Georgina Rodriguez, Cristiano Ronaldo explore Red Sea coast in Saudi Arabia

‘Love in paradise. We keep discovering Saudi Arabia,’ Georgina Rodriguez captioned this photograph. (Instagram)
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Updated 20 March 2024

Georgina Rodriguez, Cristiano Ronaldo explore Red Sea coast in Saudi Arabia

DUBAI: Football star Cristiano Ronaldo and his partner, Argentinian model Georgina Rodriguez, are on a mission to explore Saudi Arabia — their most recent excursion was a visit to the Kingdom’s coastline, which the model shared on social media.  

“Love in paradise. We keep discovering Saudi Arabia,” Rodriguez posted from a Red Sea resort, while tagging @VisitSaudi, the official tourism account of Saudi Arabia. The photographs include shots of the couple and their children enjoying a day at the beach before posing for a photograph on an overwater deck.

The Al-Nassr footballer often uses his downtime to explore the country and was spotted in AlUla in December.

“Amazed by the extraordinary human and natural heritage of AlUla here in Saudi Arabia,” he wrote on Instagram at the time. 

The couple enjoyed a romantic dinner and visited AlUla’s Maraya, a multi-purpose venue that holds the Guinness World Record as the largest mirrored building with 9,740 glass panels. It is located 12 km from Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage site, Hegra. 

Rodriguez has also been enjoying Saudi Arabia’s social scene without her famous partner —earlier in March she was seen at an event hosted by Saudi perfume label Laverne in Riyadh.

The Netflix star, who has her own reality show titled “I Am Georgina,” took control of the brand’s Snapchat account, offering followers an exclusive glimpse into her experience at the event.

In March 2023, Rodriguez collaborated with the brand on a campaign — and she answers candid questions about her time in the Kingdom in the new clip.

“I feel very safe in this country and really appreciate its family values,” she said in the stylish video posted on social media at the time.

Review: ‘99’ captures the drama of Manchester United’s annus mirabilis

Updated 38 sec ago

Review: ‘99’ captures the drama of Manchester United’s annus mirabilis

DUBAI: The documentary series “99” celebrates the 25th anniversary of one of the most remarkable achievements in sporting history: when Manchester United won England’s two biggest domestic trophies — the Premier League and the FA Cup — and the most prestigious tournament in European club competition — the UEFA Champions League — to complete a (then) unprecedented treble.

The fact that the feat has since been repeated (most recently by United’s arch rivals Manchester City), has taken some of the shine off it, but this was still one of the greatest single seasons in the history of any sport.

The show is stacked with interviews with the players who made history, as well as their fearsome manager, Alex Ferguson, whose obsession with winning the Champions League has been well-documented elsewhere. There isn’t much new insight here, and footballers aren’t renowned for their eloquence, but the filmmakers have done a good job of getting them to dig beyond the platitudes and explore the sometimes-thorny relationships between certain players, the pressure of playing for (at least then) arguably the biggest club in the world, and the self-doubt that could creep in during the biggest games.

But even if its makers had managed to get nothing from the interviewees, they would have known that “99” couldn’t fail to grip even the most casual of sports fans, because the story of the actual football during the season is so outlandish that even a Hollywood exec might question anyone pitching it. Throughout the season, and particularly in the last couple of months, United staged numerous late comebacks in situations where it seemed they’d blown their chance of making history — not least in the last game, the Champions League final against Bayern Munich, when they famously scored two goals in three minutes of injury time to turn almost-certain defeat into the unlikeliest of victories: an act of what seemed like sheer willpower, inspired by the manager’s self-belief. As Ferguson said at the end of that game, “Football. Bloody hell!” The makers of “99” have successfully captured that expression.

Cannes fashion highlights: Mila Al-Zahrani, Bella Hadid steal the spotlight

Updated 46 min 42 sec ago

Cannes fashion highlights: Mila Al-Zahrani, Bella Hadid steal the spotlight

DUBAI: Saudi actress Mila Al-Zahrani attended the 77th Cannes Film Festival this week in a gown by Syrian designer Rami Al-Ali.

The star, who attended the screening of Kevin Costner’s “Horizon: An American Saga,” dazzled in a strapless, voluminous dress that was cinched at the waist from the designer’s ready-to-wear 2024/2025 collection.

US Dutch Palestinian model Bella Hadid turned heads with stylish appearances in Cannes too. 

The supermodel was spotted in a striking silver dress from the DSquared Fall-Winter 2006 collection for Chopard’s “Once Upon A Time” Gala this week.


A post shared by Bella (@bellahadid)

She was also seen in a vintage silk yellow Versace minidress at the Hotel Martinez. 

Hadid wore a vintage silk yellow Versace minidress at the Hotel Martinez. (Getty Images)

During her time in Cannes, she was also photographed in a vintage beige low-cut halter neck midi dress, with a plunging neckline, from Gucci’s Spring/Summer 2005 collection. 

Hadid was also photographed in a vintage beige low-cut halter neck midi dress. (Getty Images)

For the “The Apprentice” red carpet, she opted for a sheer halter neck dress from Saint Laurent’s Fall 2024 collection. 

Meanwhile, Arab designers have been dominating the red carpet with their creations worn by celebrities from around the world.

Canadian model Winnie Harlow was spotted on the red carpet of French adventure drama film “Le Comte de Monte-Cristo,” wearing a black lace dress with a mesh train and purple floral details from the Lebanese designer Zuhair Murad’s Fall 2023 collection. 

Murad, the celebrity-loved designer, also dressed Brazilian model Izabel Goulart. She opted for a white chiffon gown with a black lace bodysuit and floral appliques that was also from the couturier’s Fall 2023 collection.

Rami Kadi also made a splash on the red carpet this week with his designs.

He was championed by US actress Loreto Peralta at the same screening as Harlow and Goulart. 

She wore a mauve, off-the-shoulder gown embroidered with three-dimensional flowers from his “Les Miroirs” collection.


A post shared by Juliana Paes (@julianapaes)

Brazilian actress and model Juliana Paes chose a metallic off-white gown by Emirati designer Hamda Al-Fahim. The dress featured side pleats, sequin detailing and a side-attached train.

Chef Igor Macchia talks Italian-infused creations, collaboration with Riyadh’s new Lavazza Coffee Edition restaurant

Updated 51 min 44 sec ago

Chef Igor Macchia talks Italian-infused creations, collaboration with Riyadh’s new Lavazza Coffee Edition restaurant

DUBAI: Italian chef Igor Macchia is excited about the opening in Riyadh of Lavazza Coffee Edition, which infuses his signature dishes and brews with Middle Eastern tastes and flavors.

Having designed the menu for the establishment, which opened on May 23, Macchia is looking forward to Saudi Arabia customers experiencing his creations.

Italian chef Igor Macchia designed the menu at Riyadh's Lavazza Coffee Edition. (Supplied)

“The creative process started from a local consumer taste perspective combined with the Lavazza Italian DNA and my Michelin-star background from La Credenza Restaurant (San Maurizio Canavese, Torino, Italy),” said Macchia in an interview with Arab News.

Lavazza’s premium 1895 collection cosists of  limited-quantity microlot coffee, specialty blends and single-origin brews. (Supplied)

“I’ve visited different restaurants and spots in Middle East and tasted a lot of local recipes to get inspiration for my project for Lavazza Coffee Design store. The result is a rich and tasty menu, ranging from breakfast to dinner, ideal to be paired with 1895 premium coffee, selected by Lavazza for this store in Riyadh.”

Inspired by Lavazza’s flagship stores in London and Milan, the Riyadh location boasts signature design elements, such as the iconic chandelier made up of more than 300 illuminated coffee beans and the main counter finished with exhausted coffee powder and resin for an original effect.

Additionally, the coffee experience is elevated by the introduction of Lavazza’s premium 1895 collection sourced from around the world. It consists of limited-quantity microlot coffee, specialty blends and single-origin brews.

During the interview, Macchia spoke about his favorite dish, early mistakes and management style.

When you started out as a professional, what was the most common mistake you made when preparing/cooking a dish?

I’ve never done a mistake — joking. I think the most common mistake was to enrich a lot a recipe looking for the best taste while, at the end, it’s sufficient to start by buying good quality ingredients and just treat ingredients by giving value to them for a wow effect.

What’s your top tip for amateur chefs, cooking at home?

Cooking is all about passion. Recipes are good to start with, but they need a personal touch, to become real wonderful dish.

What one ingredient can instantly improve any dish?

Parmesan cheese in all kinds of forms: wrapped, chopped, etc.

When you go out to eat, do you find yourself critiquing the food? What’s the most common mistake/issue that you find in other restaurants?

When I go out for dinner, it is a moment of pure pleasure and I love enjoying it without any fussing or critiquing. I personally like restaurants where clients’ satisfaction is at the center of the experience. The most common mistake is building up a very beautiful venue but with no soul in it. The vibe you can feel inside your preferred spot will make the difference.

When you go out to eat, what’s your favorite cuisine/dish to order? And why?

It all depends on the mood: it can be a traditional place like an Italian trattoria as well as a fine-dining restaurant or ethnic food which I do love.

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

Easy and fancy at the same time: rigatoni with butter and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, finished with a pinch of Lavazza ground coffee powder.

What request/behavior by customers most annoys you?

Clients are our everyday guests: we need to listen to their requests. Maybe one suggestion coming from a client, one day it will be a new dish on the menu.

What’s your favorite dish to cook and why?

The risotto, no doubt about it. I spent my summer childhood in the Vercelli area, where the Piedmont rice comes from. The risotto has a special place in my heart.

What’s the most difficult dish for you to get right, whether on your current menu or not?

I think the “Tiramisu by Lavazza” — the iconic Italian coffee-based dessert — should be the one. The sponge cake, instead of the lady fingers biscuits, needs to be prepared in the right way to be light and airy. Then you finish the dish with mascarpone foam with syphon and pour with the 1895 Cocoa Reloaded espresso on top. Different steps and texture for an amazing result.

As a head chef, what are you like? Are you a disciplinarian? Do you shout a lot? Or are you more laid back?

I’m personally a disciplinarian but I’ve learned, during my career, that the team motivation is key to reach great results. No need to shout, jst need to build a team spirit.


The chef's marscapone and dried fruits toast. (Supplied) 

Start by selecting a sour dough bread, cut 1 cm slice and gently toast it.

Spread generously with mascarpone cheese, add pomegranate seeds, decorate with fresh mint leaves and finish with a sweet sauce made with honey and chopped dried fruits like dates, pistachio and nuts. Serve it to your guests for a fresh and tasty breakfast. Ideal to be paired with your preferred coffee.


‘Untouched’ Red Sea shores inspire designers of luxury resort  

Updated 23 May 2024

‘Untouched’ Red Sea shores inspire designers of luxury resort  

RIYADH: Located on the private Ummahat Island, which can only be accessed by chartered boat or seaplane, The St. Regis Red Sea Resort is quickly making a name for itself as something of a celebrity magnet.  

It’s easy to see why Saudi Arabia’s football elite vacationed here this spring — with 90 overwater and beachfront villas, a signature spa, high-tech gym, outdoor pools, water sports center, and a children’s club, the resort would impress even a seasoned luxury traveler.  

The hotel offers overwater villas. (Supplied)

But besides the butler service and handful of culinary options, what really stands out about the resort is its design. This is no cookie-cutter hotel — Japanese architect Kengo Kuma and interior design firm Kristina Zanic Consultants made sure of that.  

“One of the briefs was that we had to make sure that this whole project was offering a barefoot luxury experience that really works in harmony with the nature,” Zanic told Arab News. “This was an untapped, untouched part of Saudi Arabia and a lot of those islands are pristine.” 

The view from a bedroom in one of the resort's Coral Villas. (Supplied)

Considering the white sand beaches and azure water, it’s no surprise that the Red Sea’s famous coastline was designed to be the star of the show, but Zanic and her team decided to base their design pitch on something rather unexpected — the wind.  

“The way the wind flows … the breeze flows through the actual resort itself, you know, keeping it cool. The whole narrative we created was about wind that you experience there. A lot of our patterns and materials were inspired by the way the wind shapes the island,” she said, referencing, in part, the high-to-low pile carpets in the Dune Villas that mirror maps of the area’s wind vectors.   

Respect for nature is also visible in the structures themselves, with Nicola Maniero, Partner at Kengo Kuma & Associates, explaining that the project “does not seek a camouflage with nature, but aims to establish a relationship of continuity with it through a language that departs from merely imitating the basic reference.” 

Dune Villas reflect the shape of sweeping desert sand formations. (Supplied)

To that end, the Dune Villas reflect the shape of sweeping desert sand formations while the Maldives-style overwater Coral Villas take the form of shells.  

A nature-inspired design ethos did not come without its challenges, however.  

A living room in an overwater Coral Villa. (Supplied)

“The water villas were initially supposed to rest on the surface of the sea as if emerging from it in a continuous spiral. However, the level of the villas had to be raised to 2.6 meters due to possible storms and rising water levels caused by climate change,” Maniero said.   

He added that the villas’ circular floor plan “adds interest, but poses difficulties in terms of layout solutions.”  

A living area in one of the Dune Villas. (Supplied)

It’s a sentiment mirrored by Zanic, who explained that the Dune Villas’ striking curved formations posed unique hurdles due to differing ceiling heights from room to room.  

Challenges aside, the design team did manage to have some fun with aesthetic quirks. The wooden floors of the villas, for example, consist not of planks, but of angular slabs of tessellated wood resembling a turtle’s shell.

The wooden floors of the villas consist not of planks, but of angular slabs of tessellated wood resembling a turtle’s shell. (Supplied)

 That attention to detail is visible in everything from bespoke door handles and durable wall finishings designed to withstand the salty sea air, to the handmade textile art that is slightly different in each of the villas.  

“Each piece looks sort of the same, but they (aren’t). That feeds into the whole concept of a luxury experience. Each person gets their own little piece of art for the weekend,” Zanic said. “Everything is bespoke and it gives the resort a unique identity.”  

The spa, too, has its own defining motif — a henna-like detailing embossed on the walls — while the St. Regis Bar hosts a large mural depicting a local folk tale. 

The St. Regis Bar hosts a large mural depicting a local folk tale. (Supplied)

Tilina, the resort’s overwater restaurant, features exposed radial beams on the ceiling that mirror sea waves, while the tiles on the walls reference iridescent fish scales. 

Maniero highlighted Tilina’s unique structure.  

“It diverges from completely imitating the water villas because it doesn’t have a central courtyard, it’s more like a shell with a split circular floor plan that is slightly shifted,” he said. “However, there is still a connection to the water villas derived from the use of materials and the circular, organic floor plan.”  

Palestinian films ‘more important than ever’, directors say in Cannes

Updated 23 May 2024

Palestinian films ‘more important than ever’, directors say in Cannes

CANNES: Veteran Palestinian film director Rashid Masharawi was abroad when the Gaza war broke out last year, so he decided to hand over the camera to other filmmakers still inside the besieged territory.
“They are the story” of Masharawi’s project, which he presented at the Cannes Film Festival in France, more than seven months after the conflict erupted.
“They were fighting to protect their lives, their families, to search for food, for wood to make a fire,” said Masharawi
The result is a collection of short films called “Ground Zero” recounting the Israeli bombardment of Gaza and ensuing humanitarian disaster from the perspective of civilians on the ground.
In one, a mother displaced by the conflict plops her daughter in a large white bucket and, with a clean Turkish coffee pot, gently pours water over her to bathe her.
In another, a man recounts his 24-hour ordeal under rubble after the building he was in collapsed.
Masharawi directed the 20 teams in Gaza from abroad — a process he described as “very, very, very difficult.”
“Sometimes we needed to wait one week to 10 days just to be in contact with somebody, or just to have Internet to upload material,” said Masharawi, who was born in Gaza.
At other times, teams were busy searching for a tent, finding insulin for a director’s mother, or “an ambulance to go and save some kids.”
The films are part of several Palestinian tales screening at the festival, including Mehdi Fleifel’s Athens-set refugee drama “To A Land Unknown.”

Israel’s has killed more than 35,000 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.
Thousands of miles away from the conflict, Israel’s pavilion in Cannes is promoting its filmmaking.
Palestinian cinema does not have its own tent at the event, but Algeria has made space for its filmmakers at the other end of the international market in Cannes.
“Our narrative and storytelling is more important than ever,” Norway-based Palestinian director Mohamed Jabaly said.
He finished filming his latest project, “Life is Beautiful,” just before the war started. A close friend who shot the last scene of the film has not survived the war.
“He was killed while waiting for food aid,” said Jabaly.
Munir Atallah, of US-based Watermelon Pictures, is hoping to bring the quirky family portrait to North American audiences, saying Palestinians have “for too long been shut out by the gatekeepers of the industry.”
One Palestinian who has already found viewers in the United States is Cherien Dabis, who made 2009 film “Amreeka” and co-directed hit Hulu series “Ramy.”
But the shooting of her latest film — a historic epic — was disrupted by the Gaza war.
One of the crew on the ground in the occupied West Bank town of Ramallah, Ala Abu Ghoush, has responded by making a documentary about the stalled project, which they are calling “Unmaking Of.”
“The film is really asking the question: What is the importance of doing films and art in this kind of situation, in this war?” said Abu Ghoush.