REVIEW: Iftar and a movie at Cinemajlis in Dubai

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Iftar at Dubai's Cinema Akil. (Supplied)
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Iftar at Dubai's Cinema Akil. (Supplied)
Updated 05 June 2019
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REVIEW: Iftar and a movie at Cinemajlis in Dubai

  • Indie movie theater Cinema Akil offers iftar with a twist
  • Alserkal Avenue’s Cinema Akil and Project Chaiwala have partnered for this specially curated 30-day experience

DUBAI: As soon as I enter the grand hall of Cinemajlis, I am given a wristband to wear, before being greeted by a chaiwala who offers me a cup of steaming hot masala chai. It’s certainly not your typical iftar setting, but it’s offerings like these that have added much-needed variety to the Ramadan culinary scene in the UAE.

Alserkal Avenue’s Cinema Akil and Project Chaiwala have partnered for this specially curated 30-day experience, with Cinemajlis doing exactly what it says on the tin: it’s an iftar in a majlis-style setting, paired with a post-meal movie screening.

An independent arthouse theater, Cinema Akil was launched in 2014, and has since screened a multitude of independent and festival films via one-off pop-ups around Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah, and at its main venue. Project Chaiwala, meanwhile, also started as a pop-up concept, in 2017. Two years later, it opened its flagship store sharing a space with Cinema Akil.

It’s clear that the talents behind both brands have put a lot of effort into Cinemajlis. Understated, yet fastidious in design, the hall has been transformed from regular cinema to — you guessed it — a majlis with floor cushions around the tables. The venue’s regular interiors, featuring traditional Indian stencil design on the walls, mix well with the additions and tweaks made for the Holy Month.

Mainstays like the classic prints and posters dotted around — including one for the original “Star Wars” film, and a black-and-white photograph of a young Sherihan (one of the Arab world’s best-known performers) — complement the classic 'Khayamiya' used for the majlis. This beautifully designed textile, a type of decorative appliqué material historically used to decorate tents across the Middle East, evokes memories of North Africa and the Levant in the Nineties, a simpler time when ‘fawazeer’ was in vogue.

The menu, created by Project Chaiwala, is bona fide, family-style, South Asian cuisine, featuring dishes that are the epitome of comfort food. There are samosas, soup, naan bread, Chicken Karahi, vegetable pulao and more. A personal highlight was the rich, creamy and buttery Dal Makhani. Simply put, it was glorious, with just the right amount of spice.

Displaying energetic elan, the team from the kitchen were always on hand to check in on diners, before distributing dessert, which was saffron cake with ice-cream.

As iftar wrapped up, guests were encouraged to take to the actual cinema seats to watch the movie. The night’s screening was “Naila and the Uprising,” a documentary that chronicles the real-life journey of Naila Ayesh, a key figure in the First Intifada. Cinema Akil has chosen four films to screen during Cinemajlis, with a new one starting every Friday for a week. Also on the schedule are 2017 Iraqi drama “The Journey,” and “Ext. Night,” the acclaimed Egyptian drama which screened at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival.

While my trip to Cinemajlis was thanks to an invite, the experience left such an impression that I intend to return before the Holy Month ends. At AED200 ($54.45) per head for a light and delightful meal, and a film screening, it is such good value for money. And the fact that it’s the creation of two homegrown concepts makes it all the more special. To reserve your table, you need to book and pay online in advance, but you won’t regret it. The only thing you’ll regret is not having tried it sooner.


San Francisco becomes first major US city to ban e-cigarette sales

This file photo taken on October 02, 2018 shows a man exhaling smoke from an electronic cigarette in Washington, DC on October 2, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 26 June 2019
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San Francisco becomes first major US city to ban e-cigarette sales

  • Since 2014, e-cigarettes have been the most commonly used tobacco product among young people in the country

LOS ANGELES: San Francisco on Tuesday became the first major US city to effectively ban the sale and manufacture of electronic cigarettes.
The city’s legislature unanimously approved an ordinance which backers said was necessary due to the “significant public health consequences” of a “dramatic surge” in vaping among youths.
The ordinance says e-cigarette products sold in shops or online in San Francisco would need approval by federal health authorities, which none currently has.
US health authorities are alarmed by the rise in popularity of e-cigarettes, battery-powered devices which enable users to inhale nicotine liquids that are often fruit flavored.
The number of young Americans using e-cigarettes grew by 1.5 million in 2018, with about 3.6 million middle and high school students using vaping products.
San Francisco is home to market-leading e-cigarette maker Juul.
The city’s mayor London Breed has 10 days to sign the legislation, which she has said she will do.
“We need to take action to protect the health of San Francisco’s youth and prevent the next generation of San Franciscans from becoming addicted to these products,” Breed said in a statement Tuesday ahead of the vote.
She added that e-cigarette companies were “targeting our kids in their advertising and getting them hooked on addictive nicotine products.”
But critics say the legislation will make it harder for people seeking alternatives to regular cigarettes. E-cigarettes do not contain the cancer-causing products found in tobacco.
An editorial in the Los Angeles Times noted that regular cigarettes were still for sale in San Francisco, arguing that “it’s bad public health policy to come down harder on the lesser of two tobacco evils.”
Juul said in a statement Monday that a ban would “not effectively address underage use and will leave cigarettes on shelves as the only choice for adult smokers.”
Concern is growing about the potential health consequences of vaping, which remain largely unknown in part because the practice is so new.
Experts point out that it took decades to determine that smoking tobacco — which accounts for more than seven million premature deaths worldwide every year — is truly dangerous.
Beside the well-known addictive consequences of consuming nicotine, public health experts are focusing on the effect of heating the liquid nicotine cartridges to high temperatures.
The San Francisco ordinance text said that nicotine exposure during adolescence “can harm the developing brain” and “can also increase risk for future addiction to other drugs.”
Unlike an e-cigarette ban in force in Singapore, the San Francisco legislation does not restrict the use of vaping products.
Recreational cannabis use has been legal in California for people over the age of 21 since January 1, 2018.