CAIRO: JPMorgan Bank is directing its clients toward the Grand Egyptian Museum in its annual brochure.
The publication is distributed to the organization’s distinguished clients around the world.
It lists suggested recreational, artistic, and cultural activities to enjoy during holidays, while highlighting the most important attractions and places around the world.
This year’s brochure includes many locations, and among them is a picture of the soon-to-be-opened Grand Egyptian Museum, accompanied by some information about the attraction.
It says that the museum of ancient Egyptian civilization will display the complete collection of the boy king Tutankhamun.
Ahmed Issa, Egyptian minister of tourism and antiquities, appreciated the bank’s gesture in recommending the museum to its clients.
The museum’s opening is eagerly awaited and it will be considered one of the most important establishments of its kind in the world.
The minister said that its opening date will be decided as soon as possible, adding that kings, presidents, and senior officials from around the world will attend its inauguration.
Soha Ali, CEO of JPMorgan Bank in Egypt and North Africa, held a meeting with Issa recently, and thanked the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities for its cooperation, and for providing information on the museum, as well as photographs.
JPMorgan Bank, the largest in the US and one of the biggest in the world, issues its booklet on an annual basis.
Actor Asser Yassin takes us behind the scenes of his new Ramadan hit ‘Battalion 101’
The actor has won awards at Sweden’s Malmö Arab Film Festival, the Festival International de Cinéma Méditerranée Tétouan and the Carthage Film Festival
‘I’m thinking about the kids whose fathers are gone,’ says the Egyptian star
Updated 31 March 2023
DUBAI: Egyptian actor Asser Yassin had heard the stories. For much of the last decade, Wilayat Sinai — a radical terrorist organization aligned with Daesh — had turned Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula into hell on earth for many, as they staged attack after attack, leaving scores dead as the group attempted to reshape the country in their image. The people that stood in their way, and ultimately overcame the threat, were the soldiers of the Egyptian Army’s Battalion 101.
Yassin had heard the stories, but how could he have known how deep their sacrifices went? Their struggles and triumphs remained relegated to news briefs and statistics. No one had really explored what really happened out there.
“Our nation does not realize the sacrifice given in this sector — how much of their own blood they spilled to protect their country. I feel it’s my duty to be a part of telling those stories, so the world knows exactly what happened,” Yassin tells Arab News.
With “Battalion 101,” airing on MBC Shahid throughout Ramadan, that story will finally be told. For Yassin, who stars as a military intelligence officer tasked with undermining Wilayat Sinai — and procuring the knowledge needed to do it, getting into character first required him to learn the real stories of what happened, the human stories, so that he could give this series his all.
“The thing that has touched me the most while making this show is that, in the intelligence world, you will never hear these stories, because people cannot tell them without risking the lives of others. You cannot say how an intelligence officer died defending his country. His kids may know that he’s a hero, but they can’t put it out to the world because their father died on a secret mission,” says Yassin.
“I met some of the families, and they know the men their fathers were. They know he was their champion. But they can’t tell the media. But I can put those fathers into my character. I can’t say their names, I can’t say the details, but I can put their spirits into this, in appreciation for the people who secretly died fighting these evils,” Yassin continues.
While Yassin is an accomplished action star, his character in the series, for the most part, is not on a battlefield dodging bullets, or swinging from helicopters. To better understand the intelligence world, Yassin met with officers to learn about the particulars of things such as interrogation, finding that many of the tropes that are present in most films and television are pure fiction.
“It’s all in the particulars. There’s no fans or distractions in the room, there’s no two-way mirror. The setting is not nearly as dramatic. Usually, the officer, for example, stays sitting behind a desk in a room that’s as basic as can be, with only certain shades of gray because it’s psychologically important,” says Yassin.
After diving headfirst into the details, the challenge for Yassin was to dramatize this world. When there was so much dedication to telling the story as it actually happened, and following the events to the letter in order to properly honor the people that went through those situations, it was important to keep in mind that the show was being made for an audience looking to be entertained, not to be studied as part of a history course.
“We had a responsibility to give a proper image of what we were portraying, of course. There are so many facts for us to deliver, but we couldn’t just be informative, we had to be engaging, we had to also make it an Egyptian drama. That can be a huge challenge,” says Yassin.
Yassin worked closely with the writers and supervisors, including people from the military who were on set as consultants, in order to make sure that the audience was always first and foremost in their minds.
“We would ask ourselves questions like, ‘Can we not talk about that part? Can we make this terminology simpler?’ It could get very heavy if we didn’t. People don’t care about how you build the rocket, they care about whether the rocket is going to fly, and where it’s flying to. When you focus on that, then you have something suitable for people to watch,” he says.
Yassin also did that by focusing on his character Khaled, who, as a composite of the many intelligence officers he learned about, was also ripe for drama.
“Khaled is a guy who manipulates everything with the utmost skill. He gives you the sense that he’s always awake, he’s always around, and he can even be in two places at once,” says Yassin.
“What made him work as a character though, is not the high level of skill he possesses. Yes, he’s always doing his job right — he never makes a mistake. But that doesn’t mean that things will always work out. Sometimes you can do everything right and things still won’t go the way they’re planned, and his frustration in that gap was fascinating to explore,” Yassin continues.
Starring opposite Yassin is Amr Youssef, who became one of Egypt’s biggest stars after his turns in projects such as “Sons of Rizk,” 2015’s “The Prince,” and the highly regarded 2016 Ramadan hit “Grand Hotel.”
“Amr and I have known each other a long time, but we never worked together. It has really been fun, as we have a nice chemistry and we’re really becoming better friends as we work through this challenge together. I can see a lot of collaborations happening in the future, as, even though we’re on similar levels, we’re completely different types, which creates an interesting contrast,” says Yassin.
Everyone involved was interested in telling the story right, which involved breaking with the usual structure of Ramadan series — they avoided stretching it out to the standard 30 episodes, instead keeping it to 20, so the story could be exactly what it needed to be, and no more.
“It’s much better for everyone involved. The quality is better, and you can focus more on production, rather than rushing things out. It’s still tight, but compared to the torture of hitting 30 episodes that will air night after night, the pain is a lot more livable,” says Yassin.
Mainly, though, as Yassin speaks to us from set in the final days of filming, he is most focused on how the real story resonates with audiences now that they can finally learn the truth.
“I hope that people can appreciate the people who died, and the people who are still out there risking their lives. That’s what touches me most about all of this. I’m thinking about the kids of those fathers who are gone now, and I hope people watching at home will think about them too, and how much they gave so that they could watch a series like this comfortably in their homes all these years later.”
Lebanese singer-songwriter Karl Mattar discusses the new record from his project Interbellum
The artist has performed in multiple countries in Europe including Prague and Berlin
Updated 31 March 2023
DUBAI: Lebanese singer-songwriter Karl Mattar was in Berlin writing songs for the third album from his project Interbellum (Mattar and a revolving lineup of his peers from Beirut’s music scene) — “Our House Is Very Beautiful At Night” — when his hometown of Beirut was rocked by a massive explosion at its port on Aug. 4, 2020.
Inspired by the writings of Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok, Mattar was already exploring the theme of intergenerational trauma as a phantom (“indistinct and blurry, but familiar,” he says) and he notes that some works created by Lebanese artists, including himself, before the blast have become almost premonitory in retrospect. Interbellum’s previous album, for example, included a track called “Some Ghosts.”
“(The explosion) wasn’t the genesis of the record, but it definitely informed it,” Mattar tells Arab News. “It’s weird how much everything we wrote about before still fits within what’s happening now. And I think it’s because that event didn’t happen out of the blue; it emerged from things that had happened before, almost like a symptom. It’s sad, but it’s almost like it was inevitable. And that’s one of the themes of the record — the cycle of things always repeating and ghosts that have always been there being unlocked.
“I’ve always been interested in themes of memory and the past and nostalgia. I have my own baggage from childhood that I carry around and I’ve been exploring the idea that we have to learn to live with our respective ghosts,” he continues. “And there is a dimension that personal trauma is mirrored by — or is a microcosm of — societal trauma and the state and society reflecting the nuclear family. It’s like a Russian doll thing.”
Lead single “Partners” encapsulates these themes, and the haunting instrumentation — with sounds fading in and out throughout, giving the music a patchwork, collage-like effect that is evident across the record — echoes the ghosts Mattar has been talking about.
“That song’s about an abusive, dysfunctional relationship,” he says. “I was moved by this notion of people who are in such a relationship being tied by this intimate bond. It’s almost beautiful, if it weren’t so horrifying (because of) this idea of how we perpetuate abuse that we lived through and kind of pass it on, and can subconsciously choose a partner to re-enact something we went through. It’s a really sad song, but there’s a beauty to this intimacy that I found poignant.”
“Our House Is Very Beautiful At Night” will be released April 7.
Recipes for success: London’s Bread Ahead founder chef Matthew Jones offers cinnamon bun recipe for Ramadan
The founder of London’s renowned Bread Ahead bakery, which recently opened branches in Jeddah and Dubai, offers advice and a cinnamon bun recipe
Updated 31 March 2023
DUBAI: Even as a child, Matthew Jones wanted to be a chef. “I never had any doubt in my mind about what I was going to do,” Jones tells Arab News. “I was in the kitchen literally as soon as I could walk. . . The kitchen is my home.”
Having spent 15 years working in Michelin-starred restaurants, the self-taught British baker founded Bread Ahead, a popular artisan bakery and school that opened 10 years ago in London’s bustling Borough Market. People still line up to get a hold of sourdough breads, pastries, and its main star, the donut.
“The donut scene was a bit tired at the time,” Jones says. “It was sort of focused on the sweetness, whereas we’re more about gastronomy and flavors. We make our own jams, caramels, all of the fillings. We make everything from scratch. . . It’s all about the eating journey — when it goes into your mouth and you start eating one of our donuts, it’s an emotional journey.”
The bakery is famed for its float donut, filled with vanilla, pistachio, chocolate, and praline and only fried on the surface of the oil. When it’s flipped over, there is a white steamed line at the center of the donut, which Jones calls “the band of truth” — a sign of a good donut. “The body of the donut must be very light, fluffy, and a little bit buttery,” he says. But it’s not just the tangible ingredients that make the donut, it’s how you work the dough. “You give something of yourself when you bake,” Jones adds.
Bread Ahead is a London institution, and it has now found its way to the Middle East — opening new branches last year in Jeddah and Dubai, most recently at Mall of the Emirates. “We just got a call one day and somebody said, ‘We want to take you out to the Middle East.’ It was great,” Jones says. “I love Dubai. It’s an amazing city — a city of opportunity, especially in hospitality and the food industry.”
Here, Jones discusses discipline in the kitchen and the challenges of working in the Michelin world, and shares a delicious cinnamon bun recipe.
Q: What’s your earliest food memory?
A: It would probably be making flapjacks, where I used to live with my parents in Quakers Hall Lane, Kent. I would have probably been about five or six years old. I was a happy little soul.
When you started out as a professional, what was the most common mistake you made?
I think I was a good learner when I was a young chef. I worked in quite a brutal environment; I was brought up in the Michelin world in the Eighties and Nineties. So you weren’t really allowed much room for error.([Laughs.) You would just get barked at. But I was disciplined. I had a good work ethic.
What one ingredient can instantly improve any dish?
Truffles, caviar, saffron… (Laughs.) Generally, those high-end things do improve food. But let’s say… good company?
Are you a disciplinarian in the kitchen? Do you shout a lot? Or are you more laidback?
I would shout a lot, definitely, when I was a younger chef and baker. I was very full-on — direct, committed seven days a week, eighteen hours a day, no problem at all. I’ll do that all day long. There’s a lot to get right every day. More recently, I think I’ve sort of cooled down a bit.
What customer behavior most annoys you?
I think probably asking for gluten-free products when they’re not actually gluten-free. Allergens is a big one — I think people don’t really understand them a lot of the time. Obviously, I’m a perfectionist, so anybody who’s critical of food, I find that quite difficult to deal with. (Laughs.)
What’s your favorite dish to cook?
Maybe risotto. I love the process of it.
What’s your top tip for amateur chefs?
Keep doing it. Don’t give up. You know, I think it’s that 10,000-hour rule: You’ve got to put the hours in. You’re never going to make your best loaf of bread the first time you make it. It won’t happen, sadly. But even when it goes wrong, that’s okay. Just start again.
Chef Matthew’s cinnamon rolls
For the dough
50g rice flour; 450g strong bread flour, plus extra for dusting; 300g full fat milk; 80g caster sugar; 10g fresh yeast; 10g fine sea salt; 100g butter; 1/4 tspn ground cinnamon; 1 egg
For the cinnamon butter:
180g softened unsalted butter; 225g soft dark brown sugar; 75g soft light brown sugar; 20g ground cinnamon
1. Put all the dough ingredients apart from the butter in a bowl, tip onto table, and — using the heel of your hand — stretch and tear for five minutes.
2. Add the butter into your dough one third at a time, continuing to stretch and tear until the butter is absorbed. Stretch and tear the dough for five more minutes until it is elastic and glossy.
3. Return your dough to your clean mixing bowl, cover with cling film and place in the fridge for at least one hour.
4. Beat the cinnamon butter ingredients together in a bowl until combined.
5. Transfer the dough from the fridge onto a lightly floured work surface.
6. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out into a rectangle, roughly 50cm x 40cm. Spread the filling evenly over the dough, leaving a small strip clear of any filling along one of the long edges, then brush this strip with a little water.
7. Roll the dough up lengthways, gently pressing the filling-free edge into the dough to seal it.
8. The roll into 12 equal pieces about 5cm thick.
9. Transfer them to a baking tray lined with baking paper. Gently press them down so they are about 4cm high. Cover with a tea towel. Leave to prove in a warm place for about 1 hour, until they have almost doubled in size.
10. Preheat your oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/gas 6. Bake the buns for 15 minutes, then turn the tray round and bake for a further 10 minutes, until golden brown.
11. Remove buns from oven, transfer to a wire rack, and eat warm.
Cast of ‘Succession’ talk the beginning of the end of smash hit show
It’s one of the most-acclaimed shows of the century, but the dark comedy’s fourth season will be its last
Updated 30 March 2023
DUBAI: There’s a regular lifecycle for a television masterpiece. At first, it’s a sleeper hit, adored by critics and early adopters. As the years go on, if it’s good enough, it grows into something much greater — a phenomenon that becomes so embedded that its quotes and characters become cultural touchstones. All of this has happened with HBO’s “Succession,” which just began its fourth season on OSN+. There’s one step in the cycle, however, that creator Jesse Armstrong is still hoping to avoid — the one where a great show carries on past its prime. And so, with this season, “Succession” will come to an end.
As they filmed this latest season, however, no one knew this (except Armstrong). The cast and crew were shocked and heartbroken. All, that is, except actor Brian Cox, who plays Logan Roy, the domineering and acerbic business mogul whose ‘succession’ plan for his media empire carries the show’s central conflict.
“I’m delighted. I’m very happy that it’s coming to an end,” Cox tells Arab News.
This isn’t to say that Cox is not a fan of the show, or not grateful for the experience. Rather, in his eyes, stories should have endings, no matter how much the world may demand a next chapter.
“Jesse implied to me that it was going to be coming to an end. Everyone else was hopeful that it was going to go on, but I was fine about it. I don’t hang on to things. It wasn’t really decided until around episode six or seven that it was going to be wrap-up time, but in the end, that’s the discipline of (Armstrong),” says Cox.
“A lot of shows go well past their sell-by date. This show will never do that. It’s a good thing that people are mourning the fact that it’s coming to an end. It’s like a death in the family. But I think that’s healthy, and that’s what’s so extraordinary about Jesse — that he had the courage to do it. Never outstay your welcome,” Cox continues.
For his co-stars of course, it wasn’t just a matter of trying to milk out more story. Over the show’s run, while it is often merciless in its portrayal of the Roy family, from its patriarch to his four children and the many hangers-on beyond, it’s also open-hearted to them. The magic of the series is that it takes some of the most unrelatable and unlikable characters ever put on screen and, by focusing on their family dynamics, makes it impossible not to relate to them in some way — and impossible not to wonder who will actually succeed Logan Roy.
“Jesse and the writers realized in the first season, when they had storylines that took the central characters away from each other, that it dissipated the tension and the energy. This family is so addicted to each other and so worried about what the other ones could do behind their back. They don’t fit in anywhere else in the world except with each other. Because of their wealth and elitism, they have no one else to relate to, so it’s family or bust,” says Sarah Snook, who plays Logan’s daughter Siobhan Roy.
The close ties between the characters mirrors the real-life bond between the actors, says Alan Ruck, who plays Logan’s eldest son Connor.
“With all the outlandish things that the writers have asked me to say or do, I think it all comes back to how you relate to the people you're working with,” he explains. “I just have to key into the energy of Sarah Snook, or Kieran Culkin, or Brian Cox or Jeremy Strong, and how much I like them. It keeps me in the room, and in the situation, no matter what crazy things (my character is) saying or doing.”
While Culkin, who plays youngest son Roman, has been in the limelight since he appeared opposite his older brother Macaulay in 1990’s megahit “Home Alone,” what he’ll miss most about the show is the rest of the cast, knowing that it’s unlikely he’ll be working with them again because the show’s popularity would make it difficult for people to get past their character associations. The whole phenomenon thing, though, is a bit lost on him.
“I don’t really have a sense of what a ‘global phenomenon’ is, exactly. My life is small. I do the show, then I’m home with my kids. I never see the scope. I’ll occasionally see a giant poster and go, ‘Oh cool, people are watching it,’” says Culkin. “When we filmed the pilot, I had a lot of fun doing it, but I didn’t know who the heck was going to want to see this show. I still don’t, but I’m glad they did, because we got to do this together.”
Syrian-Cuban artist Jason Seife discusses his digital artwork ‘A Modern Genesis: Spring Garden’
Updated 30 March 2023
DUBAI: The Syrian-Cuban artist discusses his digital artwork that was showcased at Art Dubai in March.
I was born in Miami, but my mother is from Cuba, and my dad from Syria. Growing up in Miami, the Hispanic side felt fulfilled, because I had friends who spoke Spanish and I speak Spanish fluently. But ties to the Middle Eastern side faded off, as my grandparents passed away and I didn’t speak Arabic.
I always found that carpets felt nostalgic. They reminded me of when I was younger. The ones that were family heirlooms, we showcased them on walls. Carpets in general, design-wise, were always intriguing to me. I spent time in Syria, Istanbul, and Iran, studying under actual carpet weavers to understand how they are made so that I can then take it and hopefully make it new and exciting for younger generations to come.
The goal of this piece, for which I worked off an existing carpet, was to make this new, to add life to it. A carpet is just a still image, but when you’re working digitally with animation, you can paint a more complete picture and show what’s really happening. It’s like a comic book, and with this medium, we can narrate as much as we want.
I always start off on an iPad. For this piece, the digital designs existed in my hard drive as reference images for paintings. Once I saw a way of bringing those designs together into works of their own, that became really exciting for me.
It was brought to life by 3D-sculpting every element in it. Every flower, leaf, and vine is 3D-rendered. When you animate something like this, you have to do “rigging,” which is essentially a skeleton that goes inside of the animal or the flower that allows it to move naturally.
Each frame is done individually. When you’re working on something that has so many moving parts, you never know if, when it comes together, it’s going to be nauseating. Part of it is finding the right pace for the animation; this is a 20-second synchronized loop. I wanted it to feel like a symphony — calming and therapeutic, like looking through a window on a spring morning. When it all came together, it was so rewarding.