Offscreen Expeditions

Offscreen Expeditions
Updated 19 August 2012

Offscreen Expeditions

Offscreen Expeditions

In a creative collaboration with Edge of Arabia, eleven young artists between the ages of 16-25 from Saudi Arabia were selected for The Most Competitive Youth award to attend Crossway Foundation’s Offscreen Expedition program in the UK.
The Most Competitive Youth award is an initiative of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) to bring Saudi Arabia’s economy to the forefront of competitiveness by engaging youth in Saudi Arabia (Saudi nationals and residents) to improve their communities by teaching skills that inspire creativity and promote innovation.
In 2011, The Crossway Foundation (a London-based charity promoting creative and cultural collaboration between young people in the UK and Saudi Arabia) collaborated with SAGIA on their Arts and Creativity category of the Most Competitive Youth award.
The eleven winners: Salwa Ali, Sarah Mohanna Al-Abdali, Nasser Al-Salem, Mohammed Al-Ashoor, Mario El Khoury, Nora AlGosaibi, Nahla Khogeer, Tahani Al-Briki, Ahmed Kurdi, Basmah Felemban and Nouf Alhimiary, were selected amongst an overwhelming number of participating entries in the nationwide creative competition, “Most Competitive Youth,” conducted in December 2011.
The winning artists were awarded with a 16-day sponsored cultural journey last month to the United Kingdom that allowed them the chance to collaborate and work with professional artists, designers, museum curators, social entrepreneurs and filmmakers to develop skills in leadership, communication and creativity.
The artists mainly working in photography, painting and mixed media, toured London and Cornwall to work with leading creative establishments, which included Tate Modern and Tate St. Ives, The British Museum, The Delfina Foundation, The Victoria & Albert Museum, Penguin Books, The Barbara Hepworth Museum, White Cube Gallery and Mile End Community Project.
“The aim of the project is to give young people from the UK and Saudi Arabia the chance to communicate and learn from each other in positive and creative ways,” said Offscreen Expeditions Director Stephen Stapleton.
One of the winning photographer Mario El Khoury said, “This competition was about Haj, a journey to the heart of Islam — Makkah. Being part of the Saudi youth, knowing that I am not Saudi, but born and living among a multicultural and multi-religious environment pushed me toward participating and submitting my material to this competition.”
“And here we are, back, filled with nostalgia but gladly, thankfully and constantly having a different and completely new point of view when it comes to arts in general,” he added.
The tour also entailed engagement in creative workshops like developing the ‘Hash Tag’ project using a variety of media like photography, sculpture and video. The project was based on the exploration of online communications in Saudi Arabia, and how the digital platform is bringing changes in the country that is hugely becoming a social media reliant society at large.
Other highlights included a critical thinking workshop at Tate St. Ives, surfing, hikes along the English coast, and a workshop at The Newlyn Gallery with local students.
The artists were also allowed the chance to display their winning submissions in a special exhibition at the British Museum’s Addis Gallery, alongside the Museum’s star-studded and enormously successful exhibition ‘Haj: Journey to the heart of Islam,’ that was launched early this year.
The end of tour was also marked with another celebratory public exhibition of works that were created during the course of the journey by the selected winners.
Chairman of The Arab British Center remarked,“I have been associated with Saudi Arabia for 24 years, and have never come across this degree of exhilarating work before. I loved the energy and joy of the students, and the chance you have given them to release it. They really give me hope for the future of the Kingdom.”
Salwa Ali, another winning artist from Jeddah, said, “This expedition was planned to enhance my artistic abilities, but it went far beyond that. It has not only given me more confidence as a person, but it has encouraged me to try new things and to constantly look out for new opportunities. Best of all, I have acquired an extended family in the Offscreen Expeditions team.”
The works of the Create and Inspire winners will be on display in The Arab British Center, UK, until Nov. 2012.
You can follow their journey at: and
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Email: [email protected]


Dating changed during the pandemic; apps are following suit

Dating changed during the pandemic; apps are following suit
Updated 03 August 2021

Dating changed during the pandemic; apps are following suit

Dating changed during the pandemic; apps are following suit
  • The use of dating apps in general has surged as people sought connections amid their isolation
  • Tinder reported that 2020 was its busiest and this year its users have already set 2 records for usage between January and March

LONDON: Early in the coronavirus pandemic, Jennifer Sherlock went out with a few men she met through dating apps. The dates were “weird,” she said, and not just because they were masked, socially distanced and outdoors.
One occasion, a date remained masked while they were out for a stroll, but soon after invited her back to his place, a move Sherlock saw as reckless.
“It was so off putting, and awkward,” she said. “So we wouldn’t be safe outside without mask(s), but we would be safe back at his place maskless?”
She decided she needed a way to filter people, so she began arranging video chats before agreeing to meet anybody in person. Sherlock, 42, a PR consultant who lives in New Jersey, said it’s a practice she’ll continue post-pandemic.
Sherlock isn’t alone in changing the way she used dating apps during the pandemic, prompting many to roll out new features. Despite the social distancing of the past 18 months, the use of dating apps in general has surged as people sought connections amid their isolation.
Tinder reported that 2020 was its busiest year yet; this year, its users have already set two records for usage between January and March. Hinge tripled its revenue from 2019 to 2020, and the company expects it to double from that this year.
In response to changing demands, Tinder announced new tools last month that will allow users to get to know people better online. People will now be able to add videos to their profile and can chat with others even before matching with them.
“Historically consumers were reluctant to connect via video because they didn’t see the need for it,” said Jess Carbino, an online dating expert and sociologist who has worked for Tinder and Bumble. Post-COVID, however, many people expect a higher degree of screening, she said. “Online dating apps like Tinder are leaning into that.”
The dating apps say their research shows video chats are here to stay, even as life starts to return to normal in some parts of the world.
Almost half of Tinder users had a video chat with a match during the pandemic, with 40 percent of them intending to continue them post-pandemic. Tinder says this is largely driven by Gen Z users in their late teens and early 20s, who now make up more than half of the app’s users. And a majority of Hinge UK users, 69 percent, also say they’ll continue with virtual dates after the pandemic.
Tinder, alongside other popular apps including Hinge, OkCupid and Bumble, has in Britain and the US partnered with the government to add a badge to profiles indicating that users have been vaccinated. (There’s no verification process, though, so matches could be lying.)
Dating app users are also increasingly looking for deeper connections rather than casual encounters, Carbino said.
That’s what happened to Maria del Mar, 29, an aerospace engineer, who wasn’t expecting to end up in a relationship after she matched with someone on Tinder early in the pandemic last year.
She started chatting with her now-boyfriend through the app in April 2020 during a complete lockdown in Spain, where she lives. Having moved back to her parent’s tiny town of León from Barcelona, del Mar was bored when she joined the app, but was surprised to find many things in common with her current partner.
After weeks of chatting, they finally met for a first date — a socially-distanced hike — after restrictions eased slightly in May 2020. Now the two have moved in together. “If it wasn’t for the app, probably our paths wouldn’t have crossed,” she said.
Fernando Rosales, 32, was a frequent user of Grindr, an app popular with gay men looking for more casual encounters, in pre-pandemic times. He turned to Tinder for social connections when coronavirus restrictions prevented people from meeting others in London, where he lives.
“Grindr is like, ‘I like you, you like me, you’re within 100 meters of me, I’m going to come over,’” said Rosales, who works at the popular British coffee chain Pret.
“Tinder is something more social,” he added,. Sometimes he uses the app just to meet others to play online video games or video chat.
Ocean, 26, a drag artist and photographer in Berlin, turned to the live video feature of an app called Taimi to make friends across the world during the pandemic. Having two-to-five minute video chats with strangers from places like the Philippines or parts of the US was “amazing,” she said. Ocean’s given name is Kai Sistemich; she identifies as a woman when in drag.
She said she’ll continue using the feature post-pandemic, especially while she’s doing solo activities like cooking, or getting ready before going out to party.
Sherlock also expects some of her pandemic dating behaviors to carry into the post-pandemic world. She recently asked two men she was texting for Facetime chats before meeting in person, something she would not have done pre-pandemic.
“It’s a crazy dating world out there, so saving time is necessary,” she said.

All hands on deck: Beirut’s first public skatepark breathes life into ravaged city

Local organizations will help maintain and sustain the park. (Supplied)
In this picture, taken on Thursday Jul.29, local skater Mike Richard is pictured holding his skateboard alongside Lebanese kids during a skateboarding lesson. (Supplied/Samantha Robison)
Updated 03 August 2021

All hands on deck: Beirut’s first public skatepark breathes life into ravaged city

Local organizations will help maintain and sustain the park. (Supplied)
  • Twelve months ago, an explosion in Beirut’s port rocked the capital. Over 200 people were killed after a warehouse inadequately housing highly flammable chemicals caught fire

DUBAI: Dany Sultan and Mike Richard have spent most of their adult life on skateboards.
While both young men embraced skating from a relatively young age, Lebanon has not always accepted them back. Up until now, the small Mediterranean country lacked a place to kickflip and grind; a place of inclusivity where people from different backgrounds could come together and work on their craft.
Instead, Sultan, 25 and Richard, 19, started most of their morning sessions scouting urban landscapes and public spaces in and around Beirut.
“We’d street skate anyplace that had a ledge, stairs or handrails,” Richard told Arab News.
For him and street skaters alike, run-ins with residents and security guards were common. Given the lack of a safe haven to skate, their discipline was viewed as a public nuisance.
“We’ve had a couple of issues with security guards and police,” Richard said, adding that he, along with some friends, were briefly detained late last year.
But being hard-wired with a high tolerance for fear and a sense of adventure helped them look past the altercations.
“For years we have reached out to municipalities to try and convince them to support (us) but we were always met with indifference and even resistance,” Sultan said.
Little did any of them know that a group of volunteers and donors would soon pave the way for the country’s first community skatepark in the heart of Beirut: Snoubar (Pine) Skatepark.

Local and foreign skaters, builders and volunteers worked on the construction site that typically included 20-25 people every day. (Supplied/Samantha Robison)

Twelve months ago, an explosion in Beirut’s port rocked the capital. Over 200 people were killed after a warehouse inadequately housing highly flammable chemicals caught fire.
As the tragedy made rounds across the globe, it caught the attention of INGO Make Life Skate Life (MLSL).
“My friend Arne Hillerns, who runs MLSL, reached out after seeing the blast on the news back in Brussels,” Esther Chang, a yoga instructor currently based in Beirut, told Arab News.

She, along with Arne and a local skater named Aida Mukharesh, put together a relief fund to support the local skaters with anything from hospital bills to rebuilding doors and windows, to even supporting a local skater’s tuition for a few semesters at university.
After also giving away over 80 skateboards with the support of skaters around the world, only one thing was left to do: Build an actual skatepark.
“There was still this dream of building a skatepark that the locals have had for decades,” Chang said.
Horsh Beirut, the Lebanese capital’s largest park and pine forest, would serve as the optimal location.

"Skateboarding is a sport that creates a strong communal sense," Sultan told Arab News. (Supplied/Samantha Robison)

“We pitched the idea to Beirut’s municipality —  a free-of-charge and public skatepark in Beirut for youth — asked for some land, and to our surprise, they offered it to us,” Chang said.

To turn the dream into reality, a massive crowdfunding campaign was launched alongside donations from corporate and individual sponsors.

Axel A., a visual artist based in Dubai, auctioned off a customized skateboard. Decathlon, the French sports retailer, committed thousands of dollars.

“There was funding from a variety of sources including individuals as well as corporate sponsors such as the Decathlon Foundation, Air France and CHPO,” Samantha Robison, MLSL’s creative director, told Arab News.

The nonprofit has previously completed sustainable skateparks in India, Bolivia, Jordan, Myanmar, Ethiopia, Nepal, Morocco and Iraq with free on-site skateboarding, safety equipment loan systems and lessons with partner organizations.

“Local NGO arcenciel will help maintain and sustain the park while another NGO, Just Childhood, will create a program for free skateboarding lessons for the local youth in the neighboring Shatila Palestinian refugee camp,” Chang added.

Since 2013, MLSL has constructed 10 skateparks that have positively impacted the lives of thousands. (Supplied/Samantha Robison)

“When Arne from MLSL contacted us to help build the first public, free skatepark in Beirut we were so excited to be part of it,” Jean-Philippe Rode, a skateboarder and product manager for Decathlon Skateboarding in France, told Arab News.

After gaining the financial support of the Decathlon Foundation, which forked out €50,000 ($59,352) in June, volunteers from across the world traveled to Beirut to take part in the project, coming from as far as Colombia, the US and Costa Rica.

The park was designed and constructed through the help of over 50 volunteers and local skaters alongside professional skatepark builders, who did “extremely taxing physical labor in the blazing hot sun, through stomach illnesses, dehydration and fatigue,” Robison and Chang noted.

“They have such an admirable dedication to spreading the love of skateboarding and helping build the skate community here in Lebanon,” Robison added.

One such volunteer was Dave Eassa, a lifelong skateboarder, visual artist and cultural worker from Baltimore in the US.

While serving as an artist in residence at Al-Raseef 153, a new arts space that is a part of the 7Hills skatepark and organization in Amman, Jordan, Eassa caught wind of the project during a conversation with 7Hills’ director.

“After speaking with Mohammed Zakaria (director of 7Hills) and German skater Matze, I bought a plane ticket at the last minute and headed to Beirut for 8 days to help with whatever I could,” Eassa said. 

Matze, the skaters said, was the driving force behind the project. "The local skaters with the help of the fabulous Matze, who managed the project, brought us all to Lebanon," Robison said. 

Skateboarding, Chang explained, has many intrinsic qualities beyond the sport itself. It has come a long way, breaking out of the fringes where it was regarded as counter-cultural, and propelling itself into the limelight by making its debut at the Tokyo Olympic Games this summer.

The skatepark, she said, will give youths a space to “gather, share ideas, and support each other in something they all have in common, skateboarding. No matter their age, gender, religion, they come together as skaters.”

Officially completed on Thursday, the park will give skaters like Sultan and Richard a place to safely spin down ramps and loop around a quarter pipe, away from any harassment.

The sense of community fostered during the build has been unmatched, the skaters said.

“It is truly a beautiful thing to see so many people coming together to volunteer their expertise, time and energy toward spreading the love of skateboarding,” Eassa said. 

“Skateboarding has saved so many of us, giving us purpose in our lives, and created lifelong bonds and friendships across the globe so naturally it makes sense that so many of us wanted to give back to the existing and future generations of Lebanese skateboarders,” he added.

For the past year, Lebanon has faced a bevy of social, political and economic problems. Skyrocketing unemployment, inflation and rising food insecurity are only the tip of the crisis.

“For many, skateboarding represents a positive outlet of energy and emotions, which proves to be priceless in such a troubled and distressed country. In truly trying times, it is such an important outlet, a place to leave all the issues of the world behind even just for a little.” Eassa said.

“In the midst of so much chaos, people came together to create something beautiful and for one another,” Chang, who has been living in Beirut for over two years, said.

Yet Rode, like Eassa and the rest of the crew, will be back.

“There is no way you work on a skatepark and don’t skate it, so we’ll have to come back soon,” the 45-year-old skating aficionado said.

Saudi Arabia’s diverse topography attracts stargazers amid summer vibes

Mountains typically offer stargazers clear skies in an environment free of clouds, light pollution and dust, and with its different terrains and huge size. (SPA)
Mountains typically offer stargazers clear skies in an environment free of clouds, light pollution and dust, and with its different terrains and huge size. (SPA)
Updated 31 July 2021

Saudi Arabia’s diverse topography attracts stargazers amid summer vibes

Mountains typically offer stargazers clear skies in an environment free of clouds, light pollution and dust, and with its different terrains and huge size. (SPA)
  • Its mountains, valleys, plains, deserts are perfect escape for people trying to avoid bright city lights to observe night sky
  • Stargazing offers an obvious opportunity for the Kingdom to further diversify its tourism offering as it seeks to boost non-oil industries in line with Vision 2030

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s size and diverse topography make it an ideal location for astronomy enthusiasts. Its mountains, valleys, sand dunes, hills, plains and large deserts are a perfect escape for people trying to avoid the bright city lights to observe the night sky.

Mulham Hindi, an astronomy researcher, told Arab News that the best place to observe the night sky is far away from light pollution caused by human settlements.
“It is also best in locations where cloud cover is low. With its different terrains and huge size, Saudi Arabia is a suitable place for observing stars and even building observatories,” Hindi said.
He added that there are many locations in Saudi Arabia that are perfect places for astronomers and stargazers, citing Bani Malik, 150 kilometers south of Taif as a prime example.
“The (height above sea level) of that mountainous area reduces the percentage of moisture and atmospheric impurity,” he explained. “Its throughout-the-year cloud cover is less than 25 percent.”
Hindi also mentioned Al-Figrah mountain, west of Madinah, as one of the best areas for stargazing, as the mountain stands an estimated 6,000 feet above sea level.
“With their moderate weather, the northwestern regions of the Kingdom — which include AlUla, the Red Sea Projects, and NEOM — are among the areas with the least light pollution, (so) stargazers regularly visit,” he added.
Hindi explained that the observation of the stars and planets is deeply rooted in Saudi culture, particularly in the nomadic lifestyle prevalent in the Arabian Peninsula before the discovery of oil.
“Stars are (mentioned in) many Arabic poems that were composed hundreds of years ago and are still cited today,” he said. “It is also part of Saudi culture to observe stars while moving from one place to another, especially in the desert areas.”
Hindi also noted that the night sky above the Kingdom has become a popular subject for photographers in recent years. “These photographers have enriched exhibitions with very beautiful photos of the starry sky of the Kingdom, its distinctive terrains and heritage sites,” he said.
From a scientific perspective, he pointed out, the development and growing popularity of astronomy have encouraged Saudi astronomers to examine the planets, galaxies and stars more thoroughly than ever before, producing “scientific studies and research (that) can significantly contribute to the study of astronomy.”
A few days before his death earlier this month, the head of the astronomy and space department at King Abdul Aziz University (KAU), Dr. Hasan Asiri, spoke to the Saudi Press Agency about the difference between the three main types of terrain for stargazing in the Kingdom — deserts, plains and mountains.
“Deserts are characterized by their aridity and lack of light pollution. They include the desert of the Empty Quarter, the Nafud desert, Al-Dahna desert and Bajada desert, which is located to the west of Tabuk region,” Asiri said.
He added that plains are characterized by stable atmospheric layers and low temperatures and humidity levels. “These include the plains of NEOM, AMAALA the Red Sea islands, Al-Wajh, Al-Shuaibah and Al-Silaa region located to the south of Al-Wajh province.”
Mountains, he explained, typically offer stargazers clear skies in an environment free of clouds, light pollution and dust. He listed Al-Figrah Mountains, west of Madinah; Taif’s Al-Shafa and Al-Hada Mountains; and Mount “Ral,” near Al-Wajh’s Al-Manjor Center as good spots for astronomers. “Several cities can also be added to the list of sites suitable for observational astronomy, namely the northwestern city of AlUla, which is considered one of the Kingdom’s most prominent tourist destinations, in addition to Hail and Tayma, found to the southwest of the city of Tabuk,” he added.
Asiri said that ‘stargazing tourism’ offers an obvious opportunity for the Kingdom to further diversify its tourism offering as it seeks to boost non-oil industries in line with Saudi Vision 2030.
“This issue interests many people, especially now that the Kingdom is steadily moving forward towards establishing an actual tourism sector and ensuring its sustainability through a comprehensive national development plan,” he said.
“Establishing additional stargazing reserves allows us to create new and exceptional tourist destinations that are at the same time entertaining and educational,” he continued. “It also enables us to organize astronomical events, such as world space weeks or astronomy days, activate public and private space domes, and participate in scientific activities related to astronomical events — such as observing solar and lunar eclipses, shooting stars and planets. This approach would combine science with the joy of observing the night sky.”
The Kingdom is already home to several observatories, he noted, including those in Makkah, Al-Wajh and Halat Ammar, as well as the mobile observatories in Sudair, Tumair, Shaqra, Qassim, Dammam, Madinah and Hail. Meanwhile, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Center for Crescents and Astronomy, located at the top of Makkah’s Clock Tower, is considered the largest network of astronomical telescopes in the world.
According to the head of the Qatif Astronomy Society, Dr. Anwar Al-Mohammed, the Milky Way is one of the best astronomical phenomena to observe.
“It is the galaxy in which our sun and the solar system are located. It (consists of) more than 100 billion solar masses,” he explained. “At night, the Milky Way appears as a band of light in the sky and its appearance differs between one region and another based on the level of light pollution.”
Al-Mohammed noted that the Red Sea Development Company is currently working on turning an area of the Tabuk region between the provinces of Umluj and Al-Wajh into an “International Starlight Reserve,” by limiting the use of unnatural lighting in the Red Sea Project at night.
This, he said, could qualify the area as an International Dark Sky Reserve (a region characterized by “an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural, heritage and/or public enjoyment”), which requires the approval of the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA).
If it were to be granted membership, he explained, “it would be joining more than 100 international sites that have abided by strict measures when supporting their communities to achieve this goal, and restore the amazing relationship between mankind and the stars.”

UK PM Johnson’s umbrella mishap amuses Prince Charles

UK PM Johnson’s umbrella mishap amuses Prince Charles
Updated 28 July 2021

UK PM Johnson’s umbrella mishap amuses Prince Charles

UK PM Johnson’s umbrella mishap amuses Prince Charles
  • Sitting alongside Charles, Johnson struggled to open up an umbrella

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson struggled to control his umbrella at an official engagement on Wednesday as it was blown inside-out by the wind, to the amusement of heir to the throne Prince Charles.
Sitting alongside Charles, the son of Queen Elizabeth, Johnson struggled to open up an umbrella, then offered it to interior minister Priti Patel before blustery conditions turned the umbrella inside-out, prompting chuckling among the three of them.
Johnson was in central England attending the unveiling of a memorial to police officers who have died in the line of duty.

Greek TV commentator fired for remark about Korean athlete

Greek TV commentator fired for remark about Korean athlete
Updated 28 July 2021

Greek TV commentator fired for remark about Korean athlete

Greek TV commentator fired for remark about Korean athlete
  • ERT television ended its collaboration with veteran journalist Dimosthenis Karmiris following comments he made
  • He said ‘their eyes are narrow so I can’t understand how they can see the ball’

ATHENS: A sports commentator in Greece who made an on-air remark about a South Korean athlete at the Tokyo Olympics that the station called racist has been fired, the country’s state-run broadcaster said Tuesday.
ERT television said it had ended its collaboration with veteran journalist Dimosthenis Karmiris as a guest commentator following comments he made after Jeoung Young-sik beat Panagiotis Gionis of Greece in men’s table tennis.
Asked about the skill of South Korean table tennis players, Karmiris said “their eyes are narrow so I can’t understand how they can see the ball moving back and forth.”
Several hours later, ERT posted a statement on its website.
“Racist comments have no place on public television,” ERT said in the statement. “The collaboration between ERT and Dimosthenis Karmiris was terminated today, immediately after the morning show.”
Jeoung beat Gionis 7-11, 11-7, 8-11, 10-12, 12-10, 11-6, 14-12.