MADINAH: When Hatun Madani moved to the US from her native Saudi Arabia for college in the 1990s, she found herself craving food from home. Every Christmas in her college town, the city shut down for the holiday period. To create a sense of community and to overcome her homesickness, she joined with friends to concoct their own version of Christmas.
Madani decided to improve on the traditional turkey with all the trimmings and came up with her now-famous turkey mulokhia dish.
She told Arab News: “I was young, and I am still young. But when I was a teenager, it was new to me; the turkey and all of that. Everything closed during Christmas. So, we used to gather together, friends who used to live in the same building, and my siblings.
“For some reason, we didn’t want it to be pure Christmas. We had to make some changes. I tried it in their traditional way, and it didn’t suit me, so I made my own twist. Mulokhia is my comfort food, so why not use turkey?” she said.
She started making her fusion dish for Christmas every year while there, and when she became a mother, she taught her children to associate turkey with mulokhia.
Mulokhia is made from the leaves of the jute mallow plant and has been a staple of Arabic cuisine since ancient times. Though it is prepared in many ways — as a soup, stew, with beef or chicken, or without meat — it is enjoyed throughout the Arab world and Africa.
Self-taught chef Madani now owns a restaurant in Dubai focused on Saudi cuisine. She measures ingredients with her eyes and can tell what is missing from a dish using her sense of smell and intuition. Her late mother taught her to cook with her heart and to be calm while in the kitchen.
As a college student in America, she recalls having to buy frozen mulokhia and even in Dubai today, fresh mulokhia is only available in summer. However, fresh mulokhia leaves can be bought all-year-round in Saudi Arabia.
Madani is a specialist in Hijazi food and wants to show the world that there is more to Saudi food than just kabsa, chicken, and rice.
She said: “When you travel to a hotel and ask about restaurants, there are Chinese, Japanese, French, Italian. But you never hear of Saudi restaurants. Why not? We have a cuisine and it’s very rich and very yummy. And it’s because it is a melting pot from all around.”
Food, she added, was more than just fuel for the body, it was how she connected people to each other and to themselves.
This Christmas, she is reminding people to break bread with those from all faiths and backgrounds because, “it is how we all can co-exist and have a divine feast.”
Madani said: “One thing I want the young generation to understand is not to lose their heritage, the culture, the cuisine. And the love.
“People laugh at me when I say, ‘oh, I cook with love,’ but I do. If you are what you eat, and your food is made with love, then you are love.
“I’m happy to bring back the turkey mulokhia and hope you try it, too,” she added.
JEDDAH: Mawadah Muhtasib, an emerging Saudi artist who reversed the typeface of the Arabic language, is well on her way to becoming a prominent name in the global art scene.
From learning her mother’s technique of writing backward at age 13 to exhibiting in London and New York City, Muhtasib has generated international intrigue in the art of Arabic by creating the first reversed Arabic calligraphy, or calligraffiti, typeface.
Her messages are not only meant to be read, but are also designed to be deciphered. Engaging her audience with the challenge of decoding letters is a large part of experiencing the artwork itself.
“It’s about expanding your human capabilities into creating the impossible. And this is exactly what I have been trying to do,” she told Arab News in an exclusive interview.
The Arabic language is one of the richest art forms, the artist says, but in modernity, it is difficult to appreciate the depths of something that has become so ordinary.
Born out of a quest to layer the heritage of Arabic letters with innovative graffiti art methods, her work dares to be the first of its kind, granting her Dubai’s Art Bus competition award and a chance to show her work at exclusive showcases.
As graffiti art surged in popularity in 2013, Muhtasib experimented with mural painting alongside a novel group, hoping to develop a boundaryless form of art.
With a vision to modernize the traditional, she created a decorative typeface that mixed Arabic and Latin, written from left to right.
It’s about expanding your human capabilities into creating the impossible.
Muhtasib said: “We are so used to Arabic calligraphy when it comes to Thuluth calligraphy, Al-Kufi, Al-Naskh, and so on, and we just read that way and pass it on.
“When I’m doing my Arabic calligraphy, people sit and stare at my work for hours trying to figure out what these letters are, and the moment they realize it’s Arabic, they start to analyze and see all these letters in a different form that we as Arabic speakers are not used to.”
The Arabic language is one of the richest art forms, the artist says, but in modernity, it is difficult to appreciate the depths of something that has become so ordinary.
The goal is not only to get the viewer to read but to actively reflect on the beauty and form of each stroke and letter within the alphabet.
Muhtasib now passes on her craft through community workshops exclusively for women, most recently at Saudi’s largest light-based festival, Noor Riyadh.
“In my workshops, I do not teach people to write in reverse … I’m basically giving you the key of how to use the tools of starting to practice in the form of Latin calligraphy,” she said.
As soon as students understand the anatomy of the font family, Muhtasib introduces slanted brushes, layering techniques and stroke pressure. From the first session, students are sent home with a new creative form of expression. “The soul of a person is laid out on a page,” she said.
Writing in reverse is not new; the artist’s mother passed down the habit after having to write backward to maintain privacy at work. Alongside that, she passed down her passion for creative innovation.
While most calligraphers in the Kingdom were mimicking Western methods, Muhtasib, at 16 years old, was inspired and encouraged by Tunisian artist eL Seed and Saudi Moroccan artist Shaker Kashgari.
“I took that trick that my mom taught me years ago on how to write and then I changed it into a decorative typeface,” she said.
The concept was designed to preserve the rich heritage of the Arabic language. For foreigners, it offers a chance to engage in the language and learn its history.
“This is Arabic calligraphy in reverse that I took, improved, adjusted and made into a different form. But viewers will also wonder how it actually looked like (originally) and this will make a lot of people go in-depth and learn more about Arabic calligraphy,” Muhtasib said.
The philosophy behind the Typeform has gained interest from international luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton, Carolina Herrera, Montblanc, Sephora and more, resulting in several collaborations.
Muhtasib urges creators to push the boundaries of art and culture.
With calligraphy, “your sky’s the limit,” she said.
RIYADH: More than 10 million regional and international visitors have attended Riyadh Season events since its launch on Oct. 21.
Staged under the title “Beyond Imagination,” the entertainment festival has offered at least 8,500 activity days and experiences in 15 diverse zones.
In a tweet, Turki Al-Sheikh, chairman of the General Entertainment Authority, said: “Imagination has become a reality with Riyadh Season — 10 million visitors so far.”
He added that each festival zone had its own special character.
Now in its third season, this year’s event has been the biggest and most dynamic to date, including the largest artificial lake in the world, cable car transportation, cloud-embracing lounges, and the international Cirque du Soleil.
Imagination has become a reality with Riyadh Season — 10 million visitors so far.
Turki Al-Sheikh Chairman, General Entertainment Authority
It includes 252 restaurants and cafes, 240 stores, eight international shows, more than 150 concerts, 108 interactive experiences, seven global exhibitions, two international football matches, 17 Saudi and Arab plays, and WWE wrestling events.
The range of entertainment options available for visitors has included games, heritage, culture, fashion, perfumes, exhibitions, and music.
It also featured a Riyadh Season Cup, bringing together the Paris Saint-Germain team with stars from Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr football clubs.
As well as Saudi and Arab plays and concerts, organizers have put on local and international anime, perfumes, and games exhibitions along with numerous other events for families, adults, and children.
The zones are Boulevard World, Boulevard Riyadh City, Winter Wonderland, Al-Murabaa, Sky Riyadh, Via Riyadh, Riyadh Zoo, Little Riyadh, The Groves, Imagination Park, Al-Suwaidi Park, Souq Al-Zel, Qariat Zaman, Fan Festival, and Riyadh Front.
Meanwhile, visitors to the season are being offered the chance to use the latest technology to gain entry to entertainment zones.
Non-fungible tokens in the form of an access card will enable holders to take part in activities and events including electronic games, Saudi and Arab festivals and plays, concerts, and local and international exhibitions.
NFTs are unique digital identifiers that cannot be copied, substituted, or subdivided. The first project was launched in 2015 via the Ethereum blockchain platform.
NFTs are used in many sectors, including games, selling songs, digital arts, clothing, cars, and for proving ownership of photos and videos. The technology is also used in medical records and health data, and for event ticketing.
The Riyadh Season access card grants visitors a set of privileges, including season-long entry to Boulevard Riyadh City and Boulevard World, the festival’s distinctive entertainment zones.
The access card can be obtained via https://riyadhseason.sa/nft.html.
RIYADH: Riyadh Season’s Boulevard World Zone, which opened this week, brings together the cultures of 10 countries in a single location set around one of the largest artificial lakes in the world.
People can visit the zone to shop or eat, but there is more than that, as the zone provides visitors with distinct entertainment options. These include:
An area for fans of military games. Visitors can shoot live ammunition under supervision during events in a mock village, and play as solo soldiers or in teams in virtual reality war games. There are also medieval live shows, a Saudi firearms museum, virtual reality challenges, a western saloon fight, and much more to explore.
A reality TV show where people try to complete a course full of obstacles and become ninjas. Organizers say ninja helpers will teach children and their parents mental and physical skills.
You can enjoy various activities through the Portal experience, which includes an art museum containing more than 300 works inspired by the painter Vincent Van Gogh, and spaces that allow for visitors to watch football matches with 360-degree technology that gives the feeling of being in the stadium.
Anime town Japan
If you are an anime fan, this is for you. “This is unbelievable; it’s like I’m in Japan,” said the Japanese DJ Steve Aoki on Instagram during his visit.
Many streets and areas in the town, such as Anime-verse Street, Tokyo Real Nakamise, Neo-Scramble Square, and Festival Garden, make you feel like you’re walking down the colorful and lively streets of Japan, which are full of color and life.
• A reality TV show where people try to complete a course full of obstacles and become ninjas. Organizers say ninja helpers will teach children and their parents mental and physical skills.
• There are 11 anime exhibitions at Anime Town Japan’s three theaters and more than 350 entertainment performances.
• Visitors can shoot live ammunition under supervision during events in a mock village, and play as solo soldiers or in teams in virtual reality war games.
There are 11 anime exhibitions at Anime Town Japan’s three theaters and more than 350 entertainment performances.
Submarine, cable cars, and boat ride
Whether you like to be in the sky or underwater, Boulevard World has a treat for all.
Victors can enjoy a cable car that will carry them over replicas of famous landmarks from around the world.
The cable car transports visitors between Boulevard World and Boulevard Riyadh City, on a journey that allows them to experience the cultures of various countries like Italy, Greece, France, Morocco, China, Japan, America, India, Spain and Mexico.
You can also ride inside a submarine to dive down and discover the wonders that lie in one of the largest man-made lakes in the world. The boat ride will also take passengers on a ride between the 10 country areas.
Muneera Al-Dossary has been the head of asset management at ANB Capital since June 2022.
She is also the chairperson of the Capital Market Institutions Committee, and a board member of the Tadawul-listed Saudi Industrial Services Co.
With more than 18 years of experience in the banking and investment industry, she specializes in asset management. She managed more than SR30 billion in assets under management and discretionary portfolio management for many clients, including sovereign wealth funds locally and internationally with a diverse product range in public and private equity, and real estate investments.
From April 2021 to May 2022, she was head of asset management and chief investment officer at HSBC.
Prior to that she held the position of chief executive officer at Mulkia Investment, a Saudi closed joint stock company headquartered in Riyadh with a share capital of SR65 million ($17.3 million).
Al-Dossary worked as head of equities at financial services provider Saudi Fransi Capital from January 2017 to January 2018. SFC is the investment arm of Banque Saudi Fransi, trademarked with a paid-up capital of SR500 million and licensed by the Capital Market Authority.
She first joined SFC as manager of Saudi equity funds in April 2011, staying in the post until January 2018. She was an assistant fund manager at Credit Agricole Asset Management in January 2008 and assistant fund manager at Banque Saudi Fransi in 2007.
Al-Dossary gained a bachelor’s degree in business from the Arab Open University, and a banking diploma from the Institute of Public Administration.
MAKKAH: Madinah Gov. Prince Faisal bin Salman launched the first edition of the Prophet’s Holy Mosque Architecture encyclopedia, which documents the architectural development at the pilgrimage site from the time of the Prophet until the Saudi era.
It includes an extensive scientific study of the mosque’s properties and architectural details.
Prince Faisal said that the publication reflects the Saudi leadership’s interest in the Prophet’s Mosque and the documentation of its architectural details.
He said that the encyclopedia is part of Al-Madinah Al-Munawwarah Studies and Research Center’s attempts to develop an architectural reference documenting the mosque’s features and architectural developments since its construction.
The encyclopedia also highlights the Saudi state’s efforts to care for the mosque’s architecture, expansion, repair and restoration, as well as the aesthetic aspects of Islamic architectural arts.
Work on the encyclopedia began with laser scanning to document all two-dimensional and three-dimensional architectural details with high precision.
The second phase included the model documentation, and work concluded with a photography phase to convey a realistic image of the mosque’s architectural details.
The encyclopedia is based on conceptual modeling of the mosque using laser scanning and photographic technologies.
It features photographs, literary documentation records, analytical articles and architectural studies, along with engineering drawings and three-dimensional abstract forms.
Fahad Al-Wahbi, director-general of Al-Madinah Al-Munawwarah Research and Studies Center, told Arab News that the encyclopedia initiative was launched by King Salman during his visit to Madinah in 2018.
The initiative is continuing under the supervision of the center, chaired by Prince Faisal.
Al-Wahbi said that work began with a study of the architectural elements in the Prophet’s Mosque under a supervisory committee with more than 650 members.
“Each element was later organized by alphabetical order, then studied historically and architecturally: When was it updated? How was it developed in our modern times?” he said.
Al-Wahbi said that the encyclopedia relies on model documentation to show how the Prophet’s Mosque appeared during the Prophetic era, the Rashidun Caliphate, Umayyad Dynasty and Abbasid Caliphate.
“The whole mosque was scanned and specialized devices were used, which required two years of work,” he added.
The center took more than 60,000 photos inside and outside the mosque, which were merged to create panoramic images that visitors can now view inside the site.