Meet the Iraqi para-athlete inspiring confidence in women everywhere

Meet the Iraqi para-athlete inspiring confidence in women everywhere
Zainab Al-Eqabi was picked to star in The Body Shop's Self-Love Uprising campaign. (Instagram)
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Updated 08 March 2021

Meet the Iraqi para-athlete inspiring confidence in women everywhere

Meet the Iraqi para-athlete inspiring confidence in women everywhere
  • There are so many people with disabilities who feel shy or embarrassed, or they just choose not to integrate into society
  • Zainab Al-Eqabi, 30, is a beacon of body positivity and source of motivation

DUBAI: When Iraqi sports enthusiast Zainab Al-Eqabi was seven years old, a bomb went off near her Baghdad home. Al-Eqabi, now 30, lost one of her legs as a result of the explosion.

“It hasn’t been an easy journey,” the pharmacist-turned-athlete told Arab News. It was the support of family and friends, as well as her own inner strength, that got her through. And despite the odds stacked against her, Al-Eqabi has taken her athleticism to a new level and has gone on to compete in several sports competitions in the UAE.

However, the 30-year-old admits that she has not always been an athlete — it was not until a doctor recommended that she should start swimming to ease her back pain, which was induced by her prosthetic leg, that she took up sports.

Al-Eqabi says that it “was a turning point” in her life.

“Swimming was not as difficult and scary as I thought at all, and it kind of opened up the doors to other sports,” she said. She competed in two triathlons as a cyclist in the UAE, and in 2020 joined the Dubai Fitness Challenge, during which she hauled a 2,000kg Jeep.

On top of an intense training schedule, a full-time job as a pharmacist and giving motivational speeches, Al-Eqabi makes a point of posting inspiring photographs of herself on Instagram — where she has accrued 1.5 million followers — with the aim of breaking stereotypes, combatting prejudices and contributing to a more confident society.

FASTFACTS

• Zainab Al-Eqabi lost her leg in a bomb blast in Baghdad when she was seven.

• She started swimming on her doctor’s advice to ease her back pain, which was induced by her prosthetic leg.

• On top of an intense training schedule, she works full-time as a pharmacist and gives motivational speeches.

• She competed in two triathlons as a cyclist in the UAE.

• In 2020, she joined the Dubai Fitness Challenge, during which she hauled a 2,000kg Jeep.

• Al-Eqabi has taken her athleticism to a new level and participated in several sports competitions in the UAE.

“In the Middle East, there’s this stigma on people with special needs or any kind of disability,” she said. “When I used to tell people that I have a prosthetic leg, they wouldn’t understand. They didn’t understand that I have an amputation. So, I decided to create a Facebook page called ‘Disabled and Proud’ and just started to note down stories from my daily life,” she said.

She recalled one instance when a woman confided in her that her disabled son had become more social and confident since he started following Al-Eqabi on social media.

“There are so many people with disabilities who feel shy or embarrassed, or they just choose not to integrate into society. They limit their activity and involvement, just because of what they’re going through,” she said. “I hated that. So that’s what made me start posting on social media.”

Naturally, Al-Eqabi was the perfect fit when The Body Shop was searching for regional faces to represent its new Global Self Love Movement campaign, which promotes self-esteem and body positivity.

“I can really relate to this campaign. Self-love is a treasure that we all need to keep developing so that we can have the best relationship with our own self. I’m honestly so proud to be a part of this campaign,” she said.

When it comes to her own beauty routine, she follows a diligent skin care regimen because she believes that taking care of our bodies is important. Most days, she goes bare-faced, simply applying moisturizer and sunscreen and using a face mask once a week. On the days that she is not swimming, she will swipe a few coats of mascara on her lashes.

Ultimately though, Al-Eqabi’s secret to feeling her best is getting plenty of sleep and exercise. “Working out just makes you really feel good,” she said.

Al-Eqabi has had to put many of her plans on hold due to the pandemic. However, she continues to be a beacon of body positivity.

“I want to tell the person with a disability, don’t let it stop you, because at the end of the day you need to live your life. It doesn’t make sense to be excluded and to go through that by yourself. This is your life. You deserve to live it and enjoy it.”

 


Miss Philippines stuns in gown by Dubai-based designer on Miss Universe stage

Miss Philippines stuns in gown by Dubai-based designer on Miss Universe stage
The 24-year-old beauty queen wore a yellow, gem-encrusted Amato gown. Supplied
Updated 34 min 58 sec ago

Miss Philippines stuns in gown by Dubai-based designer on Miss Universe stage

Miss Philippines stuns in gown by Dubai-based designer on Miss Universe stage

DUBAI: Filipino model and beauty pageant titleholder Rabiya Mateo represented the Philippines at the Miss Universe 2020 Preliminary Show on Friday wearing a creation by Dubai-based couture house Amato. 

The beauty queen strutted down the runway wearing a single-shoulder, yellow gown that was hand-embroidered with thousands of tiny Swarovski crystals that shone even brighter underneath the stage lights. 

The caped tulle dress, which was inspired by the radiance of the Philippine sun which symbolizes positivity and optimism, marked Amato’s debut on a Miss Universe stage.

The gown was inspired by the radiance of the Philippine sun. Supplied

Mateo’s choice of color was not lost on pageant fans, who pointed out that the two previous Filipina Miss Universe winners wore the other colors of the Philippine flag when they won. Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach wore royal blue while Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray opted for red.

The 69th Miss Universe pageant finals will be held in Florida on May 16. Furne One, the Filipino designer behind Amato, is designing the gown which Mateo will wear during the finals.

Mateo will wear Amato during the Miss Universe pageant finals held on May 16. Supplied

“This is just the start of a more fruitful partnership with the Miss Universe organization,” said Josh Yugen, the CEO of the PR company that represents Amato. “We are excited to see more creations of the talented Furne One in the Miss Universe stage, and we can’t wait to see Rabiya slay the runway with another creation of Furne. I'm sure she's gonna make all the Filipinos proud,” he added.

If the 24-year-old wins, she will become the fifth woman from the Philippines to take home the prestigious crown.

 


Part-Palestinian model Bella Hadid joins rally in New York

Part-Palestinian model Bella Hadid joins rally in New York
Bella Hadid is no stranger to speaking out about Palestine. File/AFP
Updated 16 May 2021

Part-Palestinian model Bella Hadid joins rally in New York

Part-Palestinian model Bella Hadid joins rally in New York

DUBAI: Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets across the world on Saturday to protest the Israeli airstrike attacks on Palestinians living in Gaza. Demonstrations took place across the Middle East, Europe, Canada, Australia and the US, with thousands of protestors marching on the streets with pro-Palestine signs. Some celebrities and influencers even decided to take part in the demonstrations, including part-Palestinian model Bella Hadid. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Bella (@bellahadid)

The 24-year-old catwalk is the daughter of real estate developer Mohamed Hadid, whose family fled Palestine as refugees in 1948. She joined a crowd of protesters in New York on Saturday who took to the streets of Bay Ridge for a demonstration.

The outspoken model wore a keffiyeh — a scarf with the traditional Palestinian print — around her head and shoulders and a face mask and waved a large Palestinian flag as she marched along with thousands of others.

Hadid took to Instagram to share images from the Free Palestine demonstration that had a turnout of nearly 2,000 protestors, according to reports.

“The way my heart feels... to be around this many beautiful, smart, respectful, loving, kind and generous Palestinians all in one place... it feels whole! We are a rare breed!” Hadid wrote alongside a series of images from the protests.

“It’s free Palestine til Palestine is free! P.S. The Palestinian drip is real (sic),” added Hadid, who memorably attended a Free Palestine rally in London back in 2016.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Bella (@bellahadid)

Earlier in the day, the model shared a throwback photo of her paternal grandparents’ wedding day, along with an image of her father as a boy next to his seven siblings and mom — after whom she was given her middle name Khair — noting how they “were taken out of their homes in Palestine in 1948, becoming refugees in Syria, then Lebanon, then Tunisia.”

“I love my family, I love my heritage, I love Palestine. I will stand strong to keep their hope for a better land in my heart. A better world for our people and the people around them. They can never erase our history. History is history!” she captioned the Instagram post.


Mohamed Hadid, Oscar-nominated Farah Nabulsi join hands for video on Jerusalem

Mohamed Hadid took part in the video. Here, he poses with daugher Gigi Hadid. (File/ AFP)
Mohamed Hadid took part in the video. Here, he poses with daugher Gigi Hadid. (File/ AFP)
Updated 15 May 2021

Mohamed Hadid, Oscar-nominated Farah Nabulsi join hands for video on Jerusalem

Mohamed Hadid took part in the video. Here, he poses with daugher Gigi Hadid. (File/ AFP)

DUBAI: Famous Palestinians have starred in a video expressing their love for the city of Jerusalem.

“Why do I love Jerusalem?” the opening sequence of the short video reads, in a message that is . translated into English, French, Russian and Spanish.

The monochrome clip features Mohamed Hadid, real estate mogul and father of models Gigi and Bella, as well as BAFTA-winning filmmaker Farah Nabulsi, whose short film was also nominated for an Oscar at this year’s Academy Awards, mountaineer Mostafa Salameh and actors Yasmine Al Massri and Eyas Younis, among other celebrities.

From its food, to its people, diversity and “the smell of the morning,” the figures all came together to reminisce about what makes Jerusalem so special.

“O Jerusalem, we love you!  Palestinian Personalities from around the world share their message of love and solidarity for Jerusalem. A message of Unity, love and hope for justice and peace for all. Seventeen Palestinians from different backgrounds get together in a simple message of love to Jerusalem. Actors, artists, musicians, chefs, journalists, sportswomen and men, unite their voices for the love of this historic city,” the caption of the video reads.


British star Sophie Turner shows support for refugees, women in conflict

 Actress Sophie Turner took to Instagram to show support for Women for Women International. (File/ AFP)
Actress Sophie Turner took to Instagram to show support for Women for Women International. (File/ AFP)
Updated 15 May 2021

British star Sophie Turner shows support for refugees, women in conflict

 Actress Sophie Turner took to Instagram to show support for Women for Women International. (File/ AFP)

DUBAI: British actress Sophie Turner took to Instagram this weekend to highlight a heartwarming story about Muslim refugees in Scotland and also took part in a virtual sale of her fashion items for an organization that supports women caught in conflict around the world on Saturday.

Turner, who shot to fame for her role on TV’s “Game of Thrones” and who is married to US pop sensation Joe Jonas, shared a post on Instagram Stories on Saturday that highlights an incident in Glasgow that has gone viral on social media.

Turner shared a post about a deportation attempt that had been foiled by hundreds of Glaswegians this weekend, who surrounded the van of immigration officials in a residential street on Thursday to stop the detention of a group of Muslim male refugees during Eid Al-Fitr.

“These are our neighbors, let them go,” the crowd of protesters shouted.

The actress shared a post about an incident in Glasgow, where a community rallied to support refugees. Instagram

On Thursday, Police Scotland issued a statement saying the men in the van had been released.

It said: “In order to protect the safety, public health and well-being of all people involved in the detention and subsequent protest in Kenmure Street, Pollokshields, today, Chief Superintendent Mark Sutherland, has, following a suitable risk assessment, taken the operational decision to release the men detained by UK Immigration Enforcement back into their community.”

Turner also took part in a virtual car boot sale this weekend, with proceeds from the event going to UK-based charity Women for Women International, for which Turner is an ambassador.

The organization supports women in conflict around the world and operates in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iraq, Kosovo and South Sudan, among other locations.

“As an ambassador for @womenforwomenuk I am proudly supporting their #VirtualCarBoot Sale, taking place this Saturday. Designers and fashion icons are emptying their wardrobes to donate items to raise money for women survivors of war. I will be joining them to sell three items too,” Turner wrote on Instagram before the event kicked off. The Hollywood star donated a suit by Annie Bing, a checkered romper by STAUD and a pair of Louis Vuitton slingback pumps.⁠⁠

The sale included more than 400 fashion and beauty items and experiences from such covete


Rare books shed light on history of the Arab world

Rare books shed light on history of the Arab world
Updated 14 May 2021

Rare books shed light on history of the Arab world

Rare books shed light on history of the Arab world
  • Regional highlights from the latest catalogue of rare book dealer Peter Harrington, which will be represented at the Abu Dhabi Book Fair later this month

A visual record of a Jeddah landmark

This “apparently unique” bespoke album contains 120 original photographs of Jeddah’s well-known Bayt Nassif, taken before its restoration in the early 1980s. The Saudi government purchased this historic landmark in 1975 and initially used as a library, but it is now a cultural center that hosts exhibitions and other events. King Faisal’s decision to rehabilitate the building “provided an enlightening and inspiring model for sustainability in historic areas,” according to a book cited in the Peter Harrington catalogue.

Located on the main street of Jeddah’s historic Al-Balad district, the house was built for the then-governor of Jeddah, Sheikh Umar Effendi Al-Nassif between 1872 and 1881 and is now, the catalogue states, “widely recognized as one of the most important surviving examples of Red Sea coralline limestone architecture.” The house was later used by King Abdulaziz bin Saud as his primary residence in the city until Khuzam Palace was constructed.

Until the 1920s, Bayt Nassif was also the site of the only tree in Jeddah’s old city — so the building is also known locally as The House of the Tree. That neem tree still survives and can be seen in images in this book.

Account of a 19th-century journey from Jeddah to Egypt

In 1819, Sir Miles Nightingall, commander-in-chief of Britain’s Bombay Army, was returning to England from India when their ship “Teignmouth” was grounded on a sandbank in the Gulf of Aden. Having got their boat moving again, Nightingall and his entourage — including Captain James Hanson, the author of this work — headed to Jeddah “where they were welcomed by the Turkish governor, newly installed following the restoration of Ottoman rule in Egypt. Having taken advice from Henry Salt, consul-general in Egypt, they decided on an overland route across the desert that would take in the ‘most interesting and marvelous ruins’ at Thebes.” Hanson’s book describes — and maps — their journey from Kosseir (now Quseer) on the Red Sea westwards inland to Kennah (Qena) on the Nile, just east of Dendera “passing ruined forts, ‘Hills having the appearance of Tombs’ and ‘Sterile Desert - not a blade of Vegetation.’”

Journals of a British naval officer in the Arabian Gulf 1928-51

This three-volume manuscript relate to Midshipman Francis Wyatt Rawson Larken’s service in the British Royal Navy in the early-to-mid 20th century, for part of which Larken was stationed in the Arabian Gulf around what the British then called the Trucial States, which later became the UAE. The books were unpublished at the time, and according to the catalogue, include “a compelling account of a visit to Dubai and an on-board reception for the Trucial Sheikhs.”  Those visitors would have included Sheikh Saeed bin Maktoum Al-Maktoum of Dubai, Sheikh Shakhbut bin Sultan Al-Nahyan of Abu Dhabi, and Sheikh Sultan bin Saqr Al-Qasimi of Sharjah, among others.

“There were some 8 or 10 of the higher cast (sic.) on board and these were taken round the ship by the Admiral and the Captain while their followers stayed on the Quarter Deck. … They all then congregated on the Quarter Deck where the band played. They then left in their respective barges — ornate and rather splendid motor dhows, the various Sheikhs receiving salutes — the number of guns ranging from 6 to 1 in ratio to their importance. They brought us gifts of Beef and Melon Jelly … and were sent away with Gold Flake Cigarettes and chocolate,” Larken writes. “Every man carries his broad curved belt knife — heavily set with worked silver — and the chief ones wore splendid ‘Bournous’ of gold work cloth. All were fine upstanding men very much like the Sheik of fiction.”

During his service, Larken also visited Aden, Muscat, Sohar, Sur, Khasab and Khor al-Jarama in modern Oman, as well as Dubai and the island of Sir Abu Nu’ayr in what is now the UAE.

British intelligence manual from the time of the ‘Arab Revolt’

This manual includes material from T.E. Lawrence (aka Lawrence of Arabia) and was produced by the British Arab Bureau as a guide to the “tribal and political organization, geography and passable routes in the region” at the time of the military uprising by Arab forces against the Ottoman Empire during World War I, led by Hussein bin Ali, the sherif of Makkah, backed by the British government. One of the “passable routes” that Lawrence himself gave information on was that from Madinah to Makkah.

This copy previously belonged to William Cochrane, deputy to Colonely Cyril Wilson, the British Agent at Jeddah. Among Cochrane’s duties was the organization of the Hajj for Muslims from British India, and he reportedly “took charge of the £125,000 in gold sovereigns that was brought to Jeddah each month by the Red Sea Patrol of the Royal Navy” — Hussein’s subsidy from the British for the uprising.

Eyewitness account of a Danish expedition to Arabia in the 1760s

An English translation of a two-volume account of the 1761-7 Danish expedition to the region — “the first great scientific expedition to the Middle East” — by the surveyor Carsten Niebuhr, the only member of that expedition to survive.

“The party left Copenhagen in early 1761, travelling via Constantinople to Alexandria and spending a year in Egypt, ascending the Nile and exploring Sinai. They then crossed from Suez to Jeddah and sailed down the Arabian coast to al-Luhayyah in Yemen, making frequent landfalls, before continuing overland to Sana’a via Mocha, with two members of the party dying en route. On returning to Mocha, the remaining four collapsed with fever and were put on a ship bound for Bombay, with only Niebuhr surviving the sea voyage.”

Niebuhr’s account of the trip, the catalogue says, “has long been considered one of the classic accounts of the geography, people, antiquities and archaeology of the Arabian Peninsula and wider Middle East, with maps which remained in use for over 100 years” and is “a singularly important account of the Gulf in this still-obscure period.”

A chronicle of traditional Arab seamanship

The full title of this work from 1940 is “Sons of Sinbad. An Account of Sailing with the Arabs in their Dhows, in the Red Sea, around the Coasts of Arabia, and to Zanzibar and Tanganyika; Pearling in the Persian Gulf; and the Life of the Shipmasters, the Mariners and Merchants of Kuwait.” As it suggests, the book — written by Australian adventurer Alan Villiers — is a comprehensive account of traditional seamanship, boat building and trade in the region at a time when those traditions were coming to an end with the discovery of oil. It includes dozens of illustrations from photographs and charts too.