Spectacular Samarkand: Ancient Uzbek city is a cultural treasure 

Spectacular Samarkand: Ancient Uzbek city is a cultural treasure 
Registan Square in Samarkand. (AFP)
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Updated 08 December 2022

Spectacular Samarkand: Ancient Uzbek city is a cultural treasure 

Spectacular Samarkand: Ancient Uzbek city is a cultural treasure 

TORONTO: I had only ever heard of Samarkand — a 7th-century city on the Silk Road, the famous trade route running from China to the Mediterranean — in history class. And it was the allure of the ancient Silk Road that took me there. 

Present-day Samarkand in Uzbekistan still bears traces of its former status as part of the Soviet Union, and the city is influenced, both linguistically and ethnographically, by bordering nations. Tajik Persian, Russian, and Uzbek are the most widely-spoken languages. Regional tourism by way of Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan is predominant; as are investments and trade relations with China and Russia. 




As you would expect from a city that’s been around for 1,400 years, Samarkand is steeped in culture and history, and contains some breathtaking architecture. (Natalia Dumko and Eternal City Pictures, supplied by Silk Road Samarkkand)

Samarkand might not be a major tourist draw, but there are plenty of great accommodation options, including five- and four-star hotels like the Samarkand Regency Amir Timur or the Savitsky Plaza, named after Igor Savitsky and featuring some of his avant-garde artwork. There are also some attractive boutique options, including Sangzor Hotel in Registan Square. 

As you would expect from a city that’s been around for 1,400 years, Samarkand is steeped in culture and history, and contains some breathtaking architecture. 




The Shah-i-Zinda necropolis. (Natalia Dumko and Eternal City Pictures, supplied by Silk Road Samarkkand)

The Gur-e-Amir, or mausoleum of Amir Temur, is where the Turco-Mongolian conqueror and Uzbekistan’s national hero, Amir Temur lies, along with his sons and grandsons. The entrance to the courtyard features an elaborate muqarnas, the honeycomb-style design common across the Islamic world. The inner chamber was once made of gold, jade, and onyx, but after centuries of plundering has been refurbished with cheaper materials. Nonetheless, it remains a work of art.  

Perhaps the greatest reminder of the Timurid Renaissance — when Samarkand witnessed a revival of arts and sciences, and the construction of mosques and madrasahs — is Registan Square. A short distance from Gur-e-Amir, the square houses three madrasahs, and it is here that some of the greatest minds of the 14th and 15th centuries — including Amir Temur’s grandson, the renowned astronomer Ulugh Beg — pursued Islamic studies, astronomy, and sciences.  

All three structures are fine examples of Islamic architecture: a grand entranceway with geometric patterns laid out in blue and turquoise tiles patterns leads into a courtyard. Kufic calligraphy is inscribed on the minarets and domes, in the same exquisite glazed tile work. And although souvenir shops now occupy the dormitories and hallways of the madrasahs, the buildings maintain a solemn air.  




The national dish — plov, made with plump raisins and caramelized sweet carrots — is known colloquially in Saudi Arabia as ‘Bukhara rice.’  (Natalia Dumko and Eternal City Pictures, supplied by Silk Road Samarkkand)

The Sher-e-Dor madrasah on the right, notably, features a mosaic of a tiger and man, symbolizing man’s quest for knowledge.  

With its intricate window arches, lattices, and expansive gardens, the square is reminiscent of Humayun’s Tomb and the Taj Mahal in India. This is no surprise. After all, it was another one of Amir Temur’s grandsons’ Babur who conquered the Delhi Sultanate and founded the Mughal Empire in the 15th century.  

Further out, the Shah-i-Zinda Necropolis is a three-level complex housing mausoleums of Amir Temur’s relatives, close accomplices, and religious scholars. The most prominent among them is Kusam (Qutham) ibn Abbas, the cousin of Prophet Muhammad. Shah-i-Zinda’s brilliance — its resplendent sapphire domes and tiled entranceways against the contrasting taupe of the structure — can only truly be taken in as you walk up its stairs and look back at each level. It also contains several vantage points affording a fine view of the city and the local cemetery next door. 




The Gur-e-Amir, or mausoleum of Amir Temur, is where the Turco-Mongolian conqueror and Uzbekistan’s national hero, Amir Temur lies. (Natalia Dumko and Eternal City Pictures, supplied by Silk Road Samarkkand)

Some 20 minutes away from the center of Samarkand is the Eternal City, a recreation of ancient Uzbek cities with artisan shops and local cafés. It’s popular with locals for a family day out and although the buildings may not be authentic, its cultural experiences are. For example, you can watch how samsa (akin to samosa) is made over a tandyr here.  

In terms of food, the Uzbek diet is notoriously meat-heavy (to the point that it’s a major health concern). The national dish — plov, made with plump raisins and caramelized sweet carrots — is known colloquially in Saudi Arabia as ‘Bukhara rice’ and is commonly eaten for both breakfast and lunch.  

Other specialties include lagman — hand-pulled noodles simmered in a meat and dill broth that is said to originate from the Uyghur region — and Uzbek manti (dumplings stuffed with meat and potato). 

If you want to see some of the city’s lesser-known sites, a two-hour “Invisible Samarkand” walking tour starting at the Bibi-Khanum Mosque takes you through its diverse neighborhoods, including an ancient hammam and the quarters built for refugees coming from other parts of the Soviet Union in the 1960s.  

Samarkand’s allure lies in its rich history and diverse cultural background. It might be a name you recognize only from textbooks, but it’s well worth seeing in person. 


‘Shockwave’ as Dutch producers R3HAB and Afrojack strengthen bond with new single

‘Shockwave’ as Dutch producers R3HAB and Afrojack strengthen bond with new single
Updated 28 January 2023

‘Shockwave’ as Dutch producers R3HAB and Afrojack strengthen bond with new single

‘Shockwave’ as Dutch producers R3HAB and Afrojack strengthen bond with new single
  • The new single is out now on MDLBEAST Records

LONDON: Dutch producers and longtime friends R3HAB and Afrojack have teamed up again on a new collaborative release, “Shockwave,” in the wake of the 2022 hit and Tomorrowland’s official anthem, “Worlds On Fire,” featuring Au/Ra.

A statement said: “With noticeable elements of big-room, house, and bass sound, it showcases both R3HAB’s and Afrojack’s signature styles, while still standing out.”

With its stabbing synths and dancefloor-friendly bass, “Shockwave,” which is out now on MDLBEAST Records, is said to be “a guaranteed crowd pleaser from these two heavyweights.”

R3HAB and Afrojack have played back-to-back sets at festivals over the last decade, produced music together, remixed each other, and developed a long-lasting friendship along the way.

R3HAB said: “Afrojack and I have worked together for over 10 years, and this last year has been the best yet.

“We released our anthem ‘Worlds On Fire,’ remixed each other’s records, and played sets at the world’s biggest festivals.”

He said they were excited to kick off the year with “Shockwave,” adding: “[It] is unlike any record we’ve worked on yet, it’s been a staple in our sets as we’ve developed it, and it’s finally ready for its official debut.

“Each year keeps getting better, and we can’t wait to see what this one has in store.”

Afrojack said: “It’s been great being back together with R3HAB. We’ve got many records ready to pop; you can find some already in our sets, and we’ve been testing ‘Shockwave’ for a while now and we’re pumped to put it out now.”


Georgina Rodriguez celebrates her birthday in Riyadh with Cristiano Ronaldo, children 

Georgina Rodriguez celebrates her birthday in Riyadh with Cristiano Ronaldo, children 
Updated 28 January 2023

Georgina Rodriguez celebrates her birthday in Riyadh with Cristiano Ronaldo, children 

Georgina Rodriguez celebrates her birthday in Riyadh with Cristiano Ronaldo, children 

DUBAI: Argentine model Georgina Rodriguez celebrated her 29th birthday in Riyadh on Friday with her partner, Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo, and their children. 

The family was photographed at Armenian restaurant Lavash on The Boulevard.

The model wore a white midi form-fitting dress, that was off the shoulder, and a pair of white heels.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by LAVASH (@eat_lavash)

She was welcomed with a three-tier birthday cake that boasted flower designs and gold text that read “Happy Birthday” in Portuguese.

She posed for pictures with her family against a white backdrop covered in feathers that was lit with the message “Happy Birthday Georgina.”

The private room was decorated with white balloons, gypsophila flowers and inflated helium balloons shaped as “29” and “G.”

The pathway to one of the dinner rooms reserved for the couple was decorated with pictures of the birthday girl.

The room was decorated with candles to add a romantic feel, while Rodriguez was welcomed with a large white bouquet.

The couple were also treated to two instrumentalists, playing an oud and a violin.

Fans of Ronaldo and Rodriguez gathered outside the restaurant to cheer the couple following the celebration.

The model last week featured at the Joy Awards in Riyadh, showing off a midnight blue form-fitting velvet gown by Dubai-based Tunisian designer Ali Karoui. Her look featured a matching veil, gold pumps from Italian luxury shoemakers Le Silla, and jewelry from Kooheji, of Bahrain.

The Netflix star, who now calls Saudi Arabia home after her partner signed a record-breaking deal with Al-Nassr, shared her pictures on Instagram, and wrote: “A big thank you to everyone, love you Saudi Arabia.”

Rodriguez also showed up to support her long-time partner as he made his Al-Nassr debut against Al-Ettifaq in the Saudi Pro League on Sunday.

The footballer, 37, captained the team to a 1-0 win at Mrsool Park in Riyadh, while Rodriguez cheered on from the sidelines in a Ronaldo jersey, paired with cut-off jeans and a jacket.


Demand goes through the roof for Saudi Crown Prince’s AlUla Brunello Cucinelli’s zip-up gilet

Demand goes through the roof for Saudi Crown Prince’s AlUla Brunello Cucinelli’s zip-up gilet
Updated 28 January 2023

Demand goes through the roof for Saudi Crown Prince’s AlUla Brunello Cucinelli’s zip-up gilet

Demand goes through the roof for Saudi Crown Prince’s AlUla Brunello Cucinelli’s zip-up gilet

DUBAI: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was spotted on Friday at a restaurant called Somewhere in AlUla, and fashion lovers on Twitter have once again gone wild over a vest that he wore. 

The crown prince championed the Italian brand Brunello Cucinelli’s zip-up gilet in white and beige. The straight hem vest, with a high neck, had two side-slit pockets. 

The vest retails for around $6,900 on luxury application FarFetch. 

Fans quickly started looking for websites selling the jacket at a lower price.

 

 

“For people who liked the jacket of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and are not able to (buy it) because of the price, this jacket is similar to it and has a number of colors and all sizes and a cheaper price,” wrote one user.

Another user noticed that the website ShopStyle increased the price of the vest after it was worn by the crown prince. 

“The crown prince’s jacket was priced at $3,850, and now its price has increased (to $4,524),” he wrote on Twitter, while another user said: “High demands on the crown prince’s jacket.”

“Someone find us a similar jacket on Shein,” joked another user. 

Videos on social media showed the crown price accompanied by the crown princes of Jordan and Oman. 

The videos shared on social media showed people posing for pictures with the Saudi crown prince. 

 

 

“I am proud to meet His Highness, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, may God protect him, and His Excellency Badr Al-Asaker in the city of AlUla,” tweeted one user sharing his pictures with the crown prince. 

 

 

It is not the first time that the Saudi crown prince has sparked a style storm online.

In 2022, a cohort of fashion lovers on Twitter went wild over a pair of dark brown Oxfords, called Hallam, from British footwear label Crockett & Jones, that retailed for about $560. 

 

 

In 2021, he was photographed wearing a quilted gilet while chairing a board meeting of the Public Investment Fund.

The prince showed off a $6,551 casual sleeveless vest by UK luxury cashmere brand Franck Namani.

In 2019, he attended the Formula E races in Riyadh wearing a navy-colored Barbour jacket worn over a crisp white thobe that immediately sent the internet into overdrive.

The outerwear item by the British heritage brand sparked its own Arabic hashtag on Twitter — that translated to “crown prince’s jacket” — with many taking to the social media platform to admire the look.


Dutch DJ Martin Garrix performs at Formula E Diriyah E-Prix 

Dutch DJ Martin Garrix performs at Formula E Diriyah E-Prix 
Updated 28 January 2023

Dutch DJ Martin Garrix performs at Formula E Diriyah E-Prix 

Dutch DJ Martin Garrix performs at Formula E Diriyah E-Prix 

DUBAI: Dutch DJ Martin Garrix hit the stage on Friday at Formula E Diriyah E-Prix in Saudi Arabia to perform to a packed audience. 

The “Animals” artist, who was ranked number one on DJ Mag’s Top 100 DJs list for three consecutive years, played remixes for “Shakes,” “Summer Days” and many more. 

One of the posters read: “Martin on, world off.”  (Arab News)

Fans in the Kingdom danced, cheered and held up signs to support the DJ. 

One of the posters read: “Martin on, world off.”   

Egyptian singer Mahmoud El-Esseily also met his fans at the event. “I am very happy to be here today. We will light up the stage, won’t we?” he told his fans. 

He sang some of his hits: “Helm Baeed,” “Ekhteraa” and “El-Leila.” 

Fans were also treated to a drone show and colorful fireworks. 

The event also presented local talent, including Saudi Lebanese record producer DJ Loush, whose real name is Ali Assi.  

The audience sang along with him to “Staying Alive,” “The Business” and “Do It To It.” 


Saudi writer, director and producer Ali Al-Kalthami talks success  

Saudi writer, director and producer Ali Al-Kalthami talks success  
Updated 28 January 2023

Saudi writer, director and producer Ali Al-Kalthami talks success  

Saudi writer, director and producer Ali Al-Kalthami talks success  
  • As one of the co-founders of Telfaz11, the writer-director-producer is now reaping the rewards of years spent establishing an authentic entertainment industry in the Kingdom 

DUBAI: Ali Al-Kalthami is trying not to let it all go to his head. But that’s easier said than done. As one of the three co-founders of the pioneering Saudi production company Telfaz11, Al-Kalthami is one of the pillars of the Kingdom’s film future. And, as we’ve seen over the last two months, that future is now.  

In that short span of time, Telfaz11’s film “Raven Song” became the latest Saudi submission to the Academy Awards, their theatrical release “Sattar” became the highest-grossing Saudi film in history, and their latest feature, “Al Khallat+,” just became the first Netflix original film from Saudi.   

“This is not overnight success, of course,” Al-Kalthami explains to Arab News. “It’s been 12 years of experience, 12 years of staying true to our stories, our philosophy, and our talents. We’re grateful that all of these projects are flourishing at the same time, but we’ve been working a long time for these things to take place, and we’re most proud that we got here by doing it the right way — doing it our way.” 

A still from “Sattar.” (Supplied)

We’re speaking to the writer/director/producer over Zoom and he doesn’t want to turn his camera on. It’s nothing personal, he explains, he’s just been filming for 12 hours straight, directing his upcoming theatrical feature “Night Courier,” a dark crime comedy, in Riyadh and he doesn’t want anyone to see him. His mood, however, belies his exhaustion — he’s still thrilled to gush about “Al Khallat+,” perhaps the Telfaz11 project that is closest to his heart.  

The film is a continuation of the 22-episode anthology web series he created, which has amassed an astounding 1.5 billion views — a viewership far too big to qualify this as a ‘cult hit.’ Rather, Al-Kalthami and co., through their years of viral YouTube videos, have defined what Saudi Arabia’s mainstream entertainment looks like, building grassroots support with content that is wholeheartedly Saudi, made with a love and authenticity that allows them to push boundaries and subvert expectations, an aesthetic that is defined in “Al-Khallat.”  

“From the start, I thought about doing a show that reflects the Saudi psyche. We wanted to capture everyday life in a way that that appeals to real people with engaging, well-crafted storytelling,” the creator explains. 

While “Al Khallat+” tells a number of unrelated stories — two thieves crash a wedding to rescue their captured partner, a chef risks his restaurant trying to save his parent’s marriage, a mother searches for her husband who in turn is searching for his son in a nightclub — they each share a defining theme, one that Al-Kalthami and his collaborators discovered while holed up writing together during COVID-19 lockdowns. 

Director Fahad Alammari on the set of “Al Khallat.” (Supplied)

“We went back to the 22 episodes we’d released on the internet, and wanted to figure out what worked and what didn’t as we started to work on the feature. And for some strange reason, we found that the stories that worked had something in common. In each of them, there was a character who had to hustle their way out of an issue brought on by society’s restrictions — and we don’t mean that negatively,” Al-Kalthami says.  

“If you think about Saudi Arabia as a largely conservative society, that comes with a lot of rules that cause restraints on social life. Watching people hustle around those restraints becomes funny, because people can relate to those situations. We approach it with a very local mindset, and that allows Saudis to come along for the ride with us.” 

While “Al Khallat” has a perspective purely his own, Al-Kalthami is always quick to give credit to his collaborators. If he is proud of anything personally, it’s that he’s created a platform which has allowed the Kingdom’s rising talent to thrive, from the myriad actors featured to the crew behind the camera, many of whom he has known for years.  

“When I saw the first edit, I was very emotional. I was able to see in front of my eyes so clearly all the ideas that we’d written come to life through such great production. Fahad Alammari, the director, executed this so well, for example, and seeing all these actors — all of my friends — having fun bringing these characters to life is so rewarding,” says Al-Kalthami. 

“From the beginning, I always wanted this to go somewhere beyond the internet. I had no other experience at the time, but I knew we would get there eventually. To have something that I created with my friends get picked up and treated as a franchise is very humbling.” 

The challenge that Al-Kalthami now faces is to keep pushing forward and rewriting the template that he and his collaborators have made.  

“As a writer, you often create this illusion around yourself when you create something successful. If you’re not careful, there’s a barrier that rises between you and reality. You have to force yourself not to believe the hype, to be true to who you are and true to the society you live in — and force yourself to keep living in it. You can’t isolate yourself and become carried away by your success,” he says. “You have to embrace life, and live like a normal person, and get inspired the right way. I’m always trying to force myself to stay grounded, which can be very tricky with this kind of success, especially when you’re in on the ground floor. You have to force yourself to continue to push the envelope, break boundaries and do great work, and you have to help build this industry the right way. That’s the responsibility of pioneers.” 

While Al-Kalthami is usually focused on the future — committed to pushing himself as a writer and helping Saudi talent flourish both within his own projects and theirs — he does, occasionally, allow himself to look back and take stock of all he and Telfaz11 have accomplished over the last dozen years. Often, the emotion hits when he least expects it. 

“Somebody sent me a TikTok video last week. In it, someone had put together pictures of all the Telfaz11 founders, filmmakers and family members, spanning every moment they could find from 2010 to 2022. They wrote that we were the voice of our local inner life, that we were filmmakers that Saudis believe in. It was just so poetic, so nice, and so innocent. It just really got to me,” Al-Kalthami says. “I was so overwhelmed, I could hardly control it. To know that a lot of people in Saudi feel we represent their voice, their authentic life, truly means everything.”