Designers, dancers, singers, and more — the Arab world is rife with talent, from North Africa to the Gulf.
Of Moroccan Berber descent, Lorine Zineb Nora Talhaoui – known professionally as Loreen – is a Swedish singer who won the Eurovision Song Contest 2012. “At the age of 15, a woman overheard me singing in school and came up to me, saying determinedly, ‘That gift is not for you to keep for yourself.’ That was the moment I knew.” Women’s rights, education, diversity, and representation inspire Loreen and she draws from her Moroccan Amazigh heritage, “It is who I am and where I came from. The struggles of my people have made my life possible and I cherish that every day,” she says. Loreen is currently working on English music inspired by her heritage, an international film project, and the development of two beauty and fashion brands.
Ballet dancer, Egyptian-French
Luca Abdel-Nour is an award-winning classical and contemporary dancer. He is the first Egyptian to participate in the Prix de Lausanne, placing second. “I hope I can encourage boys and girls in the MENA region to try things that society doesn’t really encourage,” he says. After training in Zurich, Abdel-Nour moved to Amsterdam to join the Dutch National Junior Company. Living away from home from the age of 14, Abdel-Nour has a simple message to spread on his decision to take the literal and figurative leap, “It wasn’t an easy decision, but I think it was worth every single sacrifice and I encourage other parents in the Middle East to invest in their kids’ talent and passions.” Abdel-Nour will soon return home to teach dance workshops in Cairo.
Yasmin Mansour founded her eponymous brand in 2014 and is inspired by Arab culture and traditional women’s clothing. Her pieces are often evocative of the sweeping desert and feature geometric, structural details. Mansour created her label out of a need to express herself. “I knew that I was born to pursue, born to create,” she says.
Each piece tells its own story. “I wanted to create eye-catching patterns,” says Mansour, inspired as she is by Oscar Niemeyer, Pierre Jeanneret, and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Her pieces are tailor-made, with her desire to make every woman feel their best born from her own frustrations at seeking the perfect fit. Throughout her rise she’s discovered that nothing is easy and that success relates to the effort you put in. Her latest collection eschews her typical pop colors in favor of eternally classic blacks and whites.
A lover of elegance, classic beauty, and femininity, stylist Amajjar has worked with Malika El Maslouhi, Selma Omari, Indira Scott, and model – and his “best friend” – Imaan Hammam.
“I would describe my style as feminine, elegant, and classic, with a touch of boldness. I always try to highlight the female body in my work,” he says. At first he struggled to convince his family to support his dreams, but after working for a stylist in Amsterdam, Amajjar knew what he wanted. “I’m working on some new projects that will be out very soon but, I can’t say much about it yet,” he shares.
Munira Al Sayegh
Munira Al Sayegh is an independent curator and writer based in the capital. After work experience at NYU Abu Dhabi and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, Al Sayegh is investigating the world of contemporary art and its role as a visual documentation for the future. She believes in the importance of grassroots work. “My practice is rooted in this and in understanding what it means to have our own voice. A lot of the time in the Emirates, we see parachuting curators come in with an idea and put on a show that is disoriented from the reality of UAE. We are multifaceted. We end up with an easy identity that looks like ours but it isn’t in reality.” Al Sayegh also founded Derwaza Lab, an experimental space and incubator to support local artistic talent to present it in an authentic, local manner.
HRH Anoud Khalid Mishaal Bin Saud
Interior designer, Saudi Arabian
HRH Anoud Khalid Mishaal Bin Saud is the founder of A-Interiors. Bin Saud’s modern, minimalist style is juxtaposed with traditional elements to create stunning, modern interiors that are space efficient, functional, and innovative. “If I had to pick a certain style, it would probably be eclectic. I like piecing things together like a puzzle,” says Bin Saud.
This mixing of styles carries a certain freshness and sense of freedom as evidenced by her use of antiques. The interior designer interweaves modern elements with traditional Saudi crafts and accessories to create a “cozy” feel and a modern, hybrid style. “I am fond of traveling and exploring, and have an appreciation for the old and new,” she says. She’s currently working on a restaurant in London called AOK Kitchen & Bakery.
Jordanian actor Rakeen Saad is best known as one of the leading stars in the groundbreaking Netflix show Al Rawabi School for Girls, which is shining a spotlight on bullying She first hit the stage at the age of 10, but it wasn’t until she was 20 that acting became her career. “You get to be whoever you want to be,” she says of her craft. “I pick my roles and make sure that each one is more challenging than the next.” She’s worked alongside Carmen Bsaibes, Ahmed Ezz, and Ahmad Alaa and also appeared in the 2020 film The Knower. To the next generation of Arab talent, Saad says, “I believe you have to be passionate about acting, which will allow you to keep going. Work hard, attend workshops, and study characters.” Saad is currently reading new roles but is tightlipped on what they might be.
Originally published in the September 2021 issue of Vogue Arabia