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.


Reza Pahlavi, son of Iran’s last shah, says regime is cracking from within

Updated 26 January 2020

Reza Pahlavi, son of Iran’s last shah, says regime is cracking from within

  • ahlavi strongly backed the US drone strike that killed the powerful Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani
  • "How long can it possibly be sustained?”

LONDON: The former crown prince of Iran says the regime is cracking from within under the pressure of a wave of fresh protests.

Reza Pahlavi, the son of the last shah, was just 17 when he fled into exile with his family during the 1979 Islamic revolution that overthrew the monarchy.

Speaking to The Sunday Times, he said the demonstrations, which have included chants for the royal family to return, show that the current regime may be coming to an end.

“The cracking from within of the system is getting more and more obvious,” he said. “When you look at the circumstances in Iran today, put yourselves in the shoes of the worst-off — how long can it possibly be sustained?”

The protests intensified in November after an increase in fuel prices. Vast crowds demonstrated in cities across the country before the regime cut the internet and killed hundreds of people in a brutal crackdown.

Large numbers returned to the streets this month, angered by the shooting down of a Ukrainian passenger jet by the Iranian military, and Tehran’s initial insistence that it was an accident.

“The protests are very pervasive, in many sectors of society,” Pahlavi, 59, said in Washington where he lives. “They are all over the country. And a new development we haven’t seen before: the so-called silent middle class, which until now were not taking positions, are beginning to speak out.

“I’m not saying this is a guaranteed collapse. But the ingredients that get us closer to that point seem to be more prevailing these days than ever before.”

Pahlavi said he no longer has any desire to return to the throne, despite once being a rallying point for opposition groups after his father died in 1980.

However, he said he believed there could be a new Iran after the fall of the clerical regime and that his role could be as a go-between for the Iranian diaspora, foreign governments and opposition groups inside Iran.

“To the extent that there is a name recognition, I can utilise that,” he said. “I have no ambition of any kind of role or function or title. I’d like to be an advocate for the people. I don’t let any of this go to my head, I’ve been around too long for that.”

Pahlavi strongly backed the US drone strike that killed the powerful Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani “as a breakthrough that is positive for the region.”

He also backs the punishing US sanctions introduced when Washington withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal.

He said he hopes one day to be able to return to his homeland.

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