Lebanese architect Lina Ghotmeh: ‘AlUla is very inspiring for me’

Lebanese architect Lina Ghotmeh: ‘AlUla is very inspiring for me’
Award-winning Lebanese architect Lina Ghotmeh has designed buildings and spaces across the world. (Courtesy Royal Commission for AlUla, photo by Luke Walker)
Short Url
Updated 06 July 2023
Follow

Lebanese architect Lina Ghotmeh: ‘AlUla is very inspiring for me’

Lebanese architect Lina Ghotmeh: ‘AlUla is very inspiring for me’
  • The acclaimed Lebanese architect is currently designing a contemporary art museum for the Kingdom’s ancient oasis city 

DUBAI: Award-winning Lebanese architect Lina Ghotmeh has designed buildings and spaces across the world, from the UK to Finland and Lebanon to Japan. But the location of her latest project is a first for her, in the austere beauty of AlUla.  

At the end of last year, her firm, Lina Ghotmeh — Architecture, was invited to bid to design and build a contemporary art museum in the ancient oasis city in the northwest of Saudi Arabia. In May, it was announced that LGA had been awarded the contract.  




Lina Ghotmeh visiting AlUla. (Supplied)

“I got really attached to AlUla,” Ghotmeh told Arab News. “It’s such a wonderful place and I’m very happy to be able to develop this museum. I feel like it will play a great role in the region and in AlUla.”  

When Ghotmeh visited AlUla, she was captivated by its golden light, giant ancient tombs, and the varied textures of its landscape.  

“Going there the first time was quite overwhelming,” she recalled. “You’re in a place where time is suspended. What is really impressive is the rich and beautiful horizon that the desert offers and the multiplicity of views it is able to bring. It’s very inspiring for me.” 




 The Serpentine Pavilion in London, designed by Lina Ghotmeh. (Supplied)

Ghotmeh conducted workshops to gain a better understanding of the place, its people, and their customs. She noticed how attached they were to the Arabic language and to nature.  

“What surprised me was the maturity of the people living there, especially the kids,” she said. “I visited elementary schools and spoke to children and looked at how they related to their environment. Being close to nature is very much needed in today’s society. So, that touched me very much.” 

Although the museum is still in its conception phase, Ghotmeh offered some insight into what the venue will look like. It will be tucked into a valley in AlUla’s ‘Cultural Oasis’ area, a junction of the Old City and the mountainous desert. She said she will also use light as a material.    

“I’m imagining a series of pavilions that somehow reflect how the city was in the past, drawing on a smaller scale of construction, and intertwined with nature, so nature becomes part of the experience of the museum,” she explained. “I want it to solicit memories of what an old city would look like, but, at the same time, project us into the future. This is something very valuable for me; that architecture somehow belongs to its place, but is totally original.” 

To ensure a new project fits into its environment, she says, requires “listening to the place and understanding its climate and resources and trying to build a project that is really for the community itself. That’s very important. I think of design in an acupunctural way; not just seeking to make an expressive statement.” 

Ghotmeh’s desire to build, she suggests, is partly a result of her upbringing in Beirut in the 1980s, when the Lebanese Civil War was raging.  

“I remember the war because we sometimes had to go to the basement during bombing. Being on the seventh floor and suddenly going underground is very much present in my memories,” she said.  

At such times, she sparked her imagination by, for instance, playing with light — a crucial factor in her work today. “You start to find creative ways to occupy yourself and to make joy out of a crazy situation,” she said.  

The violent destruction she witnessed as a child pushed her into the optimistic act of building things. She actually studied archaeology at the American University of Beirut. But, she said, archaeology is about “digging up the past” and she wanted to look to the future. She currently has a number of projects (including a sophisticated hotel in the verdant countryside and a public art collection) planned in her homeland as an “act of reconciliation.”   

Ghotmeh believes that “beauty is a necessity,” and aims to implement that belief in her work. She hopes to see “more specificity to the places where we construct, and (deeper) relations with the people who inhabit these places. There needs to be integration with the people.”   

Ghotmeh’s architectural practice was once described as “humanist” — acting as a meeting place for people. “I take that with joy,” she said. “When we talk about humanism, there’s a sense of respect. I try, through my architecture, to develop places that bring people together and put them at ease.”  


Gigi Hadid, Arab models walk Versace runway

Gigi Hadid, Arab models walk Versace runway
Updated 24 February 2024
Follow

Gigi Hadid, Arab models walk Versace runway

Gigi Hadid, Arab models walk Versace runway

DUBAI: US-Dutch-Palestinian model Gigi Hadid, a staple on Versace runways, made a remarkable return to the Italian brand’s catwalk this week during Milan Fashion Week.

The supermodel stunned the runway in a black sheer, collared dress featuring intricate button-down detailing and a daring thigh-high slit. Complementing her ensemble, she sported black latex gloves and accentuated her look with sharp eye makeup.

Hadid was joined by other part-Arab models, including Imaan Hammam, who is Moroccan, Egyptian and Dutch, and Loli Bahia, who is French Algerian.

Hammam donned a printed blazer layered over a brown top. (Getty Images)

Hammam donned a printed blazer layered over a brown top, completing her ensemble with black tights and thigh-high leather boots. Just like Hadid, she accessorized with latex gloves and striking eye makeup.

Bahia wore a black mini-dress. (Getty Images)

Bahia opened the runway show in a black mini-dress, complementing her ensemble with a bold pop of color courtesy of a fiery red purse.


From finance to fame: Yasmine Al-Bustami discusses her journey to Hollywood stardom

From finance to fame: Yasmine Al-Bustami discusses her journey to Hollywood stardom
Updated 24 February 2024
Follow

From finance to fame: Yasmine Al-Bustami discusses her journey to Hollywood stardom

From finance to fame: Yasmine Al-Bustami discusses her journey to Hollywood stardom

LOS ANGELES: From working in finance to gracing the stage and screen, Yasmine Al-Bustami has emerged as a dynamic talent on the rise.

Known for her roles in “The Originals,” “NCIS: Hawai’i” and “The Chosen,” the actress was born in Abu Dhabi to a Palestinian-Jordanian father and a Filipino mother.

Al-Bustami grew up in Texas and began work in the world of finance, but soon found that she was not fulfilled and began to dig for something more exciting.

“I had never taken acting classes or anything, but I knew to get auditions you needed an agent,” she said. “So I just emailed all the Dallas agents and one of them was so sweet, emailed me back … I was sending in my business resume, too, I didn’t even have an acting resume. I was like, ‘this is where I went to university. I have a finance degree.’ None of that. They don’t care.

“And (the agent) goes, ‘well, clearly, you have no idea what you’re doing. Go to class. And here are some acting class recommendations.’ Then from that, I just kept taking classes in Dallas, then moved to Los Angeles,” she said.

Al-Bustami began with a brief appearance in a health-related commercial before making her television debut in “The Originals,” appearing in the recurring role of Monique Deveraux, a villain in the first season.

The actress was born in Abu Dhabi to a Palestinian-Jordanian father and a Filipino mother. (Getty Images)

Today, she has a role in hit spinoff “NCIS: Hawai’i” and the historical drama “The Chosen,” which recently moved to the theater.

“On ‘The Chosen,’ I play Ramah,” she said. “And when you meet her, it’s in season one. I’m in one of the episodes, episode five, and I basically work with Thomas the Disciple, and we have a little bit of romance there. We are very flirtatious with each other, and then you start to see that develop from seasons two to now, the season that is out right now is season four.”

Part of the challenge Al-Bustami faced was gaining the approval of her parents and finding roles true to her ethnicity.

On the latter note, she has scored a role representing women of color in the dark comedy show “Immigrants.”

“We just finished the pilot and that is by my friend Mustafa Knight, and it’s basically how we have described it is like ‘Friends,’ but with color,” she said.

“I’ve never been more proud to be an immigrant because now I also have an outlet to express that to people through storytelling,” the actress added. “It’s a different kind of gratefulness whenever you get the opportunity to play something that you are actually.”

The show is described as a dark comedy series following the “misadventures of six unlikely friends through their trials and tribulations on what it really means to be American in America.”


Saudi Cup kicks off in Riyadh with a showcase of traditional fashion

Saudi Cup kicks off in Riyadh with a showcase of traditional fashion
Updated 24 February 2024
Follow

Saudi Cup kicks off in Riyadh with a showcase of traditional fashion

Saudi Cup kicks off in Riyadh with a showcase of traditional fashion
  • From bespoke creations designed exclusively by and for style icons to bold original outfits, guests were dressed in striking attire for the event
  • The Saudi Cup carries a prize fund of $35.4 million, with the $20 million Saudi Cup race itself maintaining its position as the most valuable race in the world

RIYADH: The Saudi Cup, the Kingdom’s annual international horse race, returned this weekend in Riyadh for its fifth edition with a head-turning display of fashion.

From bespoke creations designed exclusively by and for style icons to bold original outfits, guests were dressed in striking attire for the event that takes place Feb. 23 and 24.

Princess Nourah Al-Faisal, special adviser to the chairman of the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, spoke to Arab News about fashion at the event — and the vision of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the event. 

Princess Nourah Al-Faisal wore an intricately embroidered tulle covering over a robe with embroidered detailing on the cuffs. (Photo by Huda Bashatah)

He “really had a vision, and not just for fashion, but he had this idea that he wanted the event to represent our culture and our heritage in every way possible,” she said.

“I have to say I am delighted and super excited by it and especially this reintroduction of our heritage to the younger generation … (and) seeing what this younger generation is doing with that, you know the experimentation,” she added.

Princess Nourah donned an intricately embroidered tulle covering over a robe with embroidered detailing on the cuffs from Art of Heritage.

Influencer and model Rakan Alhamdan also showed off attire inspired by his country.

“Today, I’m wearing Siraj Sanad — he’s a Saudi (designer) in Jeddah. As you can see, it is heritage-style clothing with three embroidered triangles which Najd is known for,” he said, referring to the Saudi region of Najd which is famous for its triangles visible in architecture and embroidery.

Influencer and model Rakan Alhamdan. (Photo by Huda Bashatah)

Other guests showed off a rainbow of colors at the fashion-forward event, with modern takes on Saudi attire spotted across the venue — from gemstone-covered burqas to elegant kaftans complete with heavy embroidery.

The Saudi Cup carries a prize fund of $35.4 million, with the $20 million Saudi Cup race itself maintaining its position as the most valuable race in the world.

- Additional reporting by Hams Saleh


Bella Hadid expands portfolio with launch of new brand Orebella

Bella Hadid expands portfolio with launch of new brand Orebella
Updated 23 February 2024
Follow

Bella Hadid expands portfolio with launch of new brand Orebella

Bella Hadid expands portfolio with launch of new brand Orebella
  • Speculation that model will sell fragrances, incense, body lotions, oils, shampoo, conditioner and candles

DUBAI: Bella Hadid is launching a new brand, Orebella, that is likely a venture into the perfume and beauty market.

The US-Dutch-Palestinian supermodel shared a teaser on Instagram on Thursday.

“Ôrəbella founded by Bella Khair Hadid,” she captioned the post teasing the brand’s launch in May. “Reveal your alchemy on 5/2.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Bella (@bellahadid)

The 10-second video showcases a close-up of Hadid’s face intertwined with clips of the universe, culminating with the brand’s logo.

Gigi Hadid showed support for her younger sibling, writing: “YAAAAAYYYYY.” This was accompanied by a genie emoji.

While specifics about the brand and its offerings remain under wraps, WWD Magazine reported that Hadid’s trademark filing, dating back to 2022, hints at Orebella’s focus on scent-related products. These may include fragrances, incense, body lotions, oils, shampoo, conditioner and candles.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Orebella (@orebella)

In 2021, Hadid co-founded Brooklyn-based Kin Euphorics with Saudi Arabia-raised Jen Batchelor.

The brand boasts non-alcoholic tonics “made to transform the world’s oldest social ritual, drinking, into a conscious act of better being,” according to its website.

The name Kin Euphorics is a nod to the Greek word “euphoros” — meaning a state of well-being.

The brand claims that many of its key ingredients, such phenylethylamine and rhodiola rosea root extract, improve cognitive function and increase energy levels. Kin drinks will also soon be infused with lavender grown on the Hadid family farm in Pennsylvania.

Hadid has walked for some of the top fashion brands in the world, including Burberry, Off-White, Fendi, Versace, Givenchy, Max Mara and Moschino.

She has had multiple covers in France, Italy, UK, Japan, China and other countries.


Nadim Naaman takes the stage as first Arab lead star in ‘The Phantom of The Opera’ at Dubai Opera

Nadim Naaman takes the stage as first Arab lead star in ‘The Phantom of The Opera’ at Dubai Opera
Updated 23 February 2024
Follow

Nadim Naaman takes the stage as first Arab lead star in ‘The Phantom of The Opera’ at Dubai Opera

Nadim Naaman takes the stage as first Arab lead star in ‘The Phantom of The Opera’ at Dubai Opera
  • Lebanese-British theater performer realizes lifelong ambition after growing up with the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical

DUBAI: The moment has finally come for Lebanese-British theater actor Nadim Naaman. For over a decade, he has been associated with the popular musical “The Phantom of The Opera,” initially joining as an ensemble member.

The play, which centers on the theme of unrequited love, was written by the famed English composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, and made its debut in London in 1986. 

Growing up in the British capital, Naaman had seen the play’s posters on buses and taxis. It was a big deal in the world of theater.

Naaman worked his way up and recently landed the lead role of Phantom, making him the first actor of Arab origin to play the coveted male character on stage. (Supplied)

“I think I was probably 15 or 16 and my parents took my brother, sister and I to see it, like a family outing, and I remember thinking, ‘This is the best thing I’ve ever seen,’” Naaman told Arab News. 

Naaman worked his way up and recently landed the lead role of Phantom, making him the first actor of Arab origin to play the coveted male character on stage.

Until March 10, “The Phantom of The Opera” will be playing at the UAE’s Dubai Opera, with a production team of over 100 cast and crew members from around the world. 

For the actor, who has visited Dubai for three decades for family reasons, performing in the UAE feels like a full-circle moment. Last year, he also played the Phantom during the show’s run in Riyadh.

“I always knew that this was my dream role, and I just have to be patient and, hopefully, one day the opportunity would come,” he said ahead of the show’s opening night in Dubai.

For the actor, who has visited Dubai for three decades for family reasons, performing in the UAE feels like a full-circle moment. (Supplied)

“To be the first Arab to do so in this region, in Saudi and Dubai, is the perfect combination of circumstances ... I couldn’t have dreamt that would happen.”   

The award-winning musical is based on the early 20th-century novel “Le Fantome de l’Opera” by the French author Gaston Leroux. Set at the Palais Garnier opera house in Paris, the venue is haunted by the hidden Phantom, a disfigured and passionate outcast, who falls for his protege, the young Swedish soprano Christine Daee. Things become intense when Christine’s lover, Raoul (played by Dougie Carter in the Dubai play), enters the picture. 

“It’s such a strong story. It’s a love triangle, which is always a winner. There is an element of recluse — someone who doesn’t fit in society and, of course, everyone at some point in their life can relate to that,” the English actress Harriet Jones, who plays Christine, told Arab News.

“The story of Christine is really a coming-of-age story, which suits my journey with the show because I first played her 10 years ago. Nadim and I have known each other for 10 years now. We’ve kind of grown up together on this show.”

Naaman, who formerly played Raoul, says that the Phantom is unlike any other character he has taken on.

Naaman says that the Phantom is unlike any other character he has taken on. (Supplied)

“With Raoul, it did always feel quite close to me. The Phantom is the complete opposite. To get ready to play a character and to look in the mirror and see somebody who is nothing like you, who behaves in a way that is nothing like you, is a really exciting and quite liberating experience because every single move you make or word that comes out of your mouth has a motivation that you have to really discover. It’s not easy, it’s hard work, but that’s what makes it rewarding.”

The other bit of hard work has also been wearing a face prosthetic (of a burn scar) covered with the mask, along with a wig, for every performance. The fitting takes more than an hour but helps Naaman get into character.

Around 20 shows have been scheduled at Dubai Opera, and for Naaman and Jones, it is still a thrill singing in front of an audience every night.

“Standing backstage and listening to the overture, which is so loud and big and it goes through your chest, that is almost when it starts for me. It’s an incredible feeling,” said Jones.  

Why has the musical been a hit with millions? Naaman believes it is the universality of its story that has made it popular until today, finding its way to new audiences in the Middle East.

“The show has been around for 40 years, but there is a new generation of audiences getting to experience it for the first time,” he said.

“Those key themes of love, unrequited love, and wanting to fit in and be accepted are relatable to all cultures, all ages, backgrounds. The key ingredients just keep people engaged the whole way through.”