           Ossiano, Dubai

5.           3 Fils, Dubai

6.           George & John, Tel Aviv

7.           Kinoya, Dubai

8.           Fakhreldin, Amman

9.           Zooba, Cairo

10.         Moonrise, Dubai

11.         Reif Kushiyaki, Dubai

12.         Kazoku, Cairo

13.         Zuma, Dubai

14.         OCD, Tel Aviv

15.         Lowe, Dubai,

16.         Baron, Beirut

17.         Gaia, Dubai

18.         Myazu, Riyadh

19.         Tawlet Mar Mikhael, Beirut

20.         Em Sherif, Beirut

21.         LPM, Dubai

22.         Sachi, Giza

23.         Marble, Riyadh

24.         A by Yuval Ben Neriah, Tel Aviv

25.         CUT by Wolfgang Puck, Manama

26.         Hoseki, Dubai

27.         La Grande Table Marocain, Marrakech

28.         Coya, Dubai

29.         Shams El Balad, Amman

30.         Sachi, Cairo

31.         Masso, Manama

32.         Animar, Tel Aviv

33.         Coya, Abu Dhabi

34.         La Closerie, Tunis

35.         11 Woodfire, Dubai

36.         Sufra, Amman

37.         Iloli, Casablanca

38.         LPM, Riyadh

39.         Sesamo, Marrakech

40.         Milgo Milbar, Tel Aviv

41.         Alee, Amman

42.         White Robata, Kuwait City

43.         Zuma, Abu Dhabi

44.         Jun's, Dubai

45.         Reif Kushiyaki, Cairo

46.         +61, Marrakech

47.         13C Bar in the Back, Amman

48.         HaBasta, Tel Aviv

49.         Hakkasan, Abu Dhabi

50.         Bonjiri, Salmiya, Kuwait


Sundance Film Festival 2023 closes with three Mideast filmmakers winning awards  

Sundance Film Festival 2023 closes with three Mideast filmmakers winning awards  
Updated 30 January 2023

Sundance Film Festival 2023 closes with three Mideast filmmakers winning awards  

Sundance Film Festival 2023 closes with three Mideast filmmakers winning awards  

DUBAI: The 2023 Sundance Film Festival — which took its final bow this weekend in Park City, Utah, after its first in-person edition since 2020 — saw three Middle Eastern films winning awards, including “The Persian Version,” “Shayda” and “Animalia.”  

Iranian American director Maryam Keshavarz’s “The Persian Version” won the Audience Award and Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award in the US Dramatic Competition.  c

The film follows a large Iranian American family gathering for the patriarch’s heart transplant when a family secret catapults the estranged mother and daughter into an exploration of the past.   

It was one of three films at Sundance this year to be directed by Iranian women, the others being “Joonam” and “Shayda.”  

Noora Niasari’s “Shayda” took home the Audience Award in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition. The film follows Shayda, a brave Iranian mother, who finds refuge in an Australian women’s shelter with her six-year-old daughter. But when her estranged husband re-enters their lives, Shayda’s path to freedom is jeopardized.  

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Animalia (@animaliathefilm)

The third regional film to win an award at Sundance is “Animalia” by Morocco's Sofia Alaoui, who took home the Special Jury Award for Creative Vision. The film follows a young mother-to-be as she experiences an alien invasion with a sense of dread that slowly turns into liberation.  


Actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas glitters in Lebanese label Elie Saab

Actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas glitters in Lebanese label Elie Saab
Updated 30 January 2023

Actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas glitters in Lebanese label Elie Saab

Actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas glitters in Lebanese label Elie Saab

DUBAI: Actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas has a well-documented penchant for Arab designers. The Indian star, who crossed over into Hollywood, has been pictured donning looks from regional labels on plenty of occasions, including designs by Zuhair Murad and Nicolas Jebran, to name a few. 

Now, Chopra has taken to Instagram Stories to share a photograph of her latest look — a glittering get up by Lebanese designer Elie Saab.  

“When your fit deserves a closet selfie,” she captioned the casual snap.  

The jewel-toned look consisted of a floral midi dress paired with a matching bomber jacket.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Priyanka (@priyankachopra)

The former Miss World, who is married to US singer Nick Jonas, has sported Arab designs in the past and is also known for championing up-and-coming brands.  In 2021, Chopra made an appearance in Dubai and opted for a striking, saffron-colored design from sustainable Moroccan couture house Benchellal. 

The orange air mesh blazer dress featured a draped shawl cape and pockets and was plucked from the label’s ninth collection. She wore it with slim-fitting black trousers and pumps. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Priyanka (@priyankachopra)

Chopra also supported rising US Lebanese label Monot in 2021 by showing off a white, custom draped dress by the label during a product shoot for her haircare range.  

The actress and entrepreneur walked the red carpet at the second iteration of Jeddah’s Red Sea International Film Festival in December 2022 in a lavish gold gown by Lebanese designer Nicolas Jebran, complete with a matching overcoat.  

Arab designers have increasingly become the “go-to” for Indian celebrities at major events. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Ami Patel (@stylebyami)

Ami Patel, one of India’s leading celebrity stylists, previously explained Bollywood’s love affair with Middle Eastern design talent to Arab News, saying: “I think Middle Eastern designers understand the Indian body type and silhouette very well. They know exactly what Indian celebrities want and cater to them.” 

Dubai-based Syrian designer Rami Al-Ali, who just unveiled his latest collection on the sidelines of Paris Haute Couture Week, agreed, telling Arab News in a previous interview: “Bollywood stars are also celebrities in the Middle East world.” 

“Since the Middle East is actually aligned with the industry, they are definitely keener on dressing Indian stars and even willing to customise and size outfits for our actors,” added Rai, in a bid to explain why stars such as Chopra, who started off in Bollywood, have an affinity for Arab designs.