Giving eidiya persists as a tradition in the GCC

Updated 28 August 2013

Giving eidiya persists as a tradition in the GCC

Distributing eidiya — money gifts to children during Eid — is a tradition throughout the GCC area. The amount differs from one family to another and some families do not only give children but the older generation as well.
Muslims start their Eid with a special prayer called Al-Mashhad. Families go to the nearest mosque and perform their prayers either indoors or outdoors. Traditional Muslims dress in their finest clothes usually newly bought or tailor-made especially for Eid.
“Eid prayer is the perfect opportunity for Muslims to ask Allah to accept our Ramadan fasting and thank him for Eid. We usually go in big groups to perform the prayer and bring our children along with us to share the happy moment,” said Mariam Mansi, a stay-at-home mother. “It is a beautiful scene where one can see a large number of people dressed in their best Eid clothing,” she added.
One of the most important Saudi traditions is Eid breakfast. Families gather with their nearest and dearest under one roof and eat traditional foods. “Usually the whole family meets at the grandfather’s house or at the eldest member of the family’s residency for Eid breakfast,” said 72-year-old Madiha Seif. “When I was younger we used to gather at my grandmother’s house. Now that I am the grandmother, all my grandchildren and my sister’s grandchildren visit me for Eid. We eat and talk for long hours,” she added.
Seif said after the breakfast and right before her guests leave, she starts distributing eidiya. “It is a long celebrated tradition where the older generation gives young ones money or expensive gifts, just like Christmas, only it is for Muslims,” she said. “One does not have to give a lot of money, I usually give SR100 for my grandchildren and SR500 for my children,” she added.
Eidiya are not only distributed after Eid breakfast. They can be given while going door-to-door to greet the neighbors and friends. Usually during Eid families are always ready to welcome family and friends anytime of the day where they pass by for a cup of Arabian coffee and chocolate. “We go around knocking on one door after the other to greet families and friends and celebrate Eid with them. You can always find them ready to welcome us with great hospitality,” said Nadia Abdulatif, a 39-year-old teacher. “Right before you leave, you will find your elder family member or friend giving your children an envelop with money or sometimes a golden coin,” she added.
Some Saudis also give eidiya for Eid Al-Adha, but they are most commonly given for Eid Al-Fitr.


A collection of works of female writers of Arab heritage sets out to ‘win hearts, change minds’

Updated 12 June 2021

A collection of works of female writers of Arab heritage sets out to ‘win hearts, change minds’

  • A spirited new anthology of poems and stories by Arab women down the ages overturns common expectations of gender 
  • ‘We Wrote in Symbols’ celebrates the literary works of 75 female writers of Arab heritage spanning five millenia

DUBAI: British-Palestinian author Selma Dabbagh hopes a new book featuring 75 stories of love and desire penned by Arab women will help pave the way for more female authors to emerge from the Middle East region.

The English-language anthology “We Wrote in Symbols,” edited by Dabbagh, was published in April this year, marking a literary first in showcasing the works of women from the region on subjects many might consider bold.

Spanning several millennia, the volume includes the works of classical poets, award-winning contemporary authors and emerging writers.

“It brings together a diverse range of voices who are writers in English, French and Arabic, coming from all of the three main monotheistic religions, as well as those that are not religious at all,” Dabbagh told Arab News.

‘We Wrote in Symbols’ editor Selma Dabbagh. (Courtesy of Sussana Baker Smith)

The idea arose after Dabbagh stumbled on an anthology called “Classical Poems by Arab Women,” which contained writings from the pre-Islamic period up to the fall of Andalusia in 1492.

The collection left a lasting impression. “Some were what you would expect. There were poems lamenting the loss of a brother in battle,” Dabbagh said.

“But other women were talking about sexuality in a way that was very self-assured. Some were being a bit provocative, but others were just content with that aspect of their life. The voices were surprising, but they also felt fresh, contemporary and spirited.”

Dabbagh began to notice similar themes in the work of contemporary female authors discussing issues of love and desire — in some cases dealing with the disconnection between the two in relationships, which were portrayed with remarkable sensitivity.

As a fiction writer, Dabbagh had always found this a difficult topic to handle, partly due to self-censorship stemming from her own notions of shame.

“There is a universal insistence on associating the actions of a character with the behavior of an author, which we need to be freed from,” she said.

Sabrina Mahfouz. (Courtesy of Greg Morrison)

“To be a writer who is able to depict those delicate shifts in mood and connections between people takes an enormous amount of skill and imagination. So, the collection is basically a combination of the older, classical poets and the newer voices looking at this difficult terrain.

“A lot of them are very funny, some are quite daring and explicit, and it’s just a different way for women identified with the region to have their writing viewed — through matters of the heart and the body.”

Dabbagh said there is an expectation among English readers that most Arab fiction is slightly depressing, political or downbeat. In the words of Nathalie Handal, one of the poets featured in the anthology, “people think Arabs don’t love with a beating heart.” The book aims to challenge this misconception.

“It tries to bring that sense of emotional excitement and tenderness to a vast, diverse and varied region through the writing of women,” Dabbagh said.

Indeed, there is much to celebrate about women in Arab literature, which actually predates anything published by a female author in the English language. One of the earliest poems included in the anthology dates back almost 5,000 years.

“You have this tradition, mainly in poetry, of writing and letter writing by Arab women before women started writing in Europe,” Dabbagh said. “I really wanted to show that, because it’s not something that is associated with the Arab world in terms of having higher levels of advancement in female literacy.”

Hanan Al-Shayk. (Supplied)

For Dabbagh, whose debut novel “Out of It” was nominated as a Guardian book of the year in 2011-12, navigating the affairs of the heart is not something that necessarily becomes easier with age.

Although she read the works of Hanan Al-Shaykh and Ahdaf Soueif avidly in her 20s, she wishes there had been more Arab women writers in her youth. “Sadly, I only read fluently in English,” she said.

“It was really radically life-changing for me to read accounts by women of a similar background. I grew up between the Gulf and Europe mainly, and I always found it such a difficult subject matter for me to find my voice.”

Reading their stories made Dabbagh more articulate about her own feelings.

“It just gives you a set of tools with which to negotiate this tricky emotional terrain,” she said. “I think (my book) might help to provide a level of self-knowledge because there are so many different characters in it that readers should be  able to relate to.”

Having read the works of critically acclaimed American writers, whose brash depiction of the hook-up culture she found dulling, her interest returned to the writings of women of Arab heritage to see how their interpretations of romance, sentimentality, vulnerability and desire affected her.

Laura Hanna. (Supplied)

In these works, she found creativity, humor and craft. “We’re always being told to see these two worlds I come from (the West/Europe and the Arab world) as almost antithetical to one another,” Dabbagh said.

“But with the language of love and looking at the Mediterranean as a kind of sea of stories, we can see how there’s been influence over time between Europe and the Arab world.

“In the 19th century, you had a lot of writers and explorers who came to the Arab world because it was a place of freer sensuality. It seemed to be less restrictive than the puritanical backgrounds these writers came from.

“Now that pattern has, to some extent, been reversed.”

During the Abbasid period, the topic  was written about and seen almost as a scientific study. “You could have a book which dealt with astrology and physics as well as expounding on sensuality, because sensuality and getting that harmony right between a couple was something that was indicative of how you can have harmony in the society as a whole,” Dabbagh said.

Elif Shafak. (Supplied)

“So, it was a way of ensuring that the community was in balance and that, to me, is such a beautiful idea. But it’s something that is rarely associated with the religion anymore.”

Nowadays, any associations between religion, women and sexuality appears to be overwhelmingly negative. “I wanted to show that range, to try to break up that stereotype,” she said.

And although one book is unlikely to change opinions overnight, Dabbagh believes women’s voices are gradually subverting traditional methods of censorship.

“The region has been engulfed with images, films and TV for the past 70 years, and most of it was state-run,” she said. “But now with Netflix and online streaming, we have a lot more content coming in and it’s hugely influential.”

Nevertheless, the depiction of Arabs and the Islamic world in Hollywood has improved little in the past century. “There is a kind of mass absorption of negative images of the region from outside, which is going to influence behavior,” Dabbagh said.

“We need to find ways of writing stories which are connected to regional history, cultures, which are exciting, dramatic, sleek and sexy. It’s just about being trained up, opting into it and starting to influence the way these stories are told.”

___________

Twitter: @CalineMalek


Three agreements signed to shoot Hollywood, Saudi movies in AlUla

Updated 11 June 2021

Three agreements signed to shoot Hollywood, Saudi movies in AlUla

  • ‘Film Commission is doing all it can to help local talents to harness the benefits of modern technology’

RIYADH: The Film AlUla department at the Royal Commission for AlUla has signed agreements to shoot three films in the governorate — an American movie directed by and featuring big Hollywood names and two Saudi movies.

The Saudi projects are “In Sands” directed by Muhammad Al-Atawee and “Nourah” directed by Tawfeeq Al-Zayedi. The Hollywood film has not yet been named.

The Film Commission at the Ministry of Culture will finance both Saudi films in full and will coordinate with Film AlUla to meet all shooting requirements in AlUla.

The agreements were signed following the great success of the American movie “Cherry” directed by Anthony and Joe Russo. Scenes from “Cherry” were shot in AlUla and Riyadh, a first for Saudi Arabia, in collaboration with Film AlUla, which is working hard to attract Saudi and global talents to shoot movies here.

Mohammad Al-Asmari, a documentary film director, said that the exchange of expertise in the filmmaking industry is a great stimulant for Saudi talent, noting that the industry is a lucrative source of income and a stimulant for domestic and foreign investors.

FASTFACTS

The Saudi projects are ‘In Sands’ directed by Muhammad Al-Atawee and ‘Nourah’ directed by Tawfeeq Al-Zayedi. The Hollywood film has not yet been named.

The agreements were signed following the great success of the American movie ‘Cherry’ directed by Anthony and Joe Russo. Scenes from ‘Cherry’ were shot in AlUla and Riyadh, a first for Saudi Arabia, in collaboration with Film AlUla, which is working hard to attract Saudi and global talents to shoot movies here.

Al-Asmari commended the Film Commission for encouraging the success of Saudi production and setting up the regulatory framework to help Saudis make their dreams come true.

The Film Commission is doing all it can to help local talents to develop their filmmaking skills and to harness the benefits of modern technology, Al-Asmari said.

The Film Commission was established in February last year. Its board of directors chaired by the minister of culture is responsible for developing the film sector in the Kingdom and encouraging individuals, institutions and companies to develop content.

Tariq Al-Khawaji, a cultural consultant at Ithra Programs, said the Kingdom’s attractive landscapes, including its historical heritage, have played a key role in promoting the development of the film industry.

Since Saudi Arabia started issuing tourist visas, it has been visited by numerous movie and television production companies exploring shooting in AlUla and other locations.

AlUla’s landscapes are among the best filming locations in the world and Film AlUla is seeking to establish AlUla as international filming and content destination and to create a film infrastructure in northwestern Saudi Arabia.

It provides a package of services to attract international filmmakers. This includes a team of film experts in AlUla to facilitate production and build a suitable ecosystem for filmmaking.

On the practical side, it can handle film crew visas, secure ground and air transportation, facilitate the import and export of cameras and other production equipment, sort out accommodation in Riyadh and AlUla and grant permits.

In addition to its cultural heritage dating back more than 200,000 years, AlUla has a fascinating diversity of terrains covering an area of more than 22,500 km that includes charming valleys and amazing rock formations created by wind and water over millions of years. The governorate’s farms, villages and cities with their range of old and new architecture offer a variety of options for filmmakers.

Film AlUla also works to stimulate local film production, in partnership with other government agencies, based on the Royal Commission’s endeavor to empower national talents in the film industry.


Who’s that girl? Saudi makeup artist explores the changing face of women

The COVID-19 crisis turned out to be an opportunity for Saudi avant-garde makeup artist Salwa Koshak. (Supplied)
Updated 05 June 2021

Who’s that girl? Saudi makeup artist explores the changing face of women

  • Salwa Koshak uses creative cosmetics techniques to share her passion for the history and evolution of style

JEDDAH: The faces in the photographs are familiar and the poses instantly recognizable: The iconic fashions of Marilyn Monroe. The sophisticated style of Audrey Hepburn. The chessboard chic of Beth Harman, as portrayed by Anya Taylor-Joy in the Netflix TV drama “The Queen’s Gambit.”

But look a little closer and there is a twist; these are not archive photos of celebrities but the work of Saudi avant-garde makeup artist Salwa Koshak.
Armed with her mastery of creative makeup techniques, along with a few accessories such as wigs, beads and stickers, there is no limit to the real or fictional figures she can transform herself into.
In makeup terms, avant-garde refers to an extreme and expressive form of cosmetic art that embraces fantasy and imagination.
For Koshak, this means drawing on her love of all things retro and vintage, including celebrity culture and style, but also more modern inspirations.
In addition to recreating the looks and styles of actors such as Monroe and Hepburn, pop stars such as David Bowie and Cher, and even Disney characters such as Belle from “Beauty and the Beast,” the 33-year-old also creates unique makeup themes based on video games such as Pac-Man, movies such as “Star Wars,” and special occasions such as Valentine’s Day.
The Saudi creative now lives in Jeddah but spent most of her youth, from elementary school through to high school, in Orlando, Florida. She grew up there inspired by the entertainment offered by theme parks such as Disney World, Universal Studios and Sea World.
“There were so many different creative and imaginative places to go to,” Koshak told Arab News.
“I was always into makeup, styling, costumes, and I see fashion as a representation of something.
“Although we have so many media, such as radio and television, I think the biggest medium is a person — a person and who they are, their personality, their body and how their body is used to share stories and ideas. I think a person can do that more so than just an artwork or just a TV show and so on.”
During a 10-year career in public relations and marketing Koshak has worked with many photographers, fashion models and businesses that collaborate with makeup artists. She said she herself was offered the chance to work as a model in her early teenage years, while living in the US, but turned it down.
“Modeling alone wasn’t really my passion,” she said.
“I like to represent ideas and I want to have more control over the image I want to create.

You can make anything fun or beautiful, and make anything with the tools that we have: Editing tools, makeup, fabrics — all of these things do tell a story.

Salwa Koshak

“I like to draw and put things on my face: Beads, stickers, dolls — whatever I can do to get a theme out that I’m trying to share.”
Koshak said that while the fashion and beauty industries have always pressured women to look a certain way, she wants to teach women that they can have fun with makeup rather than worry about whether or not they are more or less attractive without it.
“Coming from a person who has worked in media and marketing for a long time, I think showing people (that) you can look like anything you want, that (makeup products are) just tools (so) don’t take it seriously, and (that) no one really does look like that, that’s the biggest thing I want to give out,” she said.
“I want to make sure it is positive and people see that this is just art, that makeup can be removed, it’s not something that you need, it’s not something you have to look like, and you yourself, with a little bit of dreaming and a (few) tools, can look like anyone you want to look like.”
The COVID-19 crisis turned out to be an opportunity for Koshak that motivated her to pursue her art.

HIGHLIGHTS

• In makeup terms, avant-garde refers to an extreme and expressive form of cosmetic art that embraces fantasy and imagination. • For Saudi makeup artist Salwa Koshak, this means drawing on her love of all things retro and vintage, including celebrity culture and style, but also more modern inspirations.

“It all started during the pandemic and being at home,” she said.
“The last job I held was at Dar Al-Hekma University, where I worked as the marketing director and also taught brand management strategy in the marketing department.
“That was the last full-time position I held, and after that I did take a break to really think about what I wanted. To be honest, after being in a corporate environment — which I’ve been in for a long time — I got tired of the routine, and the expression of ideas is mostly in writing and strategies rather than creativity and art.”
So during the lockdowns last year she began to create and develop her avant-garde makeup skills, publishing the results on social media.
Along the way she invested in equipment and learned new skills to ensure the best possible showcase for her work. For example, she developed her knowledge of Photoshop and other editing software so that she can have total control of her art.
She said she does not want to have to rely on anyone else to create content that breaks the rules and shows you do not have to be a “fashionista” to look great, or conform to traditional ideas of glamour and beauty all the time.
“You can make anything fun or beautiful, and make anything with the tools that we have: Editing tools, makeup, fabrics — all of these things do tell a story,” said Koshak.
She added that she thinks of her work as a kind of a social commentary about how beauty and makeup and social media are evolving, in some ways, to become more of a hobby showcase and a way for people to share their talents and the things they are passionate about, rather than just showing off for the sake of it.
“When you show off your talent and the things you love, I think it’s very different,” Koshak said. “You get a support team, a community, and you meet a lot of people that think like you and want to work in the same field.
“I’m not that young, that’s why I couldn’t switch careers at the last minute, but you can’t keep doing something you don’t love, and do it forever.”
Describing herself as a “big history buff,” Koshak, said she likes to study how looks and styles have evolved and changed through the decades and enjoys recreating old looks, from the 1920s through to the 1990s.
She added that many of these styles are iconic and helped define the societies of the times, and so anyone with an interest in fashion and art must also love history and do a lot of reading. The clothes that people wore in different eras, together with their hairstyles and makeup, is part of the “social commentary” of those times, she added.
Koshak said she plans to launch a YouTube channel, not necessarily to give makeup tutorials as such, but to offer insights into her art, how it is inspired by history and how she goes about creating her looks.
“My YouTube channel will be about explaining history, makeup, art and beauty,” she said. “It’s my dream to create video content that is entertaining, fun and informative. I love teaching — I want to share all the information that I can to teach others to create.”


Egypt’s ‘King of the Sun’ exhibition proves to be a big draw in Prague

Updated 29 May 2021

Egypt’s ‘King of the Sun’ exhibition proves to be a big draw in Prague

  • It is the first Egyptian antiquities exhibition in Prague and the largest exhibition of antiquities from the Old Kingdom
  • Ibrahim Mostafa, the inspector escorting the exhibition, said around 400 people were visiting every day

CAIRO: All tickets for the “Kings of the Sun” exhibition in Prague have been sold out until June 6, according to Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.
Tourism and Antiquities Minister Khaled Al-Anani launched the exhibition last August along with Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis.
It is the first Egyptian antiquities exhibition in Prague and the largest exhibition of antiquities from the Old Kingdom.
A large number of Czechs have visited the exhibition, said Mostafa El-Wazeeri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, adding that it had attracted around 10,000 people since the show reopened on May 4. 
Ibrahim Mostafa, the inspector escorting the exhibition, said around 400 people were visiting every day.
Visits are taking place in line with COVID-19 precautionary measures — social distancing, face masks, hand sanitizer use, and time-reserved tickets. 
On display are 90 artifacts that were unearthed during excavations in Abusir by the Czech mission, including a basalt statue of King Raneferef.
The exhibition’s inauguration coincided with the 60th anniversary of the start of Czech archaeological work in Egypt.
The aim of the show is to offer Czech visitors a glimpse into ancient Egyptian civilization and encourage them to visit the country to see more of its monuments as well as enjoy its beaches and landscapes.


How Canadian-Lebanese architect Samir Saddi is trying to rebuild the Arab world

Updated 29 May 2021

How Canadian-Lebanese architect Samir Saddi is trying to rebuild the Arab world

  • The Beirut-born architect has dedicated his life to documenting traditional Arab architecture and encouraging others to incorporate heritage into modern designs

DUBAI: After recently coming fifth in the UNESCO International Competition for the Reconstruction and Rehabilitation of Mosul’s Al-Nouri Mosque with his team, Samir Nicolas Saddi has big plans for heritage rehabilitation around the Middle East.

The Beirut-born Canadian-Lebanese architect, who founded the Arab Research Center for Architecture and Design of the Environment (ARCADE) back in 1990, has dedicated his life to documenting the fragile traditional environment in the Middle East and proposing innovative approaches to sustainable architecture — as he did in the UNESCO competition.

“The aim of rebuilding Al-Nouri Mosque is very symbolic, given the level of destruction occurring in the Arab world,” he told Arab News. “It was especially symbolic for me as I am very concerned with how to rebuild the Arab world, particularly the countries which have been devastated by war. So it was a great opportunity.”

A tragedy happened when Saddi was preparing to visit Syria to document Aleppo. (Supplied)

Saddi’s team of architects from France and Dubai looked at how to integrate the mosque within Mosul’s architecture, which he describes as having a “unique historic pattern.” Their aim was to find a way to make it available for local people to rebuild, based on their knowledge of their own architecture.

“We had a lot of passionate discussions about architecture in the Arab world, especially the historic cities,” Saddi explained, as he spoke of his interest in opening up the Gulf to young French consultancies. “My role was really to inform the team about the Middle East. I might also be working with the team on other projects and opening up France to the Middle East and to the Arab world, which is great, because the Arab world — especially the GCC — is mostly collaborating with American and British consultants.”
Saddi’s own journey dates back decades, starting in Lebanon when he finished his studies as an architect in 1974. At the time, it seemed the country was heading into a fruitful and prosperous era, and Saddi was already working with a large architectural firm on projects to be developed over the next 10 years. But all of that abruptly came to a halt when the country’s devastating civil war broke out in 1975. “At first, we thought it would only last a couple of months, and then it took 19 years” Saddi told Arab News.

Old Aleppo souks. (Supplied)

“I realized that there was no time to document what Beirut was because we had immediately entered into a zone where people were fighting and my aim was really to document Beirut city center, which was an amazing place, and other places in the capital,” he said.

For Saddi, documenting historic or traditional architecture was crucial in such a fast-moving world in which time seemed to be running out for such places.

A similar tragedy happened when Saddi was preparing to visit Syria to document Aleppo, Damascus and other ancient Arab cities with rich heritage. “But the war happened, so Aleppo was gone, and so on and so forth,” Saddi said. “I visited Aleppo in 2000 for a couple of days and I took some pictures but today, it is ruined.”

For him, old Jeddah — also known in Arabic as the Balad — is one of the most significant of those cities. (Supplied)

The main idea behind ARCADE, he said, is to “document these places because, at least, if you have documentation, you can photograph the urban architecture, and later on elaborate a lot of research that will consolidate modern contemporary architecture and projects.”

He mentioned the fact that international architects commonly work on projects in the Gulf and the Middle East today, despite not really being familiar with the essence of the region’s architecture. “So the design is often coming from far away and is not related to the reality of the people on the ground,” he said.

He spent three years taking photos of old Jeddah, from 1994 to 1997. (Supplied)

Saddi is now working with his peers in Europe on a book about historic Arab cities in the Middle East. For him, old Jeddah — also known in Arabic as the Balad — is one of the most significant of those cities. He spent three years taking photos of old Jeddah, from 1994 to 1997, with the aim of safeguarding the old city and participating in its redevelopment.

Old Cairo is another city that ranks high on his list. “Today, it is a very big project,” he noted. “In 2017, I had time to go and really document the historic Cairo, which is amazing, and there is a lot to do. Today, it is a real project — Egypt is keen on restoring and rehabilitating Old Cairo.”

He described it as a “monumental zone” with exceptional buildings representing a perfect example of Islamic architecture, along with old churches. “Cairo is really very important to preserve,” he said.

Old Cairo is another city that ranks high on his list. (Supplied)

Saddi spoke of many other cities in the Arab world which he believes it is crucial to rehabilitate so that people remember and recognize them as the beacons of rich urban architecture that they are.

Ultimately, his goal is to demonstrate to the world the Middle East’s unique heritage, while communicating to the younger generation of architects and urban planners in the Arab world how crucial it is to develop their architecture based on their heritage.

Old Tripoli. (Supplied)

“We should not copy,” he said. “In the last 50 years, architects were unfortunately copying the heritage, but it is not about that. It is about going further and really connecting with this heritage and continuing its spirit, like what is happening in Mosul.”

For Saddi, such projects are not about simply recreating the past, but rather about introducing a new spirit that is connected to the past. “This is my hope — that somehow we can achieve this through publications and workshops, which is why I created ARCADE,” he concluded. “It is about research. Unfortunately, the Arab world is not yet keen on allocating budgets for research. The west was — and is still — allocating huge budgets towards this, but not the Arab world although we have the means to do it, so it is a shame. But I have hope for the future.”