DUBAI: In honor of Valentine’s Day, we look at some of the most iconic Middle Eastern love stories from literature.
Aja and Salma
Today, Aja and Salma are twin peaks in Saudi Arabia’s Hail province. However, according to folklore, the origin of these mountains’ names stems from the tragic love story of Aja and Salma, which dates back centuries. Their story goes something like this: Aja and Salma hailed from two different tribes. Both loved each other but their parents refuse to get them married. They decide to run away together, but were eventually caught and killed.
Antara and Abla
The couple’s love story was full of obstacles, as Abla’s father ordered Antara bin Shaddad to bring him 100 camels from King Al-Numan before he could marry his daughter. However, Antara fulfilled the request and was able to marry his lover.
Qays and Layla
‘Majnun Layla’ is an old love story of Arabic origin that tells the story of two lovers named Qays and Layla who were born into the same tribe, but were unable to be together. Qays becomes obsessed with Layla, and his tribe gives him the nickname ‘Majnun Layla,’ a term that is still used to this day to describe someone who is madly in love.
Jameel and Bothaina
Bothaina and Jameel initially met at a farm and quarreled because of a camel, but this animosity ended with the highest degree of love. Jameel asked for Bothaina’s hand in marriage, but her father refused. She later married another man and Jameel fled to Yemen. They never ended up together, but their love story is immortalized in Jameel’s poetry.
Scheherazade and Shahryar
As the story is told, embittered Persian King Shahryar has his wife executed after finding that she has been unfaithful. Marrying a new bride every night, he continues to execute his bride the following morning until he meets Scheherazade. To avoid the same tragic fate, Scheherazade would tell her king stories but does not tell him how the tale ends. Because he so wants to hear the end of her tale, he postpones her execution. On the second night she finishes her tale and starts anew. So, it goes for 1,001 nights, until King Shahryar falls in love with Scheherazade and makes her his queen.
Qutuz and Jelnar
Both lovers were born to the royal family of the Muslim Khawarizmian dynasty in Persia. However, with the rise of the Mongol danger, their empire was ransacked and the two were captured and sold as slaves. The lovers both ended up in Egypt, with Jelnar becoming a servant to a prominent family in Egypt and Qutuz joining a group of powerful slave soldiers before climbing up the ranks and eventually becoming the Sultan of Egypt. The couple eventually found each other, and Qutuz managed to defeat the Mongols in the battle of Ain Jalut with his beloved right by his side.
DUBAI: Beirut-born director duo Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, Egyptian filmmaker Ayten Amin and Lebanese director Eliane Raheb are among the seven filmmakers set to present their new work at the 71st Berlinale, commonly known as the Berlin International Film Festival.
Films made by Egyptian filmmaker Sharief Zohairy, Argentinian-Lebanese George Peter Barbari and Palestinian director Samaher Alqadi are also part of the official lineup. Of the titles chosen, four were directed by women.
A co-production uniting Lebanon, France and Canada, “Memory Box” by Hadjithomas and Joreige will be competing for the prestigious Golden Bear award at the forthcoming festival. The film, which is making its world premiere, tells the story of a single mother from Montreal who is confronted with memories of her past as a teenager during the Lebanese civil war of the 1980s. It is the fifth film by the Lebanon-born filmmakers.
Screening in the Panorama section of the festival, Raheb’s “Miguel’s War” tells the story of a Lebanese man who had been oppressed by society all through his youth. In 1982 he decided to participate in Lebanon’s civil war to find a place within society and to prove himself to his family.
Amin’s “Souad,” which was initially meant to make its debut at the 2020 Cannes International Film Festival, will also be shown in the Berlinale’s Panorama section. The film explores how social media affects the lives of young girls approaching adulthood.
Also showing in the Panorama section is “Death of a Virgin and The Sin of Not Living” by Barbari. It will mark the filmmaker’s directorial debut. The story is based on true events from the director’s own life. It follows four young Lebanese men on their way to win their acceptance into manhood.
“As I Want” by Alqadi is a documentary feature that was motivated by the public rape of her best friend in the streets of Cairo, which led to a series of mass protests against sexual assault in Egypt that the director captured with her camera.
The festival’s Forum Expanded selection will screen 17 films as well as art installations, including Zohairy’s five-and-a-half-hour long documentary “Seven Years Around the Nile Delta.” Shot in a period of seven years, the film is half road movie and half travelogue.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s Berlinale will be split into two stages: A digital-only event taking place from March 1-5 and a live red carpet event open to the public in June.