Time travel in Ras Al-Khaimah: Short films offer glimpse of UAE’s abandoned seafaring settlement

Time travel in Ras Al-Khaimah: Short films offer glimpse of UAE’s abandoned seafaring settlement
The abandoned town of Al-Jazirah Al-Hamra in the UAE is the subject of five short films. (Supplied)
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Updated 13 March 2021

Time travel in Ras Al-Khaimah: Short films offer glimpse of UAE’s abandoned seafaring settlement

Time travel in Ras Al-Khaimah: Short films offer glimpse of UAE’s abandoned seafaring settlement

DUBAI: Roughly 23 kilometers southwest of Ras Al-Khaimah city lies the abandoned town of Al-Jazirah Al-Hamra. The last surviving pearl diving and seafaring settlement in the country, its ghost-like appearance and traditional coral-stone architecture have proved a magnet for the curious over the years. Now an anthropological spotlight is being shone on the once-vibrant community, providing valuable insight into the lifestyles of those who used to live there.

A series of five short films are being screened in the town until April 3, each providing a glimpse of what life was like prior to its abandonment in the 1960s. Screening as part of the Ras Al-Khaimah Fine Arts Festival, which has been held at Al-Jazirah Al-Hamra since 2019, each film is an oral history, providing an invaluable window into life in the country’s best-preserved coastal community.

“We really wanted to capture the site and showcase all the work that has gone into Al-Jazirah Al-Hamra in recent years, while at the same time using it as a platform to promote modern and contemporary art in the emirate,” says David Dingus, a research associate at the Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al-Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research, the festival’s organizer. “We received overwhelmingly positive feedback, but everyone wanted to know more about Al-Jazirah Al-Hamra.”




The film features first-hand accounts from people who grew up there, including Jamal Al-Ahmed and Abdullah Saeed Al-Zaabi. (Supplied)

The problem was, very little information was available, so the foundation began researching. It soon became apparent, however, that the only way to gather information would be to interview surviving inhabitants. That in turn would prove challenging, not only because many former residents have died, but because distance and COVID-19 made face-to-face interviews much more difficult.

Initially, respondents tended to be in their fifites, but they were too young to recall the intricacies of life prior to 1968, so the foundation continued searching for older inhabitants. Eventually they tracked down a number of men who were ideal, but not all would or could participate. And although a handful of women were found, none would agree to be filmed. In the end, five men were interviewed for the project.

One of them was Sultan Mohamed Al-Zaabi, who was born in the town and lived there until he was 22. His family had two houses — one in the market and one in the neighborhood of Al-Munakh — and by his late teens he was working as a fisherman, often spending hours at sea.




Sultan Mohamed Al-Zaabi was born in the town and lived there until he was 22. (Supplied)

“Our elders would announce that they would need seven or eight boys to man the ropes on the fishing boat,” Al-Zaabi says in his film. “They would send me out to sea… with 10 or 12 other men and I would man the rope all night long… until dawn. We would come back in the morning and sell the fish for around 20 or 30 or 50 rupees maximum. We would come back tired from being at sea all night. This was the life of working at sea.”

Pearl diving and fishing were the main sources of income, but there were merchants, too, and others who owned livestock or collected firewood from the desert. The town had a large market and shopkeepers would bring rice, flour and sugar from Dubai or Umm Al-Quwain. These merchants were an integral part of the community, providing families with anything they needed until the pearlers or fishermen returned home and paid their dues.

“Living in Al-Jazirah was a blessing,” Hasan Jamal Al-Ahmed remembers fondly. Friends and neighbors would play games including Al-Yarba, Al-Gabba and Al-Zaboot and participate in traditional dances such as Al-Ayyala and Razif. On Thursdays and Fridays, two or three large trays of regag bread would be passed around in the street, he recalls, and during weddings meals would be prepared for the entire neighborhood.




“Living in Al-Jazirah was a blessing,” Hasan Jamal Al-Ahmed remembers fondly. (Supplied)

Life was tough, though. Breakfast consisted of dates and coffee, and maybe some bread if you were lucky, and rice and fish would be served for dinner. Medical care consisted largely of traditional remedies and there was no drinking water. The latter had to be brought in by donkey every day before dawn. “One big bottle of water was usually enough for one day or two,” recalls Abdullah Saeed Al-Zaabi. “The water would be poured into the well. As for washing and showering, seawater was used. Every house was near to the sea.”

“Whoever had fish and dates back then lived comfortably,” says Al-Ahmed. “Our house had three stores (rooms), a well, a kitchen, and a majlis. It was not very big, but it was not small either. It was a decent house. Most of Al-Jazirah was built with stones, but a few of the homes were built using palm fronds. Plaster was also a common building material. It would be burned, crushed, and then made. A house would hold up to 10 people. One store was enough for parents and their children to sleep in. There was no electricity, only lanterns.”




“One big bottle of water was usually enough for one day or two,” recalls Abdullah Saeed Al-Zaabi. (Supplied)

Even lanterns were rare. Families would often use masrai — bottles with cotton wicks (the cotton would contain dates and the bottle would contain gas) — for lighting and those who didn’t have electricity would use car batteries to power any electrical devices they might have. There were no telephones either, only a few radios, and when televisions first arrived in the 1960s electricity would be available for only a few hours a day.

In the summer, everybody would leave. For Ibrahim Mousa Al-Zaabi, who was taught to dive with a rock tied around his leg, that meant travelling to Fujairah with his grandfather. “He had a farm with plenty of palm trees,” he recalls. “We would stay for five or six months and then come back, bringing dates on ships. Dates used to be distributed every two days. Every pack of dates had a mark on it. Out of trust between each other, people would go into each house, put the dates down, and leave the house.”




A series of five short films are being screened in the town until April 3. (Supplied)

Left untouched for years, the abandoned town has been the subject of restoration work since 2015, when Ras Al-Khaimah’s Department of Antiquities and Museums initiated the Jazirah Al-Hamra Conservation Project. Since then the focus has been on turning the town into a national heritage site, complete with workshops, museum and visitors center.

The challenge now for Dingus is to find a permanent home for the foundation’s oral history project. Whether that will take the form of a permanent fixture at the National Museum of Ras Al-Khaimah or within Al-Jazirah Al-Hamra itself, is uncertain. What Dingus does know, however, is that it’s important to record how its inhabitants used to live.

“We’re losing something with every generation,” he says. “There’s less reinforcement of these stories and their history tends to get lost over time. So we just want to make sure that it isn’t lost and forgotten and that the really unique and rich culture and heritage that was in Al-Jazirah Al-Hamra is remembered.”


Six DYI resistance exercises to build muscle at home

Six DYI resistance exercises to build muscle at home
Updated 19 October 2021

Six DYI resistance exercises to build muscle at home

Six DYI resistance exercises to build muscle at home

DUBAI: Nora Hameidani, founder of Dubai’s Barre Effect fitness studio, shows you how to build and maintain strength in or out of the gym. Try these simple yet effective barre moves to help you build lean muscle in the comfort of your own home.

Pushups

Start with hands slightly wider than shoulders, fingers pointing forward. (Shutterstock)

Targets: Arms/chest/shoulders

Start with 10 reps, build up to 3 sets of 10

Start with hands slightly wider than shoulders, fingers pointing forward.  Place knees slightly behind your hips, tuck hips under.  Bend your elbows wide and slightly downwards, hips lower with chest, keeping abdominals engaged, then press arms to straight.  For a challenge, legs can lengthen.

Tricep Dips

Bend and straighten your elbows, lifting and lowering your hips, keeping your elbows pointing backwards and your chest proud. (Shutterstock)

Targets: Triceps/shoulders

Start with 15 reps, build up to 3 sets of 15

While sitting tall with your legs bent in front, place hands under shoulders, with fingers pointing towards your hips.  Bend and straighten your elbows, lifting and lowering your hips, keeping your elbows pointing backwards and your chest proud.

Forearm Plank

Keep your legs straight and a hips distance apart, keep hips in line with shoulders or slightly above shoulder height. (Shutterstock)

Targets: core/arms/shoulders

Holding still for 30 sec, build up to 3 sets of 30 sec

Lying on your front, place your elbows under shoulders, pointing your fingers forward and keeping your forearms parallel.  Keep your legs straight and a hips distance apart, keep hips in line with shoulders or slightly above shoulder height. 

Bicycle Crunches

Start lengthening one leg at a time to the high diagonal, simultaneously rotating your chest, shoulders and arms towards the opposite, bent leg. (Shutterstock)

Targets: abdominals/obliques

Alternating sides for 30 sec, build up to 3 sets of 30 sec

Lying on your back, bring your legs to a tabletop position with your knees bent 90 degrees on top of your hips.  With your hands behind your head, elbows wide, engage your abdominals to lift your head, neck, and shoulders off the floor.  Start lengthening one leg at a time to the high diagonal, simultaneously rotating your chest, shoulders and arms towards the opposite, bent leg.

Wide 2nd Pulses

Pulse hips at knee height, in small, controlled movements for only about an inch. (Shutterstock)

Targets: Inner and outer thighs/glutes

Pulsing for 30 seconds, build up to 3 sets of 30 sec

Place your feet out wide, bending your knees so they stack on top of your heels. Externally rotate your feet so that your knees track through the middle of your foot. Pulse hips at knee height, in small, controlled movements for only about an inch.

Lunges

Keeping front leg still and stable, pulse back knee in small, controlled movements, only about an inch, toward the floor. (Shutterstock)

Targets: Thighs/hamstring/glutes

Pulsing 1 set of 30 seconds on each leg, build up to 3 sets of 30 seconds per leg

With your feet parallel, hips distance apart, bend both knees and step right leg directly back.  Bend both knees to a 90-degree angle, front knee on top of heel, back right knee bending slightly behind the torso. Keeping front leg still and stable, pulse back knee in small, controlled movements, only about an inch, toward the floor.


From Beyonce to singer Tinashe, Arab label Marzook snaps up celebrity fans

From Beyonce to singer Tinashe, Arab label Marzook snaps up celebrity fans
Updated 19 October 2021

From Beyonce to singer Tinashe, Arab label Marzook snaps up celebrity fans

From Beyonce to singer Tinashe, Arab label Marzook snaps up celebrity fans

DUBAI: Kuwaiti label Marzook is continuing to snap up celebrity fans, with US singer Tinashe and superstar Beyonce spotted sporting its curved creations in recent days.

Tinashe, famous for her hit song “2 On,” showed off a pill-shaped bag by the brand during a photoshoot for A Book Of digital and print magazine this month.

The singer was photographed in a retro look, complete with a white hairband, larger-than-life hair and a sleek cat eye. Styled by Wilford Lenov, the ensemble featured a glittering Marzook bag called the Pill Dusty Pink.

Meanwhile, Beyonce was photographed with the Kuwaiti arm candy in Italy over the weekend.

The world-famous singer was photographed outside Alexandre Arnault’s wedding to Geraldine Guyot in Venice, Italy, on Saturday. Guyot is the founder of the French brand D’Estrëe, while Arnault is the son of one of the world’s richest men, LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault, and the executive vice president of product and communications at Tiffany & Co.

The singer showed off a bag by Marzook during a recent photoshoot for A Book Of magazine. (Instagram)

For the occasion, Beyoncé opted for a Tiffany-blue silk gown and heels with a Dolce & Gabbana double-breasted wool coat. She accessorized the look with a Marzook crystal orb purse and Lorraine Schwartz diamond jewelry.

Helmed by Kuwaiti siblings Fahad and Shouq Al-Marzooq, the Beirut-based accessories brand was established in 2014. The brother sister duo started off in the fashion industry by designing pieces for their family and friends and quickly went on to garner worldwide attention and sign celebrity collaboration deals.

In 2019, US influencer and model Sofia Richie, singer Lionel Richie’s daughter, collaborated on a new line of handbags with the label.  

 “When you’re one of social media’s most popular style stars, your style influence is extremely crucial.  Sofia’s style is very much aligned with the Marzook girl, who rather than follows trends, creates trends,” the fashion label wrote on its website at the time.

The collaboration featured Marzook’s perennial favorite, the spherical Lucid Classic bag, in a new set of neon shades — “Powerful Pink, Neon- Z Green and Traffic Cone Orange.”

And those are not the only celebrities who have shown love for the Arab brand.

Kylie Jenner showed off a crystal-covered orb bag by the label on her birthday in 2018, triggering many a newspaper headline.

The accessories house’s bags have been sported by the likes of human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, actress Lupita Nyong’o and model Cara Delevingne.

The label’s line of accessories consists of exotic leather and skins, precious metals and resins in pill or spherical shapes.


Angelina Jolie’s iconic Elie Saab gown nabs spotlight at ‘Eternals’ premiere

Angelina Jolie’s iconic Elie Saab gown nabs spotlight at ‘Eternals’ premiere
Updated 19 October 2021

Angelina Jolie’s iconic Elie Saab gown nabs spotlight at ‘Eternals’ premiere

Angelina Jolie’s iconic Elie Saab gown nabs spotlight at ‘Eternals’ premiere

LOS ANGELES: Actors Angelina Jolie and Salma Hayek brought Hollywood glamor to the world premiere of Marvel Studios’ latest comic book adaptation, “Eternals,” this week.

Jolie attended the red carpet with her four children, who she shares with her ex-husband Brad Pitt.

For the ocassion,  46-year-old actress lent her daughter Zahara her sequined Elie Saab gown that she wore to the Oscars in 2014, sparking many an international headline.

It’s not often mother-to-daughter hand-me-downs include iconic dresses by a Lebanese designer.

“My kids are all mixed with vintage, and in my old Oscars dress,” she said. “We did all vintage and upcycled my old stuff,” Jolie told Entertainment Tonight on the red carpet.

Angelina Jolie at the 2014 Academy Awards. (AFP)

Directed by Chloe Zhao, who won best director and best picture for the film “Nomadland” at the Oscars earlier this year, “Eternals” boasts one of the most diverse casts of any Marvel movie.

Actress Salma Hayek arrives for the world premiere of Marvel Studios’ “Eternals” at the Dolby theatre in Los Angeles. (AFP)

“I hope it just starts to normalize what should have been there in the first place,” Jolie told Reuters. “I hope people watch these films in years to come and we don’t even think about it as being diverse.” 

The film stars Syrian refugee-turned-actor Zain Al-Rafeea as part of the star-studded cast, who plays the role of a villager who comes across the Eternals when they arrive on Earth.

Delayed a year due to the pandemic, “Eternals” will finally hit cinemas on Nov. 5 in the Middle East. 


What We Are Reading Today: The Mechanization of the Mind by Jean-Pierre Dupuy

What We Are Reading Today: The Mechanization of the Mind by Jean-Pierre Dupuy
Updated 18 October 2021

What We Are Reading Today: The Mechanization of the Mind by Jean-Pierre Dupuy

What We Are Reading Today: The Mechanization of the Mind by Jean-Pierre Dupuy

In March 1946, some of the greatest minds of the 20th century — among them John von Neumann, Norbert Wiener, Warren McCulloch, and Walter Pitts — gathered at the Beekman Hotel in New York City with the aim of constructing a science of mental behavior that would resolve at last the ancient philosophical problem of mind and matter. The legacy of their collaboration is known today as cognitive science.
Jean-Pierre Dupuy, one of the principal architects of cognitive science in France, reconstructs the early days of the field here in a provocative and engaging combination of philosophy, science, and historical detective work.
He shows us how the ambitious and innovative ideas developed in the wake of that New York meeting prefigured some of the most important developments of late-20th-century thought. Many scholars, however, shunned the ideas as crude and resented them for being overpromoted.
This rejection, Dupuy reveals, was a tragic mistake and a lost opportunity.


More Middle East personalities could be next Madame Tussauds Dubai wax models

More Middle East personalities could be next Madame Tussauds Dubai wax models
Updated 19 October 2021

More Middle East personalities could be next Madame Tussauds Dubai wax models

More Middle East personalities could be next Madame Tussauds Dubai wax models
  • The museum opened its 25th branch in Dubai last week

DUBAI: Additional Middle East personalities could join the list of famous Arab figures on display at Madame Tussauds Dubai.

“We listen to our customers; we listen to their feedback. So, we will always be updating the figures and enhancing the products,” Sanaz Kollsrud, general manager of Madame Tussauds Dubai, told Arab News.

The museum opened its 25th wax attraction in the city on Oct.14, making it the brand’s first branch in the Middle East. 

Maya Diab at Madame Tussauds Dubai. (AN_Photo)

The famous attraction has a total of 16 figures from the Middle East region. These include talents from the music industry — such as Lebanese singers Nancy Ajram and Maya Diab — and athletes that were made exclusively for the branch in Dubai.

“At the moment, Madame Tussauds has 25 wax attractions around the world, including the US, Europe, and Asia. I’m sure that the brand will look at opportunities to expand at a later stage,” Kollsrud said.

Dubai has been a perfect choice for the Middle East branch, as it is a global tourist destination. The general manager said the museum is also located near a major attraction in the city, Ain Dubai, and is surrounded by a variety of retail and dining options.

Donald and Melania Trump at Madame Tussauds Dubai. (AN_Photo)

When asked how the museum chooses the figures it wants to display, Kollsrud said there is a lot of research behind figure selection, including customer research.

“It took about 18 months to put together a figure list, during which we looked at the popularity of the celebrities regionally and globally, especially within the UAE,” she said.

To keep the figures clean and protected, a team of artists works daily to make sure the statues are in perfect shape, the general manager said.

Lewis Hamilton at Madame Tussauds Dubai. (AN_Photo)

She added that a team of 20 artists completes one wax figure within four to seven months. 

They even insert real hair strands, which can cost $190,605.

"There is a sitting involved with the talent, where they come and we do around 500 measurements, including head to toe," Kollsrud said.

The tourist destination consists of seven themed rooms and includes over 60 lifelike wax figures.

Chinese President Xi Jinping at Madame Tussauds Dubai. (AN_Photo)