Saudi calligraphy maestro’s skills captivate festival visitors

Saudi calligrapher Siraj Al-Omari, who hails from Al-Namas city in Asir region, said the mountains and forests and the shapes and colors in nature inspire his work. (SPA)
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Saudi calligrapher Siraj Al-Omari, who hails from Al-Namas city in Asir region, said the mountains and forests and the shapes and colors in nature inspire his work. (SPA)
Saudi calligraphy maestro’s skills captivate festival visitors
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Saudi calligrapher Siraj Al-Omari, who hails from Al-Namas city in Asir region, said the mountains and forests and the shapes and colors in nature inspire his work. (SPA)
Saudi calligraphy maestro’s skills captivate festival visitors
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Saudi calligrapher Siraj Al-Omari, who hails from Al-Namas city in Asir region, said the mountains and forests and the shapes and colors in nature inspire his work. (SPA)
Saudi calligraphy maestro’s skills captivate festival visitors
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Saudi calligrapher Siraj Al-Omari, who hails from Al-Namas city in Asir region, said the mountains and forests and the shapes and colors in nature inspire his work. (SPA)
Saudi calligraphy maestro’s skills captivate festival visitors
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Saudi calligrapher Siraj Al-Omari, who hails from Al-Namas city in Asir region, said the mountains and forests and the shapes and colors in nature inspire his work. (SPA)
Saudi calligraphy maestro’s skills captivate festival visitors
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Saudi calligrapher Siraj Al-Omari, who hails from Al-Namas city in Asir region, said the mountains and forests and the shapes and colors in nature inspire his work. (SPA)
Saudi calligraphy maestro’s skills captivate festival visitors
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Saudi calligrapher Siraj Al-Omari, who hails from Al-Namas city in Asir region, said the mountains and forests and the shapes and colors in nature inspire his work. (SPA)
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Updated 31 December 2023
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Saudi calligraphy maestro’s skills captivate festival visitors

Saudi calligraphy maestro’s skills captivate festival visitors
  • Siraj Al-Omari is encouraging a new generation of Saudis to embrace the ancient art of writing

MAKKAH: Saudi calligrapher Siraj Al-Omari’s skills have captivated thousands as his style has impacted audiences “whether in the southern region, across the Kingdom, the Arab world and the entire globe.”

At the Al-Majaridah Winter Festival — taking place in the Al-Majaridah Governorate of the Asir region until Feb. 22 — Al-Omari is encouraging a new generation of Saudis to embrace the ancient art of writing.

Al-Omari highlighted the universal allure of Arabic calligraphy, transcending language barriers to captivate those who do not speak or understand Arabic.




Saudi calligrapher Siraj Al-Omari, who hails from Al-Namas city in Asir region, said the mountains and forests and the shapes and colors in nature inspire his work. (SPA)

He described its impact as beautiful and enchanting, adding that Arabic calligraphy is an art form governed by angles, points, and direction — a skill that requires learning rather than solely relying on innate talent.

“The foundations equally attract dedicated practitioners in Turkey, Persia and Kurdistan,” he said. Al-Omari gives live online tutorials to followers in Europe, North Africa, Pakistan and China.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Master calligrapher Siraj Al-Omari gives live online tutorials to followers in Europe, North Africa, Pakistan and China.

• A Parker 21 pen - gifted by his brother - opened up the world of calligraphy for Al-Omari.

• He received guidance from Mokhtar Alam, a renowned calligrapher celebrated for his work on the kiswa (covering) of the Kaaba.

• He is licensed in Diwani, Farisi and Jali Diwani styles.

Reflecting on his journey, Al-Omari told Arab News: “My connection with calligraphy predates formal education, with the first inklings of my bond with these beautiful letters emerging. I eagerly awaited my older brother’s return from school to appraise my scribbles.”

He fondly recalls the moment his passion for calligraphy was sparked at a young age. “One day, my older brother surprised me by gifting me a Parker 21 pen. It was the best gift I had ever received — my entry point into the world of calligraphy,” he said.




Saudi calligrapher Siraj Al-Omari, who hails from Al-Namas city in Asir region, said the mountains and forests and the shapes and colors in nature inspire his work. (SPA)

“With that pen, I could translate my fascination with letters into tangible works of beauty and precision. I loved that pen so much that I still have it to this day. It carries memories of childhood inspiration that set me on this path.”

Recalling the early stages of replicating characters from textbooks, Al-Omari underscored how this endeavor fortified his reading and writing skills. His pre-grade one immersion in calligraphy and achievement of complete literacy before starting formal education surprised teachers on his very first day of school.

I feel the talent I have does not belong to me but is a right for everyone to learn from and benefit.

Siraj Al-Omari, Saudi calligrapher

Al-Omari, who will soon turn 60, reminisced about his time in the fourth grade at Saad Ibn Abi Waqqas School in the village of Al-Muqbil. Teachers would ask him to inscribe notes in his elegant handwriting. Having mastered the graceful curves and dots of Arabic letters, his skill earned admiration and cemented his reputation as a model student.

The prominent calligrapher, who hails from Al-Namas city in Asir region, said the local environment of mountains and forests filled his imagination, adding that the interplay of shapes and colors in nature translated into creative inspiration. “When you live among valleys and mountains, you are prepared for writing and creativity,” he said.

Al-Omari added: “Drawing is an advanced art that must amaze others, and Arabic calligraphy serves as its foundation. The better the foundation, the better the calligraphy, leading to captivating artwork that resonates with others.”

His foray into professionalism took shape under the guidance of Mokhtar Alam, a renowned calligrapher celebrated for his work on the kiswa (covering) of the Kaaba.

Despite lacking formal education in calligraphy, Al-Omari’s encounter with Alam in Jazan left a lasting impact, fostering a strong bond.

Regular visits to Makkah and direct interactions with prominent calligraphers like Ibrahim Al-Iraqi and Nasser Al-Maymoun led to licenses in various calligraphy styles, namely Diwani, Farisi and Jali Diwani.

Rather than keep his rare gift to himself, Al-Omari’s calling has always been to share his talent without restraint. “I feel the talent I have does not belong to me but is a right for everyone to learn from and benefit,” he said.

Al-Omari sees Arabic calligraphy as a practice intertwined with excellence in language and academics. The dedication required to master calligraphy demands focus and artistic vision. “When you devote your life to calligraphy, you practice writing and thus excel in spelling,” he said.

 


KSrelief, WFP to support malnutrition treatment in Yemen

KSrelief, WFP to support malnutrition treatment in Yemen
Updated 7 sec ago
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KSrelief, WFP to support malnutrition treatment in Yemen

KSrelief, WFP to support malnutrition treatment in Yemen
  • Agreement allocates $4.85 million to treat malnutrition in children aged under five as well as pregnant and lactating women in Yemen
  • Agreement was signed by Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, adviser at the Royal Court and KSrelief’s supervisor general, and WFP Executive Director Cindy McCain

PARIS: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center signed a joint cooperation agreement with the World Food Programme allocating $4.85 million to treat malnutrition in children aged under five as well as pregnant and lactating women in Yemen.

The signing took place on the sidelines of the International Conference for Sudan and Neighboring Countries, which was organized by France and the EU in Paris.

The agreement was signed by Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, adviser at the Royal Court and KSrelief’s supervisor general, and WFP Executive Director Cindy McCain.

It aims to improve the nutritional situation for Yemen’s most impoverished people by providing supplements in targeted areas, benefiting 86,985 people.


Rare cameras reveal history of Saudi media at Hasma Museum in Tabuk

Rare cameras reveal history of Saudi media at Hasma Museum in Tabuk
Updated 39 min 6 sec ago
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Rare cameras reveal history of Saudi media at Hasma Museum in Tabuk

Rare cameras reveal history of Saudi media at Hasma Museum in Tabuk

RIYADH: A fine collection of rare cameras, print and audiovisual artifacts at the Hasma Museum in Tabuk offers visitors a unique experience.

Among items in the collection are vintage treasures such as old box cameras, 16 mm to 35 mm cinema cameras, underwater cameras, and flash cameras from 100 years ago.

The museum also has a display of historical audio and video equipment, while visitors can explore the earliest editions of local and other Arab newspapers.

Odeh Al-Atwi, who is from the Tabuk region, created the museum near the Hasma desert to offer a memorable experience to visitors.

Antique collector and museum owner Al-Atwi, telling the Saudi Press Agency of his journey to preserve these media artifacts in the museum, said: “It’s been a profound experience and a significant milestone in my life. The media plays a pivotal role in shaping social consciousness and documenting newsworthy events, particularly those that reverberate through the media landscape.”

Al-Atwi meticulously curated a remarkable collection of tools at his museum, providing visitors a captivating journey through the history of classic cameras, broadcast equipment, satellite linking machines and an array of visual and audio devices.

Each artifact, he said, acts as a window into the evolution of media technologies.

He expressed his gratitude to the Museum Commission for their encouragement in establishing the museum and their efforts in organizing the museum sector. Al-Atwi also acknowledged the support from the Saudi leadership, emphasizing their commitment to initiatives that benefit citizens and the nation.

The Ministry of Culture facilitates the endeavors of private museum owners by licensing their establishments through the Abdea platform. This initiative is an enabler for those in the museum sector, supporting its development and contributing to the realization of the cultural goals outlined in the Saudi Vision 2030.


Saudi Shoura Council speaker holds meetings during official trip to Jordan

Saudi Shoura Council speaker holds meetings during official trip to Jordan
Updated 17 April 2024
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Saudi Shoura Council speaker holds meetings during official trip to Jordan

Saudi Shoura Council speaker holds meetings during official trip to Jordan
  • Gatherings attended by several officials from the 2 sides

RIYADH: The Speaker of the Saudi Shoura Council Sheikh Abdullah Al-Sheikh met Jordanian Prime Minister Bisher Khasawneh on Wednesday as part of his official visit to Jordan, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The discussion emphasized the strong and deep-seated relations between Saudi Arabia and Jordan, highlighting their extensive coordination and cooperation across various sectors.

Both officials explored ways to enhance bilateral ties, with a particular focus on strengthening parliamentary relations.

Al-Sheikh also held discussions with Faisal Akef Al-Fayez, president of the Jordanian Senate, on the same day.

He highlighted Saudi Arabia’s rapid economic growth and development, attributing this progress to the leadership of the Kingdom.

Al-Sheikh expressed gratitude for Jordan’s unwavering support and spoke of the consistent backing the Kingdom has provided to Jordan.

The meeting also focused on ongoing cooperative efforts between the Shoura Council and the Jordanian Senate, along with discussions on various other subjects.

Both meetings were attended by several officials from the two sides.
 


Saudi artist embraces the unconventional with anti-aesthetic artworks

Saudi artist embraces the unconventional with anti-aesthetic artworks
Updated 17 April 2024
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Saudi artist embraces the unconventional with anti-aesthetic artworks

Saudi artist embraces the unconventional with anti-aesthetic artworks

RIYADH: In a world fixated on beauty and aesthetic perfection, Saudi artist Asrar Al-Qarni is boldly producing anti-aesthetic and unsettling art.

Through her work, the 33-year-old challenges traditional notions of beauty and protests conformity. She compels viewers to confront uncomfortable truths and explore darker aspects of society.

This unconventional approach to art can be seen as a romantic rebellion against society’s constraints, as well as a celebration of individuality and freedom of expression.

Al-Qarni told Arab News that anti-aesthetic art encourages people to look beyond the surface and find beauty in the unexpected and the unconventional. It seeks to disrupt the status quo and provoke thought and discussion about the nature of art itself: “Instead of being visually appealing and comforting, anti-aestheticism prioritizes evoking emotions and disturbing expression within the artwork,” the artist said.

This can lead to anti-aesthetic works being labeled ugly, jarring, or anti-art by those who prefer more aesthetically focused works.

By highlighting discord and dissonance in her paintings, Al-Qarni, a self-taught artist, creates a unique and thought-provoking experience for those who encounter her work. “Incorporating elements of chaos, ugliness and discomfort forces viewers to confront their preconceived notions about what art should be,” she added.

Al-Qarni became interested in anti-aesthetic art because of its raw human expression and beauty hidden by imperfections.

She uses bold colors and abstract shapes to create pieces that challenge viewers’ preconceptions and provoke a strong emotional response.

“I use various materials for my art, including mixed media, oil paint, acrylic paint and watercolor. My choice of materials depends on the specific technique or effect I want to achieve in my artwork,” Al-Qarni said.

By breaking free from the constraints of conventional beauty, the artist is pushing boundaries and inspiring others to think outside the box.

Al-Qarni said she cultivated her style through dedicated practice. She started copying and sketching cartoons from her favorite television shows as a child. “As I got older, I got into realistic portrait painting, trying to capture the world around me, but I soon realized that realism did not allow me to express my emotions deeply enough,” she added.

The Saudi artist eventually resorted to a more liberated method, allowing her to follow her instincts and let her brush strokes guide her: “When I hold the brush against the canvas, it becomes a way to quieten the noise of life and connect with my inner self, providing a source of relaxation and tranquility.”

The artist maintains a multi-purpose space where she paints, serving as both a studio and a cozy personal area.

“It is where I sleep, read and spend most of my time. Waking up surrounded by the creative mess of my art provides me with a sense of passion and inspiration to continue my artistic journey each day.”

Ten years ago, Al-Qarni decided to pursue art professionally, and she has not looked back since. Her work has been featured in galleries and exhibitions across Saudi Arabia, earning her recognition and acclaim from critics and audiences.

Al-Qarni’s first showing was in 2016 in Jeddah with Behance, the world’s largest network for showcasing and discovering creative work.

“Facing the audience, I received both compliments and critiques. The experience was helpful and encouraging, inspiring me to create more and improve my art,” she said.

She has taken part in several art exhibitions, such as the Misk Art Institute in 2019, which provides a platform for creative individuals to influence present-day discussions.

Al-Qarni also showcased her work at Grey Art Gallery in Alkhobar, and Zawaya Art Gallery and Sensation Art Gallery in Jeddah.

The artist gives each painting a title that reflects the overarching emotion or story behind the artwork. The title can be inspired by a novel, a song, or a personal experience related to the painting.

“How someone perceives and feels about a painting can vary depending on the person looking at it,” she added. “We all bring our own thoughts and experiences, which adds to the richness and meaning of any artist’s work.”

To aspiring artists who might be intimidated to share their artwork and innermost emotions with an audience, Al-Qarni preaches that the world needs art.

“Embrace the opportunity for growth and connect with other artists through feedback and experiences, and remember that every artist starts somewhere, and sharing your work is a step toward achieving your goals.” 


Stage is set for Saudi Arabia’s first Arabic grand opera

Stage is set for Saudi Arabia’s first Arabic grand opera
Updated 17 April 2024
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Stage is set for Saudi Arabia’s first Arabic grand opera

Stage is set for Saudi Arabia’s first Arabic grand opera
  • ‘Zarqa Al-Yamama’ aims to bring Saudi heritage to life and lead the way into a new cultural era in the Kingdom
  • Saudi singers Sawsan Al-Bahiti, Khayran Al-Zahrani and Reemaz Oqbi take on 3 key roles in the opera

RIYADH: With just a week to go, the stage is set for the eagerly anticipated first performance of “Zarqa Al-Yamama,” which organizers describe as the first grand Saudi opera in Arabic, at King Fahd Cultural Center in Riyadh on April 25.

The libretto will be sung in Arabic, which is rare in opera as the vast majority of works are performed in European languages. As such, the Kingdom’s Theater and Performing Arts Commission said the event, which takes place under the patronage of Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, marks a turning point in an increasingly vibrant Saudi cultural scene, given the high artistic value of opera and the interest of connoisseurs and audiences around the world in the art form.

“Zarqa Al-Yamama” is based on well-known sung poems and music inspired by the operatic tradition, together with elements of Saudi music. It tells the story of the legendary figure Zarqa Al-Yamama, who lived in the Al-Yamama region of Najd during the pre-Islamic era and is caught up in a dispute between her tribe and another that ends in tragedy.

The producers describe the opera as a poignant tragedy with breathtaking suspense, brought to life in a state-of-the-art theatrical production filled with sweeping orchestral movements and mesmerizing choral performances that deliver a unique cultural experience. 

Sawsan AlBahiti. (Supplied)

Sultan Al-Bazie, the CEO of the Theater and Performing Arts Commission, said the opera embodies well-established elements of Saudi heritage and presents a well-known story within a contemporary framework that reflects modern artistic trends and audience expectations.

It is a collaborative project featuring Saudi and international artists. Saudi poet Saleh Zamanan, who has received several local and international awards for his poetry and plays, wrote the words, inspired by the historical story of Zarqa and adding his own literary stamp.

Saudi artists Sawsan Al-Bahiti, Khayran Al-Zahrani and Reemaz Oqbi take on three key roles in the opera, which is a sign of the progress in the development of musical entertainment in the Kingdom.

“I will be performing the role of the bridesmaid, which is part of a major scene in the opera where the story takes a major turn to more thrilling events,” Al-Bahiti told Arab News.

Considered the first Saudi opera singer, she has been leading the way in the development of the Saudi opera scene and “Zarqa Al-Yamama” provides the latest showcase for her incredible vocal talent. She said the production is contemporary and innovative, and demonstrates a rich complexity that will captivate the audience.

“From the day I started training as an opera singer in 2008, I dreamed of an original Saudi opera production sung in Arabic,” said Al-Bahiti. “This day has finally come, and arrived sooner than I expected, which makes me even happier.”

Amid the rapid development and evolution of all forms of entertainment in Saudi Arabia in recent years, “Zarqa Al-Yamama” represents a significant step forward for opera in the Kingdom, and Al-Bahiti serves as a shining example of the growing opportunities as the art form continues to evolve and grow.

“Zarqa Al-Yamama” will run from April 25 until May 4, with 10 performances scheduled.