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Alef magazine SPRING GLEAMING GOTTA HAVE IT So many bags, so little time


The powers behind the scene

EMBROIDERED STORIES Saudi Arabia’s tribal textiles



IM Pei’s Qatar masterpiece


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Alef magazine



STANDARDS 22 27 28 182 184

Editor’s letter Alanoud’s desert story Deena’s fabulous journey Shopping directory Object of desire: The art ticker

DISPATCHES 30 32 34 36 38 40

A round-up of the Middle East’s style, retail and fashion news Libya’s totally Green Mountain Villa Moda’s 21st century souk Lebanon’s not-so-small beer Nobu debuts in Dubai Iraq’s House of Fashion reborn The return of the boutique


Hot property: the brightest and the best of this season’s accessories, framed by John Short

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John Andrews


BEAUTY 54 58 60

The culture of cosmetics Spring’s smartest products Cultivating übersex appeal

CULTURE 64 68 72 74 76 78 79 80 82

Design, architecture, film, music, media and books IM Pei’s Doha masterpiece Yemen’s original architecture Design at the crossroads in Qatar The Arab home in perspective A budding reading revolution The Joubran Trio, oud masters Lumi’s Düsseldorf adventure Captain Abu Raed wows Sundance A choice of Spring reading

PROFILES 84 90 92

ART 138 140 144 150 156

The Miami Beach art invasion Saatchi Online, Middle East bound The pioneers before the art rush Sara Rahbar’s vision of oppression Six Art Dubai stars in profile

TRAVEL 164 172 176 177

Awash with history in Alexandria From Damascus to Tehran by train Oman’s Six Senses spa Topping off The World in Dubai

FOOD & DRINK 178 Lebanon’s first farmer’s market shows the unifying power of food

CLASSICS 180 Café Riche and the Abbasi Hotel

The movers and shakers behind the Dubai art scene A day in the life of an Oxonian Nadim Karam’s favourite things


A love story in New York City, by Chrystel Garipuy 106 Why retro rocks this Spring, by Jean Francois Carly 114 To have and to hold: irresistible ‘it’ bags, by Philip Karlberg


130 A voyage of rediscovery to Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier

Chrystel Garipuy Chrystel Garipuy was born and raised in Paris. She studied political science and then taught herself photography eight years ago. She was selected for two studio residencies at the School of Visual Arts in New York, where she ended up living. Garipuy began with metonymic ‘portraits’ of architecture, surroundings and people. Now she mainly photographs people. See page 96

Ana Finel Honigman Alef’s art editor, Ana Finel Honigman is a New York, Berlin and London-based critic. A Sarah Lawrence graduate, Finel Honigman has completed a masters degree and is currently reading for a D.Phil in the History of Art at Oxford University. She regularly curates exhibitions and writes about contemporary art for fashion and art magazines. She is also the senior art writer for and senior London correspondent for the Saatchi magazine website. See page 156

Nadine Kanso

122 Mansoojat’s textile treasure trove from Saudi Arabia’s rainbow tribes


John Andrews is a consultant editor for The Economist where he worked for 24 years. Prior to joining The Economist, Andrews spent six years with The Guardian and led the paper’s coverage of OPEC during its 1979 to 1982 heyday. A graduate of Cambridge University in classical and modern Arabic, he came to The Guardian after living for seven years in the Arab world, first as an academic and then as a journalist. Working for NBC News he covered the Middle East peace shuttle of Henry Kissinger and the first year of the Lebanese civil war. See page 122


Nadine Kanso was born in Beirut, Lebanon in 1968. She spent her entire childhood there and later gained two degrees from the Lebanese American University. Nadine majored in Communication Arts and Advertising Design; these degrees laid the foundation for her work in design and photography today. Having worked in various design-related fields as well as dabbling in journalism, Nadine took it a step further last year by trying her hand at jewellery design, resulting in her first collection, Bil Arabi. See page 38

March/April 2008 ALEF MAGAZINE 16

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RICKY LEE · Telephone + 00 1 917 438 7015 The Alef Caps font was designed on commission by Huda Smitshuijzen AbiFares (the Khatt Foundation) and Pascal Zoghbi For editorial and subscription contact information please visit or email Editorial Office: Alef Magazine, Milk Studios, 34 Southern Row, London W10 5AN (Tel & Fax: +44 20 8962 2006). Kuwait Office: Alef Magazine, Arraya Centre, 29th Floor, Sharq, Kuwait City, Tel +965 4490311, Fax +965 2997804. Distributors worldwide except ME: COMAG (Elliott Spaulding +44 1895 433 600, ME: Levant (Tiffany Balmain, +33 1 53 70 10 90, Repro: Tapestry (, Printers: Southernprint ( Alef is published six times a year by Modern Middle East Publishing Ltd. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in whole or part without permission from the publisher. The views expressed in Alef Magazine are those of the respective contributors and are not necessarily shared by the magazine or its staff. Alef welcomes new contributors but assumes no responsibility for unsolicited material. ISSN # 1991-4601.


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Editor’s Letter

Dear Reader Welcome to our first issue of 2008. Not only is this our first themed issue, it is also our biggest so far and the first of five that we shall publish this year. (In case you missed it, Alef has gone from being a quarterly publication to a bimonthly one). The last few months have witnessed turmoil in the international financial markets, renewed troubles in the Palestinian territories despite an active but elusive peace process, a typically precarious political stalemate in Lebanon, an uncertain Iranian situation despite the recent National Intelligence Estimate report, a thankfully quieter Iraq, record oil profits and massive outward investment by Gulf states that have rushed to prop up ailing Western banks. Nothing new, then, some would say, and indeed life goes on, the skyscrapers still rush towards the skies and sea is being turned into land. Whether they bring good or bad tidings, we at Alef have always sought to look past the headlines and focus instead on the sometimes rapid, sometimes gradual change that is occurring on the ground. Our aim has always been to highlight and nurture the creative and cultural movement that is shaping the modern-day Arab discourse, and bring you original insights, images, writing and creative expression from all over the Arab speaking world, and this issue is no exception. To coincide with Art Dubai, the contemporary art fair now in its second year, we have given this issue an art theme. We have devoted our profile section to Dubai’s movers and shakers on the art scene. We also bring you an historical perspective to today’s contemporary market, and we showcase six artists who are participating in the fair. Elsewhere, our

fashion takes inspiration from 1970s and 1950s inspired SS08 collections, ‘it’ bags take centre stage in our accessories feature, and we bring you a romantic love story set in NYC. For our society rubric, we explore the world of the beautiful traditional Saudi tribes costumes from the Mansoojat collection, whilst a new section devoted to reportage takes you into the mountains of Peshawar. Those who have been attentively reading previous issues of the magazine will notice more extensive travel coverage, more beauty writing, the return of a feature dedicated to food and drink, and an ever more insightful and delightful culture section. Design aficionados amongst you will notice our newlook section openers, more illustrations and a bespoke Alef Caps font, all of which aim to keep the magazine looking unique, distinctive, and, most importantly, rooted in an Arab design aesthetic.

Outside the world of our editorial pages, we are looking forward to welcoming you at our first Alef-curated art show at the Creek Art Fair (which runs parallel to Art Dubai), so if you’re in the city on 15 to 31 March, make sure to come and see us. Finally, a glance at our masthead will reveal an expanded editorial team. Do get writing and let us hear from you, and if you wish to subscribe or check up on stockists where you live, visit us online at Sincerely, PAUL DE ZWART Publisher and Editorial Director

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Alanoud Al Sharekh

It wasn’t always this way. As desert people, the nomadic tribes of the GCC came up with epic nature poetry that would give the Romantics a run for their money. They were also masters of the long and convoluted conversation, involving rituals of greeting, weather commentary, parental health, etc. This they exchanged with others over market stalls, on long camel rides, and after duelling with their cousins over water-well rights. Sitting around in tents, drinking cupfuls of cardamom-brewed coffee, there were plenty of opportunities for soul-baring, and the hours were wiled away with news, trials and dreams for the future and beyond, or elaborate plans to avenge the dead; either way, there was a lot of discussion going on. Nostalgic portrayals of both the fictional and the documentary kind involve single-sex groups sitting in a U-formation drinking tea, crunching sunflowers seeds and talking, talking, talking, talking. Every winter, hoards of us depart to the desert each weekend in an attempt to channel our inner Bedouin, albeit with modern conveniences, entertainment and distractions. Some camps have a mind-boggling array of equipment that makes it hard to remember that you are supposed to be getting away from it all, and not, in fact, taking it with you. Brooding over this subject I take a walk on the wild side and emerge from our guarded enclosure. Dirt bikes, roaming dogs, fancy dress, it’s all there, and yet not a single bonfire conversation seems to be taking place in the very chilly dunes, and not, as far as I can tell, in the tents beyond.

In more recent historical terms, just a generation ago, you couldn’t stop people talking, and during the annual weeklong desert holidays of my childhood there was hardly a moment’s lull in conversation in any tent, as the most personal issues would be dug out and discussed openly, be it financial, marital or medical. Very little was deemed too painful or too invasive, for in a strictly regulated social system there were no secrets to keep, ever. And should an elephant drift into the room, well, complete denial of the issue worked very well, and the conversation kept flowing. Heading back to our little posse, I wonder if it’s technology that has corrupted the conversation of our desert journeys. I remember in the 1980s, the snaking phone lines trailing outside tents as lovers wiled away the hours; and then when mobiles arrived, they were almost welded to people’s ears. Now the written word seems to rule, and emoticons replace

The lost art of conversation Even in the companionable silence of the winter desert, virtual chit-chat rules.

ideas, mimicking our speedy lifestyles. When the pace of life itself was slow and languid, like walking in the sand, people were not so caught up with their own unseen, unshared stories that they couldn’t talk directly to you. Conversations by nature need lingering: they are composed of meandering avenues into other subjects which ignite the soul, and maybe, just maybe, a lack of other options. And here I brighten up and hunker down and enjoy the silence, glad that I can enjoy my surroundings without having to worry about entertaining those around me with endless chit-chat. __ END


My friends and I have decamped for a long weekend at a soulful spot where desert meets sea to enjoy the brief and wonderful GCC winter. As the waves break and the stars twinkle and the fire roars, I inhale the silence and meditate on how lovely it would be to carry this stillness into our hectic everyday lives. I turn around to share this thought with my companions… who are not remotely aware of any of it. Even though there is no Internet connection for miles, the brilliantly resourceful M continues to exchange flirtations and whatnot on Facebook via Blackberry. On the other side of the smoky logs, another is risking serious thumb cramps as she furiously texts what can only be angry responses in her serial breakup saga, an ongoing drama unfolding over several weeks. In the far corner, hunched deep into her sheepskin bisht, which our wandering ancestors relied on to survive this very weather, another girlfriend is staring intently into her laptop DVD player, catching up on the latest Stateside episodes. My sense of nature’s majesty deflates, as does my desire to share with the group. I pick up a nearby magazine and pretend to rifle through it, lest my urge to converse is deemed antisocial.

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Deena Abdulazziz

The conference room was filled with the people who make fashion happen. This was a behind-the-scenes view of the industry, and all of a sudden the hierarchy somehow started to make sense. That said, the people who run fashion aren’t always representative of it. There I sat, listening and watching, in a bright pink dress, amidst an army of conservative black and navy suits. I could have been a UFO. Hearing Donatella Versace speak was a revelation. She has often been mocked for her appearance, yet she sparkled during her open interview with Suzy Menkes, whose Herald Tribune style column is the holy book of the fashion world. It changed my view of her completely. I admit I get a kick out of seeing and meeting the cream of the fashion world: the people you mainly only see or hear about in magazines. It was nice to see Tom Ford again after meeting him at the Valentino party in Rome last summer. He was true to his glossy dashing self: very James Bond. And Julien Macdonald has an adorable Welsh accent, which made me smile. And, of course Moscow, was wonderful. Red Square was everything I had expected it to be, with that glorious Dr Zhivago feel to it. And at Café Pouchkine I had the best

caviar I could ever have hoped for. My next stop was St Petersburg, which was vividly snowy and romantic. The amount of art housed at the Hermitage is extraordinary, and Katherine the Great’s palace is breathtaking, particularly the Amber Room. Now there is a woman who lived an exceptional life. Finally, I flew to London, and made a beeline for the V&A to see ‘The Golden Age of Couture’ show. At last, all the outfits that I’d read about so often were right before my eyes. I had to stifle a gasp when I saw the dresses worn by Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret. Were they really that slim? These dresses demonstrated the French phrase taille de guêpe – a wasp’s waist – to perfection. For dinner that night, I strayed from the beaten Knights-

A princess’s progress In search of ideas and all things fabulous in Moscow, St Petersburg and London.

bridge track and ventured into the East End. It was well worth the adventure. After a superb meal at Les Trois Garcons, the owners courteously invited me for a peek at their sumptuous apartment just above the restaurant. It was quite an experience; a space filled with every kind of interior style you can think of. Art nouveau mixed with chinoiserie, baroque and deco; flea market finds with museum-quality antiques. But nothing clashed. It felt just right. For those who might not be lucky enough to make it to the top floor, there’s always Loungelover, an eclectic bar just behind the restaurant which gives a hint of what these talented guys can do. They create spaces you crave to go back to. I returned to Saudi buzzing with new ideas, ready and raring for the new season. __ END


My job gets me around. Buying clothes for DNA involves regular trips to Paris, London, New York – and any other place where fashion is happening, for that matter. I observe the way people wear their clothes and how fashion affects the world. I’m a forager. I search everywhere for interesting and beautiful things, which I take back and display in my home. I think of it as my own personal temple to style. Fashion is fickle and recurring. But seeing things that I have always liked taking their turn in the spotlight never fails to make me feel joyful. Everywhere I went on my last trip, I was delighted to see neon colours being celebrated – especially bright orange, which I have a particular fondness for. Even more delightful is my new travelling companion: an Hermès tricolour 28cm croco Kelly bag. I finally got the call to pick it up late last year. I had ordered it as a special treat to mark the birth of my twins – which was six years ago. But it was worth the wait. When I went to Moscow to attend the International Herald Tribune luxury conference last winter, I carried my new pride and joy to the opening of a store owned by a girl called Aizel. I like to think of her as my Russian alter ego, since we always bump into each other at buying appointments and we are often carrying similar pieces. There I was, thinking I had the best thing ever hanging from my wrist, beaming away, only to realise that Moscow ladies don’t just share my penchant for Hermès, they take it to a whole other level: their croco Birkins and Kellys are encrusted with diamonds.

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 A. Arab literature showcase The Arab World will be the ‘Market Focus’ at this year’s London Book Fair in April, with a three-day cultural programme celebrating the strength and diversity of Arabic literature. Consisting of a series of talks, discussions, debates and workshops, it aims to encourage collaboration between UK and Arab publishers and translators by showcasing some of the best contemporary writers and writing from the Arab world.

creative balance between Nubian influences and modern design, the pieces are available in silver and the Azza Fahmy trademark combination of silver and 18ct gold. The range builds on the trend for geometric and floral shapes, with matte or lightly polished finishes, and richly detailed metalwork which includes intricately hand cut and pierced motifs. The new range is available at Azza Fahmy stores across Egypt and the Middle East, and through her new London stockist, Kabiri, on Marylebone High Street, W1.

B. Egyptian enchantress

C. Voices from the past

It’s been a busy year for Azza Fahmy. Her jewellery has appeared twice at London Fashion Week, alongside British designer Julien Macdonald, and she has launched a book called The Enchanted Jewellery of Egypt. And she has just introduced a new 18-piece handcrafted collection of bracelets, necklaces, earrings and rings. Striking a

Bainee wa Bainak, or Between You and Me, is a three-CD collection of classical Arabic interviews recorded in the 1970s and 1980s with icons of Egyptian culture in literature (Naguib Mahfouz, Salah Abdel Sabour, Salah Jahin, Noaman Ashour, Hussein Fawzi), music (Mohamed Abdul Wahab, Riad El Sonbati, Mohamed El Mogi), and theatre and film (Youssef Wahby, Tahia Karioka, Mohamed Tawfik and Yehia Shaheen). It will be made available to Egyptian libraries, universities and cultural institutions for research and instruction. It is just a taster of the 1600 hours of recordings archived by the now defunct VOA’s Arabic Service. The US Embassy in Cairo and VOA are exploring how to share this entire treasury with the public.

Distinctively BTurk Turkish art director Reha Erdogan has now expanded his BTurk project into the fashion world, introducing a line of T-shirts with designs inspired by Turkish culture, such as figures from Ottoman Empire history and religious symbols. The motifs are transformed into minimalist, modern forms and applied on to T-shirts to create a distinctive style that has become popular with Istanbul’s urban youth. Erdogan plans to expand the BTurk project to broader concepts in due course, but for the moment his fashion designs are doing beautifully.

D. Something old, something new Described as Breakfast at Tiffany meets Sex and the City, Felix Rey accessories offer a fresh, feminine take on vintage, mixing modern flair with an old-fashioned sensibility for style. Designed by Lily Rafil and Sulaika G




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Zarrouk, speciality items include evening bags, beach bags and belts. The latest spring bags were inspired by sweets, with candy colours such as magenta and citrine sprinkled among the foil-wrapper-style silver and platinum leathers and high-shine metallics. Leopard print is also a staple at Felix Rey: this season they even have a leopard canvas diaper bag for fashionable new mums.

E. Three of a kind The luxury Angsana Resorts and Spa recently opened a trio of riads in Marrakech. Riad Bad Firdhaus – the name means ‘gateway to heaven’– is the most luxurious, filled with traditional artefacts and custommade furniture. Riad Aida is a 19th-century six-room guesthouse, once home to the architect who built Marrakech’s Bahia Palace, while Riad Si Said, located in the heart of the medina, is decorated with zellig (mosaic tiles) and has its own hamman.


F. Fashion island In a drive to establish Dubai as a global style destination, Isla Moda will be the world’s first dedicated fashion island. Developed by Dubai Infinity Holdings (DIH) on a World C

island, it will combine fashion resort, themed villas, and high-end boutiques and hotels. DIH aims to help diversify the UAE economy and is particularly committed to innovative, non-conventional investments with highgrowth potential. ‘Isla Moda will be acknowledged as the fashion district of the entire Middle East,’ says Samira Abdulrazzak, CEO of DIH. Internationally renowned fashion designers will design different elements of the project and work begins in late 2008.

GCC united The six Gulf monarchies became a common market this year. Besides allowing the free flow of capital, the new arrangement aims to allow GCC nationals to move, reside and work freely in any of the six countries. With a combined economy of $715 billion, the GCC common market is now one of the largest economies in the world.

G. Future perfect Inspired by the principles of traditional Arab city planning, British architectural firm Foster + Partners has revealed its UAE Pavilion design for Shanghai’s Expo 2010. Twenty meters high with 6000 square metres of exhibition space, the pavilion will be one of the largest at the Expo, with a display that showcases an Arab city that is both traditional and committed to an environmentally sustainable future.

H. Painting history



MF Husain, India’s best-known artist, has been commissioned by the wife of the Emir of Qatar to create 99 paintings for Doha’s new Museum of Islamic Art. Husain, a Muslim Indian, lives in self-imposed exile in Dubai and London after controversy broke out in India over paintings he made of Hindu deities in the nude. Husain has begun work on the series, which will be called ‘History of Arab Civilisation’.

Green, Green Mountain Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi, Colonel Gaddafi’s son, recently announced ambitious plans to build the world’s largest eco-friendly tourist resort in Green Mountain, an area in eastern Libya along the Mediterranean coast, which includes the ruins of the ancient Greek city of Cyrene. Foster + Partners are leading the development and preliminary designs show natural ventilation, passive solar strategies and the use of natural local materials, all resulting in minimal impact on the landscape. The plan is to avoid turning the coastline into a resort; rather, all buildings will be at the foot of the hills. The Libyan government has teamed up with a private company led by Hassan Tatanaki to finance the project, which, should it come to fruition, might become an ecological model for tourism benefiting the local community.

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 A. Brilliant ideas

The sign of 4

Tucked away from the main street of Kuwait’s traditional clothing souk lies a series of Uzbek/Afghani shops perfect for the discerning explorer of ethnic wares. Here is everything from traditional robes with exquisite beadwork to whimsical tablecloths embroidered with flowers of the most vibrant hues. While the goods are cheap there is still bargaining to be done, and the vendors are helpful, multicultural and multilingual. A thoroughly worthwhile cultural experience.

You can’t miss 4’s frosted glass facade, with its number melting into it. Nouf Al Bahar’s new über-chic concept store just opened in Kuwait’s industrial area. The textured white walls, black ceilings and visible air ducts create a streamlined background, allowing the clothing, bags, books and artefacts to stand out. The products at 4 have all been carefully chosen to provide sophisticated and cosmopolitan shoppers with one-of-a-kind items, such as Issac Sellam leather jackets, Jimmie Martin’s reworked antique chairs, Vintage Rolex watches or Aristolasia python bags. 4 also offers books, CDs and vintage posters of Oum Kalsoum, Hind Rastoum and Omar Sharif, to name just a few. Last but not least, there is a lounge, Wi-Fi equipped, of course, where most days a live DJ is on hand to accompany the snacks, meals or just a cup of coffee.

Mubarikiya Souk Heritage Shops 41-45, tel: +965 946 6217

B. Buzz on toast Adding to the buzz on the ever-hipper street opposite the sprawling white Seif Palace, Prime and Toast is a high-end bistro that serves comfort food with a gourmet flair. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner – brunch at weekends is particulary busy – the food is eclectic and international, with staples like steak and salads for the less adventurous. There is both indoor and outdoor seating, and home delivery for those who really can’t get up from the couch.

4, Mahdi Habeeb Building Block 7, Street 12, Shuwaikh, tel: +965 492 5444

Prime and Toast, tel: +965 241 1252

Flower power



With two new shops in (Al Beda) Argaan and Tilal-Shuwaikh, Au Nom De La Rose is now providing an upmarket Kuwaiti clientele with beautiful bouquets. As its name suggests, this international florist franchise is a rose specialist, and was originally the brainchild of French pop singer Dani. The current owner has developed the business, while a team in Paris continuously researches and develops new concepts, such as an organic line of rose-essence products for the face and body.

Kuwait’s Shuwaikh Industrial area is the first to be mapped for an innovative new series of hip graphic business directories. The Edilila Visual Directory series – the name refers to a traditional Kuwaiti word for a guide – was conceived by two young Kuwaiti architects, Maisa Al-Bishar and Asma Al-Othman. They describe the guide as a tool that will lead customers ‘through a treasure hunt towards their goal’, be it a corporation or a simple crafts shop. They aims to expand to cover the surrounding region in due course.

Au Nom de la Rose, tel: +965 225 3157 B

C. Style by Kynn Created by Design Squared, the recently opened Kynn stands out amongst a plethora of luxury furniture boutiques in the center of the booming Shuwaikh industrial district. The interior juxtaposes reclaimed steel and wood with smooth concrete floors, flowing metal coil drapery, and sleek mirrored surfaces. Products range from indoor and outdoor furniture to design-inspired fixtures and furnishings by international designers, including award-winning pieces from Studio JSPR, Ochre, Casamania, Piet Boon Zone and Afroditi Krassa. Kynn, G48 Al Tilal Luxury Living, Shuwaikh, Kuwait, tel: +965 240 6616; D


D. Edilila

E. Villa Moda’s new souk The British architectural and design firm Sybarite recently presented their 4500 square metre department store designed for Villa Moda in the Al Manshar Mall Complex. Created as a contemporary ‘souk’-style shopping experience, concessions are in circular pods scattered over the first floor. Outlets include Hassan’s jewellery, Shaya cosmetics, fragrances and therapy, Trussardi, Lalique, Kefan optics, an Apple Store, Alefbooks and Café Najjar. Villa Moda fashion is on the second floor. Villa Moda, Al Manshar Mall Complex, Fahaheel, tel: +965 393 0500;

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 · J Counter revolution ‘It started off with a passion for wine and objects,’ explain the owners of Over the Counter, the first shop in Beirut dedicated to industrial design. Opened last December by designers Karen Chekerdjian and Rania Abillama – who met while studying industrial design at the Domus Academy in Milan – the boutique opens on to Le Comptoir du Vin, a wine store managed by Abillama’s husband, Antoine Karam. Built by architect-of-the-moment Raed Abillama (no relation), Over the Counter is a three-level wonderland dedicated to the most progressive pieces in the world of contemporary design. Chekerdjian and Abillama believe the time is ripe to introduce high quality design to Lebanon and see themselves as ‘hunters, on the lookout for perfect objects’. The store includes Italian ceramist Sosa, Canadian furniture designers Molo and US-based Artecnica, whose ‘design with conscience’ project uses recycled materials to create objects. Each piece on show – whether it is a lamp, cutlery or a vase – demonstrates a high level of craftsmanship. ‘We want designers that posses a certain level of savoir faire.’ Could this explain in part why no Middle Eastern designers are present yet? ‘It is not that we are being snobs, but we are very particular about each object.’ The pair hopes to keep the public interested by regularly changing the layout space. ‘Each year, we will invite various artists to create their own installations.’ Over the Counter, 150 Abdel Wahab al-Inglizi Street, Beirut, tel: +961 1 322 786

A. Plum rules Fashion emporium Plum has opened a new boutique in downtown Beirut. Designed by Raed Abillama, the new concept store is a grand affair, with metal structures dividing the 700 square metre space, and bold slants in the ceiling reminiscent of Daniel Libeskind. Spread over two floors, it includes women’s and children’s fashion, plus a new men’s line, and Plum has invited Martin Margiela to showcase his men’s collection as a first ‘guest designer’ – the first of many. There is also a juice bar, an iPod music station, books and, soon, a beauty corner. ‘We want to remain a laboratory for new trends and ideas,’ says creative director Alain Snedge.


Plum, Park Avenue, Beirut, tel: +961 1 976 565

B. Dial 961 ‘While there are hundreds of beers around the world, there is only one brand in Lebanon,’ says Mazen Hajjar, who has masterminded the development of the sleek 961 beer brand along with artist and photographer Joe Keserouani, Chahid el-Khoury, Omar Bekdache and their Danish partner Henrik Haagen. Sold in their modernist bar on the



outskirts of Gemmayzeh, 961 is now getting ready for mass distribution. There are also plans for more 961 bars ‘anywhere in the world where there are Lebanese people,’ adds el-Khoury. Named after the country’s international dialling code, 961 displays both environmental and design savvy. ‘Each beer [there are more than a dozen] is made out of recycled bottles and we are working on various projects to help fight deforestation,’ explains Hajjar. ‘For us, beer is the new wine.’ 961 bar, Medawar Street, tel: +961 1 567 899

Amman honoured Amman has been awarded the World Leadership Award in Town Planning, in recognition of the Greater Amman Municipality’s urban development Master Plan, plus the new City of the Year award for the Asia-Pacific region. Presented annually in London, the awards celebrate the best in modern city leadership. A

C. Naturally gifted Renowned Jordanian jewellery designer Nadia Dajani is working with the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature to launch a new ‘Nature Adorned’ collection, inspired by Jordan’s unique reserves. The jewellery is handmade from local silver, copper and stones by women living in the reserves of Wadi Mujib and the Dana valley.

D. Towering achievement The Living Wall of Amman is a striking new $160 million mixed-use development that’s set to change the landscape of one of the city’s older commercial areas. Designed by leading British architects Foster + Partners, the six towers are being built into the side of a steep wadi in the heart of Amman, and will house residences, offices and the capital’s first boutique hotel, with 120 luxurious rooms. It is due to be completed in 2009.

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 A. Recreating Lyon

Islamic art treasures in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates are in the throes of Francophilia. After the news that a branch of the Louvre museum will be built in Abu Dhabi, entrepreneur Buti Saeed al-Gandhi announced that he would re-create Lyon in Dubai. The $740 million project will include houses and offices, a hotel school, a film library, as well as subsidiaries of Lyon museums and a football training center run by Olympique Lyonnais.

Dubbed ‘a cultural ambassador of Islam’, Nasser David Khalili is showing a selection of 500 pieces from his renowned collection in Abu Dhabi, including a number or works never shown before. The Iranian-born, London-based scholar, collector, property developer and benefactor began collecting in the 1970s and has since amassed the largest private collection of Islamic art with over 20,000 works. The Abu Dhabi exhibit includes such major works as a 19thcentury panoramic watercolour of Mecca, which is the earliest known visual record of the city, and both the religious and secular arts of Islam will be presented. ‘The Arts of Islam: Treasures from the Nasser D Khalili Collection’ is at the Emirates Palace Hotel until the end of April.

B. Monument for Sheikh Zayed Foster + Partners has won the competition to design Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed National Museum, the centrepiece of the city’s cultural district on Saadiyat Island. The museum will celebrate the legacy of the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, former UAE President and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, who played a key role in the formation of the UAE Federation and was an environmental pioneer. Foster’s concept was deemed to have best met the brief to create a defining public monument. While in Abu Dhabi to present the design, Foster spoke of the need to deliver a building symbolic of the character and mission of the late Sheikh. ‘The project calls for more than a museum, rather a national monument… which will evoke an element of contemplation and which, by definition, would therefore have a greater spiritual element than the other projects in the district.’

C. Market momentum The Saturday flea market launched by XVA Gallery in Bastakiya last December is gaining momentum. Conceived as a means of bringing a new energy to the pedestrian streets of the neighbourhood, its stands originally lined up just outside the XVA Gallery, but have now moved near to the Creek. It varies greatly from week to week, but there are almost always local artisans and painters, as well as stalls selling fruit and snacks.

D. Soaring Aloft Having designed the W New York and W Union Square hotels, the Rockwell Group is currently working on a new hotel concept for Starwood Hotels and Resorts. Branded Aloft, it aims to raise the bar in affordable select-service hospitality, offering loft-like guest rooms, superior technology, landscaped outdoor areas for socialising day and night, and a buzzy lounge scene. In short, an urban oasis emphasising cosmopolitan comfort, function and community infused



with a sense of ownership. A self-service check-in, lobby pool table, sunken living room area, and morning-to-midnight kitchen all contribute to the feeling of being at home. Visually distinctive structures such as the carport, abstract roof-line, and colourful linear exterior lights add punch to the subtle sophistication of the spacious, industrialinspired interior. An Aloft hotel is slated to open in Abu Dhabi late 2009 (pictured).

Repton opens its doors Repton Dubai, a partner of the famed Repton UK, has now opened its doors to 340 students aged 3 to 11, including 15 per cent UAE pupils this academic year. In return for its Dh 43,000 fee for nursery pupils and up to Dh 54,000 for year six, excluding boarding, the school is said to boast the best preparatory and secondary school educational facilities in the region.

E+F. Maestros of modern living Furniture manufacturer Sawaya & Moroni lives by one simple rule: freedom of expression. Founded by two of Milan’s design giants, Beirut-born William Sawaya and Paolo Moroni, the firm recently opened a concession at Harvey Nichols in Dubai for


its glamorous Barock n’ Roll furniture collection. Designed by Sawaya, a trained architect, the sophisticated pieces are perfect for the Gulf region, with their blend of past forms and traditions, plus a dose of modernity and effervescent charm. Indeed, no sooner had the pieces been put on the shop floor, than they were snapped up by passing customers. Highlights include a carved walnut table with a tempered glass top shot through with neon colour; an ebony veneer cabinet lined with intense coloured shelving and a mirrored bar inside; and a multi-coloured acrylic CD holder, decorated with a gold leaf frieze. Sawaya & Moroni is known for its ‘high concept’ furniture,

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Dubai & Abu Dhabi


eclectic portfolio, including the successful Maxima chair, which looks equally at home in a restaurant, home or office. He has also developed products for other companies, including crystal collections for Baccarat and taps for Zucchetti. Moroni, who spent his childhood and early working years in Europe and the Middle East, handles management and marketing, although he is closely involved in all design aspects of each project. The duo has also been commissioned to design private residences in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Greece and Russia. Current projects on the drawing board include a 10storey office building in Saudi Arabia, a boutique hotel in Singapore and a 58-metre boat, complete with heli-pad, for a private client. ‘Design offers a way out of a grey life into a sparkling life,’ says Moroni.


G. Nobu debuts in Dubai

The group behind Five Green is expanding with their new 50 Degrees Celcius, a gift shop that defies the ordinary. Designed by Manabu Ozawa, the shop carries clothes, cards, music, items for the home, toys and gadgets from brands such as Suck UK, Norman, and Whimsy and Whish. 50 Degrees aims to please everyone, catering to all ages, and offering items at all price ranges.

Following an approach from a sushi-loving sheikh, the world’s most fashionable restaurant, Nobu, is set to open its doors in Dubai in April. Situated at Atlantis on Dubai’s Palm Island, the New York-based Rockwell Group is responsible for creating the restaurant’s first Middle East location. The original Nobu opened in New York in 1996, founded by Robert de Niro, Drew Nieporent and chef Nobu Matsuhisa, and the brand has since spread around the world. Matsuhisa’s restaurants are a magnet for A-listers but it is his simple genius with rice and fish that has sealed his reputation. The design for Nobu Dubai is an evolution of many of the concepts developed for the flagship Nobu 57, such as the emphasis on craftsmanship, natural materials and storytelling. Large-scale computer-generated woven panels surround the restaurant walls and ceiling, creating a fluid environment for dining. A 60-foot long curved river rock wall and laser-cut metal screen of cherry blossoms mark the entry to the bar. The bar itself is made from three-inch thick solid timber planks with a backlit onyx front. In the lounge, curved translucent flower panels form an elliptical shape around the centre of the space to form an area for private events. Three-dimensional woven abaca panels surround the main dining room, creating an experience akin to being immersed under an ocean wave. Guests sit on uplit woven banquettes formed by these colorful panels, cascading down from the ceiling towards the floor, while at the sushi bar, all the surfaces are encased in black bamboo embedded terrazzo. A white bamboo facade forms a theatrical backdrop for the sushi chefs at work.


designed by architects such as Zaha Hadid, Jean Nouvel, OM Ungers and Dominique Perrault. When first introduced 20 years ago, the furniture raised a few eyebrows within the industry. ‘We look for the extreme,’ explains Moroni. At a time when Hadid was struggling to get anything built, Sawaya & Moroni produced various pieces by her, which are now considered design icons. Sawaya & Moroni choose to work with architects rather than furniture designers, who they reckon are more concerned with making trends, and less aware of the space within which the furniture will be used. Sawaya has designed additional products to ‘fill in the gaps’ within the company’s D

Warm feeling

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Iraq’s House of Fashion rises again The premier dress designers of Iraq have been quietly threading their needles once again. More than 300 designers, artists, embroiderers and dress makers are now back at work at the House of Fashion in Baghdad, taking inspiration from styles that date back 5000 years and more. Founded in the 1970s and sponsored by the Iraqi Ministry of Culture, the House of Fashion’s aim is to preserve ancient Iraqi culture. From the time it was founded until the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, it made hundreds of exquisite dresses using natural fabrics— silk, cotton and wool – embroidered with motifs from the Sumerian, Babylonian, Assyrian and even early Islamic periods. But 33 years of work were brutally destroyed in a single day during the invasion. After a period of depression and mourning, the intrepid designers regrouped and began working again. They now say they are ready, financial backing permitting, to display their designs on the international stage, possibly in Paris or New York.

A. Hot clutches Ever since Queen Rania of Jordan and, more recently, Catherine Deneuve sported a Sarah’s Bag, these colourful clutches have been selling like hot cakes. Now, Sarah Beydoun, their eponymous creator and Lebanon’s answer to Anya Hindmarch, has introduced her limited edition Collectable series: one silver plated, the other made of colourful enamel. ‘We’ve put all our experience into these,’ says Beydoun. ‘They are the sum of our knowledge and a kind of experiment in design.’

of the new store allows for a dazzling array of goods including fashionable maternity clothing, baby clothes and shoes, pharmacy and lifestyle products, nursery furniture, prams and unique baby gifts. In addition to the Blossom maternity collection there will also be established designer brands such as Missoni, Alice Temperley, Anya Hindmarch and See by Chloé. B

C. Queen of vintage

Saudi-based Madame La Reine introduced the Middle East to the joys of second-hand and vintage clothing when it opened in Jeddah. Its founder is Heba Al Akki, a B. Baby grand gemologist by training who started out London’s Blossom Mother and Child has designing bespoke jewellery, then found a opened a 3000 square foot luxury boutique niche in the market for vintage and secondfor pregnant women, mothers and children in hand Gucci, Prada, Dior, Chanel and more. the Centria mall in Riyadh. Founded in 2003 Madame la Reine is highly discreet, buying by three Saudi women – Basma and Yasmin and selling by appointment only. The Alireza and Tania Khreino – Blossom quickly concept has proven so succesful that Al Akki became the place to shop for maternity has launched a website and now has clothing. While Blossom recently opened a representatives in Riyadh, Alkhobar, Kuwait, shop in Dubai, the Riyadh boutique marks a Dubai, Oman and Cairo. new chapter for the business: the sheer size



D. Lingerie to go Stephanie Abidjaoudi – the Lebanese designer of the wedding trousseau of Saudi King Abdallah’s granddaughter – continues to break new ground with her Lala Rose lingerie collections. Inspired by MarieAntoinette, this season’s glamorous styles can even be worn outside the bedroom.

E. Decorative letters When she’s not working on her artwork or photography, the multi-talented Lebanese designer Nadine Kanso is designing jewellery. Part of her latest collection is on show at the DIFC boutique alongside the ‘Word into Art’ exhibit running through April. Recent pieces include her ‘Bil Arabi’ designs based on Arabic words and letters in 18-carat gold and semi-precious stones. Bil Arabi jewellery, S*uce Dubai and Abu Dhabi A


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They often say ‘less is more’, but when it comes to shopping, perhaps they should be saying ‘small is big’ instead. Increasingly, women across the Arabian Gulf are choosing to buck the mass trends peddled by mammoth department stores and opt instead for the more unique options that are available at smaller, independent boutiques. With shoppers now more style-savvy, more brandconscious and more aware than ever of ‘what’s in and out’, small boutiques have established themselves as the goto destination to fulfil the demand for one-off fashion. The retail scene in the region was for a long time tilted more heavily towards the boutique end. Boutiques were the business venture of choice for entrepreneurial women looking to fill the gaping void that existed before the explosion of shopping malls. The family-run AlOthman is one such example. It opened in Kuwait as a small boutique in 1956, and has since blossomed into a fashion institution attracting three generations of loyal clients. But the 1990s witnessed the proliferation of those malls offering high-street chain ‘fast fashion’, along with the traditional multi-brand department stores, which dwarfed the independent boutiques. Today, with consumers starved for more eclectic fashion with an edge, the small boutique format is fast regaining its prominence. For Deena Aljuhani Abdulaziz, owner of DNA in Riyadh, the small boutiques of yesteryear were the initial inspiration for opening up her own. ‘Twenty-five years ago, the only places that you could shop at were boutiques like Mayass and Rubaiyat in Saudi Arabia, started up by pioneering women who wanted to bring

fashion to the region,’ she says. That trend eventually paved the way for her own membership-only boutique, which opened in September 2006. If ever there was a fashion lover, Abdulaziz all but defines it, with an almost encyclopedic knowledge of the industry. ‘I remember the first time I looked through Vogue, when I was a child. I was so happy to know there were other people in the world that were like me,’ she says. That sentiment manifests itself all over DNA, which she describes as: ‘Very individual; somewhere in between avant garde and mainstream. It’s probably closest to 10 Corso Como in Milan and Colette in Paris.’ As for what

DNA offers that larger stores might miss, Abdulaziz’s litmus test is to stock pieces that she would herself wear, or else wholly approve of. ‘I remember each and every item in the store,’ she says, and that ranges from Christian Louboutin shoes (of which DNA is the sole retailer in the Kingdom) to Assouline books to brands such as Dice Kayek, Jason Wu, The Row, Martin Margiela and Frédéric Malle perfumes. Saudis have also been flocking to Life and SID, two other independent boutiques opened by Faris Alshehri in both Riyadh and Jeddah. ‘We opened Life in 2003 with the aim of offering a lifestyle environment for the younger market where one can


Throughout the Gulf region, style hounds are increasingly spurning the big stores in favour of a burgeoning class of small independent boutiques, which provide a more original take on fashion and highly personalised service. By Rasha Shaath.

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tioned to be on the fashion edge and to present emerging talent from all over the world,’ he says. ‘We always try to find the right equation between our clients’ needs and the constant changes in fashion trends. Ideally, we would like our customers to discover something new every time they walk into our stores.’ When it comes to cutting-edge fashion, the Kuwaitis have elevated it into something of an art form, redefining the way clothes were meant to be worn from couture to high street to independent labels. For Rashid Tabiat of the pioneering AlOthman, the enduring appeal of small boutiques is their ability to provide focused and personalised service. ‘Considering that most of the small boutiques are owned and operated by

When it comes to cuttingedge fashion, the Kuwaitis have elevated it into something of an art form. find the latest gadgets and vinyl toys, as well as fashion jewellery and unique home accessories. Consequently, we started to offer exclusive casual street wear, as well as chic couture pieces with an urban look and feel,’ Faris says. Gravitating towards fashion retail and identifying the gap in the market between luxury retail and mass marketing, Alshehri launched SID in early 2007 offering contemporary high-end brands as well as fragrances and home accessories. Alshehri is quick to point out that the concept of small boutiques has huge potential in Saudi, but remains something of a challenge. ‘It’s not easy to please a niche market. Our priority has always been posi-

people that are part of the community where they operate, they tend to be more sensitive to the needs of their clients,’ he says, adding that, ‘unlike small luxury boutiques, large stores seem to have lost their character’. Certainly, when it comes to character, the Kuwaiti fashion scene knows no limits. Pushing the style barriers to the maximum is Pink Moon Boutique, which carries offbeat labels equally adored by both Hollywood celebrities and their hyper-stylish Kuwaiti counterparts. The boutique also operates a website allowing shoppers to buy their wares online, delivering locally as well as internationally, which is still something of a rarity in the region. While boutiques have been mushrooming across the Gulf, Du-

bai’s positioning as a fashion mecca of sorts has allowed concept stores to gain considerable footing when it comes to arming young women on a mission to create their own personal style. Catering to the more avant garde shopper, If Boutique opened its doors last year in Dubai, but its origins date back to the early 1970s with the opening of the first store in Beirut by the Shehadeh family. An outpost followed in New York before it finally arrived in the Gulf. On the more urban end, the homegrown Five Green is something of a streetwear haven and local talent hub, unearthing all manner of funky labels while also incorporating music, books and doubling as an art space as well. Shahi Hamad, the owner and buyer of the store, which opened in 2003, says: ‘When I moved back to Dubai after college, there was nothing like the little stores and street markets that we were used to shopping at in cities like London and New York’ – which proved to be the inspiration to set up Five Green. ‘We wanted to create a space where people could pick up a pair of handmade earrings or an item of clothing from an emerging label, rather than what was available in the stores.’ Supporting local talent proved to be added impetus. It started out with two UAE-based designers – Pink Sushi and Mona Ibrahim – and now counts more than 15 other talents. ‘It’s really part of our philosophy to provide a platform for emerging talent to showcase their work and through the distribution arm of our company, we want to try to incubate these designers and guide them towards the next step for their lines,’ she says. But that’s not all when it comes to developing new retail con-

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cepts in the city. ‘The small boutique concept is something we really believe in and we’ve just launched a kind of spin-off of Five Green, a gift store called 50°C that’s basically promoting the act of giving,’ she adds. Its gift items include furniture, candles and the little knick-knacks that you never knew you needed until you buy them. For style mavens looking for something ‘delicious’, however, the boutique of choice has been S*uce, ever since it opened its doors back in 2004. The brainchild of a trio of fashionable women – Zayan Ghandour, Fatima Ghobash and Dina Saleh – S*uce packs a sweet punch that has resonated with women looking for something utterly unique. According to Ghandour, ‘The concept grew out of a desire to fill a niche in the UAE fashion market and was fuelled by a mutual love and passion for everything that is fun and fashion forward.’ The friendly, personalised shopping experience that small boutiques offer in tandem with the lesser known brands they carry is something that S*uce,

‘A small boutique can afford to take risks. They can invest in a designer before anyone else does.’ amongst others, has benefited from. ‘A boutique is more personal, more eclectic and, of course, much more charming. It can offer a more enjoyable, almost intimate experience; like a peek into someone else’s closet,’ Ghandour adds. Small boutiques offer a solution to that age-old style problem, whereby women must scour countless rails of department stores in search of that one item which won’t be replicated

Dubai Five Green If Boutique S*uce Saudi Arabia DNA Life SID Beirut Plum Kitsch Kuwait Al Othman Pink Moon Boutique

by other ‘fashionistas’. ‘In practical terms, a small boutique can afford to be more eclectic, more experimental. That is why you will often find new up-and-coming brands at S*uce before they reach the larger department stores,’ she says. ‘A small boutique can afford to take risks, or invest in a designer before anyone else does.’ While the Gulf has seen steady growth on the boutique front, the Levant has yet to catch up – apart from Beirut, that is. Long hailed as the ‘Paris of the Middle East’, Beirut has plenty of style hounds who can show the world a thing or two about resourcefulness in the face of adversity. It is very much the centre of fashion, led undoubtedly by the king of couture, Elie Saab. Beaded gowns aside, however, there are several bornand-Beirut-bred stores that been keeping the Lebanese stylishly turned out. For example, Kitsch – a boutique and bakery in one owned by Racil Chalhoub and Dalia Doghmosh – and Plum, owned by Mira Mikati and Raya Dernaika, which carries up-and-coming labels, as well as Lebanese designers. A natural offshoot of this renaissance of independent small shops is the inherent encouragement and support they offer to locally based designers looking to put their foot in the proverbial fashion door. At DNA, apart from selling Lebanese brands like Sarah’s Bag and Maia N, Abdulaziz is currently preparing for a mini-trunk show for Saudi designer Lamia Alsudairi. ‘I would love to en-

dorse someone from the Middle East because I see it as my job to nurture upcoming talent from the region. If we don’t do that – if we don’t take care of our own – then who will?’ she says, mirroring what many boutique owners feel. Over at S*uce in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Ghandour agrees, saying, ‘S*uce has always been a passionate supporter of local and original talent. Since it’s inception, S*uce has supported over 40 local and regional brands – such as Essa, Bil Arabi, Jake and Gigi, Affascinare and Tylda Ghosn – establishing itself as a platform for local designers to launch and showcase their creations. In fact, we have a special “Home-made S*uce” section in the new extension [of the Dubai store], entirely dedicated to the works of local and regional designers.’ For Essa, the UAE-based designer which S*uce carries, the small boutique concept has been a perfect fit. ‘I cannot hypothesise on what might have happened had I been stocked by the larger department stores. But what I do know is that when S*uce opened, it was a fresh new store where my designs quickly became a focal point, and which allowed my label to grow as the demand increased,’ he says. ‘With a bigger, multi-brand store, the chance of being that focal point may have been more difficult.’ As for the small boutique shopping experience itself, that it is anything but difficult. __ END

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All fired up A. Black, yellow and pink ‘Monogram’ bag, around $5000, Louis Vuitton. B. Black gaucho hat with fire crin feathers, $412, Noel Stewart. Black suede court shoe with candle heel, $630, Miu Miu. C. Orange patent wedge ‘Yasmin’ shoe, $1000, Christian Louboutin. D. Red faux coral tubes, red glass tubes and dutch glass ovals long necklace, $410, Pebble.

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Acid jazz A. Green patent ‘Noeudette’ shoes with gold heels, $750, Christian Louboutin. B. Red patchwork leather bag, POA, Dolce & Gabbana.


C. Red and purple python small bag, $925, Miu Miu. D. Red coral buttons necklace, $430, Pebble. E. Red python compact, $925, Sergio Rossi. F. Green lizard brooch, $205, Miu Miu.

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A. C.

Bright and beautiful A. Pink patent and embroidered shoe, $1100, Louis Vuitton. B. Turquoise nuggets necklace, $525, Pebble. C. Black-and-white suede and patent ‘Indy’ bag with wool bamboo detail, $3350, Gucci. D. Yellow beret with crin feather coquade, $475, Noel Stewart. E. White python wedge peep-toe shoes, $750, Beatrix Ong. F. Multicolour patchwork leather sandals, POA, Dolce & Gabbana.

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D. F.



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Leila Kashanipour

Kash and carry A. Lapis necklace, $670, Leila Kashanipour. B. Chunky lapis ring, $600, Leila Kashanipour. C. Skull necklace with blue sapphires, $1100, Leila Kashanipour.

She still might be enrolled as a student at Central Saint Martins in London, but this hasn’t stopped Leila Kashanipour from launching her own jewellery collection. Using an abbreviated version of her name, Lei Van Kash has already amassed a wealth of clients in both Europe and the Middle East. Kashanipour is a hands-on designer who isn’t afraid of rolling up her sleeves. A true craftswoman, she is involved in every stage of the production process, from sketching designs right through to crafting pieces with the necessary moulds and drills in her London and Tehran workshops. She also mines her Persian heritage for inspiration. Not only did she name her first collection ‘Shuroo’, which means ‘first’, ‘start’ or ‘beginning’, but Persian themes also surface in the symbolism that she uses in her jewellery.

D. Large black patent ‘Day Clutch’ with wooden handle, $422, Zina Eva. E. Small black patent ‘Ellie Clutch’ with wooden handle, $375, Zina Eva.

Zina Eva

F. Sautoir ‘Pépite’ necklace, $100, Nada Zeineh.

Women’s appetites for bags are becoming more insatiable by the minute. No one is more aware of this than Zina Eva who manages to add new handbags to her collection on a fortnightly basis. Her extensive collection of leather-lined bags includes the ‘Annie’ clutch, with its bold buckle; the squashy ‘Small Bella’, featuring a bold Guacayan wood handle; and the roomy and accommodating ‘Tote’, which, at 16 inches long and 12 inches high, is perfect for weekends away. All Zina Eva bags are fashioned from the finest skins and materials, including pebble deerskin, croc-embossed lamb or Italian calf.

G. Red clutch bag with gold embroidered gun, $230, Seven Minutes. H. ‘Alep’ brass gold-plated necklace, $150, Nada Zeineh. I. Rose ring 24-carat gold-plated silver, $730, Leila Kashanipour. Note all prices throughout are approximate.






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Seven Minutes This season the clutch is queen. And together with day bags and belts, Seven Minutes has plenty of them. Must-haves include graphic envelope styles or bags crafted from gathered pastel-coloured cottons featuring bold silver medallion or brass button trims. Clearly the result of thought, effort and, above all, time, the range is the creation of sassy twins Dina and Lina Sami – born seven minutes apart, hence the name – who were raised in Ras Al Khaimah and spent time living in New York.

Nada Zeineh The eponymous collection of Beirut-based architect-turned-jeweller Nada Zeineh is an eclectic mix, including pieces with dangling moon, fish, bird and flower motifs, as well as Lebanese ethnic, archaeological and architectural themes. ‘I am an architect, and studied at AUB [American University of Beirut],’ says Zeineh. ‘I never trained in jewellery design. For me, necklaces, bracelets and rings are just small architectural projects.’ Typically, Zeineh’s jewellery is made of brass (yellow copper), which is then dipped in silver or 24-carat gold –although a select few pieces are made of sterling silver.





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MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE Make-up today is both a valuable tool of self-expression and an important cultural thermometer. But far from being a modern phenomenon, we’re actually drawing on cosmetic traditions that date back to the Egyptians, says Renata Semba.


f a slinky evening dress can make a woman feel like a movie star, and a pair of high heels can turn her walk into something just short of a hip-rolling tango, how does make-up affect how a woman feels? If once or twice you’ve glanced into the mirror and wondered who that person was looking back at you, then isn’t make-up a reflection of how you are feeling about yourself? Make-up, as any woman knows, is a valuable tool of self-expression. But it’s also an important cultural thermometer that measures the collective psyche of women (and men) over time.

The earliest archaeological evidence of make-up comes from Egypt around 3000 or 4000BC, when men and women used kohl, a sulphide and soot compound, to darken the eyelashes and eyelids, bringing relief from the glare of the sun. Jews adopted make-up from the Egyptians, and Persian women used henna dyes to stain their hair and faces, believing this would allow them to summon the power of the earth. Cosmetics such as moisturiser, deodorants and depilatories were widely used by the Romans in the first century.

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Chanel, YSL and Fendi all showed a fresh make-up look for spring. If the red lipstick trend scares you or looks too hard, soften the edges by smudging it a little. Get this fresh, young, innocent look with Chanel Mat Lumière Fluid Foundation, Infrarouge Lipstick Nr. 23 Pretty Satine and Lumière D’Artifices Eyeshadow Palette, using gold to line the lashes, plus Wondergrass Eyeshadow from MAC.

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Makeup today is a way to make a visual statement about who you are and what you want to say to the world. Inspired by Prada’s use of eye colour at the shows, here the look is creative and spontaneous, but slightly mysterious. Create this look with Chanel Mat Lumière Fluid Foundation, Vibrant Grape Eyeshadow, Liquidlast Liner Aqualine and Underplay Matte Lipstick from MAC.

One of the earliest cosmetologists was Abu alQasim al-Zahrawi or Abulcasis (936-1013AD), a physician who wrote the medical encyclopaedia Al-Tasrif: chapter 19 was devoted purely to cosmetics, which was then considered a branch of medicine. In Europe, from the Middle Ages right up to the mid-19th century, white face make-up was widely used as a statement of status and wealth by both men and women. In the 17th century, small pieces of black silk or velvet were cut into shapes such as stars, moons or hearts, and used as beauty patches to conceal skin erup-

Cosmetics has become a multi-billion-dollar industry, reflecting women’s growing influence as consumers. tions caused by the toxic compounds in the make-up – or the symptoms of the latest illness to hit society. These patches were later to become a silent language with the position of patches holding different meanings. One on the right cheek signalled you were married; on the left cheek, engaged; near the mouth, flirtatious; and near the corner of the eye, that you were somebody’s mistress. With lead, mercury and sulphur being common make-up components of the time, many deaths were attributed to its use. But, as we were soon to learn, ‘pride bears no pain’.


ake-up styles took on mass influence with the advent of the cinema. The drooping eyebrows of the 1920s saw the ‘helpless female’ era move into the highly arched brow and red lips of the 1950s, indicating more feminine times. The 1980s saw a strengthening of the eyebrow (think Brooke Shields), at a time when women were becoming more assertive, particularly within the workplace.

Today, cosmetics are a multi-billion-dollar global industry, reflecting women’s increasing influence in the consumer marketplace. Famous make-up artists such as the late Kevin Aucoin and Serge Lutens created their own ‘art’ using women’s faces as their canvas. The brilliant Pat McGrath continues this tradition today. On the catwalks of New York, Milan and Paris, Pat takes her cues from art history and courtesans of the 17th and 18th centuries to create imaginative, fantasy makeup to inspire and amuse. With women as sensitive, intuitive beings, and fashion as a form of artistic social comment, it is no surprise that the trends which resonate with the masses are those that reflect the state of our collective consciousness. The fact that fashion is currently being heavily influenced by Middle Eastern styles shows that people are reaching out to each other from all corners of the world. In our subtle way, we still manage to make our voices heard over the deafening sounds of a violent world. Our fashion statements reflect how we feel about ourselves in a global context, and our make-up shows others how we wish to be seen. Should all this make you think a little more carefully about how you apply your make-up tomorrow morning? No. It is your intuitive response that reflects your true state of mind. The more appropriate question to ask is: what do I want to say to the world today? __ END

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The spring shows of Christian Dior and Lanvin went with a strong, powerful look which is perfect for keeping your date looking into your eyes – but add soft cheek colour and soft, pale lips, so he sees there is also a soft side to you. Use Chanel Mat Lumière Fluid Foundation, plus Brown Velvet Eyeshadow and Electric Black Liquid Eyeliner Pen, both from Calvin Klein. Also Ebony Eye Pencil, Shadowy Lady Eyeshadow Contour, Myth Satin Lipstick and Fancy Ray Blush Crème, all from MAC, and Clarins Colour Quench Lip Balm 02.

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New to the UK market in April, this amazing moisturiser utilises the coffee berry to deliver five times the antioxidant content of most rival products. It protects the skin from the UVA damage and UV-induced inflammation associated with melanoma, making it one of the most promising antioxidants to come along in years. Available from aesthetic physicians


B. The Beat, by Burberry The Beat is a complex new fragrance from Burberry. Energetic, refined, impulsive and sensual notes of iris, bluebell, bergamot, cardamom, mandarin, musk, vetiver and cedarwood combine to create a fragrance that is complex, feminine, dynamic and edgy. The quintessence of the modern woman.

C. Body.Guard Kevin Murphy, the genius hairstylist behind cult products like Anti Gravity volumiser and Sticky Business hair tamer, now brings us Body.Guard, the ultimate protector. Guarding against heat damage and breakage, this sleek product is like hand cream for the hair, leaving it smooth, shiny and moisturised – perfect for this season’s sleek, glamorous looks.

D. Air Touch Japanese cosmetic masters SK II has joined forces with Pat McGrath, the world’s most famous makeup artist, to develop a unique foundation that uses the latest technology to create a flawless finish. The Air Touch ioniser sprays positively charged, ultra-fine pigment particles on to the skin, without sticking to hair or migrating into wrinkles, leaving your skin looking retexturised and radiant.

E. Active Serum The ultimate protection against dehydration, inflammation and the hazards of environmental stress, Active Serum uses only 100% pure botanicals. It rejuvenates and rehydrates the skin without the use of parabens, synthetic fragrances or any other harmful ingredients, while airtight packaging ensures the ingredients stay active. C A

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ÜBERSEXUAL HEALING With male grooming products worth an estimated $16 billion globally and the figures for growth in the Middle East running at 28%, it seems that men are truly starting to understand what women want. Being perfectly groomed is the new signature of wealth and success, and the gradual shift in male attitudes and grooming habits has given rise to a new term: übersexual. As the macho male recedes, so men are beginning to aspire to what some may consider a more feminine lifestyle. It is increasingly acceptable for men to express themselves through fashion and cosmetics, to have an interest in home furnishings and cooking, and to participate in childcare. A more masculine version of the metrosexual with a wider set of interests, the übersexual is a complex and thoughtful male, which the cosmetic, wellness and travel industries will surely profit from. The Middle East has the highest per capita consumption of cosmetics in the world, with sales of $2.1billion in 2006 and an estimated growth of 12% for 2007. Current trends include a shift towards natural cosmetics, as elsewhere in the world, and halal cosmetics too have seen a pronounced growth among conscientious consumers. Up until now, gender-neutral cosmetics have enjoyed record growth as Internet sales have allowed men to purchase specialist products without leaving home. This trend, however, is slowing down, as cosmetic companies begin to provide fashionable product choices for younger consumers – 60% of the Middle East population is under 25 – and male spas open in the region to cater for shifting consumer demands. It seems the übersexual may just be ready to be all the man he can be. __Renata Semba









A. H2O The Male Spa, Dubai

F. Jo Malone Vit E Collection

A unique spa concept designed exclusively for men with 30 quick and results-oriented treatments.

A collection of nourishing moisturisers for hands, face and lips enriched with natural ingredients.

H20 The Male Spa, Jumeirah Emirates Towers, Dubai, tel: +971 4 319 8181 Jo Malone Express, tel: +44 (0)20 7720 0202

B. Davi

G. Hylexin

This luxury men’s cosmetic line uses anti-oxidant rich by-products of the wine industry.

The solution for serious dark circles under the eyes. From Saks Fifth Avenue, Sephora, Harvey Nichols and Space NK.

C. Dermalogica Medicated Clearing Gel

H. Clinique Skin Supplies for Men M Shave Aloe Gel

Defence against blemishes and ingrown hairs.

An oil-free gel with aloe that delivers a smooth shave for even the thickest beards.

D. Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant

Gentle enough for daily use, this rice-based enzyme powder exfoliates away dull skin.

E. Jo Malone Pomegranate Noir Cologne Made from natural ingredients. From the Jo Malone store in Istanbul, or the telephone Express service. Jo Malone Express, tel: +44 (0)20 7720 0202

I. StriVectin-SD Intensive Concentrate for Stretch Marks Originally formulated for stretch marks, this cult product has become a wrinkle cream phenomenon. Now updated with SPF 15. 50ml or 150ml from Harvey Nichols and Space NK.

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JEWEL OF DOHA Designed by IM Pei and housing a collection compiled over 15 years by the Emir of Qatar, Doha’s Museum of Islamic Art is a striking addition to the cultural map – and perfectly timed to tap international interest in the region’s art. By Yvonne Courtney.

The Middle East is among the top emerging art markets in the world, and along the west coast of the Gulf, museums, galleries, auctions and festivals are energising a fast-rising appreciation of the visual arts. Cue Doha’s Museum of Islamic Art, which is catching a growing international interest in Islamic art. Assembled at a cost of millions of dollars, Doha’s collection joins the ranks of the Hermitage, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Berlin’s Museum für Islamische Kunst, the Louvre and the British Museum (which been retained to help plan, open and operate the new museum). It will undoubtedly put Doha on the cultural map, and whatever it might lack in scholarly scope is more than made up for in the sheer glamour and beauty of its building. It is designed by IM Pei, the revered Chinese-American architect who has worked on cultural institutions throughout his career and is probably best known for creating the glass pyramid at the Louvre. Subtle and refined, Pei believes an architect must ‘search for the spirit of a place and integrate history and cultural tradition’. With a distinct absence of glass and a facade virtually free of any openings, at first glance the new museum might appear overpowering and lacking in emotion. However, the clean geometric forms, using variations of the octagon – a familiar motif in Islamic art – and the quality materials (pale limestone from France, American granite and flecked concrete) serve to demonstrate Pei’s fastidious attention to detail. Pei read up on Islam and Islamic architecture and travelled extensively to the Middle East and Egypt. He visited mosques in Damascus, transformed from early Christian churches, and in Turkey, their Ottoman in-

Above: The museum’s beautiful library overlooks the sea. Right: The state-of-the-art building’s austere beauty is particularly inspired by the 9th-century Mosque of Ibn Tulun.

fluences clearly visible. But Pei found the Islamic architecture in Cairo to be the most inspirational. ‘The Doha museum is more influenced by the 9th-century Mosque of Ibn Tulun than any other building. This mosque is very austere and beautiful, its geometry most refined,’ he explains. For the Doha museum, Pei reinterpreted the mosque’s forms to create a secular, contemporary building. Set on an imposing site off the city’s corniche, approached along a ramp lined with date-palm trees, the museum building responds to its context, culturally and physically. Pei also drew inspiration from the desert

light; as the sun moves throughout the day, the shadows dissolve the weight of the museum building in a shifting play of light. Inside, the strong sun is subdued, the atrium lit by a central dome and a solitary majestic window 100 feet high, looking out over the Gulf. Upon entering the museum’s galleries – designed by French architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte, whom Pei also employed on the interiors of the Grand Louvre – the only sources of light are the fibre-optics that illuminate the display cabinets. The cave-like spaces feature dark Brazilian wood-panelled walls, relieved by the faintest metallic bronze powder. The vitrines sit on grey slab-like tables, their glass panels rising up into the shadows. It is the perfect backdrop for the collection, which, apart from textiles and carpets, comprises mostly small-scale objects.

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Above and right: The clean geometric forms of IM Pei’s building use variations on the octagon, a familiar motif in Islamic art.

In 2006, the Louvre’s exhibition, ‘From Cordoba to Samarqand: Masterpieces from the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha’, gave a preview of Doha’s collection. Compiled by the Emir of Qatar, HH Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, over 15 years, the collection comprises jewellery, metalwork, ceramics, ivories, textiles, glassware and calligraphy. Among the treasures on display in the Louvre was a glass chalice, made in Iraq or Egypt in the 9th or 10th century; a 14thcentury gold cup; the Iranian/Central Asian Chessboard Garden silk carpet; and an amulet cut from a large, glowing emerald, known as ‘The Mogul i Mughal’ – featuring floral motifs and Naskhi calligraphy, it transcends centuries and cultures, yet is nevertheless quintessentially Islamic. To date, Qatar’s investment in the arts has been in education, rather than public institutions. Its School of Arts at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCUQ) has held courses in the design disciplines since 2001. Its capital is now positioning itself as a custodian of Islamic artistic heritage. The museum’s director, Sabiha Al Khemir, refutes any suggestion that there is a race for cultural supremacy amongst the Gulf states. ‘All our projects date back several years, well before anyone in the region showed interest in museums,’ he says. (Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah – as well as Jeddah – all have cultural projects on the drawing board). A Tunisian educated at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, Kemir hopes that the beauty of the museum’s objects will lead to a new appreciation of Islamic art, and that the museum will interpret its history and traditions for a modern audience – just as Pei’s building finds a contemporary, modernist language for traditional Islamic architecture. __ END

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THE OTHER ARCHITECTURE Working in the lengthening shadow of the region’s construction boom, architect and author Salma Samar Damluji has been instrumental in the preservation of traditional buildings. Hanan Nasser meets her.

‘My work with [Islamic architecture] is like a love affair,’ confesses Iraqiborn architect Salma Samar Damluji, who has been instrumental in restoring, researching and protecting Islamic and mud-brick architecture in the face of expansionism and commercialism in the Arab world. Also a prolific author – and a technical reviewer and nominator for the prestigious Aga Khan Architectural Award to boot – Damluji has spent more than 20 years spearheading a campaign to rehabilitate traditional architecture in Yemen, Bahrain, Oman, Morocco and elsewhere. She describes this work as ‘the “other architecture”: an architecture that engages in design, research, thought and social process governed by economic and cultural restraints.’ It is, she says, neither corporate, nor commercial, and certainly not mediocre. The Middle East, and especially the Gulf, is witnessing a construction

boom, attracting development projects worth billions of dollars. Between 2000 and 2005 the number of residential buildings in Dubai grew by more than 42 per cent to 79,000, according to the 2007 UAE Yearbook. But Damluji is a harsh critic of Arab governments for their preoccupation with ‘expensive brands’ and ‘signature names’, rather than establishing efficient institutions to manage what is being created. ‘Architecture is politics,’ says Damluji. ‘Building cities is a political decision; creating legislation for preserving, for safeguarding, cultural heritage is a political decision. At the end of the day, nobody cares if Dubai, or Abu Dhabi or Doha has a cultural reference or a core. Because its cultural reference is going to be the future.’ And in the meantime, she laments, ‘layers and layers of cultural heritage and fabric architecture’ are being destroyed.

Not all is negative, however: Amman has just won the World Leadership Award in town planning, while Yemen won the 2007 Aga Khan Architecture Award for the rehabilitation of the city of Shibam. Meanwhile, Dubai Municipality, through a committee created in 1995, is funding projects for the preservation and documentation of architectural heritage in the emirate. Since then, the body has undertaken several projects including the rehabilitation of two of Dubai’s important quarters: al Bastakiyyah and al Shandaghah.


Left: Al Hajarayan, at the mouth of Wadi Daw‘an. Above: Salma Samar Damluji with Abdullah Ahmad Said Bugshan at the new Ras Furdum Resort site. Opposite: Nazwa Fort.

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‘Nobody cares if Dubai or Abu Dhabi has a cultural core. Because the cultural reference is the future.’ ented and good architects, and landscape architects and designers who are working on private projects.’ She describes the reconstruction of downtown Beirut as the only successful project in the Middle East for many years. One key ingredient to the project, she believes, was its financing by a private developer: the late Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, whose company Solidere bought up parcels of land in the area in the early 1990s and reconstructed the town. (However, the Solidere project has been criticised on many levels by a number of Lebanese involved in urban planning, notably Bernard Khoury.)

Right: Masna‘at Ba Surrah, Daw‘an, Hadramut Province. Below: Entrance to the house of Ahmad Ba Surrah, Masna‘at Daw‘an. Opposite: Facade of the Jabrin Palace, Oman. Far right: The house of Muqaddam Ahmad Omar Ba Surrah, Masna‘at Daw‘an.

Damluji discovered her passion for Islamic and mud-brick architecture when she worked with the prominent Egyptian architect Hassan Fathi in the 1970s and 1980s in Cairo and Upper Egypt. Fathi is renowned for his contribution to Egypt’s modern architecture with his rediscovery of traditional methods of mud-brick construction. His buildings, which include schools, mosques and theatres, are made exclusively of clay. During her first experience in Yemen, between 1981 and 1989, Damluji was instrumental in setting up architectural records of mud-brick construction and in working with master builders on the architectural art of southern Yemen. She documented the principles of design and town planning in Shibam and Tarim in her book The Valley of Mud Brick Architecture, Shibam & Tarim in Wadi Hadramut. (She returns to the subject of Yemen in her latest book, The Architecture of Yemen from Yafi‘ to Hadramut, launched last November at London’s ‘Arabia Felix: the Architecture of Yemen’, an exhibition shedding light on the country’s cultural and architectural heritage.)

Next, she turned her attention to Morocco, working between 1990 and 1996 with the craftsmen of Zillij in Fez, Marrakech and elsewhere. After finishing her book The Architecture of Oman in late 1998, she then spent an entire year on a rehabilitation project for a town called Adm, in the interior of Oman. She chose Adm ‘because it has a beautiful old town and because the Sultan and his


Al Bastakiyyah, which dates back to the early 20th century, contains Dubai’s largest concentration of traditional buildings, including what is believed to be its oldest, the Fahidi Fort. The plan is to rehabilitate some 50 houses and turn the area into a ‘tourist village’ with a museum, a cultural centre, restaurants and an art gallery. The municipality is also planning to reconstruct 140 houses in al Shandaghah quarter, which was completely demolished some five years ago, except for the house of Dubai ruler Shaikh Sa’id bin Maktoum. The house, also from the early 20th century, has been turned into a museum. Damluji cites Jordan and Lebanon as examples of Arab countries which have institutions for town planning and architecture. ‘There is a movement of architects in Jordan that I think are working toward a different kind of architecture – as in Lebanon, which has some very tal-

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family originally came from this town’. Damluji had planned to tie Adm to coastal towns providing a commercial route for craftspeople whose creations included metal, silver and gold work, jewellery, weaving, pottery and woodwork. But the project collapsed in 2000 when the Diwan of the Sultan’s Court did not finance the plan. Now Damluji is about to start work on a new project

in the Yemeni city of Daw’an. It is an excellent example of how the private rather than the public sector can have a role in financing the rehabilitation of traditional towns. The site, which belongs to the Basurrah family, consists of 12 mudbrick houses dating to the early part of the 20th century and will be converted into a boutique hotel. The project is being funded by a private

developer and will be leased by the owners for ten years. Work should now have just begun and is expected to be finished in 2009 at a cost of some $300 million. Damluji sees a dire need for governments in the Gulf to invest more in restoring the culture of communities in Yemen, where many of their tribes came from. Her concern for Yemen, she explains, stems from the fact that the country is a ‘living fabric’. Qatar, she says, is an example of a government in the Gulf that has come to realise the importance of protecting the heritage in the Arabian Peninsula. ‘The Qataris are investing millions of dollars in sustaining and bringing out to the world the culture of Saba, Tamnaa and Baraqish, in terms of archaeology.’ Damluji is keeping mum about another project she is negotiating with her publishers and other parties. Somewhat mysteriously, and with a playful smile, she says the work will involve ‘a big region which runs across from Spain to China, and there is a common denominator like a thread in between, and it has to do with architecture’. Watch this space. __ END

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A. In a whirl Thirty years ago, English firm Spiral Staircases created a bespoke acrylic staircase for the last Shah of Iran to match the lavish interior of his Kish Island palace. Having carried out a number of projects across the Arabian Gulf – including the Dubai Creek and Emirates Golf Clubs, palaces at Al Ain and an island off the coast of Abu Dhabi, and a hotel in Cairo – the company is now teaming up with UK interior design consultancy, Capital Interiors, which has a base in the UAE, to get a slice of the action within the region’s relentless property boom. High-profile clients include Christian Dior, Playboy, L’Oréal and the Sultan of Brunei as well as many historic buildings including a 16th-century tower in England and a minaret in Abu Dhabi.

ARCHITECTURAL PLATFORM Founded just a year ago by a group of passionate international design professionals, Dubai’s dynamic Architectural Association (aaUAE) is fast gaining a reputation for its thought-provoking events. Besides stimulating debate about the UAE’s architecture, the forum provides the design community with a much-needed social network. ‘Architects want to see results fast, so being in Dubai is great, but while its emerging skyline is a good experiment, it’s still too early to criticise,’ explains aaUAE President, Hisham Youssef. An Egyptian New Yorker, now based in Dubai, Youssef is Senior Design Manager at Gensler, the design team responsible for the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC). The rate at which buildings are going up is a matter to be considered, reflects Youssef. ‘Safety is not compromised – but the design can be. But, of course, design is in the eye of the beholder.’ Citing Foster+Partners’ master plan for the Masdar Special Free Zone in Abu Dhabi – set to be the world’s first carbon-neutral and waste-neutral city – fellow aaUAE board member Kashani Wijetunga stated: ‘Abu Dhabi has taken a leadership position in articulating a more sustainable form of human development.’ During its first year, the aaUAE was invited to collaborate with a number of prominent local organisations; it was Knowledge Partner at Tatweer’s International Design Forum, and Supporting Association at Cityscape Dubai, chairing the second day of its World Architecture Congress. Its own programme of events, sponsored by the likes of Poltrona Frau, Bene and Delta lighting, has included various lively debates, such as ‘Is the 21st Century City Livable?’ and ‘Everything gets Connected Eventually (?)’, where urbanites argued as to whether Dubai was evolving in a similar way to cities like Los Angeles. ‘So, you‘re not a “starchitect”?’ by Gensler vicechairman, Walter Hunt, was an amusing take on the business of architecture. The aaUAE has also helped bring the Pecha Kucha Nights to the Middle East. Pecha Kucha (pronounced peh-chak-cha) is an international network of events spread over 80 cities around the world, which form a unique forum for artists, architects, designers, fashionistas and photographers to show their work and cross-pollinate experimental ideas. The ‘20x20’ format, open to all, allows each of the dozen presenters 20 images, each shown for 20 seconds – giving several minutes of fame before switching to the next participant. This keeps the talk concise, the interest level up, and gives more people the chance to be involved. For the inaugural Pecha Kucha event last December, the aaUAE-proposed Jordanian architect, Hani Fallaha who has developed a clever refugee camp design as a solution for the growing problem of displaced people across the Middle East; and brother-sister outfit Lamia and Ahmed Bensouda, who showed a concept tailored for an equally pressing issue: a modular and sustainable labour station that can be deployed at both urban and remote locations. The Architectural Association is now finalising its 2008 programme, with various bold plans including an Architecture Week, which would undoubtedly give an element of gravitas to Dubai’s PR machine. It is also putting together a database of architects, designers and suppliers to provide a recommended contacts list for industry colleagues.


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D+E. Timeless luxury



B. Doha debates design Regional and internationally renowned graphic, fashion and interior design practitioners will be heading to Doha this spring to discuss the most current and topical issues in design. The annual design conference, Tasmeem Doha, is organised by the Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar (VCUQ) in collaboration with the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. This year’s theme is ‘Design at the Crossroads: the intersection of change and the future’. Qatar, and the Arabian Gulf generally, has experienced many intersections of contemplation; as Bedouin traditions merge with modernity and the East and West converge in the region’s emerging multicultural cities. Design ideology is also in transition, to a 21st-century ethos. The conference organisers propose that such a rapidly changing environment makes it essential to consider all paths before forging ahead. This year’s event features an impressive rostrum of speakers including award-winning graphic designer, Sadik Karamustafa, who works in Istanbul and recently founded Karamustafa Design with

his daughter; the energetic fashion retailer/ Villa Moda founder, Sheikh Majed Al-Sabah; Beirut architect Bernard Khoury; and Mohammed Harib, founder and creative director of Freej. Each afternoon during the conference, conversations will focus on the day’s topics and how they apply to local situations in Qatar. These will be chaired by Muneera Spence, a Yale graduate and chair of VCUQ’s graphic design department. Tasmem Doha design conference, Doha, Qatar, 3-6 March 2008;

C. Architecture in the Emirates Taschen’s new book, Architecture in the Emirates, documents the unprecedented architectural frenzy that has been going on in the UAE. The building boom has brought architects such as Tadao Ando, Hadi Simaan, IM Pei, Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid and Jean Nouvel to the region. Aptly beginning his book with a quote about the dazzling Emerald City from the Wizard of Oz, Philip Jodido organises each architect or firm into sections with their projects following. There will surely be a second volume to follow.

The grand dame of modernism, Andrée Putman – who designed the interiors of the Concorde, and whose design for Morgans Hotel in 1984 kicked off the ‘boutique’ hotel concept – has been appointed by Kuwaiti developers, Abyaar, to stamp her unmistakable vision of timeless elegance and understated luxury to an apartment building within its Acacia Avenues development in Dubai. Putman’s own-label fixtures and fittings will complement the interior design. Acacia Avenues is the only freehold development in Dubai’s Jumeirah district and will be serviced by Angsana Resorts and Spas.

F. Internal affairs A new interior design exhibition, Interiors UAE, is being launched in Abu Dhabi – aiming to give Dubai’s long-established Index a run for its money, while exploiting the potential of the booming development now underway in the Emirate’s capital. Taking place at the city’s gleaming exhibition centre, ADNEC – billed as the world’s most technically advanced venue, complete with movable walls and a flexible lighting system – the show is set to feature both regional and international furniture firms. For example, Alpha Crystal, the Dubai lighting company, which represents a wealth of designer brands, such as Swarovski. Interiors UAE, ADNEC, Abu Dhabi, 30 March to 2 April;

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A new exhibition in Germany showcases the domestic lifestyles of the Arab world, satisfying a Western fascination with the Orient’s ‘ideal for living’ that dates back to Le Corbusier and beyond.

Many of today’s architects and designers draw inspiration from the Arab world. Yet due to the current political situation, the West’s knowledge of these countries is generally limited to news reports on politics and social issues. This may be partially redressed by an evocative exhibition showing at the Vitra Design Museum in Germany until the end of August. Called ‘Living under the Crescent Moon’, it explores the myths and realities of the Arab world, offering a comprehensive and fascinating survey of Arab domestic cultures. The elaborate installation conveys the refined sensuality of life in Arab countries. Demonstrating the diversity of domestic lifestyles between Morocco, Syria and the Arabian peninsula, it embraces the nomadic tents of the Tuareg and Bedouins to Moroccan casbahs; the grand courtyard houses in cities such as Cairo,

Clockwise: Nomads, Mauretania; Rural house in Qahtan, Saudi Arabia; Living room in the Tihama region, Saudi Arabia; Interior of a Casbah near Skoura, Morocco.

Marrakech and Damascus to buildings by 20th-century architects such as Hassan Fathy from Egypt and Elie Mouyal from Morocco. The rich heritage of Arabian domestic architecture reveals an astonishing modernity – in the multi-functional uses of rooms and objects, the systems to regulate indoor temperatures, and the efficient use of water. Fathy and Mouyal utilise many of these solutions in their buildings, marrying them with elements of modern architecture. Reconstructed rooms and models enable visitors to experience different building types, while domestic objects such as ceramics, tex-

tiles, tools and architectural elements provide impressions of everyday rituals. Photographs and films show the interiors of homes, offering insights into a little known realm of the Arab world, as the private sphere is traditionally protected from outsiders. The exhibition makes it immediately evident that design challenges are the same in the West and in the Arab world: for example, solutions for life’s routines, such as sleeping, eating and housekeeping; or how decoration, form and function relate to one another in buildings and objects, and how ornaments, symbols and colours still express cultural identity. Arab countries can draw upon a vast repertoire of solutions within their own traditions with regard to sensible and sustainable modernisation of indigenous architecture and modes of living. Ultimately, what can Westerners learn from all this? That hospitality is and remains the highest virtue in any household. __Yvonne Courtney



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The many faces of Dia Diwan.

The Global Arabian Souk showcases the best Middle Eastern boutiques from Amman to Riyadh, providing readers with instant gratification – they can buy clothing and objects from carefully selected Middle Eastern designers and artisans. Dia Shop is another shopping area, although this time it’s international. Working with affiliates such as Net a Porter, Vivre and Shopbop, Dia’s fashion editor Karolina Kivimak picks out a selection from international brands, with an eye for what will work best from Amman to Bahrain. The section also includes a weekly fashion blog. Finally Dia’s columnists expound on subjects ranging from cooking to where to find vintage Saint Laurent in Kuwait. The sections are divided by theme, ranging from food (‘In the Kitchen’ with Kamal Mouzawak), to mother and child (‘Yummy Mummy’ with Hana) to fashion (‘In My Wardrobe’ with Kuwait-style).

BOOKS NEED READERS – AND READERS NEED BOOKS Statistics suggest that the Middle East has little interest in books – but that could be about to change thanks to new cultural initiatives combined with compelling commercial logic.

It is now ten years since Egypt’s Naguib Mahfouz won the Nobel Prize for literature – but has that honour, the first for an Arab author, had an impact for Arab readers and writers beyond the initial burst of pride? Not much, is the brutal answer: there are no bookstore chains in the Arab world likr the US’s Barnes & Noble and Borders, or Britain’s Waterstones. There is no Amazon site in Arabic – though there is one in Chinese. And any Arabic novel translated into English will be lucky to sell more than a thousand or so copies. It took the Nobel prize to spark western interest in Mahfouz (who died in 2006), and his books still remain less known in the Anglophone world than the quasimystical prose and poetry of Lebanon’s Khalil Gibran, who died in 1931 and whose most popular work, The Prophet, was written in English. There is no single explanation. Blame a dearth of talented translators, especially from Arabic into English and other languages. Or the perils of censorship – before the Nobel Prize, Mahfouz’s books were banned in several Arab countries because of his support for Egypt’s Camp David treaty with Israel, and Khaled Khalifa’s recent

In Praise of Hate, dealing with the callous shelling of Hama in 1982, has been banned in Syria, the author’s homeland. Or low literacy levels; around 30% of adult Arabs are estimated by the UN to be illiterate. Hoda Barakat, a Lebanese novelist living in Paris, notes that only recently has public support appeared in the Arab world for translations to and from Arabic – ‘even though plenty of money has been thrown out of the window for corrupt systems.’ And she is scathing about a ‘voyeuristic’ American tendency to favour translations of ‘a surging wave of Saudi women who write of sex’. Whatever the reason, the situation superficially looks dire. The UN famously reported in 2002 that since the glorious days of the Abbasid Caliph Ma’moun in the 9th century the cumulative number of books translated into Arabic was about 100,000, ‘almost the average that Spain translates in one year’. That Spanish figure is dubious, but the point is well made: North America publishes about 100,000 books a year; Arab writers from Rabat to Riyadh produce about 6500 books a year. Yet hope is at hand. One reason is Kalima (the Arabic for ‘word’), a


AFTER A SIX-MONTH soft launch, the fashion website Dia Diwan officially stepped out in January with its new site recreated by graphic designer Rana Salam. The brainchild of Rasha Khouri, a former investment banker specialised in luxury goods, this brightly coloured site, perky in tone, is determined to bring the best and the hippest fashion news and goings on to the Arab world. Dia Diwan is divided into three sections, but also includes a section devoted to columnists. Dia Daily is modelled after the US site ‘Daily Candy’, and gives readers a general round-up: reporters from across the region relay the latest on restaurants, hotels, shops, art shows and new designers to look out for. This section also provides an online black book for all major Middle Eastern cities, a calendar of events and feature interviews with regional movers and shakers.

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cultural initiative launched in Abu Dhabi in November with the endorsement of Crown Prince Muhammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The ambitious idea is to translate into Arabic within the first year some 100 influential foreign books, ranging in their original languages from English and Latin to Swedish and Chinese. Texts range from George Eliot’s Middlemarch to the memoirs of Alan Greenspan, and already six translations have been made, including Il Segno by Umberto Eco and A Briefer History of Time by the mind-stretching Cambridge academic, Stephen Hawkings. A second reason is the existence for the past decade of Banipal, a Londonbased magazine that three times a year publishes English translations of contemporary Arabic fiction. Two years ago Banipal established a prize, then funded by Muhammad Ahmad Suwaidi, an Abu Dhabi poet, for the translation into English of a work of modern Arabic fiction. The winner

North America publishes 100,000 books a year. Arab writers produce about 6500 books a year in total. then was Humphrey Davies for his translation of Gate of the Sun, by Lebanon’s Elias Khoury (Davies, who studied Arabic at Cambridge in the 1960s, is also the translator of Alaa al-Aswany’s The Yacoubian Building). Last year’s winner of the £2000 prize – now funded by Omar Saif Ghobash in honour of his late father, Saif, a former UAE foreign minister – was Farouk Abdul Wahab for his translation of The Lodging House, by his Egyptian compatriot Khairy Shalaby. A third reason again comes from the UAE, with the International Prize

for Arabic Fiction established this year. Funded by the Emirates Foundation and with assistance from Britain’s Booker Prize Foundation, the prize will be a creativity-enhancing $60,000 for the winner, with $10,000 prizes for each of the five runners-up. The result will be announced 10 March. Add to all that the encouragement of the London Book Fair, to be held this April. Its ‘Market Focus’ will be the Arab World, allowing Arab and non-Arab publishers to make contact, promote their products and, in the words of one organiser, ‘create a buzz’. Perhaps to the dismay of cultural high-brows, much of that buzz will be over textbooks, especially for learning English. But there will always be room for fiction and always the possibility that one Arabic book will secure a major English-language deal – such as

the wonderful The Yacoubian Building, which is published by an imprint of the HarperCollins group and its critically acclaimed Arabic-language movie version has been distributed internationally. For the exhibitors in London, the commercial logic is that the Arab market may be tiny – for example, annual book sales in Egypt, from schoolbooks to novels, are only about $100 million – but with increasing literacy, the market is bound to grow. Meanwhile, as Mohamed Khalaf AlMazrouei, Director General of the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage, said recently, ‘Arabic is a beautifully expressive language, and one that should be celebrated and enjoyed.’ Naguib Mahfouz would surely have agreed. __John Andrews

NEW ABU DHABI PAPER FLEET STREET COMES to Abu Dhabi in the form of a new, English-language newspaper called The Nation. The paper is government-owned, by the Abu Dhabi Media company, and will be run by former Daily Telegraph editor Martin Newland. He brings with him several former colleagues from the Telegraph including a managing editor, a foreign editor and a news editor, Colin Randall, who will be the paper’s executive news editor. ‘It is an immense challenge for everyone to create a vibrant quality newspaper from scratch but we have assembled a team bursting with excellence, enthusiasm and a sense of adventure,’ says Randall, who is also writing the stylebook and will work on smoothing writing styles from the UK, US, Canada and other countries. Indeed, the newsroom is buzzing with wordsmiths from all over the Anglo-Saxon world: the deputy editor is Hassan Fattah, a former New York Times reporter; Hamida Ghafour, a Kabulborn Canadian, will be one of 40 news reporters; and Jonathan Shainin of the New Yorker will be the Review editor. The paper has four sections – news, business, art and life, and sport – and while it is an Abu Dhabi national newspaper, it aims to provide comprehensive coverage of the Emirates and the region as a whole. The challenge is real, because as one Dubai journalist put it: ‘It’s a well-known fact that Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and emirates like to keep their news to themselves, leaving their dirty laundry to dry in their private gardens rather than the public sphere.’ But with 175 journalists on board, including 40 home news reporters and 25 foreign correspondents, Martin Newland’s paper has a good chance of setting a precedent. Besides, as Newland told the Guardian: ‘Have I ever been totally free? Of course not. There is always a proprietor or a majority shareholder who has a vision and you are there [as an editor] to put it into place.’ Martin Newland, the new paper’s editor-in-chief.

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MUSICAL RESISTANCE The Palestinian Joubran Trio are exceptionally gifted oud musicians with a potent and inescapable political conscience.

‘Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life,’ wrote German novelist, Berthold Auerbach in the 19th century. There is plenty of dust in the lives of the Joubran Trio; the particles are made up of the range of emotions that come with being Palestinian and Arab-Israeli. But rather than washing away these feelings, Samir Joubran, the trio’s founder, has discovered a way to make use of them by pouring them into music and exuding them on stage with kinetic energy. Besides being extraordinarily gifted oud musicians, the Joubran Trio make the intensity of their emotions become so palpable that they almost hover in the air above them. Samir and his brothers Wissam and Adnan have been playing the oud together since 2005. Forming a trio was a project that the eldest brother Samir, 34, had been waiting for until Adnan turned 19 and he literally pushed him on to the stage. Samir and Wissam had already been playing together for years, ever since Samir brought Wissam along with him to play in a concert in Paris when he was 12. Wissam, says Samir, has always been the most relaxed of the three. The Joubran brothers grew up in Nazareth; their father Hatem is a renowned third-generation oud maker and their mother is a singer. Samir

studied the oud at the Muhammad Abdul Wahhab conservatory in Cairo, while Wissam is a master luthier, the first Arab graduate from the Antonio Stradivari violin-making school in Cremona, Italy. Adnan started playing percussion but soon turned to the oud and was trained by his brothers. The three brothers are now based in Paris. Life in Israel – and also in Ramallah in the West Bank, where Samir lived for six years – became too difficult. France is where Samir’s international career took off in 2002 when he performed at a music festival with his brother Wissam. Two weeks after

Their music is based on traditional classical Arab musical modes, but their repertoire is anything but. the concert the duo had a manager and a label, and they’ve never looked back. In 2005, after Adnan joined Samir and Wissam, the trio performed at New York’s Carnegie Hall. Their music is based on classical Arab musical modes, but their repertoire is anything but and much is improvised. Bluesy, Western influences can be discerned and Samir says he listened to a lot of flamenco and music by Paco de Lucia before putting together their second album, ‘Majaz’

(‘Metaphor’), released late last year. (The cover art was designed by master calligrapher Hassan Massoudy). On stage the symbiosis between the three brothers is lovely – improvisation and solos flow freely between them like conversation. Because the Joubran trio are part of the population of nearly 1.5 million Palestinians that hold Israeli passports, they cannot play in most Arab countries. ‘Unfortunately I cannot be part of the culture that I belong to,’ says Samir. ‘We understand the position these countries have taken, but we would like to be part of the bridge-building.’ Getting across the message that the Palestine question must be dealt with is as essential to Samir as his music. The trio will soon tour the US; ‘a very difficult place to promote myself as a Palestinian,’ says Samir. ‘But I’m stubborn. I need to put pressure on these places and I go there with a loud voice and a clear idea: we are musicians from Palestine and we are life projects, not death projects. We need peace, but before peace we need justice.’ Samir was also able to reach the Arab countries he can’t visit via a documentary aired on various television stations in 2006. ‘Improvisation’, by Palestinian filmmaker Raed Andoni, tracks the Joubran brothers as they create their trio and records their differing political views and their unifying passion for the oud. Still, Samir hopes that the trio will soon be able to play more in the Arab world: ‘We want to be there physically.’ Meanwhile the Joubran Trio is moving in new directions musically. For ‘Majaz’, Palestinian percussionist Yousef Hbeisch joined them, and now Samir is contemplating playing with other international musicians, first on stage, and then, perhaps, recording. __Olivia Snaije


Left: The Joubran Trio are brothers. All talented oud musicians, Samir and Wissam had played together for years; they became a trio in 2005, when Adnan turned 19.

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COOL CATS One of the only glam punk bands in Lebanon – or, for that matter, the Middle East – Lumi is about to release its first major album.

Twentysomethings Mayaline Hage and Marc Kodsi, the singer and guitarist behind the group Lumi, are at the heart of Beirut’s alternative music scene. Along with the Scrambled Eggs – for whom Marc also plays, and who were recently described by the French magazine Les Inrockubtibles as the Lebanese Sonic Youth – they are living proof that Lebanon can produce more than its generic sexy divas. Mayaline and Marc, who look like they have stepped out of a French nouvelle vague film, met six years ago during a jam session. ‘I was playing the guitar,’ explains Marc, ‘and Mayaline was sitting in front of me.’ ‘He asked me if I wanted to sing,’ says

Mayaline. ‘I was too shy, so I said no, but I later asked him if he could give me guitar lessons.’ It took them a couple of years to become Lumi. ‘We’re an electro-rock group, with some punk influences,’ says Marc in the noisy Torino Express café, the meeting point for Beirut’s underground bands. ‘Lebanese music doesn’t really inspire us, it’s more the fact of being Lebanese that makes our music different.’ Until about a year ago, Lumi’s only window to the world, aside from occasional concerts in Beirut, Paris or Berlin, was their page on My Space, Lumisounds. It was a way to engage with their fans, and to convey messages of peace in time of war, such as in the summer of 2006. ‘When you live in a city like Beirut, you are inevitably inspired by the duality between the old and the new, the smooth and Lumi’s Mark Kodsi and Mayaline Hage met over a jam session six years ago. ‘I asked him for guitar lessons,’ she says.

the rough. That’s what makes us who we are.’ As for what they sound like, the local press has made some rather flattering comparisons with Blondie, Bloc Party and The Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs. ‘I write the lyrics and Marc does the musical arrangements,’ says Mayaline. ‘Most of the songs are made in Marc’s room and some last minute fixing is done in the studio. It might limit us with the things we can do, but it also obliges us to be more creative.’ That was how Lumi operated last spring, when their first EP and video for the song ‘Don’t F… With My Cat’ were released locally. Zeid Hamdan, the father of Lebanon’s alternative music scene (Soap Kills, The New Government) was quick to send the video to EMI’s regional offices in Dubai. ‘I was astonished by the quality,’ says Pascall Gaillard, EMI’s regional director. ‘I loved it.’ A few weeks later, Lumi was signed up and went off to record a new album in Düsseldorf – ‘the city

‘Our album is energetic, emotional, optimistic and ambitious. We’re really happy with it.’ of Kraftwerk,’ says Marc. Now that the album is about to be released, Marc is feeling positive: ‘EMI gave us the chance to record in dreamlike conditions in Germany, and to produce something that met our expectations. We’re really happy with the album: it’s energetic, emotional, optimistic and ambitious. It stands in stark contrast with the current gloom prevalent in our country and expresses what a lot of Lebanese think: that is, we want to be free, have no conflict on our land, and be able to develop our individuality and creativity.’ __Carole Corm

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This is a groundbreaking time for Jordanian filmmakers. Captain Abu Raed, written and directed by Amin Matalqa, is beginning to generate a real buzz on the international stage. It was just shown at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival in the US – a first for a Jordanian film – to much acclaim, scooping the World Cinema Audience Award. It follows the success last year of Lebanese filmmakers, who had a string of Sundance entries: Nadine Labaki with Caramel, Jocelyne Saab with Kiss Me Not on the Eyes, and Philippe Aractingi with Bosta. (Aractingi featured again this year with his Under the Bombs, a powerful story filmed during the actual bombing of Lebanon in 2006.) Also representing Jordan at the Park City, Utah event was Mahmood Al Massad’s Recycle, a bleak but compelling documentary of life in his home town of Zarqa – also the birthplace of Abu Mus’ab Al Zarqawi, blamed for scores of attacks on US troops in Iraq until his assassination in 2006. Massad is no stranger to international film festivals: he was the first Jordanian to be short-listed at Cannes for Shatter Hassan, his 2001 account of a homeless Tunisian musician. In Recycle, he explores why extremism and jihad seem to breed so easily in Zarqa. Impressively, he speaks to numerous members of Zarqawi’s family, and his comrades-in-arms in Afghani-

The life-affirming Captain Abu Raed is a universal story of friendship, inspiration and altruism. stan and Iraq. But the film focuses more on the pressures and frustrations of day-to-day life in poverty-stricken Zarqa, and, as Massad puts it, ‘the impossibility of life in this town’. The life-affirming Captain Abu Raed couldn’t be more different: it is a universal story of friendship, inspiration and altruism. Abu Raed lives in a poor, inner-city district of Amman, and works as a janitor at the city’s Queen Alia International airport. One day he finds a discarded pilot’s cap, and wears it home, so convincing a neighbourhood boy that he is actually a captain. Although at first he de-

nies it, Abu Raed soon begins to spin colourful tales of his fictitious adventures to the children who meet to play football among the city’s Roman temple ruins. While doing so, he discovers the sad realities of their lives and attempts to make a difference – also striking up an unlikely relationship with Nour, an attractive female pilot whose well-to-do family is desperate to marry her off. Although Amin Matalqa has directed many short films, Captain Abu Raed is his first feature. It is the result of several years of work by him and executive producers David Pritchard and Isam Salfiti. Originally Jordanian, Matalqa was raised in the US, and after a successful career as a businessman, he decided to move to Los Angeles to join the MFA programme at the American Film Institute. He has


Amin Matalqa’s much-acclaimed Captain Abu Raed has just won a major award at the world’s premier event for independent film, drawing attention to the increasingly vibrant Jordanian industry. As one observer puts it, ‘It’s an exciting time for film in this part of the world’.

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Opposite page: Amin Matalqa, writer and director of Captain Abu Raed, chats with cast and crew. Note the digital camera. This page, clockwise from top: Nour is played by TV presenter Rana Sultan. The children are all cast from local orphanages and Palestinian refugee camps. Nadim Sawalha plays Raed himself.

done a great job of assembling a talented cast for Captain Abu Raed, notably the UK-based Jordanian actor Nadim Sawalha, who has gained critical acclaim both for his televion work and for films such as Syriana (2000). Sawalha’s performance as Abu Raed has already won many plaudits, including the award for best lead actor at the film’s world premier at the Dubai Film Festival in December. Nour is played by Jordanian TV presenter Rana Sultan, while the children are all first-timers cast from local orphanages and Palestinian refugee camps. Captain Abu Raed is one of the first films to take advantage of the Arriflex D-20 digital camera, used to stunning effect by cinematographer Reinhart Peschke: his beautiful, rich photography make the film look far more expensive than its humble $2

million budget and will undoubtedly spur on the standard of Jordanian cinematography. Also key, especially for Matalqa, is the score, which he believes helps to make the film universal. It was produced by award-winning composer Austin Wintory, who

The picture’s success is tremendously helpful for Jordan as it strives to establish a local film industry. combined the Hollywood Studio Symphony orchestra at Warner Brothers, with a trio of Arabic instruments – Qanoon, Oud, and Tabla – recorded in Paris. ‘Austin worked sleeplessly composing and orchestrating a score that only in my dreams would I have expected to hear put to my own film.

This is the kind of score I grew up rushing to the music store to buy upon release.’ The success of Captain Abu Raed is tremendously helpful for a country striving to establish a film industry, rather than just providing locations for foreign pictures. ‘It’s an exciting time for film in this part of the world,’ says Alesia Weston, associate director of the international feature-film programme at Sundance and creative director of the Sundance Institute’s four-year-old screenwriting lab in Jordan, run jointly with the country’s Royal Film Commission. ‘And it’s not just politically earnest films. There’s a lot of creativity bubbling up.’ __Alia Abu Nowar Captain Abu Raed will be released in the Middle East in February.

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Lion of Jordan: The Life of King Hussein in War and Peace

Beirut in Shades of Grey The Hakawati Rabih Alameddine may be one of the most brilliant Middle Eastern authors writing in English today. His latest novel, The Hakawati, out this April, masterfully interweaves the contemporary story of Osama al-Kharrat, a Maronite/Druze Lebanese who has settled in Los Angeles and returns to his father’s deathbed in Beirut, with re-imagined classic tales of the Middle East. Abraham and Isaac, the intrepid Fatima, and Baybars, the slave who became a Sultan and defeated crusaders in several battles, are all brought to life in this wildly exuberant and wickedly humorous novel. Osama recalls the various stages of his childhood and the events that marked it – when he learned to play the oud, when his sister marries the local militiaman, the story of how his father wooed his impossibly chic mother, and the time spent with his beloved Uncle Jihad. There is a biting sense of humour running through all of Alameddine’s books, which include The Perv, Koolaids, and I, the Divine, although in The Hakawati the humour seems to have softened slightly – it is never malicious. Alameddine manages to describe the absurd reality of politics, society and religion that his characters inhabit, with humour, yes, and even affection: ‘The Anglicans had been trying to baptize Druze for years. The two groups were stuck with each other like Nile crocodiles and plovers.’ Or ‘A radio from a coffee shop across the street screamed that we must dig trenches with our fingernails. “The Palestinian Resistance can be so delightfully melodramatic,” Uncle Jihad said”.’ Or ‘Dida kissed me. I tried not to stare at her nose, which she had recently had cut and reshaped to Anglo-Saxon.’ Alameddine, who divides his time between San Francisco and Beirut, begins The Hakawati with ‘Listen. Allow me to be your god. Let me take you on a journey beyond imagining. Let me tell you a story.’ The rest is effortless and just pure pleasure. The Hakawati by Rabih Alameddine; Alfred A Knopf

Beirut in Shades of Grey starts off with a bang with the book’s protagonist, Rasha, a twentysomething university lecturer, sitting in a Beirut taxi caught in crossfire during the Lebanese civil war. Rasha makes it home to her apartment where she lives with her parents and brother and the reader is drawn into the suffocating atmosphere of her overprotected life. An embittered, dictatorial father, a mother who acts as a bridge between Rasha, her brother, and their father, and the reality of the civil war all limit Rasha’s movements and aspirations. Early on in Dana Kamal Mills’ first novel, Rasha is sent to Paris for a ten-day visit with her aunt Hana, who has escaped social and familial constraints and leads a life of freedom in Paris that her brother, Rasha’s father, highly disapproves of. Once there, Rasha meets and falls in love with a British photojournalist, Luke. Rasha and Luke’s relationship becomes a rather clichéd account of East meets West, nevertheless Mills deftly gets inside Rasha’s head to describe her conflicted feelings of guilt, self-censorship and joy.

Avi Shlaim’s latest book – published almost 20 years after his famous Collusion across the Jordan: King Abdullah, the Zionist Movement, and the Partition of Palestine – focuses on the extraordinary relationship between the late and much admired King Hussein of Jordan and successive Israeli governments. By Hussein’s own admission, he spent over 1000 hours in talks with Golda Meir, Shimon Peres, Itzhak Shamir, Itzhak Rabin and countless other Israeli officials, and if he was never quite their friend, says the author, he was ‘the best of enemies’. In Lion of Jordan, Shlaim gives voice to this dialogue through an impressive number of firsthand accounts by key participants and newly released Israeli records. To some, it is bound to be an uncomfortable read. Shlaim seems to want to shed light, as well as sympathy, on a mistreated Hussein whose attempts to promote a Middle East peace settlement were, more often than not, met he says, ‘with ignorance and indifference on the part of the top American policy-makers and dishonesty and deviousness on the part of the Israeli ones’.

Ultimately, Beirut in Shades of Grey is about Rasha’s personal journey during which she becomes a protagonist and not just a bystander.

At times the book follows a less sympathetic line, when Shlaim is keen to point out the numerous exploits of Hussein through his various dalliances with Washington in extracting money and support for Jordan, and during the trickiest of times for political manoevering in the region, such as the Cold War, when most Arab nations were embracing Moscow. His successful and profitable friendship with Saddam Hussein of Iraq, for instance, was always received on both sides with, at the very least a raised eyebrow, and, at worst, as during the first Gulf War, with crippling UN sanctions. While Shlaim’s biography is a heavy, substantial book, with political trickery and distrust at every turn, it also includes lighter-hearted anecdotes about Hussein as a playboy and a lover of fast cars and aerial stunts, as well as political acrobatics. Shlaim recounts how Henry Kissinger, watching the king perform a particular set of aerial stunts on a visit to Jordan in 1975 said the royal aerobatics were so alarming that ‘he could have easily got us to sign any document as the price of getting his monarch to return to earth’.

Beirut in Shades of Grey by Dana Kamal Mills; Ameera Publishing

Lion of Jordan: The Life of King Hussein in War and Peace by Avi Shlaim; Penguin

While the civil war and a love affair could be ingredients for an alluring story, they remain peripheral and the characters’ conversations are stilted. Rather, where Mills again succeeds, is in describing Rasha’s inner conflict about standing up to her father and for what she wants. When Luke arrives unexpectedly in Beirut to see Rasha, his simple presence throws Rasha into a state of confusion. ‘Never ever before had she caused as much as a ripple in her family situation. Now, because of her, the waters raged, crashing against the very foundations of her nucleus. And no one but her could quell them or plot their course. Like it or not, Rasha was placed in the position of arbiter, between Luke and her parents – a role that demanded conviction and fortitude, neither of which she could boast of.’

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SCENE SHIFTERS The Dubai art world is booming, as ever more investors, artists, dealers, gallery owners and collectors are drawn to the emirate by an irresistible air of excitement. Now meet the key figures who are helping to shape what is increasingly looking like a defining moment in time. PHOTOGRAPHY: NADINE KANSO KOLEILAT MAKE-UP ARTIST: ELIANO @ BOBBI BROWN STYLIST: GHADA MELKI

It’s increasingly difficult to ignore the hugely exciting wave of art activity in Dubai. From the multitude of galleries across the city to record-breaking international auctions, from cuttingedge student shows to the mammoth annual Art Dubai event, the emirate has transformed itself into a worldclass hub for Middle Eastern art. Yet, five years ago, one would have been forgiven for thinking that the idea of Dubai competing with markets such as Hong Kong, Basel and Miami was as unlikely as the emirate hosting the winter Olympics in June. The Dubai art explosion is due to a number of factors. Geographically, Dubai has always been a cultural meeting point – and given the current economic boom, there are plenty of art-hungry collectors, and those willing to finance artistic progress. Naturally, where there’s money, there are artists looking for a slice of the pie, and the region’s best creative minds are now setting their sights on the city and looking to increase their profile – and not just in the Middle East. Thanks to Dubai’s emergence as a global gateway for all manner of activity, the rest of the world is in reach too. Over the next few pages, we look at just a few of the key players in a world of art that’s ever growing…

SUNNY RAHBAR, CLAUDIA CELLINI 3RD LINE An effervescent figure, Sunny Rahbar has lived and worked in London and New York and is now one of Dubai’s leading cultural lights. Since founding the Third Line gallery in 2005, Sunny has set the standards for contemporary Middle Eastern art in the city. Today, the Third Line is the Emirates’ leading gallery, bursting energetically into 2008 with a programme chock-full of exhibitions, events, cultural exchanges and much more. Along with Claudia Cellini, an American sinophile who has done everything from founding an Asian art consultancy to running an art café in Tibet, the pair are comfortably positioned at the very forefront of Dubai’s artistic movement. Artwork by Farhad Moshiri. Claudia: Dress by Zac Posen. Shoes by Sergio Rossi. Necklace by Bil Arabi. Jewels by Sogol. Sunny: Dress by Issa. Bracelet by Mawi. Earring by Wendy Mink. Guns by Kuhn Keramik.

__Arsalan Mohammed

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MONA HAUSER XVA After 15 years in Dubai, American-born Mona Hauser (pictured left) remains at the forefront of the city’s art boom via XVA, her cutting-edge gallery, which nestles amidst the wind towers and winding alleyways of the historic Bastakiya district. A key figure on the scene – along with her team, which includes Mitra Khoubrou and Daniel Camara – Mona remains as passionate as ever, promoting fresh, inspiring art in the city from across the Middle East. Mona: Silk black evening dress by Issa. Ballerines by Chanel. Mitra: Silk dress by Issa. Gold shoes by Moschino. Daniel: Shirt by Pink. Jeans by 7 for All Mankind.

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The Belgian-born van den Eynde came to Dubai a few short years ago and quickly made her mark on the nascent art scene as director of the finger-on-pulse B21 Gallery in Al Quoz. Since then, she’s raised the gallery’s profile both locally and abroad with a succession of dynamic exhibitions, focusing very much on contemporary Iranian art. A key player in the city’s cultural life, van den Eynde is gearing up for a year of exciting new plans, including a slot at Art Dubai in March and even more quality exhibitions. Artwork by Arnaud Rivieren. Isabelle: Dress by YSL. Shoes by Michael Kors. Jewellery by Bil Arabi.

MICHAEL JEHA CHRISTIE’S Managing director of Christie’s Middle East, the dapper Michael Jeha has cut a swathe through the city’s art scene, ever since he opened up the venerable British auction house’s regional office in Dubai in April 2005. Since then, he’s seen his auctions reach stratospheric levels of success – the third sale of international modern and contemporary art fetched a staggering Dhs 55,915,111 last October.

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MALIHA AL TABARI ART SPACE The current boom in contemporary art in Dubai owes Maliha al Tabari a huge debt. Launching one of Dubai’s first contemporary art galleries, Art Space at the Fairmont in 2003, al Tabari is now planning a second gallery at DIFC, dealing with some of the finest contemporary artists in the region. She is also looking forward to her own special production, due in March. Artwork by Sabhan Adam. Maliha: Long black evening dress by Temperley. Shoes by Christian Louboutin. Accessories by Gerard Yosca.

SHEIKH MAJED VILLA MODA Sheikh Majed Al Sabah, founder of the Villa Moda fashion empire, has got his eyes set on elevating the region’s art to the same heights as he has fashion – with the launch of a ‘‘culturally rich boulevard’’ and a contemporary gallery at the DIFC in Dubai’s financial district. Sheikh Majed wears national dress.

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JOHN MARTIN ASMAA AL SHABIBI ART DUBAI When the London-based gallerist John Martin pulled off the hugely successful Gulf Art Fair last March, it was a milestone in the burgeoning arts infrastructure in Dubai. With the help of DIFC, he imbued his team with boundless optimism and inspiration. He’s at it again with Art Dubai 2008, twice the size, with help from his managing director, Asma al Shabibi, a former banker and daughter of the celebrated Iraqi painter Firyal Al-Adhamy. Thanks to Martin, Dubai has the reputation of being the Middle East’s gateway to a world of art.



Asmaa Al Shabibi: Dress by Alexander McQueen. Earrings by Erika Pena. Bangle by Ted Rossi.

CHARLIE POCOCK MEEM GALLERY You can’t miss Charlie Pocock on the local art scene. He brings years of experience as a dealer and expert on Middle Eastern art to Dubai, via his elegant al Quoz gallery, Meem. Seeking to elevate the standard of exhibitions and discourse in the field, Pocock’s track record in the city so far has seen a number of high-profile artists exhibit at Meem, fuelled by his boundless energy, vim and vigour.

MARWAN BIN BAYAT DIFC Director of Art and Culture at the DIFC, Marwan Bin Bayat acquired 51% of Art Dubai in the run-up to its 2007 inaugural event – an event which John Martin, its head, declared ‘supercharged’ the Fair. Bin Bayat’s now driving an exciting array of initiatives, which will make DIFC synonymous with quality contemporary art in 2008. Artwork by Wael Hamadeh. Bin Bayat wears national dress.

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RAMI FAROOK TRAFFIC Rami Farook is one of the bright young things of modern Dubai: a man of ideas, action and refined aesthetics. The driving force behind the UAE’s slickest and smartest new design space, Traffic, Farook is the embodiment of the new art scene in Dubai – fresh, smart, passionate and totally now. White ‘Apparita’ armchair by Andrea Salvetti. Rami wears national dress and unbranded cap. Shoes by YSL.

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8.00 am

UNDER DREAMING SPIRES An early walk in the spring sunshine; hitting the books in the world’s most atmospheric library; dinner in a medieval hall; and a magical bike ride. It’s all in a day’s work for Oxford student Zain Masud. Friday 8.00 am

I am up and out with my dog Poppy for a duck chase in University Parks. 6.00


After our excursion, Poppy and I drop by St Cross College to check my pigeonhole for mail. We then cycle to the Radcliffe Camera, where I chain my bike opposite the ivory towers of All Souls College, head inside and set to work. With its soaring doomed roof punctuated by windows and gold-leafed cornices looking out over the city, the Radcliffe Camera is still miraculously conducive to concentration. Even when the sound of string quartets performing in neighbouring colleges finds its way to the Upper Camera, it is the most inspiring library imaginable.

12.30 pm

I meet my friend Audrey Sands at the Vaults of University Church for warm goat’s cheese salad with quince and organic lemonade. After our healthy lunch, we root around in Sanders of Oxford print shop, in search of 19th-century ballooning images, to illustrate Audrey’s masters thesis on the history of the hot-air balloon.


Next I dash to the Ashomolean Museum to consult an Edouard Vuillard drawing in the print room. Vuillard is the subject of my research, and this place is invaluable. Anyone can come here and quietly convene with the rare drawings – but it is a well-kept secret. Wearing the required white cotton gloves, you can hold in your hands actual, original drawings by Rembrandt, Ruskin, Michelangelo or Moholy-Nagy.


I pick up goose eggs at M Feller Sons and Daughter organic butchers, smoked salmon at Hayman’s, and peonies in the Covered Market in anticipation of a frivolous Saturday breakfast.


Next is a formal Friday night guest supper at the Great Hall of Christ Church with Steve Pulimood, my gracious host, Alef art editor Ana Finel Honigman, and our token non-art friend Sai Lakshmi. This is the best meal around beyond Raymond Blanc’s Manoir, and is even served with antique college silver.


Finally, we move on to the bar, where we are offered exotic fruit, chocolates and Oxonian debauchery.

1.00 am

I cycle home, oddly happy that it has been raining. There is nothing quite like this city at night, when it most resonates with a sense of a secret history. At this hour, Oxford is both intimate and familiar. It feels like it is mine.



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100 10 0 Tons n on, nso n Bangkok B ngkok Ba Agia al Ar A t Gallery, Beirut Aico on Gallery, London / New York Aida an Gallery, Moscow Alba areh Gallery, Kingdom of Bah ahrain Albi bion, London Arr ts tspace, Dubai Atas asssi Gallery, Damascus Bau udo n Lebon udoi n, Paris B21 1, Du D bai Ben n Brown Fine Arts, London n Bon nni Benrubi, New York Bolssa de Arte, Porto Alegre Che emould Prescott Road, Mu M mb mbai Chrristine Kรถnig, Vienna Con ntinua, San Gimignano and Beijing Con ntrasts Gallery, Beijing Diana Lowenstein, Miami Disttrito Cu4tro, Madrid Filomena Soares, Lisbon Gab briele Senn Galerie, Vienna Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris Galerie El Marsa, Tunis Galerie Enriรงo Navarra, Paris Galeria Enrique Gu G errero, Mexico o City Galerie Forsblom, He H ls lsin i ki Galerie Krin i zinger, Vienna Galerie Michael Schultz, Be B rllin n, Seoul and d Beijing Ga alerie Sfeir-Semler, Hambur u g an and d Beirut Galleri Ga rie e Taniit, Munich Galleri Ga r e Thomas, Munich Galerie Volker Diehl, Berlin Galleria Mario Sequeira, Brag ga Galeria Millan, Sรฃo Paulo Galleries Direct, Sydney Galerist, Istanbul Gallery Espace, New Delh hi Giorgio Persano, Turin Gre een Cardamom, London Gro osvenor Vadehra, London / New ew Del elhi h Horrach Moya, Mallorca Kalffayan Galleries, Athens and nd The hess ssal a oniki Kam mel Mennour, Paris Kashya Hildebrand, Zurich Kukkje Gallery, Seoul Le Violon Bleu, Tunis and London Lio Malca, New York MAM M Mario Mauroner, Vienna a Maxx Lang, New York Octtober Gallery, London OREEDARIA Arti Contemporanee, Ro ome Prod duzentengalerie Hamburg, Hamb mbu urg PYO O Gallery, Seou ul RHYYS Gallery, Boston Rosssi + Ro Rossi, London Sakkshi Gal allery y, Mumbaii Salo omo on Cont ntem empo pora rary ry, Ea East st Ham mpt pton on SC CAI TThe he B Bat athh at hhou o se s , To Toky kyo o Siilkk Roa Silk oad d Ga Gallllller ery er y, Te Tehr hran an S nd Su daram Tagore, New York Sun Gallery & Ga Gallller lery y Sun n co ont ntem em mpo porary, Seoul The Th hirrd Li Line e, Du uba baii TOR RCH GA G LLER E Y, Amstterda dam m Tow wnhouse Ga G ller e y, Ca er C iro Un nivversa s l Studios, Beijing Wallsh Wa lsh Gallery, Chicago Yvon Lambert, Paris / New York

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From the inventions of his son to his own place in the clouds, the Beirutbased artist, architect and world traveller shares his favourite things.

Celebrating an unknown moment, this photo of my father and uncles, in front of the terrace of our Baskinta home with the snowy Sannine mountains in the background, captures for me the idyllic days of a past generation.


01. WALKING ON A CLOUD I drew the ‘Net Bridge’ for the city or Beirut so that, one day, I will experience the moment of walking on it. I drew ‘The Cloud’ for the city of Dubai. One day, I will walk on that too.

Nestled in the face of a cliff and sometimes called ‘the thrown on temple’, Nageiredo is one of the smallest and most esoteric temples in Japan. I set out to reach it, and after much time hiking and deliberating, I came to the incredible, impossible conclusion: it was unreachable. This experience opened my mind to the concept of potential spaces.

10. URBAN TOYS My artistic growth has been through the urban toys: sculptures of different scales I have used for urban projects in cities such as London, Melbourne, Tokyo, Prague and Beirut. Urban toys are part of my vocabulary, my family, my identity. Although I am now using many other forms of expression, urban toys remain the essence of my concept of travel. Travel both with the mind and the physical body. Travel with no limits, borders, preconceptions.

09. MORNING COFFEE Summer days in the Lebanese mountains can only begin with a rakweh of Arabic coffee on the balcony. I watch the village wake up, the silhouette of Beirut in the distance, and always manage to squeeze out a few more drops from the rakweh for whoever comes to join me.

08. STROLL IN THE MOUNTAINS Time takes on an elastic form when we take to the mountain road for a family stroll. We spend wonderfully mundane moments picking flowers, watching the sunset and talking. Occasionally an innocent philosophical question from one of my children makes me think for weeks.

06. LABNEH Late at night, when the house is quiet and I have been painting for a few hours, I open the fridge and am interested in only one thing: labneh [strained yoghurt]. An intrinsic component of any Lebanese breakfast, labneh with a few olives and mint leaves is to my mind the most decadent of feasts.

05. ‘THE BLACK BOOK’ This book of three masterful series of paintings by Clemente was offered to me in Tokyo by Kaya, now my wife. Several years later, I invited her to the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao to see a Clemente exhibition, where we found the originals.

07. SANDRO’S INVENTIONS Every day when I reach home after a full day’s work, my son Sandro takes my hand and drags me to his bedroom to show me his latest invention out of Lego. Then we sit on the balcony and he explains the story behind his work. I love this trip through the unfettered inventiveness of his six-year-old mind.

04. PRAGUE’S MAGICAL TRAVERSE The stretch from Prague’s Old Town Square across the Charles Bridge to the castle is magical. Many a time I’ve taken it, my head exploding with problems. I reach the castle convinced that anything is possible.

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Jacket by JC de Castelbajac. Pants by D&G. Sneakers by Yohji Yamamoto.

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The out of towner

It’s a classic story. A young man arrives in New York City for the first time. It’s another world. So much to see; so many people. Everything’s so different. He can’t get enough of it. He takes a tour to soak it all in, which is when he sees her. The girl of his dreams. And right then, right there, he falls in love…


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‘Just a New York conversation, Happens all the time…’

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Suit by D&G. Shirt by Emanuel Ungaro. Scarf by Dries Van Noten. Shoes by D&G. Watch by Tiret. OPPOSITE PAGE LEFT

Jacket by JC de Castelbajac. Shirt by Calvin Klein. Jeans by G-Star. Scarf, stylist’s own. RIGHT

Jacket by JC de Castelbajac. Skirt by Jean Paul Gaultier. Shoes by Giuseppe Zanotti.

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Top by Yves St Laurent. Skirt by Vaccianna. Boots by Prada.

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‘You dress, you walk, you talk, You’re who you think you are…’

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Jacket by Jean Paul Gaultier Shirt by Prada Pants by Jean Paul Gaultier Shoes by Vicini OPPOSITE PAGE

Dress by Dolce G Shoes by Pierre Hardy

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‘I saw an angel, Of that I’m sure. She smiled at me on the subway…’

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‘I’m in the phone booth, It’s the one across the hall…’

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Her: Dress by Giambattista Valli. Shoes by Giuseppe Zanotti. Him: Sweater by Burberry. Pants by Yohji Yamamoto. Shoes by Cesare Paciotti. Watch by Tiret. LEFT

Shirt by Burberry. Pants by Yohji Yamamoto. Shoes by Vicini. OPPOSITE PAGE

Dress by Burberry.

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Yellow trenchcoat by Sonia Rykiel. Snakeskin sandals and black bag by Christian Louboutin. OPPOSITE PAGE

Mustard crop top and sandals by Sonia Rykiel. Grey skirt by Dolce & Gabbana. Belt by Donna Karan.

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Let the good times roll

Retro rocks this spring and summer with a particular passion for all things 1950s just about everywhere you care to look. Think bold colours and even bolder silhouettes. Think stacked heels and stacked hair. Think ra-ra skirts, fitted knits, and wide belts emphasising that irresistible hour-glass shape. It’s fun, it’s sometimes a little raunchy, and it’s often transparently gorgeous…


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Gold leather skirt, taupe vest, collar and belt, all by Prada. Mustard sandals by Sonia Rykiel. Knit bangles from OPPOSITE PAGE

Black, yellow and white dress by Gucci. Yellow vintage haircomb from Sheila Cook.

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Cream minidress by Miu Miu. Flower hairpiece from Blackout 2. Sandals by Sonia Rykiel. OPPOSITE PAGE

Grey tulle dress by Giles. Corsages and bracelet from Sheila Cook. Black sandals by Christian Louboutin.

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Pink tulle dress by Betsey Johnson. Sandals, bracelet and corsages as before. Black snakeskin sandals by Christian Louboutin. OPPOSITE PAGE

Pink ruffle dress by Luella. Black snakeskin sandals by Christian Louboutin.

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rapture Nothing, but nothing gets the true fashionistas blood racing like a fabulous bag. Here are our candidates for the ‘it’ accessory to have and to hold this season. PHOTOGRAPHER: PHILIP KARLBERG FASHION EDITOR: NIKI BRODIE PHOTOGRAPHERS ASSISTANT: DAVID AXELSSON SET DESIGN: SAHARA WIDOFF HAIR & MAKE UP: ALEXANDRA OLSSON MODEL: SARAH L @ ELITE MODELS

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‘Mounia Baby’ metallic python, $2502, by Sonia Rykiel.

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Foreground: ‘Bloomsbury’ tan woven glossy matt alligator bag, $7791, by Burberry. ‘Gisele’ python pocket bag, $2775, by Sergio Rossi.

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ACCESSORIES Below: ‘Took’ cream leather bag, $1480, by Tod’s. Opposite: ‘Hysteria’ black leather clutch bag, $1052, by Gucci.

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Left: ‘Dharma’ in classic luxor with black patent and linen, $1354, by Corto Moltedo. OPPOSITE PAGE

Left: ‘Jazz’ brown suede bag, $1920, by Christian Dior. Right: ‘Iris’ evening sequins bag, $2883, by Marc Jacobs.

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Opposite: The Hijaz white burqu (mask) is made of fine gauze, embroidered at the front. Below: From the rugged Taif region, the Hudheyl tribe costume is made of tie-dye muslin applied in different patterns.

The Mansoojat Foundation has collected 300 or so tribal costumes which confound the monochromatic stereotype of Saudi Arabian clothing. Some are a century old, others are more recent, but all are made with traditional cloth and embroidery – and they dazzle with every colour of the rainbow. ‘I was shocked,’ says Mona Khashoggi, who helped to reveal this forgotten treasure trove of tradition. ‘I had no idea we had all this.’ By John Andrews. PHOTOGRAPHER: RICHARD WILDING

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hen it comes to clothes, it is easy to stereotype Saudi Arabia: a white, neck-toankle thawb for Saudi men and a black, all-enveloping abaya for women – and, at first sight in the streets of cities such as Jeddah and Riyadh, the stereotype is entirely accurate. Flashes of colour are the preserve of foreigners; so, too, skirts, slacks and business suits. But what if the stereotype is a modern, misleading impression? The Mansoojat Foundation, a charity formed in 1999 by nine remarkable women from Jeddah – seven of them from the Alireza family – is encouraging the world to take a second, deeper look. The result is a revelation. The 300-or-so traditional costumes collected by Mansoojat (the Arabic word for ‘textiles’ or, literally, ‘what is woven’) from the tribes of the kingdom dazzle with all the colours of the rainbow. Some are a century old; others are recent, but they are still made with traditional cloths and embroidery. There is the Thaqeef tribe’s thawb, with its alternating bands of black and blue; or the drawstring skirt and blouse in vivid orange, red and black of the Jahdaly women; or the pink floral robes of the Asir region. The intrepid English traveller, Gertrude Bell, wrote almost a century ago that the Bedouin woman who met her

in Hail wore brilliant red and purple cotton robes, and ropes of bright pearls around her neck. Yet awareness of that multicoloured past has faded in today’s Saudi Arabia. When the Mansoojat ladies began their quest, they were as surprised as anyone by the treasure trove of tradition. ‘I was shocked,’ says Mona Khashoggi, one of the foundation’s trustees. ‘I had no idea we had all this. I had only heard of the Palestinian [traditional embroidery] work.’ Hamida Alireza, another founding member, laughingly explains that the foundation began almost by chance, when France’s consul-general in Jeddah was trying to interest her cousin, Sultana, in forming a group for la francophonie, with social activities to match. ‘They were discussing what could be done, and she mentioned that I had a collection. My interest went back many years, to when my daughter’s school asked pupils to come in national dress.’ Hence the search for what really constitutes national dress – the traditional garments of the Saudi tribes. The search takes the Mansoojat ladies, whose committee has now grown to 14 members, on field trips throughout the kingdom – and one of the most fruitful was to Taif in 1999. ‘The call came to afternoon prayer,’ reminisces Hamida, ‘and all the shops closed. We were left holding up this costume, and then this old woman came up and said: “You want more of those?” She was carrying this whole pile

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Opposite: A Thaqeef nimri thobe from the Hada area (left). The Bani Sa’ad tribe employ vibrant colour and lavish embroidery (right). Below: A Jahdaly thobe, complete with hat-like qarqoosh.

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Opposite: A Najd and Central Region thobe made of fine tulle. Below: A Bani Sa’ad thobe with embroidered sides and underpants, and silver mataweeh headress, for special occasions.

As awareness of the richly coloured past fades, so ‘uniformity erases our identiy’, says Khashoggi.

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of greenery, but she got into our car and we went to her house.’ That was the start of a ‘constant flow for us’ of costumes and embroidery from the Bani Sa’ad, the tribe of the Prophet’s wet-nurse, Halima al-Sa’adia. The challenge now is not just to reveal Saudi Arabia’s textiles tradition, but to sustain it. The uniformity of the white thawb and black abaya is one facet of the urbanisation of modern Saudi Arabia. So, too, is the availability of cheap imported fabrics, often synthetic, with the functional convenience of modern intrusions such as buttons, cufflinks, elastic and zippers. Meanwhile, the sewingmachine – manual or electric – has helped weaken the old skills of stitching by hand. But traditional garments, too, had their functions, either practical or aesthetic: the short sleeves of the Bani Malik tribe allowed women to show off their silver bracelets; women in the Asir wore hats to ward off the sun, and often both men and women wore flowers and aromatic herbs in their hair; and in the hot, stifling Najd, garments are generally looser than in the temperate mountains of the Hijaz and Asir. So should the traditional garments simply be updated? Mona Khashoggi is appalled by the idea: ‘There are lots of shops in Saudi Arabia that make changes from the original.

The challenge now is not just to reveal Saudi Arabia’s textile tradition, but to sustain it. We don’t – we might change the colour but not the stitching. This represents the tribes, the regions.’ Hamida Alireza is equally aghast at ‘self-appointed designers’ buying pieces of embroidery to put on modern abayas. The key to sustaining the traditions, however, may not be so much a fierce dedication to historical accuracy as the creation of a special workshop in Jeddah, set up soon after the foundation started. Here, Saudi girls can learn the traditional skills – and be paid for each piece of work they produce. That alone is unlikely to entice well-brought-up girls from affluent city families, but the foundation has turned a potential problem into a charitable opportunity: the young people eagerly learning complex tribal embroidery at the workshop are deaf girls who would otherwise find it very difficult to gain an occupation. What next for Mansoojat? Hamida and Mona point out that the foundation is not the only collector of traditional garments. There are, for example, several private collections, and there is in Riyadh the Al-Nahda Women’s Society. But, more than most, Mansoojat puts its collection

on display. It sees its role as twofold: to promote public awareness, both in Saudi Arabia and abroad, and to foster academic research. That may mean holding exhibitions, almost like fashion shows, such as the one held in 2006 in the John Madejski Garden of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. It can mean collaborating with foreign museums, such as the Ashmolean in Oxford. But it also means developing what Hamida Alireza calls a ‘virtual, interactive museum’ for academic researchers. As Hamida says of the foundation’s website: ‘It’s not just for the pleasure of a hightech option; it’s to help researchers.’ But the virtual has to have a base in the real. It is one thing to find a traditional costume, but quite another to know how it was worn – Bani Sa’ad women, for example, traditionally had head-dresses with seven layers. And, as the Mansoojat ladies long ago learned, Saudi men are as clueless as men anywhere at understanding the workings of women’s fashion. That is why the workshop is so important, acting as a conduit for knowledge down the generations. Will young, well-educated Saudis in today’s kingdom appreciate Mansoojat’s mission? Arguably, yes. When Mona Khashoggi laments that ‘all this uniformity erases our identity’, she voices a common complaint. And, after all, as the foundation’s motto puts it: ‘where we go in the future is determined by where we have been in the past.’ __ END

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Opposite: A Qassim thick wool woman’s aba (cloak), with embroidered gold thread and gold tassels, designed to be worn by a bride on her wedding night. Below: A bright floral printed thobe from Asir, where traditionally men embroidered the women’s clothes.

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oyage of rediscovery Born in Pakistan, Diana de Gunzburg was brought up partly in the North West Frontier and partly in her mother’s native Yorkshire. Her father still runs his estate, about three hours north of Peshawar, in the old style. Here, she recounts her latest visit.


Above: Diana’s grandfather, on a visit to Turkey. Steadfastly anti-British, his own grandfather was hanged for insurgency in 1879, the last public execution in Peshawar under colonial rule.

t’s been too long since we visited Pakistan, I reflect while making the arrangements for our trip. I was born there, and my father still farms his estate in the remote North West Frontier as he always has, despite all the problems of this troubled region. There has been much change, and my daughter hasn’t seen her grandparents for some time. Touching down in Peshawar, my 13-year-old daughter and I cover our heads, Sasha with a sarong she bought in Goa, and me with a rather inappropriate Swahili kikoi. We hadn’t really thought this through, but with recent stories of religious extremist action and general instability and insecurity, it seemed we should better be safe than sorry. The stark contrast to Sasha’s life of freedom in Paris, where we live, suddenly seems to hit home. Her last visit to Pakistan to see her grandparents is only a dim memory. The airport building is full of bearded Pashtun men, and Sasha and I are glad of our scarves and dark glasses. The Taliban fundamentalists, driven out of nearby Afghanistan by the recent invasion, are ethnic Pashtuns, the same tribe that straddle the frontier – my father’s tribe, although his mother was Russian. I tell Sasha how, in the 1970s when I was a teenager, we regularly visited our Pashtun cousins in Kabul. Their ancestors had ruled Afghanistan in the early 19th century. Now those same cousins live in exile in the United States. It was all very carefree in those days, driving through the Khyber Pass with my parents, my sister and I sitting in the back seats of the Land Rover as we hurtled round the hairpin bends. I remember egging my father on to overtake the hugely ornate overloaded buses, their roof racks charged to the maximum, with people, chickens, fruit and children hanging off the ladders on the back – it all added to the sense of fun. Nothing felt threatening then, not even the absence of seat belts. I explain to Sasha how Kabul was so amazing; surrounded by snow-covered peaks, the beautiful nomadic tribal girls selling ethnic jewellery in the bazaars, the few hippies passing through on their way to India, and the good-looking local Pashtuns. It seemed very glamorous in

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that stunning high-altitude setting. One somehow felt very cool just to be there. Sasha looks unconvinced as she fiddles nervously with her headscarf. I haven’t been back to Afghanistan since the Russian invasion in 1979, and I have no desire to see the war-ravaged post-Taliban version. Sasha, Cyrille – my husband – and I are ushered through the airport customs, our paperwork and luggage being dealt with by various ‘loyal subjects’, as my father calls them. He is there to meet us with some of my cousins. In appearance my father is very much a traditional Pashtun, but in his attitudes so very different. We head out into the cool foggy morning. It’s 6am, still dark, but sunrise must be imminent. We drive with a backup vehicle full of men, armed with as many Kalashnikovs and handguns as I can ever remember seeing. My father and cousins fill me in on stories of kidnappings. The victims include some friends and neighbours – there’s a real sense of society disintegrating. Along with increasing pressure from the Islamic clerics – known locally as maulanas – it is not altogether a reassuring situation. I’m relieved that Sasha has fallen fast asleep and doesn’t hear all the gory details. Robbed of the colour and hustle bustle of the day, the empty streets of dead bazaars and tatty garagefront shops look godforsaken and miserable. As the sun starts to shed its first light, the squalor intensifies, in a sort of Mad Max post-holocaust way, rubbish swirling around in the light morning breeze. ‘Maulana Republic’, as my father amusingly now refers to the Frontier. We drive through the old British cantonment and past the Peshawar Club; images of its old-world charm of my childhood, let alone the black-tie cocktail party era of my parents’ young married days, seem remarkably distant. When my father was six years old, he was introduced to Gandhi in that same Peshawar Club by my grandfather, who was a friend and big supporter of Gandhi’s very antiBritish Congress Party. My grandfather had every reason to be anti-British. After all, it was his own grandfather whom they hanged here in Peshawar for insurgency in 1879. It was the last public execution in the city under colonial rule. Funny to think how proud I was as a child

that my family were resistance fighters. My schoolfriends back in my mother’s native Yorkshire used to listen to my stories in disbelief. Leaving the city behind us, we head out on the drive towards my father’s estate, which is about three hours north. The working day is starting, and increasing numbers of overloaded donkeys and tragically thin Tonga horses on their last legs – towing far too many fat chador-swathed ladies – are beginning to crowd the filthy streets. Stalls are filling up with an impressive and colourful array of vegetables, fruits, herbs, spices. Much less appetising is the raw meat, which hangs in the open air, attracting flies and starving dogs who wince as stones are hurled at them to keep them at a distance. I guess the flies are the lucky ones. As we finally leave the endless roadside bazaars, which seem to sprawl further and further out of the city, the sight of farmland and the eucalyptus-lined road stretching into the distance is a huge relief. We take our scarves off.

As the sun starts to shed its first light, the squalor of Peshawar intensifies, in a sort of Mad Max post-holocaust sort of way. Approaching my father’s farm, we pause outside the old village house that my grandfather had built for his beautiful and brilliant Russian bride in the 1920s. She was an aristocrat whose family had fled to Switzerland before the Revolution. A true linguist, she spoke five languages fluently, and had written for Le Monde newspaper. She found no difficulty in learning Pashto, and she later became a great friend of the famous Swiss eccentric writer, photographer and traveller, Ella Maillard. My grandfather never attempted to keep her in purdah, although he told her not to laugh in public if she didn’t want be considered a disgrace. Until a few years ago, the house was our family home, and even in its current state of decay, it still has charm. The long white colonial bungalow with arched verandas stands in the shade of 60-foot-high pines, and the banana trees back on to a stream.

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Above: Diana’s parents on their way to a party at the Nowshera Club in 1959. They first met in London, where she worked and he was a student. Right: The Ghandara Buddhist cave on Sukkur, Diana’s father’s mountain, in 1978.

It was a wonderful place to spend time as a child. On hot summer days we would often swim in the irrigation canal behind the house, my sister and I wearing shorts and T-shirts out of modesty, rather than our usual bikinis. My cousins swam fully dressed in shalwar-kamis, the local dress of wide trousers with a knee-length shirt. We rode horses on the huge lawns, and took carriage rides around the farm, bringing along picnics of spicy fried chicken, naan breads and fresh lime juice. It was magical, but we all knew it wouldn’t last. My cousins were put into strict purdah at around 12, their freedom over. But for me it was completely different. My father made his own rules. When I was 17, I wanted to learn to drive and he happily delegated the task to his farm manager who always kept the passenger door open as we went along, ready to leap out and threaten anyone who made any comments. There were no other females driving around these parts, let alone an unchaperoned teenage girl with an uncovered head. I remember we drove one day to a relative’s house, and were shown through to his hujra – a building set aside exclusively for entertaining male visitors. We chatted and drank tea served by a hermaphrodite servant, whose ambiguous sexuality allowed him into the women’s quarters. When I later recounted the story to my friends back in England they thought I was crazy. The old-style khans (squires), like my father, who tolerated such eccentricities, have largely died out, and their heirs have no interest in

actively maintaining their country estates. They have decamped to the cities, abandoning the countryside to become absentee landlords. Society here is far more polarised now, and it seems that the underprivileged are brainwashed by the anti-Western fundamental Islam of the madrassas, and the wealthy by dreams of designer-filled shopping malls in Dubai. And even as the latter buy their coveted Armani suits, they be-

Our childhood was magical, but we knew it wouldn’t last. My cousins were put into strict purdah at around 12. lieve the West to be conspiring to destroy the Muslim world. The Frontier always was the most reactionary province of Pakistan. The cousins whom I used to play with have also gone to live in the less restrictive capital city of Islamabad and have families of their own. Their daughters will keep a much milder form of purdah. We drive the last few miles to my father’s new house. He chose this spot because it is the one part of his farm that has an uninterrupted view of his mountain. We arrive to the welcome and greetings of servants, either current or retired, some who have known me since I was born. Sasha runs to kiss her grandmother, and tells her how we covered our heads in the airport. My mother is appalled. She would never dream of doing such a thing: it would be giving in, unthinkable by the memsahib standards of her era.

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Clockwise from left: Diana’s parents as newly-weds at their mountain house in 1957. Sasha, Diana’s daughter, at Kashmir Bungla, the mountain house, with a guard. The view to the house and beyond.

Neither of my parents entertained the idea of changing religion. They felt it wholly unnecessary; there is no incompatability for them.

Neither of my parents ever entertained the idea of changing their religions. They felt it wholly unnecessary: there is no incompatibility for them, and they agree on all major issues with mutual cultural respect. They met in the 1950s in London, where my mother was working and my father was a student. They fell in love and, much to the horror of some of my mother’s family, decided to marry. But after a formal visit to the family farm in North Yorkshire, my father totally won over his future in-laws.


ater that day, we sit down to lunch on the back lawn, surrounded by trees full of colourful parrots, winter roses in full bloom, and the misty mountain range as a backdrop. The squalor, filth and misery of the city and its sprawl seem a million miles away. Hot naans made from our own wheat arrive straight out of the tandoor, along with jugs of freshly squeezed orange juice from our orchards. Delicious curries of lentils, mustard greens and goat meat are laid out on a large table in the warm sun; it all seems idyllic. This really is a country of extremes. The nearer you get to the mountains, the nearer you get to heaven. Paradise found. In the afternoon, there is a visitor, a neighbouring landowner who is extremely benevolent and looks after and helps a large amount of poor locals. He is a muchloved man of good works and great generosity, and very devout. He joins us for tea and the conversation turns to

Islam. I ask him about the coming prophet that he mentions, and he tells me that he will be recognisable by a distinctive gap in his teeth, and will reunite all Muslims and the world will be purged of evil. What do you mean by that? I ask, and he says that an Islamic crusade would rid the world of all Jews and Christians who refuse to convert, leading to peace on earth.

The reason my father chooses to remain here is obvious to me, but not to his family. They prefer their large houses in Islamabad. Sasha listens, horrified, while her father, who is of Russian and Iraqi origin, sits nearby chatting to my mother. Cyrille’s family on his mother side, the Sassoons, were known as the ‘Rothschilds of the Orient’, spreading from their Baghdad origins to Mumbai (where there is still a Sassoon Docks), and then to Shanghai. A knighthood bestowed by Queen Victoria herself conferred the muchdesired respectability of the English establishment. The reason for my father choosing to remain in the countryside is obvious to me, but not to most of his family. They prefer their large houses in Islamabad. He still runs his farm in the old style. His hujra is full of local chaps most lunchtimes, and big pots of curry are sent out from our kitchen every day. He provides free medicine for his workers and needy locals, and writes letters using his

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influence to find jobs or school places for their families. He often recites his Pushtu translations of Sufi poetry to the guests in the hujra, offering another take on Islam. His role here is as integral to the lives of the locals as the mountains are to the plains. A few days later we wake before sunrise for our trip into the mountains. The largest of the range is my father’s, Sukkra. We used to come here often in the summer, when we weren’t staying in Azad Kashmir with my uncle who was brigadier-general in command of the province. His position there afforded us access to absolutely anything we wished: extravagant fishing parties, jeep safaris into the remotest valleys, and all the beautiful military horses and polo ponies at our disposal. We just took it all in our stride.


s we bump along the track towards the mountain the sun is rising and we start to make out the peak above the mist. It looks a lot higher than its 7000 feet, rising abruptly out of the plains, as we drive along the track towards the village at the foot of the mountain. My father first made this route passable by jeep 20-odd years ago, and it has since been improved to make the village more accessible: less poetic from my point of view, but certainly not from the locals’. We stop for breakfast at the home of an ex-land agent of my father’s. He received this land as a gift for many years of loyal service and has built a charming mud-and-stone house in a walled compound. My father and Cyrille, who are allowed in with the women, join Sasha and me in the main house; the rest of the entourage are next door in the hujra. We lie on charpoys in the sun drinking sweet tea and eating fried eggs and parathas: after a while my father disappears to the hujra to assemble the troops. The entourage is apparently getting bigger as word spreads of our climb. One of our guard’s three grandsons have shown up and a couple more young men from the village ask my father if they can join us; all offering to carry things and generally make themselves useful. Along with the two cooks from home and all the food for lunch, it’s turning into quite a production, and for all the chaps it’s definitely a grand day out. We set off straight after breakfast. The mist has cleared and the bright sun is hot despite the cool air. As we walk up the dry riverbed, everyone is chatting and laughing in groups. A general sense of excitement at our imminent ascent is felt by all. I overhear one of the older chaps with a Kalashnikov talking of the last time he went to ‘Kashmir Bungla’. He is referring to the small fortress my grandfather built in the late 1920s as a summer retreat, perched on

a rocky outcrop about half way up the mountain. The Gandhara Buddhists, who inhabited this region about 2000 years ago, chose this remote mountain location because of its enormous cave (reputed to be one of the largest in Asia), in which they built their main temple. My grandfather built his house on the site of their watchtower, the views being incomparable. We leave the riverbed and the climb starts. A couple of village boys with donkeys carrying loads wander by, greeting us with salaams and exchanging chit-chat with our entourage. They’re the only people we are likely to meet from here on. As we start to ascend, the group spreads out, but the helpful, effortlessly charming guards are always unobtrusively nearby to carry jackets, or to offer water or a hand over a treacherous rock. Every so often we stop and look around to take it all in. The village is much smaller already and the low-lying mist obscuring the plains makes us feel as though we are ascending to the heavens. A couple of hours later the house appears, still high above

As we walk up the dry riverbed, everyone is chatting and laughing. A sense of excitement at our ascent is felt by all. us. We continue in silence until we finally arrive at the high stone archway and steep staircase, which lead us through the stone walls into the garden. Charpoys with large cushions have already been laid out in the sun, and three huge eagles circle overhead, riding the thermals, welcoming us. Tea arrives promptly and stories of the old days are exchanged, with the elder chaps reminiscing about when I was there at Sasha’s age, and of our hunting parties high up on the peaks where we camped out under the stars. The smell of frying onions and spices floats out across the garden as the cooks start to prepare lunch. It’s time to set off to the cave. Skidding down the stony path behind the house into the gorge, we meet the first stranger we’ve seen since the lads at the bottom. A lone shepherd with his herd of goats sits on a rock, smoking opium. We exchange salaams and my husband and I reflect for a moment, amused by the unlikely cultural parallels of our families. The Sassoons made their fortune trading opium in India more than a century before. We have often thought that our ancestors could have easily known each other. My Yorkshire grandfather was a farmer and very keen huntsman (his cousin was Master of the Bramham Moor). He was also a regular at the races, where he and his friends blew a fortune, at

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Above: Diana and Sasha, at the mountain house.

A lone shepherd with his goats sits on a rock, smoking opium. My husband and I reflect on the unlikely cultural parallels of our families.

the same time as Cyrille’s relative, Sir Victor Sassoon, was actively involved in his racing stables at Thirsk. Leaving the shepherd to his pipe, we climb the treacherous stone staircase up the side of the gorge towards the opening of the cave. Entering, Sasha and I cover our heads, not out of Islamic modesty, but to protect them from bat droppings. High-pitched squeaking echoes eerily around the first vast chamber. As we clamber awkwardly up the ancient temple stairs, made almost impassable by the centuries of droppings that cake the steps, we reach the main chamber. More than 300 feet above us, a hole in the cave roof sheds a shaft of light that dimly illuminates the site of the ruined main temple. No one speaks. A communal respectful silence descends upon our party. The following days drift by as we enjoy the peace and serenity of the mountains until it’s time to return to Paris. The day before flying from Peshawar, we are invited for lunch on the neighbouring farm of one of my father’s cousins. There’s not much traffic, for a change, but the country lanes are full of herds of sheep waiting to be slaughtered – the huge pools of blood where their friends have preceded them have a particularly noxious stench. Today is Eid, one of the most important religious celebrations in Islam, and the sacrificed sheep are feasted upon all over the country, a tradition in which everyone partakes. When we arrive, instead of sitting in the warm sunny garden, my mother, Sasha and I are ushered to the damp, cold interior of the house. My aunt tells us that the lunch is to be segregated, as some men from the village will be coming to pay their respects. The idea of sitting indoors with a bunch of ladies exchanging pleasantries when all the chaps are enjoying the very beautiful gardens and perfect weather outside annoys the hell out of me. I go outside with Sasha and sit next to my father, telling him I would certainly not have accepted to come to lunch if I’d known I’d be made to spend hours cooped up inside. He tells me to stay where I am and asks a servant to bring me a drink. A few minutes later, and after some last minute rearranging, my aunt, cousins, and the rest of the women come outside and join us for lunch. What happens to the visitors from the village, I don’t know, but for a moment at least, the purdah curtain is opened. The next day, as the plane takes off from Peshawar airport, I look down at the rugged landscape of the Khyber below and wonder when I will return, or even if I will return. Sasha is not in two minds about such a question – she doesn’t have the attachment that I do for something that simply no longer exists. __ END

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A+B. Embroidered stories

Clockwise from top left: ‘Lacrime/Tears’ by Moataz Nasr. ‘Untitled (Modules)’ by Sirous Namazi. ‘I Love Paris’ and ‘Bas-Relief (Pieta)’ by Mounir Fatmi.

incorporates religious texts from around the world, including the Koran and the Bible. ‘It’s not specifically about Arabic culture,’ said Cristian Alexa, of Lombard-Freid, the New York gallery that represented Fatmi at the show. ‘It’s about the idea that religions become a premise for explosive conversation. So you have a cultural bomb. It provoked many discussions, which was intended, and got people to think.’

MIAMI VIEW Artists from the Middle Eastern diaspora played an active role in the sixth edition of the international art fair Art Basel Miami Beach last December. The sister event of Switzerland’s prestigious Art Basel, the Miami Beach fair has become the most important in the US. It brought together more than 1500 renowned artists and an exclusive selection of 200 leading contemporary art galleries from around the world, attracting 43,000 visitors – the most yet. ‘There is a need to create a cultural form of understanding,’ said Mario Cristiani of Italy’s Continua Galler, who feels that events such as Basel Miami Beach provide an opportunity to engage in a dialogue that cultivates awareness both within the art world and without. ‘This is the starting point for Middle Eastern artists.’ Such a dialogue was notably generated by Mounir Fatmi with ‘Connections’, one of the most controversial pieces at the show. Fatmi, who was born in Morocco in 1970 and now lives in Paris and Tangiers, constructs visual spaces and linguistic games that aim to free the viewer from their preconceptions of politics and religion, allowing them to contemplate these and other subjects in new ways. ‘Connections’

‘Love Has No End’ is a new exhibition in the US which ties together the threads of Ghada Amer’s body of remarkable and influential multimedia work. Featuring nearly 50 works, her first major American retrospective is showing at the Brooklyn Museum from February 16 through October 19. Amer, who now lives in New York, was born in Cairo, and moved to France at the age of 11, later earning earned her BFA and MFA from Nice’s École Pilote Internationale d’Art et de Recherche, Villa Arson. While she is a painter, sculptor, illustrator, performer, garden designer and installation artist, Amer is best known for her deceptively abstract embroidered canvases, which on further investigation reveal lavish erotic motifs. By replicating images that she culls from pornographic magazines over and under the cloth, and then affixing the excess thread with a clear gel, Amer creates an illusion of mystery and intimacy that permeates the canvasses. Delicate yet defiant, Amer’s embroidery unravels Western assumptions about Middle Eastern women, gender in general and subjective separations between craft and art.

Showning at Galleria Continua, the Tuscan gallery that has expanded to Beijing and Paris, was Moataz Nasr, an Egyptian artist who uses video as a medium to challenge the political and social situation. ‘Modernisation through globalisation creates a conflict with local issues and identity,’ says Continua’s Mario Cristiani. ‘This conflict between tradition and modernization is very strong in the Middle East. Artists have a big role to create the point of balance between the two. They provide the linguistic medium for the local community in this passage.’ Debuting at the Nordenhake Gallery, Iran-born Sirious Namazi, who is based in Berlin and Stockholm, has established himself as one of today’s most interesting young Swedish artists. Namazi explores where one medium morphs into another: drawings into paintings, paintings into sculptures, sculptures into installations. ‘We were very pleased with the response,’ said Gyonata Bonvicini of Nordenhake. ‘It was the first time the piece [“Modules”] was exhibited in the US and it sold to a California collector.’ Nestled in the Design District of Miami at the beautiful showroom of Fendi Casa was Jordanian artist and jewellery designer Lama Hourani. She finds inspiration from ‘the primitive art that existed around the world before religions, ethnicities. It was a way of uniting people: the language is symbols, with no limits, no barriers. It’s very difficult to cross any barriers, unless you start before the barriers.’ __Eiman Aziz


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D. Miracle workers


C. A big difference





Shadia Alem’s ‘The Other Side’ can be seen as this Saudi Arabian female artist’s addition to the battle of the sexes. In her edifying art, Alem – who was born in Mecca and currently resides in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia – provokes an arresting awareness of the stark division between men and women within her culture. ‘The Other Side’, her 2003 collage series, which will be on view at Paris’s Galerie Artes through to April, provides deep and personal insight into the daily reality of being an artist, and a woman, in today’s Saudi Arabia. ‘The Other Side’ consists of an imposing 30 metre, monochromatic series of excerpts from a Jeddah city telecom directory. Over this black-and-white text, Alem has laid a muslin veil alongside frayed and fragmented pieces of an abbaya, the full-length black veil that Saudi women are required to wear beyond their homes. By juxtaposing men’s names with the impersonal symbol used to render women anonymous, Alem is creating an abstract portrait of Jeddah society, which is divided between men and their public lives, and women’s prescribed shadow existences. The division which Alem illustrates is as full of clear and definitive juxtapositions as her work’s black-and-white palette.

Turning water into wine is the classic miracle. But now, Associazione Art Continua has devised a scheme to achieve much higher goals by doing the exact opposite. The Italian research organisation has instigated a benefit campaign it calls ‘Arte x Vino = Acqua’ or ‘Art x Wine = Water’. The programme consists of a charity sale supporting the construction of water systems in disadvantaged areas across the globe, including Palestine and Jordan. The funds will be raised through sets of six wines chosen by chef Antonello Colonna with labels specifically designed by six artists. Vicente Todolì, director of the Tate Modern in London, has commissioned for the project, signing up an array of highly marketable artists such as Lothar Baumgarten, Richard Hamilton, Roni Horn and Cildo Meireles. The crates, portfolios and posters can be reserved at the Association Arte Continua. In addition to the standard sets, they will offer one limited edition portfolio containing six signed and numbered (50 x 35 cm) prints by the artists and six signed and numbered (66 x 88 cm) lithographs of the wine labels, on sale for the nominal price of 3000 euros.

E. Reference point Shezad Dawood combines and critiques disparate cultural references in his sculptures, installations and paintings, all the while parsing the ingredients that create cultural identities. Born and based in London, the half-Indian and half-Pakistani graduate of the Royal College of Art has restaged scenes from Blowup and Taxi Driver as Bollywood films; drawn inspiration from Bianchini Ferier textile design; and once occupied a fivestorey landmarked building in London as a home and studio, which he then sold as an installation through a real estate agent – who was inadvertently acting as an art dealer. In his first major London solo show at the Paradise Row Gallery this winter, Dawood combined neon signs incorporating the Koran’s concept of the ‘99 Names of God’ with tumbleweed, a symbol of the American Wild West. Now Dawood is focusing on the Middle East. ‘I am very interested to show in Dubai, because of its various and often conflicting topographies,’ he says. Dawood who is developing a film project in Morocco, will be showing in Dubai’s Third Line gallery. ‘The region and the Arab world are very important to me, both as the focal point of Islamic culture, and as a hub for the wider region to include India and Pakistan. I am specifically excited about regenerating a tired set of references and appropriations that inform current concerns in Euro-American contemporary art.’

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he next big thing In a world hungry for contemporary art, Saatchi Online transcends geography and dealers to enable artists from anywhere to sell directly to collectors everywhere. Already a huge success in its English and Mandarin incarnations, it is now poised to add a Middle East version. Charles Saatchi discusses the possibilites with Ana Finel Honigman.


oday’s art world boasts an everexpanding pool of collectors with an insatiable desire for contemporary art and countless glossy publications primed to publicise new artists. Yet high-profile galleries are still all but inaccessible to aspiring artists without already marketable names. At first, the advent of the Internet promised to help artists bypass the everyday gallery system, but only recently has a website been established which makes this promise a real-

ity. Though less than two years old, Saatchi Online has radically altered the way in which art is sold and information about artists and their work is disseminated throughout the world. Founded by prominent and influential international art collector Charles Saatchi, the site is often billed as a MySpace for artists. In this capacity, Saatchi Online effectively overrides geography, biography and dealer representation to enable artists from anywhere to sell directly to collectors everywhere. Now Charles Saatchi is planning to launch an Arabiclanguage version of Saatchi Online for the Middle East (it already exists in English and Mandarin versions). The Arabic-language version, which Saatchi is developing in collaboration with Dubai-based partners, is intended to replicate the enormous success of the Chinese version of the site and bolster the visibility of artists in the region. As Richard Crossland, chairman of ABL Consulting, an art consultancy that brokered the UAE negotiations, recently explained to the Financial Times, ‘Charles represents an entrepreneurial approach to contemporary art which is

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Opposite: UK DJ David Newsum at the Lodge. He moved to Dubai in 2004. Below: Ali Ajami at Trilogy, where he is resident DJ.

Opposite: ‘Tarabish’, video installation, by Hilda Hiary. Above: ‘Templewall’ (left) and ‘Traces of Time’ (right), both tempera on transparent paper, by Eman Abdullah Mahmud.

not universally popular but is a rather good fit with the Middle Eastern way of doing things.’ ‘The Emirates’ deal with the Louvre demonstrates the extent of their move to become the artistic and cultural hub of the Middle East,’ Saatchi explains in an email interview. ‘And they would probably like to see the thousands of artists working in the whole region being able to use the site to display their work to a worldwide audience. We are perfectly happy that the Emirates would want to make a key part of the site focused on the Middle East with a fully interactive Arabic facility, like the one we developed for China.’ For art to sell, collectors need to see the work and know the artists’ names. Art fairs and big Biennials introduce dealers, collectors and critics to talent beyond their home bases, but most established artists tend to show in only a few regional spaces. As a result, the same names can usually be seen dominating the booths at the fairs or topping curators’ programmes. And artists living away from major cities such as New York, London or Los Angeles,

where the contemporary art world is centred, have less access to collectors who might be interested in their work. Moreover, dealers in these cities tend to limit their risktaking in new artists to the ones who are recommended by artists already on their roster, by their regular collectors or by people they know. The anecdotes about dealers signing up fresh artists who mail in slides or drop off images are

‘Charles Saatchi has an entrepreneurial approach to art which is a rather good fit with the Middle East.’ the stuff of legend in most major cities, precisely because this hardly ever happens. In contrast to the usual networks that artists use to gain access into the established art world, Saatchi Online offers a non-judgmental platform where artists at all levels can show. Artists post profiles consisting of one representative image of their art in a general unedited list, and then

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post a few images, an artist’s statement, CV and profile picture to introduce collectors to their work and themselves. Although much of the work, like many things advertised on the Internet, is of dubious quality, a striking number of compellingly talented artists have created profiles for themselves and launched careers by participating in Saatchi Online. According to Alexa Statistics, a service which ranks the top 100,000 websites, Saatchi Online ranks among the world’s top 300 most-frequented websites. By contrast, in December 2007 the Tate’s site ranked at 61,506, MoMa’s site ranked at 32,360 and Artnet, a rival site, came in at #19,242. Dealers and curators have plucked artists from Saatchi Online profiles to place in exhibitions, and artists have met one another by sending notes of appreciation via the site’s internal messaging service. ‘I decided to post on the Saatchi Online site mainly because I think that this platform offers a perfect way to reach a great number of people – fellow artists and people just interested in art,’ explains Iman Mahmud, an artist who was born in Baghdad, Iraq in 1956 and has lived in Munich since 1998. ‘And, of course, I want to use the platform to offer my work for possible exhibitions and to sell my paintings to amateur artists.’ Mahmud’s collages consist of layers of brightly colored and fine textured paper placed together in delicate flowing arrangements which she occasionally sculpts with gypsum. She also incorporates graffiti-inspired markings and calligraphic symbols in her constructions. ‘If you have something to say, say it,’ exclaims Sara Rahbar, a Tehran-born and New York-based artist who is gaining increasing international regard for her powerful and confrontational photographs, shot mostly in Iran. Unrepresented by a gallery, Rahbar manages herself and largely promotes her work through Saatchi Online. ‘All this waiting around for recognition stuff is nonsense,’ she says. Younger artists, such as Beirut-born and Londonbased fashion illustrator Caleen Ladki, see the site as a stepping stone directly towards professional goals which bypass the awkwardness and amateur status of a graduate show. ‘The reason I decided to make a profile with Saatchi Online,’ Ladki tells me through a message on the site, ‘is because as a young artist, I find it very hard without yet having finished my BA degree to get my work noticed. When I found out about the Saatchi Online gallery, I decided that it would be a great opportunity to display my work. I have actually had two companies contact me after checking out my gallery online. I had an offer in New York to exhibit my work, and I was asked to volunteer for an

exhibition in Berlin. These two positive responses encouraged me to hope that, one day, I will fulfill my goal of achieving artistic recognition and international exposure through my work.’


ut the most significant aspect of Saatchi Online is that the traffic on the site is not limited to curiosity or window-shopping. According to a Financial Times article published in October 2007: ‘A poll of 2000 of the 70,000 artists on the site estimated that Saatchi Online is now responsible for annualised art sales of $130m.’ Though the number of offsite sales it has generated positions Saatchi Online as a highly profitable potential business, Saatchi has specifically designed the site to be a non-commercial endeavour. Neither Charles Saatchi, the Saatchi Gallery, nor the site itself, accept advertising or take commissions from any sales made through the site’s services.

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Opposite: ‘Chaos’ by Caleen Ladki. Below: ‘Confused View’, also by Caleen Ladki.

Despite the enormous success of Saatchi Online, many art world insiders are unconvinced that the site really functions as an alternative to the quality control provided by traditional curated gallery exhibitions and educated consultants. Hilda Hiary, a Jordanian abstract painter represented by Dubai’s XVA gallery, explains her ambivalence about the site in an email stating that she decided to post on the site because, ‘my webmaster made it for me’. But she remains wary of its actual impact or potential benefit for her. ‘Honestly, I would prefer to be in the Saatchi Gallery in London, and not with the online artists, because I saw that all the world artists are there, even the beginners, and there is a lot of not very good art on the site.’

Saatchi Online offers a portal through which the world can view the region’s flowering art. Whether Saatchi Online can continue to function as a completely free service remains unknown. Nigel Hurst, managing director of the Saatchi Gallery, sketches a possible future business model for the site this way: ‘As a business, the site would need to take commission on art sales, and we have been thinking of ways of giving all the artists on the site a financial participation in any deal we do, in exchange for them to pay the site commission on their sales. If this was based on 15% to 20% commission it is still far less that the 50% commission that traditional dealers charge, and we think the artists would welcome benefiting financially from external financial investment. And, of course, everything that helps the site grow benefits the artists by creating an ever-widening global audience for their work.’

But the very aspects of the site that Hiary perceives as defects have enabled it to establish itself as one of the world’s most significant international art souks. Questions of quality are relative and artworld tastemakers’ preferences do not sufficiently reflect wider artistic interests, particular in regards to emerging art markets. Saatchi Online’s presence in China is a particularly striking example. For the past few years, China has increasingly cemented its position as the source of hot new market-friendly art in the auction-houses, galleries and commercial press. But the aesthetics of Chinese contemporary art are generally accessible to Western audiences. In fact, the most popular genre of Chinese contemporary art is called ‘cynical realism’ and juxtaposes and mixes Western-style pop art with references to contemporary Chinese politics. With its ad-quality allure and flashy appearance, this movement, mainly of painters, is attractive, but unchallenging, for Western collectors. But in perusing the enormous volume of profiles posted on Saatchi Online from Chinese artists, the depth, range and complexity of work being produced in the country becomes clearer. From the field on view through Saatchi Online, interested collectors from all over the world can garner a more nuanced and knowledgeable understanding of what Chinese art means, instead of being exposed only to the trends that travel through the international press and regional exhibitions. In the same way, Middle Eastern art has great potential to attract the world’s most significant collectors and art audiences. By focusing on the particular set of aesthetic and conceptual concerns that Middle Eastern artists address, Saatchi Online is poised to offer a portal through which the art world can travel to view the region’s flowering art scenes and acquire vibrant new art from its emerging practitioners. __ END

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Vanishing point As enthusiasm for contemporary Middle Eastern art reaches fever pitch, the region’s seminal earlier artists are all too often overlooked. Yet these were the catalysts for the current celebrated generation, the progenitors of a distinct modern tradition which dates from the late 19th century and follows a trajectory that traces the region’s waxing and waning political fortunes. Olivia Snaije catches the cultural wave.


o say contemporary art from the Middle East is a hot topic these days would be an understatement. From London to the Gulf and back again, art fairs, the media, auction houses and collectors are all scrambling to jump on the bandwagon to exhibit, write about or trade art that has a very strong story to tell. But what of the successive waves of regional art movements that have been ongoing since the end of the 19th century and were catalysts for the newer generation? For those who like to take an more academic approach to art, this frenzy is ignoring an important, earlier generation of painters and sculptors. Robin Start is a London gallery owner and consultant who deals in European Orientalist art, and has collected works from the Arab world for more than 30 years. He laments that influential artists from the Middle East who began painting in the late 19th century, such as the Lebanese Daoud Corm and later Paul Guiragossian, or Syrian artists from the 1960s, such as Fateh al-Moudarres and Louai Kayyali, are being forgotten. Until the late 19th century, painting in the Middle East had remained largely confined to Ottoman traditions. Most art historians agree that the history of modern painting in the Arab world began when a Western mode of technique and expression was adopted by Arab artists. They either studied abroad or attended art schools such as the School of Fine Arts in Cairo, which was opened in 1908 by a member of the Egyptian royal family and employed foreign artists as teachers. At the same time Europeans, fascinated by the Orient, were visiting the Arab world and establishing milieus where art could flourish. The invention of the camera in Europe aroused a growing interest in photography across the region: in Iran, where the last Qadjar emperor, Nasreddine Shah, was a patron of photography; in Egypt, where Mohammad Sadie Bey, an Egyptian army officer, began photographing Arabia as early as the 1860s; and in Turkey, where the Istanbul-born photographers Abdullah Freres had set up shop with an important branch in Cairo.

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Left: ‘Homage to Baghdad, Version F’ by Dia al-Azzawi.

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enetia Porter, the British Museum’s curator for Islamic art collections and contemporary art of the Middle East, bubbles with enthusiasm when describing the beginnings of the modern Arab art movement. ‘You find all over the Middle East that these artists went to study abroad; they came home, and no one really liked what they were doing. It was too abstract, so then they started to integrate their own cultural heritage with these European techniques and the results were absolutely fascinating. ‘At first they were less politically motivated and took inspiration from the past, having such a strong sense of heritage. They’ve got this fantastic well of incredible richness, some of which involves the Islamic or pre-Islamic past, such as artists in Egypt or Iraq. In Iraq, artists were sometimes studying antiquities in the museum.’ Saleh Barakat, a specialist in Pan-Arab art, who owns the Agial art gallery in Beirut, has written on the subject: ‘It is interesting to note that there are no religious or cultural barriers to the regional influences. Artists from Christian backgrounds worked with Islamic cultural heritage while others drew on iconography without being Christian. And

A creative momentum was fuelled by a search for national identity wedded to self-determined politics. both have worked with pagan pre-Islamic symbolism and were open to influences from Western modern art.’ In Egypt, the art scene really came alive at the beginning of the 20th century, particularly with the creation of sculptor Mahmoud Mukhtar’s pink granite statue, ‘Egypt Awakening’. It was considered a symbol of this Nahda, or renaissance of the arts. ‘He was trying to recreate ancient Egyptian sculpture,’ explains Porter. In the same vein, ‘Adam Henein’s work is extraordinary as well: his sculptures hark back to Ancient Egypt but are very modern too.’ Fast forwarding to the 1950s and 1960s, when several Arab countries had just gained independence from Europe, a creative momentum was fuelled by a search for national identity coupled with self-determined political movements. Morocco produced modernist painters such as Ahmed Cherkaoui and the Casablanca Ecole des Beaux



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Opposite: UK DJ David Newsum at the Lodge. He moved to Dubai in 2004. Below: Ali Ajami at Trilogy, where he is resident DJ.

From left: ‘Every day, Iraq’ by Kareem Risan. ‘Untitled Black’ by Massoud Arabshahi. ‘Untitled’ by Fateh al-Moudarres. ‘Letter 1960’ by Siah Armajani.

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Arts was confidently run by artists Farid Belkahia, Chebaa Mohamed and Mohamed Melehi. While in Iraq in the 1950s the Baghdad Modern Artists Group was created, with a coherent vision advocating modernity without renouncing Iraq’s cultural roots. Another turning point for artistic creativity in the Middle East was the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, says Porter. ‘After 1967 and the defeat of the Arab countries by Israel you find that something remarkable happened. It was such a shock; it created a huge debate among intellectuals and artists. They tried to create something very Arab. It had started before 1967: in the 1950s and 1960s there are very strong, open works but afterwards it created a movement where everyone was analysing and that’s when you get lots of writing in art.’ Porter also draws attention to the importance of calligraphy in modern and contemporary Middle Eastern art, an aspect she memorably explored with the British Museum’s immensely successful exhibition ‘Word into Art’ in 2006, a revised version of which recently opened at the

‘Contemporary art causes such excitement because it’s more easily sourced, there’s more of it and it’s cheaper.’ Dubai International Finance Centre. The revealing exhibition focuses on how Middle Eastern artists have used writing in modern and contemporary art over a period spanning some 40-odd years. Islamic norms prohibit the representation of living beings, so this use of the Arabic alphabet and calligraphy was connected, in part, to a revival of Islamic art, explains Porter. ‘But it wasn’t a pastiche, or revival art, it was part of their Arab-ness,’ she says. ‘It was searching for an identity which is a tendency that I think you still see today.’ Some of the older works in ‘Word into Art’ include two gouaches by Fateh al-Moudarres, who was greatly influenced by religious icon painting and sometimes used writing in his paintings, scratching them through the surface


From left: ‘Cairo Faces’ by Sabah Naim. ‘Plus Loin, Plus Vite’ by Mehdi Qotbi. ‘About Paradise’ by Khaled al-Saai. ‘Procession’ by Farid Belkahia.

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colour. Iranian artist Massoud Arabshahi’s mysterious 1986 mixed media evokes his ancient Iranian past, incorporating it into a modern work. While in his 1982 ‘Homage to Baghdad’, Dia Al Azzawi – an Iraqi painter and sculptor and former member of the Baghdad Modern Artists Group – recalls the city with colourful abstract shapes that evoke the forms of ancient sculptures.


ll-Moudarres, Arabshahi and Al Azzawi are just a few of the artists that Venetia Porter has brought to the British Museum collection. She is in large part responsible for developing the Museum’s contemporary collection from the Middle East – in the last year the Museum has made ten acquisitions – although she admits that she has ‘sort of done it backwards’. After her exhibition in 2006, which attracted 90,000 visitors in just three months, Porter says, ‘it showed there was such a need, such a thirst for this kind of art… I started to look at the trajectory that these artists had followed.’ While actively collecting contemporary art from the Mid-

dle East, the museum is interested in acquiring works from the 1950s and 1960s – ‘if we can afford them’. ‘The reasons for the froth of excitement in contemporary art are simple,’ says Robin Start. ‘It’s more easily sourced, there’s more of it and it’s cheaper.’ Both Porter and Robin Start agree that the major auction houses have realised that it’s not enough just to focus on the contemporary, and that they need to show work by Middle Eastern modernists as well. ‘Christie’s and Sotheby’s have been very diligent about finding earlier works,’ says Start. Indeed, in Sotheby’s Modern and Contemporary Arab and Iranian art sale in London last October, a good selection of modern art was included with sculptures by Mahmoud Moukhtar and Adam Henein, paintings by Louai Kayyali and Chafiq Abboud. ‘What’s been fantastic with these recent big auctions [of Middle Eastern art] is that there’s been a spotlight on this art, and young collectors from the region have fallen in love with modernists,’ says Porter. ‘They are responding to the beauty but it also touches where they come from.’ __ END

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Below: One of a series, Sara Rahbar constructed this American flag from strips of ornate antique MiddleEastern textiles, combining her textile expertise with her conceptual passions.

A woman of substance Sara Rahbar started out in fashion, but abandoned it as too trivial. Yet her background in fabric, texture and colour often play prominent roles in her varied, conceptual and politically charged work. Although many of her pieces are arrestingly beautiful, her fundamental goals are intellectual. ‘I am not an interior designer, and that’s what a lot of artists are these days,’ she tells Ana Finel Honigman. ‘My worst fear is to make decoration. If you want that, then go to Ikea, but don’t look to artists to make your house look pretty.’

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to live and our food hroughchoices reflect what are out cenlives are really like and turies of who we are.’ The other biblical ‘Sara’s work is packed with symbolism. Her images images in Rahbar’s exegesis, are reminiscent of Persian miniature paintings.’ ‘Oppression’ series of scholars and artists have self-portraits show herpondered the salient self posed in Khakhe Golestan wearing traditional Iranian image of Eve eating the apple. Considering ‘Genesis’ as a clothing. The images were taken by the Kurdish film-maker historical narrative, the forbidden fruit was unlikely to be a Hamid Ghavami and directed by film-maker Hosein shiny Macintosh, but was rather the infinitely more comGouchian and Farin Zahedi, the first female head of Tehran plex, poetic, sensual and regionally appropriate pomegranUniversity’s drama department. ‘I didn’t have an era in ate. mind,’ Rahbar explains of her aesthetic choices. ‘But I asked In ‘Oppression’, Sara Rahbar’s scintillating 24-part sefor very, very old garments. I put them on, lay on the floor ries of photographs, the Iranian-born artist depicts the and then took the photograph.’ sumptuous pomegranate as the source of knowledge. But Sara’s cousin, Sunny Rahbar, the director of the this time it is the wisdom and tradition of her Iranian heritDubai-based Third Line gallery, one of the premier tasteage that it embodies. maker contemporary art galleries in the Middle East, says of ‘For me, the pomegranate symbolises blood,’ Rahbar her cousin’s ‘Oppression’ series: ‘It is packed with symbolexplains over trout salad, cappuccinos and a herbed goat ism. They are reminiscent of Persian miniature paintings. cheese with pomegranate syrup that we share in Café The stories, though not always literal, are conveyed strongly Gitain – the Moroccan restaurant in Nolita which serves as through these meticulously staged photographs. Sara’s work a stylish canteen for Manhattan’s art and fashion commucontinues to mature as her visual language evolves and her nity. ‘The pomegranate is like a symbolic lifeline tracing me journey back to her roots continues to unravel.’ back to the poetry, art, roots and cultural heritage of Iran.’ In one image from ‘Oppression’, Rahbar’s hand is Born in Tehran in 1976, Rahbar left Iran with her family thrust from between folds of black fabric, as she clutches a when she was five years old. After training in fashion design papier mâché and brightly beaded version of the fruit. This at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, Rahbar pomegranate‘s artificial seeds are supernaturally red and went on to earn a masters degree in fine art at London’s plump, as if they were actually swollen with fresh blood prestigious Central Saint Martins College of Art and instead of infused with meaning through Rahbar’s connecDesign. After abandoning fashion as superficial, Rahbar retion to her cultural bloodline. directed her talents to film, photography, textile sculpture Rabhar’s firm hand gripping the pomegranate is one of and installation art. three images from her ‘Oppression’ series scheduled to be Reflecting her fashion background, fabric, touch and exhibited in Bastakiyah at the same time as the Art Dubai texture often play prominent roles in Rahbar’s work, but her Fair. The exhibition will include work by ten Western and intellectual foundations were ingrained at Saint Martins. Middle Eastern artists addressing the social, sensual and Though her work is verbally compelling, and her sensitivity symbolic significances of food. Though food is not central to colour and composition produces arrestingly beautiful to all of her work, Rahbar recognises its vast and varied metimages, her fundamental goals are intellectual. ‘I’ll never aphoric importance. ‘Food is life,’ she concurs. ‘We need it

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Opposite: One of 50 photographs from ‘Oppression Series 1’, taken by Hosein Gourchian. Left: One of 12 photographs from Rahbar’s ‘Oppression Series 2’, also taken by Gourchian. The shape beneath the material is the artist herself.

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ART 3 Right: In this image, Rahbar’s hand is thrust from between folds of black fabric, as she clutches a papier mâché and brightly beaded version of the pomegranate. ‘For me, the pomegranate symbolises blood,’ she says. ‘It is like a symbolic lifeline tracing me back to the poetry, art, roots and cultural heritage of Iran.’

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lectual and conceptual forget how my profespassions, Rahbar has sor there told me, “Put also produced a series a glass of water on a of American flags conshelf and back it up structed from strips of with text and argubeautifully ornate anments and you get an ‘I am not political. I cover contemporary events. I am tique Middle-Eastern A. Do a painting the not an activist. I am not anti-anything. I am only pro.’ textiles. Another series size of this classroom, of self-portraits show with no story, you fail.” Rahbar wearing variA pretty painting is deous flags as a hijab. sign.’ I am not an interior designer, and that’s what a lot of Yet Rahbar eloquently argues that she is not solely a artists are these days. My worst fear is to make decoration. political artist. ‘I am not political, I cover contemporary If you want that, then go to Ikea, but don’t look to artists to events. I am not an activist. I cannot be shuffled to different make your house look pretty,’ she declares. ‘My professor sides. I am not creating advertisements for one political said, “Use your head and make me think.” That is what I party or another. But I am not anti-anything. I am only always want to do.’ pro. I am pro-human rights and pro-women’s rights. I often get asked whether I am creating work that is anti-Iran or ne element that Rahbar wants viewers to anti-American, but I am not. All I am saying is that all this think critically about is the overt political is not working. And I am not contributing to it.’ message in much of her art. Rahbar’s conIn an interview with Neda Sarmast for, frontation of the war in Iraq at the Queens Rahbar elaborated on this point with the statement: ‘You Museum of Art Biennial was positively recan’t compare America with Africa or with Iran or any othviewed, and after her participation in the er culture. In the end we are all made up of the same fibre, high-profile group show she was selected from a pool of in the end we are all human; we lose sight of that so easily. highly qualified artists to become a ‘teaching artist’ and creI want to remind people of that, through my work.’ ate a solo show for the Museum. There she developed a room-sized installation addressYet despite rejecting chauvinistic notions, Rahbar is adaing the subject of war in the Middle East and also screened mantly attached to her native culture and yearns to connect ‘Nobody‘s Enemy’, a documentary she produced with with Iran. ‘My dream is to show in Tehran,’ she says. ‘It Neda Sarmast on the youth culture of Iran. The striking would mean closure for me. Whatever I do, I want to comphysical impact of the installation was described by critic plete it by showing it at the Museum of Modern Art in Martha Schwendener in the New York Times thus: ‘Just inTehran. But I am aware that you cannot show there unless side the entrance, a collaborative installation, “Nobody‘s your work is obviously apolitical. Friends keep reminding Enemy”, recreates the look of a living room in a Middle me that my interpretation of the work is irrelevant.’ And East war zone, with walls pockmarked by shrapnel, and furshe concludes with a wisdom that every artist understands: niture and carpets covered with dusty grime.’ ‘What matters is how my work is seen.’ __ END Combining her expertise with textiles and her intel-


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FAIR PLAYERS As the world’s eyes turn towards this year’s Dubai Art Fair – the biggest and most significant yet on many levels – Ana Finel Honigman profiles eight of its exhibitors: Patricia Millns, Halim Al-Karim, Huma Mulji, Yousef Ahmed, Laleh Khorramian, Simon Norfolk, Tarek Zaki and Lawrence Weiner.

PATRICIA MILLNS The elegant swooping curves and curling forms in Patricia Millns’ graceful paintings and silkscreens might appear ethereal, but they are deeply rooted in both Celtic Art and Islamic tradition. Millns is an artist from the UK who studied at Ulster College of Art and Design in Belfast, Ireland and focused on medieval illumination and early Celtic manuscripts before she became fascinated, 20 years ago, with the tradition of non-representational art and design in Islamic culture. Millns has travelled and exhibited extensively in the Middle East. She will show a special project for Art Dubai which will reflect her involvement with Middle Eastern art traditions. Millns’ art follows the same graceful spiritual trajectory through nonrepresentational art as such significant Western Abstract artists as Brice Marden and Cy Twombly, but Millns does not limit herself to canvases or indoors installations. Instead, she has created banner projects and public works that introduce her art into the environments which inspire it. Her work can be found in the collections of the British Museum, the Royal Commonwealth Society, the British Council, the Sainsbury Foundation and the United Nations.

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HALIM ALKARIM In Halim Al-Karim‘s lusciously hued abstract paintings and clay sculptures he employs colour and texture as gracefully as a a cakemaker drizzles sugar or a couturier drapes fabric. Al-Karim’s colours are rich and his pigments are dense, but his forms appear as weightless and sensual as diaphanous textiles. The cause for this compelling conundrum lies in the context to Al-Karim’s creations. Al-Karim, who currently resides in Amsterdam, left his native Iraq as a refugee. But instead of producing political work steeped in specific issues and tensions, he creates art with a timelessly cross-cultural appeal. Since completing his artistic training at the Baghdad Academy of Fine Arts, Al-Karim has had work exhibited and included in museum collections in the Netherlands, Dubai, Lebanon, Jordan and France. Last year, Al-Karim presented a large scale installation at the prestigious Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, in Colorado. The exhibition was inspired by Al-Karim’s time as a conscientious objector hiding in the desert with a Bedouin tribe who supported his refusal to join the Iraqi military effort. His ‘Passage of Summer’ appeared alongside recent images of Chechnya from former photo-journalist Christopher Morris’s book My America, and paintings by artist Kris Cox based upon beeswax, lead and wood putty. While the work appeared light, lovely and appealingly abstract, it was embedded with personal and political meaning. The show received widespread critical praise for Al-Karim’s defiant ability to produce beautiful objects during ugly times. For the Creek Art Fair, Art Dubai’s exciting new satellite fair organised by the XVA gallery, Al-Karim will show an original installation which will again embody his unique ability to enliven environments with ethereal beauty, which is nonetheless grounded by difficult worldly realities.

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HUMA MULJI Travel offers us the opportunity to go somewhere new. Often more powerfully, it also offers an escape from the mundane reality of our origins. In this spirit, Pakistaini artist Huma Mulji uses her extensive travel and cultural observations as the foundation for intellectual inquiry. Mulji trained as a sculptor, but currently works in photography, video and installation. As a contributor of work to Art Dubai’s special curated section, Mulji compares and contrasts the cultural factors that divide us with those that unite us, using humour as her primary medium. ‘Flight’, her 2003 video, was presented as an instruction manual on how to wear a headscarf for Western women travelling to Karachi from London. Her suggestions – which discuss vaious circumstances, countries and traditions – include overtly silly and sensational opinions that point up her wit and stance as a cross-cultural witness. A later self-portrait taken at a Lahore slaughterhouse, where she went to acquire camel skin, typifies a journalistic approach that roots her art in rational observation of travel’s new sights, stimuli and encounters.

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YOUSEF AHMED A centrepiece in the Fairmount Dubai Hotel, Art Space Gallery shows a chic, cosmopolitan selection of contemporary artists. Yousef Ahmed will represent the gallery’s sophisticated aesthetic at Art Dubai. By layering thread, varnish, paint and tissue-thin jewel-toned paper on canvas, the Qatar-born painter creates compellingly complex and attractive abstract works. His graceful geometric canvases were included in Christie’s Dubai office’s first auction, and have earned him the Grand Prize at the Bangladesh seventh Biennial of Asian contemporary Art and comparable honors including referee’s awards at the Cairo seventh Biennial and the 2000 Al Kharafi First International Biennial of Contemporary Arab Art in Kuwait. Ahmed also was given special recognition at the third Sharjah Biennial, which was presented by HH Sheikh Dr Sultan Al Qasimi, Sharjah’s ruler. Schooled in Cairo and California, Ahmed designed and supervised the gift presented to the United Nations by the State of Qatar. His contribution to Art Dubai will undoubtably redemonstrate his creative generosity.

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LALEH KHORRAMIAN Laleh Khorramian’s lush, majestic animated imagery has seduced international viewers, critics, curators and dealers. Set to idiosyncratic scores, Khorramian’s figures morph and merge with their environments. Opulent, sleek, comical and emotionally disarming, her animation is rich with allusions to fellow artists ranging from Jean Cocteau to Francis Bacon to William Kentridge. Born in Tehran, Khorramian studied at the Rhode Island School of Design and the Art Institute of Chicago, and received her MFA from Columbia University. For P.S.1’s highly regarded ‘Greater New York 2005’ exhibition, Khorramian screened ‘Sophie and Goya’, one part of her animated series. The second episode, ‘Chopperlady’, was shown in her first solo exhibition at New York’s prestigious Salon 94. She followed that with a series of group shows in top Western and Middle Eastern galleries including Beirut’s Galerie Sfeir-Semler and Dubai’s the Third Line. She is represented by Salon 94 in New York, and the Third Line in Dubai, who will show her work in their booth at Art Dubai. .

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SIMON NORFOLK Simon Norfolk was born in Lagos, but now lives in Brighton. After earning degrees in philosophy and sociology at Bristol and Oxford University and studying documentary photography in Wales, Norfolk left academia to work as a photo-journalist with English antiracist and anti-fascist publications. By the 1990s, Norfolk decided to focus his attention on the superficially apolitical and universally engaging subject of landscape photography. But instead of putting aside his political convictions, Norfolk brought his deep emotional and intellectual commitment to representing atrocities and injustices to his chosen subject matter. His 1998 monograph, ‘For Most Of It I Have No Words: Genocide, Landscape, Memory’, presented his three years of work photographing sites of genocide or mass slaughter throughout the world. Among his photographs are explicit scenes of genuine horror. But at first glance, many of the images of Cambodia, Rwanda, Vietnam, Auschwitz, Ukraine, Dresden and Armenia appear benignly beautiful, even though they are haunted by the bestial cruelty and human depravity they have seen and endured. At Art Dubai, New York’s Bonni Benrubi Gallery, which specialises in 20th-century photography, will display a selection of Norfolk’s apparently idyllic but over-archingly somber landscapes.

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Left: Alexandria’s corniche, viewed from the sea, with the Mosque of Abu Al Abbas Mursi in the centre. Below: Looking out at the city across the sea, from the corniche.

reat expectations A classical centre of culture and learning, Alexandria was once the only city wealthy and powerful enough to challenge the might of Rome. Alas, its more recent history has been less impressive, but there are signs that the ghosts of the past are finally giving way to the spirit of the future, writes Andrew Humphreys. PHOTOGRAPHER: CLAUDE STEMMELIN

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ne of the most unexpected results of the success of the novel The DaVinci Code may turn out to be a surge of interest in the one major Egyptian city that isn’t laden with a dazzling Pharaonic heritage, Alexandria. Dan Brown’s lucrative paranoid-mysticalhistory-conspiracy thriller predictably inspired a rash of imitators. What was less foreseeable was that two of these copycat books would revolve around this long-neglected Mediterranean port. But if ever there was a city to inspire flights of fantasy, this is it.

It’s not so much what is here, as what’s not. Beyond a gracefully arcing Corniche strung with an architectural mix of 19th-century pearls and modern concrete excrescences, Alexandria is a congested and undistinguished modern city of four million. There’s no sign of the grand metropolis founded by Alexander the Great and his successors, the Ptolemies. This was the capital of Cleopatra, a centre of culture and learning, and the only city wealthy and powerful enough to pose a military threat to the Rome of the Caesars. It was home of the legendary Library of Alexandria (‘vanished without trace 1500 years ago,’ reads the back cover of New York Times bestseller The Alexandria Link,

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Clockwise from top left: The Alexandria corniche. The marble statue of the god Serapis at the National Museum of Alexandria. The museum is housed in a two-storey Italianate villa formerly occupied by the US consulate. More relics from the city’s golden past in the museum’s small but beautifully presented collection.

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taking with it ‘a truth that, if revealed, will have grave consequences for the balance of world power’) and the Pharos, a skyscraping lighthouse, counted as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The city’s Macedonian founder was buried here, too, and it’s the chance discovery of his genuinely long lost tomb that’s the plot trigger in Will Adams’s The Alexander Cipher: ‘Then a construction crew unknowingly rip open the mouth of an Alexandrian catacomb and trigger a deadly race for the greatest treasure of all time.’ The thing is, it could happen. In the 1970s a wedding procession through the streets ended in disaster when the bride was reputedly swallowed up by a hole that suddenly opened in the ground beneath her. She was never found. More recently, in 1997 contractors ploughing a highway through the western suburb of Gabbari unearthed a 1600-year-old catacomb. Everyone supposed ancient Alexandria was destroyed but, actually, when you walk on the pavements, it’s just below your feet. The heart of the city is Mahattat Ramla, from where the rattling, salt-corroded trams set out east and west. It’s overlooked by the Trianon Café, whose sun-bleached awnings shade dusty window displays of chocolate boxes and where, in rooms above, civil servant and poet of the city, Constantine Cavafy, once worked. Until they were made gifts of by ruler Mohammed Ali in the mid-19th century, in front of this building once stood the twin obelisks that now, separated, grace the Thames in London and New York’s Central Park. In ancient times the pair fronted the Temple

of Augustus, dedicated to Caesar Augustus, Mark Antony’s conqueror, but now there’s nothing to say it ever was there. Just up the street, a team of archaeologists were permitted to dig an empty plot for evidence for a spell, until time was called by developers who quickly built a shopping mall on the site. Such has been the fate of ancient Alexandria.


hat may be changing. At a conference held in the city last year, Dr Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s antiquities supremo and bulldozing cultural figurehead, spoke of the rehabilitation of Alexandria’s rich past. The first step towards this goal was taken six years ago with the opening of the $220 million Bibliotheca Alexandrina, a spanking new library to replace the one lost 17 centuries earlier. Designed by Norwegian architectural practice Snøhetta, it’s a symbolic sun-like disk in steel, glass and stonecladding rising beside the Eastern Harbour. Never mind that the shelf space for eight million books remains largely unoccupied and the immense (and immensely empty), terraced reading room instead serves as the world’s biggest Internet café, it’s always thronged by students from neighbouring Alexandria University. (First-time visitors should head for the basement museum and the startling GraecoRoman mosaic depicting a dog with a red collar, uncovered by contractors digging foundations for the library.) Since then, there’s been another museum, the National Museum of Alexandria, a grand title for a modest, though

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Clockwise from top left: A salt-ravaged tram stops at Midan Ramleh. Discussing business outside the antique shops of Attarine. A mural at the fish market.

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beautifully presented collection, housed in a two-storey Italianate villa formerly occupied by the US Consulate. But the best may be yet to come. The conference at which the outspoken Hawass preached his vision for Cleopatra’s old hometown also unveiled a fantastical new scheme for what’s claimed will be the world’s first underwater museum. The sea has been kinder than man in preserving ancient remains and, since the early 1990s, teams of scuba-diving archaeologists have found thousands of pieces of masonry, columns, statues and sphinxes littering the bottom of the sea. The outlandish designs presented by French underwater architect Jacques Rougerie – the ‘heir to Jules Verne and Captain Nemo,’ says Hawass – have a waterfront portal connecting by tunnel to a circular, underwater viewing chamber that overlooks a seabed ‘statue garden’.

Clockwise from above: The new Four Seasons Hotel Alexandria. Sofianopopoulo Coffee Store on Sharia Saad Zaghloul. A fish seller. The new Bibliotheca Alexandrina, which has shelf space for eight million books. Pastroudis on Sharia Fuad, and the Cecil Hotel, both made famous by Gerald Durrell’s bittersweet The Alexandria Quartet. Antique shops in Attarine.


n altogether different sign of the city’s resurgence is the sumptuous new Four Seasons Hotel Alexandria, opened late last year with guest rooms designed by Pierre Yves Rochon, six restaurants and a fourth-floor, circular infinity pool. A yachting marina will be added in front. Beneath the hotel is a grand new mall complete with cinema, and branches of Starbucks and spiffy local equivalent, Cilantro. Like everything in this layered city, the mall squats squarely on history; in this case it covers the site of the San Stefano Hotel, a belle époque grande dame constructed in 1887 and modelled on the seaside resorts of the FrancoBelgian coast. But the younger generation of Alexandrians who fill the tables in the new mall’s food court, surreptitiously flirting via Bluetooth, are largely oblivious of the city’s European past – the Europe they’re interested in is the one of skinny lattes, Armani and Radiohead downloads. Pastroudi’s, the Greek café made famous by Lawrence Durrell’s bittersweet paean to the city, The Alexandria Quartet, survives, but what used to be its main entrance has been bricked up and fitted with an ATM. Back at Mahattat Ramla, that other Quartet landmark, the Cecil Hotel, now managed by the Sofitel group, remains in rude health; light sleepers on the lower floors are kept awake weekend nights by the noise from the first-floor disco. But peace reigns on the roof terrace, where an average Chinese meal is greatly improved by the uninterrupted view out over the oval-shaped Eastern Harbour. Far out to the left is the 14th-century Fort of Qaitbey, raised on the base of the Pharos lighthouse; off to the right is the new library. Somewhere in between is the site of the proposed new underwater museum. Looking out into the darkness, it is not only the past that lies below; it is the future too. __ END

Where to go Four Seasons Hotel Alexandria San Stefano Mall, 399 El Geish Road Tel: +20 (3) 581 8000 National Museum of Alexandria Fuad Street (Tariq al-Horreyya)

Sofitel Cecil Alexandria 16, Saad Zagloul Square Pastroudis Raml Station 9 El Horreya Road

Bibliotheca Alexandrina Chatby

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he railroad less travelled Travelling from Damascus to Tehran by rail is a journey not to be taken lightly. The train cuts across the Syrian plains to the east of Turkey, where the rails run out at the shores of the great Lake Van. Next comes five hours on a ferry to Van itself, then another train to the icy Azerbaijani city of Tabriz, and onwards, turning southeast, to journey’s end. It takes 60 hours on a good trip – and might involve a brush with Syrian intelligence. But what an experience. Nadim Bou Habib takes his camera along for the ride.

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Opposite page: The steam locomotive on the famous Hedjaz narrow-gauge railway. This page, left: Pulling into Aleppo. Top left and above: Passing by olive trees outside Aleppo, heading towards the Syrian plains.

Travelling by rail out of Damascus is a fairly straightforward affair. As a photographer driven by a love of travel, I had to make a choice between two railway lines: the 60hour journey east across Syria through Turkey to Iran, or west to Istanbul. When I thought about it, travelling to Istanbul would be just another normal tourist trip, while going to Iran appealed to the adventurous side of me; this would truly be a journey off the beaten track. I planned the trip carefully for two months, studying the history of the famous narrow-gauge Hedjaz railway, which used to run across the Ottoman Empire, and the line that I was to take, which was built in the 1970s.

At six in the morning on the day of departure, I begin my journey at the Adam station, three kilometres outside Damascus. I climb into one of the few passenger coaches, which were built in former East Germany and can be transformed into basic sleeping cars; the rest of the coaches are for freight. Pulled by an American diesel locomotive, the train heads due north towards Homs and Hama, stopping in Aleppo to load meals and merchandise. While we wait, I have to contend with Syrian intelligence, who arrest me for an hour: because of my camera, they are convinced that I’m a spy. Once I show them my papers Dining at the InterContinental Vendome in Ain el Mreisse, overlooking the seafront.

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Above left: Passengers in the Syrian train. Below left: The train arrives in Tatvan, alongside the massive Lake Van. Above: the railway stops at the lake, so everyone clambers aboard the connecting ferry, stepping into the lifeboat for a photograph first. Below right: Leaving the dock. Above right: Five hours later, slipping past snowy mountains, the ferry arrives in the city of Van.

and the photos stored in my digital camera, all doubts disappear and we part the best of friends. The train passes row after row of olive trees, then cuts across the Syrian plains leading to the Kurdish region of Afrin and the Turkish border in Midane Akbass, where we spend three hours at passport control. People are used to my camera by now and generously invite me to drink coffee with them, curious about the purpose of my voyage. The train then chugs over the Kurdish mountains of Turkey, as low clouds hang overhead, and into the night, passing through the villages of Elizik and Malatia. This old train is uncomfortable, and I’m glad I packed my own snacks because the food is nothing to write home about. The next day the stations of Yurt, Suveren and Turna stream by before we reach the eastern Anatolian city of Tatvan, alongside Lake Van, the largest in Turkey. Lake Van is huge. Its circumference is some 5000

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kilometres, so rather than building tracks all the way around the rugged shoreline, the railway connection between Turkey and Iran is, in fact, a train ferry across the lake. While a sealed Syrian baggage carriage is transferred into the hold of the ferry, we passengers disembark from the train and clamber on board. Five hours later, gliding slowly by snow-capped mountains, the ferry arrives in the city of Van itself, where the Iranian train is waiting. To my utter surprise, the Iranian train is modern, with sparkling soundproof windows and flat-screen televisions in the sleeping compartments. I eat a warm meal of chicken and rice in the dining car, and by nine o’clock the next morning, the train pulls into Tabriz, an icy Azerbaijani city in northern Iran. From there, the train heads southeast to its final destination: the megalopolis of Tehran, where another friendly welcome awaits. __ END

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Top left: A peek into the Van ferry’s wheelhouse. Top and above: The waiting train on the Iranian side is strikingly modern, complete with flat-screen TVs and soundproof windows. Left: Heading towards the dining compartment for a hot meal of chicken and rice.

Slow train coming: From Damascus to Tehran The weekly train service between Damascus and Tehran consists of Pullman and sleeping cars from Damascus to Tatvan in Turkey, then couchette cars from Van to Tehran. It leaves Damascus on Monday and arrives in Tehran on Thursday. Some food is provided on the Damascus-Van leg, but it’s poor quality – passengers should provide for themselves. Good, warm meals are served in the dining compartment of the Iranian train from Van to Tehran. The 60-hour (or more) journey costs about $35. Entry visas are required for Syria, except for citizens of all Arab states, Gulf Emirates and Sultanates. Entry visas are required for Iran, except for nationals of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovenia and Turkey for stays of up to three months. Syrian train site: Iranian train site:

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The villas and suites sit between the sandy beach and mountains.

A SENSE OF PLACE The Six Senses Hideaway on Oman’s Musandam Peninsula is a contemporary mix of traditional architectural styles and luxurious modern comforts.

Situated in a secluded fishing village on the Sultanate of Oman’s northern Musandam Peninsula is the Six Senses Hideaway Zighy Bay. The 82 pool villas and pool villa suites are located between the sandy beach and the mountains, capturing the best of Oman’s natural beauty. The Six Senses villas are a contemporary and innovative architectural mix: they blend the surrounding Omani traditional style with modern amenities, providing luxury and comfort with a local cultural flavour. The entrance to the spa is through a grotto-like tunnel – the path is made of stepping-stones over water – leading to the spa reception. The Six Senses Spa has nine treatment rooms, three of which have outdoor showers, baths and relaxation areas. All treatment rooms have day beds built into wall recesses and mountain views. Designed and built to reflect the typical Omani style and aesthetic traditions of the region, the Six Senses Spa at Zighy Bay is an oasis of calm on the bay.

Above: The Six Senses’ restaurant. Others: The style of the complex is a modern take on the local architecture.

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were dredged from the sea as part of the land reclamation for the project. The next phase involves handing over the 300 man-made islands to developers for construction and the building of infrastructure. Purchasing a country is by invitation only, with 60% of the islands already sold by January 2008. The price typically ranges from $15 to $50 million per island – although one currently costs $250 million.

B. Istithmar goes to Washington

TRAVELLERS TO SWITCH ON Almost half of frequent flyers in the Middle East want the freedom to use mobile phones on board, according to a new YouGovSiraj study of business and leisure travel trends called Travel Tracker. The MENA-wide survey found just one in ten travellers would like to see mobiles remain switched off during flights. Western surveys indicate that many people are vehemently against the idea, others say they would welcome the opportunity to text, access the Internet, or make calls. Airlines have decided to test the market before deciding how and when to allow phones to be used. Jazeera Airways, however, has already announced plans to equip its entire fleet with state-of-the-art technology which enables travelers to use their mobile phones, Blackberrys and email on board in 2009.

Istithmar Hotels, part of the Dubai government-owned Istithmar investment house, plans to open a W hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington DC. Located directly across the street from the White House, one of its closest neighbours will be the President of the United States. W Washington DC will boast 317 luxurious guest rooms, including 32 suites, a spectacular rooftop bar and terrace and a world-class signature restaurant. Istithmar is already the owner of Hotel Washington, an iconic building in the US capital which is currently being converted into a contemporary W hotel, and is scheduled to open next year.

Banyan Tree earmarks Saraya Banyan Tree has signed a management agreement to operate a resort in one of the four islands in the Saraya Islands mixed-use project in the Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, UAE. This is Banyan Tree’s twelfth flag in its portfolio of upcoming properties in the Middle East and will complement its current desert resort development in the Emirate. The strategy for Ras Al Khaimah is to offer guests an Arabian desert experience and an exceptional beach resort within a stone’s throw of each other. The project consists of four natural islands and a village, occupying a five-and-a-half-kilometre stretch of land. Saraya Islands will boast six premium fivestar hotels and resorts, a marina, palatial villas, lagoon view townhouses, waterfrontterraced apartments, exotic bungalows, high quality retail, restaurants and entertainment outlets as well as sports facilities.




A. The World is complete

C. Mövenpick’s Egypt move

The final stone on the breakwater for The World islands in Dubai was laid in January marking the completion of the first phase of the development, which began back in September 2003. A total of 34 million tonnes of rock was used to construct the 27kilometre breakwater which surrounds the islands, and 320 million cubic metres of sand

The Swiss premium hotel company Mövenpick has just signed a management agreement with Integrated Development and Tourism Investment (IDTI) for two upscale hotel projects in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. Both holiday resorts are already under construction and are scheduled to open by 2008 and 2009.

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MARKET MAKER Kamal Mouzawak founded Souk El Tayeb, Lebanon’s first farmer’s market, in a belief that food creates deep social ties. It is ‘what unites us’, he says. Olivia Snaije meets him.

‘It’s all about the Proust’s madeleine in each of us. For five million Lebanese in Lebanon, and 15 million around the world, it’s not their language, history, costume or architecture that they get nostalgic about; it’s the kibbeh, tabbouleh and those huge red tomatoes that grandpa used to talk about.’ This is Kamal Mouzawak’s theory, and the underlying vision behind Souk El Tayeb, Lebanon’s first farmer’s market and Mouzawak’s projet de vie, or life project. The journalist, chef and television personality founded Souk El Tayeb in May 2004, providing first Beirut and then, as the markets expanded, other towns in Lebanon with a mouthwatering and joyful respite from an unending string of political and social woes. In a Lebanon that is confessional and sectarian, Mouzawak prefers to focus on ‘what unites us’. Sitting in his apartment in an old building in Gemmayze, Beirut – it has pistachio green walls and an exquisite blend of furniture – Mouzawak explains that he wants to use food as a means of bringing people together. The starting point for him is the land and the products that come from it. Mouzawak grew up within a family of farmers who were passionately rooted to their land just north of Beirut; his grandmother’s cooking uniting them all. His ingrained respect for farmers might explain his fierce desire that the Souk El Tayeb association remains independent, showcasing only local products. Mouzawak is also determined to ignore politics. As a result, he finds himself alternately approached by a division of Hezbollah to offer advice and to participate in a local market, while he is also organising a kibbeh festival in Ehden, a Christian stronghold in the mountains. Anyone who knows Lebanon instantly associates the territory with wonderful food. Like most Mediterranean countries, fresh, high quality produce is the key to turning out delicious meals, magical in their simplicity, yet

Clockwise from top: Kamal Mouzawak; kebbeh; Rima Massoud, from Ramlieh, Chouf, serves organic man’oucheh; producers from the women’s food processing coop in Wadi el Taim, Rachaya; wild watercress; Abou Brahim and the best of Rachaya and Jabal el-Cheikh.

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‘People have no religion or colour for me. They have convictions.’

complex in flavour. In Lebanon the tastes of zaatar, the wild regional thyme, orange blossom and rose water, olives, molasses, tomatoes, figs, grapes and sheep cheeses are unforgettable – these are the ingredients (when in season) that can be found in Souk El Tayeb’s Saturday market in Saifi Village, where local farmers, artisans and producers come together to sell their products. Mouzawak put his keen marketing skills and contacts to use, resulting in Souk El Tayeb receiving funding from USAid, European governments and NGOs, allowing the association to launch a variety of initiatives. With the help of the Swiss government, it publishes a quarterly newsletter – on recycled paper, of course. Souk El Tayeb features a school programme that is designed to raise children’s awareness of healthy food and culinary traditions. It also runs a fledgling bimonthly farmer’s exchange programme, launched this February, which aims to give recognition to small-scale farmers and producers of high quality food, wherever they are. Lebanese farmers and producers will visit other countries and farmers, sharing their experiences. They will stay with their hosts, helping them on the farm, visiting the area and presenting their food in tastings, cookery classes and workshops. They will then, in turn, host farmers from abroad. So far, Mouzawak has established contacts with the Green Market in New York, Galway Market in Ireland, Amsterdam’s Farmer’s Market and markets in Syria and Jordan. A book on farmer’s markets around the world is in the works as well. All, however, is not always rosy. ‘We are building awareness step by step,’ says Mouzawak. ‘Then you have a war or an assassination and you have to start all over again. It’s been extremely difficult but I don’t think about it. I have blinkers like a donkey and I forge ahead. If I didn’t truly believe in it I couldn’t do it.’

The idea that food creates deep social ties in Lebanon is not new, and has been examined in depth by Aida Kanafani-Zahar, a Franco-Lebanese writer and researcher with the CNRS (French National Centre for Scientific Research) – notably in a fascinating case study of a village in which women from both Maronite Christian and Shi’ite Muslim backgrounds collaborate with the harvest and other food-related preparations. These social ties are essential to the Souk el Tayeb concept, as is the emphasis on community. Mouzawak, who often hosts representatives from Italy’s Slow Food group when they visit Lebanon (he is a Slow Food board member himself ), is careful to keep his projects local. ‘I want to build locally,’ he says, ‘and to be part of an international network – but to have our own name from Lebanon.’ He is also a staunch supporter of the little people. He is not involved in Lebanon’s healthy wine industry ‘because if they’re already on the international market then they don’t really need us.’ Ditto for companies like Mymoune, which have achieved international success with their natural flower water, jams and dried fruits. Mouzawak has another more ambitious project up his sleeve, which he is about to launch, called Communal Homes of Tradition/Beit Loubnan. These will be centres located in Lebanese villages and regions characterised by traditional arts and crafts, architecture, agriculture and food. The aim is to revive disappearing traditions and provide a wide range of services, such as bed and breakfasts, traditional specialities to be served in restaurants, fresh produce and local crafts. ‘People have no religion or colour for me,’ says Mouzawak. ‘People have convictions. If they have the same conviction, then we can work together.’ __ END

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In the 1990s the 100-year-old Café Riche in Cairo was closed for almost ten years, during which time it was rumoured to open once every year. After extensive renovations it finally reopened in 2000 and has become once again a classic Cairo hangout. For over 50 years, the Café Riche was the social headquarters for the literary, musical and theatre communities in Cairo. Taha Hussein launched the literary magazine Al-Katib Al-Misri there and Naguib Mahfouz held his Friday literary gatherings at one of its tables. After its Greek owner Mikhail Nicola Politis introduced musical entertainment in 1915, Oum Kalsoum held her first public appearance here; and Gamal Abdul-Nasser is said to have to have partially hatched the 1952 plot to overthrow King Farouk here as well. Today portraits of its famous patrons line the walls of this typically early 20th century European-style café and restaurant. The menu has remained the same too – French-influenced Egyptian food is served as well as beer and wine. 17 TALAAT HARB STREET, CAIRO, EGYPT +20 2 392 9793

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Just 340 km south of Tehran lies Iran’s third largest city, Isfahan. One of the world’s most flourishing cities between the 11th and 18th centuries, it is still possible today to understand why the Persian proverb, ‘Isfahan is half of the world’ was coined. The city has retained some of its past glory in the form of Islamic architecture, covered bridges, palaces, minarets and mosques, as well as some pre-Islamic monuments, even if much of its heritage is endangered by construction in the name of ‘modernity’. A room looking on to the garden courtyard is the way to go at the Abassi Hotel, which affords a full view of the magnificent yellow-and-turquoise dome of the Madrassah Chahar Bagh. The Abassi Hotel was originally built as a caravanserai during the Safawid dynasty in the 16th century and was restored in the 1960s as the luxury Hotel Shah Abbas. After Iran’s 1979 revolution the name was changed to Abassi. The hotel has all the usual luxury amenities, plus a breathtaking Persian garden, complete with a stream, fountains, flower gardens, trees and a traditional teahouse. WWW.ABBASIHOTEL.COM

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a b c


Alberta Ferretti LONDON (UK) 205 Sloane Street SW1X 9QX Tel: +44 20 7235 2349 DUBAI (UAE) Saks Fith Avenue Burjuman Centre Tel: +971 4 332511 KUWAIT Al-Thuraya Mall Tel: +965 572 922/3/4 BEIRUT (LEB) Joseph Eid Femme Karam Building Tel: +9611 203300/1/2/3 www.albertaferretti. com

Betsey Johnson LONDON (UK) 106 Draycott Avenue Ground Floor SW3 3AE United Kingdom Tel: +44 20 7591 0005 KUWAIT Al Ostoura Laila Galleria, 1st Floor Salem Al Mubarak Street Salmiya MANAMA (BAH) Seventh Heaven 1st Fl. Bld. 471 Rd. 3209 Kuwaiti Ave. Tel: +4417 582717

Alexander McQueen LONDON (UK) 5 Old Bond St London, W1S 4PD Tel: +44 20 7355 0088 DUBAI (UAE) Emirates Tower Shopping Boulevard Tel: +917 4 319 8999

Bod Amr RIYADH (KSA) DNA Tel: +966 14199966 LONDON (UK) Harvey Nichols 09-125 Knightsbridge Tel: +44 20 7235 5000

Alice Temperley LONDON (UK) 6-10 Colville Mews Lonsdale Road London W11 2DA Tel: + 44 207 229 7957 www.temperleylondon. com


Balenciaga DUBAI (UAE) Emirates Tower Shopping Boulevard Tel: +917 4 319 8999 KUWAIT Al-Ostoura Sahab Tower Salhiya Complex Tel: +965 246 7871 Beatrix Ong LONDON (UK) IV Burlington Arcade Mayfair W1J 0PD Tel: +44 207 499 4089

Bulgari DUBAI (UAE) Mall Of The Emirates Tel: +971 434 106 62 LONDON (UK) 168 New Bond Street London W1 Tel: +44 20 7314 9343 Burberry Prorsum DUBAI (UAE) Deira City Centre Tel: +971 4 295 347 Mall of the Emirates Tel: +971 4 340 5559 ABU DHABI (UAE) Marina Mall Tel: +971 2 2681 5419 KUWAIT Arraya Mall Tel: +965 299 7622 LONDON (UK) 21-23 New Bond Street London W1 Tel: +44 20 7968 0000


Cartier KUWAIT Salhiya Complex Tel: +965 2408471 DOHA (QATAR) Royal Plaza Tel: +974 4 131 381 BEIRUT (LEB) 71 Al Moutrane Street Tel: +9611 972600 ABU DHABI (UAE) Hamdan Street Tel: +917 2 627 0000 DUBAI (UAE) Emirates Towers Tel: +917 4 33 000 34 Burjaman Centre Tel: +917 4 355 35 33 Cesare Paccioti LONDON (UK) 8A Sloane Street Tel:+44 207 2353393 DUBAI (UAE) Burjuman Centre Tel: +971 43519292 DOHA(Qatar) Land Mark Shopping Centre Tel: +974 4887227 Chanel LONDON (UK) 173 New Bond Street London, W1S 4RF Tel: +44 207499 0005 DUBAI (UAE) Wafi Mall Tel: +971 3240464 KUWAIT Villa Moda Tel: +965 4827 004 Chopard DUBAI (UAE) Burj Al Arab Tel: + 971 (4) 3489 595 SHARJAH (UAE) Seddiqi Sharjah City Center Tel: + 971 (6) 5326 668 LONDON (UK) 12 New Bond Street London, W1 Tel: +44 20 7409 3410

Christian Dior DUBAI (UAE) Saks Fifth Avenue Burjuman Centre Tel: +917 4351 5551/980 KUWAIT Villa Moda Tel: +965 4827 004 DOHA (QATAR) Villa Moda Tel: +974 444 3939 Christian Louboutin LONDON (UK) 3 Motcomb St, Tel: +44 02 72456510 KUWAIT AlOthaman Maryam Complex Salem Al Mubarak Street Salmiya 22057 Tel: +965 5754954 RIYADH (KSA) DNA Tel:+966 14199966 Corto Moltedo LONDON (UK) Joseph 305 Brompton Road Brompton Cross SW3 2DY Tel: +44 20 7581 5211 DUBAI (UAE) Saks Fifth Avenue Burjman Centre Unit 201 Tel: +97143515551


Dolce & Gabbana DUBAI (UAE) Mall of the Emirates Tel: +971 4 341 0626 KUWAIT Villa Moda Tel: +965 482 7004 LONDON (UK) 6-8 Old Bond Street Tel: +44 (0)20 7201 0980 D&G LONDON (UK) 53-55 New Bond Street London, W1S 1DG Tel: 020 7495 9250


Elie Saab DUBAI (UAE) Boutique 1, Emirates Tower Tel: +971 4 3304555 DOHA (QATAR) The Ritz Carlton Tel: +974 483 3556 KUWAIT Salmiya 22057 Tel: +965 5754954/5 Emanual Ungaro KUWAIT Mariam Shopping Mall Salem Al Mubarak Street Salmiya Tel: +965 574 4332 DUBAI (UAE) Burjuman Centre Tel: +971 3557922 BEIRUT (LEB) Rue Omar Daouk Minet El Hosn Bad Idriss Tel: +961 1974 640 Etro LONDON (UK) 14 Old Bond Street London W1 Tel:0207 495 5767 DUBAI (UAE) Burjuman Shopping Mall Tel: 00971 3513737 KUWAIT Villa Moda Tel: +965 482 7004


Giambattista Valli LONDON (UK) 24-27 South Molton Street W1K 5RD Tel: +44 20 7514 0016 www.giambattistavalli. com Gina LONDON (UK) 9 Old Bond Street London W1S 4PJ Tel: +44 020 7409 7090

Dries Van Noten

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Giorgio Armani DUBAI (UAE) 20, G.Floor, Emirates Tower Shopping Boulevard at Jumeirah Tel: +971-04-3300447 BEIRUT (LEB) Alemby Street, Central District Solidère Tel: +045223363 Givenchy DUBAI (UAE) Mall of the Emirates Tel: +971 4 340 0347 KUWAIT Salhiya Complex Tel: +965 240 6771 LONDON (UK) Harvey Nichols Tel: +44 20 7235 5000 De Grisogono KUWAIT Salhiya Complex Tel: +965 243 2222 Gucci LONDON (UK) 34-36 Old Bond Street, London W1 Tel: +44 207 629 2716 BAHRAIN Al A’li Shopping Complex Tel: +973 1 758 1800 KUWAIT Villa Moda, Shuwaikh Tel: +965 482 7004 DOHA (QATAR) Villa Moda, The Ritz Carlton Tel: +974 483 3556 DUBAI (UAE) Emirates Towers Tel: +971 4 330 3313 Mall of the Emirates Tel: +971 4 341 0669 Guiseppe Zanotti LONDON (UK) 206 Walton Street London SW3 2JL Tel: +44 207 591 3900


Hussein Chalayan KUWAIT Al Osutura Tel: + 965 574 2793 LONDON (UK) Liberty 214-220 Regent Street Tel: +44 20 7734 1234 www.husseinchalayan. com


Iradj Moini at Kabiri LONDON (UK) 37 Marylebone High Street London W1U Tel: +44 20 7224 1809 Issa LONDON (UK) Harrods 87-135 Brompton Road London SW1 Tel: +44 20 7730 1234 DUBAI (UAE) Boutique 1, Emirates Tower Tel: + 971 4 3304555 KUWAIT Al Othman Tel: +965 266 3366


Jean Paul Gaultier LONDON (UK) 171-175 Draycott Avenue SW3 3AJ Tel: +44 207 584 4646 www.jeanpaulgaultier. com JC De Castelbajac LONDON (UK) Twosee London 17 Monmouth Street WC2H 9DD www.jc-de-castelbajac. com Julien MacDonald LONDON (UK) Harrods 87-135 Brompton Road London SW1 Tel: +44 20 7730 1234


Lanvin DUBAI (UAE) Emirates Towers Tel: +971 4 330 3500 AMMAN (JORDAN) Al Khair Shopping Complex Tel: +962 566 2444/3777 KUWAIT Arraya Complex Tel: +965 299 7702 LONDON (UK) 108 New Bond Street Tel: +44 20 7499 2929 Leila Kashanipour LONDON (UK) Mathilde 107 Walton Street, London SW3 2HP Tel: +44 20 7823 8735 Loewe DUBAI (UAE) Bur Juman Mall Tel: + 971 4355 8860 LONDON (UK) Harrods 87-135 Brompton Road London SW1 Tel: +44 20 7730 1234 Louis Mariette LONDON (UK) Tel: +44 20 7730 3050 Louis Vuitton LONDON (UK) 11-12 Clifford St London, W1S 2LL Tel:+44 20 73994050 KUWAIT Salhia Commercial Complex Tel: +965 2455801 DUBAI (UAE) Mall of Emirates Tel:+971 43414462 ABU DHABI Marina Mall Tel: +971 26812166


Max Mara DUBAI (UAE) New Burjuman Center Tel: + 971 4 351 3140 KUWAIT Salhiya Center Court , Tel: + 965 241 1131 LONDON (UK) 19-21 Old Bond Street Tel: +44 20 7499 7902 Miu Miu LONDON (UK) 123 New Bond St Tel: +44 20 7409 0900 London W1


Nada Zeinah BEIRUT (LEB) Tel: + 961 03984812 Tel + 961 01566151/ 01560361 Email: nadazei@inco. Noel Stewart LONDON (UK) Tel: +44 7974 434 385


Pebble LONDON (UK) Tel: +44 20 7262 1775 www.pebblelondon. com Pierre Hardy LONDON (UK) Harrods 87-135 Brompton Road London SW1 Tel: +44 20 7730 1234 DUBAI (UAE) Boutique 1 Emirates Towers Tel: +971 4 330 4555 Prada KUWAIT Villa Moda, Shwaikh Tel: + 965 482 7004 LONDON (UK) 43-45 Sloane St London SW1 Tel: +44 20 7235 0008


Stella McCartney LONDON (UK) 30 Bruton Street London. W1J 6LG Tel: +44 20 7518 3100 DUBAI (UAE) Harvey Nichols Mall of Emirates Tel: +971 4 2011 249 www.stellamccartney. com

Ralph Lauren DUBAI (UAE) Burjuman Centre Tel: +971 4 352 5311 KUWAIT Al Fanar Complex Kuwait City Tel: 965.5754260 LONDON (UK) 1 New Bond Street Tel: +44 20 7535 4600 Roberto Cavalli LONDON (UK) 181-182 Sloane Street Knightsbridge London SW1X 9QP Tel: +44 020 7823 1879 DUBAI (UAE) Mall of Emirates Tel: +971 04 3414341 www.robertocavalli. com


Salvatore Ferragamo LONDON (UK) 24 Old Bond Street Tel: +44 207 629 5007 Sergio Rossi LONDON (UK) 207a Sloane Street London SW1 DUBAI (UAE) Emirates Tower MANAMA (Bahrain) Al Ali Mall Seven Minutes Bags DUBAI (UAE) Tel: +971 50 640 9522 Contact: Dina/Lina Tel: +971 4 353 5383 sevenminutes@gmail. com Sonia Rykiel DUBAI (UAE) Majestic Palace Al Maktoum Street Tel: +971 4222 6160 KUWAIT Salhiya Commercial Complex Tel: +965 247 2851 BEIRUT (LEB) Rue Omar Daouk Minet Al Hosn Immeuble Zein Tel: +961 1974642


Tiret Tods KUWAIT Salhiya Commercial Complex Tel: +965240 754 JEDDAH (KSA) Al Khayyat Centre Tahliya Street Al-Andalus District Jeddah 21583 Tel: +966 22842682


Yohji Yamamoto www.yohjiyamamoto.ja Yves Saint Laurent KUWAIT Villa Moda, Shuwaikh Tel: +965 482 7004 DUBAI (UAE) Emirates Towers Tel: +971 4 330 0445 LONDON (UK) 32-33 Old Bond Street London, W1 Tel: +44 (0)20 7493 1800 www.yvessaintlaurent. com


Zac Posen Zina Eva International purchases Tel: + 1 800 725-0911 www.thefashionplate. com

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Object of desire

The price of fame

Collectors keen to identify art that can be not only aesthetically transcendent but also a solid, worldly, investment will appreciate the ironic soothsayer qualities of Fame Theory’s new art ticker. Fame Theory are an anonymous Brooklyn-based artist team who have orchestrated a number of high-profile art hoaxes on such serious art institutions as, Artinfo. com, the Whitney Museum and the New York Times. They have devised a meticulously researched and impressively executed device which resembles a Wall Street stock ticker, but follows artists rather than publicly traded companies. Created in an edition of three, the ticker displays data on the partying habits

and media mentions of 200 international artists and art-world figures. ‘We have created an algorithm for the ticker that correlates an artist’s fame with the price of his work,’ the team explains by email. Their goal for the ticker is to merge the theoretical premise with practical application. ‘Over this coming year, a 50% share in the ticker will be sold to up to three collectors who will have access to proprietary market research on the rising stars in the art world. We think the ticker would be most appropriate for a collector in the Middle East wanting to play in a big, worldwide, game. The ticker translates all the noise and complexity of the different global art markets into a simple,

universal truth, ie: that the fastest rising artists in the global media will be the most valuable.’ Armed with this vital iformatinon, collectors can gauge which art stars will beam bright and which will dim over time. Or they can just bask in the humorous light the piece casts on the art world’s current attribution of value, where partying and pricing over-shadow the art itself. Though styled as a stock ticker, Fame Theory’s conceptual art piece is really an old fashioned crystal ball, which makes the financial future of art objects of desire less obscure. For information, contact Seth Aylmer at __Ana Finel Honigman


Fame Theory’s new ‘art ticker’ offers a brilliant new take on the valuations of contemporary art.

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Alef Magazine Issue 6  

Alef is the premier indigenous fashion, lifestyle and culture title for and from the Middle East with a mission to showcase a modern and pro...

Alef Magazine Issue 6  

Alef is the premier indigenous fashion, lifestyle and culture title for and from the Middle East with a mission to showcase a modern and pro...