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 Muhammad Asad Ullah
Muhammad Asad Ullah
Muhammad Asad Ullah is one of the brightest new crop of journalists on the Doha scene. With a penchant for showbiz stories and a rover's eye on fashion. He's the whiz kid of the team with experience of both print and digital media.
Gulf Times
Moschino Resort 2023 Womenswear: Sugar and spice and everything nice

Moschino’s Resort 2023 Womenswear eased its way into more democratic proposal with a chiseled floor-length dress featuring a vivid cut-out above the neckline: a clear statement that ‘affordable’ isn’t the same as bashful, and it’s time to celebrate the classic glamour with a touch contemporary cuts. Tailoring and shirting, either nipped or magnified in all the interesting places, with prints in whimsical patterns for a tropical cocktail party – there’s nothing boring here that you see, but just retro elaborately constructed silhouettes that are two-piece ensembles as well, very girly and feminine in every sense.In Moschino’s world nothing’s dark at the moment. The brand embraces so much colour that only few of designers can match it for exuberance. Colours sell, so why not lean into that success, why not say yes to happiness of happy customers and girls. These clothes are sexy, not conventionally, but make a woman feel sensual, and in her body and in her skin.Between the heels, pantsuits and coral prints you can magnify well on the bear and happy face formations printed on both garments and bags – you’d be inclined to call it a holiday collection, which it is in every sense.The collection starts off with a cherry print, though these little fruits are sugared and green, adding a visual garnish to the tropical cocktail. The groove starts to emerge: It’s a look that’s slightly hippie, slightly disco, and slightly formal, with an emphasis on long silhouettes alongside go-go miniskirts and short-shorts.Crochet pieces add to the vintage vibes – in some cases, they’re quilted together, depicting flowers, smiley faces, and a version of Moschino’s teddy bear. Mixed in retro airport upholstery patterns, wavy jacquards and polka-dot embroideries enhance the atmosphere across a maxi-dress, leggy trousers, a beret and much more.

Lusail International Circuit will be hosting the very first sprint race at night on October 8.
F1 confirms 23-race season; Chinese GP won’t be replaced

London: Formula One will have 23 races this season, still a record and one more than last year, with the sport facing a four-week gap in April after deciding not to replace the cancelled Chinese GP. The race in Shanghai, originally scheduled for April 16 as the fourth of 24 rounds, was axed last month for the fourth year in a row due to strict local measures to curb the spread of Covid-19.Formula One had said then that it was assessing alternative options, with various venues touted in the media including Portugal’s Portimao circuit that was used as a replacement in 2020 and 2021 for races cancelled during the pandemic.That will leave a gap between round three, Australia’s race in Melbourne on April 2, and Azerbaijan’s Grand Prix in Baku on April 30. Sources said the Chinese GP organisers had sought a reinstatement after Beijing relaxed Covid controls but that was ruled out for logistical reasons. Bringing the race in Baku forward by a week was also considered. The 2023 calendar features the return of Qatar in October, a debut night race in Las Vegas in November and six sprint weekends.Red Bull’s Dutch driver Max Verstappen will be chasing his third championship in a row when the season starts in Bahrain on March 5 after pre-season testing at the Sakhir circuit in late February. The season ends in Abu Dhabi on Nov. 26.2023 Formula One season scheduleMarch 5: Bahrain, SakhirMarch 19: Saudi Arabia, JeddahApril 2: Australia, MelbourneApril 30: Azerbaïjan, BakuMay 7: Miami, MiamiMay 21: Emilia-Romagna, ImolaMay 28: Monaco, MonacoJune 4: Spain, BarcelonaJune 18: Canada, MontrealJuly 2: Austria, SpielbergJuly 9: British, SilverstoneJuly 23: Hungary, BudapestJuly 30: Belgium, Spa-FrancorchampsAugust 27: Netherlands, ZandvoortSeptember 3: Italy, MonzaSeptember 17: SingaporeSeptember 24: Japan, SuzukaOctober 8: Qatar, LusailOctober 22: United States, AustinOctober 29: Mexico, Mexico CityNovember 5: Brazil, Sao PauloNovember 19: Las Vegas, Las VegasNovember 26: Abu Dhabi, Yas Marina

Gulf Times
Friskily young, tweaking trends: Fendi Womenswear Fashion Show SS 23

Sick, although in quite a good way. That’s the only possible response to the double-F hardware-strapped combat pants in silky technical fabric, sporty rib knits, layering in lacquered embroideries, so playful and practical all at once from the Fendi’s Womenswear Fashion Show SS23. It might not be an everyday wear but put the fashion glasses on and you’d instantly see the right number of attractive features to qualify it as ideally avant-garde.Fendi is a serious Roman fur and leather house of long standing, but Kim Jones recently have been having some fun with it all — paying homage to the past whilst adding the futuristic edge to each fabric. “I am interested in looking at things that Karl has done, and seeing how we can develop them – both visually and technically,” says Jones.With that, Jones focused on a modernist, earthly toned silhouette, further de-cloyed up with the hints of popping green, vibrant pink and blue that ran throughout the collection. It made enough of the statement to carry the collection, but, as always, the real news-making content was the shape of the Peekaboo bags with chained straps for the very first time. The statement bags were reimagined in a miniature Fendi First bags, draped in finer chains, and easily passable as pieces of jewellery. Well, a Fendi bag is a piece jewellery, classy and making a statement with the logo (first introduced in 2000) that was used to anchor the collection in the past, but re-imagined for today.Much of the collection was cut in barely-dyed but beautifully embroidered layers of technical organza and nylon jersey. “At FENDI, I am constantly thinking about practicality as well as luxury,” says Jones. “Adding heavy hardware to something very soft both gives it real functionality and makes it interesting.”The silhouettes, mostly neutral, were cut with narrow flying panels, textured with what looked at a glance like worn-through or dust-spattered fabrics and slouchy edges. Of course, it wasn't that at all. Sleek satin grounded by elevated tennis shoes or rubber platforms formed the constant forward approach. Somewhere in designing this collection, Jones arrived at a dynamic balance between confronting the current mood and creating a modern proposition for that problematic word ‘luxury’. But Fendi lovers will savor the fact that these Fendi versions are, in one sense, originals.Experience and technical expertise count here. Jones, after all, has navigated well and knows how to calibrate a response.

It’s all fiery at Arcadia

When it comes to picking and suggesting the best festival for you to be at during this FIFA fever in Qatar, as there are countless number of events happening around, we really are spoilt for choice.Once upon a time, generally, these festivals seemed to be split into three categories: weekends where you spent most of your time shielding your tent from raucous teenagers; dry, self-important affairs; and Glastonbury. Now, though, with a wealth of festivals springing up across the country, in celebration of FIFA 2022, there are always any number of fresh options, as well as the long-running and established events that are only going from strength to strength for this. So, dust off your wellies and head to one of its kind Arcadia Electronic Music Festival that is ongoing till December 19.Alchemy Project Entertainment, in association with the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC), revealed the first line-up names for the Arcadia Electronic Music Festival and it has been eclectic. Over 150 of the most renowned global artists are firing up 3 iconic stages of Arcadia, Doha’s most anticipated electronic music festival.This is totally another breed of festival—of one that combine dreamy setting artisanal cocktails, and of course, excellent entertainment on fire, quite literally. It’s time to add this to your bucket list whilst the celebration goes on and get a breathe of Glastonbury’s 50-tonne fire-breathing spider in the centre of it all.Arcadia has curated a stellar lineup of music, visual art, and residences. If the prospect of seeing electroacoustic composer Maghan Jolk perform in a beautifully spare, firelit spider right in front of Ras Bu Fontas metro station isn’t enticing enough, there’s plenty of eccentric style on display, too (with a cowboy hat thrown in for good measure). This month’s lineup is as diverse as ever, with acts like psychedelic trio Oscar Akagy to electronic music pioneer Tita Lau taking the stage.On the opening night, it felt like history. Taking to the stage as the night cooled and some revellers began howling at the blazing fire the spider spitted out, Meduza came out in what could only be described as a safari parka, which was followed Joselito was wearing cast-off T. They stood like the stoic rock'n'rollers they were: full attitude, chins out, without a care.With finest live DJ performances to grace this sceptred isle, Arcadia is also a microcosm through which to view this part of the world at large.

Enrique Iglesias performing in Doha recently.
Enrique brings a barrage of hits to Doha

What pop music means today largely depends on what angle you’re looking at it from; it has significantly changed in the past few years. Though not solely responsible for the change, Enrique Iglesias’s 1998 smash hit 'Bailamos' marked a seismic shift in global appetite for Latin and non-English language music not seen since the days of Gloria Estefan in the 1980s and Ricky Martin in the 1990s. It has been – since then – music that strives for lustre, energy, trance and a phenomenon. A time where you could only think of Michael Jackson and Madonna –another meaning of pop, so tightly tethered and not dependent on language – was introduced. Iglesias and his music turned out to be a Spanish music phenomenon, with many fascinated by the singer’s stage presence and his suave style. Qatar Airways and Qatar Tourism have launched Qatar Live – a series of music concerts and festivals taking place in Doha, sponsored by Ooredoo and organised by Alchemy Project. As part of the initiative, the Spanish singer made his Qatar debut at Doha Golf Club over the weekend, backed by his band. Iglesias has been one of the few singers who has commercially not gone wrong for decades, with every song he has belted turning multiplatinum, and his sales and fan base undiminished. In that hoopla of Latinx crowd that includes fashion-savvy Maluma, trap rapper Bad Bunny and the logo-loving singer J Balvin, Latino Grammy award winner Iglesias still stands out with his heavy, swirling upbeat tracks, sensuality and risk-taking fashion smarts. Much like his gruff sound, the singer’s productions have their own distinct beat. For his Doha gig, Iglesias cultivated a look that was all about a silky button-up shirt paired with leather pants. His fashion sense embodied a certain type of confidence when he appeared on stage with his 2014 track 'I’m a Freak' featuring Pitbull – a whole vibe that seemed totally rockstar. Featuring a futuristic theme charged with lasers, the concert was all about audiovisual effects and pyrotechnics presented in a way never seen before. Iglesias has swag – everyone would agree – as he picked up a young girl from the audience to sit with him on the stairs of the stage and try to make her sing his lyrics. Consider it one more reason to be a fan. His music has always been suffused by a human, rough-and-ready, touching kind of love. It helps that his songs are staples for a dance night out, coaxing all generations on to the dance floor, and forcing even the coolest kid to throw aside their pretension. Indeed, there’s something disarming about seeing Iglesias on stage. He just bombarded with hits – I Like It, Bailamos, Hero – and an eye-popping spectacle of pyrotechnics and confetti cannon, all cranked up, and the sound of tens of thousands of voices singing along to Bailando. There wasn’t a beat out of place or a minute when fans didn’t have their hands in the air, swirling away. A houseful of Latino music lovers and an absolute out-and-out way of welcoming the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

Gulf Times
High fashion through time at ‘Forever Valentino’

*QM and Maison Valentino has curated the exhibition at M7 For people visiting Qatar during FIFA World Cup 2022 and the fashion connoisseurs alike, ‘Forever Valentino’, a major perspective exhibition that pays homage to Valentino’s founder Valentino Garavani and the Maison’s still-unfolding heritage of Haute Couture excellence, couldn’t have arrived at M7 with more poignant timing. Was Valentino Garavani the most intelligent, business-aware designer far ahead of his time in the 1960s? Or is Pierpaolo Piccioli a romantic dreamer who finds relevance in an age set on breaking the constructs of the past, keeping the codes but changing the values?   Pierpaolo Piccioli The answer is both of the above, claims the exhibition itself in a dialogue that is a theatrical curation presented by Qatar Museums and Maison Valentino, as part of Qatar Creates Project. Massimiliano Gioni, the Edlis Neeson Artistic Director at the New Museum, New York, and artistic director of the 55th Venice Biennale, and Alexander Fury, journalist, author, and collector, who is making his curatorial debut, have worked alongside Pierpaolo Piccioli on the exhibit. It’s all about past, present and future and carries on traditions of craft that has been passed down through time at this Roman house. But, rather than using time as curation principle of the exhibition, the focus has been on place: Rome — a city of soul that influences the fashion house to the core. You go in and out of palazzos, squares and courtyards whilst exclusive access to secluded intimate spaces. You enter the exhibition and you’d be elated to the city of Rome, and not the one you see on Instagram these days, but the actual city inhabited by real people, in particular as a home to the atelier of extravagant flourishes of drapery and haute couture — Valentino. Intricately put together on and on, room by room, with stories that are superimposed on Valentino’s signatures by anyone or anything that inspired Garavani and other all the designers who have passed through the house since his passing: it’s an orgy of gorgeousness. The exhibit is more like how the employees of Maison spend their days. From the recreation of the courtyard of the headquarters at Palazzo Mignanelli, where Igor Mitoraj’s massive sculpture Sorgente del Centurione commands the space, the starting point of the exhibition, to the all-white room of the atelier, a black and white room and then the Di Vas room, where photos of celebrities wearing Valentino adorn the walls that surround some of the actual dresses — it really is like you’re on a tour of the House of Valentino. All the spaces created pays homage to the values that Valentino holds closer to its fabric of existence — a sense of intimacy and a very close relationship between the client, maison and the clothes. The sculpture Sorgente del Centurione viaducts the connection of past and present, the fragments of past made into a modern work. The all-white rooms of the atelier have been put together to give a closer look and give one an experience of being at the house of Maison Valentino. The all-white room goes beyond the idea of aesthetics but more functional. It is explained during the tour of the exhibit that atelier is white because of a very functional aspect and that is when the pin drops you have to see it. Apart from a very practical approach, the all-white also symbolises the journey of the couture and custom-made clothes that is started as white toiles The exhibition houses not just haute couture but ready-to-wear pieces as well. Then we make our way to Capriccio Romano, a black and white room—the clothes displayed here also share the same palette—a homage to cinema in a very crisp classical way. Moving images are projected on white dresses suspended from the ceiling that juxtaposes a reality and fantasy in an instant. At Capriccio Romano Valentino’s ‘Of Grace and Light’ Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2020/2021 pieces take the centre stage. There are yards of tafettas and tulle that form the structure and sets the mood. Do not miss out the White and Black polka dot couture piece — the rhinestones and crystals that form the bodice are a real piece of art. The pieces here are a testimony of delicate workmanship. The glossy regalia, Di Vas is the next curation at the exhibition. Here the photos of celebrities wearing Valentino adorn the walls along with some actual dresses, dating back to 1961 Elizabeth Taylor’s Haute Couture ensemble that she wore at the premiere of her film Spartacus. Jane Fonda’s 1961 Oscar, Julia Robert’s 2001 Oscar, Gwyneth Paltrow’s Venice Film Festival, Anne Hathaway’s 2001 Oscars, Angelina Jolie’s Eternal premiere, Lady Gaga’s Venice Film Festival premiere of A Star is Born, Jennifer Lopez’s 2017 Met Gala, and Zendaya’s 2021 Oscar look are also displayed in a sphere. A closer look to awe-impelling fashion ruffles and silhouettes is simply breathtakingly beautiful. In the way the pleats fell, the way the sheer fabric is crafted caterwauls the precious heritage of artisanship at Valentino through years. Like the red carpets for which the dresses in Di Vas room were created, the Parade Room that follows is all Pretty Pink, featuring two exquisite pieces from Valentino’s Prink PP Collection Pret-a-Porter Fall/Winter 2022/2023 — an off-shoulder full length sleek silhouette that Anne Hathaway flaunted at Cannes Film Festival this year and the extravagant tulle that Nicola Peltz adorned at Met Gala this year. Two pieces with totally different structures, placed right next to each other — as evidence to Valentino’s ability to make anything and everything work. The second floor of the exhibit welcomes you to Wunderkammer room and then into the Archeologies that is modelled after a storage space and is interactive for the guests to open the drawers. The idea of the Archives is based on Fury’s own experience of going through the history of Valentino by going through every drawer and corner for historic facts and pieces. The narrative of exhibition moves then to Piccioli and you’re introduced to Piccioli’s process of creating a collection — his photos, drawing and notes that further are turned to reality in an unfiltered way at the Cashiers De Defile. There’s colour popping everywhere that is intense and gorgeous at the same time. You can notice the different skin tones of mannequins used to exemplify different ethnicities and cultures. Valentino Forever is not an image, it’s an experience and the exhibition is indeed a beautiful one. The glorious finale seems fitting considering the designer’s own mission at Valentino — we’re all different, with different styles but Valentino is where all can find a place. Here, in Doha, the timing and space can’t help but resonate with different set of meanings. The exhibition is a veitable escape bunker where the fantasy, dreams, wonders and love for fashion serve to lift the visitor out of the daily strife and drabness of the world outside and gives you just the perfect tinge of haute couture in the most fashionable way.  

PICTURES: Shaji Kayamkulam
Fuwairit Kite Beach Resort, where thrill meets leisure

With a large number of visitors expected to descend upon Qatar for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, the hospitality industry in Qatar is witnessing hectic activity in the run-up to the mega event. Joining the list of high-quality tourism offerings that will open their doors before Qatar 2022 is Fuwairit Kite Beach Resort, located in northeastern Qatar. The new state-of-the-art kite beach resort, which is over an hour’s drive from Doha, will be opened to the public early next month, it was learnt during a media tour of the purpose-built resort on Tuesday. Beyond 2022, the resort will serve as a global kite-surfing destination, taking advantage of perfect conditions for the sport while also providing a premium holiday experience. At first glance, the coastline of Fuwairit looks like any tropical destination away from the city. Clear, blue-green waters, a vast empty beach; rich, lush turtle life. But step out on the sand and one will notice something unusual: the sand is so soft that perhaps it can pass off as talcum powder. This idyllic quality has been famous among residents but is now all set to welcome visitors at large. A unique destination, Fuwairit Kite Beach Resort will cater to guests who want the ultimate relaxing holiday kicked up a notch with the adventurous activity of kitesurfing, while pushing Qatar to join the ‘surf tourism’ market that has already been on the rise globally. On its website, the property is described as “a purpose-built resort designed around the kitesurfer’s lifestyle with everything you need on the water and even more off it. This is a place for everyone to enjoy”. According to Qatar Tourism, “Qatar is exceptionally well-placed to offer everything a kitesurfer seeks – stable and consistent winds for nine months of the year, calm and shallow lagoons, warm water, a favourable climate – and it’s globally accessible.” Arriving at Fuwairit Kite Beach Resort, one is greeted by the Hawaiian spirit. You pull up to the resort and the staff, dressed in deep blue, welcomes you with ‘Aloha Marhaba!’ and then offers a fresh-squeezed juice and a wet towel to literally take the stress off for driving all the way. An appreciation of nature is woven into every aspect of the resort. Through its architecture and interior design, the resort brings its surrounding splendour indoors via the placement of lush green plants, its choice of colours on the wall, murals and art pieces, along with the Vespa and bicycle that add to the appeal. The resort is designed to offer its guests a sporty, exciting and a serious amount of space. While guests can book an individual room, they also have the option of twin-sharing. There are about 50 rooms in total, both king beds and twins, and eight units are connected. As kitesurfing is also more of an activity that gather friends and family — from beginners to veterans — the connecting units are ideal for larger groups. Each oceanfront room, delineated by the lush foliage that runs throughout the resort, is outfitted with thoughtfully curated furnishings and pillows, towels and rugs. The crown jewels of the design are the artworks placed in each room, which highlight the local Qatari heritage and culture. The stylish and comfortable rooms are bathed in natural light and boast of all modern amenities. The premier kitesurfing destination offers different stay packages for guests, specially curated for kitesurfers, including beginners. One can also find colourful kites dancing above the water. In kitesurfing, high-speed surfing and sailing are activities that complement each other. In the middle of manoeuvres, turns and jumps can reach about 20m high. Even if it’s your first time, the resort’s got you covered with its instructors who can help even novices find their feet. Although the roaring waves and gusts of wind might appeal the most to visitors, the beach itself at the resort is also worth a day’s trip for those who prefer turf over surf. There is also a gym, yoga studio and an open-air theatre for guests to enjoy.

CYQLONE at Msheireb Downtown Doha.
On a fitness journey at CYQLONE

  * Ranim Hadid, owner of fitness studio CYQLONE at Msheireb Downtown Doha, talks to Gulf Times about her journey, well-being and what sets the studio apart When it comes to fitness and all things wellness, CYQLONE at Msheireb Downtown Doha is taking the city by storm. Ranim Hadid built her studio around her passion for everything - from squats to cardio to nutrition and networking. Her ultimate goal has been to create a fitness community where everyone could get inspired and share their own fitness journey as they move towards a healthier lifestyle, regardless of who you are and what you look like. Moments after I enter CYQLONE Studio, a racket breaks out. It’s so loud and sudden that I assume something must have gone horribly wrong. As I see people picking on their towels and heading for the spinning. Someone is caterwauling, quite literally: “The class is about to begin.” I am intrigued by the class — for someone who has never tried spinning, but as I look up, I realise Ranim is waiting for me to give me a tour of the facility and walk me through her journey of fitness and wellbeing. << Ranim Hadid _________________ Whether you’re on a hunt for a fab nutritious smoothie (spoiler alert: not only are they super-good for you, but they’re delicious), a fun workout or perhaps an inspiration to help jumpstart your journey — CYQLONE has got you covered. Ranim is having a moment. A realisation for fitness that came few years ago, when she was pursuing her Master's degree, shaped up to be a lifestyle and profession for this young woman. Her popularity is staggering among fitness enthusiasts in the country, but it's not all that surprising. The programmes introduced at the studio seem incredibly simple yet effective. That’s it. “Growing up, I always enjoyed sports. I participated in most of the after-school fitness activities that my school offered. I started taking this more seriously when I was doing my Master's at New York University (NYU) and I realised that being physically active was helping me reduce stress and manage my life. What I was doing outside of my academic life was helping me preform better at school. I am a perfectionist, which means I will always feel like I can better at anything. I am very happy and grateful about my progress and growth but I am nowhere near where I dream to be,” says Ranim as she talks about her journey in fitness and what made her take this up as profession. Ranim’s first job of the day is to introduce me to a spinning workout. We do 45 minutes of pedalling focused on resistance-based intervals, and heart rate training with the backdrop of high-energy music blasting through the studio. Motivational, engaging and effective. She’s on a heavy bicycle next to me, is uplift personified, cheering me on the start when I go off like the clappers (“You’ve got it!"), and at the end when I’m drenched in sweat, doubled up and want to vomit (“Come on, 10 more seconds to go”). After we finish, I realise that Ranim talks like this all the time, endlessly stippling her sentences with words like ‘positive’ and ‘inspirational’. “It’s all about having a healthy mind and positive mindset. A healthy body is a healthy mind. A strong body is a powerful mindset. Health comes in many forms you have physical, mental, and emotional and the healthiest people I know are the ones who take care of all three aspects, that is the best method to reach ultimate happiness. Healthy is happy,” says Ranim. The health and fitness industry desperately rolls out one ground-breaking new weight-loss and fitness idea after another. But how food and fitness is all interconnected, Ranim explains, “First, the saying 'abs are made in the kitchen' is not a myth. When I am extremely strict with my nutritional intake, I can see my abs are more defined. When I am consistent with my workout but not with my food, I can notice the lines becoming less defined. So yes, food and nutrition are essential to maximising the results you are looking to achieve. Be consistent! Its ok to cheat, no one can be perfect with their diet. I follow the 80/20 rule, which means that what you do 80% of the time will make up for the 20% where you are not being consistent or disciplined. That’s the best routine to follow for people who are tempted to indulge in food or beverages that are considered unhealthy. Everything in moderation! Moderation is about never giving up or fully giving in. So don't binge, but also don't abstain - take it easy.” Every fitness studio or gym have a plan on the back burner. What is CYQLONE’s secret that sets it apart? "Like you experienced, we offer 45-minute classes that are an immersive experience based on sound and light to the beat of the music. All our classes are signature CYQLONE classes, the blue print we use at our indoor cycling is unique to our studio, our SHRED class is Covid-friendly functional training, and our SCULPT class is a combination of Barre, Pilates and Mobility,” Ranim adds. “CYQLONE is more than just a fitness studio, it’s a mission, it’s a community, it’s a space where for you to manifest the best version of yourself where we can all come together collectively and be part of making the world a better place. "Our internationally trained instructors are the ones you love to hate – Qatar’s finest with reputation, commitment, and drive. Each trainer has been carefully selected among many applicants based on their ability to motivate clients to push further then they think they can. We select our trainers based on their experience, stage presence, ability to build a deep connection with clients and the level to which they can inspire.”

Elizabeth Taylor with Julian's father Sami Hajibay
Of timeless pieces, Liz and the Piranesi woman

  * Loved by Elizabeth Taylor, Piranesi recently exhibited at DJWE and spoke to Gulf Times in an exclusive conversation about their brand of generations, who is the Piranesi woman and styling Taylor   For Piranesi, fine jewellery is a lot more than just being precious. The kid gloves and complexity regularly associated with jewels take a step back in the designer’s world. At their studio, you see strands of soft florets crafted from pave black diamonds juxtaposing a herringbone pattern of a single white diamond. Additional layers come courtesy of angled, staggered strands fashioned from a smorgasbord of fancy cuts – round, square and princess among them. There’s more: drop earrings offering a more graphic interpretation with white gold, with which the same bejewelled threads envelop a brilliant-cut pave diamond. Elizabeth Taylor with Julian's father Sami Hajibay If Piranesi’s collections see couture and luxe details as a touchpoint, it won’t be erroneous to say these effortlessly mash up a whole universe with sumptuous, decorative detail. Founded in 1845, Piranesi recently took part in the Doha Jewellery & Watches Exhibition, at the Alfardan Pavilion, and spoke to Gulf Times in an exclusive conversation about their brand of generations, styling the iconic Liz Taylor and beyond.   From the Piranesi collection The intimate nature of the collection they showcase is aided by the fact that it’s a family business. “Piranesi is my family’s Italian brand based in New York and we have two boutiques, one in Aspen, Colorado and one in St Moritz, Switzerland. Historically, we’ve always designed jewellery for the international market. We do many exhibitions throughout the United States and Europe, and we have many Middle Eastern clients as well. We don’t design for a specific look but for a lifestyle. Our collection is unique, colourful with all the gemstones that we use. The Middle Eastern market happens to love our collection and craftsmanship and they understand fine gemstones and fine Italian make. The response at DJWE was absolutely wonderful,” said Julian Hajibay, managing director of Piranesi.   From the Piranesi collection Showcasing their collection in Doha and visiting the country for the first time, Julian was all praise for what Qatar has to offer. “I was very impressed with everything that Qatar has built and with the way it is continuing to grow, especially in preparation for the World Cup,” he said. Among the label’s many admirers, past and present, was legendary actress Elizabeth Taylor, who collaborated on the Elizabeth by Piranesi Collection before her death in 2011. “Elizabeth Taylor and my late father were very good friends towards the end of her life. We had a very close relationship. Even if you look at the Pirenesi book, we have a dedicated section in it specifically dedicated to Liz Taylor. Her loved ones wrote a letter when my father passed away, saying that at night when they look at the sky, there are going to be two diamonds sparkling back at them — representing Elizabeth and my father,” adds Julian. Julian Hajibay with his mother Miriam Hajibay at the Alfardan Pavilion, DJWE 2022. Supplied pictures “My mother Miriam has been the designer of the company for the past 30 years and she would sit alongside my father and Elizabeth Taylor, and Elizabeth would draw an initial sketch, and then my mom would perfect it. In our Elizabeth Taylor binder of all her sketches, which are hundreds of them, anything that she would approve she would sign 'ET' and it would go into production.” Women are leading busy, full lives—they find themselves running around all day, in overdrive. Jewellery shouldn’t be complicated; it should be demystified, and so should the idea that special pieces should only be worn on special occasions. Minimalist jewellery has been having its moment for the past few years now. Elaborate-statement necklaces have been out and layered chains and barely there rings have been in. Women who craved something in between had limited options; where were the sculptural, unconventional bangles that could still wear every day? Well, they were at Piranesi — and for generations. Their pieces are minimal but they have something to say. The beauty of Piranesi’s designs lies in their simplicity, not in terms of how precious the luxe and haute pieces are, but in terms of elegance or intricate designs. Bold and brilliant hues of sapphires and placement of diamonds with detailed craftsmanship make their pieces playful and soulful. The chic and classy designs, which have become their signature for the previous five generations, feature bright gemstones surrounded by a halo of diamonds that curve around the weaver’s body like a floating element. There’s a certain versatility to their pieces. “Each of our collections is classic with an edge. My mother is an absolute genius when it comes to designing. When a woman feels Piranesi, she feels invincible. Piranesi is for a woman who does everything. She wakes up, goes to work, comes back, goes to yoga class, has a family at home, takes care of them, prepares dinner… goes out to a nice gala. From A to Z, the Piranesi woman is who she wants to be. As a company that is run by my mother, a woman run company, almost 88% of our staff is women. So, we’re a very women-driven company and we’re very fortunate for women, love them, always promote them to grow and be prosperous in our times,” says Julian.

Alia Bhatt. Image courtesy of the actor's Instagram page
Qatar feels like home, says Alia Bhatt

* Bollywood actor, in Qatar to attend DJWE 2022, speaks to Gulf Times in an exclusive conversation about her taste in jewellery, visiting the country and her career after 'Gangubai'   In a lounge at Doha Jewellery & Watches Exhibition (DJWE), the pink marabou trim on a stiletto is fluttering expectantly in the breeze of waiting for a superstar to settle in, as a phalanx of assistants move silently about a fabulous, temporary, sparkling grotto of couture jewellery piece. There’s something about her that is keeping hundreds of people outside waiting in anticipation of her look. Naturally, 10 minutes comes and goes, but eventually, at an uncertain point in superstar time, the door finally opens and I’m asked to come in. There is an art to being Alia Bhatt, which is to say that rising to Bollywood’s one of the most sought-after actors of this time is not a status achieved by just bungling your exit from a limo. Dressed in a long white cape, matching stilletos, a statement jewellery piece and a nicely done ponytail — it is a curious experience to encounter a star giving you her most quintessential vibe, and Alia has not disappointed. Qatar Tourism Chairman and Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive HE Akbar al-Baker with Alia Bhatt at the opening of DJWE 2022 Already, photographs taken moments ago of her short walk from her car into the exhibition are pinging around the country. “Let’s do this!” she says by way of hello. Growing up as the daughter of veteran Bollywood director and producer Mahesh Bhatt, Alia had a vantage point on fame and cinema that few do. She knows that as she walks out the cameras will accost her however it doesn’t really bother her as she starts to chat animatedly about her visit to Qatar, being a part of DJWE and what jewellery appeals to her. When I compliment Alia, she thanks me and instantly asks me, "really, ok?". She has a tendency towards deadpan humour, often delivered with a laconic stare that can make it difficult to figure out whether she is joking or not. “Being here and being a part of this prestigious event, which is so massive and glamorous and the kind of effort everyone has put in to make it happen, is a huge honour for me. We’ve been actually waiting for it to happen a couple of years ago but thanks to the pandemic, but also they say all good things take time. So, the fact that it is finally happening, I’m really happy. It is lovely to be back here and it feels very much like home,” says Alia. As Qatar has been successfully placing itself on the cultural map of the world, the country has become a destination for many celebrities and travellers worldwide to explore. Alia talks about the warm Qatari hospitality. “Qatar feels like home, and not just because of the warmth of the people but also the simplicity along with the opulence. It is a nice mixture of taste and culture and it all blends in very effortlessly. When you enter the airport, it itself takes your breath away. And I think it has got a lot of character and personality. When you go away from your home, you need to feel as comfortable otherwise you rather stay at home. Which is why the mixture of the beauty and the culture is a winning game for me.” Alia’s still as beautiful and cheeky as she was when she made her acting debut with 'Student of the Year' in 2012. Who knew the sassy Shanaya from 'SOTY' would one day become the ‘It’ actor in an industry that’s hard to make a name in, even if you’re a star kid. Turning out as the charming Shanaya, Alia Bhatt has come a long way. Over her decade-long career, she has not only proven herself to be a fearless master of reinvention, but has also bridged the world’s of art cinema and storytelling with her latest stint in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s 'Gangubai Kathiawadi' (2022). “Human beings tend to change and evolve. Definitely, I’m not the same person I was ten years ago. But, in many ways I am. I am still that kind of young actor with lots of ambition and excitement and stars in my eyes,” Alia adds, “I’ve sort of learnt to recognise that it is a part of my life and I enjoy my off time as well, which is very little. But the time of just being me, just having that sort of personal quite time to myself. So I’ve definitely in many ways grown up a lot and I have grown up in the public eye now.”               'Earrings from        Ranbir's grandmother' People in South Asia consider jewellery as heirloom pieces. Is there a specific piece that has been passed on to the actor over the generation? Alia Bhatt responds, “My mom (Soni Razdan) has given me a ring of hers and my mother-in-law (Neetu Kapoor) has given me Ranbir’s grandmother’s earrings. So yes.” Alia’s latest, 'Gangubai', charted to become the number one non-English film on Netflix globally. The film has been watched for 13.81mn hours and featured in the Top 10 among films in 25 countries across the world. Sometimes a single performance sets the standards and all subsequent performances pale in comparison no matter how hard one tries. Asked if she’ll be able to outdo 'Gangubai', Alia says, “Well, I don’t think I ever plan my characters in a way to outdo other characters. It’s not calculated but I think that’s why best things in life happens when you least expect them. And that’s what happened with 'Gangubai' as well. My motto is to just get up and go to work, give my 100% every day and see what comes out of it. "Whether I’d be able to top it up or not, I don’t know. We’ll see. Life’s too short.” DJWE has an extensive display of classic and contemporary luxury collections by internationally recognised brands and designers as well as local designers, with diamonds and emeralds taking the centre stage. Diamonds, they say, are a girl's best friend. Asked what sort of jewellery appeals to the actor, she says: “I’m very traditional and classic in my taste. Even in jewellery, the simplicity is what I enjoy the most. In my opinion, the jewellery that stands the test of time is the jewellery one should invest in and also go for. And that is naturally my taste, something that my grandmother can pass on to me and it would be relevant even today and I would like to do the same thing many many years from now.” Alia recently tied the knot with actor Ranbir Kapoor and made a statement with her bridal look, wearing Sabyasachi Heritage Jewellery featuring uncut diamonds and hand-strung pearls.

Glimpses from the Qatar visit of Aiman and Minal along with their spouses Muneeb and Ahsan.
'Loved the people here and everyone should visit Qatar'

* Hosted by Qatar Tourism and co-ordinated by Fab Entertainment Doha, Pakistani actors Aiman Muneeb and Minal Ahsan, along with their actor spouses Muneeb Butt and Ahsan Ikram, were out and about exploring what Qatar has to offer in terms of history, culture, fun and adventure   If you are prone to vacation-envy, you might be advised to stay off Instagram these days: it’s filled with beautiful and bronzed celebrities living their most fabulous lives and now since Qatar is on the cultural map of the world, there’s no way you won’t spot a celebrity exploring the town with that Jacquemus hat every time you refresh the feed. Aiman Muneeb and Minal Ahsan are Pakistani show business’ most popular twins, and perhaps they know it. They’re both beautiful and energetic and when sitting across it takes you quite an effort to remember which one was sitting on which side. You can easily get confused if you’re meeting them for the first time. Completing a decade in the industry, Aiman and Minal’s struggle can be seen through their work. Since 2012, they both have had a busy roster, lined up with major dramas, before they got married and took a little step-back to enjoy the married life and time off with their spouses: Muneeb Butt and Ahsan Ikram, both who also happen to be a part of the industry, doing quite well in acting and giving hits one after another.   It won’t be erroneous to say that not much has changed for the twin sisters over the years. They’re still the lithe, jaunty girls with easy megawatt smiles and whose eyes grow big when excited. They were only 14 when they made their television debut but it’s the connection with the audience for all these years and, of course, the acting prowess, that kept them going. Practically anyone who is fond or is slightly even familiar with Pakistani dramas know about them and have seen them grow. Apart from that, both Aiman and Minal have figured out social media down to a science like nobody else in Pakistan's entertainment industry and perhaps this is what makes both girls the two most-followed celebrities in Pakistan on Instagram. What to post, how to post it and what works best — they know it.   When Gulf Times spotted the two celebrity couples sharing a photogenic family portrait from Qatar, we couldn’t help but catch up with them about their career, thought process and about exploring the country. Hosted by Qatar Tourism and co-ordinated by Fab Entertainment Doha, the family was all about exploring what the country has to offer in terms of history, culture, fun and adventure. The acting realm Aiman was last seen in drama serial 'Baandi '(2018) before getting married to Muneeb and since then she didn’t return to the television screens. Why did she stop working? “I had my daughter and I thought that I would work after Amal’s birth but then, I just didn’t want to. Dramas used to be shot between 10am and 10pm earlier, but now there’s no schedule. I would miss out on Amal’s most special years if I got perpetually busy with work,” she says. The Pakistani dramas are now going on a different tangent altogether, exploring subjects that matter. “You do commercial and acting projects locally, but when you shoot and do something abroad in another country with a storyline outside the typical mother and daughter-in-law kind of narrative, you get to explore yourself more as an actor. Similarly with negative characters — they sort of give you a wide canvas for how far you can go with your skills and abilities,” says Muneeb talking about what interests him as an actor now, while sitting in the lobby of The Ritz-Carlton, Doha waiting for the car to arrive for their private tour of 3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum scheduled for the day.     Aiman and Minal might be basking in popularity, but this has never deterred them from taking on a variety of characters with layers to portray. Minal racked heavy ratings last time when she took on a very negative role in drama serial 'Jalan' (2020) on ARY Digital, one of the premier entertainment channels in Pakistan. Her character was a psychotic, husband-stealing, younger sister in the drama. Minal says, “It wasn’t a story that had been told before and my character’s envy and psychotic behaviour was treated very logically. I was so excited to play a negative character with so many shades to it but it was also a story I knew some people would relate to. “Whenever I used to visit any mall or something, people used to come out only to rebuke me very harshly for what I’m doing in the drama.” How do the actors manage social media trolling and negative comments coming their way? “Sometimes it very difficult for people to understand and separate us from a character we have been playing to who we happen to be in real life. You just let it be. You’ve got to be a little thick-skinned because everyone’s coming from a different mindset. There are positive and negative comments, both. And it is everywhere,” adds Ahsan. We’ve seen Aiman and Muneeb together on screen in a couple of drama serials together. But Minal and Ahsan would be sharing the screen space for the first time after marriage for a web-series that is scheduled to be shot in London and Turkey. Aiman and Minal are two sides of a coin. Did they ever replace one another during a shoot without anyone noticing, they both simultaneously say, “We did a couple of times some time back. But not anymore though. People can now recognise both of us separately.” Exploring Doha From inner-city discoveries and traditional meals to experiencing the vibrant Doha nightlife, the family has been having quite a time of their life. As we were still mid-way our conversation, the cars for 3-2-1 Museum had arrived and we were requested to join them for the rest of the day to finish our candid conversation. The previous day, the family had visited Hilton Salwa Beach Resort and Villas, ending the day at Katara - the Cultural Village. Storming the shops and consuming the classics, their stories sizzled and fizzled.     “Qatar is so beautiful and mesmerising," says Aiman. “Qatar has a lot to offer then it seems like on the outer layer. It has amazing restaurants and resorts. We were at Hilton Salwa Beach Resort to enjoy some beach and pool and later went on to the Desert Falls and we were quite astonished. The kind of service and warmth we’ve received was amazing. Even the slides at the water park are of international standards. You really do have fun and its thrilling. There’s no way your heart won’t sink for a second every time you’d slide down. Apart from the beauty, and water element — you get so much variety of options in terms of food here as well. We tried on some Syrian grill and some Lebanese starters — and everything was extremely well-done,” add Ahsan and Minal. “Even in terms of cultural heritage, the way Katara exemplifies the Qatari heritage with its architecture and blends it together with modern outlook is beautiful. We could so relate to everything. I believe the basic cultural fabric of both Qatar and South Asia and Subcontinent sort of intertwines.”     “Vacation all I ever wanted. This is the thing about Qatar that has sold me out on: the inclusion and amalgamation of so many cultures like a melting pot,” says Aiman. The director of the 3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum, Abdulla al-Mulla, warmly welcomed the actors in the newly opened museum speaking about the history of sports and what importance it holds for the country. “It is very interesting to really visit this museum and to understand the history of sports. I’ve been to other museums in the world, but the way 3-2-1 has integrated AI is a very progressive approach. The holographic effects and large projections with multiple screens is quite one of a kind. There are different sorts of interactives and the real give-away is the activation zone where we could test our physical literacy by playing interactive challenges,” says Muneeb. In terms of digital media, the museum has managed to deliver 189 exhibits, 45 interactives of all sizes, seven movement-tracking and sensor-based interactives, 18 mechanical interactives coupled with RFID wristbands and the dwelling time expands to eight hours of content if you watch everything. The next stop on the itinerary for the actors: dinner at Mandarin Oriental, thrilling rides at Doha Quest and a hefty shopping spree.     “I loved my short but sweet trip to Qatar. I loved the people here and everyone should visit Qatar. I was with my daughter Amal and everyone was kind enough to accommodate me with someone to look after my daughter during the entire trip. It just gives you a helping hand sometimes. There are a lot of things to do and I practically cannot wait to be back here,” concluded Aiman, as everyone got in the cars to get on to their next destination.          

Shankar Paramasivam
Qatar 2022 has 'turbocharged hospitality and tourism development of Qatar'

* La Cigale ready to welcome guests for Qatar 2022, says hotel manager Shankar Paramasivam * Hotel celebrates 15 years of its Ramadan Tent   The FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 has "turbocharged the hospitality and tourism development of Qatar", a senior hospitality professional has said, highlighting how the upcoming mega event will further enhance the sector. Shankar Paramasivam, hotel manager of La Cigale Hotel Managed by Accor, made the observation while speaking to Gulf Times on the occasion of the hotel celebrating 15 years of its Ramadan Tent. La Cigale opened its doors in 2007 and its definition of luxury echoes through its services to date. Paramasivam says the property is always staying up-to-date with the latest trends and innovations and is ready to welcome guests for Qatar 2022. Talking about creating a legacy of its own with regard to the concept of Ramadan tents in the country, Paramasivam said: “La Cigale's Ramadan Tent has been a marquee venue for families, enriching the lives of Doha's residents and tourists for 15 years now. Our tent, since its beginning, has hosted legacy relationship-building events for corporate powerhouses of the wider Middle East. We can say that La Cigale Hotel's Ramadan Tent has been the pioneer to set a trend among hotels in Doha. We recreate an elegant, yet magnificently ornate private majlis, fit for royalty, around the largest indoor swimming pool in Doha.” La Cigale is located right in the heart of Doha, on Suhaim Bin Hamad Street. On how the hotel benefits from its location, he said: “La Cigale is just a 15-minute drive from Hamad International Airport, and is positioned in the right location to showcase the history and growth of Qatar. Our location is our greatest advantage. One can visit the Unesco archaeological site and beaches of Qatar very conveniently due to the proximity to arterial roadways around us. Our hotel is nestled closer to both historic venues and trendy modern spots, such as Souq Waqif, Msheireb, Aspire Zone and Al Bidda Park.” It is estimated that about 1.5mn fans will attend Qatar 2022, which will take place from November 21 until December 18. Speaking on its impact on the hospitality industry as well as tourism in Qatar in general, Paramasivam said: “Qatar is an evolving destination for all types of travellers from around the world. In Qatar, cultural authenticity meets modernity, where the sand meets the sea, where people come together to experience unique offerings in culture, sports, business and family entertainment, as articulated by Qatar Tourism. “FIFA 2022 has turbocharged the hospitality and tourism development of Qatar, as we race towards the World Cup at the end of the year. The hospitality sector is growing exponentially due to multiple initiatives implemented by Qatar. There are improved visitor experiences - from expansion of the airport and seaport, choice of accommodation and transportation services, to a growing list of cultural sites. During the upcoming FIFA World Cup, Qatar will be the centre of the world, welcoming guests from all around the globe. We at La Cigale Hotel will dedicate our attention to exceeding guest expectations!” On talking about extending the services to guests arriving for Qatar 2022, Paramasivam said: “La Cigale has been recognised with multiple awards, notably, Leading Hotel 2021 by the World Travel Awards. We will continue our legacy of customer service with our team. Our main goal will be to create indelible cultural experiences for all our patrons, by providing bespoke Qatari experiences suited to individual tastes. At La Cigale, we create personalised services to make sure all our guests enjoy true Qatari warmth and hospitality. "The La Cigale team is prepared to welcome global travellers, as our employees hail from 29 nationalities and are well-accustomed to catering to the diverse needs of an international clientele, GCC residents and football fans from all walks of life.”    

Alia Bhatt at her recent wedding with Ranbir Kapoor.
Alia Bhatt to inaugurate 18th DJWE

Qatar has long been associated with jewels and the seriously bejeweled. Precious stones dating back from antiquity and jewels that are heirloom pieces, passed on to the next generation, have been embedded in the Qatari culture. The jewellery here takes inspiration from cultures, tastes and colours from around the world and forms a mish-mesh of classic pieces that evokes priceless memories for years to come in most of the cases. With quite an elaborate history of jewellery, precious watches and jewels, exhibitions such as the Doha Jewellery & Watches Exhibition (DJWE) seem quite befitting. Qatar Tourism (QT) has announced the return of DJWE this year, taking place from May 9 to 13 at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre with more than 65 exhibitors, including 500 renowned international brands, 19 Qatari designers and exclusive pavilions from Turkey and India. Superstar Alia Bhatt will inaugurate the exhibition, according to QT. “The thing I’m most excited about for this edition of DJWE is bringing in Alia Bhatt here. She looked really pretty on her wedding. How perfect is that for the jewellery show! I hope that she does come with her husband (actor Ranbir Kapoor),” said Hessa al-Thani, head of the Marketing and Planning Department at Qatar Tourism while speaking on the sidelines of QT's Annual Tourism Industry Ramadan Ghabga. Alia recently tied the knot with Ranbir and made a statement with her bridal look wearing Sabyasachi Heritage Jewellery featuring uncut diamonds and hand-strung pearls. “I think it’s great for our Indian market to see Qatar and to see how important they are to the jewellery market. The Jewellery exhibition has been long awaited for two years now, since we couldn’t do it because of the pandemic. I can say what’s really different about DJWE then any other jewellery exhibition in the region is the difference in taste of jewellery and the premium quality of jewellery,” Hessa al-Thani said. “Quality wise, DJWE is the highest standard there is in the region.” Visitors can expect bold collections that recreate royal heritage to exude regality as well as elegant, cutting-edge, modern and distinctive designs. Heavy-duty luxurious collections and minimalistic earrings, pendants and bracelets that add an elevated edge to even the most traditional ensembles would be part of the exhibits. Whether one's style is modern, classic, contemporary or minimalist - there’ll be an array of collections to pick from. “There’s a new lounge that’s part of DJWE this season where we’ll hold a series of workshops and activities, bringing in jewellery experts. You can attend these and get more insight into the process and the storyline about the pieces. It’s such an exciting initiative,” she added. The 18th DJWE will be open to public with free entrance and registration via the website,    

Qonexion is inviting Qatari artists to apply and reflect on their practices under a specific conceptual framework inspired by Mexico.
Qatar and Mexico: exchanging art, culture and colours

* Qonexion initiates annual Artist in Residence Programme, inviting Qatari artists to apply and reflect on their practices under specific conceptual framework inspired by Mexico   Whether you identify as a 'capital A' artist or are just a curious someone looking to try your hand more at creativity, this might be your calling. Qonexion, a community-based project focused on connecting and fostering creative entrepreneurs between Mexico and Qatar through an intercultural exchange of talent, art production, artistic methodologies and business opportunities, has initiated the annual Artist in Residence Programme. It invites Qatari artists to apply and reflect on their practices under a specific conceptual framework inspired by Mexico. The programme encompasses multiple avenues of expressions. The programme is open not just to painters of different mediums but also photographers, filmmakers, fashion, graphic, interior or industrial designers or urban planners and architects. Three selected applicants will travel to Mexico, being provided with flight tickets, accommodation, a studio space, mentoring and art supplies allowance in order to fully engage in their projects and develop their craft and artistic methodologies in a professional and multicultural environment. Conducted fully in English, in addition to critical mentorship sessions, cultural tourism activities around Mexico will be provided as a platform for inspiration and exchange with other cultural spaces. Apart from the layered complexity of paintings – how it pulls you in with beauty or technique or vibrant colours, the programme aims to introduce and showcase Qatari artists to the Latin American market and to initiate business opportunities and facilitate networking between creatives of both regions. The selected residents will be assessed against several criteria by a panel of judges representing Qonexion and its partners. Applicants will be assessed on criteria, including creativity, sustainable and socially responsible, whether the artwork is sustainably designed, how does it aim to represent Mexico's cultural values and heritage, quality of the artwork and quality of the application. As creativity goes, one's artistic evolution often roots itself in the deeper belonging for identity and community. In this Artist in Residence Programme, three artists will be tasked to portray the connection between the people, places and spaces of the visited country, researching how they engage and interact and how they develop emotional connection to the settings they inhabit and occupy. Throughout the content development stage, the three artists will capture in real life and interpret how Mexicans experience their exterior and interior environments, as well as their social and built surroundings. The artwork developed will be showcased in Doha. The last date for the submission of applications is April 30. The form can be accessed at    

Ali Zafar in Doha
Ali Zafar - A man for all seasons

Ali Zafar, South Asia’s music star, who visited Qatar for the Formula 1 Weekend, had an exclusive conversation with Gulf Times on his experience in Doha and music scene back home. We all know Ali Zafar, South Asia music’s legendarily charm-heavy style czar, for his Kishore Kumar style vocals and that fun element that has us hooked. There are very few pop stars in South Asia who have a voice as deep and beautiful as Ali Z which transcends borders. Ali’s struggle can been seen through his work. He only worked for television dramas in 2002, including Kaanch Ke Par, Landaa Bazaar and Kollege Jeans on PTV Home, a Pakistan-owned channel, to collect money for his first album as music was his real passion. Ali Zafar He released his first song Channo in 2003 which was a big hit. In fact, the album Huqa Paani was a a huge success and turned him into a star. After making his mark as a singer and actor in Pakistan, Ali achieved another milestone by bagging major roles in quite a few Bollywood films like Tere Bin Laden, London Paris New York, Mere Brother Ki Dulhan, Kill Dill and Dear Zindagi before coming back to Pakistan, and creating a realm in Pakistan film industry with Teefa in Trouble (2018). It wasn’t really coming back to Pakistan, because he never quite left. He may have been focusing on building his Bollywood acting career but who wouldn’t, considering the opportunities, professionalism and profits to be gained from working in the Indian film industry? Still, Ali consistently shuttled back to his motherland, making sure to be a part of award shows, ad campaigns, Coke Studio and other singing projects at home. He can play up the glamour, dance and sing to his own vocals, quite literally, and he can smolder on magazine covers effortlessly. He’s the classical gayak (singer) who has been mesmerising the fans for almost two decades now. When Gulf Times came to know Ali was in Doha for Formula 1 weekend, we couldn’t help but catch up with him to talk about his musical journey, his thought process and his experience of witnessing Qatar’s first Formula 1. Breakfast at 8am seemed such an unlikely timing for my first meeting with Ali, that I wondered perhaps if something had been lost in translation. But then there is Ali, cheerily gung ho, sitting on a cosy couch waiting for me so we order the food. Ali is a star, no doubt, but he isn’t one for starry airs and graces. Meet him and he’s polite to the core and an effortless smile and a candid conversation follows. Even during such early hours, there were so many of his fans interrupting the conversation for photographs, all wanting to shake his hand or have a word. “I’m a big cricket fan but F1 was a great experience itself. Last time I was in Qatar was about a decade ago and since then it has changed a lot. I feel really honoured that Qatar Tourism invited me to experience this happening affair. The hosts are extremely warm and accommodating and are looking after us really well,” said Ali. Ali has been releasing songs in regional languages lately but have been missing from Coke Studio scene since 2017 after the release of his song Julie featuring his little brother Danyal Zafar. Explaining how the music scene has changed over the years, Ali says, “After doing Julie I haven’t been in touch with Coke Studio in terms of performing. I mean I keep seeing some good music and interesting work coming out, but for me it became a little stale to be honest. The musicians and the industry should not bank upon only brands to uplift them or to provide a platform. And if I’ve been given an opportunity and a following, than I feel it is a must to project and highlight the talent beyond me also. "I’m not the kind of artist that thinks he is going to be the only one forever because I think there is a lot of room for everybody and there is a lot of raw talent in our country and it needs a platform.” The film industry in Pakistan is on the rise, but the drama industry has been thriving for years now. Will Ali be making his appearance on television screens again? He responds, “I do keep getting offers from colleagues and friends in the industry but right now I’m fully focused on music, because music is my life, and I’m more of a cinema person. But if anything very interesting comes along my way I am open to it.” Covid caused a nationwide shutdown of cinemas in Pakistan for nearly two years. Post Teefa in Trouble, Ali wasn’t seen in any production. Why so? “We were going to go forward with Teefa Part 2 and there were other films I was working on but Covid changed the entire world. The art of storytelling changed and evolved in these two years. I don’t think the kind of story telling and cinema that existed before Covid still thrives. I don’t know whether the same stuff will work now. Personally, as an artist I want to evolve and do things I haven’t done before. Give audiences something new. And that takes time.” Focused on releasing songs in regional languages of Pakistan, Ali believes that understanding the culture and the lyrics is imperative. “It wasn’t about just knowing the lyrics and singing out in a style that it deserves to but the intent of releasing them was to highlight the culture and people of the region. We haven’t quite learned the art of projecting and glorifying our own culture and people. We undermine them. I feel that music brings people together, so my idea was to bring all these people and provinces together through music.” In October, Pakistan cricket authorities were left fuming after New Zealand ended the tour minutes before the start of the first One-Day International in Rawalpindi, citing an unspecified security alert. After the dramatic return of the New Zealand Cricket Team the need was felt to organise a tournament (first-ever Celebrity Premier League) at the same venue that would boost Pakistan's image worldwide. Ali opened the league with a performance in front of ecstatic crowd. “I love my country and I love my people, and I feel like we have had enough of misrepresentation globally, I mean there is so much more to Pakistan, and the people of Pakistan than what is projected internationally. And I partly blame ourselves for it… in the sense that the way we should be projecting our culture and people but we don’t,” adds Ali. “So we should. I try to do my part in the best way possible. I think it was highly unfair on New Zealand’s part to cancel the tour like that because I think it’s detrimental, affecting the whole image of a country. What kind of message is being sent to the world that it’s not a safe country? So I think we should all play our part, in sending out the right message.” And the pav bhaaji is served for Ali and without an intent to disturb his most important meal of the day, I ask him if he has a word for Pakistani community living in Doha. “I feel like every time I come and see a place like that’s developing or has developed like Dubai or Qatar, and developed because of hard work of many Pakistanis, I feel sad for two things: one that I wish, we would have seen our country developed with such pace. I mean in 10 years, the landscapes have changed. And secondly, the kind of contribution that Pakistanis have made needs to be recognised on a global and larger level, so I mean I do hope that they get everything they deserve. I thank them from the bottom of my heart for supporting and loving me all these years.”

Oscars giving a nod to Arab female filmmakers over the yearsrnrn
Oscars giving a nod to Arab female filmmakers over the years

At the inaugural ceremony in 1929 of the Academy Awards, the best director nominees for the Academy Award of Merit were all male. Lina Wertmüller was the first female director to be nominated, 48 years later. The Oscars have a long history of being called out for a lack of diversity. However, for over a decade now — this concern of inclusivity has been taken seriously by the organisers especially in times when the number of women working both behind and in front of the camera has reached historic highs. This was another high year as Academy Awards' nomination included two female Arab filmmakers, Tunisia's Kaouther Ben Hania who competed with The Man Who Sold His Skin in the international feature film category, and The Present, by Palestinian-British director Farah Nabulsi, in best live-action short film. There are seven women filmmakers from the Arab world who have received an Oscar nod to date. Looking back at the long journey of Oscars and the Academy giving a platform to Arab female filmmakers for their piece of work to reach out millions around the world:   Jehane Noujaim: The Square by Jehane Noujaim was nominated in 2014 in Best Documentary Feature category. It was an Egyptian-American documentary depicting the Egyptian Crisis, beginning with the Revolution in 2011 at Tahrir Square.   Sara Ishaq: Karama Has No Walls by Sara Ishaq, Scottish-Yemeni filmmaker, bagged the nomination for Best Documentary Short in 2014. Set amidst Yemen’s 2011 uprising, the documentary illustrates the nature of the Yemeni revolution in stark contrast to the gross violations of human rights that took place on March 18, 2011.   Nadine Labaki: Capernaum by Nadine Labaki (from Lebanon), supported by Doha Film Institute, was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film in 2019. The film followed a heartbreaking story about a 12-year-old boy named Zain who leaves home in search of a better life but ends up serving a five-year sentence for a violent crime, during which he decides to sue his parents for neglect.   Waad Al-Kateab For Sama by Waad Al-Kateab and Edward Watts was nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 92nd Academy Awards 2020 after bagging four nominations at BAFTAs at the 73rd British Academy Film Awards, winning for Best Documentary. The film follows Waad al-Kateab's life through five years in Aleppo, Syria before and during The Battle of Aleppo.   Meryam Joobeur: Brotherhood by Tunisian-Canadian filmmaker Meryam Joobeur, and supported by Doha Film Institute, bagged a nomination at the 92nd Academy Awards 2020 for the Best Live Action Short Film. The film explores the tensions within a Tunisian family when a man who has been away for several years returns home with a new Syrian wife who wears the full niqab, igniting his father’s suspicions that his son has been working for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.   Kaouther Ben Hania: Ben Hania’s critically-acclaimed feature, The Man Who Sold His Skin, got shortlisted for the Best International Feature Film category at the 93rd Academy Awards, Oscars 2021. The film was shortlisted among 14 other films including The Mole Agent, directed by Chilean Maite Alberdi, Charlatan, a Czech biographical drama directed by Agnieszka Holland and Danish director Thomas Vinterberg’s Another Round. The Man Who Sold His Skin tells the story of a Syrian refugee who allows his body to be turned into a work of art. Starring Yahya Mahayni, the film is a look at the struggle refugees face with borders and residency permits.   Farah Nabulsi: The Present by Farah Nabulsi, supported by Doha Film Institute, got nomination in the Live Action Short category at the 93rd Academy Awards, Oscars 2021, after bagging BAFTA Award for Best British Short Film, making Nabulsi the first Palestinian Arab female filmmaker to get an Academy nomination. This has been the 10th Oscar nomination in the past seven consecutive years for projects funded by DFI. The film follows a Palestinian father as he sets out from the West Bank with his daughter, to buy a wedding anniversary gift for his wife. As the 24-minute film progresses, audiences witness the struggle of Palestinians to complete a simple task like shopping, as they encounter checkpoints, soldiers, and the reality of life under occupation.  

Fatma Hassan Alremaihi
'The Present' is a tale of basic human rights violations: Fatma Alremaihi

The Academy’s diversity pledge likely had a small but positive impact on this year’s nominations, with not just people of colour scoring acting and directing nods but also some unconventional stories, stories of strength that the world is now quite ready to hear and watch — a story that stems from a real Palestinian struggle and ends with a glimpse of hope. Farah Nabulsi’s The Present has been Oscar-nominated. While the Academy Award-nod takes Nabulsi to new heights, making her the first female Palestinian director to compete in the awards, in the best short live-action film category — the short film has been a grant project of Doha Film Institute. This is seventh time in a row that a film supported by DFI has won an Oscar nomination. Doha Film Institute, founded by HE Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, has been an institute dedicated to film appreciation, education, and building a dynamic film industry in Qatar that focuses on nurturing regional storytellers while being entirely global in its scope. In an exclusive conversation with Gulf Times about The Present scoring the Oscar nomination and what it means for DFI, Fatma Hassan Alremaihi, CEO of DFI, said, “We are proud and honoured that Farah Nabulsi’s The Present is nominated for ‘Best Live-action short film’ at the 93rd Academy Awards in addition to having recently won the Best British Short at the BAFTAs. This compelling film has gained critical acclaim at several global festivals right after its debut at Clermont Ferrand and has been praised by audiences across the globe for its authentic storytelling and for giving a humanist voice to the Palestinian struggle.” ______________________ Read also All eyes on first Arab woman Oscar nomination ______________________ The Present follows a Palestinian father as he sets out from the West Bank with his daughter, to buy a wedding anniversary gift for his wife. As the 24-minute film progresses, audiences witness the struggle of Palestinians to complete a simple task like shopping, as they encounter checkpoints, soldiers, and the reality of life under occupation. “What makes The Present’s nomination special is that it portrays a compelling reality – of the people of Palestine – in such a captivating manner and reaffirms our belief that art and films are powerful tools to promote dialogue and create awareness on social injustice. It’s a simple yet potent tale of power abuse and the denial of basic human rights in today’s world,” adds Fatma, “The film will connect to global audiences, more so in the new reality, when people have experienced travel restrictions and lockdowns. But remember, the plight of the protagonists is not the result of a pandemic but an everyday reality for millions of people who are in a permanent state of lockdown – for years now.” Films supported by Doha Film Institute have received over 1,700 selections at international film festivals and have won over 500 awards including wins at Cannes, Berlin, Venice, Toronto, BAFTA and the Oscars. “Qatar’s commitment to supporting global storytelling has given volume to important new voices and creative influencers who continue to gain global acclaim. As a recipient of our Springs 2019 grant, The Present joins a number of films supported by the Doha Film Institute that have earned Academy Award nominations and other global recognitions. In fact, the Institute is the first Arab organisation to score 10 Oscar nominations for seven consecutive years - an unprecedented achievement for our world - helping position DFI as a dynamic cultural entity for global storytelling,” Fatma explains. Doha Film Institute provides a platform and a voice to emerging talent from Qatar and around the world providing them with creative and financial assistance to help them translate their stories into a film or serialized content. How DFI picks a specific project, Fatma said, “We have a very focused approach on identifying and nurturing projects. Our team of experts review every submission, evaluating for unique cinematic voices and compelling content. Our key objective is to identify new talent, seek out new cinematic voices and discover universally resonant stories such as The Present. The nature of the story, scripting and the vision of the director are all important. Most importantly, we look for original stories that push for positive and progressive cinema culture.” After years marked by the hashtags #OscarsSoWhite and #OscarsSoMale, industry observers are caterwauling appreciation over this year’s topline numbers. For the first time in Academy Awards history, almost half the nominees in the acting categories (9 out of 20) are performers of colour, and more women (70) are nominated throughout the 23 categories than in any previous year. In responding to a question about Arab female filmmakers, and scarcity of female filmmakers in general, she responds, “In the Arab world, which is fast breaking the stereotypes and misconceptions about women – especially in their contribution and role in cinema, female filmmakers are creative leaders that are crafting compelling stories with global resonance. Case in point are the Arab films nominated at this year’s Academy Awards- both by strong independent Arab women.” She added, “It has been a rewarding experience for me as CEO of the Doha Film Institute to meet and interact with some of the finest creative talent in world cinema, especially to see the bold new energy of women in film in the Arab world and beyond. I can say with evidence and conviction that there is a much larger percentage of female filmmakers in our country and the wider Arab region than rest of the world. As many global markets strive for gender parity, Qatar and the Arab world continue to nurture strong women filmmakers to have confidence in their voices. There is an exciting new wave of filmmaking in the Arab world, and we are delighted that women are leading this change.” In plethora of scripts and filmmakers approaching DFI for funding and support, DFI’s Grant Programme explicitly look out for voices that are original and have a narrative of their own. Talking about choosing The Present for Grants Programme, Fatma said, “We supported The Present with a short film grant in our Springs Grant 2019 cycle, which provides development, production and post-production funding to filmmakers from Qatar, and first- and second-time filmmakers from around the world. The Grants Programme aims to seek out original voices in film, develop a community of filmmakers among its alumni and provide creative development support throughout the life cycle of films. The Present was also screened at Ajyal Film Festival 2020, adding to its reach to a global audience.

Farah Nabulsi during the shoot of her short film The Present in Palestine
All eyes on first Arab woman Oscar nomination Monday

*Nabulsi is first Palestinian female filmmaker to get an Academy nomination *DFI-funded 'The Present' has already earned a Bafta for best British short film This year is shaping up to be outstanding in terms of diversity and representation at Oscars. Look at the Oscar nominations and there are so many firsts: two women nominated for the first time in the category of best director (Chloé Zhao for Nomadland; Emerald Fennell for Promising Young Woman), the first Asian-American best actor nominee (Steven Yeun for Minari), the first Muslim best actor nominee (Riz Ahmed for Sound of Metal), and the best live action short film (The Present by Farah Nabulsi), making Nabulsi the first Palestinian female filmmaker to get an Academy nomination. Farah’s The Present is a grant project of Doha Film Institute (DFI).  The Present has already earned a Bafta for best British short film and it follows a Palestinian father as he sets out from the West Bank with his daughter, to buy a wedding anniversary gift for his wife. As the 24-minute film progresses, audiences witness the struggle of Palestinians to complete a simple task like shopping, as they encounter checkpoints, soldiers, and the reality of life under occupation.       __________________________________ Read also The Present is a tale of power abuse and denial of basic human rights: Fatma Hassan AlRemaihi __________________________________ The short film that debuted on Netflix for public viewing on March 18 (except France and Japan and the French language speaking countries in Africa, North Africa) is available in Arabic with English subtitles. The film will be competing against Doug Roland’s Feeling Through, Elvira Lind’s short drama The Letter Room, Travon Free’s Two Distant Strangers and the Tomer Shushan – directed White Eye. Nabulsi shot The Present in Palestine over six days that curtailed from a real Palestinian struggle and ended with a glimpse of hope – a tipoff that the world is now ready to hear and watch the stories of strength. “I am sad to say that while this film is based on reality, this is a fiction film. This isn’t even history. Yes, there is the past they need to know, but also the present,” Nabulsi said in one of her interviews. She also hinted at a full-length film currently in development. Well, it won’t be erroneous to say that Covid-19 really altered the movie landscape in 2020. The worldwide lockdown and the ongoing closure of cinemas pressed the studios to withdraw their big awards guns leaving space and platform for comparatively smaller films and first-time filmmakers. The Oscars, like every other award show, in times with Covid-19 still raging, has had to adapt, scheduled to be held Monday at 6am Qatar time — two months from its originally scheduled date. But unlike Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild, in which nominees and winners appeared on Zoom, the Oscars will go ahead as an in-person event with Covid-19 SOPs in place. According to the official statement by the Academy Awards – the ceremony will be split between two locations: the Dolby Theatre LA and Union Station (a location that has been featured in over 150 films). The nominees have been asked for an extended pre-recorded acceptance speech that tell a narrative story and have been invited to turn up at the venue of the Oscars itself. Only a few details have emerged of what is being planned for the 2021 show. In December, the Ocean’s Eleven director Steven Soderbergh was hired as one of the producers of the show and a high profile statement of intent to ‘re-envision’ the telecast of the ceremony was issued. Having seen the technical glitches during Golden Globes, the producers had initially planned a ‘zoom-free’ event, however, they were forced to backpedal as it became significant that majority of the nominees are based outside US that could prevent them from attending the show in person due to Covid travel restrictions. This led to establishment of hubs in London and Paris to allow remote participation. The audience has been capped at just 170 people, much lower than the usual thousands who attend and it's believed that they'll be rotated in and out of the event space throughout the evening. According to USA Today, the producer and organiser of Oscars 2021, Stacey Sher, said at a virtual press conference that this year there won't be a traditional red carpet. "It's not a traditional red carpet, it's a teeny-tiny red carpet. It's a very small footprint for safety reasons, obviously," she said. Additionally, this year the awards will be given out in person, and all the famous attendees will not be required to wear face masks while the cameras are rolling, as per the protocols set by the state of California for television and film production. This means that people who won't appear on the camera will have to put their face masks on with the crew. For nominees and guests to attend the ceremony, which is taking place at Union Station and Dolby Theatre, they’ll need to clear three Covid tests along with a temperature check on the day of the event.