Forza Ferrari - the view from the cockpit of the famous brand

Arab News' Frank Kane puts the Ferrari F8 Tributo through its paces in Dubai. (AN Photo)
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Updated 24 June 2020

Forza Ferrari - the view from the cockpit of the famous brand

  • The master carmaker’s tribute to Italian style and power speeds you into Formula 1 territory

DUBAI: I think the gravity — no pun intended — of my situation hit home when Sep, the assistant at the Al-Tayer Ferrari showroom in Dubai, pointed to the feature on the dashboard display of the F8 Tributo that measures the g-force hitting your body as the supercar accelerates.

“People are impressed by that,” he said, before giving me a very personal demonstration of the power of the car when he put it into “launch” mode and took off down a thankfully empty side road.

I was immediately flattened against my seat by the sheer power of the vehicle — 0-100 kph in a few exhilarating seconds, with the 3.9 litre twin-turbo engine screaming like a fighter jet.


Ferrari, the famous Italian sports car maker, is about power, of course. In the driver’s seat, you are immediately conscious of the immense potency your right foot commands.

Just a little touch on the gas is enough to take you past virtually everything else on the road. Floor it, and you can imagine yourself in Formula One territory.

Just one little Ferrari moment: I’m at a red signal on King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Street, and a rival fast car model pulls up beside me. He looks at the Tributo, looks at me, and grips his wheel tightly with eyes fixed on the light. He wants a racing start.

When the signal changes, I let him get a few meters ahead, before gunning the gas and easily overtaking him in the next twenty meters. “Forza Ferrari!” I exclaim as I watch him recede in the rear view.

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READ MORE: Frank Kane's Big Interview - Ferrari accelerates in the Middle East — with a passion

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The Tributo is named in homage to the long tradition of Ferrari mid-engine sports cars known as “berlinetta” — two-seater coupes that go back to at least the 1970s. Unveiled last year in Geneva, it is the latest refinement in a class of supercars that Ferrari has made its own. Forget all the pretenders, there is only one Prancing Horse.

The one that I drove was not in classic Ferrari red, but rather in a more sophisticated silver. The body lines are aerodynamically elegant, while the bulging wheel arches and air-intakes give the car a muscular look to go with that 710 bhp engine. Long, sleek and powerful, it’s easily the sexiest car I’ve ever driven.

The designers at Maranello in Italy, the home of Ferrari where they are all built, call the interior the “cockpit”, and I felt like I was in a “Top Gun” movie. The cobalt blue leather harmonized with silvery graphite fixtures, and both contrasted nicely with the yellow Ferrari motif in the middle of the steering wheel.

This is oval shaped, reminiscent of a Formula One wheel, but probably also to allow you in and out of the car with some dignity.

This is definitely not a family car. There is cockpit room for you and your passenger, and behind you, close enough to make you jump when you gun the accelerator, is the engine. A Perspex cover shows off the bright red engine casing to any admirers — and there are plenty on the streets and hotel forecourts of Dubai.

On Sheikh Zayed Road, away from the speed bumps that you have to negotiate with care in such a low vehicle, the car seems to enjoy its natural high-speed environment. It can be difficult to stay within speed limits. The Tributo gets to 120 kph effortlessly, but you can tell it wants to go faster. It feels almost cruel to hold it back.

When Sep showed me the controls outside the showroom, he flicked into the computerized driving history. Although the car had only driven just over 100 km in its lifetime since arriving from Italy, it had managed to hit 295kph on one occasion.

Sep put that down to a Ferrari engineer putting it through its paces at a special track in Dubai. Imagine the g-forces from that little workout

Ferrari Italia is recovering well from the pandemic lockdown. At the height of the crisis the production lines at Maranello were turned over to ventilator manufacture, but now it is shipping cars again. The next big launch in the Middle East will be the Roma, which is designed to epitomize the “dolce vita” of the Eternal City.

Ferrari and eternity are fitting companions. There will always be the Prancing Horse.


Paris exhibition sheds light on the now-departed Jews of Morocco

Updated 56 min 27 sec ago

Paris exhibition sheds light on the now-departed Jews of Morocco

  • Co-curator explains extraordinary tale of discovering an image of her then-teenage father in French photographer’s collection of shots from the 1930s

DUBAI: The largest Jewish population that ever existed in the Arab world was in Morocco, which was home to over 250,000 Jews by the 1940s. A free photography exhibition, which runs at the Museum of the Art and History of Judaism (mahJ) in Paris until May next year, offers a rare insight into their lives there.

“Juifs du Maroc” showcases around 60 black-and-white photographs and drawings by the late French photographer and painter Jean Besancenot, who travelled to Morocco several times and became enamored with the culture there.

The images on display were photographed between 1934 and 1937. They are both intimate and a documentary-like portrayal of Morocco’s Jewish community — some of men, women and children posing in elaborate attire against a neutral background, others of people practicing daily activities of baking, brewing, and reading. Overall, the exhibition preserves and presents “a priceless record of rural Jewish communities in Morocco no longer in existence,” according to a statement published by the museum.

Erfoud, Tafilalet Region Rouhama and Sarah Abehassera in Wedding Suits mahJ. (Adagp, Paris, 2020) 

One of the driving forces behind “Juifs du Maroc” is co-curator Hannah Assouline, a French photographer with more than 30 years of experience, who was born in Algeria and resides in Paris. The exhibition is a particularly personal endeavor for Assouline, since one of the photographs on display is of her father, a then-adolescent Rabbi Messaoud Assouline, who came from a destitute family. The story of how she found this valuable photograph is one of coming full circle and an unlikely coincidence.

“I met Jean Besancenot in 1985, when my interest in photography began,” Assouline told Arab News with some translation help from her assistant Paul. “As soon as Besancenot saw me, he immediately knew where I was from. He told me, ‘You come from Tafilalet (a region in southern Morocco) and you are a Jew.’

“I wanted to buy pictures from him, but since I didn’t have enough money I couldn’t buy a lot,” she continued, adding that Besancenot had 2,800 photographs portraying the Jewish world of Morocco. “He showed me more than 100 pictures — all of Jewish people, among them were many girls and young women.”

Goulmima, Tafilalet Region Young Woman in White mahJ. (Adagp, Paris, 2020)

By chance, Assouline came across a snapshot from 1935 of a very young married couple, and noticed that the boy resembled one of her nephews. Intrigued, Assouline purchased the photograph — along with six more as gifts for her siblings — and was eager to show it to her family.

“I went to my parents’ home to show them the pictures on a Friday night, which is Shabbat,” she said. “My father was very religious and didn’t want to see the pictures on Shabbat. When he finally agreed to look at the pictures, he said in Arabic: ‘It’s me!’ He had never seen this picture before — it took him 50 years to see it. He went through exile, war, moved to a new country with a new story and, in the end, he found his picture.”

It turned out that Assouline’s then-13-year-old father — timid and barefoot — was only playing the part of a groom and was photographed in Erfoud, one of the centers of Moroccan Jewish life at a time when the North African country was a French protectorate.

Erfoud, Tafilalet Region Messaoud Assouline (Tinghir, 1922 – Jerusalem, 2007), 13 years old, in Wedding Suit 
Hannah Assouline Collection. (Adagp, Paris, 2020)

The reason why Besancenot was exploring and documenting these closed-off regions was that he was commissioned by the Foreign Ministry and the then newly built Musée de l’Homme in Paris to carry out ethnographical work — through detailed notes, films, and colorful drawings — of traditional Moroccan clothing. In the publicity for the exhibition, the museum notes of the female costumes and adornments that their “repertoire is sometimes common with that of Muslim women.”

The presence of Jewish women dominates Besancenot’s work. Their imposing headpieces and voluminous layering of necklaces, earrings and bracelets was central to their identity, beauty, and in some cases, social status. “In some of the pictures, you’ll see women wearing torn, old clothes but they’re still wearing all their jewelry,” Assouline noted.

“I love the pictures, because Besancenot was a real human,” she said of the photographer’s compositions. “He took pictures without judgment. The pictures are very sensible and he was very close to the sitters. He came often to Morocco to see the people. It was not a one-time shoot – he came day after day to talk with everyone and then he took the pictures. The exhibition is set between 1934 and 1937, but he always came back to Morocco. All his life, he circled around that country.”