Documentary series highlights UAE’s rich, unknown past 

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The "History of the Emirates" series is narrated by Academy Award-winner Jeremy Irons and presented by Image Nation Abu Dhabi and produced by Atlantic Productions. (AN Photo/Tarek Ali Ahmad)
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The "History of the Emirates" series is narrated by Academy Award-winner Jeremy Irons and presented by Image Nation Abu Dhabi and produced by Atlantic Productions. (AN Photo/Tarek Ali Ahmad)
Updated 03 December 2019

Documentary series highlights UAE’s rich, unknown past 

  • The series is narrated by Academy Award-winner Jeremy Irons
  • The series profiles the foundations of the country’s civilizations

LONDON: The UAE Embassy in London hosted the screening of the first episode of “History of the Emirates” last week — a series tracing the country’s history in the lead up to its National Day on Dec. 2.

The series — narrated by Academy Award-winner Jeremy Irons, and presented by Image Nation Abu Dhabi and produced by Atlantic Productions — traces the UAE’s history by stretching back “125,000 years and culminating in the union in 1971.”

Series producer Antony Geffen told Arab News: “Some people know about independence, the oil years and pearl diving, but few know about the economic successes and the extraordinary past that goes back thousands of years. This history isn’t known locally or around the world.”

He said: “I was constantly amazed at how Emiratis had adapted to their environment, overcoming the challenges of living in an arid landscape, from domesticating camels 3,000 years ago to engineering oases through the use of underground water channels and pioneering trading across the oceans.”

The series profiles the foundations of the country’s civilizations, with a three-part version airing internationally on National Geographic, and a five-part local version that focuses on society, innovation, trade, belief and unity. 

The first episode, “Society,” opens the UAE’s story 125,000 years ago, following the earliest human migrations out of Africa and the birth of civilizations, as well as the beginning of the majlis system of consultation-driven governance and the UAE’s enduring belief in equality.

Fully immersive viewing

The series takes advantage of the latest cutting-edge technology in order to fully immerse the viewer into the UAE’s history.

“To really bring ‘History of the Emirates’ alive, we used a huge array of different techniques,” Geffen said.

“We used dramatizations, a special scanning technique called LiDar to capture lost civilizations across the desert, and then bring them back in CGI, drone and aerial filming to capture the extraordinary landscape of different areas of the country,” he added.

“We really tried to capture the ancient artefacts in a creative way, such as pearls and camel figurines.”

Virtual reality (VR) is also incorporated, with viewers taken on a journey with a group of traditional pearl divers, as well as a camel-back trek across the UAE’s Empty Quarter.

“We wanted to make a series of immersive VR experiences connected to the UAE’s history that would immerse the audience in places they’d never go to,” Geffen said.

The series also launched a children’s mobile app that “used the assets that we’d made during the creation of the series to give children a great way to engage with the past,” he added.


Locust invasion in Yemen stokes food insecurity fears

A Yemeni tries to catch locusts on the rooftop of his house as they swarm several parts of the country bringing in devastations and destruction of major seasonal crops. (AFP)
Updated 22 min 18 sec ago

Locust invasion in Yemen stokes food insecurity fears

  • Billions of locusts invaded farms, cities and villages, devouring seasonal crops

AL-MUKALLA: Locust swarms have swept over farms in central, southern and eastern parts of Yemen, ravaging crops and stoking fears of food insecurity.

Residents and farmers in the provinces of Marib, Hadramout, Mahra and Abyan said that billions of locusts had invaded farms, cities and villages, devouring important seasonal crops such as dates and causing heavy losses.
“This is like a storm that razes anything it encounters,” Hussein Ben Al-Sheikh Abu Baker, an agricultural official from Hadramout’s Sah district, told Arab News on Sunday.
Images and videos posted on social media showed layers of creeping locusts laying waste to lemon farms in Marb, dates and alfalfa farms in Hadramout and flying swarms plunging cities into darkness. “The locusts have eaten all kinds of green trees, including the sesban tree. The losses are huge,” Abu Baker added.
Heavy rains and flash floods have hit several Yemeni provinces over the last couple of months, creating fruitful conditions for locusts to reproduce. Farmers complained that locusts had wiped out entire seasonal crops that are grown after rains.
Abu Baker said that he visited several affected farms in Hadramout, where farmers told him that if the government would not compensate them for the damage that it should at least get ready for a second potential locust wave that might occur in 10 days.
“The current swarms laid eggs that are expected to hatch in 10 days. We are bracing for the second wave of the locusts.”  
Last year, the UN said that the war in Yemen had disrupted vital monitoring and control efforts and several waves of locusts to hit neighboring countries had originated from Yemen.

This is like a storm that razes anything it encounters.

Hussein Ben Al-Sheikh Abu Baker, a Yemeni agricultural official

Yemeni government officials, responsible for battling the spread of locusts, have complained that fighting and a lack of funding have obstructed vital operations for combating the insects.
Ashor Al-Zubairi, the director of the Locust Control Unit at the Ministry of Agriculture in Hadramout’s Seiyun city, said that the ministry was carrying out a combat operation funded by the Food and Agriculture Organization in Hadramout and Mahra, but complained that the operation might fall short of its target due to a lack of funding and equipment.
“The spraying campaign will end in a week which is not enough to cover the entire plagued areas,” Al-Zubairi told Arab News. “We suggested increasing the number of spraying equipment or extending the campaign.”
He said that a large number of villagers had lost their source of income after the locusts ate crops and sheep food, predicting that the outbreak would likely last for at least two weeks if urgent control operations were not intensified and fighting continued. “Combating teams could not cross into some areas in Marib due to fighting.”
The widespread locust invasion comes as the World Food Programme (WFP) on July 10 sent an appeal for urgent funds for its programs in Yemen, warning that people would face starvation otherwise.
“There are 10 million people who are facing (an) acute food shortage, and we are ringing the alarm bell for these people, because their situation is deteriorating because of escalation and because of the lockdowns, the constraints and the social-economic impact of the coronavirus,” WFP spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs told reporters in Geneva.