Live debut of all-female Saudi band Seera showcases the electrifying power of women

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The rock fusion band Seera (left to right): Meesh, Nora, Haya, and THING. (AN/Huda Bashatah)
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Bassist for the band Seera, Meesh, on stage at their debut show in The Warehouse on May 4. (AN/Huda Bashatah)
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Lead singer and pianist, Nora, on stage at Seera’s debut show in The Warehouse on May 4. (AN/Huda Bashatah)
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Seera’s lead guitarist, Haya, on stage at their debut show in The Warehouse on May 4. (AN/Huda Bashatah)
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Updated 09 May 2023
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Live debut of all-female Saudi band Seera showcases the electrifying power of women

  • The 4-piece Saudi band delivered a captivating performance to a delighted audience of more than 200 people at The Warehouse in Riyadh on Thursday night
  • Guitarist Haya said: ‘It’s still kind of a male-dominated field … (as) an all-woman band, we really want to support women to be more out there and to take up space’

RIYADH: As the profile of women continues to rise in the contemporary music industry in Saudi Arabia, and the wider Middle East, all-female rock-fusion band Seera is boldly pioneering a largely untapped psychedelic sound on the Kingdom’s local scene.
After a warm-up by DJ Haffs, the Saudi band delivered a captivating performance to an audience of more than 200 people at The Warehouse in Riyadh on Thursday night in their debut live show. The venue echoed to the unique sounds of the four-piece band: guitarist Haya, bassist Meesh, THING on drums, and Nora on lead vocals and keyboard. The audience was duly impressed.
“Throughout the whole performance, my phone was always in my pocket; I never took it out, and I never took any pictures or any videos,” Nadir Al-Fassam, lead guitarist of Saudi psychedelic punk band Sound of Ruby, told Arab News.
“I was just concentrating on the performance. The truth is that doesn’t happen a lot.”
Beyond their music, however, Seera’s greatest impact might lie in the influence they have on other Saudi women.
Meesh said: “We haven’t even launched yet and I’ve already had women come up to me and (say), ‘I’ve been picking up an instrument but I haven’t felt like I could really put myself out there until seeing you guys,’ or, ‘You guys inspired me.’”
The band hopes their live debut will encourage others to take to the stage.
“It’s still kind of a male-dominated field globally, and here, too… (as) an all-woman band, we really want to support women to be more out there and to take up space,” said Haya.
The story of the band began a year ago, when Haya met sisters Meesh and Nora through Instagram and they got together for a jam session.
“Within a minute, we had written a song, and when Nora also came and met up with us we were just going and going,” Haya told Arab News.
Nora added: “Me and Meesh started playing music a long time ago. Since we’re sisters, we’ve always felt there was a missing piece. We were looking for a band and people to connect with through our music. We were on the hunt.
“When Haya reached out to Meesh, it was the perfect opportunity to form a band, especially since our music tastes are very similar. We like uniqueness in music and we love diversity in sound.”
Drummer THING was the missing link, she said, and they met her at a music event later that summer.
Meesh said: “I’ve played with a lot of people before but when I played with the girls, I expressed myself freely in a way that I’m not used to. I felt myself progress … Playing together really helped us all develop ourselves as musicians, as people, as a band.”
The group’s sound, which combines their interests in jazz, funk, soul and Turkish psychedelic rock, is reminiscent of performers from the 1970s such as Jefferson Airplane and Janis Joplin, but they add their own spin by infusing it with Arabic and English influences.
“When I started writing lyrics, I used to always write in English but I wanted to get more in touch with my culture,” said Nora.
“So, I really looked into the writing process and I ended up loving it. Arabic Fus’ha (classical Arabic) is beautiful, and I wanted to incorporate that more into the music. That’s when we mixed both languages together.”
Some of their lyrics also feature Ammiya, or colloquial Arabic, in an effort to modernize the sound while remaining true to their roots and upbringing.
“We really wanted to represent an original sound,” said THING. “It was really important for us to focus on our culture, on local Arabic sounds mostly, and then mixing it together because we’re influenced by a lot of things.”
As they performed original tracks on Thursday night, including “Woman,” “Junoon Almal” (“Money Craze or Greed”) and “Khaleek Ba’eed” (“Stay Away”), the band really played to the crowd, complete with free-flowing moves and headbanging, often inviting the audience to clap along. “We’re about to take you guys to dreamland,” Nora told them between songs.
The crowd went wild when Seera concluded their set with the track “Slapping,” calling out for more.
“We were so overwhelmed by the audience and their energy and how they felt the music,” said Nora.
“I could see in their faces that they were connecting with it and that just meant the world to me. This doesn’t stop here and it’s just fueling our fire for the future.”

Decoder

Seera

It's the name of an all-female Saudi rock-fusion band that's beginning to make waves across the Kingdom. Some of their lyrics also feature Ammiya, or colloquial Arabic, in an effort to modernize the sound while remaining true to their roots and upbringing.


Jeddah Al-Balad’s new heritage hotels offer glimpse into bygone era

Updated 01 March 2024
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Jeddah Al-Balad’s new heritage hotels offer glimpse into bygone era

  • Launched by the Historic District Program, the restored houses fuse region’s rich history with contemporary comforts

JEDDAH: Nestled in the heart of Jeddah’s historic district are heritage hotels launched by the Jeddah Historic District Program under the patronage of the Ministry of Culture and in partnership with Al-Balad Development Co.

These hotels, including Beit Jokhdar, Beit Al-Rayess and Beit Kedwan, have been meticulously restored while preserving their architectural features to provide guests with an authentic glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of the region.

The restoration and rehabilitation of these heritage hotels was carried out in alignment with the highest international standards and the guidelines set out by UNESCO, which designated Jeddah Historic District as a World Heritage Site in 2014.

The opening of the first three heritage hotels in Jeddah Historic District marks a significant milestone in efforts to preserve and promote cultural heritage. (Instagram/jeddahalbalad.sa)

Tariq Omar Al-Saggaf, the project manager, told Arab News about the extensive work involved in reviving about 600 heritage buildings in the area. “These buildings are not only being restored but also repurposed for various functions ranging from hotels to residential, administrative, commercial and cultural purposes,” he said.

Through a harmonious blend of historical restoration and modern hospitality, these hotels offer guests an opportunity to immerse themselves in the rich history and architecture of one of Saudi Arabia’s most iconic districts.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The recent agreement between the Jeddah Historic District Program and Al-Balad Development Co. signals a new chapter in the operation of the heritage hotels. • Beit Jokhdar has one of the largest wooden facades in Al-Balad and distinctive elements such as stained glass. • Beit Kedwan, facing Beit Nassif, stands out for its wooden rawasheen and mashrabiyyas.

During an exclusive tour at Beit Jokhdar, Milica Markovic, the general manager of Al-Balad Historic Hotels, told Arab News that the restoration process aimed to maintain the original charm of the buildings: “80 percent of the building has been restored to how it originally was. This building has the biggest roshan window in Jeddah. It has nine rooms and suites and it’s the biggest out of the three that we have.”

She added: “So, that’s why the architecture is actually very unique. It is very important for us to reflect for the guests, although these are hotels (they have) a very homey, elegant vibe.”

The opening of the first three heritage hotels in Jeddah Historic District marks a significant milestone in efforts to preserve and promote cultural heritage. (Instagram/jeddahalbalad.sa)

The attention to detail in preserving elements such as the roshan window, wooden ornaments and oil lamp hooks gives guests an insight into the heritage of the region. Local craftsmanship and artistry are also integral to the interior design and ambiance of the hotels, reflecting the cultural richness of Saudi Arabia.

“The ceilings are also original with wood ornament carving that is handmade. We even preserved the old hooks, where they used to put the oil lamps to lighten up the room. Most of the art and furniture you see … most of it has been done locally, so we really try to showcase fully not just the interior design and architecture of Saudi Arabia but also ... the work of the artists,” Markovic said.

Each of the three heritage hotels showcases a different architectural design that highlights the historical and aesthetic value of the buildings.

Beit Jokhdar, for instance, has one of the largest wooden facades in Al-Balad and features distinctive elements such as plaster decorations, arches, stained glass and ornate wooden interiors.

Beit Kedwan, facing Beit Nassif, stands out for its wooden rawasheen and mashrabiyyas, while Beit Al-Rayess is celebrated for its location and architectural features both internally and externally.

Markovic said: “The whole renovation process, I believe, took a little bit more than two years. But to set it up at the hotel and the hotel operation … it’s been only actually three months so we’ve been hardcore working to set everything up for the year.

“The most beautiful thing about these hotels is we don’t have to come up with a fancy marketing strategy or anything, we can just embrace them and share this beautiful history story,” Markovic said.

“Prices go usually from SR5,000 ($1,333) and more per night, but depending on the seasonality event in Jeddah, it can go a certain percentage lower or higher depending on the occupancy.”

Hospitality and dining in all hotels is inspired by an authentic Saudi flavor, “We have hired fantastic young chefs that are basically developing dishes that are inspired by Saudi cuisine, but with a bit of a more modern fine dining and elegant twist,” Markovic said.

The recent agreement between the Jeddah Historic District Program and Al-Balad Development Co. signals a new chapter in the operation of the heritage hotels.

With 34 heritage houses set to be managed under this partnership, Al-Balad Hospitality aims to offer authentic hospitality experiences that celebrate the culture of the region.

The commitment to preserving the history and providing enriching experiences positions Jeddah Historic District as a sought-after destination for visitors worldwide.

The opening of the first three heritage hotels in Jeddah Historic District marks a significant milestone in efforts to preserve and promote cultural heritage.

 


King Saud University pioneers in metaverse technology

The first Metaverse space at the level of Saudi universities for the Department of Media at King Saud University. (Supplied)
Updated 01 March 2024
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King Saud University pioneers in metaverse technology

  • Unveiled on the inaugural day of the “Fomex” exhibition at the third Saudi Media Forum which was conducted earlier this month, the virtual space meticulously mirrors the intricate details and units in the media department

JEDDAH: In a transformative leap towards technological integration, the Department of Mass Communication at the King Saud University has harnessed the power of metaverse technology and artificial intelligence tools to create a groundbreaking virtual space that encapsulates the essence of the university’s communication landscape.

The genesis of this project traces back to a collaborative effort by Majedah Alsewaiah and Khadeja Moraished, both from the Department of Mass Communication.

The first Metaverse space at the level of Saudi universities for the Department of Media at King Saud University. (Supplied)

Inspired by their training in AI journalism and the metaverse, the duo conceptualized a virtual environment that would serve as a dynamic showcase of the department’s achievements and milestones.

Unveiled on the inaugural day of the “Fomex” exhibition at the third Saudi Media Forum which was conducted earlier this month, the virtual space meticulously mirrors the intricate details and units in the media department.

HIGHLIGHT

The metaverse’s virtual space enhances immersive learning by enabling students to actively engage in their education, such as participating in historical simulations or real-time language practice with avatars.

From the head of the department’s office to the various cutting-edge studios and centers, such as the digital and visual media lab, electronic journalism lab, and the university’s newspaper headquarters, every facet is intricately woven into this digital tapestry.

Moraished, who is a Ph.D candidate in digital media at the Mass Communication Department at KSU, told Arab News: “After earning our diploma in AI journalism and the metaverse, Dr. Majedah Alsewaiah, an assistant professor in the Department of Mass Communication, and I developed a project for our final submission, showcasing the accomplishments of the media department. This led to the conception of utilizing metaverse technology to craft a virtual environment.

“We proposed the idea using metaverse technology for a virtual space to Dr. Faisal Al-Oqail, head of the media department, and the project was refined to mirror the department’s various units and key university landmarks, including the iconic book roundabout, emblematic of the KSU,” she said.

Moraished said that the metaverse’s virtual space enhances immersive learning by enabling students to actively engage in their education, such as participating in historical simulations or real-time language practice with avatars.

“Virtual reality allows for hands-on interaction with complex concepts. It facilitates global collaboration by removing geographical barriers, connecting students and educators worldwide for joint projects and exchanging teaching methods. This fosters cross-cultural learning and prepares students for a future where global cooperation is crucial.”

Alsewaiah credits the media department of the KSU with pioneering innovation in the metaverse sphere.

Embracing Mark Zuckerberg’s vision of the metaverse as “the future of the internet,” she said that “the university’s virtual space supports its commitment to digital advancement and knowledge dissemination.”

Central to the project’s success is the seamless integration of AI tools in editing, designing, and production.

Looking ahead, Alsewaiah envisions further expansion and enhancement of the metaverse project, propelling educational excellence and fostering creativity in communication and media realms.

“The transition to the metaverse will spark competition and primarily enhance education by facilitating knowledge transfer and interaction between professors and students. Utilizing the metaverse and AI for creative outputs will also advance communication, and media, and elevate Saudi media’s effectiveness and distinction,” said Alsewaiah.

 


‘Asayel’ equestrian theater show wins hearts in Diriyah

‘Asayel’ follows Fahad, a man from Diriyah, and his strong bond with his horse. (AN photos by Huda Bashatah)
Updated 01 March 2024
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‘Asayel’ equestrian theater show wins hearts in Diriyah

  • “Asayel” is part of the collective events of Diriyah Season, which aims to promote the cultural and historical heritage of the city

RIYADH: The story of Fahad and his beloved horse Asayel are at the heart of a new theatrical equestrian show in Diriyah that is captivating visitors.

The show follows Fahad, a man from Diriyah, and his strong bond with Asayel. The horse is later passed to Fahad’s son, Faris, who experiences hardship before navigating the modern city of Diriyah with his animal companion, eventually leading the community to unity and determination.

“Asayel,” which runs from Feb. 28 to March 8 at Mayadeen Theater, is presented by Z7 Show Horses, a company of 40 performers and 40 horses bringing sophistication and passion to Diriyah.

‘Asayel’ follows Fahad, a man from Diriyah, and his strong bond with his horse. (AN photos by Huda Bashatah)

The team’s director, Laura Arkle, said: “Z7 Show Horses and the team are extremely excited to be performing in Saudi Arabia. Being able to tell the Diriyah story whilst incorporating the rich culture through the art of equestrian entertainment is a dream come true for all of us.”

“Asayel” has been met with high praise from audience members, including Saudi model and content creator Reyouf Madkhali, who said: “This is my first time attending a show with this high-quality performance.”

FASTFACT

‘Asayel’ runs until March 8 at Mayadeen Theater in Diriyah.

She added: “It was very professional, clean cut … honestly, it was very well organized.”

Events like “Asayel” in Diriyah, which celebrate the ancient city’s heritage, have reached a new level of professionalism and showmanship, Madkhali said.

Nada Abdul Hakim, a young Saudi singer and actress who plays the role of Nourah in the show, told Arab News: “It is a beautiful experience … my role is Nourah in the story, Faris’ friend. Nourah taught Faris how to ride a horse because he loved horses.”

“Asayel” is part of the collective events of Diriyah Season, which aims to promote the cultural and historical heritage of the city.

 


New Murabba partners with Tourism Development Fund to bring Riyadh’s downtown to life

The MoU was signed by New Murabba Development Company CEO Michael Dyke and TDF chief executive Qusai bin Abdullah Al-Fakhri.
Updated 01 March 2024
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New Murabba partners with Tourism Development Fund to bring Riyadh’s downtown to life

  • The agreement aims to unlock New Murabba’s potential, placing Riyadh at the forefront of global destinations

RIYADH: New Murabba Development Company has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Tourism Development Fund to spearhead the transformation of Riyadh.

The agreement will see the two entities work together to create New Murabba, for what they envisage will be the world’s largest modern downtown, serving as a model for future urban development and contributing toward Riyadh city’s evolution, in line with Vision 2030.

NMDC’s strategic partnership with TFD is pivotal in realizing New Murabba’s ambition to create the most advanced, transformative, downtown experience in the world. It aims to fulfil Saudi Arabia’s potential as a leading investment destination — for what the entities involved foresee as a place where people live, work and play; a tourism and hospitality hotspot distinguished by a thriving technology ecosystem; an enabling business environment; and a diverse and welcoming society.

The MoU was signed by New Murabba Development Company CEO Michael Dyke and TDF chief executive Qusai bin Abdullah Al-Fakhri. As part of the agreement, TDF will provide direct financing opportunities in collaboration with its network of partners and contracted investors, solidifying NMDC’s access to TDF’s expertise, networks and investment capabilities.

The agreement aims to unlock New Murabba’s potential, placing Riyadh at the forefront of global destinations and showcasing the Kingdom’s commitment to innovative, sustainable urban development, cultural richness and international visitor experiences.

 


Riyadh hosts GCC, talks with foreign ministers on Sunday

Updated 01 March 2024
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Riyadh hosts GCC, talks with foreign ministers on Sunday

  • “The GCC Ministerial Council and the joint ministerial meetings with Egypt, Jordan and Morocco will be held on March 3,” the GCC posted on X
  • A joint ministerial meeting will be held on the sidelines

RIYADH: The Gulf Cooperation Council will host its 159th ministerial session in Riyadh on Sunday, while separate meetings will be held involving the foreign ministers of Jordan, Egypt and Morocco.
“The GCC Ministerial Council and the joint ministerial meetings with Egypt, Jordan and Morocco will be held on March 3,” the GCC posted on X.
The council shared a statement from GCC Secretary-General Jassim Mohammed Al-Budaiwi, which said: “The meeting of the 159th Ministerial Council of the GCC will be held (on) Sunday in Riyadh, headed by Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani, prime minister and minister of foreign affairs of Qatar (and) president of the current session of the Ministerial Council, in the presence of the foreign ministers of the GCC countries.”
A joint ministerial meeting will be held on the sidelines between the GCC and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, and Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita.
The secretary-general said that the Ministerial Council will discuss a number of reports on the subject of following up on the implementation of the decisions of the GCC’s Supreme Council that were issued by the summit in Doha in December 2023.
It will also focus on memorandums and reports submitted by the ministerial and technical committees and the general secretariat, in addition to topics related to dialogues and strategic relations between the GCC countries and global countries and blocs, as well as the latest regional and international developments.
Al-Budaiwi said that the Gulf-Egyptian meeting will look at several topics, the most important of which are the joint action plan and ways to enhance cooperation.
The meetings between the GCC and Jordan and Morocco will form part of the distinctive relationships and partnerships between the parties.