Alia al Senussi

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<p>040brownbook magazine -JGFTUZMF 1SPMFCOLLECTORSoarching lor TroasuroStory by Tom SpenderArtwork by Susan Hefuna Hessbb_issue20_2010_03_05.indb 40 3/9/10 6:58:44 AM041Yetdespiteimmersingherselfinart,the princess has never herself felt compelled to put brush to canvas, sculpt heavenly bodies or wire up a fiddly multimedia montage.Imnotanartistatall,shesays.Thats whyIenjoybeingintheartworldsomuch.I love to be around creative people. I think being an artist is about feeling the urge that you must createsomethingandformeIhavejustnever had that urge.Sheworkedincommercialartformore than three years before quitting to focus on her own collection and on her work with non-profit organisations. Lilya has not yot lully participatod in this Viddlo Eastorn art loon. I would lovo to lo allo to lo tho ono to luild that lridgo. It's ny droan.AsummerinternshipatGoldmanSachsin LondonwasenoughtopersuadePrincess Alia alSenussithatbankingwasnotforher-she wanted something more out of the box.Butshecouldnothaveimaginedthather first foray into the art world - in which she had becomeinterestedwhilevisitingSwitzerlands Basel Art Fair during her student days - would seeherdispatchedwithinaweektoaremote Egyptianoasismanyhours'drivefromthe capital Cairo.YettheoasistownofSiwa,wherethe princesswastoworkmanagingfamousartists exhibitingataneco-resortaspartoftheSiwa PatronsProject,wouldalsobeascloseasshe hasevercometothecountrywhoseroyal familysheisamemberof-Libya.Marooned amidendlessdesertsands,SiwaisEgypts westernmostoasisandliesabout100kmfrom the Libyan border. PrincessAliasfatherisamemberofthe royalalSenussifamily,whowereexiledfrom Libya in 1969 when General Muammar Gaddafi seizedpowerinacoupanddeclaredhimself leaderoftheLibyanArabRepublic.Princess Aliasgrandfather,Prince AbdallahalSenussi, wasapoliticalleaderinthegovernmentunder King Idris. He was in Turkey during the coup.Princess Alia herself was born in Washington DC to her Libyan father and American mother, spending part of her childhood in Cairo, going to school in Switzerland and studying in the US beforemovingtoLondon.However,visiting Libya has so far proved impossible.Inexile,onetriestobethebestpossible example of oneself and portray the family in the best possible light, says the 26-year-old.A mixed background and her experience of livingintheWestwhilealsohavingaMiddle Easternidentityhasshapedtheprincesstaste inart,drawinghertoartistssuchasSusan Hefuna, who is of mixed Egyptian and German parentage,andKader Attia,whogrewupina familyof AlgerianmigrantsinthetoughParis suburbs.ImdrawntoMiddleEasternartbecause of the context of my own life, she says. Most oftheartistsIadmireareMiddleEasternbut rarelylivingthereforpolitical,educationalor familyreasons.Throughart,theyforgetheir identityofbeing AraborIranianbutlivingin the West.Shehasjoinedthenewly-formedTate CommitteeforMiddleEasternandNorth AfricanAcquisitions,whichwasformedlast summerandwhosemembersscourtheworld for Middle Eastern art to exhibit at the London gallery.Herotherpositionsincludeworking withArtDubai,anartfairnowinitsfourth year and attracting participation from about 30 galleries, and Edge of Arabia, which works with Saudi Arabian artists.Thesetwocollaborationsillustrateboth thechallengesmanyartistsintheMiddleEast face and the rapid progress that the region's art industry is making, she says.TwoofSaudiArabiasmostprominent artists are Abdulnasser Gharem, a major in the Saudiarmy,andAhmedMater,apractising doctor. Both have day jobs because, like many Middle Eastern countries, Saudi Arabia does not yet have an art infrastructure of local galleries andmuseumswithfellowshipsthathelpto support young artists, Princess Alia says.The primary concern now is to enable these artiststoimmersethemselvesinbeingartists andfostertheirtalent,shesays.Censorship and issues about what you can or cannot do are somethingforthepeopletheretodiscussonce theyve been able to create an art community.FurtherdowntheArabianPeninsulain Dubai,ArtDubai,alongwiththearrivalof Christiesauctioneersintheemirate,the Sharjah Biennale, Abu Dhabis Saadiyat Island projectfeaturingtheLouvreandGuggenheim and Qatars awe-inspiring Museum of Islamic Art are forging the way for art in the Middle East, according to the princess.ThesuccessofDubaiwillbepivotalin theinternationalsideoftheMiddleEastern artmarket,shesays.TheGuggenheim andLouvrewillalsodefinehowartistsand non-governmentalagenciesparticipateinthe development of art and culture.Theseareexcitingtimestoworkinthe Gulfsnascentartworld,yetthatsnotwhere Princess Alia wants to be. Her aim is to involve herself with non-profit groupshelpingdevelop artists and art education across the Middle East and, specifically, Libya.Libya has not yet fully participated in this MiddleEasternartboom,shesays.Iwould love to be able to be the one to build that bridge. Its my dream.bb_issue20_2010_03_05.indb 41 3/9/10 6:58:44 AM147TonyKitousisanenergeticman.Hearrived inLondonfromhisnativeKabylieregion inAlgeria23yearsagoaged18andby22 hadopenedhisfirstrestaurant.By2008he hadbecomeasuccessfulrestaurateurwitha stringofstereotypicallyopulent1001Nights-style Arabicrestaurantsbuthewantedtodo something different. TheresultwasLeComptoirLibanias,a brightandairymini-soukwherecustomers can pop in to pick up a coffee, sit down to some freshmezze,takeawrapbacktotheofficeor buyataginefordinnerathome.Whileinany ofLeComptoir'sfourbranches,theycanalso learn about and buy the spices used in Levantine cooking and browse books about the region.Ourcustomersarefromeverywhereand from all walks of life and more than half of them haveneverhadMiddleEasternfoodbefore becauseithasneverbeenpresentedtothem, he says.London has a high profile in the Arab world. It is one of its intellectual capitals, home to Arab newspapers and satellite TV stations. And it is a preferred holiday destination for the 1.5 million Arabs estimated to visit each year, many during the summer months to escape the stifling heat of the Arabian peninsula. YetArabsthemselvesabout500,000 living in the UK do not have a similarly high profileinLondoncomparedtoothergroups suchasthosefromtheIndiansubcontinent, whose restaurants are an integral part of British everyday life.Thisbegantochangewithasurgeof enthusiasmforshishasmoking,buttheanti-smoking law of 2007, banning smoking in any place of work, dealt the shisha a heavy blow by forcing smokers out onto the pavement and into the teeth of Londons appalling weather.Yet for Kitous, light, tasty, fresh and healthy Lebanese cuisine is the perfect vehicle for him tocreatesomethinguniversalwhilealsousing shaabi,orpopular,designelementsthat remind him of his childhood in north Africa.What I love is seeing art students, nurses, peoplefromeverywhereandalsoperhapsan Arabiccouplewherethewomanisveiledand youcanseethattheyaretakingprideinwhat they see. Its a place where everyone feels like they belong, he says.While Arabic food culture is emerging from its Edgware Road origins, it remains concentrated inWestLondon,withthenewestclusterto %FTUJOBUJPOTLONDONAral Calo Culturo Story by Tom SpenderPictures courtesy of caf ownersHistorically,Arabiccafshaveneverplayed muchofapartinLondonsmainstreamcaf culture.TheArabcafcultureinareassuch asEdgwareRoadwasbyArabsforArabs. Nowentrepreneurssaythisissettochange withanexplosioninpopularityofmodern, cheapandtastyLevantineandNorthAfrican establishments, which could eclipse Italian and even Indian dining in years to come. Arabic food in London, they say, is an idea whose time has come.bb_issue20_2010_03_05.indb 147 3/9/10 7:04:42 AM148brownbook magazine 5SBWFM %FTUJOBUJPOTbefoundinShepherdsBush,amulticultural communityneartheBBCsTelevisionCentre, where recent Syrian and Lebanese arrivals have opened supermarkets and restaurants.Justaroundacorneristhe AdamsCaf. A trulymulticulturalestablishment,itisrunby FrancesandAbdelBekraa,aBritish-Tunisian couple who met in Paris and ran a hotel together in TunisbeforemovingtoLondon,buyingthe traditionalgreasyspoonEnglishcafand creating a unique experiment.Byday,thecoupleserveuptraditional Englishfaresuchashashbrownsand steaming tea to a loyal clientele of builders and municipalityworkers.Duringtheafternoon theirstafftransformtheplaceintoaTunisian restaurant,switchingtomuchsofterlighting includingoillamp-stylecandles,removingthe ketchupbottlesfromtheformicatablesand puttingtableclothsoverthemandpullingout the blackboard where themenu is chalked up to reveal rows of drinks.I and my husband are completely different andweenjoymeetingpeopleformdifferent walks of life, says Frances. The original plan wastofullyconvertthecafintoarestaurant, butafter20yearswearestilldoingEnglish breakfastinthemorningbecauseitswhatthe area needs.Thesebrightnewrecession-bustingcafes popularisingArabicfoodandcultureexist alongside more aspirational venues, such as Mo Caf, one of three interlinked venues in the heart of Londons West End but designed to evoke a small souk housed in a Moroccan Riad. Momo RestaurantFamilialwassetupbyrestaurateur Mourad Mazouz, who also runs Almaz, housed in Dubais Harvey Nichols store in Mall of the Emirates. Mamounia Lounge, in Londons posh Mayfair district, isanother placeto see and be seen of an evening.BackinEdgwareRoad,traditionalArab cafssuchas AlShishawcontinuetodishout strongArabiccoffeeinexuberantly-decorated suroundings to a loyal Arab clientele that packs it to the rafters when Cairos notorious football derbybetweenZamalekandAlAhlyison. ButifEdgwareRoadistheheartofLondons Arabiccafscene,everywhereelseinthecity representsopportunityforanideawhosetime has come.Therearenowabout 10,000wordsinthe Englishlanguagederived fromArabic,includingadmiral and lemon. The word caf derives from coffee, which itself has Arabic (qahwah) and Turkish (kahvah) origins.The first Arabs arrived in London in the year 30AD with the Roman army. TradinglinksbetweenLondonand theMiddleEastwereestablished aroundthe16thcenturyandfrom theearly20thcenturypopulations of Arabsbegantoarriveinthecity, withafewYemeniseamensettling intheEastEndandIraqissettingin WestLondoninthe1930s.In1948, largenumbersofPalestinians arrived in the wake of the Nakba andthe1970ssawLebanesefleeing their country's civil war also come to London. The 1970s also saw greater numbersofnewlywealthyGulf Arabs visiting London in the wake of theoilcrisis,whenrisingoilprices began filling the coffers of once poor states.London's Aral Fopulationbb_issue20_2010_03_05.indb 148 3/9/10 7:04:45 AM14912345Adams Caf: 77 Askew RoadRun by Frances, an Englishwoman, and her husband Abdel Bekraa, the Adams Caf found fame in the 1990s economic slump as a place offering tasty fare at recession-busting prices. Twenty years on and they are still as popular as ever, offering three set menus ranging from 11.50 to 16.50 in price. Named in Time Out London's Top 100 eating and dining list for 2009.Le Comptoir Libanais: The Balcony, Westfield Shopping Centre, 65 Wigmore Street, O2 Centre, 255 Finchley Road,26 London Street, New series of bright cafes offering healthy Middle Eastern food and drink, delicatessen and a host of other funky Middle Eastern products in a mini-souk, including books, hand-embroidered bags from Marrakech and mezze plates and tea glasses. Named Londons Best 10 Meal and awarded the runner-up prize for Best New Design by Time Out in 2009.Mo Caf: 25 Heddon StreetMo Caf describes itself as a Marrakesh-souk-meets-Parisian-troquet style cafe and bazaar. All the furniture in the caf is on offer for sale and there are also books, CDs and antique jewels to be had. The cafe is attached to a restaurant and a bar with live music and gets consistently good reviews.Mamounia Lounge: 37a Curzon StreetReviewers rave about Mamounia Lounges opulent dcor, featuring raw silk cushions, low-level seating as well as dimmed lighting, candles and incense for chic lunches and exotic evenings. Attracts a well-heeled clientele.Al Shishaw: 51-53 Edgware RoadHuge Egyptian-style coffee shop on Edgware Road, the heart of Londons Arabic community, with old-school decoration and a big screen for big Arab football matches. If you want an authentic shisha-smoking experience on the pavement of Londons most Arabic street, this is where youll find it.Q&amp;ATony Kitous Lo Conptoir LilaniasWhats the concept behind Le Comptoir Libanais?I could breathe this idea in the air. The Chinese, Japanese and Indians have all made their foods a fixture so why not the Arabs? Now I'm feeding something like 20,000 peopleaweekinmycafes.Peoplearesaying:Ohmy God, how come I've never had this kind of food before? It's about making Arabic food and culture accessible to the British High Street. We were actually late with this idea.ButIdontconsidermyselftobeatrendsetter.I simplyputsomethingtogetherthatIthoughtIwould be proud of.Youre from Algeria. Why choose Lebanese rather than North African food for Le Comptoir?Certain foods are meant to be eaten at home while others are for eating out. Lebanese food is both. With Lebanese food, you don't need to be familiar with it to understand it and you can fall in love with it the first time you eat it. It's also healthy and light and has a huge repertoire. In thenext10-20yearsI'mconfidentthatLebanesefood will become more popular than Indian food here.Whats your next project?Iwanttotakethemachooutoftheshawarma,soIm launchingShawa,ashawarmaplaceintheWestfield ShoppingCentrewithanall-femaleteamdressedin pink.IntheUK,thekebabhasabadreputation.Itis consideredunhealthyandassomethingthatmeneat after a night out. But I will offering organic chicken, fish and duck shawarmas along with salads and pomegranate seeds. It will be the kind of thing you can eat and then gobacktoanimportantmeeting.WhenIseethatthe majority of the customers are female I will know I have succeeded.bb_issue20_2010_03_05.indb 149 3/9/10 7:04:47 AM</p>