Archive for Arab Culture, Art, Music

Not Art, an Art Project by Warsheh

My design crush, Warsheh, has done it again.

From the project’s Behance page:

This is Not Art.
It’s not deeply meaningful or vaguely philosophical.
It’s not calculated or exact.
It is in fact, a series of posters designed from classic paintings.
A simple reinterpretation of how we saw them.
Our tribute to art and design.

Check out their interview with the Huffington Post.

NOT The Conversion of St Paul

NOT The Valpinçon Bather

NOT Venus Bathing

NOT Saint Francis in Meditation

NOT Girl with a Pearl Earring

NOT Portrait of a Young Girl

NOT The Skater

NOT Doge Leonardo Loredan

NOT The Death of Marat

NOT The Birth of Venus

NOT Whistler’s Mother



Do Jordanians Smile? Looks Like the Answer is Yes! Another Happy Amman Video

This one was created by the BeAmman team.

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Pharrell Williams — Happy; Amman Version

This is nice :)

There’s also going to be another Happy video released made by the BeAmman team in the next few days. It’s like a happy, dancey, musical virus!


20 Years Later… Jordanian Band Mirage is Back, Totally Embracing 2014

I was only eight-years-old when Mirage release their famous single, “Tigool Ahwak”.

It was 1994, and the single was one of the first, if not the first, alternative Arabic music experiments. It’s a song that actually stayed cool, even in 2012 when I wrote about it.

Imagine my surprise when I get sent a link to the video below… Mirage, 2014, released a completely remade “Tigool Ahwak”.

It is AWESOME. You would expect the musicians to look old, tired, and potbellied. You would expect them to sound 1994, in a cute, 90′s-nostalgia way. You would expect the video to be something hilarious, especially if you’re familiar with the original one.

Oh, no.

Mirage will have none of that.

The song is completely different. The guys obviously started liking rock in these last 20 years where they have been hiding. And the rock sounds AWESOME. Heavy guitar riffs, drums, and solos…

The band themselves also look so much cooler and fresher than most Jordanian bands half their age.

Great job, Mirage.

And in case you’re curious, here’s the original single, 1994:

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Arabization Utter Disaster: The CNN Arabic Logo

When I saw the Arabic version of the CNN logo today, I didn’t know whether to laugh in disbelief, or cry from the sadness of butchered Arabic typography.

You’d think that CNN would bother and hire a real designer who actually reads Arabic to Arabize their logo. The solid, emblazoned characters of the English logo are comically morphed to look like a cheaply-designed 70′s typeface. And what’s with the dots? Why are they squished?

So strange. I can’t tell if it is a really bad design job from an Arab-based agency or the work of a designer not trained in Arabic type.

Arabizing Latin logos is not an easy job, I know. But anyone with basic design sense should know that it’s just a really amateur decision to combine BOTH the English logo AND the Arabic word in one very-funny-looking love child.

Here are some nicely done Arabizations:

Pictures by Hussein Al-Azaat, more here.

The trick with Arabization is to make sure the identity is clearly still visible, without butchering the essence of Arabic lettering. There are reasons the letters look the way they do, you know.

Also, whoever did the Accessorize Arabization should find a more suitable career.

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UPDATED: Sabat Istanbuly, Female Student at the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania,1885

This remarkable photograph from the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania (WMCP), found in the archives of Drexel University which absorbed the successor to the WMCP in 2003.

As you can see, one of the women is captioned as “Tabat Islambooly”, from Damascus, Syria. You can’t miss her, or the fact that she’s from around here: she has the same face as thousands of young women from Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine. She’s also wearing a very Levantine costume, and I say “costume” because I’m quite sure she carried all that metal with her all the way to Pennsylvania in 1885 for the soul purpose of wearing it in exotic international nights. It doesn’t look Damascene to me, but more rural.

Then, there’s the issue of the name. The caption reads “Tabat Islambooly”, but I’m guessing that’s a result of the Latinaization of “Sabat Istanbuly”, or something similar, as “Tabat” isn’t a word in Arabic and I’ve never heard of a family called “Islambooly”. She is referenced elsewhere as “Tabat Istanbuli”.

I’m really interested in who this woman is. I mean… a female from the Levant, studying medicine in Pennsylvania in 1885, at a time when the Arab world was sinking under the backwards Ottoman occupation. Unfortunately, Google doesn’t know much about her. I did find this:

Sabat Islambouli is also believed to have gone back to Damascus, and then was in Cairo, Egypt, in 1919 according to the alumnae list of that year. But after that the college lost touch with her and it’s not known what happened to her ultimately.


So who is this woman? A family-name search on People tells me that there are many Istanbuli’s from Amman, Jordan. I’m assuming many in Damacus as well, but Syria isn’t very online these days, sadly.

Do you know anyone from the Istanbuli family? Does anyone have a doctor for a great grandmother?

Updated: So, I found more information, thanks to Najeeb :) Thabat Islambooly is a Kurdish Jewish woman. Yes, her family name was Islambooly, and not Istanbuly; I guess the fact that she’s both Kurdish and Jewish clarifies why I’m not familiar with the last name. Thabat moved to Cairo after finishing her degree in Pennsylvania, and died in 1941. Her descendants live in Canada.

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