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.
The royal couple: A closer look at Rajwa Al-Saif and Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah II
Updated 31 May 2023
Hams Saleh and Shyama Krishna Kumar
DUBAI: As people across Jordan, and the wider Arab world, prepare to celebrate the wedding of Jordan’s Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah and Rajwa Al-Saif from Saudi Arabia, Arab News take a closer look at the royal power couple.
While Al-Saif largely lived outside the public eye until the couple’s engagement was announced last year, Hussein has been in the spotlight since the moment he was born in Amman on June 28, 1994. He was appointed crown prince by royal decree on July 2, 2009.
The 28-year-old prince, the eldest son of King Abdullah II and Queen Rania, has three siblings: Princess Iman, 26, who tied the knot with financier Jameel Alexander Thermiotis on March 12, Princess Salma, 22, and Prince Hashem, 18.
The crown prince was named after his grandfather, King Hussein bin Talal, who became king in 1952 at the age of 17 and ruled Jordan for almost five decades until his death in 1999. Hussein’s paternal grandmother is Princess Muna Al-Hussein, a British convert to Islam, and his mother is of Palestinian descent.
He complete his high school studies in 2012 at King’s Academy in Jordan. In 2016, he graduated with a degree in international history from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
Like many male members of the Jordanian royal family, including his father and grandfather, the prince attended Britain’s prestigious Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, graduating in 2017.
He often accompanies King Abdullah during official visits in Jordan and has also embarked on several official trips abroad. Most recently, he accompanied the king and queen on a visit to Japan in April.
“The King has been preparing the prince for years,” Samih Al-Maaytah, Jordan’s former minister of information, told Arab News.
“The prince attends all the important meetings of his majesty the king with world leaders in the United Nations, Europe and at international and Arab conferences. So he is being trained directly by the king.”
In April 2015, at the age of 20, Crown Prince Hussein became the youngest person to chair a session of the UN Security Council when he presided over an open debate on the role of youth in efforts to counter violent extremism and promote peace. As a result, in August 2015, Jordan hosted the first Global Forum on Youth, Peace and Security, which produced the Amman Youth Declaration on those issues.
The prince made his debut in front of the UN General Assembly in 2017, when he delivered a speech criticizing the focus on militarization in the Middle East.
He holds the rank of captain in the Jordanian Armed Forces and is often an observer at military drills in the country. He is a qualified helicopter pilot; after his first solo flight in 2018, he was doused with a bucket of water in a traditional military celebration of such occasions.
Al-Maaytah described the prince’s relationship with the Jordanian public as “active, dynamic and close to the youth.” Hussein oversees the Crown Prince Foundation, which promotes education with a focus on technical training and initiatives to benefit young people in Jordan.
The prince also founded the Masar Initiative to encourage youths to take an interest and pursue careers in the field of space technology, and the “Hearing without Borders” project, which provides cochlear implants for deaf children.
“He always visits gatherings with the youth from different sectors, so he is a role model to the youth who have awareness, who are dynamic and passionate,” Al-Maaytah said.
In the rare moments the prince has to himself to pursue his own interests, he likes to share his activities and hobbies with his 3.9 million followers on Instagram. He appears to like to stay active and particularly enjoys basketball, football, hiking, cooking and playing the guitar.
The crown prince and Al-Saif announced their engagement in August last year during a ceremony in Riyadh, in the presence of King Abdullah, Queen Rania and Al-Saif’s family. The royal family of Jordan’s Hashemite dynasty will welcome its newest member on June 1, when the couple are due to wed at Zahran Palace in Amman, but what do we know about the future queen?
Born on April 28, 1994, Al-Saif is the daughter of Saudi businessman Khalid bin Musaed bin Saif bin Abdulaziz Al-Saif and his wife, Azza bint Nayef Abdulaziz Ahmad Al-Sudairi. The youngest of four children, her older siblings are called Faisal, Nayef and Dana.
The Al-Saif family traces its lineage to the Subay tribe, who have been present in the Sudair region of Najd since the beginning of the era of King Abdulaziz, the founder of modern-day Saudi Arabia.
Al-Saif’s mother comes from the prominent Al-Sudairi family. Incidentally, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman is one of the so-called “Sudairi Seven,” an influential alliance of seven full brothers born to King Abdulaziz and Hussa bint Ahmed Al-Sudairi.
After graduating from high school in Saudi Arabia, Al-Saif studied at Syracuse University’s School of Architecture in New York state. She also holds an Associate of Arts Professional Designation in visual communications from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles.
After a spell working at an architecture firm in Los Angeles, she returned to her native Saudi Arabia to work at the Designlab Experience design studio in Riyadh.
Since their engagement, Al-Saif and the crown prince have made numerous public appearances together, including a visit in January to the “Fragrance of Colors” initiative in Amman, which aims to teach the blind and visually impaired to draw by identifying colors through their sense of smell. They were briefed by Suheil Baqaeen, the founder of the initiative, on the creative work of students during a workshop at Darat Suheil, a gallery and art space in Jabal Luweibdeh in Amman.
“It was one of the most beautiful moments in my life. Believe you me, she is so simple, elegant, nice and humble,” Baqaeen told Arab News when asked about his encounter with Al-Saif. “And they both were so, so sweet.
“They showed so much sensitivity when talking to the children. When the crown prince and Ms. Rajwa came to our simple Darat Suheil, they gave their positive energy to the children by spending time with them and talking to them.
“It felt like a healing energy … there was no obstacle in the conversation. There was so much freedom to talk. She also asked the children about their dreams.”
Baqaeen said Al-Saif spent time painting alongside the children.
“She showed a lot of skill with the watercolor painting, since she is an architect and has a design background,” he added.
The Royal Hashemite Court has yet to reveal full details of Al-Saif’s future role as a working member of the Jordanian royal family after the wedding, though it is thought likely she will follow in her mother-in-law’s footsteps as a philanthropic force to be reckoned with, first as crown princess and then as queen.
Jordanian, Saudi wedding traditions to look out for at the royal celebrations
Updated 31 May 2023
Haifa Alshammari and Hams Saleh
RIYADH/ DUBAI: With the spotlight firmly trained on Jordan’s royal wedding between Rajwa Al-Saif and Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah II, observers might be wondering what wedding traditions the Saudi bride and Jordanian groom will choose for their big day.
Here, we take a look at wedding celebrations from the two cultures that have been passed down through the generations, in anticipation of the historic union.
Wedding practices differ across Saudi Arabia, but Al-Saif will most likely follow Najdi traditions since her family hails from Sudair and live in Riyadh, both of which are in the Najd region.
Born-and-raised Najdi Atheer Alhowaish spoke to Arab News about the region’s time-steeped wedding traditions.
“Tehwal is a dinner party at the groom’s house on the day after the wedding. The groom’s family invites the people at the wedding to Tehwal to welcome the bride to their family,” Alhowaish explained. Similarly, the zowarah is another form of celebration organized by either the groom’s family or the bride’s family after the newlyweds return from their honeymoon.
Another practice sees the groom gift the bride’s mother gold or other jewelry which is offered among a wider bouquet of gifts called the shabka.
While many cultural traditions have evolved, Abdulrhman Mashbri — the owner of La Memorias, a luxury events agency in Riyadh — told Arab News that he has seen some changes in recent years.
“Some families now request their weddings to be outside of the Kingdom, such as in Paris or Dubai. The budget can range from SR100,000 ($26,665) to SR25-30 million.
“In addition to that, some brides who are related to each other search for uniqueness, not by choosing the place nor by the originality of the design, but rather by celebrating their weddings together in one night,” he said.
Prior to the wedding, brides across the Arab world often take part in a henna night — but this is not typical of Najdi celebrations. It is, however, customary in Jordan, where both Al-Saif and her soon-to-be sister-in-law Princess Iman held henna night celebrations before their respective weddings.
In Jordan, the henna party sees women of both families come together to celebrate while the bride’s family also presents her with gifts for her wedding trousseau.
Fast forward to the wedding day and Jordanian staples include the zaffeh, zaghrouta and nukout.
The zaffeh, a traditional part of wedding celebrations in the Levant, is a live procession of music and dance that lasts for around 30 minutes.
The traditional, upbeat music the troupe performs features lyrics that praise the new marriage. Drums (darbuka), horns, bagpipes and sometimes men carrying swords also feature in the traditional procession.
Another mainstay of Jordanian weddings is dabke — a folk dance performed by professionals, before guests ultimately join in the fun.
The dance, which features synchronized powerful stomping of the feet, has different variations. In the most popular, the dancers will be led by a lawweeh (waver), a charismatic improviser who controls both the tempo and the energy of the line.
“Our Jordanian zaffeh is unique. The tunes, the dabke and the dances are one of a kind,” Iyad Albelbeisi, founder of Jordanian planning company Feelings Weddings, told Arab News.
“These traditions are also common in royal ceremonies,” Albelbeisi added.
Throughout the wedding, women perform the zaghrouta, a high-pitched ululation with their tongue that is commonly performed at wedding parties across the region. Another traditional practice at Jordanian weddings is the nukout — money given to newlyweds to help with their new life together.
When it comes to food, there is no question that Jordan’s national dish, mansaf — which consists of large chunks of meat, a yogurt sauce and rice — is a wedding staple.
At royal weddings, just like Princess Iman’s ceremony in March, as well as celebrations among the general public, the multi-tiered wedding cake is often cut with a large sword that is passed down to the groom from his family.
Royal fashion: Inside soon-to-be Princess Rajwa Al-Saif’s stylish wardrobe
Updated 31 May 2023
DUBAI: We take a look at Saudi bride Rajwa Al-Saif’s fashion choices since she has been cast in the spotlight after her engagement to Jordan’s Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah II.
Al-Saif has made headlines around the world for her style, much like her future mother-in-law Queen Rania. Here, we take a closer look at her wardrobe — from designer duds to high street picks.
On Aug. 17, Al-Saif wore a cream-colored kaftan with gold floral detailing by Lebanese brand Orient 499 at the couple’s engagement. She added a gold belt that seems to have been borrowed from Queen Rania, who was spotted wearing the piece in 2019.
In a set of engagement photos, Al-Saif showed off the Brennie Lurex Georgette Dress with blouson sleeves by Greek brand Costarellos.
In another set of images, Al-Saif wore the Ariza Skirt by Canadian designer Sara Roka and blue Valentino pumps.
For Al-Saif’s first official appointment she visited the Royal Hashemite Court and wore a shirt tucked into an Alexander McQueen midi-skirt, an Alexander McQueen belt and a white Gucci GG Marmont bag.
Jordan’s Royal Hashemite Court shared an image of Al-Saif in a high-collared midi dress by Singaporean fashion designer Andrew Gn.
On March 7, Al-Saif attended her future sister-in-law Princess Iman bint Abdullah II’s henna party in a pink-and-orange kaftan by Saudi fashion house Art of Heritage, paired with olive green Gianvito Rossi pumps.
On March 12, she attended Princess Iman’s wedding in the Neolitsea Dress by Roksanda and a pair of Malone Souliers Marla 85 Mules from the brand’s capsule collection with L’Atelier Nawbar.
Al-Saif was spotted at the Tawasol: Dialogue on Reality and Aspirations forum in Amman wearing a hot pink pantsuit by high street retailer Zara.
Royal wedding: Jordanian, Saudi public recall the past as they gather to watch history in making
‘For Jordanians of my generation who watched King Abdullah II’s marriage ceremony in 1993, a great deal of memories are going to re-emerge,’ Amman-based Basel Quol told Arab News
A fan in New York is planning to host a special mansaf dinner for the occasion
Updated 31 May 2023
Saeb Rawashdeh and Sulafa Alkhunaizi
AMMAN/ RIYADH: With a public holiday underway in Jordan, residents of the country are gathering to celebrate the wedding of Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah and Saudi Arabia’s Rajwa Al-Saif.
Public screens have been set up throughout the nation and many will also settle down to watch the live broadcast from the comfort of their own homes on Thursday.
Arab News spoke to members of the public in Jordan and Saudi Arabia to find out what they had planned for the big day ahead.
Amman-based Basel Quol, a video producer with Xinhua News Agency, said: “Families will gather in a festive atmosphere, mesmerized in front of the TV set, watching the wedding ceremonies and related events.
“For Jordanians of my generation who watched King Abdullah II’s marriage ceremony in 1993, a great deal of memories are going to re-emerge.
“I can never forget watching King Abdullah’s wedding as a child when a Jordanian army paratrooper descended from the sky and perfectly landed before then-Prince Abdullah and handed him the sword to cut the wedding cake. Such an amazing manoeuvre captivated me as a child, and it lived with me as an adult.
“Now, 30 years later, a lot of people like me are eager to witness the crown prince’s wedding,” Quol added.
Tourism expert and radio personality Naffa Nazal likened the upcoming nuptials to the March 12 wedding of Jordan’s Princess Iman and financier Jameel Alexander Thermiotis.
“I and my girlfriends were sitting in front of the television and watched the royal wedding of Princess Iman and Jameel Thermiotis and we all admired the celebrations — from the decoration to the stunning gowns.
“Similar to that, most Jordanians and expats in Jordan will be glued to the television to share the magical moment,” she said.
Nazal, who is part-Jordanian and part-Palestinian Lebanese, noted the union of two cultures that the royal wedding would bring about.
“The young couple bring energy and excitement to Jordan as Saudi Arabia is opening up to the world and so many have wondered … about Saudi culture, community, and traditions.
“As a mixed Arab, I am an advocate of mixing cultures, heritage, and ideologies,” she added.
In Saudi Arabia, Jordanian medical student Abdullah Al-Khasawinah, said he would be watching snippets of the wedding in his free time.
“I have been looking forward to this since they announced their engagement, it is an extremely exciting time for all Jordanians. I am preparing for my final exams for medical school … but I will pop in and watch bits of it during my breaks.”
Al-Khasawinah, who has traveled back and forth between both countries for most of his life, added: “Even before this wedding, Jordanians and Saudis shared a lot in common in terms of traditions and customs.
“I feel like the wedding … entices each culture to learn more about the other.”
Riyadh-based Jordanian medical student Nour Odeh said: “What’s distinctive about this wedding is that it will not only bring Jordanians together, but Saudis as well.
“Since I’m a Jordanian living in Saudi Arabia, I am overjoyed for such a union as it will bring two nations closer and will further strengthen the political and social ties that join us.”
Saudi events coordinator Shahad Samman said: “This wedding will strengthen the bonds between both countries and make people accept that if two people understand each other, nothing can stand in their way, even if you’re royal, love still exists.”
The royal wedding has also found fans beyond the Middle East. Jacqui Taylor Basker, a professor at the New York Institute of Technology who lived in Amman for 16 years, said she planned to host a special dinner for the occasion.
“I plan to host a mansaf (Jordan’s national dish) dinner on June 1 and will try to watch the royal wedding on whatever media will show it in the US,” she added.
Whether it be for political, sentimental, or sartorial reasons, Thursday’s wedding will no doubt attract viewers from around the world. Basker said: “The public always loves a wedding between a beautiful young woman and a handsome prince.”
A tale for the ages: Looking back at the royal wedding of Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Queen Rania
Updated 31 May 2023
DUBAI: It is the year of fairytale weddings for the Jordanian royal family with Princess Iman tying the knot earlier in March and the much-awaited nuptials of Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah II and Saudi national Rajwa Al-Saif on June 1.
However, 30 years ago, another couple set the stage for royal romance with a wedding and ensuing partnership that captured the hearts of millions around the world — the current King Abdullah II and Queen Rania.
When the couple first met at a dinner party in late 1992, he was not yet the declared heir to the throne, and Rania Al-Yassin, who was then 22, was a young executive-in-training from a Palestinian medical family and had just moved to Jordan from Kuwait.
“The minute Rania walked in, I knew it right then and there,” King Abdullah said of their first meeting to People magazine in 2005. “It was love at first sight.”
“He had such a great smile and such infectious energy, we got on really well. And the rest, as they say, is history,” Queen Rania told Stellar magazine in 2016 of their first meeting.
Six months later, after a whirlwind courtship and a three-month engagement, they were married in a lavish ceremony on June 10, 1993, at Zahran Palace in Amman, where Crown Prince Hussein and Al-Saif are also set to host their religious wedding ceremony.
For the ceremony, the bride wore a custom gold-embroidered gown by British designer Bruce Oldfield with a matching silk hairpiece and veil. The groom wore his military uniform.
The wedding also made headlines around the world when then-Princess Rania broke tradition by not wearing a tiara, choosing to honor her non-royal Palestinian roots.
After the ceremony, the couple took part in a royal convoy in a vintage 1961 Lincoln convertible that took them through the streets of Amman.
For their reception in the gardens of Raghadan Palace, the bride changed into a second outfit by the iconic fashion designer, this time a sleeveless white gown with gold detailing. The multi-tiered wedding cake, which the newlyweds cut with a sword as is custom, featured tiers decorated with crowns and lace.