Saudi creative brings her late mother’s cooking to life

Waad Janbi’s animated short ‘Mom’s Spaghetti’ depicts a grieving teenage boy’s quest recreate a beloved dish his mother used to prepare for him. (Supplied)
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Waad Janbi’s animated short ‘Mom’s Spaghetti’ depicts a grieving teenage boy’s quest recreate a beloved dish his mother used to prepare for him. (Supplied)
Saudi creative brings her late mother’s cooking to life
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Waad Janbi’s animated short ‘Mom’s Spaghetti’ depicts a grieving teenage boy’s quest recreate a beloved dish his mother used to prepare for him. (Supplied)
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Updated 29 March 2024
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Saudi creative brings her late mother’s cooking to life

Saudi creative brings her late mother’s cooking to life
  • Waad Janbi’s ‘Mom’s Spaghetti’ aired on MBC Academy, portrays the love language of food

DHAHRAN: In Waad Janbi’s new animated short film, “Mom’s Spaghetti,” which aired this week on MBC Academy, the Saudi creative serves the audience a universal story of overcoming grief after the loss of a loved one, and the importance of feeding your soul — and your stomach.

The animated short follows 14-year-old Amjad as he awkwardly — and delicately — navigates dealing with the loss of his mother by attempting to recreate a beloved dish she used to prepare for him.

The story starts on the first day of Ramadan and he is seen playing ball in front of his home. He interrupts the game when his grandmother gently pokes her head out from the window overlooking the street and tells him to take it easy since it is the first day of fasting in the holy month. He tells his friends he needs to step inside to help his grandmother and cheerfully goes in to support her.




Waad Janbi’s animated short ‘Mom’s Spaghetti’ depicts a grieving teenage boy’s quest recreate a beloved dish his mother used to prepare for him. (Supplied)

Inside, the mood is somber. His father and sister also live with them. They break their fast mostly in silence.

For the next several days, along with his sister and grandmother, he attempts to re-create the favorite spaghetti dish that his mother used to make. They fail. Until one day, Amjad finds a blue notebook with drawings on the cover. It is his mother’s recipe book tucked away in a drawer. They try again. And again. Until one day, it smells and looks the way his mother used to make. Tears fill his eyes as he, and his family, enjoy the dish that their beloved mother used to serve them.

Janbi, who is a filmmaker and writer raised in Makkah and educated in the US, used some of her family’s real story sprinkled into this fictional narrative.

“The real inspiration came from my younger brother, Hamza. When our mother died, he was very athletic so she would prepare vegetables for him — healthy things. Right before she died, she told him that she made him something that she saved in the oven for him. ‘I kept it for you,’ she said,” Janbi told Arab News.




Waad Janbi, Saudi creative

But then she died and the household was overcome with grief. During the funeral, the dish was forgotten. Eventually, Hamza went looking for it and realized that it was gone.

“It likely went bad and someone threw it out while they were cleaning. Hamza was really sad about it, sad how the last thing our mother made for him, he couldn’t taste. So, when I wrote the story, I had him in my mind. This was the last act of love that she made but he couldn’t eat that last dish. That last serving of love was untouched,” Janbi said.

The way mama showed love and what she was most proud of was food.

Waad Janbi, Saudi creative

“Mama was a phenomenal cook. She was famous for her macarona bechamel. Our relatives would flock over just to taste her food. But I guess many don’t make that normally during Ramadan so I switched it the more widely known spaghetti,” she said.

The title was inspired by an unlikely source: the US rapper Eminem, who was popular during Janbi’s youth. In his debut, and critically acclaimeded film, “8 mile,” he famously rapped a lyric where he says: “Mom’s spaghetti.” Janbi, who uses humor to cope with grief, decided to use it.




Waad Janbi’s animated short ‘Mom’s Spaghetti’ depicts a grieving teenage boy’s quest recreate a beloved dish his mother used to prepare for him. (Supplied)

“I was being playful with the title. Eminem wasn’t ashamed of his anger, he turned it into art. And, although I’m aware that he was problematic during different times, he was a poet and that line stuck with me and it would make me snicker to myself each time I heard someone mention ‘Mom’s spaghetti’ in my short film’s title,” she said.

This film is a love letter to all the things that inspired Janbi rolled into one.

In the Janbi household growing up, they would watch MBC on the screen while preparing the food and then switch to live footage of the Haram right before Maghreb.

Fast-forward to years later, Janbi enrolled in MBC Academy’s first online cohort dedicated to screenwriting. She then took a more advanced screenwriting course and did on-site training in Dubai. Through a group chat, mentors at MBC Academy encouraged former participants to write and pitch an episode as part of a series that would air during Ramadan. They were told that seven episodes would be selected.

Janbi felt the pull of her mother and was able to scramble together her story in the nick of time. Like her mother, she used a bit of this, a dash of that, and was able to produce a story that she shared with the committee. Her story was selected and was released as the second of the seven stories.

It was important for her to write it from the point of view of a Saudi teen boy, in order to subtly shift the conversation.

“In the story, the boy was trying to learn basic skills, to feed himself and his family. I grew up with very strict rules about gender roles; me as a girl, I’d have to help with the kitchen and my brother had to help feed those fasting with father. I began to understand the pressures my brother had and wanted to let Saudi boys know that they should be active in their own lives. Helping in the kitchen is good, helping your grandmother is good. And they should learn how to feed themselves!” she said.

While food is vital to survival, certain dishes can truly make you feel alive. With curated ingredients and specific spices and herbs mixed just right, that culinary journey can turn that spoon or fork into a sort of time machine. It can bring you back to simpler times.

Janbi’s older sisters still have some of the handwritten recipes that their mother scribbled in loose notebook papers, each fragmented page tells a story of a time long gone but also serves as a treasure map to revive that magic.

“The way mama showed love and what she was most proud of was food. She would never hug us or kiss us or say ‘I love you,’ but she would lovingly prepare the dish you loved and that was her love language,” Janbi said.

Janbi was overwhelmed by the positive reception after her episode aired. Her friends flooded her inbox and tagged her on social media, praising the story that resonated deeply with viewers of all backgrounds. The storytelling was layered and complex but told in a clear way.

“Usually the artist is never satisfied with the final draft but I was happy with the way that the MBC Academy team was able to bring it to life, even though they modified some things and left things out that I was slightly upset about, like in my vision, the mother had different hair … but I also understood their decision,” she said.

Janbi especially wanted to thank MBC Academy’s Munira Altheeb, assistant project manager at MBC Academy Middle East, for her support.

But, most importantly, her family understood what she was trying to achieve. She had told her siblings about the story before it came out and when it was ready, they all watched it. Her brother, the one that inspired the story, was excited. Her older sisters cried. Her youngest sibling, a sister, was slightly upset that the story didn’t seem to include her.

“I told my little sister, ‘Don’t worry, the next film I write will feature a story from your point-of-view,’” Janbi said.

To this day, Janbi’s family have not yet perfected their mother’s green beans with shrimps dish, her favorite. But they will keep on trying.

And Janbi will keep on typing.

The short animated film, which runs just under 10 minutes, can be viewed on MBC Academy’s YouTube channel.

 


Hajj pilgrims arrive in Arafat, attend annual sermon

Hajj pilgrims arrive in Arafat, attend annual sermon
Updated 11 sec ago
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Hajj pilgrims arrive in Arafat, attend annual sermon

Hajj pilgrims arrive in Arafat, attend annual sermon

ARAFAT: Amid strict security and health measures, this year’s Hajj pilgrims arrived in Arafat early Saturday morning, the ninth day of Dul Hijjah, and attended the annual Hajj sermon at Namirah Mosque.

As the sun rose, pilgrims camping in the tent city of Mina performed dawn prayers, then began their journey to Arafat, where Prophet Muhammad gave his final sermon more than 144 decades ago. On Saturday, one could hear nothing louder than the crowd chanting supplications.

Ansarul-Haq Rasheed, a 63-year-old Indonesian pilgrim, expressed a heartfelt desire to pray to Allah for as long as possible.

“I wish time could pause so I could continue praying to Allah with all my heart,” he told Arab News. “These moments are unforgettable. I want to lay bare all my emotions to my creator, who knows everything. I seek His blessings for my needs in this life and the hereafter.”

Reflecting on the pilgrimage experience, he expressed gratitude for the services provided to pilgrims. He compared it with stories he had been told of his late father’s Hajj, some 45 years ago. “My mother shared the hardships my father faced during Hajj; I wish he could see how much more comfortable Hajj has become,” Rasheed said. 

Meanwhile, 49-year-old Khadija Yakoubi, a Moroccan pilgrim, anticipated a transformative experience from his pilgrimage.

“When all sins are forgiven, life inevitably changes for the better, leading to a renewed enjoyment. This feeling motivates pilgrims to continue doing good throughout their lives,” Yakoubi said, adding that the services pilgrims have received at the holy sites have been “exemplary.”

The Day of Arafat is the most important part of the Hajj — one of Islam’s five pillars; without it, a pilgrimage is not valid. Pilgrims typically combine and shorten the Dhuhr and Asr prayers before staying in Arafat until sunset. They then move on to Muzdalifah before returning to their tents in Mina.

Sheikh Maher bin Hamad Al-Muaiqly, one of the imams of the Grand Mosque, who delivered this year’s sermon, described Hajj as a “sincere act of worship for Allah.”

He urged pilgrims to seize “the great blessings” during their time in Arafat, reminding them that “in this honorable place and virtuous time, the Almighty multiplies his rewards” for their good deeds and forgives their sins.

In his sermon, Al-Muaiqly emphasized that Islam is a religion of peace and that Shariah “mandates justice, noble ethics, and kindness to parents, along with the importance of maintaining family ties, truthfulness in speech, and safeguarding rights to ensure they are rightfully upheld. It also emphasizes respect for contracts and encourages obedience to rightful authorities.”

He added that Shariah also emphasizes the obligation to obey the five central religious laws: safeguarding religion, and protecting the soul, the mind, one’s possessions, and one’s dignity — all important principles in Islamic jurisprudence and ethics, and, he said, guiding principles for the well-being and growth of individuals and society.

“Indeed, Shariah considers any transgression against these basics a crime deserving punishment. Furthermore, safeguarding these essentials is a path to entering paradise and attaining Allah’s satisfaction. It also serves as a key to stability, happiness, progress, and advancement in this world,” the imam said.


Hajj pilgrims arrive in Arafat, attend annual sermon

Hajj pilgrims arrive in Arafat, attend annual sermon
Updated 13 min 35 sec ago
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Hajj pilgrims arrive in Arafat, attend annual sermon

Hajj pilgrims arrive in Arafat, attend annual sermon
  • Arafat is where Prophet Muhammad gave his final sermon more than 144 decades ago

ARAFAT: Amid strict security and health measures, this year’s Hajj pilgrims arrived in Arafat early Saturday morning, the ninth day of Dul Hijjah, and attended the annual Hajj sermon at Namirah Mosque.

As the sun rose, pilgrims camping in the tent city of Mina performed dawn prayers, then began their journey to Arafat, where Prophet Muhammad gave his final sermon more than 144 decades ago. On Saturday, one could hear nothing louder than the crowd chanting supplications.

Ansarul-Haq Rasheed, a 63-year-old Indonesian pilgrim, expressed a heartfelt desire to pray to Allah for as long as possible.

“I wish time could pause so I could continue praying to Allah with all my heart,” he told Arab News. “These moments are unforgettable. I want to lay bare all my emotions to my creator, who knows everything. I seek His blessings for my needs in this life and the hereafter.”

 

 

Reflecting on the pilgrimage experience, he expressed gratitude for the services provided to pilgrims. He compared it with stories he had been told of his late father’s Hajj, some 45 years ago. “My mother shared the hardships my father faced during Hajj; I wish he could see how much more comfortable Hajj has become,” Rasheed said. 

Meanwhile, 49-year-old Khadija Yakoubi, a Moroccan pilgrim, anticipated a transformative experience from his pilgrimage.

“When all sins are forgiven, life inevitably changes for the better, leading to a renewed enjoyment. This feeling motivates pilgrims to continue doing good throughout their lives,” Yakoubi said, adding that the services pilgrims have received at the holy sites have been “exemplary.”

The Day of Arafat is the most important part of the Hajj — one of Islam’s five pillars; without it, a pilgrimage is not valid. Pilgrims typically combine and shorten the Dhuhr and Asr prayers before staying in Arafat until sunset. They then move on to Muzdalifah before returning to their tents in Mina.

Sheikh Maher bin Hamad Al-Muaiqly, one of the imams of the Grand Mosque, who delivered this year’s sermon, described Hajj as a “sincere act of worship for Allah.”

He urged pilgrims to seize “the great blessings” during their time in Arafat, reminding them that “in this honorable place and virtuous time, the Almighty multiplies his rewards” for their good deeds and forgives their sins.

In his sermon, Al-Muaiqly emphasized that Islam is a religion of peace and that Shariah “mandates justice, noble ethics, and kindness to parents, along with the importance of maintaining family ties, truthfulness in speech, and safeguarding rights to ensure they are rightfully upheld. It also emphasizes respect for contracts and encourages obedience to rightful authorities.”

He added that Shariah also emphasizes the obligation to obey the five central religious laws: safeguarding religion, and protecting the soul, the mind, one’s possessions, and one’s dignity — all important principles in Islamic jurisprudence and ethics, and, he said, guiding principles for the well-being and growth of individuals and society.

“Indeed, Shariah considers any transgression against these basics a crime deserving punishment. Furthermore, safeguarding these essentials is a path to entering paradise and attaining Allah’s satisfaction. It also serves as a key to stability, happiness, progress, and advancement in this world,” the imam said.


Girl Scouts assist Grand Mosque Security Force 

Girl Scouts assist Grand Mosque Security Force 
Updated 15 June 2024
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Girl Scouts assist Grand Mosque Security Force 

Girl Scouts assist Grand Mosque Security Force 

MAKKAH: Around 220 girls from the Saudi Arabian Scouts Association are volunteering to serve this year’s Hajj pilgrims by participating with the Grand Mosque Security Force to manage crowds.

The girl scouts are helping to organize and direct the pilgrims, particularly in the women’s prayer areas.

They also guide the lost, assist the elderly, and help those with special needs.

Ghada Al Mutailiq, leader of the Girl Scouts camp, praised the dedication and commitment of the scouts and noted that the association’s expertise in handling large groups also provided members with valuable skills.


Ministry sets up 32 children’s hospitality centers in Makkah and Madinah

Ministry sets up 32 children’s hospitality centers in Makkah and Madinah
Updated 15 June 2024
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Ministry sets up 32 children’s hospitality centers in Makkah and Madinah

Ministry sets up 32 children’s hospitality centers in Makkah and Madinah
  • Facilities to help take care of youngsters while parents perform Hajj

JEDDAH: Some 32 children’s hospitality centers in Makkah and Madinah have been set up this year to take care of children while their parents are performing Hajj.

The centers, which were established by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development in partnership with the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, can accommodate more than 1,000 children each day, targeting boys and girls between the ages of 1 and 10.

The centers provide care and education for children. They are safe and comfortable environments in which to learn and play under the supervision of a specialized team of consultants and qualified trainers, according to Mohammed Al-Rizqi, the spokesperson at the HRSD.

Facilities include a dining hall, where meals are provided, a sleeping area, a physical play area, and a skill activity space.

Al-Rizqi told Arab News: “The initiative aims to help the guests of Allah perform the Hajj rituals with reverence and reassurance, and to provide them with the utmost comfort to perform the Hajj rituals.

“This initiative is concerned with hosting children of pilgrims up to 10 years of age, as these centers provide a safe environment for the child by providing a group of health, social and psychological programs, as well as recreational activities and overnight services that are appropriate to the age stages of each child.”

Al-Rizqi added that the services are to be provided for all nationalities, with employees speaking different languages to serve the children of pilgrims.

He said: “Care services are provided through recreational programs and activities for children.

“Children are also cared for during their stay and a suitable environment is provided for overnight stays, as well as providing healthy meals for the child.”

Al-Rizqi explained that the initiative seeks to achieve several goals, such as providing awareness and guidance on the nature of dealing with children during the Hajj season.


MWAN launches sustainable waste management initiatives for Hajj

MWAN launches sustainable waste management initiatives for Hajj
Updated 15 June 2024
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MWAN launches sustainable waste management initiatives for Hajj

MWAN launches sustainable waste management initiatives for Hajj

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s National Center for Waste Management, or MWAN, has lunched initiatives to provide a healthy and clean environment for pilgrims throughout the Hajj period.

Sultan Al-Harthi, a spokesperson at the center, told Arab News that the initiatives are part of efforts to improve and regulate waste management during the Hajj season, preserving natural resources for future generations.

Al-Harthi said one includes a machine that turns food waste into fertilizer, which is initially used within sacred sites, without any emissions or emitting odors during the recycling process.

The “Sustainable Ihram” initiative educates pilgrims on the importance of recycling and environmental preservation, he added. It is based on collecting and sorting pilgrims’ textile waste, including ihrams, pillows, blankets and mattresses, followed by recycling and distributing them. Containers will be available in Mina camps and hotels in Makkah where pilgrims can contribute their cloths.

The center expects around 50 tonnes of ihrams and more than 300,000 pillows will be collected in cooperation with the relevant authorities. An outreach team is touring the Mina camps in order to ensure the readiness of the initiative, Al-Harthi said.

Another initiative will treat waste generated from slaughterhouse carcasses, expected to be more than 12,000 tonnes this year, with teams dedicated to monitoring the activity to ensure safe disposal. The work will begin on Sunday, the first day of Eid Al-Adha.

According to Al-Harthi, another initiative seeks to raise awareness of good waste management practices among Hajj service providers. This Hajj season, MWAN has given training courses on sustainable waste management to 121 service providers over the past two weeks, to help them develop their skills and abilities, raise awareness about reducing volume of waste produced, and use environmentally friendly materials that reduce pollution and preserve environmental integrity.

The monitoring and inspection team has undertaken dozens of monitoring tours and visited more than 100 facilities to improve the level of operational efficiency of the facilities.