From Syria to Paris, music provides haven for ‘Refugees of Rap’

From Syria to Paris, music provides haven for ‘Refugees of Rap’
Members of the Palestinian-Syrian hip hop band “Refugees of Rap,” brothers Yaser, left, and Mohamed Jamous. (AFP)
Updated 18 March 2017

From Syria to Paris, music provides haven for ‘Refugees of Rap’

From Syria to Paris, music provides haven for ‘Refugees of Rap’

PARIS: Staccato lyrics may be no match for Bashar Assad’s military firepower, but two brothers, who fled to Paris from Syria and perform as “Refugees of Rap,” find sniping with words a liberating experience.
Having grown up officially stateless in a Palestinian refugee camp in Syria, Yaser and Mohamed Jamous rap in Arabic about the war they have fled and their new life in France.
“We chose the name because for us, rap represents a country where we can say what we think,” Mohamed, 28, told AFP.
“And we’re seeking asylum there.”
Over a pounding beat, solemn music blending high piano keys and low violin tones, the brothers “spit,” or speak, the chorus in unison: “We have to wake up, stop dreaming. The time for silence is long gone, swept away by words.”
The lyrics are from their 2011 song “The Age of Silence,” one of the last they sung before fleeing Syria via Lebanon.
Performing their hip-hop at a Paris community center, the brothers said the song had been the “first time we dared speak up openly against the (Assad) regime” despite the risk in doing so.
“One word, and you got 20 years (in prison) or death. Here, we wanted to say that the time for silence is over.”
The duo were born and raised in the Yarmuk camp for Palestinian refugees on the outskirts of Damascus, which was once home to 160,000 people — including Syrians — but has been ravaged by fighting.
Yaser and Mohamed left Syria in early 2013 as fighting for control of the camp intensified.
The brothers created “Refugees of Rap” in 2007 with two friends, an Algerian and a Syrian, and were one of the first such groups to emerge out of Syria.
It now comprises just the two of them — the Syrian member refused to leave and the Algerian went to Germany.
Released in 2010, their first album recounts living in the overcrowded camp, as they advocate for the Palestinian cause.
Then, after 2011, the revolt provided inspiration.
They had completed eight tracks for the second album when they began receiving anonymous threats on social media.


Tunisia ‘trailblazer’ in Mediterranean seaweed farming

Tunisia ‘trailblazer’ in Mediterranean seaweed farming
Updated 23 June 2021

Tunisia ‘trailblazer’ in Mediterranean seaweed farming

Tunisia ‘trailblazer’ in Mediterranean seaweed farming

Wading knee-deep in the calm waters of a lagoon, workers in northern Tunisia harvest red seaweed, in a nation dubbed a Mediterranean “trailblazer” in cultivating the in-demand plant.

Red seaweed or algae is used for gelling, thickening and texturing agents that are increasingly a substitute for animal-based products in processed foods, and it is also being used increasingly in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.


Colombia has the world’s largest variety of butterfly species: study

Colombia has the world’s largest variety of butterfly species: study
Photo/Shutterstock
Updated 23 June 2021

Colombia has the world’s largest variety of butterfly species: study

Colombia has the world’s largest variety of butterfly species: study
  • “Colombia is a country with a great diversity of natural habitats, a complex and heterogeneous geography and a privileged location in the extreme northeast of South America,” the report reads in part

BOGOTA: Colombia is home to the world’s largest variety of butterflies, approximately 20 percent of all known species, according to a study published Tuesday by the Natural History Museum in London.
An international team of scientists cataloged 3,642 species and 2,085 subspecies, registering them in a document titled “Checklist of Colombian Butterflies.”
More than 200 butterfly species are found only in Colombia, said Blanca Huertas, the senior butterfly collection curator at the Natural History Museum in London, who was part of the research team.
Project researchers traveled widely in Colombia, analyzed more than 350,000 photographs, and studied information collected since the late 18th century, the museum said.
“Colombia is a country with a great diversity of natural habitats, a complex and heterogeneous geography and a privileged location in the extreme northeast of South America,” the report reads in part.
“These factors, added to the delicate public order in the last century in certain regions, has limited until now, the advancement of field exploration.”
Colombia has endured more than half a century of armed conflict, with some areas controlled by leftist guerrillas, right-wing paramilitary groups or drug lords, and with little government presence.
Protecting butterflies in Colombia will also help protect its forests as well as other, less likeable species, Huertas said.
Between 2000 and 2019 Colombia lost nearly 2.8 million hectares of forest, equivalent to the area of Belgium, according to the National Department of Planning.


Madame Tussauds to open in Dubai later in 2021

Madame Tussauds to open in Dubai later in 2021
Updated 22 June 2021

Madame Tussauds to open in Dubai later in 2021

Madame Tussauds to open in Dubai later in 2021
  • The attraction will feature 7 rooms including a Bollywood-themed area
  • There will be 60 statues of global stars including new faces from the Middle East

DUBAI: Dubai is already known for its manmade islands, iconic sky scrapers, and the world’s first seven-star hotel – the Burj Al Arab, and now it’s getting its own version of the popular tourist attraction Madame Tussauds.

The world-famous waxwork museum is opening its first Middle East venue in Dubai’s Bluewaters Island later this year, Merlin Entertainments Ltd (Merlin), announced Tuesday.

Visitors will be able to take pictures with a selection of wax statues of 60 global stars, including 16 new wax figures from the Middle East region.

The attraction will feature seven themed rooms, including a Bollywood movie, featuring the Badshah of Bollywood, Shahrukh Khan.

Other figures will include Kylie Jenner, Cara Delevingne and footballing legend, Christiano Ronaldo.

“In addition to well-known global figures, the new Madame Tussauds will also be home to figures celebrated in the Middle East including Nancy Ajram and Maya Diab, alongside other figures which we will announce very soon,” said Meike Lippert, Senior Divisional Director Midway Europe and Global New Openings, Merlin Entertainments.

It takes sculptors 12 weeks to create each wax statue, and during that time they document 500 precise body measurements, insert real hair strand by strand, apply countless layers of paints to build up the skin tones.

And it can cost up to $208,000 to create a wax figure, depending on the work involved.

The first Madame Tussauds was opened in 1835 in London, and has remained a popular destination with tourists in the British capital ever since.

There are also branches in Amsterdam, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Shanghai, Wuhan and New York.

“It is a thrilling experience to bring the iconic Madame Tussauds to the UAE,” said Sanaz Kollsrud, General Manager of Madame Tussauds Dubai.

“This will be the 25th edition of our wax attraction and will be a first in the GCC. We intend to bring a whole new entertainment experience to the exciting portfolio of attractions in Dubai and cement Bluewaters’ position as a global tourist destination.” Kollsrud added.


Outgoing Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu gets his first smartphone

Outgoing Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu gets his first smartphone
Updated 21 June 2021

Outgoing Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu gets his first smartphone

Outgoing Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu gets his first smartphone
  • Netanyahu was probably one of the few people who didn’t own a smartphone
  • Former prime minister’s new phone number will remain unknown to many

BEIRUT: Israel’s former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu now owns a smartphone for the first time in 12 years, Israeli media reported on Monday.
Unseated as premier in early June, Israel Today said Netanyahu was probably one of the few people who didn’t own a smartphone across the country, highlighting that “today he is proud of the smartphone he has.”
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett succeeded in cobbling together a government in the aftermath of Israel’s fourth consecutive election in two years.
Netanyahu, who served for 12 years as prime minister until Bennett’s government was sworn in last week, has yet to move out of the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem.
The former prime minister’s new phone number will remain unknown to many except for a select few, the newspaper said.
Mentioning the issue of owning smartphones in 2014, Netanyahu was reportedly overheard exclaiming to his entourage prior to filming and interview with an American TV channel: “I do not understand the new world where everybody wants to click photos! When do you live?”
Reporters cited him as saying “everybody takes pictures, that is all what they do! Don’t take pictures, live your life! I lived mine without taking photos. I am the only person, who doesn’t have electronic devices. I am a free man and you are all slaves to your devices.”
According to the newspaper, a friend of Netanyahu claimed that the last time he owned a personal phone was in 2009.
Despite the fact that he has not used a smartphone for more than a decade, he remains one of the most followed people on social media, with over 2 million followers on Twitter and over 2.6 million followers on Facebook.


UK’s Queen Elizabeth II beams as she returns to Ascot after COVID-19 hiatus

UK’s Queen Elizabeth II beams as she returns to Ascot after COVID-19 hiatus
Updated 20 June 2021

UK’s Queen Elizabeth II beams as she returns to Ascot after COVID-19 hiatus

UK’s Queen Elizabeth II beams as she returns to Ascot after COVID-19 hiatus
  • Dressed in a mint-green outfit and matching hat, the queen was applauded by the crowd
  • She smiled broadly as she inspected one of her horses, after it finished a close second

LONDON: Queen Elizabeth II was smiling broadly as she attended the final day of the Ascot races on Saturday, where environmental protesters urged the monarch to press politicians to act faster against climate change.
The 95-year-old queen, a keen racing fan and racehorse owner, has attended Ascot almost every year of her seven-decade reign. She was absent last year, when the event was held without spectators because of the coronavirus pandemic. Her return came two months after the death of her husband, Prince Philip, at 99.


Dressed in a mint-green outfit and matching hat, the queen was applauded by the crowd as she arrived to cheer on four horses she owns that were racing on Saturday. She smiled broadly as she inspected one of her horses, Reach for the Moon, after it finished a close second.
The annual racing meeting west of London is a heady mix of horses, extravagant headwear, fancy dress, champagne and strawberries with cream.
Protesters from environmental group Extinction Rebellion unfurled a banner reading “Racing to Extinction” at the racecourse on Saturday. The group said four women glued themselves to their banner and chained themselves to the fence in a protest intended to be seen by the queen. She was not nearby at the time.