Chinese historian reveals Arab-China ties dating back to 14th century

In this 2012 file photo, leaders of a Chinese Haj delegation are seen at the Chinese Consulate in Jeddah before proceeding to Makkah. Ancient Chinese documents show that the first batch of Chinese Muslims visited Makkah and Madinah between 1360 and 1424 AD. (AN file photo)
Updated 12 September 2016

Chinese historian reveals Arab-China ties dating back to 14th century

Ancient Chinese documents show that the first batch of Chinese Muslims visited Makkah and Madinah between 1360 and 1424 AD during Caliph Uthman’s reign in 651 AD.
Traveling by sea, Haji Mahmud Shams (Jing He) came to Makkah and Madinah on the orders of Emperor Ming and Qing who ruled China from 1360 to 1424 AD, leading a naval fleet to visit countries bordering Western Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean in order to increase trade relations between China and the outside world.
The expedition spanned over 28 years.
During his long journey, Haji Shams, who lived between 1317 to 1433 AD, reached Jeddah port from Calicut, India, along with his grandmother. They went to Makkah where they drank the holy water Zamzam and later accompanied his companions to Madinah to visit Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) Mosque and Grave.
This historical chronicle was recorded by the Chinese historian and researcher of China-Arab relations Song Sean, who was born in 1946.
Relating historical relations between the Arab and the Chinese, Sean revealed that Islam reached the shores of China during the period of 618-907 AD.
The Chinese historical books documented that 37 Arab envoys were sent by the Muslim caliphs to China at different times. Umayyad Caliph Sulaiman bin Abdul Malik’s messenger visited Chang'an city in 716 AD and the messenger of the Abbasid Caliph Harun Al Rashid met Emperor Tang Jin Yuan during his reign between 786 AD and 809 AD.
Highlighting the role Arabic language, he revealed that the language was used in international trade and among scientific community for several centuries. For example, Xinjiang region of China used Arabic letters and Chinese symbols on silver coins in the early 20th century.
The book also reviewed details of historic cultural exchanges between China and the Arabs since the beginning of the seventh century until the early 19th century, highlighting bilateral trade through Silk Road, influence of Arabs’ advancement in medicine and Arab art in China. 

Nicolas Cage shares career insights and teases ‘Dream Scenario’ at RSIFF

Updated 09 December 2023

Nicolas Cage shares career insights and teases ‘Dream Scenario’ at RSIFF

JEDDAH: During an “In Conversation” panel at Jeddah’s Red Sea International Film Festival, Oscar-winning actor Nicolas Cage captivated the audience in an hour-long discussion on his notable performances.

Moderated by Lebanese presenter Raya Abirached, the event saw Cage start off by sharing the story of his name change from Nicolas Coppola to Nicolas Cage at the beginning of his career.

He recounted instances of on-set bullying during the filming of “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” where his talent was called into doubt due to his relation to renowned filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola.



Cage disclosed: “They would quote lines from ‘Apocalypse Now’ and change them to ‘I love the smell of Nicolas in the mornings’ instead of ‘napalm in the morning.’”

He acknowledged how directors and filmmakers might not want the name Coppola associated with their work, which led him to change his name. Cage explained: “I didn’t think any filmmaker in their own right would want the name Coppola above the title of their movie. So, I changed my name predominantly for business reasons.”

Reflecting on his role in the 1987 comedy film “Moonstruck” alongside Cher, Cage shared an amusing conversation in which he asked the singer why she wanted him in the movie. Cage recalled her response: “‘I saw you in ‘Peggy Sue Got Married’ and thought it was like a two-hour car accident, and I had to have you.’”



Cage evaluated his past works with enthusiasm, naming “Vampire’s Kiss,” “Leaving Las Vegas,” “Raising Arizona,” “Adaptation,” and the highly anticipated A24 production “Dream Scenario” as the five scripts he considers to be the pinnacle of his 45-year journey in the industry.

Providing a glimpse into his future endeavors, Cage unveiled details about his upcoming film “Dream Scenario,” where he will portray an ordinary man who mysteriously starts appearing in the dreams of others.

Cage also expressed his interest in exploring television and said: “I’m thinking about television. My son turned me on to ‘Breaking Bad,’ and I saw Bryan Cranston stare at a suitcase for one hour. I never get time to stare at a suitcase for an hour. I said, ‘Let’s do some TV.’”

He revealed his intention to transition to television while maintaining a selective approach to film projects, citing his desire to spend more time with his 15-month-old daughter as a motivating factor.

Cage also discussed the impact of winning the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in Mike Figgis’ “Leaving Las Vegas” in 1995. He credited the award for providing him with creative freedom and the opportunity to pursue his artistic vision. Cage joked that the award gave him a “tenure” to make movies, allowing him to work with directors while still retaining creative control.

During the conversation, Cage revealed a fascinating tidbit about almost starring in a “Superman” film directed by Tim Burton.

However, this exciting project was ultimately shelved due to the apprehension of studio executives. Cage explained: “Tim was riding high after the success of ‘Mars Attacks!’ Initially, they considered Renny Harlin to direct, but I knew that playing such an iconic role required hitting the bull’s eye. We came incredibly close, but the studio made the decision to cancel the entire production. I believe they were concerned about the potential cost and whether they would recoup their investment.”

Egyptian actress Amira Adeeb nabs Hollywood breakout role in Jeffrey Elmont’s ‘No Nation’

Updated 09 December 2023

Egyptian actress Amira Adeeb nabs Hollywood breakout role in Jeffrey Elmont’s ‘No Nation’

DUBAI: Egyptian actress Amira Adeeb announced this week that she is set to star in the upcoming Hollywood film “No Nation,” directed by Jeffrey Elmont. 

The actress, who has starred in Egyptian TV hits such as “Naql Aam” and “Meet Gal?!,” took to Instagram to share the news with her followers. 



A post shared by Amira Adeeb (@amiraadeebb)


“I’ve been sitting on this for six months and not a single person had a clue, not even my parents. I think I’m more proud of my big mouth for keeping this a secret than anything,” she wrote to her 1 million Instagram followers. 

“So much to say and so many feelings to be felt but I’ll wait a bit and more details to come,” she teased.  



A post shared by Amira Adeeb (@amiraadeebb)


The actress also thanked Elmont for believing in her and for “casting an Arab girl in a non-Arab-cliché role.” She added: “Working with you has been a blessing.” 

Industry leaders talk building grassroots culture at Riyadh’s XP Music Futures

Updated 09 December 2023

Industry leaders talk building grassroots culture at Riyadh’s XP Music Futures

RIYADH: Investments, events and community interaction are key to growing Saudi Arabia’s burgeoning music industry, a panel at the XP Music Futures conference was told on Thursday.

Music industry leaders and government officials took part in the panel at the event’s third edition, which is being held from Dec. 7-9 ahead of MDLBEAST’s Soundstorm festival.

“What I’ve noticed in Saudi Arabia from my visits is that there are entities who are taking the initiative to set up the grassroots culture … their scope is to teach people how to make music,” said Ramy Al-Kadhi, head of commercial at streaming platform Anghami.

Panelists said that investment is musical education is critical, with the Saudi Ministry of Culture establishing the Music Commission to direct funding into the Kingdom’s homegrown industry.

Creativity hubs for up-and-coming musicians, such as JAX, Riyadh’s art district that hosts spaces for music, fashion and art events, are also working to promote Saudi artists.

“We’re really proud of our community and we’re trying to always bolster their creativity, to keep them all alive, to have them all together in this space. It’s the community — it’s not anyone else but the community,” said Omnia Abdulqadir, communications and marketing director of JAX District.

Events like XP offer creatives a chance to learn and share their experiences, pushing the grassroots scene forward, the panelists said.

Other important steps include using existing cultural spaces, like museums, to initiate collaborations with the music industry, said Dr. Basma Al-Buhaira, managing director of the Center for Fourth Industrial Revolution in KSA.

Inclusivity must also be promoted for people with disabilities, as well as older artists, panelists said.

Other speakers, including CECO founder and creative consultant Dalia Fatania, and The Warehouse founder Mohammad Al-Attas, highlighted the power of technology to bolster musical talent.

The Warehouse also hosts open mic nights and jam sessions to encourage a culture of creativity.

Monetization of work is important for budding artists, the panelists said, encouraging young Saudis in the industry to work with brands, take on educational roles, sell merchandise and collectibles, and collaborate with other industries.

Arab artists must collaborate more for global success, Warner music exec says in Riyadh

Updated 09 December 2023

Arab artists must collaborate more for global success, Warner music exec says in Riyadh

  • Reggaeton’s rise is an ideal model, says Alfonso Perez Soto
  • Strong domestic market needed to grow globally, he adds

RIYADH: Artists living in the Middle East and North Africa should collaborate more to boost the industry in the region and globally, says Alfonso Perez Soto, president of emerging markets at Warner Music Group.

Soto was speaking Thursday at the XP Music Futures conference currently underway in Riyadh. 

Grammy-nominated Lebanese singer-songwriter Mayssa Karaa moderated the fireside chat titled “The potential of the region and beyond: A conversation with Alfonso Perez.”

Soto highlighted the rising popularity of reggaeton, a blend of Latin American music with hip-hop influences, and said that artists in the MENA region should take inspiration from the genre. 

“We need more features and cooperations between and among the local talent in the region. Moroccans with Egyptians, Iraqis with the Saudis … Because when you go back to what I said about reggaeton if you look at the way that they created the sound, and the way that they created this movement it was actually networking with each other,” he said. 

The industry must have a “stronger domestic market” in order to grow, said Soto.

“You want to reach a certain level of presence on a global level. We have to define global, it’s about the ability to present your music in many territories, I think that is very doable. Most of the emerging market territories that I manage, they have a strong diaspora so in reality they can really bring in music and play, they have a fan base that work.”

With AI on the rise, Soto said that it would impact the global music industry in positive ways, in creating better sounds and marketing.

Soto encourages aspiring artists to work hard. 

“I think that this market is just awaking. You see the numbers and there are some ups and downs in the growth, but I think that up to two or three quarters ago, MENA was the fastest growing market in the world. Then they came a little bit of a plateau, but I think that the growth and the opportunities for the artists are unstoppable.”

XP Music Futures — set to run until Dec. 9 — is the annual precursor to the region’s largest music festival, Soundstorm, organized by Saudi Arabia music platform MDLBEAST.

Escape to Okinawa, Japan’s historic island paradise 

Updated 08 December 2023

Escape to Okinawa, Japan’s historic island paradise 

  • The prefecture offers outstanding scenery, plenty of history and culture, and a laidback vibe  

OKINAWA: Located at the intersection of trade routes that linked Japan, China, south-east Asia and the tiny islands that dot the Pacific Ocean, the Japanese prefecture of Okinawa has adopted flavors from all its neighbors, but still managed to remain true to its cultural and historic roots. 

Those influences can be tasted in the area’s cuisine and witnessed in its unique architectural styles, festivals and attitudes that are more laidback Pacific than formal Japanese. And local people — descendants of the Ryukyuan Kingdom that was absorbed into Japan in 1872 — still take a fierce pride in being distinct. 

Now Japan’s most southerly prefecture, Okinawa consists of more than 150 islands, dotted between southern Kyushu to a point just over the horizon from Taiwan. Some of the more remote islands are uninhabited while others have just a handful of homes in communities that have changed little in generations. Bullocks pull wooden carts across the beach flats and the sound of three-string “shamisen” being plucked floats on the warm evening air. 

Shuri Castle which overlooks Naha in Okinawa. (Shutterstock)

The lifestyles of those outer islands is quite a contrast to Naha, the regional capital — less than two hours’ flying time from Tokyo and connections to the Middle East. 

Kokusaidori runs for more than 2 km through the heart of the city and, while touristy, is still the best place to get your first taste of Okinawa. Cafes, bars, boutiques and gaudy stores selling trinkets are cheek-by-jowl.  

Okinawan cuisine is a blend of many influences, with fish abundant in the surrounding waters, pork imported from China when the Ryukyus were still independent and fruits and spices from south-east Asia. For non-Muslims, no visit would be complete without sampling goya champuru, the islands’ signature dish that typically combines pork, tofu, eggs and goya, a green gourd with its own distinctive, bitter taste. Pork belly (rafute), simmered in soy sauce before being glazed with brown sugar, is another favorite, along with the local take on soba noodles. 

Kokusaidori, the main street in Naha, Okinawa's capital city. (Shutterstock)

Just off Kokusaidori is the covered market where many of the restaurants source their ingredients every day. In a warren of narrow alleyways, stalls are also piled high with every conceivable household utensil, local fabrics and electronic gadgets that you never knew you needed. 

Naha is overlooked from the east by Shuri Castle. The main elements of the UNESCO World Heritage site were razed to the ground by fire in 2019, but work is underway to rebuild the iconic red structure and it is expected to once again be fully open to visitors by 2026. 

Despite the damage, the castle is still worth visiting. The fortified buildings on the site dating back to the 12th century CE, when Shuri was the center of Ryukyuan politics, diplomacy and culture. An earlier version of the castle was designated a national treasure in 1925, but was destroyed in the fierce fighting that took place in Okinawa in the closing stages of World War II. 

Water buffalo cart near Iriomote island. (Shutterstock)

Its outer fortifications, gateways and courtyards escaped damage in the most recent fire, and their gracefully curving walls of limestone are markedly different from traditional Japanese castles. A series of decorated gateways lead deeper into the complex, their designs reflecting Chinese as well as Japanese and Ryukyuan influences. 

Okinawa’s islands are dotted with fortresses that were the power bases of local warlords, with Zakimi Castle another well-preserved example dating from the early 1400s. On the west coast of the main island, it dominates a hill overlooking the town of Yomitan and its thick walls complement the curves of the coastline below. 

The islands’ recent history is overshadowed by the brutal battles that took place here in 1945. The Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum opened in 1975 to give a fuller sense of the human tragedy. Built atop sea cliffs in the far south of the prefecture, on the site of the Imperial Japanese Army’s last stand, the museum’s gardens have rings of tall black stones bearing the names of each of the more than 250,000 men, women and children who died in the fighting here, regardless of nationality. A short walk away, along an avenue lined with memorials to the dead of each of Japan’s prefectures, is the tiny cave where the commanding officer of the defeated defenders committed suicide rather than surrender. 

Peace has once more returned to Okinawa and for anyone in search of true tranquility, consider a trip to Iriomote, the second-largest of the islands. It is famous for its unspoiled natural environment and a unique species of wild cat. 

Its sparse coastal communities are linked by a single road and the island’s interior is largely untouched — and protected as a national park. Visitors can explore by sea kayak, while a 20-km trail leads through the jungles of the interior and the mangrove swamps of the coast, all providing an enviable escape from the pace of modern city life.