Two Places

I wish we have places like these in Riyadh:

  • ta2_marbouta_2T-Marbouta is a cafe in Beirut that I visited when I was in Lebanon last year. Located in Pavilion St. of Hamra, this place offers something different than what you can usually find in other cafes in the city. With its little library and weekly events and art performances, it has become a favorite a spot for students and young activists. There is this place in Khobar called Otacuschez, which offers a relatively similar experience, but unfortunately there is nothing like that in Riyadh.

  • citizen_spaceCitizen Space, a coworking space in San Francisco. What is a coworking space? It is basically a cafe-like community/collaboration space for developers, writers and independents. There are many places like these in cities around the world now, and I think it would be great if creative people in Riyadh can have such thing. I mean, let’s face it: this is not exactly a friendly city for writers and artists; a coworking space should be perfect for many of us who seek a healthy, inspiring environment to work and create here.

Those New Cool Thobes

As people in Saudi Arabia are usually dressed either in black — for women — or white — for men —, I usually try to appreciate the moments when I’m abroad and enjoy the colorful clothes people wear, spending much of my free time walking down the streets and observing others.

That’s why I was glad to see my friend Faiza Ambah elegantly profiles Saudi fashion designer Yahia al-Bishri, the man who put color back in menswear here. His boldness also inspired others like Siraj Omar and Lomar Thobe to redefine the traditional Saudi garb. However, and from what I have seen, it seems that young Hjiazi men are embracing the new trend more than their counterparts in Najd, which is to be expected as people in the central area are more conservative.

Although I only wear a thobe occasionally as I prefer my casual outfit of jeans and t-shirts, I personally like the idea of updating the thobe with new styles and colors, and I plan to get myself one of those cool Lomar thobes in the near future. The problem is that they are relatively expensive, as their creators admitted, but I think it is worth getting them for special occasions.

How about you Saudi boys and girls? What do you think of those new cool thobes? Yay or Nay?

Edge of Arabia

I hear that London is full of Saudis these days. A friend recently told me that Leicester Square now looks like Tahlia St., with Saudi boys occupying all the tables at all restaurants and cafes. The only difference, probably, is the presence of uncovered women, a breed that is too rare in our Tahlia back here in Riyadh. Those boys show a usual face of Saudi Arabia, one that I’m not particularly proud of.

But comes October, London will be the venue for another face of this country, and it is certainly one that we are all proud of and glad to show to the whole world.

Edge of Arabia, is a pioneering exhibition that is set to shed new light on the largely unknown contemporary art culture of Saudi Arabia. A new generation of artists will be in London this october to take part in the first ever comprehensive exhibition of contemporary Saudi art staged in the UK. It will feature the work of 17 Saudi contemporary artists, male and female, whose work explores the complex and diverse identities of 21st century life in the Middle East.

The exhibition is organized by the award-winning Offscreen Education Programme and will run from 16th October – 13th December 2008 at the SOAS Brunei Gallery, University of London. For more info, check out the press release (PDF).