Famous faces from the Arab world will come together on January 31 for the Abu Dhabi Dream Ball, a new gala that aims to raise funds and awareness for refugee children in Jordan.
The evening, taking place at Emirates Palace, will include an auction of a piece by French-Tunisian street artist eL Seed, a live performance by Lebanese-Armenian pianist Guy Manoukian, and appearances by Egyptian actress Mona Zaki and Syrian actor Jamal Suliman. Ahead of the fundraiser, beloved TV star Suliman spoke to Gulf News tabloid! about his long-standing career and the importance of uplifting society.
Q: First of all, what’s the importance of events such as the Abu Dhabi Dream Ball?
A: It has a huge importance. Because today, the size of the problems in our region, in the Arab world, are very big. I believe there are gaps of need that can only be filled through the cooperation of civil society. Firstly, it helps to secure opportunities to those who are in need and who are facing difficult situations. Secondly, it promotes a culture of solidarity and a connection within society. Even if my life is happy, and my home is warm, that’s not the end of the world. Others’ homes have to be happy and warm, too. This kind of action elevates the ethical values and humanity of a society.
Q: You have a long, rich history as an actor. But is there a role in particular that’s close to your heart?
A: I’ve always been careful to use my fame, and people’s love and appreciation, towards having a contribution towards public affairs. I was the Goodwill Ambassador for the UNFPA [United Nations Population Fund] for many years. It was a great period of time, where I helped raise awareness around gender issues, empowering women, and providing the same education opportunities that are available to boys. The series ‘Al Fusool Arbaa’ [Four Seasons] was one of the most famous shows I was in. I played the role of a lawyer, who has a young daughter and his wife has passed away — so he is a single father. Because he’s a lawyer, he’s seen the worst side of people, via cases of conning, scamming and lying. He has a big question to answer: should I raise my daughter on the view that society is scary, and that she has to regard it with suspicion and caution? Or do I raise her on the principle that life is good, and people are kind, and we have to treat everyone as such? I know there were women who saw this show when they were 12 or 13; now they’re around 25 years old, and they’re showing this show on YouTube to their daughters.
Q: Which actors, dead or alive, would you have liked to work with if you had the chance?
A: Truthfully, most of those who I hoped I would work with, I did work with in Syria. In Egypt, I had the opportunity to work with the late Ahmad Zaki. But there were three people in my life who I really would have loved to do something with: Mr Mahmoud Abdul Aziz, god rest his soul, Mr Nour Al Sharif, god rest his soul, as well, and I still hope to do something with Mr Yahya Al Fakharani.
Q: I read an article that mentioned you would like to do an international film. Does something like Hollywood interest you?
A: Every actor has hopes of widening the circle he works in. I started in Syria, then moved to Egypt, so my circle of viewers got bigger. Of course, I have aspirations to do something on a global level … There are films around the world with an Arab or Muslim character. In my opinion, these characters are very marginal. Secondly, they’re built around a deep misunderstanding of what goes on in our Arab and Muslim worlds. They’re a little stereotyped. For that reason, I have reservations. Because the first thing that comes to my mind when there’s a global film, whether it’s Hollywood or not, is that there will be an Arab audience watching, and I am accountable to them.
Q: What projects will you be working on in 2019?
A: I’m putting on a workshop in Dubai, and I’m currently preparing for that. I haven’t taught for many years, so I’m truly excited to get back to it... Then I have a TV show I’m filming in Abu Dhabi in the middle of February; its name is ‘Haramlek’. I play a character who’s a Turkish military man, who leads an army and security force in Damascus. It takes place in the 19th century. It’s a very exciting show.
*Tickets to attend the Abu Dhabi Dream Ball start from Dh2,500, available online.