Salma Hayek will produce The Prophet. Vittorio Zunino Celotto / Getty Images
Salma Hayek will produce The Prophet. Vittorio Zunino Celotto / Getty Images

Kahlil Gibran: the man behind the mystery



Translated into more than 40 languages and with estimated sales of 100 million, Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet is one of the most internationally renowned and adored books of all time. Despite first being published in 1923, this series of philosophical poems from one of Lebanon’s most treasured sons is still prominent on many bestseller lists, and some estimates put international sales at a healthy 5,000 per week.

Next year, interest in the book is expected to spike when the Salma Hayek-produced and Doha Film Institute-funded animated adaptation of The Prophet is due to be released. But despite the book's ongoing success establishing Gibran as the third best-selling poet of all time – behind Shakespeare and Lao-Tzu – little is known about the man behind the prose. Thankfully, this could change if the biopic set to go into production in 2014 ever hits movie screens.

“While he is very well known for his writing, he isn’t well known to this day for his painting and his sketches,” says the film’s Los Angeles-based producer, William Nix, who is also serving as an executive producer for the animated adaptation of The Prophet. “One of the things that this biographical feature will bring to a wider audience is knowledge of his artwork.”

The film has recently been authorised by the Gibran National Committee of Lebanon. The screenplay – which was written by the Lebanese American Grace Yazbek, working alongside her brother Rob, and was a quarter-finalist for the AMPAS Nicholl Fellowship for Screenwriting last year in the US – is now in the hands of Kahlil Gibran’s cousin, the biographer Jean Gibran, for polishing.

The story will follow Gibran from humble beginnings in Bsharri, in northern Lebanon, to the US, where he started school in Boston at 12, before returning to Lebanon. He then headed to Paris for artistic studies and finally to New York City, where he died in 1931 at just 48. Along the way, there are friendships with the likes of the French sculptor Rodin, the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung and the Irish literary giant WB Yeats, along with work published by the famed Alfred A Knopf.

“Besides him being a great artist, philosopher and poet, we’re also trying to show the man behind it, and the obstacles he had to overcome to get there,” says Yazbek, who, like Gibran, spent much of her life in Boston before recently returning to Lebanon. “He was living with his demons and living so far from home. There are flashbacks of him remembering Lebanon and the countryside that he was so attached to and, if you look at his paintings, you can see what was in his mind and his heart.”

One of the main themes is Gibran’s relationship with his mother, Kamila.

“They were very poor, but she believed in him and the entire family worked and allowed him to nurture his creativity,” says Yazbek. “It’s a beautiful story, and I think a lot of people, no matter what their religion, culture or background, will be able to relate to it.”

Another major character in the film is likely to be Mary Haskell, the Boston headmistress and, as their correspondence would later reveal, the object of Gibran’s affection. It was Haskell to whom Gibran bequeathed the contents of his studio and who purchased the Mar Sarkis Monastary in Bsharri, where the author was buried and which has now been transformed into the Gibran Museum.

“I’ve been wanting to tell Gibran’s life story for several years now,” says Nix, adding that it was Jean Gibran who brought the screenplay to his attention. “I was immediately in touch with Grace because it sounded like it was exactly what I’d been looking for – someone who really understands what Gibran was about, not only the factual history, but also the spiritual, philosophical and artistic side of what his life was about.”

Once the screenplay has been finalised, the next step is to find a director, before talking to actors and potential investors, with an eye to go into production in 2014.

While the film should help shed new light on the life of one of the world’s most inspiring creatives (few might know that Gibran wrote the line: “Are you a politician asking what your country can do for you or a zealous one asking what you can do for your country” – 36 years before John F Kennedy’s famous speech), there’s also hope it will provide a source of inspiration.

“The diaspora is all over the world, and through Gibran we’re hoping to make people proud that they overcame a lot and travelled extensively to create their dream, whatever they may be,” says Yazbek. “There have been many movies about Irish-Americans and Italian-Americans, and I’m hoping that we finally have a hero from this part of the world to overcome some of the stereotypes. I think Gibran is definitely a hero.”

The project

By the time the Khalil Gibran biopic goes into production in 2014, taste buds for the regional literary heavyweight should already have been tingled by the animated adaptation of his most famous book, The Prophet.

Announced earlier in the year, the film is being produced by Salma Hayek with funding from the Doha Film Insitute, and will see an impressive line-up of directors take a chapter of the book each to give their own unique spin. And alongside Marjane Satrapi and Oscar-winners Joan Gratz and Chris Landreth is Mohammed Harib, the Emirati filmmaker behind the successful Freej TV show. Harib is putting together the chapter entitled Crime and Punishment which, like the others in the film, will be between three and five minutes in length.

A release date for the finished project is yet to be announced, but given that the Doha-funded Black Gold opened last year’s Doha Tribeca Film Festival and Doha-funded The Reluctant Fundamentalist is set to do the same this November, there’s a good chance The Prophet could be heading our way late next year.

aritman@thenational.ae

Sweet Tooth

Creator: Jim Mickle
Starring: Christian Convery, Nonso Anozie, Adeel Akhtar, Stefania LaVie Owen
Rating: 2.5/5

Company Profile

Name: Raha
Started: 2022
Based: Kuwait/Saudi
Industry: Tech Logistics
Funding: $14 million
Investors: Soor Capital, eWTP Arabia Capital, Aujan Enterprises, Nox Management, Cedar Mundi Ventures
Number of employees: 166

The specs

Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo

Power: 201hp at 5,200rpm

Torque: 320Nm at 1,750-4,000rpm

Transmission: 6-speed auto

Fuel consumption: 8.7L/100km

Price: Dh133,900

On sale: now

The specs

Engine: 0.8-litre four cylinder

Power: 70bhp

Torque: 66Nm

Transmission: four-speed manual

Price: $1,075 new in 1967, now valued at $40,000

On sale: Models from 1966 to 1970

US tops drug cost charts

The study of 13 essential drugs showed costs in the United States were about 300 per cent higher than the global average, followed by Germany at 126 per cent and 122 per cent in the UAE.

Thailand, Kenya and Malaysia were rated as nations with the lowest costs, about 90 per cent cheaper.

In the case of insulin, diabetic patients in the US paid five and a half times the global average, while in the UAE the costs are about 50 per cent higher than the median price of branded and generic drugs.

Some of the costliest drugs worldwide include Lipitor for high cholesterol. 

The study’s price index placed the US at an exorbitant 2,170 per cent higher for Lipitor than the average global price and the UAE at the eighth spot globally with costs 252 per cent higher.

High blood pressure medication Zestril was also more than 2,680 per cent higher in the US and the UAE price was 187 per cent higher than the global price.

Why it pays to compare

A comparison of sending Dh20,000 from the UAE using two different routes at the same time - the first direct from a UAE bank to a bank in Germany, and the second from the same UAE bank via an online platform to Germany - found key differences in cost and speed. The transfers were both initiated on January 30.

Route 1: bank transfer

The UAE bank charged Dh152.25 for the Dh20,000 transfer. On top of that, their exchange rate margin added a difference of around Dh415, compared with the mid-market rate.

Total cost: Dh567.25 - around 2.9 per cent of the total amount

Total received: €4,670.30 

Route 2: online platform

The UAE bank’s charge for sending Dh20,000 to a UK dirham-denominated account was Dh2.10. The exchange rate margin cost was Dh60, plus a Dh12 fee.

Total cost: Dh74.10, around 0.4 per cent of the transaction

Total received: €4,756

The UAE bank transfer was far quicker – around two to three working days, while the online platform took around four to five days, but was considerably cheaper. In the online platform transfer, the funds were also exposed to currency risk during the period it took for them to arrive.

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: Haltia.ai
Started: 2023
Co-founders: Arto Bendiken and Talal Thabet
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: AI
Number of employees: 41
Funding: About $1.7 million
Investors: Self, family and friends

Company profile

Company name: Outsized
Started: 2016
Founders: Azeem Zainulbhai, Niclas Thelander, Anurag Bhalla and Johann van Niekerk
Based: India, South Africa, South-East Asia, Mena
Sector: Recruitment
Investment raised: $1 million
Current staff count: 40
Investors: Seed and angel investors

How to come clean about financial infidelity
  • Be honest and transparent: It is always better to own up than be found out. Tell your partner everything they want to know. Show remorse. Inform them of the extent of the situation so they know what they are dealing with.
  • Work on yourself: Be honest with yourself and your partner and figure out why you did it. Don’t be ashamed to ask for professional help. 
  • Give it time: Like any breach of trust, it requires time to rebuild. So be consistent, communicate often and be patient with your partner and yourself.
  • Discuss your financial situation regularly: Ensure your spouse is involved in financial matters and decisions. Your ability to consistently follow through with what you say you are going to do when it comes to money can make all the difference in your partner’s willingness to trust you again.
  • Work on a plan to resolve the problem together: If there is a lot of debt, for example, create a budget and financial plan together and ensure your partner is fully informed, involved and supported. 

Carol Glynn, founder of Conscious Finance Coaching

Living in...

This article is part of a guide on where to live in the UAE. Our reporters will profile some of the country’s most desirable districts, provide an estimate of rental prices and introduce you to some of the residents who call each area home. 

Profile

Co-founders of the company: Vilhelm Hedberg and Ravi Bhusari

Launch year: In 2016 ekar launched and signed an agreement with Etihad Airways in Abu Dhabi. In January 2017 ekar launched in Dubai in a partnership with the RTA.

Number of employees: Over 50

Financing stage: Series B currently being finalised

Investors: Series A - Audacia Capital 

Sector of operation: Transport

LOVE AGAIN

Director: Jim Strouse

Stars: Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Sam Heughan, Celine Dion

Rating: 2/5

FIGHT CARD

Welterweight Mostafa Radi (PAL) v Tohir Zhuraev (TJK)

Catchweight 75kg Leandro Martins (BRA) v Anas Siraj Mounir (MAR)

Flyweight Corinne Laframboise (CAN) v Manon Fiorot (FRA)

Featherweight Ahmed Al Darmaki (UAE) v Bogdan Kirilenko (UZB)

Lightweight Izzedine Al Derabani (JOR) v Atabek Abdimitalipov (KYG)

Featherweight Yousef Al Housani (UAE) v Mohamed Arsharq Ali (SLA)

Catchweight 69kg Jung Han-gook (KOR) v Elias Boudegzdame (ALG)

Catchweight 71kg Usman Nurmagomedov (RUS) v Jerry Kvarnstrom (FIN)

Featherweight title Lee Do-gyeom (KOR) v Alexandru Chitoran (ROU)

Lightweight title Bruno Machado (BRA) v Mike Santiago (USA)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge

Developer: Tribute Games
Publisher: Dotemu
Consoles: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4&5, PC and Xbox One
Rating: 4/5

Oscars in the UAE

The 90th Academy Awards will be aired in the UAE from 3.30am on Monday, March 5 on OSN, with the ceremony starting at 5am

MATCH INFO

Chelsea 0

Liverpool 2 (Mane 50', 54')

Red card: Andreas Christensen (Chelsea)

Man of the match: Sadio Mane (Liverpool)

Other simple ideas for sushi rice dishes

Cheat’s nigiri 
This is easier to make than sushi rolls. With damp hands, form the cooled rice into small tablet shapes. Place slices of fresh, raw salmon, mackerel or trout (or smoked salmon) lightly touched with wasabi, then press, wasabi side-down, onto the rice. Serve with soy sauce and pickled ginger.

Easy omurice
This fusion dish combines Asian fried rice with a western omelette. To make, fry cooked and cooled sushi rice with chopped vegetables such as carrot and onion and lashings of sweet-tangy ketchup, then wrap in a soft egg omelette.

Deconstructed sushi salad platter 
This makes a great, fuss-free sharing meal. Arrange sushi rice on a platter or board, then fill the space with all your favourite sushi ingredients (edamame beans, cooked prawns or tuna, tempura veggies, pickled ginger and chilli tofu), with a dressing or dipping sauce on the side.

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: PlanRadar
Started: 2013
Co-founders: Ibrahim Imam, Sander van de Rijdt, Constantin Köck, Clemens Hammerl, Domagoj Dolinsek
Based: Vienna, Austria
Sector: Construction and real estate
Current number of staff: 400+
Investment stage: Series B
Investors: Headline, Berliner Volksbank Ventures, aws Gründerfonds, Cavalry Ventures, Proptech1, Russmedia, GR Capital

UAE athletes heading to Paris 2024

Equestrian

Abdullah Humaid Al Muhairi, Abdullah Al Marri, Omar Al Marzooqi, Salem Al Suwaidi, and Ali Al Karbi (four to be selected).

Judo
Men: Narmandakh Bayanmunkh (66kg), Nugzari Tatalashvili (81kg), Aram Grigorian (90kg), Dzhafar Kostoev (100kg), Magomedomar Magomedomarov (+100kg); women's Khorloodoi Bishrelt (52kg).

Cycling
Safia Al Sayegh (women's road race).

Swimming

Men: Yousef Rashid Al Matroushi (100m freestyle); women: Maha Abdullah Al Shehi (200m freestyle).

Athletics

Maryam Mohammed Al Farsi (women's 100 metres).

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