Third edition of AlUla Arts Festival champions public art and cross-cultural dialogue 

Rand Abdul Jabbar's 'Where Myths Are Born of Mud and Desire.' (Lance Gerber/ Supplied)
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Updated 29 February 2024

Third edition of AlUla Arts Festival champions public art and cross-cultural dialogue 

  • The festival showcases AlUla as a global and regional destination for art and culture  

ALULA: Positioned outside Madrasat Addeera — a former girls’ school in AlUla that has been turned into a creative arts center — are creations by five design practices, the results of the first AlUla Design Residency.  

Hall Haus, a creative collective from France, took inspiration from the traditional Arabic majlis for its giant modular sand-colored sofa, entitled “Haus Dari.” “Peculiar Erosians,” meanwhile, is a series of sculptural works by another French designer, Leo Orta, that were inspired by the mud-brick architecture of AlUla and the geology of the region. And Saudi artist Leen Ajlan created her modular seating area, “Takki,” from reclaimed wood and was inspired by regional boardgames, popular in the evenings in AlUla, such as jackaroo, backgammon and carrom. The two other works are “Surface!” from Bahrain-based design studio bahraini-danish, and “From Debris” by Studio Raw Material from India. 

Leen Ajlan's 'Takki' on show at the Design Residency Exhibition. (Lorenzo Arrigoni/ Supplied)

Together, the works form “Unguessed Kinships,” an exhibition curated by Ali Ismail Karimi, which runs until April 30.  

“For the duration of a period from the end of October 2023 to the end of January 2024 these designers have been based in AlUla exploring materiality, objects, furniture and the ways in which design mediates public space,” Karimi told Arab News. “Of course, during the residency a series of conversations came up on the role of design in a place like AlUla and within the larger vision for Saudi Arabia in this moment and the conversations led us to the way design objects act as mediators between different unities and different publics from around the world, Saudi Arabia, and the wider Middle East, coming to AlUla and interacting.” 

“Unguessed Kinships” is one of several exhibitions taking place during the third edition of the AlUla Arts Festival, which runs until March 2, and which immerses visitors in a vibrant showcase of visual and public art and design throughout the ancient city. 

Highlights include the return of the international open-air art exhibition Desert X AlUla, and two exhibitions of Saudi artist Manal AlDowayan’s work that form part of the pre-opening program for Wadi AlFann, a new “cultural destination.” 

Elsewhere there is AlUla 1445, an outdoor exhibition of typically vibrant photographs taken by Moroccan pop artist Hassan Hajjaj of residents of AlUla, including farmers, sports teams, merchants, craftspeople and the creative community, taken in February last year.  

Hassan Hajjaj's 'AlUla 1445.' (Supplied)

And this year’s festival includes is the first public showing of Saudi artist Obaid Alsafi’s Ithra Art Prize-winning piece, “Palms in Eternal Embrace,” which explores what Alsafi calls “the dialogue about the deeper relationship between the landscape and humanity.” The work, staged in AlUla’s AlJadidah Arts District, is a site-specific installation comprising 30 palm trunks intricately woven together using a diverse array of locally sourced organic or recycled textiles in collaboration with local artisans. The work encourages viewers to reflect on ways to safeguard the natural environment and the endangered palm trees.  

The first of the two exhibitions of the work of Manal AlDowayan, who will also represent Saudi Arabia at the Venice Biennale this year, marks the lead-up to her monumental new land art commission “Oasis of Stories” (also the name of the exhibition), a large-scale labyrinthine installation inspired by AlUla’s Old Town, which will be permanently placed in the desert around AlUla from 2026. It features hundreds of drawings gathered from the artist’s participatory workshops with communities across AlUla. The drawings and stories will eventually be inscribed into the walls of “Oasis of Stories.” The second exhibition, “Their Love Is Like All Loves, Their Death Is Like All Deaths,” examines AlDowayan’s practice and the recent inspiration she has derived from AlUla.  

The festival also marks the opening of Design Space AlUla in the AlJadidah Arts District, a focal point for AlUla’s wide-ranging design initiatives, and a major contribution to the vision that AlUla will become a global destination for art and culture. 

Hall Haus's 'Haus Dari' from the Design Residency Exhibition. (Lorenzo Arrigoni/ Supplied)

The event also presents the results of the annual AlUla Visual Arts Residency in “The Shadow Over Everything,” curated by Maryam Bilal. The show transfroms Mabiti’s palm grove into an outdoor experiential exhibition featuring works by artists from across the world. 

“We created the residency so that it becomes the source for our longer-term projects, such as the museums,” Arnaud Morand, head of innovation and creation at the French Agency for AlUla Development, said. “It is a way for us to create a laboratory of contemporary creation that will feed the other long-term projects. 

“We are also trying to identify talent through the residency that could be invited afterwards to pursue research into more ambitious commissions, whether for museum pieces to feed our collection strategy, or public art strategy, or otherwise,” he added.  

Works on view at “The Shadow Over Everything” include an installation/performance artwork by Emirati artist Maitha Abdalla titled “If…to be born,” which consists of mud sculptures and a live performance that delves into Arab folklore and myth.  

And in the dazzling, mirror-clad Maraya Concert Hall “More than Meets the Eye,” an exhibition of contemporary works of art by Saudi artits on loan from collectors across Saudi Arabia, is intended to “re-canonize the history of contemporary art movements in Saudi Arabia, documenting the story of artists and the role of collectors in the development of the art scene,” according to a press statement. 

Curated by Dr. Effat Abdullah Fadag, the exhibition presents key works by pioneering Saudi artists including Abdulhalim Radwi, Mohammed Alsaleem and Mounirah Mously alongside leading contemporary artists from the Kingdom such as Ahmed Mater, Muhannad Shono and Dana Awartani. The exhibition showcases works that have rarely been presented to the public.  

Day 2 highlights of Red Sea Fashion Week: from simple swimwear to elegant lace

Updated 18 May 2024

Day 2 highlights of Red Sea Fashion Week: from simple swimwear to elegant lace

RED SEA: Moroccan label EAU made history when it kicked off the second set of Red Sea Fashion Week shows on Friday, marking the first time swimwear has featured on a Saudi runway.

With the glistening St. Regis pool and swaying palm trees as a backdrop, the second RSFW began by highlighting one of summer’s essential pieces.

EAU. (Supplied)

The collection featured simple swimwear that ranged from one-pieces with deep V-cuts and off-shoulder motifs to bandeau tops and various sarongs. Royal blues, mustard yellows, hunter greens and maroon reds dominated the collection, setting a rather curious, but not unwelcome, fall palette for the upcoming summer season.

Some of the sleek looks were coupled with silky headwear and sophisticated handbags, including woven baskets dotted with rhinestones, straw beach bags, and fringe clutches.

Sarah Altwaim. (Supplied)

More fashion flowed as the Red Sea glowed. Sara Altwaim brought her silhouettes to the poolside runway. The collection kicked off with a number of white flowing lace and chiffon dresses, each catching the eye with individual flair, subtle beaded pearls, layered cuts or mix of fabrics.

Altwaim introduced an underwater-inspired chiffon fabric featuring sketches of seabed creatures, such as fish, shrimp, and crab, that made its way into a variety of ensembles.

Yasmina Q. (Supplied)

Heavily-layered pearl neck pieces, sarong-like skirts, bejeweled fishnets, metallic fabrics, and flowing garments also drew their inspiration from marine life.

Saudi designer Yasmina Q introduced loungewear to the mix, ending the shows with a collection of knitted rib dresses in mint greens, seafoam blues, bright yellows, corals, and more.

The signature silhouette featured flared sleeves and a fitted waist that flowed into an A-line shape, while some of the pieces were also sleeveless for a more daytime summer look. Her collection, styled with summery bucket hats and sunglasses, also showcased an array of loungewear, from ribbed bottoms to simple fitted tops, fitted ribbed button-downs, kimono tops, and loose sweaters.

Tina Kunakey fronts Amina Muaddi’s latest campaign

Updated 18 May 2024

Tina Kunakey fronts Amina Muaddi’s latest campaign

DUBAI: French model Tina Kunakey this week starred in Romanian Jordanian footwear designer Amina Muaddi’s latest summer-inspired campaign.

Kunakey, who has Moroccan origins, showcased Muaddi’s new BRITO slipper, a single block of plexiglass carved into the designer’s signature flared heel.

The handcrafted square-toed heels, made in Italy, come in hues of orange, purple, blue, pink, black and transparent.

The model shared pictures of the campaign on Instagram. (Instagram)

This marks Kunakey’s third collaboration with Muaddi. The model shared her thoughts on Instagram about working with the part-Arab designer once again.

“My admiration for you only deepens,” Kunakey wrote, sharing a picture of herself in the pool for the shoot.

“Season after season, each new campaign your talent shines brighter. You continuously push boundaries, and your commitment to excellence is as inspiring as it is contagious,” she added. “I couldn’t be prouder to be part of this journey and am so grateful to share this path with you, not just as your model, but as your friend.

“Thank you for trusting me since the very beginning. I love you. I am so proud of you and I am excited, and so full of love for what you’ve built and what’s to come.”

In addition to her collection of shoes, Muaddi’s jewelry and bag lines are also gaining acclaim among her celebrity clientele. The shoemaker’s label has garnered a loyal list of famous fans, including Dua Lipa, Gigi Hadid, Kylie Jenner and Hailey Bieber Baldwin.

Muaddi launched her eponymous footwear line in August 2018, about one year after departing from her role as co-founder and creative director of luxury footwear label Oscar Tiye.

The creator also helped design the shoes for Rihanna’s Fenty collection. The collaboration received the Collaborator of the Year award at the 34th edition of the FN Achievement Awards in 2020.

A year later, she landed a spot on Women’s Wear Daily and Footwear News’ 50 Most Powerful Women list.

Her jewelry collection encompasses rings, earrings and bangles, while her handbag range includes a variety of styles, from sleek clutches with striking embellishments to bold totes and crossbody bags.

Some of the bags are embellished with sparkling crystals or intricate sequins, while others are made from satin or leather and feature metallic finishes. The color palette includes classic cream, brown, black, red and silver.

Hoor Al-Qasimi appointed artistic director of the Biennale of Sydney

Updated 18 May 2024

Hoor Al-Qasimi appointed artistic director of the Biennale of Sydney

DUBAI: The Biennale of Sydney announced this week that Emirati creative Hoor Al-Qasimi will become its artistic director for 2026.

The 25th edition of the biennale will run from March 7 to June 8.

Since its inception in 1973, the biennale has grown to become one of the longest-running exhibitions of its kind and was the first biennale established in the Asia-Pacific region.


A post shared by IBA (@biennialassociation)

Al-Qasimi created the Sharjah Art Foundation in 2009 and is currently its president and director. Throughout her career, she acquired extensive experience in curating international biennials, including the second Lahore Biennale in 2020 and the UAE Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015.

In 2003, she co-curated the sixth edition of Sharjah Biennial and has remained the director of the event since.

Al-Qasimi has been president of the International Biennial Association since 2017 and is also president of the Africa Institute. She has previously served as a board member for MoMA PS1 in New York and the UCCA Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing, among other roles.

She is also the artistic director of the sixth Aichi Triennale, scheduled to take place in Japan in 2025.

Muhammad second most popular name for baby boys in England, Wales

Updated 17 May 2024

Muhammad second most popular name for baby boys in England, Wales

  • Name ‘has soared in popularity in recent times’: Daily Mail
  • Layla, Maryam, Yusuf, Fatima, Musa, Ibrahim among popular Arabic names

LONDON: Muhammad was the second most popular name for baby boys in England and Wales in 2022, according to the Office of National Statistics.
The Daily Mail reported on Friday that the Arabic name “has soared in popularity in recent times,” having ranked 20th in 2012.
Variations of the name’s spelling, Mohammed and Mohammad, were also among the top 100 most popular baby boys’ names in 2022, ranked 27th and 67th respectively.
Other popular Arabic names for baby boys were Yusuf (93rd), Musa (99th) and Ibrahim (100th).
In the girls’ list, Layla ranked 56th, Maryam 75th and Fatima 99th.

India’s butter chicken battle heats up with new court evidence

Updated 17 May 2024

India’s butter chicken battle heats up with new court evidence

  • Two Indian restaurant chains have been sparring since Jan. at Delhi High Court, both claiming credit for inventing the dish
  • The lawsuit that has grabbed the attention of social media users, food critics, editorials and TV channels across the globe

NEW DELHI: With new photographic and video evidence, an Indian court battle over the origins of the world famous butter chicken is set to get spicier.
Two Indian restaurant chains have been sparring since January at the Delhi High Court, both claiming credit for inventing the dish in a lawsuit that has grabbed the attention of social media users, food critics, editorials and TV channels across the globe.
The popular Moti Mahal restaurant chain said it had the sole right to be recognized as the inventor of the curry and demanded its rival, the Daryaganj chain, to stop claiming credit and pay $240,000 in damages. Moti Mahal said founder Kundan Lal Gujral created the cream-loaded dish in the 1930s at an eatery in Peshawar, now in Pakistan, before relocating to Delhi.
That “story of invention of butter chicken does not ring true” and is aimed at misleading the court, Daryaganj said in a new, 642-page counter-filing reviewed by Reuters.
Daryaganj says a late member of its founding family, Kundan Lal Jaggi, created the disputed dish when he helmed the kitchen at the relocated Delhi eatery, where Gujral, his friend-cum-partner from Peshawar only handled marketing.
Both men are dead, Gujral in 1997 and Jaggi in 2018.
Evidence in the non-public filing includes a black-and-white photograph from 1930s showing the two friends in Peshawar; a 1949 partnership agreement; Jaggi’s business card after relocating to Delhi and his 2017 video talking about the dish’s origin.
By virtue of the friends’ partnership, “both parties can claim that their respective ancestors created the dishes,” Daryaganj says in the filing, calling the dispute a “business rivalry.”
Moti Mahal declined to comment. The judge will next hear the case on May 29.
A key point of contention, which the court will have to rule on, is where, when and by whom the dish was first made — by Gujral in Peshawar, Jaggi in New Delhi, or if both should be credited.
Butter chicken is ranked 43rd in a list of world’s “best dishes” by TasteAtlas, and bragging rights about who invented it can matter, brand experts said.
“Being an inventor has a huge advantage globally and in terms of consumer appeal. You are also entitled to charge more,” said Dilip Cherian, an image guru and co-founder of Indian PR firm Perfect Relations.
Moti Mahal operates a franchisee model with over 100 outlets globally. Its butter chicken dishes start at $8 in New Delhi, and are priced at $23 in New York.
Late US President Richard Nixon and India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru are among the famous clients to have visited its primary outlet in Delhi.
Daryaganj started in 2019 and its butter chicken costs $7.50. It has 10 outlets, mostly in New Delhi, with plans to expand to other Indian cities and Bangkok.
In its 2,752-page Indian lawsuit, Moti Mahal had also accused Daryaganj of copying “the look and feel” of the interiors of its outlets.
Daryaganj has retorted with photographs of restaurant interiors which the judge will review, claiming it is Moti Mahal that has copied its “design of floor tiles.”