Book Review: Fascinating portrait of emirate at crossroads of modernity and tradition

'People of Ras Al-Khaimah' by Anna Zacharias tells the story of the town in the words of the people. (Shutterstock)
Updated 26 February 2019
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Book Review: Fascinating portrait of emirate at crossroads of modernity and tradition

BEIRUT: Over the years, Medina Publishing has established a reputation for its quality books about the Arabian Peninsula and a recent publication sheds light on one of the lesser-known emirates, Ras Al-Khaimah.
The cover photograph of “People of Ras Al-Khaimah,” featuring three elderly women wearing the burqa, a mask covering the eyebrows, part of the nose and the lips, sets the tone of this book.
Author Anna Zacharias tells us the story of Ras Al-Khaimah “in the words of its people” with an impressive series of portraits highlighting the smooth integration between the immigrant population, the Emiratis and their rulers. 
The “Gulf culture is neither static nor at risk” and there “is also evidence of the continual cultural adaptation,” writes the Canadian author. 
Ali Rashed, a camel-race commentator is a good example. Pragmatic and versatile, he quickly understood the potential of the VHS technology during the late 1970s and 1980s. He opened a video shop, bought a camera and was the only one with the right to make videos.

Nowadays people can watch a race on their phone. “Culture and modernity are easily reconciled,” writes Zacharias.
The coffee table book features photographs of more than 50 people who live in the state, including Emiratis and foreign expats from both urbanized areas and the surrounding villages.
Unlike Dubai, the dazzling city with the biggest, the tallest and the most expensive, Ras Al-Khaimah stands at a crossroads between modernity and tradition and this book has captured that elusive moment in time with its engaging interviews, sleepy anecdotes of a bygone era and sun-drenched photography. 
American photojournalist Jeff Topping, and Zacharias worked together to produce the book, which charts the state’s history and explores its diverse landscape — a patchwork of inviting beaches, sprawling lagoons, mangrove forests, slithering sand dunes, date palms oases and craggy mountains.
The book was launched with the support of the Ras Al-Khaimah Media Office and should not be used as a historical guide to the emirate, but rather a fascinating and visually appealing collection of amusing stories and gorgeous images from a little-explored corner of the UAE.


What We Are Reading Today: Outsiders by Lyndall Gordon

Updated 19 March 2019
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What We Are Reading Today: Outsiders by Lyndall Gordon

  • Gordon’s passion for literature is evident on every page of her book

In Outsiders, Lyndall Gordon tells the stories of five novelists — Mary Shelley, Emily Bronte, George Eliot, Olive Schreiner, Virginia Woolf — and their famous novels.

The five writers are woven together in a narration across time, through their reading and sometimes as role models for one another. 

As a biographer, Gordon has been a visionary herself, mind-reading her way into these figures’ creative processes. 

Gordon’s passion for literature is evident on every page of her book.

The book is split into separate parts, each documenting the lives of the famous female writers.

It is clear throughout that Gordon is in awe of and intrigued by the ‘otherness’ of her subjects. 

“This book really makes one think about just what it takes to be a true ‘reformer’ or for that matter a writer,” said a review published in goodreads.com. 

“Gordon’s biographies have always shown the indelible connection between life and art: An intuitive, exciting and revealing approach that has been highly praised and much read and enjoyed,” it added.

Gordon (born Nov. 4, 1941) is a British-based writer and academic, known for her literary biographies. She is a senior research Fellow at St. Hilda’s College, Oxford.