Lights, carols, and decorations: In Karachi, a Christian family’s home comes alive every Christmas

Pakistani Christian family celebrates on the eve of Christmas with special prayers in Karachi on December 24, 2023. (AN Photo)
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Updated 25 December 2023

Lights, carols, and decorations: In Karachi, a Christian family’s home comes alive every Christmas

  • At Dr. Jennifer Maqbool’s house, Christmas celebrations involve singing carols, cooking up sumptuous meals, and plenty of decorations
  • Millions of Christians around the world celebrate December 25 as the birthday of Jesus Christ, whom they consider the savior of humanity

KARACHI: Professor Inayatdin skillfully plays the piano as his daughter, Dr. Jennifer Maqbool, leads the family into singing a melodious Christmas carol. A Christmas tree adorned with decorations, bright lights throughout the house, and singing voices ensures there’s plenty of Christmas festivity in the air at this Karachi house.
Every year, millions of Christians around the world mark December 25 as the birthday of Jesus Christ, whom they believe to be the son of God and savior of humanity. For centuries, Christians have celebrated the event by getting together with friends and families, exchanging gifts, and cooking sumptuous meals.
Dr. Maqbool’s home in Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi is no different.
“Love and peace and mankind; this is the message of Christmas,” Dr. Maqbool told Arab News. “And we are celebrating it here with fervor in Pakistan,” she added, placing an unbaked cake into her oven.
In the other room, children decorate the house with bright lights and vibrant decorations as Dr. Maqbool makes her way to the heart of the home – the kitchen – where the sweet aroma of Christmas awaits.
“Pakistanis enjoy Christmas very much. Christmas programs and the Christmas season start for us from the end of November,” Dr. Maqbool explained.
Pakistan is home to 2.63 million Christians, the third-largest religious community in the predominantly Muslim South Asian country. Pakistan’s Christian community starts preparing for the festive event before December begins.
These preparations, Dr. Maqbool said, include making snacks, baking cakes, buying Christmas gifts for friends and relatives, and organizing church plays, dramas, bonfires and carol parties.
“All this is a part of Christmas,” she said, smiling.
While the adults look forward to the mouth-watering dishes and desserts, the children’s minds are preoccupied with something else.
“The children have already written letters to Santa Claus for the gifts they want,” Dr. Maqbool said.
“And if they have been good, Santa Claus will be bringing gifts and hiding them in the house somewhere. And he will leave clues and they will then find their gifts.”
Mishal Munawar, one of the children and Dr. Maqbool’s relative, said she was decorating the Christmas tree in the house.
“The Christmas tree is very mandatory,” Munawar told Arab News. “We put lights, bells, gifts, toffees, and a small Santa Claus, and flowers.”
Sigil Shafiq is one of Dr. Maqbool’s many family friends who take part in the festivities a day before Christmas.
“We love to put on festive clothes,” Shafiq told Arab News. “We usually like to get bright colors for Christmas like red and blue and green. And we like to buy bangles and dangly earrings and we like to put henna,” she added.
Shafiq said they spend time getting ready for Christmas by visiting beauty parlors and getting facials.
“It’s a good time. We have fun doing it,” she said.
For Dr. Maqbool and other Christians around the world, Christmas brings with it friends and family members from far and wide.
“All my sisters lovingly come all the way from Dubai, from Australia, [and] from Canada. We have a big gathering in our house,” she said.
With only a day left before Christmas, excitement hangs heavy in the house. And Dr. Maqbool is quite pleased with all that has been achieved so far.
“A Merry Christmas to everybody from Pakistan, my beloved homeland my beloved country,” she said.

Jon Voight criticizes daughter Angelina Jolie’s Israel-Palestine stance

Updated 4 sec ago

Jon Voight criticizes daughter Angelina Jolie’s Israel-Palestine stance

DUBAi: US veteran actor Jon Voight this week has publicly criticized his daughter Angelina Jolie’s views on the Israel-Palestine war, accusing her of being “influenced by antisemitic individuals.” 

In November, Jolie – known for her humanitarian activism and was formerly a special envoy of the UN High Commission for Refugees – posted a statement accusing Israel of “deliberately bombing children, women, families, deprived of food, medicine, and humanitarian aid” in violation of international law. 

In an interview with Variety this week, Voight said: “She has been exposed to propaganda. She’s been influenced by antisemitic people. Angie has a connection to the UN, and she’s enjoyed speaking out for refugees. But these people are not refugees.”

“I love my daughter. I don’t want to fight with my daughter,” added the Academy Award-winning actor. “But the fact is, I think she has been influenced by the UN. From the beginning, it’s been awful with human rights. They call it human rights, but it’s just anti-Israel bashing. She’s ignorant of what the real stakes are and what the real story is because she’s in the loop of the United Nations.” 

REVIEW: Natalie Portman and Moses Ingram shine in ‘Lady in the Lake’

Updated 25 July 2024

REVIEW: Natalie Portman and Moses Ingram shine in ‘Lady in the Lake’

  • Alma Har’el’s adaptation of Laura Lippman’s novel is mesmerizing TV

DUBAI: In Apple TV+’s excellent drama-thriller miniseries “Lady in the Lake,” Natalie Portman becomes the latest major movie star to make the move to television.

Portman plays Maddie Schwartz, a discontented Jewish housewife living in Baltimore in the 1960s. Maddie used to harbor dreams of becoming a journalist, but instead married the overbearing and abusive — at least verbally — Milton (played by Brett Gelman of “Stranger Things” fame) and became a stay-at-home mom to their son Seth (Noah Jupe), now a teenager. When a young girl, Tessie, goes missing during the Thanksgiving Day parade, Maddie becomes obsessed with finding her (which she does, though Tessie is dead) and, in the process, makes the decision to leave her husband and dedicate her time to trying to solve Tessie’s murder. In the process, her life converges with that of Cleo (Moses Ingram), a Black woman who is working three jobs to try and lift her children out of poverty, unaided by her feckless husband, an aspiring standup comedian.  When — spoiler alert, kind of — Cleo’s body is found near the same lake as Tessie’s, Maddie continues her rise as a reporter at the Baltimore Sun by involving herself in that investigation too.


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Portman shouldn’t have felt too out of place filming “Lady in the Lake.” Showrunner Alma Har’el’s adaptation of Laura Lippman’s novel is a heavily stylized, sometimes surreal, cinematic experience that suggests the budget can’t be too far below that of a big-budget movie. The greatest surprise, perhaps, is that the star of the show, at least based on the first two episodes, is not Portman (who is, nevertheless, excellent), but Ingram, whose portrayal of Cleo is a magnetic blend of confidence, vulnerability, courage, anxiety, street smarts, and wit. Awards will surely be coming her way.

“Lady in the Lake” is hugely impressive and confident in terms of performance, directing, writing, and aesthetic. But it won’t be for everyone. It’s also very dense and takes its time building its characters’ worlds. And it’s not just a straightforward thriller; it also addresses hot-button topics such as race, privilege, oppression, institutionalized injustice and more. So “easily accessible” this is not. But once you’re drawn in, it’s some of the most engrossing television you’ll see this year.

Saudi violinist, DJ and producer Kayan: ‘Everyone wants to see how the new generation will present the Saudi song’ 

Updated 25 July 2024

Saudi violinist, DJ and producer Kayan: ‘Everyone wants to see how the new generation will present the Saudi song’ 

  • Kayan talks creating a new style of music for her homeland 

DUBAI: The Saudi violinist, DJ and producer Kayan (whose real name is Noor Faisal) doesn’t do things by halves. When she decided to learn Indian music, for example, she went all in. She dressed the part, met with a guru, and sat on the floor while learning in order to “feel it fully and live it fully and understand its essence,” she tells Arab News. “I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but when I get into something, I get into it with all its elements.”  

Kayan’s journey has been unconventional and unique. She was reportedly the first female violinist in the Saudi National Orchestra. She is the first musician in her family, but says she may have inherited a love of the arts from her grandmothers, who both painted.  

Kayan was raised in the Eastern Province, and went to a government school, where she wrote poetry, painted, danced and took part in school plays. (Supplied)

Kayan was raised in the Eastern Province, and went to a government school, where she wrote poetry, painted, danced and took part in school plays. Where music was concerned, she says she was a “deep listener,” enjoying Khaleeji, Egyptian, and Lebanese tunes. Later, Western pop and electronic music entered the picture. 

“For me, sound and music is how I express myself — how I see life, how I feel life, how I remember life. It is my way of experiencing this existence, externally and internally,” she says. “Existence” is the translation of her chosen artist name. 


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After school, Kayan spent six years living in Bahrain, earning a bachelor’s degree in international relations. But her heart always belonged to music.  

“My degree could get me the best corporate job, and it did get me that for the longest time. So choosing to leave that and go into music, it was a question of course,” she says. “There were a lot of questions along the way.” 

Kayan performing at Riyadh Golf CLub. (Supplied)

While in Bahrain she studied Eastern music — from Khaleeji to Hindi — and also worked for BBC World Radio, where she learned about music software and hardware. It was also where she began to learn what she calls the most challenging instrument in the world: the violin. 

“It picked me, I did not pick the violin,” says Kayan. It all began with a YouTube video of a violinist playing on the streets, using a loop pedal.  

“I was in that moment. I was frozen in time and space, listening to that performance over and over again,” she recalls. “Something inspired me and, the next day, I bought a violin and I registered with an institute. I didn’t think about it. I just did it. 

“I had no clue that the violin was the hardest instrument in the world,” she continues. “With the violin, there is no way to know where the note is. Your ear has to guide you because the instrument has no identification of where the note is.” So, she bought other instruments to experiment with, including the drums and the xylophone. But, at the back of her mind, she was still thinking of the violin.  

Kayan believes that playing the violin requires both technical and emotional abilities, as they both “contribute to one another.” She favors the emotional part more. The violin is known as a highly expressive instrument, tapping into melancholy, longing and sorrow. It is also believed that the violin is the closest instrument to the human voice, akin to a person telling an intimate story.   

For her solo work, Kayan combines her violin playing with electronic music — she is also a DJ and producer. (Supplied)

Her relationship with the instrument was strengthened when she returned to Saudi Arabia in 2020, a time when the country’s entertainment industry was undergoing unprecedented changes and receiving heavy government backing. She won a scholarship for aspiring musicians launched by the Ministry of Culture and the Saudi Music Commission, then joined the Saudi National Orchestra. As its first female violinist, Kayan says that the pressure is on, not just for her, but for her Saudi colleagues too.  

“It’s a big responsibility, because Saudi is developing in a way that, when it opened up, you’re expected to be the best in the world. I’m someone who didn’t start in a proper way, because I was trying to figure things out. . . We are expected to learn Eastern and Western music, and be the best at both, and represent the country, and score A-plus.”  


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For her solo work, Kayan combines her violin playing with electronic music — she is also a DJ and producer. She has performed across the Kingdom, notably in AlUla and Riyadh, as well as abroad. One of her main goals is to modernize Saudi music — staying true to its essence while infusing it with electronic vibes.  

“People are curious to know what Saudi music sounds like — not in its traditional form, but in its contemporary form. And that’s the question,” she says. “Everyone wants to see how the new generation will present the Saudi song.”  

Kayan is currently working on a new concept album of Saudi electronic music, she says, adding that her ultimate dream as an artist is connection.  

“Sometimes, music is a friend. Sometimes, it’s a healer. Sometimes, it is magic. To me, it is not an escape — but it can be,” Kayan says. “On a personal level, I always dreamed that if I felt something beautiful and I played it and I felt its beauty, I would love for someone else to feel that beauty.” 

Recipes for success: Chef Andres Marcelo offers advice and a recipe for short rib tacos 

Updated 25 July 2024

Recipes for success: Chef Andres Marcelo offers advice and a recipe for short rib tacos 

  • The executive chef at The St. Regis Red Sea Resort began his culinary journey aged 13.

DUBAI: Bolivian chef Andres Marcelo began his culinary journey aged 13, cooking for friends, family, and as the dedicated cook for his Boy Scouts troop.  

“It was always a hobby. I always enjoyed it. For me, cooking was about bringing together people, enjoying moments, and the social aspect of cooking,” he tells Arab News. 

And for a while it seemed as if a hobby was all cooking would be for him.  

“I come from a middle, upper-class family, and it’s not traditional to choose a career in the service or hospitality industry,” Marcelo explains. He did four years of civil engineering but realized it was not the career he wanted. 

At 20, he opened an online gaming cafe. To persuade his guests to stay longer, he started making food for them. It was then that he decided to enroll in a three-year culinary arts program in Argentina.  

Since then, he has traveled to 13 countries, training in prestigious restaurants, including three-Michelin-starred establishments in Spain and Japan. His career began in 2013 at Grand Hyatt Dubai, and he is now the executive chef of The St. Regis Red Sea Resort.  

Here, he discusses his favorite dish and his top tips for amateur chefs. He also shares a recipe for short rib tacos.   

When you started out, what was the most common mistake you made?  

Not paying attention and not really being aware of the environment around me. I used to burn myself a lot, and I still have a couple of marks that remind me to not rush myself, even if it’s busy. You have to take a moment to plan and to organize yourself. As long as you have your mise en place ready, you’ll always be fine — that means, for example, having your spoon in the right place for when you need it, and having something to hold hot items with.  

What’s your top tip for amateur chefs? 

Always have a sharp knife. If you have a dull knife, you’re more likely to hurt yourself, because you will have to use a lot more pressure, and then, if the knife slips, you’ll get hurt. With a sharp knife, you barely need to put any effort in to cut things. So always have a sharp knife. And always taste your food. You cannot serve something if you don’t taste it.  

What one ingredient can instantly improve any dish?  

I love lemon zest. It goes in both savory and sweet preparations, and it really brings up a lot of flavors.  

When you go out to eat, do you find yourself critiquing the food? 

Not really. Food is very subjective. If someone puts something in front of me, I’d think that they think it tastes good to them. I might comment on something technical — like if I order a medium steak and it comes well done — but I don’t comment on the taste or the composition of a dish, because, like I said, cooking is very subjective. Something that I find delicious might not be for others. I remember I used to have a chef who didn’t like coriander at all. I love the taste of coriander, especially in Asian cuisine. But if I presented a dish with coriander in it to this chef, he wouldn’t like it.  

What’s the most common issue you find in other restaurants? 

Since the pandemic, I feel staff are not paying enough attention to the guests. There is a major shortage of staff all over the world in hospitality, in restaurants. We’re overworking them. Sometimes restaurants now might have one waiter serving 10 tables. This is the big mistake that is happening in the industry now.  

What’s your favorite cuisine? 

I love Asian cuisine. It takes me back to my childhood. At least once a week, we would go out for Chinese food — well, Chinese-Bolivian food to be exact. Then, when I started traveling and I went to Japan and China, it was something completely different. I love the taste. I love the flavors and the textures. Dumplings are one of the best. I could eat dumplings every day.  

What’s your go-to dish if you have to cook something quickly at home?  

I’d do a mushroom risotto or a pasta carbonara — something simple with no more than five ingredients. If you have guests, they’ll never be upset with a nice mushroom risotto. 

What customer request most annoys you? 

When people disrespect the staff. This is what annoys me most. 

What’s your favorite dish to cook?  

My favorite is paella. My dad, being Spanish, used to cook very good paella. He learned from my grandfather. One of my earliest memories of being in a kitchen is helping him to prepare this dish. So, I really enjoy cooking paella or ceviche. That’s also something we used to cook together. It brings back fond memories of my childhood and being with my father. 

What’s the most difficult dish for you to get right?  

I would say the most difficult things are the simplest things. Like, spaghetti with tomato sauce can be the trickiest, because everyone has eaten spaghetti with tomato sauce, so they will compare your dish with all the others they’ve tried and with what they think is the best. Now, being in the Middle East, and in Saudi Arabia, if you make a dish that their mothers used to make a lot, let’s say, they’ll compare it to what they love. So, for me, the most complicated thing to do is to cook the best version of something that’s local. You’re trying to beat the fond memories before you create a new one.  

As a head chef, what are you like? Do you shout a lot? 

Discipline is very important in the kitchen, but I don’t think that being disciplined means you can’t be kind and respectful. I very rarely shout. It would have to be something really, really, really, really, really, really bad for me to get upset and get to that point. I’m a very patient person. For me, it’s about respect. And that comes from both sides. If you respect your team, your team will respect you back. It’s all about working together. The kitchen is not a one-person show. You cannot do everything on your own. If you create an environment where the team are not happy, they will certainly not give good food.  

I’ve worked in places where everyone shouts. People still work, but it’s not sustainable. In the long run, people get tired and frustrated. People need to come into an environment where they are happy to work.  

Chef Andres Marcelo’s short rib tacos recipe  

For the short rib 


4kg short rib; 40g salt; 20g black pepper, freshly crushed; 150g butter 


1. Rub the salt, pepper and butter into the meat. Let it rest for 30 minutes at room temperature. 

2. Preheat oven to 220C. 

3. Cover the meat in aluminum foil and cook for 20 minutes. 

4. Reduce heat to 110C and cook for 4 hours.  

5. Uncover the meat and remove the bones. If the meat doesn’t pull off the bone easily, cook for another hour at 110C. 

6. Place the meat aside for later use. 

For the wheat tortilla 


800g all-purpose flour; 3.5g salt; 100g warm water; 100g corn oil 


1. Mix the salt, flour and corn oil until it becomes crumbly. 

2. Slowly mix in the water to form the dough. 

3. Cover with a damp cloth for 20 minutes. 

4. Divide the mixture into three. 

5. Roll out each piece of dough into a 12cm-diameter circle. 

6. Cook both sides of each piece of dough in a hot non-stick pan. 

For the guacamole 


4 ripe Hass avocados; Juice of 2 limes; 3g fresh coriander, chopped; salt and pepper to taste 


1. Crush the avocado pulp roughly. 

2. Add the lime juice and the chopped coriander. 

3. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

For the pico de gallo 


200g tomato, chopped; 4g fresh coriander, chopped; juice of 1 lime; 100g red onion, chopped; 1 pickled jalapeno, chopped; salt and pepper to taste 


Mix all ingredients and reserve for later use. 

For the final dish 


250g of the short rib meat; 3 of the homemade tortillas; 60g guacamole; 40g pico de gallo; 10g fresh cheese of your choice, grated; 20g pickle onion; 3 grilled limes; 2 grilled chilis; 5g fresh coriander  


1. Top the tortillas with the warm meat. 

2. Top with guacamole, pico de gallo, pickled onion, and coriander. 

3. Serve with extra pico de gallo, cheese, guacamole, limes, and chilis. 

Adidas apologizes to Bella Hadid after 1972 Olympics ad furor

Updated 24 July 2024

Adidas apologizes to Bella Hadid after 1972 Olympics ad furor

  • Brand dropped supermodel from shoe campaign amid outrage from Israel-linked pressure groups
  • ‘We apologise for any negative impact and we are revising the campaign’

LONDON: Adidas has apologized to supermodel Bella Hadid after pulling her from an advertising campaign that referenced the 1972 Munich Olympics, Sky News reported on Wednesday.

Israel-linked pressure groups accused the campaign of causing offense due to Hadid’s part-Palestinian background.

At the 1972 games, 11 Israeli athletes and a German police officer were killed by the Black September group.

Hadid is reportedly considering legal action over Adidas’ decision to remove her from the campaign, which is promoting the relaunch of a shoe from the 1972 Olympics.

The brand said on Instagram: “Connections continue to be made to the terrible tragedy that occurred at the Munich Olympics due to our recent SL72 campaign.

“These connections are not meant, and we apologise for any upset or distress caused to communities around the world. We made an unintentional mistake.

“We also apologise to our partners, Bella Hadid, ASAP Nast, Jules Kounde, and others, for any negative impact on them and we are revising the campaign.”

A number of Israeli and Jewish pressure groups targeted Hadid’s involvement in the ad campaign.

The supermodel has long been an outspoken advocate of the Palestinian cause and has criticized Israel’s war in Gaza.

The American Jewish Committee claimed that Adidas was using “a vocal anti-Israel model” for a campaign that “is either a massive oversight or intentionally inflammatory.”

The CEO of the Combat Antisemitism Movement said: “To have her launch a shoe commemorating an Olympics when so much Jewish blood was shed is just sick.”