During the final question and answer segment, Tantawy was asked: “What do you think is the biggest reason why poverty still exists in many countries in the world?”
Her winning answer was: “I believe the main reason why poverty still exists in many countries is the lack of resources such as education or the lack of economic opportunities, and if I were to be Miss Universe Egypt, I would work with both local and international organizations to create (a) micro-funding environment and to empower these people that are stuck in the unfortunate circumstance of poverty, and just empower them to break out of the cycle.”
The competition was organized by Dubai-based Yugen Group, the same entity behind this year’s Miss Universe Bahrain pageant.
Josh Yugen, owner and national director of Miss Universe Egypt, said in a statement: “On behalf of Miss Universe Egypt organization, we are very honored to crown our new Miss Universe Egypt 2023 with our utmost goal of celebrating a platform that gives a voice to the empowerment of young women, to highlight their incredible and innovative contribution to our society and to inspire other women to break stereotypes not only in Egypt but all throughout the world.”
“Our new queen is quintessentially graced with passion, cocooned with courage and armored with pursuit of love, sisterhood and kindness,” he added.
Arab artists must collaborate more for global success: Warner music chief
Reggaeton’s rise is an ideal model, says Alfonso Perez Soto
Strong domestic market needed to grow globally, he adds
Updated 08 December 2023
RIYADH: Artists living in the Middle East and North Africa should collaborate more to boost the industry in the region and globally, says Alfonso Perez Soto, president of emerging markets at Warner Music Group.
Soto was speaking Thursday at the XP Music Futures conference currently underway in Riyadh.
Grammy-nominated Lebanese singer-songwriter Mayssa Karaa moderated the fireside chat titled “The potential of the region and beyond: A conversation with Alfonso Perez.”
Soto highlighted the rising popularity of reggaeton, a blend of Latin American music with hip-hop influences, and said that artists in the MENA region should take inspiration from the genre.
“We need more features and cooperations between and among the local talent in the region. Moroccans with Egyptians, Iraqis with the Saudis … Because when you go back to what I said about reggaeton if you look at the way that they created the sound, and the way that they created this movement it was actually networking with each other,” he said.
The industry must have a “stronger domestic market” in order to grow, said Soto.
“You want to reach a certain level of presence on a global level. We have to define global, it’s about the ability to present your music in many territories, I think that is very doable. Most of the emerging market territories that I manage, they have a strong diaspora so in reality they can really bring in music and play, they have a fan base that work.”
With AI on the rise, Soto said that it would impact the global music industry in positive ways, in creating better sounds and marketing.
Soto encourages aspiring artists to work hard.
“I think that this market is just awaking. You see the numbers and there are some ups and downs in the growth, but I think that up to two or three quarters ago, MENA was the fastest growing market in the world. Then they came a little bit of a plateau, but I think that the growth and the opportunities for the artists are unstoppable.”
XP Music Futures — set to run until Dec. 9 — is the annual precursor to the region’s largest music festival, Soundstorm, organized by Saudi Arabia music platform MDLBEAST.
Escape to Okinawa, Japan’s historic island paradise
The prefecture offers outstanding scenery, plenty of history and culture, and a laidback vibe
Updated 08 December 2023
OKINAWA: Located at the intersection of trade routes that linked Japan, China, south-east Asia and the tiny islands that dot the Pacific Ocean, the Japanese prefecture of Okinawa has adopted flavors from all its neighbors, but still managed to remain true to its cultural and historic roots.
Those influences can be tasted in the area’s cuisine and witnessed in its unique architectural styles, festivals and attitudes that are more laidback Pacific than formal Japanese. And local people — descendants of the Ryukyuan Kingdom that was absorbed into Japan in 1872 — still take a fierce pride in being distinct.
Now Japan’s most southerly prefecture, Okinawa consists of more than 150 islands, dotted between southern Kyushu to a point just over the horizon from Taiwan. Some of the more remote islands are uninhabited while others have just a handful of homes in communities that have changed little in generations. Bullocks pull wooden carts across the beach flats and the sound of three-string “shamisen” being plucked floats on the warm evening air.
The lifestyles of those outer islands is quite a contrast to Naha, the regional capital — less than two hours’ flying time from Tokyo and connections to the Middle East.
Kokusaidori runs for more than 2 km through the heart of the city and, while touristy, is still the best place to get your first taste of Okinawa. Cafes, bars, boutiques and gaudy stores selling trinkets are cheek-by-jowl.
Okinawan cuisine is a blend of many influences, with fish abundant in the surrounding waters, pork imported from China when the Ryukyus were still independent and fruits and spices from south-east Asia. For non-Muslims, no visit would be complete without sampling goya champuru, the islands’ signature dish that typically combines pork, tofu, eggs and goya, a green gourd with its own distinctive, bitter taste. Pork belly (rafute), simmered in soy sauce before being glazed with brown sugar, is another favorite, along with the local take on soba noodles.
Just off Kokusaidori is the covered market where many of the restaurants source their ingredients every day. In a warren of narrow alleyways, stalls are also piled high with every conceivable household utensil, local fabrics and electronic gadgets that you never knew you needed.
Naha is overlooked from the east by Shuri Castle. The main elements of the UNESCO World Heritage site were razed to the ground by fire in 2019, but work is underway to rebuild the iconic red structure and it is expected to once again be fully open to visitors by 2026.
Despite the damage, the castle is still worth visiting. The fortified buildings on the site dating back to the 12th century CE, when Shuri was the center of Ryukyuan politics, diplomacy and culture. An earlier version of the castle was designated a national treasure in 1925, but was destroyed in the fierce fighting that took place in Okinawa in the closing stages of World War II.
Its outer fortifications, gateways and courtyards escaped damage in the most recent fire, and their gracefully curving walls of limestone are markedly different from traditional Japanese castles. A series of decorated gateways lead deeper into the complex, their designs reflecting Chinese as well as Japanese and Ryukyuan influences.
Okinawa’s islands are dotted with fortresses that were the power bases of local warlords, with Zakimi Castle another well-preserved example dating from the early 1400s. On the west coast of the main island, it dominates a hill overlooking the town of Yomitan and its thick walls complement the curves of the coastline below.
The islands’ recent history is overshadowed by the brutal battles that took place here in 1945. The Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum opened in 1975 to give a fuller sense of the human tragedy. Built atop sea cliffs in the far south of the prefecture, on the site of the Imperial Japanese Army’s last stand, the museum’s gardens have rings of tall black stones bearing the names of each of the more than 250,000 men, women and children who died in the fighting here, regardless of nationality. A short walk away, along an avenue lined with memorials to the dead of each of Japan’s prefectures, is the tiny cave where the commanding officer of the defeated defenders committed suicide rather than surrender.
Peace has once more returned to Okinawa and for anyone in search of true tranquility, consider a trip to Iriomote, the second-largest of the islands. It is famous for its unspoiled natural environment and a unique species of wild cat.
Its sparse coastal communities are linked by a single road and the island’s interior is largely untouched — and protected as a national park. Visitors can explore by sea kayak, while a 20-km trail leads through the jungles of the interior and the mangrove swamps of the coast, all providing an enviable escape from the pace of modern city life.
New book tackles climate change for children launched in English and Arabic
Updated 08 December 2023
RIYADH: How do young people feel about climate change? That question is being posed through a new children's picture book, published to coincide with the launch of the climate change conference COP28 in Dubai.
The book, which is available in both English and Arabic, is called "Earth Champs," and it contains 44 diverse artworks made by youngsters aged 5-17 from around the globe.
“We wanted to convey a message about an important cause, like climate change, through art. We wanted to see how children view climate change and we were surprised with the results," Lateefa Alnuaimi, the Emirati founder of LFE Art Culture, the institution that supported the book’s creation, told Arab News. "They know what it’s about, but they don’t how to express it, so we gave them a paper and a pen, and of course, they drew. Each young person expressed what's inside of them."
To gather the work for the book, Alnuaimi put out an open call to international schools in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. She received nearly 1,500 entries. The selected pieces range from sculpture to photography and drawing. They depict animals and plants, as well as environments that are in danger. There are elements of both hope and concern.
“What shocked me was their way of thinking and how talented they are with the way they handle a paintbrush or a camera," Alnuaimi said. "They were professional, which indicates how educated they are."
Alnuaimi also mentioned that today's generation of children are more aware of the urgency of climate change.
“It was important to show people that children care about climate change. They’re not a silent voice — they 'spoke' about it through art,” she said.
Thirty copies of the book have already been privately gifted to UAE ministers and sheikhs. After COP28 ends on Dec. 12, Alnuaimi hopes to make "Earth Champs" available to purchase online and in shops. “It’s a book from the UAE to the world,” she said.
She also offered advice about how adults and educational institutions can encourage children in the region to look after the environment:
"It's important to host workshops on climate change, educate students to properly use electricity, and partake in campaigns of cleaning the ocean and the desert," she said.
Designer Stella McCartney talks sustainability, fashion and saving the planet at COP28 in Dubai
McCartney helms world’s first luxury house to never use animal leather, feathers, fur or skins
Briton calls for tighter government regulations, incentives for sustainable production
Updated 08 December 2023
Rebecca Anne Proctor
DUBAI: For more than two decades British designer Stella McCartney has been on a mission to produce her fashion line adhering to sustainable methods of production, to combat climate change and reduce the industry’s damaging effects on the planet.
McCartney helms the world’s first luxury house to never use animal leather, feathers, fur or skins. She also adopted extensive sustainability principles following the Livestock’s Long Shadow Report in 2006, which linked animal agriculture with climate harm.
Titled “Stella McCartney’s Sustainable Market: Innovating Tomorrow’s Solutions,” and running until the culmination of COP28 on Dec. 12, she is also hosting a space at the environmental conference in Dubai that presents highlights from her latest collection.
In addition, McCartney’s showcasing new breakthrough discoveries in regenerative agriculture, bio- and plant-based alternatives to plastic, animal leather and fur, and traditional fibers. Among these is a grape-based alternative to animal leather discovered in partnership with Veuve Clicquot, and the debut of the world’s first garments crafted from Protein Evolution’s biologically recycled and infinitely recyclable polyester.
“I am the first to say coming to COP28 is not the easy route; you need to have purpose and passion not only to get a seat at the table, but just to get heard at all,” the designer told Arab News. “Especially when you’re a woman. However, if I do not represent the industry at COP28, who will?”
“Fashion is not an island; our industry impacts everyone, everywhere,” she continued. “There are no laws or legalization that control how people are working. Every second, a truckful of fast fashion is burnt or sent to landfill.”
The fashion industry, according to the UN Environment Programme, is responsible for around 8 percent of all global carbon emissions.
Adding to the challenge of reducing its global greenhouse gas footprint is also the concern that the industry will grow due to increased consumption patterns and population.
“If we want to leave a better world for the next generation, we need to have a voice here calling for change — encouraging both private and public leaders to join us by investing in and incentivizing innovation, creating less and doing more with what we already have, and being kinder to our fellow creatures, humans and Mother Earth. We have to stay positive, and proactive,” she told Arab News.
McCartney attended COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, where she declared that the fashion industry was “getting away with murder” due to a lack of accountability and poor self-regulation.
How does McCartney believe change can take place?
“Governments and policymakers can start by putting tax breaks and benefits in place for more sustainable, circular and cruelty-free practices. We are penalized, not incentivized, to work with vegan alternatives to leather,” she explained. “We need government leaders who are brave enough to step up and say no to the powerful leather, fur and agricultural industries that are so afraid of our cruelty-free future,” she said.
“We need policy change, because fashion is one of the most harmful industries on the planet,” she declared. “I have never used leather or fur, but that is because I had the privilege of being raised by two vegetarians and animal rights activists. So, I self-police myself. Nobody else would do that. Governments need to step in and make it worthwhile for brands to do the same, or regulate them, because I can tell you after 22 years, it is not easy.”
McCartney has been advocating for governments to change the way they approach vegan alternatives, which is what she incorporates in her designs.
“Our cruelty-free innovations are often taxed 30 percent more than skins that come from animals. How disgusting is that?” she told Arab News.
“Animal agriculture (which is where leather comes from) is responsible for 80 percent of the Amazon’s deforested areas, which has a huge impact on biodiversity as well as the release and sequestering of greenhouse gases,” she added. “One billion animals die annually for leather, so one place the fashion industry could start is by stopping the use of leather.”
The designer’s latest collaboration with Veuve Clicquot serves as an example of what can happen when people from different industries, but with similar sustainable perspectives, come together to champion the same cause.
“We used the harvest by-product from Veuve Clicquot’s regeneratively grown, traceable grape harvest and innovated a new vegan alternative to leather that is on display here at my sustainable market,” she added. “Could you imagine 10 years ago saying that a champagne maison and a fashion house had come together to innovate a luxury material? Time is ticking towards 2030; this kind of outside-the-box thinking and collaboration is what we need more of not only at COP28, but everywhere,” she said.
International stars grace the red carpet at RSIFF’s closing ceremony
The winners of the Yusr Awards include director Farah Nabulsi, Saleh Bakri, Mouna Hawa, Zarrar Kahn’s film ‘In Flames’ and Tarsem Singh’s ‘Dear Jassi’
Updated 08 December 2023
Shyama Krishna Kumar
JEDDAH: The Red Sea International Film Festival hosted a glittering closing night gala with A-list stars posing on the red carpet in Jeddah.
The likes of Henry Golding, Gwyneth Paltrow, Halle Berry, Nicolas Cage, Adrien Brody and Andrew Garfield hit the red carpet, with “Crazy Rich Asians” star Golding telling Arab News “it only keeps getting better and better. I think it’s so smooth tonight and it’s just been magnificent to be on the red carpet here and share this space with Nicolas Cage, Baz Luhrmann and Frieda Pinto ... I feel very lucky.”
The festival wrapped up its third edition with a screening of “Ferrari,” a biopic directed by Michael Mann starring Adam Driver, Penelope Cruz, Shailene Woodley and Patrick Dempsey. Although Thursday night marked the closing ceremony and Yusr Awards, the festival will continue its slate of screenings until Dec. 9.
Mohammed Al-Turki, CEO of the Red Sea Film Foundation, previously spoke about “Ferrari” in a released statement, saying: “This exhilarating film has been close to the festival’s ‘heart,’ as it has been supported by our Red Sea International Film Financing, a vehicle for us to champion acclaimed storytellers and create the opportunity for cultural exchange. Michael Mann’s powerful film shows true craftsmanship and empathy for the ambitious genius behind one of the world’s most desired works of design.”
During the gala night, the festival unveiled this year’s Yusr Awards, which “recognize and celebrate boldness and innovation in film, awarding the biggest prizes in the region to both emerging and established voices across the formats of fiction, documentary, and animation,” as stated on the festival’s website.
Chairwoman of the foundation Jomana Al-Rashid took to the stage and said: “At the beginning of the festival, we aimed to achieve a set of goals: to bridge, to bind and to build. In bridging, this festival has demonstrated that language has never been a barrier, but a bond, and that cultures clash but converge.”
This year’s jury was presided over by director Baz Luhrmann, who was joined by Swedish American actor Joel Kinnaman (“Suicide Squad”); Freida Pinto (“Slumdog Millionaire”); Egyptian actor Amina Khalil (“Grand Hotel”) and Spain’s Paz Vega (“Sex and Lucía,” “The OA”).
The Red Sea International Film Festival kicked off on Nov. 30 with a gala screening of Dubai-based Iraqi director Yasir Al-Yasiri’s “HWJN,” which is based on a YA novel by Saudi writer Ibraheem Abbas. Set in modern-day Jeddah, “HWJN” follows the story of a kind-hearted jinn — an invisible entity in Islamic tradition — as he discovers the truth about his royal lineage.
The Red Sea International Film Festival features 11 categories of films: Special Screenings; Red Sea: Competition; Red Sea: Shorts Competition; Festival Favorites; Arab Spectacular; International Spectacular; New Saudi/ New Cinema: Shorts; Red Sea: New Vision; Red Sea: Families and Children; Red Sea: Series and Red Sea: Treasures.