Egyptian actor Mohamed Farrag — ‘I used to put so much hate on myself’ 

Egyptian actor Mohamed Farrag — ‘I used to put so much hate on myself’ 
Mohamed Farrag in MBC’s ‘Room 207.’ (Supplied)
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Updated 09 December 2022

Egyptian actor Mohamed Farrag — ‘I used to put so much hate on myself’ 

Egyptian actor Mohamed Farrag — ‘I used to put so much hate on myself’ 
  • The Arab actor — currently starring in MBC’s ‘Room 207’ — has overcome self-doubt to become one of the Arab world’s most-acclaimed leading men 

DUBAI: Mohamed Farrag did it the hard way. That’s why it feels different. As Arab News sits with the acclaimed Egyptian actor over lunch in Dubai, the proof is in the way that passersby greet him — they are not just meeting a star, they are meeting an artist whose work they deeply admire. 

MBC Shahid’s new series “Room 207” is perhaps Farrag’s finest work yet, and is just beginning to light a fire across the Arabic-speaking world as we speak — establishing him firmly as a leading man, and vindicating his entire approach to acting. 

“If there’s one thing I want to change about this industry, about the mentality of acting in Egypt, it’s this: Anyone can be well known — if I kill somebody, I’m going to be well known — but what’s the purpose of that fame?” Farrag says. “Fame shouldn’t be a goal, it should be a side effect.” 




Mohamed Farrag stars in MBC Shahid’s new series ‘Room 207.’ (Getty Images)

At 39, Farrag has reached the point where he’s earned the right to make such proclamations. After all, he was vital to the success of Mona Zaki’s super-sized 2021 Ramadan hit “Newton’s Cradle,” which became the most-watched Egyptian series of the year and continues to find an audience on Netflix, with many declaring it the best Arab series in years. 

“Room 207,” since its first two episodes debuted on October 31, is being rated even higher, pulling in big enough audiences to make a second season a foregone conclusion even with only half the first having aired.  

That a series that moves Farrag directly into the spotlight would get that sort of immediate reaction is no surprise. He’s built years of goodwill from committed, scene-stealing performances across film, television and theater. What is perhaps surprising about the show is that it it’s a homegrown Egyptian horror series that has become hugely popular. In general, horror is a genre in which only imports receive acclaim in the Arab world.  

“When I was first sent the script, I picked it up to glance at it before I went to bed. I ended up finishing it at 3 a.m. and immediately called the producer, waking him from a sound sleep. I told him that no one was going to do this project but me. I made that vow to him. I needed it to happen,” says Farrag.  




Riham Abdel Ghafour and Farrag in ‘Room 207.’ (Supplied)

The series is based on a novel by acclaimed Egyptian author Ahmed Khaled Tawfik, the third adaptation of his work since he passed away in 2018. The last, Netflix’s big-budget bet “Paranormal” (2020), failed to find an audience despite a massive promotional push, and while “Room 207” may share a passing resemblance, it’s resonating in a way that other adaptations have not, capturing what made Tawfik’s paperbacks fly off the shelves for decades.   

“To be honest, I started to think we were headed for a season two during the second week of shooting. And I’ve never felt that way before,” says Farrag. “This project has a very special place in my heart. I don't choose to do anything I don't love, but this one is special. And it’s not because I'm the hero, it’s because it’s not like anything I’ve seen before. The vibes, the writing, the cast, the way we shoot — I truly love this.” 




Mohamed Farrag with Mona Zaki in 'Newton's Cradle.' (Supplied)

Perhaps the reason that Farrag is responding to it so strongly is that it taps into the precocious boy he once was, the boy who fell in love with television in the first place. 

“When I was a kid, I didn’t want to watch cartoons, I didn’t want to play with my sisters. No. I was always watching TV — but very heavy series made for adults. It was drama, drama, and more drama all the time. I was like an addict, watching things meant for people far older,” says Farrag. “When I went to school, they asked every kid what they wanted to be. I said I wanted to be an actor. I didn’t even know what acting was, but I was committed.” 

At home, Farrag and his sisters would watch movies on VHS until they found a scene they liked in particular. Then they would press stop, and Farrag would quickly scribble down the scene from memory. Then they would act the scenes out together and record their best performances. 

“I still have the tape recordings of our voices from when we were kids. I still listen to them from time to time, when I miss the feeling. It was a feeling of innocence, of passion toward acting. Those were beautiful memories, and I still get emotional when I think about them,” says Farrag. 

There have been many days since Farrag began his career that he has needed those tapes — needed a reminder that he was doing this for a reason. It is only in recent years, he admits, that he has truly felt like he’s ‘made it.’ For years, he felt insecure not only about his career, but also about his ability, often having difficulty watching his own films and series because of how harshly he would judge his own performances. But his ever-growing mastery of his craft eventually overpowered his self-doubt, and made him a fixture on screens across the Arab world. 

“I think I’ve grown up now. Some elements have changed in my character, and it’s clear in my life, in my work, and in the way I see myself. I used to put so much hate on myself, but I’ve found a way out of that. I started to like myself, and I started to be able to watch my work up on the screen with pride,” he says. 

Farrag is in a particularly reflective mood. Perhaps it’s because he just walked out of MBC’s offices, where he witnessed the ecstatic reactions that the company has had to “Room 207” so far, and how committed MBC already was to making a second season happen — and committed to Farrag personally as an A-list leading man for years to come. It was the kind of meeting that makes those harder truths easier to admit, knowing that the happy ending is already here. That boy recording his voice into the tape recorder is now a man helping lead Arabic television to places it’s never been before.  

“I’ve always loved what I do. Even during the hardest moments, if I asked myself if I wanted to keep going, the voice inside me always repeated back, ‘Yes, yes, yes.’ But it feels different now,” he says. “I’m filled with more pride than I ever was before. I love everything that I’ve done, but now I’m excited for the next thing even more. Acting is beautiful, man.” 


‘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.”