Popular Saudi restaurant in London readies for Ramadan rush

Popular Saudi restaurant in London readies for Ramadan rush
Ayman Al-Zubaidi opened London’s only Saudi restaurant, Hijazi Corner, in 2023. (Supplied/Instagram)
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Updated 11 March 2024
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Popular Saudi restaurant in London readies for Ramadan rush

Popular Saudi restaurant in London readies for Ramadan rush

LONDON: As the sun sets over London’s Edgware Road during Ramadan, the UK capital’s famously Middle Eastern district bursts into life.

On the street’s busiest stretch, just off Marble Arch, the air is thick with cardamom and cumin as Ayman Al-Zubaidi cooks up comforting chicken seelag, slow-roasted lamb haneeth and delicate, flaky samboosek, using family recipes honed over decades.

This is Hijazi Corner, London’s only Saudi restaurant, where some of the city’s 1.3 million Muslims will break their fast during the Holy Month.

The restaurant, lined with thick carpets and ornate window panelling evoking the buildings of Jeddah’s Al-Balad historical district, is the only place in the UK capital where Saudis can find a taste of home this Ramadan.

Al-Zubaidi, who opened the restaurant in 2023 after seeing major word-of-mouth success among friends who ordered his dishes through Snapchat and Instagram, says he already has tables booked for the whole of March — with a roaring takeaway trade also keeping the kitchen busy.

“Lots of people want to eat here during Ramadan, and it’s not just Saudis,” he told Arab News.

The chef, who grew up in Jeddah before moving to the UK, shared his surprise at one of his earliest customers being English and turning up wearing a traditional thobe with his elderly parents and 15 friends in tow.

“He had explored towns and villages across Saudi Arabia and wanted to share our cuisine with all these people,” Al Zubaidi explained.

The restaurant owner said he expects that multicultural spirit to continue throughout Ramadan, when Muslims in London will break their fast between 6 p.m. and 6.30 p.m. for the first two weeks — although a change in the clocks for British Summer Time means iftar time will be pushed forward by an hour on the final day of March.

“When I first moved to the UK it was challenging because of the long summer nights,” he said. “We were sometimes fasting for 18 hours a day. But as the calendar moves back towards winter time, we are getting used to it.

Across town at Villa Mamas, the home-style Bahraini restaurant launched in Chelsea by chef Roaya Saleh in 2017, the dining room will be closed until iftar time during weekdays, but will be open all day as normal at the weekend to cater for those who are not fasting.

Vladislav Potehin, the restaurant’s deputy general manager, said he expects a busy brunch trade as usual on the weekends, with signature dishes like chicken tagine and muhallabia ever popular among locals who reserve tables weeks in advance.

Cultural understanding of the Holy Month in the UK capital has grown in recent years, with colourful lights wishing visitors a “Happy Ramadan” draped across the city’s West End for the second year in a row.

According to Layla Hassanali, the founder of Halal Girl About Town, a website dedicated to finding the best halal restaurants in London, restaurants have adapted their offerings too.

 “A decade ago, the trend was to have food at home with your family and going out wasn’t really the done thing,” she said.

“Over the years it’s gone from only halal restaurants offering a date to break your fast to restaurants going out of their way to provide a whole iftar menu during Ramadan.

“Restaurant owners across the board are finally acknowledging the large Muslim population in London and that’s something that’s great to see,” Hassanali added.


Saudi fashion star Nojoud Al-Rumaihi turns heads in Cannes 

Saudi fashion star Nojoud Al-Rumaihi turns heads in Cannes 
Updated 21 May 2024
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Saudi fashion star Nojoud Al-Rumaihi turns heads in Cannes 

Saudi fashion star Nojoud Al-Rumaihi turns heads in Cannes 

DUBA: Saudi fashion star Nojoud Al-Rumaihi turned heads this week at the 77th Cannes Film Festival, wearing a blush ensemble by Saudi designer Mohammed Ashi, founder of Paris-based label Ashi Studio. 

The pink two-piece set from the designer’s 8PM collection featured a strapless corset-style top with simple yet intricate embroidery, and a criss-cross back.

The skirt had a mermaid silhouette with a train that trailed on the red carpet. To complete the ensemble, the set included fluffy, feathered detached sleeves. 

The fashion icon, with her makeup done by Dior Beauty, styled her brunette locks in a short retro bob. She accessorized with Marli jewelry.

Al-Rumaihi attended the premiere of the highly-anticipated movie “The Apprentice,” directed by Ali Abbasi.

As Donald Trump’s hush money trial entered its sixth week in New York, an origin story for the Republican presidential candidate depicted a critical portrayal of the former president in the 1980s.

“The Apprentice” stars Sebastian Stan as Trump. The central relationship of the movie is between Trump and Roy Cohn (Jeremy Strong), the defense attorney who was chief counsel to Joseph McCarthy’s 1950s Senate investigations.

Cohn is depicted as a longtime mentor to Trump, coaching him in the ruthlessness of New York City politics and business. Early on, Cohn aided the Trump Organization when it was being sued by the US government for racial discrimination in housing.

According to AP, “The Apprentice” is a potentially explosive big-screen drama in the midst of the US presidential election. The film is for sale in Cannes, so does not yet have a release date.

She donned a long-sleeved dress adorned with white florals. (Getty Images)

Al-Rumaihi was not the only Saudi celebrity in Cannes this week. 

Actress Maria Bahrawi attended The Red Sea International Film Foundation Industry Networking Event which took place on Sunday, at which she donned a long-sleeved dress adorned with white florals, featuring pastel hues of purple, yellow, and orange, elegantly cinched at the waist.

She wore a black jumpsuit with a white cape attached to the sleeve, sourced from Dubai-based Etoile La Boutique. (Getty Images)

She also graced the celebration of “Norah,” a film in which she stars, hosted by Film AlUla during the festival. For the occasion, she opted for a black jumpsuit with a white cape attached to the sleeve, sourced from Dubai-based Etoile La Boutique.


Speakers, headliners pull out of UK’s Great Escape festival over Gaza

Speakers, headliners pull out of UK’s Great Escape festival over Gaza
Updated 21 May 2024
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Speakers, headliners pull out of UK’s Great Escape festival over Gaza

Speakers, headliners pull out of UK’s Great Escape festival over Gaza

DUBAI: Keynote speakers and headliners scheduled to take part in the UK’s annual Great Escape music festival in Brighton refused to appear at this year’s event due to the war in Gaza.  

According to The Guardian, numerous acts withdrew due to a pro-Palestinian boycott targeting the event’s sponsorship by Barclays Bank. Campaigners allege that Barclays has increased its investments in arms companies that trade with Israel.

Bands Boycott Barclays (BBB), the organization spearheading the campaign, asserted that the bank was engaged in “laundering its reputation” through its association with the music festival, a claim that Barclays refutes.

A BBB spokesperson told the BBC that 163 acts, four showcases and two venues had pulled out of the festival.

The Great Escape is an annual music festival held in Brighton, showcasing emerging artists from around the world. It features hundreds of performances across various venues, along with industry panels and networking opportunities.

It is the event that has been key in launching the careers of artists such as Stormzy, AlunaGeorge, Fat White Family and Anna Calvi.


Lyna Khoudri joins cast of Afghanistan evacuation drama

Lyna Khoudri joins cast of Afghanistan evacuation drama
Updated 21 May 2024
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Lyna Khoudri joins cast of Afghanistan evacuation drama

Lyna Khoudri joins cast of Afghanistan evacuation drama

DUBAI: French Algerian actress Lyna Khoudri has joined the cast of Martin Bourboulon’s Afghanistan evacuation drama “In The Hell Of Kabul: 13 Days, 13 Nights,” which began shooting in Morocco this week.

Khoudri was among two new cast members announced in a story published by Deadline — she joins Danish Bafta-winning “Borgen” star Sidse Babett Knudsen, Roschdy Zem (“Chocolat,” “Oh Mercy!”), and theater actor Christophe Montenez.

Set against US troops’ withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021, as the Taliban marches on Kabul, the film recounts the true story of French Commander Mohamed Bida who oversaw security at the French embassy, which was the last Western mission to remain open.

Lead star Roschdy Zem is a French actor and filmmaker of Moroccan descent. (Getty Images)

Commander Bida negotiated with the Taliban to organize an evacuation convoy with the help of Eva, a young French Afghan translator.

“This movie happens to be one of the most exciting challenges that has been offered to me. Firstly, there is this character based on a real-life person, whose fate intersects with history itself. Secondly, the context of fleeing your own country has left no one indifferent thus bringing us to a story within history, the one that we are interested in,” Zem said, according to Deadline.

“It tells us how, in the heart of a recent drama, a few individuals only listened to their courage to save what many would consider dear, with the feeling that they were only doing what seemed right to them. Heroes, as many would call them, because they retain the most essential quality: humanity,” he added.

The film marks a change for Bourboulon after period dramas “The Three Musketeers – Part II: Milady,” “The Three Musketeers – Part I: D’Artagnan” and “Eiffel.”

“13 Days 13 Nights is the breathtaking story of one of the most incredible exfiltration operations ever organized by France, as well as the story of men and women whose destinies have been shattered as they attempt to flee in order to survive… Roschdy Zem was an obvious choice for the role, having been associated with the project from the very beginning of the writing process,” said the director.

Khoudri, 31, first rose to prominence in her role as Nedjma in Mounia Meddour’s critically acclaimed drama “Papicha.” For her work in the film, she won the Orizzonti Award for best actress at the 74th Venice Film Festival, and she was nominated in the Cesar Awards’ most promising actress category.

Khoudri also starred in the 2019 mini-series “Les Sauvages” and in 2016’s “Blood on the Docks.”

Notably, she was cast in Wes Anderson’s 2021 comedy “The French Dispatch” alongside Timothee Chalamet, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, and Owen Wilson.


Jean Paul Gaultier names Ameni Esseibi as first regional ambassador for fragrance line

Jean Paul Gaultier names Ameni Esseibi as first regional ambassador for fragrance line
Updated 21 May 2024
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Jean Paul Gaultier names Ameni Esseibi as first regional ambassador for fragrance line

Jean Paul Gaultier names Ameni Esseibi as first regional ambassador for fragrance line

DUBAI: French luxury brand Jean Paul Gaultier has announced that Tunisian model Ameni Esseibi has been appointed as the first-ever regional ambassador for its fragrance line.

Esseibi, considered the first plus-size model in the Middle East, showcased the brand’s iconic Scandal perfume in the campaign images, donning a variety of ensembles.

 

 

Among them was a form-fitting blue dress adorned with pink floral designs. In another shot, she wore a jumpsuit in the same hue, featuring vibrant geometric prints in yellow, orange, purple and pink.

She also rocked a black gown, and a sheer beige and gold top layered elegantly over a simple black base.

Esseibi showcased the brand’s iconic Scandal perfume in the campaign images. (Supplied)

“Jean Paul Gaultier is more than just a brand to me,” Esseibi said in a statement. “It feels like family. Its identity embodies everything I stand for: Rebellion, strength, boldness, fearlessness, sensuality, and a touch of scandal.” 

“Growing up, Jean Paul Gaultier was my mother’s favorite fragrance, making it a cherished part of my life. I am deeply honored to make history as their first Arab ambassador in the region, and this brand will continue to be an enduring part of my career,” she added.

 

 

Esseibi made her international debut in September 2022 by walking for French label Victor Weinsanto at Paris Fashion Week.  

She then went on to work with a number of esteemed brands, including H&M, and has featured in the pages of multiple publications. 

 

 

In 2022, the Arab Fashion Council, a non-profit organization representing the fashion industry in the Middle East and North Africa, named the Dubai-based model as its ambassador.


Rami Kadi, Zuhair Murad designs shine on ‘The Apprentice’ red carpet in Cannes

Rami Kadi, Zuhair Murad designs shine on ‘The Apprentice’ red carpet in Cannes
Updated 21 May 2024
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Rami Kadi, Zuhair Murad designs shine on ‘The Apprentice’ red carpet in Cannes

Rami Kadi, Zuhair Murad designs shine on ‘The Apprentice’ red carpet in Cannes

DUBAI: Lebanese designers Rami Kadi and Zuhair Murad put on a show on the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival — their creations were worn by two Brazilian models during the highly anticipated premiere of “The Apprentice,” directed by Ali Abbasi.

Fashion influencer Maria Braz showcased a custom-made kaftan-style gown by Rami Kadi, cinched at the waist and adorned with sequins and feathers.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by MARIA BRAZ (@mariabbraz)

 

“Like an angel for Cannes Film Festival,” the blogger wrote on Instagram.

She accessorized her look with a diamond necklace and matching earrings from the Italian label Damiani.

On the same red carpet, Brazilian fashion model Thayna Soares wore a draped silk dress featuring an embroidered high-neck bodice and a thigh-high slit from Zuhair Murad’s Spring 2024 collection.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by MARIA BRAZ (@mariabbraz)

 

While Donald Trump’s hush money trial entered its sixth week in New York, an origin story for the Republican presidential candidate premiered at the festival on Monday, unveiling a scathing portrait of the former president in the 1980s.

“The Apprentice” stars Sebastian Stan as Trump. The central relationship of the movie is between Trump and Roy Cohn (Jeremy Strong), the defense attorney who was chief counsel to Joseph McCarthy’s 1950s Senate investigations.

 

 

Cohn is depicted as a longtime mentor to Trump, coaching him in the ruthlessness of New York City politics and business. Early on, Cohn aided the Trump Organization when it was being sued by the federal government for racial discrimination in housing.

“The Apprentice,” which is labeled as inspired by true events, portrays Trump’s dealings with Cohn as a Faustian bargain that guided his rise as a businessman and, later, as a politician. Stan’s Trump is initially a more naive real-estate striver, soon transformed by Cohn’s education, The Associated Press reported.

According to AP, “The Apprentice” a potentially explosive big-screen drama in the midst of the US presidential election. The film is for sale in Cannes, so it does not yet have a release date.