‘We want to make great Saudi television,’ says ‘Crashing Eid’ creator Nora Aboushousha

‘We want to make great Saudi television,’ says ‘Crashing Eid’ creator Nora Aboushousha
Saudi filmmaker Nora Aboushousha created 'Crashing Eid' for Netflix. (Supplied)
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Updated 05 October 2023
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‘We want to make great Saudi television,’ says ‘Crashing Eid’ creator Nora Aboushousha

‘We want to make great Saudi television,’ says ‘Crashing Eid’ creator Nora Aboushousha
  • The Saudi filmmaker discusses her new Netflix comedy-drama, ‘Crashing Eid’

DUBAI: If there’s one common thread among the numerous creative endeavors of Saudi Arabia’s new wave of art, it’s that there’s no one way to define the Saudi experience. Take, “Crashing Eid,” the Kingdom’s first female-led Netflix original series, for example. The trailer has already generated fierce debate ahead of the show’s October 19 release thanks to its atypical narrative that tackles societal romantic taboos head on. Some have commented that the show does not represent all Saudi women — but, as its creator Saudi filmmaker Nora Aboushousha explains, it was never intended to. Rather, the irreverent and heartfelt comedy’s singular nature is precisely the point.  

“Our show does not represent every Saudi voice. It represents one Saudi voice. From the start, that was our guiding principle,” Aboushousha tells Arab News. “When we began writing, we had to accept that this story and its characters do not exemplify every person in Saudi Arabia. Razan, our lead character, is not a stand-in for every Saudi woman, and her family members are also not an encapsulation of all Saudi families. These people, their boundaries, their cultural and social beliefs are their own.” 

Razan is certainly unlike any lead character we’ve met before in Saudi fiction. She’s a single mother living in London with her teenage daughter. In the show’s opening scene, she proposes marriage to a British-Pakistani man she is friends with, and quickly learns, as she returns home to Jeddah for Eid al-Fitr celebrations, that her family does not approve of the pairing. The conflict only worsens when the man himself flies to Saudi Arabia to join the festivities.




Noura Aboushousha on set. (Supplied) 

For Aboushousha, capturing an atypical Saudi family in the midst of perhaps the biggest internal conflict of their lives was informed both by real life and, more importantly, the history of television. Great stories often make audiences feel seen, but comedy is a different beast. When the goal is to make the audience laugh, characters often can’t act like a ‘normal’ person, nor do everyday scenarios always work. The best comedic characters are unique — that’s what makes them memorable. In Aboushousha’s view, there’s no better way to immerse yourself in the life of someone entirely unlike you than through comedy.  

“Some people will feel all of this is similar to them, but other people won’t, and that’s exactly how we want it,” she says. “We want to make great Saudi television, and sometimes you don’t want to watch someone who is like you — you want to discover something different. If you find our series relatable, it’s there for you too, but great Saudi television needs to entertain everyone, not represent everyone.” 

Jeddah-born Aboushousha is a rising star in the Kingdom, with her one-location lockdown crime series “Rahin Altaqiq” and dramedy about rebellious young Saudi women “Confessions” both becoming viral hits over the last few years. The writer-director is no stranger to pushing boundaries; her short film about oft-ignored mental health struggles, “Lucky You Are Mine,” won a production grant from the Saudi Film Commission before debuting at the 2022 Red Sea International Film Festival in her hometown to strong acclaim. That short has since caught the eye of Netflix, which will grant it a worldwide release on the platform this month ahead of the “Crashing Eid” premiere.  




A still from 'Crashing Eid.' (Supplied)

The idea for “Crashing Eid” began as a creative exercise. She and her writing partner Ali Alatta had heard that Netflix was looking for something similar to a number of the shows they’d already produced, and when analyzing them, she realized they often had one common thread: “A person who was different from their family,” she explains.  

“That’s all we had to work with. So we began discussing it, and Ali started using me as an example. He said to me, ‘I feel your own family is a bit worried about what you’re going to do next, Nora. So let’s base this on a character like you, a single mother.’ I don’t think my family is like that, but we carried on anyway,” Aboushousha says with a laugh.  

“Soon, the idea became 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,” she continues.  

While the show’s comedic nature meant that situations and characters would be drawn to extremes, Aboushousha still wanted the show to feel grounded in real human experience. So she began meeting with couples and interviewing them about their lives in order to hear real stories and observe actual dynamics so that she could better inform the work.  

“We met with a lot of Saudi women who had married into a different culture. For a lot of these women, trying to convince their families to accept a person they didn’t want was not funny for them at the time — there were a lot of tears. But, for most of them, just like with any situation, you can laugh about certain aspects with time,” says Aboushousha. “We were definitely inspired by those conversations. One woman, for example, told us that her father assumed the man was a spy because he was a foreigner who spoke Arabic, which we had to include because we thought it was really funny. 

“So it all started off as a person who’s similar to me, but that only lasted for a week or two. Quickly, when we combined that with the interviews and started thinking about how to make it more entertaining, the character took on a life of her own, with different layers being added. The first layer would be based on something real — a true story or a personality trait — and then you start adding layers of fiction to suit the material, and then the actors come in and breathe life into them and that adds layers as well,” she continues. 

Ultimately, while reality did inform Aboushousha and her collaborators, what was most important was making the show as good as possible. She studied the scripts of shows such as HBO’s massive hit “The White Lotus” and the hit Ben Stiller comedy “Meet the Parents” and tried to make sure that each scene matched that level. After all, as Saudi films and television shows hit the world stage it’s important not only to communicate the intricacies of Saudi social dynamics to the world but also to raise Saudi content to global standards. 

“At the end of the day, we had to make sure that all of this was making not just us laugh, but all of our friends and families — everyone we know,” says Aboushousha. “Throughout this whole process, we really just worked tirelessly to ensure that we had something that was good.” 

 


Brazil’s Foz do Iguacu, Jordan’s Petra become sister cities

Brazil’s Foz do Iguacu, Jordan’s Petra become sister cities
Updated 01 March 2024
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Brazil’s Foz do Iguacu, Jordan’s Petra become sister cities

Brazil’s Foz do Iguacu, Jordan’s Petra become sister cities
  • This year is 65th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two countries
  • Mayor: Brazil seeks to ‘strengthen commercial, cultural, friendship relations’ with Arab states

SAO PAULO: Foz do Iguacu in Brazil and Petra in Jordan officially became sister cities this week.
A memorandum of understanding was signed by Foz do Iguacu’s Mayor Chico Brasileiro and Maen Masadeh, Jordan’s ambassador to Brazil.
The ceremony took place at the Palacio Cataratas, the city hall headquarters in Foz do Iguacu.
The MoU consolidates a partnership that promises to strengthen cooperation in various areas such as culture, local economic development, public services and social policies.
“In 2024, we celebrate 65 years of diplomatic relations between Brazil and Jordan, and signing this document … means that we (Foz do Iguacu and Petra) are aligned with foreign policy,” Masadeh said.
The process began in 2018 when the Foz do Iguacu city hall expressed its interest in establishing ties with Petra, recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Wonders of the World.
Foz do Iguacu has one of the seven Natural Wonders, the Iguacu Falls, and one of the Wonders of the World, the Itaipu Dam.
“We are very excited about this partnership,” Brasileiro said at the signing ceremony. “This is a strategy of Brazil, to … strengthen its commercial, cultural and friendship relations with Arab countries.”
The first concrete step toward implementing the MoU took place on Thursday with the opening of the exhibition “City of Petra, Jordan” at the Cultural Foundation in Foz do Iguacu.
The free exhibition, which will continue until the end of March, portrays the historical and archaeological richness of Petra in southern Jordan, with stunning images, authentic artifacts and detailed information.
“The presence of this exhibition in our city is not only a celebration of the history and beauty of Petra, but also a bridge that connects our communities in a special way,” said Juca Rodrigues, president of the foundation.
“Cultural diversity is a treasure that should be shared and appreciated by all, and this exhibition is a crucial step in that direction.”
Jihad Abu Ali, director of international affairs in Foz do Iguacu, said: “This is a moment of joy and fulfillment, as we see the materialization of the fruit of a collective effort to promote cultural understanding and friendship between our communities.”


AlUla gets its very first global campaign, ‘Forever Revitalising’

AlUla gets its very first global campaign, ‘Forever Revitalising’
Updated 01 March 2024
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AlUla gets its very first global campaign, ‘Forever Revitalising’

AlUla gets its very first global campaign, ‘Forever Revitalising’

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s ancient city of AlUla is launching its first-ever global marketing campaign.

Revealed on Feb. 29 with launch events in six major international cities — Dubai, London, New York, Paris, Shanghai and Mumbai — “Forever Revitalizing” is being described as a “data-driven endeavor” that aims to redefine tourism in the region.

Melanie D’Souza, executive director of destination marketing at The Royal Commission for AlUla, described the new brand campaign as a “transformative moment” for AlUla as it looks beyond the historic site’s travel potential to spotlight the programs and initiatives designed to “create a better future for all those who live, work and visit our ancient oasis.

“This initiative redefines AlUla as more than just a travel destination by emphasizing its profound heritage, breathtaking landscapes and rich cultural tapestry, presenting a holistic view that transcends the conventional,” she told Arab News in an email interview.

As AlUla’s first-ever global marketing campaign, “Forever Revitalizing” has been launched with the goal of transforming the city into a world-renowned heritage and cultural destination.

“At its core, ‘Forever Revitalising’ aims to drive visitor numbers and spur economic prosperity by showcasing AlUla’s comprehensive revitalization efforts. From ecological restoration projects within nature reserves to the rejuvenation of age-old crafts and traditions, and the advancement of local skills and cultural enrichment, the campaign positions AlUla as a pioneering figure in the creation of an experience-driven economy,” said D’Souza.

AlUla Old Town. (Supplied)

The new campaign coincides with a significant increase in visitor numbers to AlUla, rising from 185,000 in 2022 to 263,000 last year, she added.

Additionally, the share of international visitors increased from 25 percent to 35 percent, reflecting the destination’s growing global appeal.

“This aligns with AlUla’s strategic vision for ‘light touch tourism,’ aiming to attract 1.1 million visitors by 2030, while steadfastly maintaining its commitment to sustainability and preserving the destination’s integrity,” she said.

Hegra AlUla. (Supplied)

The campaign is specifically targeting four kinds of travelers: The luxe seeker, wanderlust nomad, intrepid voyager, and affluent and active retirees. This highlights AlUla’s amibition to remain a luxury destination.

“Modern tourists, increasingly disillusioned with overcrowded and inauthentic destinations, seek authentic, meaningful connections. They prefer destinations that offer a genuine sense of place, sustainability and social responsibility — qualities that AlUla has been promoting since opening its doors to the world three years ago,” said D’Souza.

The recently opened Dar Tantora The House Hotel in AlUla Old Town is a promising new addition to the area, D’Souza said.

The hotel was designed by Egyptian architect Shahira Fahmy.

Fahmy, who was selected by The Royal Commission for AlUla, and her team restored 30 buildings in the historical village. They turned multiple old two-story mud-brick buildings into the boutique hotel.  

The architect previously told Arab News that the early inhabitants in the city used the ground floor as a workplace and to meet with family and friends, while the first floor was for bedrooms and bathrooms.  

People who lived in the city 800 years ago whitewashed the interior walls and adorned them with red and blue murals, Fahmy said. Her team managed to preserve the existing designs in collaboration with the archaeological team. 

Banyan Tree Resort AlUla Canyon Pool. (Supplied)

“This boutique hotel revitalizes the ancient mud-brick structures of Old Town, which was continuously inhabited since the 12th century until the 1980s. It stands out for its commitment to cultural preservation, employing local artisans for restoration efforts and showcasing the area’s rich heritage through traditional decor, furniture and artistic treatments, complemented by storytelling elements that bring the intangible heritage of the area to life,” she added.

Looking ahead, three new luxury hotels are all set to open in AlUla.

“The Sharaan Resort by Jean Nouvel, inspired by ancient Nabataean architecture, promises to blend seamlessly with the Sharaan Nature Reserve’s landscape, embodying innovative design while respecting the environment,” said D’Souza.

“The Chedi Hegra is another milestone, positioned within Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hegra. Opening in mid-2024, it will offer guests unparalleled access to the historic site, featuring guest rooms with views of Hegra’s monumental landscape, an International Summit Center, hospitality pavilions and private villas,” she added.

In 2027, AlUla will welcome the AZULIK AlUla Resort. “This project, a collaboration between AZULIK and Roth Architecture, will be located in the Nabatean Horizon District, integrating design elements that highlight ancient rock art, utilize natural waterways for irrigation and promote eco-friendly transport to minimize environmental impact,” said D’Souza.


British e-tailer unveils modest fashions for Ramadan by global designers

British e-tailer unveils modest fashions for Ramadan by global designers
Updated 01 March 2024
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British e-tailer unveils modest fashions for Ramadan by global designers

British e-tailer unveils modest fashions for Ramadan by global designers
  • Creations of 30 regional and international designers will be available until the end of April

DUBAI: British luxury e-tail platform Farfetch has unveiled a modest-wear fashion campaign for Ramadan by 30 regional and international designers, which will be available until the end of April.

Beyond ready-to-wear garments, the exclusive collections also have fine jewelry, footwear and homeware.

The participating labels include Dubai-based brands Bambah, Baruni and Dina Melwani, Italian label Brunello Cucinelli, Swiss jewelry brand Chopard, South African British label De Beers, Lebanese brands Jean Louis Sabaji, Saiid Kobeisy and Rayane Bacha, Italian fashion house Missoni, Turkish label Les Ottomans, British label Malone, Budapest-based fashion house Nanushka, Amsterdam-based brand Polspotten, Australian label Rachel Gilbert, New York-based Sachin & Babi, Emirati label Shatha Essa and British brand Yoko London.

Gaby Charbachy, Isabel Marant. (Supplied)

From impeccably tailored suits to striking kaftans, modest evening dresses to luxurious loungewear, the collections cater to various tastes and occasions, with a focus on the social aspect of the month of Ramadan.

Egyptian designer Maha Abdul Rasheed, founder of Bambah, told Arab News: “We are so proud to be partnering with Farfetch once again for this year’s modest-wear campaign. The marketplace business model is diverse, efficient and helps us work at a sustainable pace.”

Bambah. (Supplied)

“The platform itself is also very technologically advanced which helps us streamline operations and logistics in a timely manner,” she added.

From glamorous evening gowns adorned with elaborate embellishments to chic separates with a modern twist, Bambah ensembles work well for a formal sahoor gathering.

Shatha Essa. (Supplied)

Emirati designer Essa said the inspiration for her capsule collection “draws from the intricate interplay of nature’s subtleties, reimagined through an abstract lens, emphasizing the brand’s commitment to innovation and luxury.”

She added that Farfetch has been “a gate to the world for Shatha Essa.”

“(It is) an invaluable platform to showcase our collections,” the Dubai-based contemporary womenswear expert told Arab News. “The platform has significantly amplified our reach, enabling our unique and traditional designs to touch a wider, discerning audience.”

Essa’s collections often feature luxurious fabrics, intricate embroidery and embellishments. Whether it is a flowing abaya, a structured blazer, or a statement dress, Essa’s designs blend traditional elements with contemporary silhouettes.


Saudi fashion shines at Paris Fashion Week: 16 designers showcase latest collections

Saudi fashion shines at Paris Fashion Week: 16 designers showcase latest collections
Updated 01 March 2024
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Saudi fashion shines at Paris Fashion Week: 16 designers showcase latest collections

Saudi fashion shines at Paris Fashion Week: 16 designers showcase latest collections

DUBAI: Sixteen Saudi fashion designers are showing off their latest collections at an international wholesale exhibition during Paris Fashion Week.

The Saudi 100 Brands showcase, which runs until March 2, is an initiative spearheaded by the Saudi Fashion Commission and aims to position Saudi designers and brands within the global fashion landscape.

Karen Wazen at the showcase. (Supplied)

This season’s presentation features all-women-owned and led brands.

The festivities are taking place at the historic Les Cordeliers, coinciding with the women’s segment of Paris Fashion Week.

The participating brands include The Dropped Collection. (Supplied)

“The event includes fashion shows and celebratory gatherings, highlighting the cultural richness and creative prowess of Saudi fashion,” a statement from the Saudi Fashion Commission read.

The participating designers include Mona Alshebil, Apoa, Ashwaq Almarshad, Chador, Charmaleena, Dazluq, Kaf by Kaf, Mashael Al-Faris, MD29, Abadia, Pavone, RMRM, Samar Nasraldin, The Dropped Collection, Yasmina Q and Yataghan Jewellery.


Georgina Rodriguez stars in new campaign for Arab lenses brand

Georgina Rodriguez stars in new campaign for Arab lenses brand
Updated 01 March 2024
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Georgina Rodriguez stars in new campaign for Arab lenses brand

Georgina Rodriguez stars in new campaign for Arab lenses brand

DUBAI: Argentine model Georgina Rodriguez is starring in another campaign for Arab brand Amara Lenses, whose products are available in the Gulf region.

In the short clip, posted on the brand’s Instagram page on Thursday, the Netflix star was spotted sporting the company’s brown and grey lenses.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Amara Lenses (@amaralenses)

In one shot, she was seen wearing face accessories inspired by the Gulf region’s burqa.  

“Introducing our latest collection in collaboration with Georgina Rodriguez,” the brand captioned the post on Instagram.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Amara Lenses (@amaralenses)

Rodriguez, who is now based in Saudi Arabia with her partner Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo and their children, was named the brand ambassador in March 2023.

“I’m so happy to be the face of Amara Lenses and it’s been wonderful to work with you,” she said in a video shared on the brand’s Instagram page at the time.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Amara Lenses (@amaralenses)

Amara Lenses has previously collaborated with regional influencers including Saudi Arabian makeup artist Shouq Artist, Kuwaiti fashion blogger Fouz Al-Fahad, Bahraini content creator Zainab Al-Alwan, Kuwaiti influencer Fatima Al-Momen, and Egyptian actress Nour Ghandou.

The Arab brand sells lenses in various shades of grey, brown, green and blue.