Riyadh Ardah: A martial dance celebrates Kingdom’s history, preserves its heritage

King Salman performs the Saudi Ardah with former US President Donald Trump at a welcome ceremony at the Murabba Palace in Riyadh. (AFP)
King Salman performs the Saudi Ardah with former US President Donald Trump at a welcome ceremony at the Murabba Palace in Riyadh. (AFP)
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Updated 23 September 2023
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Riyadh Ardah: A martial dance celebrates Kingdom’s history, preserves its heritage

Riyadh Ardah: A martial dance celebrates Kingdom’s history, preserves its heritage
  • Originally a martial dance, it was performed before significant battles and victories by tribes of the Arabian Peninsula
  • Nowadays the Ardah is performed during weddings, graduations, Saudi embassy events worldwide and Saudi National Day

JEDDAH: The Saudi Ardah, formerly known as the Najdi Ardah, holds global cultural importance. Originally a martial dance, it was performed before significant battles and victories by tribes of the Arabian Peninsula including the ruling family of Al-Saud.

The Ardah is a UNESCO-listed dance that combines traditional chanting, swordplay, and rhythmic drums. It was originally used to motivate warriors and embodies loyalty and pride in Saudi culture.




People perform the Saudi Ardah in Diriyah. (DGDA)

Sami Al-Shamrani, supervisor of the Heritage and Folklore Committee of the Culture and Arts Association in Jeddah and supervisor of the Arts and Heritage Club at King Abdulaziz University, said: “It’s a magnificent and exquisite form of performance art that melds dance, drumming, and poetic chants.

This art form is now an integral part of various significant events, both at the onset and conclusion of national gatherings, including concerts, national festivals, and royal ceremonies held to welcome dignitaries.”




People perform the Saudi Ardah. (Supplied)

The dance is performed on many occasions, such as weddings, graduations, various events organized by Saudi embassies worldwide and on the grand celebration of Saudi National Day.

The Ardah dance, known for its displays of strength, originated in the central region of Saudi Arabia, particularly in the Najd region. The tradition, passed down over generations, has been embraced by kings, princes and sheikhs.




People perform the Saudi Ardah. (Supplied)

According to Al-Shamrani, participants in the Ardah dance must wear the traditional Saudi dress, which includes the ghutra (headscarf) and agal (headband). They must also wear an ornamental gown called Saya or Dagla, while drummers wear Furmaliyah gowns. Attention is given to accessories like daggers, pistol holsters, and bullet belts.

Al-Shamrani said that due to deviations from the authentic essence of the Ardha dance, certain musical groups were denied permission to perform.




People perform the Saudi Ardah. (Supplied)

“A joint directive from the Royal Court and the King Abdulaziz Foundation for Research and Archives emphasized the importance of adhering to fundamental principles and established traditions. This includes preserving original elements, pillars, and poetic verses.

“Approval from the foundation is required for any creation of new verses. The Ardha dance is to be performed within its traditional elements, honoring this cherished and widely recognized dance,” he said.




King Salman performs the Saudi Ardah at the Janadriyah National Festival for Heritage and Culture in Riyadh. (SPA)

How many people participate?

Al-Shamrani said: “When the king and the crown prince are present, the assembly comprises over 150 to 200 performers, encompassing drummers and a poet responsible for conveying poetic verses to the performance segments.

“During celebrations and weddings, the performer count should not dip below 25 to 30 individuals, all (dressed) in their customary garments and paraphernalia,” he added. This includes musical instruments, drums, banners and swords, and apparel.




King Salman performs the Saudi Ardah at the Janadriyah National Festival for Heritage and Culture in Riyadh. (SPA)

How is the performance executed?

The Ardha is a collective endeavor, with participants arranged in rows, singing and performing together. The spectacle usually lasts 15 to 25 minutes, as described by Al-Shamrani.

He said: “During the Ardha, participants begin by shifting their shoulders toward their teammate’s shoulder. They then align their shoulders and lift their knees, followed by propelling their left shoulder over their teammate’s shoulder. This cycle of movements repeats throughout the performance, with the dancer maintaining the sequence.




King Salman performs the Saudi Ardah at the Janadriyah National Festival for Heritage and Culture in Riyadh. (Reuters)

“The poetic verses are passed from the first row to the opposing row, creating a poetic debate-like structure. This harmonizes with the vocal expressions and melodic rendition of the Ardah.”

Before the performance starts, the poet initiates a vocal call called muharrabah, accompanied by rhythmic beats. The rows converge, with the poet leading the chant and the drums setting the rhythm. The flag dancer starts the dance by spinning right, and the rows follow in sync.




King Salman performs the Saudi Ardah at the Janadriyah National Festival for Heritage and Culture in Riyadh. (SPA)

Al-Shamrani said: “Renowned poets, including Fahd bin Dahim, have penned poetic verses for Ardah. These poems, known for their wisdom and fervor, celebrate the Kingdom’s triumphs and have been passed down through generations.”

In Ardah, men use percussion instruments called Al-Tathleeth and strike them with bamboo rods. There is also a group of drummers who play larger drums called Al-Takhmeer, positioned behind them.




King Salman performs the Saudi Ardah at the Janadriyah National Festival for Heritage and Culture in Riyadh. (SPA)

The National Center for Saudi Ardah has guidelines in place for managing items like flags, drums, and other instruments.

The Saudi flag used in the dance routine should be at least 120 x 80 cm in size. It should be in good condition, not touching the ground or sagging. The flag bearer must be in parade uniform, carrying the flag on the left side but placing it on the right shoulder.




Former US President Donald Trump joins dancers with swords at a welcome ceremony at the Murabba Palace in Riyadh. (AFP)

In 2021, the Diriyah Gate Development Authority and the National Center for Saudi Ardah launched the Diriyah House of Ardah initiative. It aims to train young people in the art of Ardah with the help of skilled performers, contributing to the preservation and revival of the Kingdom’s cultural heritage.




Former President of France Francois Hollande performs the Saudi Ardah. (Supplied)


Adele wears Elie Saab gown at Las Vegas concert

Adele wears Elie Saab gown at Las Vegas concert
Updated 28 May 2024
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Adele wears Elie Saab gown at Las Vegas concert

Adele wears Elie Saab gown at Las Vegas concert

DUBAI: British singer Adele showed off a gown by Lebanese designer Elie Saab during her Las Vegas residency over the weekend.  

The Grammy-winning singer performed her 42nd “Weekends with Adele” concert in a sleek black, off-shoulder gown with a deep V-neck.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by ELIE SAAB (@eliesaabworld)

 

“Captivating elegance, @adele graces the stage in Vegas in (a) … custom made Haute Couture gown,” read a post on the official Instagram page of Elie Saab.

Adele has previously chosen other designers from the region to wear during her residency, including Zuhair Murad and Georges Hobeika.

The residency is set to conclude in November this year.


Georgina Rodriguez collaborates with Faces Middle East beauty store

Georgina Rodriguez collaborates with Faces Middle East beauty store
Updated 28 May 2024
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Georgina Rodriguez collaborates with Faces Middle East beauty store

Georgina Rodriguez collaborates with Faces Middle East beauty store

DUBAI: Argentine model Georgina Rodriguez took to social media to share images from her recent visit to beauty store Faces in Riyadh Park Mall.

The social media sensation – partner to football legend Cristiano Ronaldo – posted a reel on Instagram featuring moments from her trip to the store, captioning the post, “Beauty time with @facesmiddleeast,” along with a pink heart emoji.

 

 

Rodriguez can be seen getting an analysis with Faces’ skincare diagnosis machine and trying on several of the store’s products.

Rodriguez also took a moment to congratulate Ronaldo on Instagram Stories as the Portuguese footballer – who plays for Saudi football club Al-Nassr – set a new record for goals scored in a Saudi Pro League season.

The 39-year-old took his tally of goals scored to 35 after he netted two goals against Al-Ittihad on Monday night.


New film festival in London seeks to ‘reclaim, celebrate’ Muslim identity

New film festival in London seeks to ‘reclaim, celebrate’ Muslim identity
Updated 28 May 2024
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New film festival in London seeks to ‘reclaim, celebrate’ Muslim identity

New film festival in London seeks to ‘reclaim, celebrate’ Muslim identity
  • Event features narratives from Muslim filmmakers, productions inspired by Muslim culture and faith

LONDON: A new film festival in the UK is on a mission to explore Muslim experiences through film.

The inaugural Muslim International Film Festival will begin on May 30 in London’s Leicester Square.

The four-day event features narratives from international Muslim filmmakers as well as productions inspired by Muslim culture and faith.

“The idea behind the festival is about reclaiming our identity and celebrating it. For the longest time, being Muslim has felt like something we can’t be proud of,” MIFF director Sajid Varda told Arab News.

He added: “We’ve had to hide our identity, and the narrative around our faith and identities has often been controlled by others.

“There’s been a persistent frustration with how to change those perceptions and how to reconnect with wider audiences and communities.

“We want to give them a glimpse into our lives and lived experiences, while also showcasing the cinematic brilliance of our creative community and its contributions to cinema.”

The event will begin with the London premiere of “Hounds” (“Les Meutes”) by Moroccan director Kamal Lazraq. The film follows a father and son in Casablanca’s suburbs who make ends meet by committing petty crimes for a local mob until a kidnapping goes horribly wrong.

Other highlights include critically acclaimed films set in the UK, France, Turkiye, Tunisia, Jordan, Iran and Sudan.

The festival will include Q&A sessions, panels and networking events in partnership with the British Film Commission, Netflix and the BBC.

Organizers have made the festival as accessible as possible to wider audiences, Varda said.

“We wanted to ensure that the films align with our faith and ethos, avoiding gratuitous violence, nudity and overtly sexual themes. This makes the content accessible to all, not just Muslims, but also people of other faiths and beliefs who might be sensitive to these issues.”

He added: “Our ticket costs are much lower compared to other festivals. We’ve also given out many tickets at no cost to various organizations, and offered discounts to students and those facing financial hardship.”


Review: ‘Norah’ makes Cannes history with its delicate handling of a Saudi story

Review: ‘Norah’ makes Cannes history with its delicate handling of a Saudi story
“Norah” had its official screening at the 77th Cannes Film Festival. (AN/ Ammar Abd Rabbo)
Updated 27 May 2024
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Review: ‘Norah’ makes Cannes history with its delicate handling of a Saudi story

Review: ‘Norah’ makes Cannes history with its delicate handling of a Saudi story

CANNES: Director Tawfik Alzaidi's “Norah” made history when it was selected as the first Saudi film to screen on the official calendar at the Cannes Film Festival.

The film premiered at December’s Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah before heading to the French Riviera last week, where it ran in the famed festival’s Un Certain Regard section.

“Norah” is the story of a restless young woman (played with wonderful ease by Maria Bahrawi), who dreams of a life beyond her immediate surroundings.

Set in 1990s Saudi Arabia when conservatism ruled and the pursuit of all art, including painting, was frowned upon, a new world opens up for Norah when Nader (Yaqoub Alfarhan), a failed artist and teacher from the city, comes to her village. Despite the rigid rules of society, the pair form a platonic relationship, linked by a passion for the arts. What emerges is a story in which the characters inspire each other, played out against the backdrop of the scenic AlUla region in Saudi Arabia, a location that is becoming a major moviemaking hub.

Norah, brought up by her uncle and aunt after having lost her parents early on, listens to music and pores over magazines. She encourages Nader to follow his passion for drawing, and their affection for each other gradually develops into an unshakable union.

The director strives to walk a tightrope, maintaining an equilibrium between Saudi sensibilities and a daringly emotional outlook. He explores the hesitant heartbeats of Norah and Nader but stops short of entering any overt romantic territory. The love affair, in this case, in one with the arts — both lead characters yearn for the chance to creatively express themselves.

While the narrative carries on at a gentle pace, the tone and tenure seem ruffled and out of place in the finale — with a rather bizarre ending marred by uncertainty. Alzaidi loses his grip over the narration, which until then seemed to have traversed a smooth road.


Sofia Carson shows off Elie Saab gown on the red carpet

Sofia Carson shows off Elie Saab gown on the red carpet
Updated 26 May 2024
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Sofia Carson shows off Elie Saab gown on the red carpet

Sofia Carson shows off Elie Saab gown on the red carpet

DUBAI: US actress Sofia Carson showed off a gown by Lebanese designer Elie Saab at the closing ceremony of the 77th annual Cannes Film Festival.

The star, who has showed off Lebanese labels on multiple red carpets in the past, opted for an olive-toned ensemble from the designer’s Spring/ Summer 2024 couture collection.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by ELIE SAAB (@eliesaabworld)

Styled by Erin Walsh, Carson posed for photos on the red carpet in the look that featured a draped skirt and embellishments on the neckline.

The latest red carpet appearance proves Carson is something of a fan of Lebanon’s couturiers — In 2022 the “Purple Hearts” actress was spotted in New York wearing an ensemble by Zuhair Murad. Carson attended the Global Citizen Festival in a coordinating look from Murad’s Resort 2023 collection. The outfit featured an embellished crop top and mini skirt set with matching thigh-high leather boots.

In late 2023, the actress cut an elegant figure in a Zuhair Murad gown at the second annual Cam for a Cause event in memory of her former co-star Cameron Boyce, who died at the age of 20 due to an epileptic seizure.

Fast forward to 2024 and the now-concluded Cannes Film Festival has played host to a number of Arab-created looks.

Saudi designer Eman Al-Ajlan dressed Leomie Anderson. (Getty Images)

Saudi designer Eman Al-Ajlan dressed British model and TV presenter Leomie Anderson in a structured look featuring a mini dress with a net-like skirt fitted underneath at the 2024 amfAR Gala in Cannes.

A few celebrities opted for gowns by Murad at the same event, including German model Toni Garrn, sports commentator Alex Scott and Brazilian model Thayna Soares.

Meanwhile, German model Kim Dammer dazzled on the red carpet in a glamorous halter-neck black gown, intricately embroidered with geometric shapes by Lebanese couturier Rami Kadi. Lebanese designer Nicolas Jebran was championed by Turkish actress Hande Ercel, who wore a black gown adorned with red and blue beads.

Egyptian actress Yasmine Sabri was also in attendance, wearing a sparkling silver dress by Lebanese designer Jean Pierre Khoury. The dress featured thousands of mirrored tube beads hand-sewn onto a corseted silhouette, according to the fashion house.