The royal couple: A closer look at Rajwa Al-Saif and Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah II

The royal couple: A closer look at Rajwa Al-Saif and Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah II
Rajwa Al-Saif and Jordan’s Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah are getting married on June 1. (Instagram)
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Updated 31 May 2023

The royal couple: A closer look at Rajwa Al-Saif and Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah II

The royal couple: A closer look at Rajwa Al-Saif and Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah II

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 crown prince has three siblings: Princess Iman, Princess Salma and Prince Hashem. (Supplied)

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. 

He is a qualified helicopter pilot. (Supplied)

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. 

He holds the rank of captain in the Jordanian Armed Forces. (Instagram)

“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. 

The crown prince with his parents. (Supplied)

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. 


Saudi Netflix drama-comedy ‘Crashing Eid’ tackles romantic taboos with heart

Saudi Netflix drama-comedy ‘Crashing Eid’ tackles romantic taboos with heart
Updated 36 sec ago

Saudi Netflix drama-comedy ‘Crashing Eid’ tackles romantic taboos with heart

Saudi Netflix drama-comedy ‘Crashing Eid’ tackles romantic taboos with heart

DUBAI: Following hot on the heels of Netflix’s first Saudi original comedy series “Tahir’s House,” the global streamer has just announced another Jeddah-set original series that is tailor-made to get the Kingdom talking.

Created by Saudi filmmaker Nora Aboushousha (“Lucky You Are Mine”), “Crashing Eid” is family drama-comedy that tackles societal romantic taboos with both an irreverent spirit and a warm heart, set to debut worldwide on Oct. 19.

The show follows Razan (Summer Shesha), a Saudi woman living in the UK with her teenage daughter who plans to marry a British-Pakistani man under the assumption that her family will approve the pairing without question. When she returns home during Ramadan, with her fiancé following soon after as an uninvited guest, she soon finds that breaking with tradition may be harder than she had originally thought — to both hilarious and dramatic results.

Aboushousha, herself from Jeddah, is a rising star in the Kingdom, with her one-location lockdown crime series “Rahin Altaqiq” and drama comedy about rebellious young Saudi woman “Confessions” both becoming viral hits over the last few years. She is also no stranger to pushing boundaries, with her short “Lucky You Are Mine” winning a production grant by the Saudi Film Commission before debuting at the 2022 Red Sea International Film Festival in her hometown to strong acclaim.

“We started off with a concept of someone who is different from their family, and that grew into this story of a single mother who returns from abroad. We started wondering, what will inspire the clash with the rest of the family? And immediately we realized, ‘oh, she should come back ready to be married to someone from outside the culture!’ Everything fell into place from there,” Aboushousha told Arab News.

For Shesha, who steps into her first major lead role as Razan, the project inspired her not only because of the ways that the conceit allows each member of the family to flourish as they grapple with the events it sets into motion, but because the themes are so easy to relate to for so many people across the world.

“First of all, this show is awesome. I really think it is. That drew me to it to begin with. But it also mattered to me that this is on Netflix worldwide. This is a show with global themes of family, conflict and love. I really wanted a show that both felt specific and universal and this show has really captures that,” Shesha told Arab News.

Review: Wes Anderson returns to Roald Dahl with ‘The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar’

Review: Wes Anderson returns to Roald Dahl with ‘The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar’
Updated 33 min 14 sec ago

Review: Wes Anderson returns to Roald Dahl with ‘The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar’

Review: Wes Anderson returns to Roald Dahl with ‘The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar’

LONDON: Given the critical success of “Fantastic Mr. Fox” in 2009, it is something of a surprise that it has taken so many years for Wes Anderson to return to the works of Roald Dahl.

Now, lo and behold, four adaptations have come along at once, with a quartet of Anderson-directed short films for Netflix — also including “The Swan,” “The Rat Catcher” and “Poison” — released at daily intervals this week.

Anderson has assembled an fine troupe of actors, many of whom appear across the four stories, and first turns his inimitable, behind-the-curtain style to “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar.”

As perhaps only Anderson could, the director leans into the multi-layered storytelling, including a narrator (Dahl himself, played by Ralph Fiennes) and a procession of deadpan, to-camera monologues from his cast, which includes Benedict Cumberbatch, Ben Kingsley, Dev Patel, Rupert Friend and Richard Ayoade.

Bored, greedy bachelor Henry Sugar (Cumberbatch) stumbles across the story of Imdad Khan (Kingsley), a circus performer who taught himself to see with his eyes closed. Sniffing an opportunity for limitless profit, Sugar tries to develop the same power so that he can make a killing in the world’s casinos.

Because it is a Wes Anderson film, the audience is invited to share in every aspect of the storytelling — whether it is the actors taking on multiple roles, the visible stagehands, the off-screen noises or the occasional glimpses beyond the sets, there is a decidedly theater-like aesthetic at play.

For Anderson, the telling of the story is, in fact, part of that story — and the relationship between author, narrator, actors and audience shifts and pirouettes throughout the 39 minutes.

“Henry Sugar” is one of Dahl’s more upbeat tales, removed from the naivety of the writer’s children’s stories and perhaps lacking some of the more macabre leanings of his adult work.

The cast certainly commits, all throwing themselves into the straightlaced performances. Although it makes for an odd experience — all lavish worldbuilding juxtaposed with starkly functional acting — it somehow works.

Much like Dahl himself, there is an eccentricity about Anderson’s style that makes his films captivating, and the prospect of more work to come an intriguing one.

Pakistani biryani: a spicy recipe for delectable debate

Pakistani biryani: a spicy recipe for delectable debate
Updated 44 min 9 sec ago

Pakistani biryani: a spicy recipe for delectable debate

Pakistani biryani: a spicy recipe for delectable debate
  • Every Karachi neighborhood has its own canteens fronted by vendors clanking a spatula against inside of biryani pots
  • Biryani with beef is a favorite across Pakistan, while vegetarian variants are more popular in largely Hindu India

KARACHI: Eying each other across a stream of traffic, rival Pakistani biryani joints vie for customers, serving a fiery medley of meat, rice, and spice that unites and divides South Asian appetites.
Both sell a niche version of the dish, steeped in the same vats, with matching prices and trophies commending their quality.
But in Karachi, where a biryani craze boomed after the creation of Pakistan, it is the subtle differences that inspire devotion.
“Our biryani is not only different from theirs but unique in the world,” says restaurateur Muhammad Saqib, who layers his “bone marrow biryani” with herbs.
“When a person bites into it he drowns in a world of flavors,” the 36-year-old says.

In this photograph taken on September 16, 2023, people eat biryani at a restaurant in Karachi. (AFP)

Across the road, Muhammad Zain sees it differently.
“We were the ones who started the biryani business here first,” the 27-year-old claims, as staff scoop out sharing platters with a gut-punch of masala.
“It’s our own personal and secret recipe.”
Both agree on one thing.
“You can’t find biryani like Pakistan’s anywhere in the world,” says Saqib.
“Whether it’s a celebration or any other occasion, biryani always comes first,” according to Zain.

In this photograph taken on September 16, 2023, a staff serves plates of biryani at a restaurant in Karachi. (AFP)

British colonial rule in South Asia ended in 1947 with a violent rupture of the region along religious lines.
Hindus and Sikhs in newly created Pakistan fled to India while Muslim “MoHajjirs” — refugees — went the other way.
India and Pakistan have been arch-rivals since, fighting wars and locked in endless diplomatic strife. Trade and travel have been largely choked off.
Many MoHajjirs settled in Karachi, home to just 400,000 people in 1947 but one of the world’s largest cities today with a population of 20 million.
For Indian food historian Pushpesh Pant, biryani served in South Asia’s melting-pot cities such as Karachi is a reminder of shared heritage.

In this photograph taken on September 16, 2023, people eat biryani at a restaurant in Karachi. (AFP)

“Hindus ate differently, Nanakpanthis (Sikhs) ate differently, and Muslims ate differently, but it was not as if their food did not influence each other,” he told AFP from the city of Gurugram outside Delhi.
“In certain parts of Pakistan and certain parts of India, the differences in flavors and foods are not as great as man-made borders would make us think.”
Every Karachi neighborhood has its own canteens fronted by vendors clanking a spatula against the inside of biryani pots.
The recipe has endless variations.
The one with beef is a favorite in Pakistan, while vegetarian variants are more popular in largely India.
Chicken is universal. Along coastlines, seafood is in the mix.
And purists debate if adding potatoes is heresy.
“Other than that, there is Pulao Biryani which is purely from Delhi,” says 27-year-old pharmacist Muhammad Al Aaqib, describing a broth-stewed variation.
“My roots lead back to Delhi too so it’s like the mother of biryanis for us.”
“Perhaps every person has a different way of cooking it, and their way is better,” says 36-year-old landlord Mehran Khoso.
The origins of biryani are hotly contested.
However, it is generally accepted the word has Persian roots and it is argued the dish was popularised in the elite kitchens of the Mughal Empire, which spanned South Asia between the 16th and 19th centuries.
In spite of that pedigree, its defining quality is permutation.

In this photograph taken on September 17, 2023, Quratul ain Asad (L), a homemaker serves biryani for her family members at her house in Karachi. (AFP)

Quratul Ain Asad, 40, spends Sunday morning cooking for her husband and son, MoHajjir descendants of a family that arrived in Karachi from the Indian town of Tonk in 1948.
But at the dinner table, they feast not on an heirloom recipe but a TV chef’s version with a cooling yogurt sauce and a simple shredded salad.
Asad insists on Karachi’s biryani supremacy.
“You will not like biryani from anywhere else once you’ve tasted Karachi’s biryani,” she says.
“There is no secret ingredient. I just cook with a lot of passion and joy,” she adds. “Perhaps that’s why the taste comes out good.”
Cooked in bulk, biryani is also a staple of charity donations.
At Ghazi Foods, 28-year-old Ali Nawaz paddles out dozens of portions of biryani into plastic pouches, which are delivered to poor neighborhoods on motorbikes.
A minute after one of those bikes stops, the biryani is gone, seized by kids and young adults.
“People pray for us when they eat it,” says Nawaz. “It feels good that our biryani reaches the people.”

Model Maya Aboul Hosn named Miss Universe Lebanon 2023  

Model Maya Aboul Hosn named Miss Universe Lebanon 2023  
Updated 28 September 2023

Model Maya Aboul Hosn named Miss Universe Lebanon 2023  

Model Maya Aboul Hosn named Miss Universe Lebanon 2023  

DUBAI: Model Maya Aboul Hosn on Wednesday was named Miss Universe Lebanon 2023.  

The beauty queen will represent Lebanon at the 72nd Miss Universe pageant taking place El Salvador on Nov. 18.  

“Embarking on an incredible journey to represent Lebanon in the Miss Universe competition, the model wrote on Instagram. "With love and pride for my hometown, let’s shine on the global stage!” 

Aboul Horn is not the only Arab taking place in the competition. She will be joined by Moira Tantawy, the 21-year-old model who was crowned Miss Universe Egypt 2023 this week, as well as Miss Universe Bahrain Lujane Yacoub. 

Iraqi artist Adel Abidin discusses his Ithra Art Prize-winning work 

Iraqi artist Adel Abidin discusses his Ithra Art Prize-winning work 
Updated 30 min 54 sec ago

Iraqi artist Adel Abidin discusses his Ithra Art Prize-winning work 

Iraqi artist Adel Abidin discusses his Ithra Art Prize-winning work 
  • The artist’s ‘On’ represents an ancient slave rebellion in his homeland  

DUBAI: The Helsinki-based Iraqi artist Adel Abidin’s work “On” (‘Aan’ in Arabic) was unveiled at the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) this month. His proposal for the work won Abidin the Ithra Art Prize earlier this year. 

The large-scale mural, imbued with abstract inked figures on Japanese rice paper, takes center stage inside Ithra’s Great Hall. It explores the intricate relationship between history, memory and identity while also touching on the intangible and crucial aspects of oral storytelling, particularly, as Abidin emphasizes, in the context of Arab history, much of which is shrouded in ambiguity and differing interpretations. 

Abidin’s design was selected from more than 10,000 submissions by a jury comprising gallerists, academics, curators and artists. His prize was $100,000, in addition to the full funding required to bring his project to fruition. It is now part of Ithra’s permanent art collection.  

Abidin’s work confronts the subjectivity of historical discourses by reexamining oral accounts of the Zanj rebellion against the Abbassid Caliphate, which began in 869 CE in southern Iraq. He has, he says, tried to incorporate greater nuance with the inclusion of previously overlooked perspectives. The repeated stamping of the word “Aan” in Arabic script reflects the word-of-mouth stories that have been lost from historical records, while overlapping visual representations of varied, even contradictory, versions of the tale of the rebellion, result in an abstract work that allows the viewer to interpret it for themselves. 


A post shared by Adel Abidin (@adel_abidin)

“The piece examines the intangibility of history through the tradition of oral storytelling and the narration of history. Recently, I have been very interested in studying history, especially its intangible and vulnerable aspects,” Abidin tells Arab News. “But I couldn’t just study history in general; I needed a case to focus on. And I found this very interesting revolt that took place in southern Iraq, with the aim of emancipating slaves. I found this matter to be worth digging deeper into.” 

In 869, slaves (referred to as “Zanj” in numerous sources) — mostly of African origin and enslaved in Basra — rose up against their masters and against the Abbasid caliphate in protest against the harsh conditions in which they lived. 

“When I won the award and began really researching this story, I realized how everyone told a different story about his or her origins,” says Abidin. “It’s almost as if no one really knew where she or he was from. It is fascinating and it makes for great material.” 


A post shared by Adel Abidin (@adel_abidin)

Abidin found that the oral reports of the rebellion had been modified. Such ambiguity in the storytelling served as his impetus for naming his artwork “On.” 

“This process creates a vivid representation of the 14-year rebellion against the Abbasid Caliphate and offers a fresh perspective on this significant event in Arab history,” he stated. “The resulting wall installation highlights the ultimate fragility of history and the organic, but unreliable, nature of memory.” 

Abidin, who moved to Finland from Iraq in 2001, has, for much of his career, created works that combine politics, art, memory and identity. He has used various mediums to present his bold and thought-provoking visions, including video, installation, sculpture and painting.  

His Ithra Art Prize-winning work is more delicate in nature — and less ‘edgy’ than the artist’s previous works. But, as Abidin points out, it is equally audacious in its own way.  


A post shared by Adel Abidin (@adel_abidin)

“When I began the work, I was out of my comfort zone; I had never worked this way before,” he explains. “I have never used this technique before; I’ve never worked with ink or rice paper in this manner in my entire life."  

Abidin hired a specialist in the use of Japanese rice paper and traditional gluing techniques to teach him. “I learned and now I want to continue,” he says.  

“I wanted to give the piece every sound and sight — the entire story — but I didn’t want to be a historian,” he continues. “The best way to do that was to stamp it with the word ‘on.’ By stamping that word, I am interpreting what happened with my own emotions.” 

Viewing the work, one can see that Abidin pressed down harder with the stamp in some places, so there are a variety of shades within the iterations of “on.”   

“Technically, I was very keen to create a work that gives the feeling of a tapestry of history,” he says.  

He has succeeded. The ethereal yet grand nature of “On” gives it a sense of historical importance — although it is still very much of the present too, with its abstract lines and forms shifting in and out of each other like they are dancing, or fighting, or rebelling, in an echo of the actual uprising that happened so long ago and is now brought back to life through Abidin’s work.