Frick Pittsburgh apologizes over mishandling of Islamic art exhibition as academics speak out  

Frick Pittsburgh apologizes over mishandling of Islamic art exhibition as academics speak out  
Frick Pittsburgh. (thefrickpittsburgh.com)
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Updated 15 November 2023
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Frick Pittsburgh apologizes over mishandling of Islamic art exhibition as academics speak out  

Frick Pittsburgh apologizes over mishandling of Islamic art exhibition as academics speak out  

LONDON: In a statement made last week, Elizabeth Barker, executive director of the Frick Pittsburgh, apologized for the offense caused by the reasons she initially gave for the postponement of an Islamic art exhibition at the renowned museum.

“My words gave the offensive and utterly wrong impression that I equated Islam with terrorism and that I saw Jews and Muslims — communities with millennia of peaceful interconnection — as fundamentally opposed,” she said in the statement.  

The announcement to postpone “Treasured Ornament: 10 Centuries of Islamic Art,” described by the museum’s press release as invoking “the rich history of the Islamic world and the shared human experiences that bind us,” was made 10 days after the Oct. 7 onset of the Israel-Hamas war.  




Raja Adal is the associate professor in the Department of History. (Supplied)

In an early statement, Barker had told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: “When war broke out in the Middle East, we were as heartbroken as everyone, and we realized that we were about to open an exhibition that a forgiving person would call insensitive, but for many people, especially in our community, would be traumatic.”  

She had also expressed concern over the safety of museum staff and a wish to better contextualize the exhibits and engage more fully with the local Muslim community.  

Members of the Jewish and Muslim communities in Pittsburgh were critical of her reasoning. 

Christine Mohamed, executive director of the Pittsburgh chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil rights group, said: “It’s disheartening to witness such insensitivity when blanket statements are made about an entire religion, particularly when they have the potential to incite harm in the Pittsburgh Muslim community.” 

Adam Hertzman of the Jewish Federation Greater Pittsburgh told Pittsburgh’s NPR News Station, WESA: “Equating Islamic art and Muslims in general with Hamas is certainly biased and is certainly something we’re against.”  

Arab News spoke to two academics from the University of Pittsburgh to get their perspective on the issues. 

Raja Adal, associate professor in the Department of History, said: “In some ways, the museum’s response was playing into the hands of extremists who want precisely this kind of division between what is Islamic Arab on the one hand and what is Jewish Israeli on the other. 




Yasmine Flodin-Ali is the assistant professor in the Department of Religious Studies. (Supplied)

“An exhibition like this is an opportunity to push back against extremists who are creating this violence. The solution to this conflict will certainly not be military, but it’s probably not just political either. A lasting solution requires us to stake out ground for mutual understanding and appreciation of each other’s humanity. Discovering each other’s humanity through knowledge or beauty matters. For somebody who has grown up on one side of this conflict, seeing beauty on the other side can be transformative.” 

He takes some positives from the discourse that has developed: “I think the museum director has gone through a whole learning process, and it is a forthright apology.”  

Yasmine Flodin-Ali, assistant professor in the Department of Religious Studies, told Arab News she had been very surprised at the announcement to postpone the exhibition. 

“The event was already being advertised in early September when I started here as new faculty, and I was planning on giving it as an extra credit opportunity for my students. I teach ‘Introduction to Islam,’ and at the end of my course this semester, we have a whole week where we talk about Islamic art. 

“When the exhibition suddenly disappeared from the website without explanation, it was very strange. I called the museum because I had a feeling that unfortunately this was related to the war.” 

She was told it was simply a question of scheduling conflicts. 

When she subsequently read the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review article, she said she was upset because the postponement was being linked to the Israel-Hamas war and the fifth anniversary of the 2018 Tree of Life synagogue mass shooting tragedy, in which a Pennsylvania man with white supremacist, anti-Semitic and bigoted views shot 11 congregants at the synagogue in Pittsburgh, critically wounding two others and injuring five responding police officers. 

“The thing that was sad about that was that part of the reason why the shooter targeted the synagogue was because it did a lot of refugee assistance, including refugees mostly from Muslim countries. I heard that the community really rallied together, and a lot of local mosques raised money for the synagogue. It was a time of togetherness,” Flodin-Ali said.

“It was also offensive because it made it seem as though the Jewish community in Pittsburgh would be offended by art, which I don’t think is the case. So far, I haven’t found any evidence for anyone asking them not to put the exhibition on. There was a lot of pushback and a petition that went around. 

“But I appreciate their (the museum’s) latest statement. I am glad that they are bringing it back next August and that they finally arrived where they did. But to be honest, I think it was because of public pressure.”  


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.