Revue culturelle N°98

The Journal

28 - 12 - 23
Issue for subscribers only.
This week's picture

"عيب" by Sarah Bahbah

Sarah Bahbah is a Palestinian Jordanian artist and director born and raised in Australia. Raised by Immigrant parents, her culturally conservative upbringing led to a great rebellion of Art. Over the past decade Bahbah has become renowned for her signature style, giving birth to visually striking, culture-shifting stories that combine her most intimate psyche appearing as subtitles placed over cinematic stills.

Bahbah’s art explores the power of vulnerability by way of giving voice to the vast spectrum of chaos and desire in imperfect relationships. She believes in embracing emotional vulnerability to break taboos and celebrate the liberation of guilt and shame. In 2020 Bahbah released her most impactful series yet titled “3ieb!” in Arabic / “Shame On Me!” in English; a series where she provocatively posed in front of the camera for the first time, expressing her desire for sexual liberation from her cultural restrictions. The subtitles appeared in both English and Arabic calligraphy which caused an uproar within the MENA community, while simultaenously giving voice to many women who held the same desire.

Bahbah’s work has been featured in countless publications including New York Times, Forbes, Business Insider, The Cut, Vogue US, Hollywood Reporter, Vice and many more. In 2023 Bahbah released her first ever luxury fine art book, "Dear Love".


The Kingdom wins the North African beach volleyball tournament

The Moroccan men's beach volleyball team has qualified for the All-Africa Games (Accra-2024), after winning the North African tournament (zone 1), which took place at the Grande piscine in Rabat. Morocco were crowned champions after beating Algeria 2-1.

The Moroccan A and B women's teams had automatically punched their tickets for the Continental Cup as leaders of the African ranking and winners of the last continental championship.

Street artFestivals

Laâyoune: International Street Arts Festival

Organised by the Odyssée association for culture and art, the seventh edition of this festival ends on 25 December, and is still aimed at promoting and encouraging artistic creativity, while offering new opportunities to young people. This year's festival features local and foreign artists, notably from Spain and Argentina.


Tangiers: Presentation of the "Ibn Battuta" prizes for travel literature

Organised by the Ministry of Youth, Culture and Communication, in partnership with the Arab Centre for Geographical Literature, this prize is awarded to eleven winners, authors of research projects, translations, studies or texts based on travel.

The prizes awarded to the eleven winners are divided into the following categories: "Translated Travel", "Studies", "Travel made", "Contemporary Travel: the new Sindibad", "Daily Diary", "Translated Daily Diary", "Travel Report" and "Translated Travel Report".

The event also included a visit to the exhibition space dedicated to the memory of Ibn Battuta in Borj En-Naâm (Tangiers Medina) and the inauguration of the exhibition "The Arab Journey through a Thousand Years", featuring almost 150 books published by the Arab Centre for Geographical Literature.


Tetouan: "Al Feddane" theatre festival

From 25 to 27 December, the 11th edition of this theatre festival is being held under the theme "Yallah Bina Lilmassrah" (Let's go to the theatre). With plays, training workshops, meetings and debates, the festival aims to highlight the city's local cultural dynamism.


Meknes: end of the operation to preserve the mosaics in the House of Orpheus

The project to preserve the historic mosaics on the archaeological site of Volubilis, the fruit of collaboration between the US Embassy and the "Ifkr" association for environmental education and sustainable development, with the support of the Ministry of Culture, has been brought to a close with a ceremony.

Launched in 2022, the project focused on restoring and preserving historic mosaics from the 2nd and 3rd centuries, inspired by Greco-Roman mythology. Restoration work focused in particular on the House of Orpheus in Volubilis and dozens of mosaics from the ancient Roman city of Banassa, currently stored in Volubilis.

The Volubilis project has enabled local craftsmen to be trained in the restoration and preservation of the mosaics. It was financed by a special fund dedicated to celebrating the 20th anniversary of the US Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation, established by the US Congress in 2001 to preserve a wide range of the world's cultural heritage.


The Confederation of African Athletics names the athletes of the year 2023

Moroccan Olympic and world champion Soufiane El Bakkali has been named the second best male athlete of 2023. He was beaten by Kenyan Kelvin Kiptum, winner of this year's Berlin Marathon and world marathon record holder.


New government aid for the digitisation and modernisation of cinemas

The Commission d'aide à la numérisation, à la modernisation et à la création des salles de cinéma under the auspices of the Centre cinématographique marocain (CCM) has decided to grant a total of 25 million dirhams to various cinemas in the Kingdom.

Aid for the creation of cinemas has been granted to Cinerji Morocco Mall (Casablanca, 4 million dirhams), Cinerji 25 Square Dar Bouazza (Casablanca, 4 million dirhams), Cinerji Green City - Bouskoura (Casablanca, 4 million dirhams), Cinerji Kenitra (4 million dirhams), Cinerji Agadir (4 million dirhams) and Alborj à Ouzoud (Azilal, 4 million dirhams).

With regard to aid for the digitisation of cinemas, the Commission has decided to award aid of 500,000 dirhams to each of the Eden Club A and Eden Club B cinemas in Casablanca.


Assa-Zag: International Festival of Nomads

This fourth edition will take place from 29 to 31 December in the Touizgui commune, under the theme "Bedouins and nomads: culture and identity in the service of territorial integrity". It aims to consolidate cultural exchanges between peoples and encourage art and artists, with a view to making Touizgui a cultural destination. The festival offers a range of cultural activities, including exhibitions, tourist excursions, seminars on nomadic culture and exhibitions of local products.


Morocco wins the prize for the best 2023 organisation at the International Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Competition in China

Students from the Kaizen School in Casablanca represented Morocco at the Enjoy AI International Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Competition in Wuzhen, China. A first for Morocco!

This competition, organised each year by the World Artificial Intelligence Union, was open to children and young people from all over the world, aged under 22.

Morocco won the prize for the best 2023 organisation with a score of 160 points in the first part and 220 points in the second part of the competition. This success comes on top of last year's, when the young students from Kaizen School won the Motivate Award and were ranked among the top ten international projects in the United States.

Morocco, Qatar

The Kingdom wins the Mena Nations Cup in Qatar

The national team won the Mena Nations Cup 2023 karting competition, organised by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile Fia at the Lusail circuit in Doha from 12 to 16 December. Morocco came first in the overall standings, ahead of the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, the host country.

This is the first time that an African country has won this cup, according to the FRMSA, adding that previous editions have been won by the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon and Oman.

Plastic ArtsExhibitions
Morocco, Yemen

Marrakech: exhibition by Alia Ali

This solo show takes place at the Siniya 28 gallery from 28 December to 28 February. Entitled "Horizon Rising", the exhibition features several works by the artist, including sculptures, photographs and various installations. Some of her photographic sculpture series are featured: Liberty (2021-2022), Ikatikat (2021), Flow (2021), Flux (2021), Indigo (2019-2021), Migration (2021-2022) and WARP (2022).

"As a woman artist who exists at the boundaries of identification: as a West Asian, East European, American citizen and culturally Muslim yet spiritually independent, my work explores cultural binarities. It challenges culturally sanctioned oppression and confronts the dualistic barriers of conflicting notions of gender, politics, media and citizenship" - Alia Ali.

Working in photography, video and installation, Ali's work addresses the politicisation of the body, histories of colonisation, imperialism, sexism and racism. Textiles, in particular, are a constant in Ali's practice. Her work extends to immersive installations using light, pattern and textiles to go beyond language and offer an expansive and experimental understanding of self, culture and nation.

Ali's research and practice also draws on discourses of criminality, Yemeni futurism and feminist theory. Ali draws on oral histories to conceptualise these narratives, while reflecting on contemporary circumstances.

Photo: "Frequencies" series.

Plastic ArtsExhibitions

Casablanca: "Coeur Créateur" exhibition

Hosted by the Living 4 Art gallery, the group show opened on 23 December and will run until 20 January. Taking part in the exhibition are artists Abdelkader Ammor, Abdellah Moussali, Abderrahim Labyad, Aicha Hjiej, Aida Qoq, Alaoui Mrani Khadija and Amina Bedraoui Idrissi, Chaimaa El Maazaoui, Lamyae El Hassani, Loubna Ait Diwane, Maha Bensaid, Mounia Wafi, Naima Cherqaoui, Naoual Kalda, Ouafae Housni, Siham Boukhalkhal, and Siham El Amine Demnati.


"M'otion", the latest creative space in Marrakech

Created by Nabil Slitine, founder of M Avenue, in collaboration with director and artistic director Amir Rouani, 'M'otion' is a new gallery that aims to showcase Moroccan artists. M'otion's first exhibition features works by Yassine Morabite, Leila Hadioui, Mina Binebine, Zakaria Bendriouich, Zyne and Khalid Naitzehou.


The 17 projects funded by the Commission d'aide à la production des œuvres cinématographiques (Commission to support the production of cinematographic works)

The Film Production Support Commission, chaired by Bahaa Trabelsi, has unveiled the films eligible for advance funding under the third session of 2023.

Feature films and shorts :
"Mistral" by Mohamed Mouftakir
"Bribes" by Janane Fatine Mohammadi and Abdelillah Zirat
"Long Day" by Hakim Kebabi
"Bad Weather" by El Ghazouani Madan
"Oppo, Les autres et moi" by Youssef Michraf
"Ce Passe-La ou Le Loup Noir" by Amina Ferhati
"Les Feux Errants" by Rita Quessar
"Batty" by Mohammed Raouf Sebbahi
"L'oiseau des Montagnes" by Abdelilah El Jaouhary.
"Brothers of Milk" by Kenza Taz
"Kadib Abyad" by Asmae El Moudir.

"Lkhima" by Ahmed Bouchalgua
"Desert Scene" by Yassine Ait Fkir
"Palace Guardians" by Aida Bouya
"Dalala" by Youssef Ait Mansour
"Traces Nomades" by Aoulia Touir
"The wings of Sahara" by Abdelghafour Allah-Ister.

Plastic ArtsExhibitions

1-54 in Marrakech: what's new?

The first international fair dedicated to contemporary African art, "1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair", founded by Touria El Glaoui, has announced its return to Marrakech. It will host 27 exhibitors, including 14 galleries from the African continent, 8 of them based in Morocco. The event will be held from 8 to 11 February at La Mamounia, in the heart of the ochre city.

Other foreign galleries will participate for the first time in one of the three editions of 1-54, with 15 galleries debuting in Marrakech, including African Arty (Casablanca), Christophe Person (Paris), Gallery 1957 (Accra and London), Galerie Atiss Dakar (Dakar), Portas Vilaseca Galeria (Rio de Janeiro), So Art Gallery (Casablanca), kó (Lagos, Nigeria) and The African Art Hub (London).

The programme includes studio visits by artists such as Yasmina Alaoui, M'barek Bouhchichi, Yamou and Amina Benbouchta. Black Rock Global Arts Foundation and 1-54 will be co-hosting a symposium on the state of institutions focusing on artists in Africa. The event will also welcome leading figures from art residencies, foundations, public museums and artists' initiatives.

Photo: "Azemmour" series, Hicham Benohoud, 2007, presented by the Katharina Maria Raab gallery at 1-54 in 2020.

Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco, Syria

Arab World Festival of Educational Short Films: Yassine Samih wins

Of the 12 films selected for the final competition, representing 6 Arab countries: Morocco, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria and Bahrain, the Moroccan film "Yak Al Bhar" came out on top.

The Iraqi film "Al jaa'iza" by Abrar Sadiq won the prize for best screenplay. The Audience Award went to the Egyptian film "Akher Mara" by Israa Ezzeddin Houssein. The Jury Prize went to "Al Khrof" by Moroccan director Karim Abdel Rahim and "Radia" by Egyptian director Chaimae Attif. The Iraqi film "Mohtawa Hadaf" by Haider Mekki ElKanani received a special mention.


"SDF, El Moutacharida" (Homeless, El Moutacharida)

This monodrama, written and directed by Ahmed Hicham Gandi, tells the story of a single woman who has to run her home and provide for her daughter. With the lead role played by Fatiha Tahri, the play is innovative in its staging, taking place both in the theatre and on the street.

Fatiha Tahri has won national awards, including the 'Best Performance' prize at the National University Monologue Festival in Oued Souf and at the National Cultural Festival in Tindouf.

The play "SDF, El Moutacharida" was presented as part of the 16th National Festival of Professional Theatre.

Algeria, United Arab Emirates, Lebanon

Great Arab Minds

The Great Arab Minds Award is a prize described as "a symbol of appreciation of the highest consideration, honouring Arabs whose lifelong work has helped shape a better future for humanity." Each year, the prize is awarded to six individuals in six categories (natural sciences, architecture and design, technology, economics, literature and arts, medicine). Worth AED 1 million, it is used to fund research and projects. This initiative was launched and supported by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President of the United Arab Emirates, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai.

This week, three personalities were awarded the prize. They are Lebanese professor and architect Lina Gotmeh (architecture and design category), Lebanese professor and scientist Niveen Khashab (natural sciences category), and Algerian writer Waciny Laredj (literature and arts category).


Revision of the law on the protection of cultural heritage

Minister of Culture and the Arts Soraya Mouloudji, announced the organisation of a major national workshop on 25 January. The workshop will focus on revising Law 98-04 on the protection of cultural heritage. This law, introduced in 1998, has a number of gaps that the Algerian government would like to fill. This initiative also aims to encourage national dialogue on Algerian heritage, and to involve the population in its preservation.

Algeria, Palestine

National Melhoun Poetry Festival

The tenth edition of the National Melhoun Poetry Festival, dedicated to Sheikh Sidi Lakhdar Benkhelouf (1896-1980), came to an end on 24 December in Mostaganem.

Some fifty poets from eighteen wilayas took part in the festival. In addition to the key role played by Sheikh Sidi Lakhdar Benkhelouf in preserving Algerian poetry, this year's festival featured Palestinian literature, in response to the genocide currently taking place in Gaza. A literary symposium in solidarity with the Palestinian people was also held on 23 and 24 December. Entitled "Aurès de la pensée et de la littérature", it focused on the role of Palestine in Arab poetry and the violation of human rights in Gaza. Oran also hosted the 11th edition of the national literary symposium at the Maison de la Culture et des Arts, which also focused on the Palestinian people.

The closing ceremony featured poets Bouloufa Zaghbi and Dahou Mansour (Tiaret), Bachir from Mostaganem, Abdloussi Mohamed (Oran), Khaled Benabdelaziz (Algiers) and Nacer Hadjadj, who recited poems about resistance and the nation.


« Actualité d’architecture simple »

This architecture exhibition opens on 15 January at Le 32bis in Tunis. It focuses on the Villa Baizau, built in Carthage between 1928 and 1930. It is the only architectural project that Le Corbusier designed in Africa, and was nationalised at independence because of its proximity to Bourguiba's new presidential palace. Inaccessible, with a few exceptions (architects or academics), this villa is of great interest to lovers of architecture and Le Corbusier.

In addition to the architectural exhibition, another will be held on 16 January at the Chapelle Sainte-Monique (Ihec) Carthage, curated by Myriam Ben Salah and Aziza Harmel. The exhibition invites six artists to respond to the conceptual issues raised by this architectural object: the inaccessibility of its site, its early nationalisation, the symbolism of a Carthaginian villa in a context of severe economic crisis, and finally its particularity in Le Corbusier's own career. The exhibition acts as a counterpoint to the architectural presentation of 32bis, examining Le Corbusier's practice through the critical prism of the post-colonial context. The participating artists are Yesmine Ben Khelil, El Warcha, Niloufar Emamifar, Mohamed Harmel, Vlatka Horvat and Natascha Sadr-Haghighian.

Photo: the Villa Baizeau under construction.

Lebanon, Tunisia

Ziryab 2024 gastronomic literary prize

Founded by Noha Baz in 2014 (named after an aesthete musician and gourmet who witnessed the splendours of the Umayyad court), this prize is awarded each year to a French-language book on gastronomy or cooking.

"Piments et compagnie - Chroniques gourmandes de Méditerranée" by Tunisian author Héla Msellati, which has just won the prize for the best French-language cookbook in the world at the 29th Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in Riyadh, is in the running for the Ziryab 2024 Gastronomic Literary Prize. This tenth edition will take place in Beirut, at the Mim Museum.


My First Doc: the international documentary festival in Tunis

The programme for this sixth edition includes sixteen documentaries on "The passage of time", from Algeria, Morocco, France, Belgium, Italy, Lebanon, Iran, Kurdistan, the USA, Canada, South Africa and Tunisia.) They will be screened from 26 to 29 December at the Cité de la Culture film library.

Plastic ArtsExhibitions
Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia

Dak'Art, the biennial of contemporary African art

For this new and fifteenth edition, which will run from 16 May to 16 June, fifty-eight artists have been selected to celebrate the 2024 theme: "awakening".

Among Arab artists are:

Youness ben Slimane - a video artist, photographer and architect from Tunis born in 1992. He has taken part in a number of group exhibitions and festivals, including at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Skopje, the Centre Wallonie-Bruxelles in Paris and the Institut français de Tunisie. His first short film, 'All Come From Dust', was selected for the Locarno Film Festival, and won the Tanit d'Or at the Journées Cinématographiques de Carthage.

Slimen Elkamel, a visual artist from Sidi Bouzid in Tunisia, whose poetic works have been very popular in recent years, including a solo exhibition at the Arab World Institute in Paris in spring 2022.

Faten Rouissi is a Tunisian visual artist who uses painting, sculpture and video to perform. She also teaches at the Ecole National d'Architecture et d'Urbanisme in Tunis.

Adel Abdessemed, born in Constantine in 1971, is inspired by political, religious or media events, which he reinterprets in provocative works, stigmatising moments of revolt, injustice and violence.

Dalila Dalleas Bouzar is an Algerian painter and draughtswoman whose figurative style can be described as a cross between realism and dreamlike art. Her obsession with painting bodies and faces (both her own and those of others) reflects her desire to see the portrait as a means of investigating identity or critically expressing relationships of domination, whether patriarchal or colonial.

Majida Khattari is a French-Moroccan visual artist and photographer born in Erfoud in 1966. Her work focuses on marriage through an artistic and religious prism.

Ghizlane Sahli, an artist from Meknès whose art is based on embroidery and fabrics. Influenced by her conception of space and architectural design, as well as her concern for environmental sustainability, Ghizlane Sahli creates three-dimensional embroidered structures and installations using the tops of used bottles covered in silk thread, a technique she has christened "alveoli".

Hiba Baddou, a Moroccan multidisciplinary artist born in 1997, offers a pictorial universe combining East and West, concrete and abstract. Her work questions crowds, individuals, their routines and rituals.

Hicham Berrada, from Casablanca. The painter's work focuses on the meteorological, physical and chemical phenomena at work in nature, imagining an artistic approach akin to an experimental scientific protocol.

Photo: work by Hiba Baddou.


Oscars 2024: "Olfa's daughters" is already a hit

Multi-award-winning director Kaouther Ben Hania's documentary has now been shortlisted in two categories: international feature film and feature documentary.

This is Kaouther Ben Hania's second film to represent Tunisia at the Oscars. Her fourth feature film, "The Man Who Sold His Skin" made the shortlist of 15 films in the running at the 93rd Academy Awards.

Released in France last July, "Olfa's daughters" won multiple awards alongside the Cannes 2023 Festival.


Tunis International Book Fair

The new edition has been announced for April, from 19 to 28, in Tunis. The organising committee will be chaired by Dr Mohamed Salah Kadri as artistic director of this year's event, according to the Ministry of Cultural Affairs.

Plastic ArtsExhibitionsSculpture
Lebanon, Palestine

Beirut: « The Little Prince of Gaza »

The exhibition "The Little Prince of Gaza" is organised by the Ramzi and Saeda Dalloul Art Foundation, in collaboration with the Palestinian Museum of the West Bank. It is dedicated to the children of Gaza, victims of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The exhibition takes its name and inspiration from Chaouki Choukini's bronze sculpture "Little Prince: Child of Gaza", created in 2010, which will be prominently displayed at the heart of the exhibition.

Plastic ArtsExhibitions
Lebanon, Palestine

Beirut: "Resilience"

The exhibition by Palestinian artist Khaled Hourani, who made his name by creating a Palestinian flag from a watermelon in 2007, is being held at the Barrak Naamani gallery in Beirut. Half of the profits from the exhibition and sales will be donated to the Palestinian Red Cross.

Plastic ArtsExhibitions

« Beirut Nejma »

The new stars and talents of the Lebanese art scene can be discovered at the Lynn Modallal gallery. The gallery presents the work of eighteen emerging artists: Fadi El Chamaa, Semaan Khawam, Mansour El Habre, Noemie Honein, Mohamad Kraytem, Beirut Midnight, Joelle Jabbour, Sama Beirut, Nour Choucair, Atef Khodr, Olivia Flouty, Ghyda Helou, Elias Daboul, Luana Bassil, Chantal Fahmi, Zyad Al Seblany, Krikor Avessian, and Jad Nassour.

"Whether to stay in Lebanon or leave is a thought that is ingrained in us because of the current circumstances. Whatever our choice, Beirut retains a brilliant appeal, despite its complex situation. What is it that gives Beirut this sparkle?" - press release.

Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Tunisia

El Gouna Film Festival: a festival of resistance and resilience

First, let's take a look back at the - brilliant - winners of this year's festival, which took place in Cairo from 14 to 21 December.

The short film competition chose "Les Chenilles" by Noel and Michelle Keserwany. Originally made for the 2022 Lyon Biennial, the film looks at the migration of women between the Middle East and Europe at different times.

The El Gouna Star for the Best Arab Narrative Film was awarded to the feature film "Transient Happiness" directed by Sina Mouhammed (Iraq, Kurdistan). The El Gouna Star for the Best Arab Documentary was awarded to "Machtat" by Tunisian director Sonia Ben Slama. The El Gouna Golden Star for Documentary Film went to Egyptian director Ibrahim Nash'at for "Hollywoodgate".

And if there was a single name, country or cry to be remembered for this year's edition, it would definitely be Palestine. The Palestinian cause was on everyone's lips, on every screen and in every outfit.

With a programme dedicated to Palestine and produced in collaboration with the Palestine Film Institute, "Window on Palestine" screened films in a variety of formats covering a range of themes across different periods, a part of the festival that aims to give a voice to marginalised voices and highlight the obstacles faced by Palestinians. Of particular note were the screenings of "Bye Bye Tiberias" by Lina Soualem, representing Palestine at the 2024 Oscars; "Drawing for Better Dreams" by May Odeh, depicting the struggles of Palestinian children in the occupied territories; and "The Teacher" by Farah Nabulsi, recounting the daily frustrations of Palestinians.

Many celebrities posed on the red carpet wearing "message" outfits, starting with Tunisian actress Samira Magroun wearing a keffiyeh, Egyptian actress Amira el-Sayed with her arms marked with the phrases "End occupation ; End genocide", the Lebanese actress Carmen Lebbos whose dress was in the colours of the Palestinian flag, and the Lebanese actress Manal Issa wearing a press waistcoat bearing the names of Palestinian journalists covering the current genocide (photo above, copyright Ammar Abd Rabbo for AFP).


« A New Way to Bake »

This is Philip Khoury's new book. The thirty-something pastry chef responds to contemporary challenges with vegan desserts, much to the displeasure of fans of traditional cuisine.

The secret of Khoury's success lies in the fact that (...) he rebuilds recipes from scratch, rewriting the rules of pastry-making" - The Times.

At the age of 33, Philip Khoury received the Innovation Award from La Liste, a recognition given to outstanding pastry chefs and pastry establishments around the world. He received the award for "his remarkable advances in plant-based patisserie and for his new book".


Olfactory Receptors Activated

Or O.R.A.
This is the new brand from Lelya Halabi, who is launching two fragrances: Amalgam and Unit. Celebrating Mediterranean scents - jasmine, fig, thyme and orange blossom - the designer is exhibiting her creations at Saifi Village in Beirut.

Saudi Arabia

« Horizon Saudi Arabia »

The documentary will be available on Netflix on 4 January. The film, which will also be shown in cinemas across the Kingdom, highlights the diversity of Saudi wildlife, as well as efforts to protect endangered species.

The production is an initiative by Konoz, which aims to document the Kingdom's cultural richness and highlight the achievements of Saudi citizens by collaborating with local companies to produce documentaries, short films and animated features.

Saudi Arabia

The AlUla Falcon Cup

From 28 December to 5 January, Saudi Arabia is hosting the first AlUla Falcon Cup, launched by the Saudi Falcon Club and the Royal Commission for AlUla. With several prizes worth 60 million riyals, one of the aims of this prize is to encourage tourism and promote Saudi cultural heritage.


Asmae el-Moudir in the Oscars pre-selection

"The Mother of All Lies", directed by Asmae el-Moudir and awarded the Golden Star at the Marrakech International Film Festival, has been shortlisted for the 2024 Oscars, in the "Best International Film" category.

The final nominations will be announced on 23 January, ahead of the 96th Academy Awards ceremony on 10 March in Los Angeles.

Before its triumph in Marrakech, "The Mother of All Lies" had won numerous awards, including the Oeil d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival with Kaouther Ben Hania's "Olfa's Daughters".

Algeria, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, Jordan, Morocco, Palestine, Tunisia

Watch them

This year has been a revelation for Arab cinema, with films making a name for themselves at a host of international festivals. A new wave of directors to watch, resolutely feminine, absolutely innovative.

Kaouther ben Hania. The Tunisian director shines on the international scene since "The Man Who Sold His Skin", and confirmed her ascendancy on contemporary Arab cinema with documentary and feature film "Olfa's Daughters", which won awards at the Cannes Festival and continues to collect prizes. Kaouther Ben Hania represents Tunisia at the Oscars for the second time.

Maryam Touzani. The Moroccan director exploded onto the international scene with « Le Bleu du Caftan", recounting a kingdom caught between tradition and modernity, always with an overflow of love and kindness. It would be too simple to compare this multi-award-winning feature to the classic "Jules and Jim", although this love trio in Salé reminds us of Truffaut's eponymous characters. The director, who was also a juror at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival, shone with "Adam", her first feature film. Her next movie, "Touda", will be released in 2024, and was co-written with her husband Nabil Ayouch, Moroccan director best known for "Much Love" and "Casablanca Beats".

Speaking of Moroccan cinema, it's hard not to return to the career of Asmae El Moudir, who continues to surprise and reinvent the 7th art. Like "Les Filles d'Olfa", her latest documentary won the Oeil d'or at the Cannes Film Festival, and "La Mère de tous les mensonges" will also represent Morocco at the 2024 Oscars, after winning the Etoile d'or at this year's Marrakech Festival.

The Keserwany sisters, of course. The Lebanese duo of Noel and Michelle continues to collect awards for short film "Les Chenilles", directed in 2022 for the Lyon Biennial. It tackles women’s migration in the Mediterranean basin, in a poetic and delicate manner. They have just won first prize at the El Gouna International Festival in Egypt.

Lina Soualem, Algerian nugget and Palestinian star. This young director enjoys one success after another in a genre that has been marginalised by the general public the last few years: documentary. She comes from a family of actors, her parents being Zinedine Soualem and Hiam Abbass. Her first feature film, "Leur Algérie" (Their Algeria), focuses on her father's side of the family, which was marked by French colonisation. It won several awards, including best Arab documentary at El Gouna. Her latest feature, "Bye Bye Tiberias", is a declaration of love to Palestine, and it will represent the country at the 2024 Oscars.

Farah Nabulsi, the Oscar-nominated Palestinian director and winner of the 2020 Bafta, has released her acclaimed first feature film, The Teacher. She was in the spotlight at the Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah (RSIFF).

Emirati director Nayla Al Khaja is also one of the leading stars of 2023 cinema. Her first feature film, "Three", hit the RSIFF like a bombshell.

And let's not forget men, starting with Amjad Al Rasheed. The Jordanian filmmaker has enjoyed international success since the release of 'Inshallah a Boy', which became the first Jordanian film to be screened at the Cannes Film Festival. He has also won multiple awards for a controversial story that denounces the injustices done to women over inheritance issues. Saudi director Ali Kalthami, co-founder of production company Telfaz11 in 2011, and director of 'Mandoob', a hit in Saudi Arabia. This non-exhaustive list ends with Jordanian director Bassel Ghandour, whose 'The Alleys' was the subject of a heated debate. He is currently working on his next feature film.

Saudi Arabia

Balad Al Fann

The Balad Al Fann Festival takes place in Jeddah, celebrating the history of this seventh-century district until 9 March. There will be several exhibitions and concerts, including the Jeddah Jazz Festival on 25 January, featuring performances by over 30 local and international artists. The full programme is available on the event's Instagram account @baladalfann

Palestine, Syria

The Gaza Monologues in Damascus

Directed by Matthieu Loos with original text by the Ashtar Theatre (Palestine), this play, in Arabic and French, has been performed around the world since 2010. Today it resonates even more powerfully, and this was the first time the Monologues had been performed in Damascus.

Synopsis: "In 2008-2009, the Israeli military operation 'Cast Lead' ravaged Gaza for three weeks, killing more than 1,400 Palestinians, including civilians, many of them children. Two years on, the Ashtar Theatre has gathered the voices of 33 teenagers who survived the war. They tell of their experiences in Gaza under the bombs, of their stolen childhoods, and of the trauma and anger that have stayed with them ever since. It is also with the ambition of alerting the international community to what they are suffering in the midst of general indifference that these young people have spoken out. Their words carry the hope of rebuilding a nation and the ambition of future peace".


Hamza Language Proficiency Test

Hamza Language Proficiency Test

MBS took advantage of International Arabic Language Day to launch a new initiative to encourage the learning and promotion of Arabic: the Hamza Language Proficiency Test.

This is a standardised test which assesses the skills of non-native speakers of Arabic in three areas: reading, listening, speaking and writing. The test follows the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages and measures skills at four levels, from A2 to C1.

The test will be offered in computerised test centres around the world and via virtual distance tests.

United Arab Emirates

A first brewery in Abu Dhabi

A new craft beer brewery marks a definitive break with decades of prohibition in the UAE (alcohol consumption has been restricted since the creation of the UAE in 1971, although legislation varies from emirate to emirate. The emirate of Sharjah still maintains a total ban on alcohol consumption).

The venue has been dubbed 'Craft by Side Hustle', and includes a microbrewery and gourmet pub. It is located in the Galleria Al Maryah Island shopping centre.


Death of Nouri Iskandar

The Assyrian composer died.

Recent Journals

28 - 12 - 23

"عيب" by Sarah Bahbah Sarah Bahbah is a Palestinian Jordanian artist and director born and raised in Australia. Raised by Immigrant parents, her culturally conservative upbringing led to a great rebellion of Art. Over the past decade Bahbah has become renowned for her signature style, giving birth to visually striking, culture-shifting stories that combine her most intimate psyche appearing as subtitles placed over cinematic stills. Bahbah’s art explores the power of vulnerability by way of giving voice to the vast spectrum of chaos and desire in imperfect relationships. She believes in embracing emotional vulnerability to break taboos and celebrate the liberation of guilt and shame. In 2020 Bahbah released her most impactful series yet titled “3ieb!” in Arabic / “Shame On Me!” in English; a series where she provocatively posed in front of the camera for the first time, expressing her desire for sexual liberation from her cultural restrictions. The subtitles appeared in both English and Arabic calligraphy which caused an uproar within the MENA community, while simultaenously giving voice to many women who held the same desire. Bahbah’s work has been featured in countless publications including New York Times, Forbes, Business Insider, The Cut, Vogue US, Hollywood Reporter, Vice and many more. In 2023 Bahbah released her first ever luxury fine art book, "Dear Love".

21 - 12 - 23

"I'm 33 and I've never been on a plane" It took five years for Abdel Rahman Zagout, a Gazan photographer, to complete a project on the Egyptian border with Gaza, which won the 2018 Red Cross photography competition. This photograph is part of the project, portraying a young Palestinian at the border, his hands open in front of a closed window. Abdel Rahman Zagout graduated in media at Al-Aqsa University and graduated in 2008. He worked for ten years as a freelance photojournalist and photography consultant. His project recounts the hopes and dreams of Palestinians, shattered by poverty and fences. Most of the photos were taken at the Rafah crossing, which links Gaza to Egypt. It is considered to be the main exit from Gaza, and is only opened sporadically.

14 - 12 - 23

@dyaladesigns "As cliché as it may sound, I've always been creative. Somehow I always knew that was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I've never been that passionate about anything other than art and design, so why would I spend my life doing something I didn't really love? It's my passion and I intend to use my creativity to make a difference in this world." "As a Palestinian artist, I definitely feel a responsibility to use my platform to highlight the ongoing conflicts and express my emotions about them in a beautiful way. Art is my passion, and my country is my passion, so combining these two aspects of my life is something that excites and motivates me. My work is a reflection of who I am, and I think it's important to represent people who feel that their voices aren't always heard. I want people to look at my work and see the beauty and relevance of who they are and where they come from. I feel it's our global duty to show our support and unite in times of need. I feel that my work highlights the importance of acceptance and inclusion. Given the world we live in today, where people are bombarded by an unrealistic digital society, my art plays a role in breaking down those boundaries and redefining those expectations." Dyala Moshtaha

07 - 12 - 23

"I will continue to draw until Palestine is free. I will continue to draw the Palestinian flag everywhere in the streets of Egypt." - Mohamed Moataz Mohamed Moataz a décoré l'un des plus anciens quartiers du Caire, Al-Khalifa, qui est par ailleurs inscrit sur la liste du patrimoine mondial de l'UNESCO depuis 1979. Il s'agit de quatre peintures murales qui dénoncent l'horreur du génocide de Gaza. Mohamed Moataz a décoré l'un des plus anciens quartiers du Caire, Al-Khalifa, qui est par ailleurs inscrit sur la liste du patrimoine mondial de l'UNESCO depuis 1979. Il s'agit de quatre peintures murales qui dénoncent l'horreur du génocide de Gaza. Mohamed Moataz's career as a street artist began on the streets of the Egyptian capital with works celebrating Arab heritage, featuring iconic figures such as football star Mohamed Salah and the Star of the Orient, Umm Kulthum. However, current events soon caught up with him, and in recent months he has focused exclusively on the genocide perpetrated by the State of Israel in Gaza.

30 - 11 - 23

Gaza, Humanitarian truce, 28 November 2023. Mohammed Salem is a Palestinian photojournalist based in the Gaza Strip. He holds a degree in media studies from Al-Azhar University in Gaza. Mohammed has worked with Reuters since 2003, mainly covering the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. He received the Dubai Press Club Media Award, won the International Press Photo Competition in China in 2004 and was awarded second prize in Spot News at the World Press Photo Competition in 2010. His latest photos of the Gaza Strip in October 2023 have been selected by Reuters as one of the "best press photographs of 2023". "A picture should not be taken just with the eye; it should have a meaning in the heart" - Mohammed Salem.

23 - 11 - 23

"A boy eating watermelon", Adam Rouhana “There are a number of things that come to mind when I look at this image and, honestly, it’s about the boy… It’s sort of like he’s making love to the watermelon, right? That is what it looks like. So, it’s this idea, I guess, of a passion for the land and his own relationship with the land. You can see he’s in this kind of olive grove and the earth is around him." N.B. The watermelon is a symbol of Palestine. Adam Rouhana is a young Palestinian photographer who graduated from Oxford. He grew up in Boston. Each year, he returns to his homeland with his camera, and focuses on Palestinian youth, which represents half the population. A soldier, a fence, a football pitch, but also laughter, somersaults on the beach and back to school moments. The young photographer, who plans his first exhibition with curators Zainab Hasoon and Sara bin Safwan at the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, captures these everyday infrastructures, characters and emotions of Palestine. He claims the "permission to narrate" developed by Edward Saïd - in other words, the commitment to sharing an individual rather than a collective story, not dictated by an oppressive regime or locked into a given prism such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Adam Rouhana therefore offers new perspectives and new narratives of Palestine. ‘Instead of reproducing the representations of occupied Palestine that are so ubiquitous and so obvious, I was able to capture the quieter moments and try to work to create new representations of Palestine’ – Adam Rouhana

09 - 11 - 23

"Climbing walls", Khaled Hourani Born in Hebron, he is an artist, writer, commentator, curator, and a critical voice in Palestine. Operating within a socially and politically constrained system, Hourani conveys his awareness of the nuances and vagaries that permeate different aspects of social encounters in Palestine. In his pivotal 2011 project ‘Picasso in Palestine’, Hourani borrowed Picasso’s ‘Buste de Femme’ from the Van Abbemuseum in The Netherlands, to display it in Ramallah. The symbol was powerful knowing the piece was painted during WW2. What was already an unusual lending process turned into a political quagmire considering that Palestine was not - and still isn’t - internationally recognised as a state, therefore making it impossible to insure the piece. The painting had to be militarily guarded: no insurance company took the risk. Picasso’s painting was exhibited in a specific room, always with two guards. This photograph was taken at the time, and has since been exhibited multiple times, also under surveillance. A mise en abyme revealing the complexity and constant struggle of a life under occupation.

30 - 11 - 23

"Kiss of Freedom", Rami Kanso Rami Kanso is a Lebanese-Slovak graphic designer, motion designer and visual artist based in Doha. He currently works for Alaraby TV. Rami combines his work in broadcasting with his passion for creative animation. He was head of visuals for the West End music production "Umm Kulthum: The Golden Era", which premiered at the London Palladium in March 2020. He also co-produced and co-directed a series of award-winning poetry videos with his wife, Dana Dajani. In October 2019, Rami's drawing for the Lebanese revolution became a viral icon of the resistance movement. His art blends calligraphy, collage, texture work, typography and symbolism to express contemporary Arab identity.

26 - 10 - 23

"Women sleeping" by Malak Mattar "Being a feminist is not about hating men; it's about believing that men and women don't have to compete with each other, but that they complement each other. This harmony can exist between two genders when there is equality and recognition of each other's roles and abilities, without degrading anyone's status." Malak Matar was born in 1999 in the Gaza Strip. She started painting in 2014 to escape the aggression and violence she and her family experienced daily while living in the Gaza Strip. Her first solo exhibition, which she organised a year later at the age of fifteen, enabled her to forge links with international journalists and gain recognition for her work on social networks. After winning the distinction of best high school student in the Gaza Strip (and second best in the whole of Palestine), Malak Matar left Gaza in 2017 to study political science in Turkey. She is publishing a bilingual Arabic-English children's book, "Grandma's Bird", about the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, with writings and drawings that describe her own experience.

19 - 10 - 23

"Palest*n*ans: a story of displacement and pain. For decades, the world has been a silent witness to their displacement, the bombing of their refuge and the loss of loved ones. Today, with no access to food, water or medicine, they are faced with the agonising decision to leave the land they hold dear, with the uncertainty of their return, or quite simply, to die. Their story is part of the wider story of refugees around the world. The location of this work has not been added to avoid the shadowbanning I have faced in recent days." - statement by Egyptian visual artist and graphic designer Hassan Ragab, about the tragedy that Gaza goes through today, in front of everyone's eyes. The word 'Palestinians' has had several letters removed to avoid the censorship currently rampant on social networks. Hassan Ragab was trained as an architect and now lives in Southern California. Between design, furniture renovation, installations and graphic design, he participates in the development of digital art and in particular the use of Artificial Intelligence in this field.