Saudi hikers in quest for adventure ... and leopards

Updated 05 December 2012

Saudi hikers in quest for adventure ... and leopards

Saudi hiking enthusiasts recently conducted an expedition to the Ibrahim Mountain, which is part of Sarawat Mountains, in the southwest of the Kingdom. Located in the Bani Malik area, the mountain is 167 km south of Taif.
Ibrahim Mountain is one of the highest in the Kingdom with a height of 5,000 meters above sea level and is distinguished for its eye-catching natural scenes. It is one of the touristic centers in the south.
Hiking is an outdoor activity that consists of walking in natural environments and often in mountainous or other scenic terrain, said Ahmed Al-Malki, the team’s tour guide.
“The main objective of our trip was to find out Arabian leopards in the area after reports that people had heard their voice and seen their footmarks,” he said.
Camping in such attractive places to enjoy the climate and take photos was another objective, Al-Malki said.
He highlighted hiking’s health benefits, saying it has been confirmed by studies. Some health benefits of hiking include losing excess weight, decreasing hypertension, and improving mental health, he pointed out.
He said hiking required good preparations including arrangement of camping materials and precautionary measures against wild animals. “We have to set out our journey very early to reach the targeted place and leave before night,” he said.
The participants were excited and expressed their happiness for getting an opportunity to discover one of the best tourist centers in the southern Kingdom.
“We are planning to conduct hiking expeditions to a number of Gulf countries including Oman,” Al-Malki said. Internally, we want to visit Harrat Khaiber, north of Madinah that has the largest volcano in the Kingdom, he added.

Netflix shines spotlight on Arab women at the Red Sea International Film Festival

Updated 06 December 2023

Netflix shines spotlight on Arab women at the Red Sea International Film Festival

JEDDAH: Streaming giant Netflix is taking part in Jeddah’s Red Sea International Film Festival — set to run until Dec. 9 — with the “Because She Created” space, an installation at the event that shines a spotlight on female talent in the Arab world.

Organizers have focused on Adwa Bader, the Saudi-American interdisciplinary artist and star of Netflix’s upcoming local film “NAGA”; Saudi Arabia writer, performing artist, actor and director Fatima Al-Banawi, who is about to release her directorial debut “Basma”; and Haya Abdelsalam, who is the lead and creative producer behind Kuwaiti Netflix series “Devil’s Advocate.”

Fatima Al-Banawi was photographed in Netflix's Because She Created booth in Jeddah. (Supplied)

Bader spoke to Arab News about the initiative, saying it was important because “we as women have beautiful and powerful stories to tell, and the support of the industry is needed to not only help integrate us better but also recognize our work and the great stories that so many incredible Arab women are telling for the first time.”

Nuha El-Tayeb, content director for the Middle East, Africa and Turkiye at Netflix, echoed those sentiments, telling Arab News that it was critical to spotlight women, in particular, when it comes to the film industry in the region.

“It’s critical to authentic storytelling. Amplifying underrepresented voices, which includes Arab women, gives more people a chance to see their lives reflected on screen,” she said. “Arab women filmmakers are shifting perspectives and revolutionizing the industry in the region, creating Oscar-nominated films and representing the region at international film festivals and major platforms. It’s clear that they have important stories to tell.”

Streaming giant Netflix is taking part in Jeddah’s Red Sea International Film Festival — set to run until Dec. 9 — with the 'Because She Created' space. (Supplied)

El-Tayeb went on to highlight some of the projects that the initiative has supported over the years — including the “Because She Created” writing program, AFAC-Netflix Creative Equity Fund and “Women in Film,” a training program for emerging talent.

“‘Because She Created,’ while born in the Arab world, is a borderless endeavor. Through content on the service, financial grants, upskilling initiatives, and exposure at regional film festivals, we’re providing an avenue for female storytellers to help break the glass ceiling for women in entertainment,” El-Tayeb said.

She added that when it comes to pitches, Netflix is interested in “stories that are authentic and relatable. Stories with universal themes that have broader appeal and can resonate with our members at home.”

When it comes to the entertainment industry in Saudi Arabia, Bader noted the importance of representation on screen.

“It’s a young industry,” the actress added of the film scene in Saudi Arabia. “And we have been waiting to see representation in an authentic way in film and culture. We’ve been waiting to tell our stories and see them on screen, and it’s incredible to witness the transformation,” she said.

When it comes to encouraging Saudi Arabia’s youth to see film as a viable career, the actress believes education is key.

“Art is for everyone, and it can be a viable career if one is willing to take that risk. It’s not easy to be an artist, it’s an emotional job and it’s risky because not everyone can relate, but that’s exactly the reason why it’s even more important to integrate art in formal education to support future generations and support their career choices,” she said.

Gulf dish harees, Palestinian dabke added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list  

Updated 06 December 2023

Gulf dish harees, Palestinian dabke added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list  

DUBAI: The Middle Eastern dish harees, popular in the Gulf region, has been added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list alongside other practices and dishes from the Arab world.  

The name harees comes from the Arabic word harasa, which means to mash or to squash. Just as the name suggests, in the preparation of harees wheat is ground with goat meat or mutton, and then cooked over low heat until it gets creamy. 

The list also includes six other cultural traditions from the Arab world, including the Palestinian version of the dabke – the Levant folklore dance, Iraq’s traditional craft skills and arts of building called Al-Mudhif and Lebanon’s man’ouche, the flatbread topped with thyme, cheese or ground meat.   

From Syria, UNESCO added the glassblowing technique that artisans use for the craft of creating glass objects from pieces of waste glass using a handmade brick oven.  

The list also includes Sudan’s Al-Molid procession, which is a parade that celebrates the Prophet’s birthday. It takes place in the third month of the Islamic lunar calendar. 

The last thing on the list is the arts, skills and practices associated with engraving on gold, silver and copper, which is popular in Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Mauritania, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisian and Yemen. 

Kate Beckinsale, Jameela Jamil step out in Arab gowns in Los Angeles

Updated 06 December 2023

Kate Beckinsale, Jameela Jamil step out in Arab gowns in Los Angeles

DUBAI: British actresses Kate Beckinsale and Jameela Jamil this week stepped out in head-turning ensembles by Arab designers at Elle’s Women in Hollywood celebration at Nya Studios in Los Angeles. 

Beckinsale — famous for her roles in “Snow Angels,” “Fool’s Paradise” and “Click” — opted for a figure-hugging gown from Lebanese couturier Zuhair Murad’s ready-to-wear Fall/Winter 2023 collection.  

The dress boasted cut-outs with gemstone detailing at the waist. 

Beckinsale opted for a figure-hugging gown from Lebanese couturier Zuhair Murad. (AFP)

The event was attended by A-list stars including Jennifer Lopez and her husband Ben Affleck, Eva Longoria, Bella Ramsey, Jodie Foster, Jameela Jamil, Kerry Washington, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Alexandra Shipp and many more. 

British Indian Pakistani actress and activist Jamil wore a heavily-embellished gold mini dress from Dubai-based Tunisian designer Ali Karoui. To complete her dazzling ensemble, she wore reflective gold heels by Jimmy Choo. 

Jamil took to Instagram to share snippets from the event with her followers. “I love Jodie Foster so much,” she captioned a video, and in another she wrote: “Oprah brought on ICONIC Fantasia Taylor Barrino.” 

British Indian Pakistani actress and activist Jamil wore a heavily-embellished gold mini dress. (AFP)

US singer and actress Taylor Barrino also turned to an Arab designer — Yousef Akbar.  

She donned an electric blue jumpsuit by the celebrity-loved Saudi couturier. The ensemble had an asymmetric skirt attached to the waist and a chunky gold chain that crossed over her chest.  

The ELLE Women in Hollywood Awards honors “the women who are influencing Hollywood today from the best red carpet appearances, the women behind the camera, to ELLE’s very own cover stars,” according to the publication’s description.  

This year’s honorees include Lopez, Taylor Barrino, Longoria, Foster, Nina Garcia, America Ferrera, Danielle Brooks, Greta Lee, Lily Gladstone and Taraji P. Henson. 

Tunisian-Moroccan production ‘Backstage’ explores inner lives of multinational dance troupe

Updated 06 December 2023

Tunisian-Moroccan production ‘Backstage’ explores inner lives of multinational dance troupe

JEDDAH: Set against the backdrop of the majestic Atlas Mountains, “Backstage” — the Tunisian-Moroccan production from husband-wife duo Khalil Benkirane and Afef Ben Mahmoud that premiered at the Red Sea International Film festival on Monday night — is a story that contains multitudes. 

Following a fateful night in the lives of a slowly unraveling but close-knit dance troupe, “Backstage” manages to touch on topics such as displacement, climate change, body autonomy, found family, the institution of marriage, and more; all the while slowly zooming the lens into the inner lives of its main characters, all 10 of them.  

Speaking to Arab News at the sidelines of the festival in Jeddah, co-director Ben Mahmoud — who also stars in the film as one of its central characters Aida — says that she began working on the script for the film in 2016. 

“I began my artistic career as a dancer, then stage actor, then actress for cinema and TV. And this journey through all these life arts, of course made a huge impression in my life. And when I moved to cinema, my goal was to bring these two worlds of cinema and dance together because, for me, they are both not that far. And I love them both,” she said.  

Co-director and husband Benkirane said: “I would come home from from work and she would update me as to the new scenes she was working on. My job does not allow me to really get my creative parts, really start the script. But this way worked really, really well. And we usually get on the same wavelength when we watch films. So, it was a beautiful collaboration.”  

“And what I liked about the script is that it has a normal, straight line as far as the development of the narrative. But the structure allowed us to inject certain things that we are concerned with, such as the environment, the right for women to use their body as a tool of work, challenging the notion of marriage, which in the Arab world is so dear to tradition, immigration and going back to the place of origin, which does not satisfy anymore because you have become something else,” he said.  

(AN/ Huda Bashatah) 

The cast, a mix of actors and dancers, features names from across the Arab world including Sofiane Ouissi, Ali Thabet, Abdallah Badis, Salima Abdelwahab, Nassim Baddag and Saleh Bakri. The film also stars dancer Hajjiba Fahmy, who is known for her extensive work with US superstar Beyonce.  

But the most prominent name to jump out from the cast and crew is that of award-winning Belgian choreographer and dancer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, who makes his acting debut with “Backstage.” 

“Dance is really dear to my heart but it is also not always well represented in cinema. And there are only three dance scenes. But even if we have only three scenes, for me it was extremely important to have a big figure because this is going to give more visibility and credibility to what we are trying to do,” Ben Mahmoud said.  

“And it was extremely important for us to have someone such as Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, and we were so lucky to talk to him and to convince him to be with us. And we were lucky because he’s extremely generous and we really collaborated together. We gave him the script, he worked on the script, and we didn’t know what he was going to do with the choreography. But when we saw the movement and how it was so linked to the narrative and how much they give this expression through the body to tell everything without words — this was really amazing,” she said. 

RSIFF announces winners of the Red Sea Souk Awards  

Updated 06 December 2023

RSIFF announces winners of the Red Sea Souk Awards  

DUBAI: The Red Sea International Film Festival on Tuesday announced the winners of the Red Sea Souk Awards, which offers grants to develop projects by rising Saudi, Arab and African directors.  

Twenty-four new film projects screened as part of the Red Sea Souk, with 12 titles by filmmakers of African and Arab origin, alongside 12 Red Sea Lodge projects by Saudi, Arab and African directors which have been developed over the last year through workshops and in partnership with the Torino Film Lab.  


The Red Sea Souk Project Market jury awards are supported by the Red Sea Fund, and five Saudi projects, eight African projects and eleven projects from the wider Arab region were featured in the selection.  

An additional wing of the Project Market is the Work-in-Progress Showcase featuring six feature films by directors who are also from African or Arab diasporas. All selected Work-In-Progress projects competed for the Red Sea Souk Awards — with two winners to be chosen by the Work-in-Progress Showcase Jury. 

Mohammed Al-Turki, CEO of the Red Sea Film Foundation, said in a statement: “The winners of this year’s Red Sea Souk Awards demonstrate the rich and varied new visions in filmmaking emerging both from the wider MENA region and from those who have roots here. 

“These directors are the cinematic voices of tomorrow and we are thrilled to play a part in the development of their talent and storytelling which will undoubtedly yield successes and international recognition,” he added.  

Winners include “By Hasnaa’s Side,” “The Girl and the Missing Bed,” “Nostalgia: A Life in First Capters,” “Men in the Sun,” “Rising Up At Night,” “My Semba,” “Animale,” “The Night Whisperer,” “Love Conquers All,” “Mecca, Berlin,” “In the Beginning, It Is the End,” “Madness and Honey Days,” “Eye of the Kite,” “Our Son is Prettier,” “Yunan,” “Fantastical Tale,” “Black Snake,” “My Father Killed Bourghiba,” “When I close My Eyes, I See Your Eyes,” and “The Return of the Prodigal Son.”

Here is the full list of winners:  

Arab Cinema Center will get two supported places on the International Film Festival Rotterdam Producers Lab.  

Saudi winner: Ghaidaa Abuazzah (“By Hasnaa’s Side”) 

Arab winner: Fatma Racha Shehadeh (“The Girl and The Missing Bed”) 

MAD Solutions will receive $50,000 to a project in development, in production or in post production.  

Winner: “Nostalgia: A Life In First Chapter” by Ameer Fakher Eldin 

OTICONS will get a Work-in-Progress film consisting of Music Consulting services worth $5,000 

Winner: “Men in the Sun” by Mahdi Fleifel 

SHIFT STUDIOS will get $12,000 for a promotion package and $8,000 for a full DCP package. 

The $12,000 winners: “Rising Up At Night” by Nelson Makengo and “My Semba” by Hugo Salvaterra 

The $8,000 winner: “Men in the Sun” by Mahdi Fleifel 

TITRAFILM will get $15,000 for a Work-in-Progress film.  

Winner: “Animale” by Emma Benestan 

Arab Radio and Television Network will get $10,000 grant for one Saudi Project in development or production and $50,000 for one Arab project in development or production. 

The $10,000 grant winner: “The Night Whisperer” by Lina Mahmoud 

The $50,000 grant winner: “Love Conquers All” by Danielle Arbid 

CineWaves Films will get $50,000 for a project in development, production or post-production. 

Winner: “Mecca, Berlin” by Majtaba Saeed 

Ithra will get $50,000 for one Saudi project in production or post-production.  

Winner: “The Night Whisperer” by Lina Mahmoud 

MBC Academy/Shahid will get $75,000 for a Saudi project in development, $75,000 for a Saudi project in development or production or post-production and $50,000 for an Arab project in development or post-production. 

The winner of the $75,000 for a Saudi project in development: “In the Beginning, It Is The End” by Ghadeer Binabbas 

The winner of the $75,000 for a Saudi project in development or production or post-production Winner: “By Hasnaa’s Side” by Amaal Youssif 

The winner of the $50,000 for an Arab project in development or post-production: “Madness and Honey Days” by Ahmed Yassin Al-Daradji.

Serieslab Awards got the $10,000 Red Sea Serieslab Award for: “Eye of the Kite” by Saleh Al-Hamad and “Our Son is Prettier” by Hanaa Saleh Alfassi. 

WIP Awards got the Red Sea Souk Post-Production Jury Special Mention Award with a grant of $10,000. The winner is “My Semba” by Hugo Salvaterra.  

The Red Sea Souk Post-Production Award was awarded to “Yunan” by Ameer Fakher Eldin with a grant of $30,000. 

The $50,000 Red Sea Souk Production Award for a Red Sea Lodge project.

Award by Project Market Jury went to: “By Hasnaa’s Side” by Amaal Youssif, “Fantastic Tale” by Vincho Nchogu, “Black Snake” by Naishe Nyamubaya and “My Father Killed Borghiba” by Fatma Riahi.  

The $25,000 Red Sea Souk Jury Special Mention Award went to “Love Conquers” by Danielle Arbid. 

The $35,000 Red Sea Souk Development Award went to “When I Close My Eyes, I See Your Eyes” by Sameh Alaa.  

The $100,000 Red Sea Souk Production Award went to “The Return Of The Prodigal Son” by Rani Massalha.