An out-of-this-world trip to Socotra Island

An out-of-this-world trip to Socotra Island
This Yemeni UNESCO World Heritage Site is the largest of four islands in the Socotra Archipelago. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 10 June 2021

An out-of-this-world trip to Socotra Island

An out-of-this-world trip to Socotra Island
  • Exploring the weird and wonderful landscapes of Yemen’s UNESCO World Heritage Site

DUBAI: Socotra Island has been variously described as ‘The Galapagos of the Middle East’ and ‘The Jewel of Arabia.’ This Yemeni UNESCO World Heritage Site is the largest of four islands in the Socotra Archipelago, situated east of the Horn of Africa in the Arabian Sea.

The unspoiled, alien-like landscape of the island has intrigued travelers and scientists alike for decades. According to UNESCO, it is a site of “universal importance because of its biodiversity with rich and distinct flora and fauna.” The UN body estimates that 37 percent of Socotra’s 825 plant species, 90 percent of its reptile species and 95 percent of its land snail species do not exist anywhere else in the world.




The unspoiled, alien-like landscape of the island has intrigued travelers and scientists alike for decades. (Shutterstock)

Until its airport opened in 1999, Socotra was very difficult to get to. This year, Air Arabia began operating a direct chartered flight once a week to the island from Abu Dhabi — a journey of around two hours.

We caught the final tour of the season — travel to the island stops during the monsoon season (late May to September). And while there are three hotels on the island we opted for a camping trip. Be aware though: This is camping, not glamping. There is no electricity, no running water, no toilets and no showers. So a portable bidet, biodegradable wipes and biodegradable soap are a must in order to protect the island’s delicate environment. Its capital, Hadibu, already has a serious problem with trash and plastic.

We first set up camp at Dihamri, a rocky coast covered in white coral. It’s the perfect spot for snorkeling — you can see all types of sea life in the crystal-clear waters, including stingrays, turtles and puffer fish (pro tip: bring sea shoes).




Until its airport opened in 1999, Socotra was very difficult to get to. (Shutterstock)

During our visit, it was still around 35 degrees Celsius and quite humid at night, making it unbearable to sleep in the tent. On the plus side, sleeping outside gives you a clear view of the stars. On other nights, we weren’t so lucky, as the winds picked up, rattling the tents and keeping us awake until sunrise.

Despite the lack of sleep, the beauty of the island energized us and we continued to explore. We hiked to Kallissan, where there is a natural pool in which to cool off, then set up camp in Arher, a stunning site full of giant white sand dunes at the edge of the mountains with great coastal views. The dunes are high and challenging to climb (it took us about an hour to get to the top), but definitely worth it.




Its capital, Hadibu, already has a serious problem with trash and plastic. (Shutterstock)

There are so many spectacular sites to explore if you’re prepared to put in the hours hiking: The unique dragon blood tree, for instance, so called because of its red sap. Legend has it the first dragon blood tree was created from the blood of a dragon that was wounded when it fought an elephant. In Arabic, the tree is called dam al akhawain — the blood of the two brothers — as the story goes that the tree first grew on the spot where two brothers, Darsa and Samha, fought to the death.

There are also a number of abandoned Soviet tanks around the place, a lasting reminder of the influence the USSR had on Southern Yemen. From 1967 to 1990 South Yemen (including Socotra) was the only communist state in the Arab world.




We’d also advise scheduling your visit for March — when the island’s famed bottle trees (desert roses) bloom. (Shutterstock)

Along with the tales of the past, we met many wonderful locals willing to share their knowledge of the island, from Wagdi, our tour guide, to Abdullah the caveman who spends his days fishing in the Detwah Lagoon and will happily invite you to his cave for fresh fish.

Seafood, cooked in a variety of ways, is the staple diet of Socotra. You can get crab, stingray and lobster for as little as a $1. For breakfast we enjoyed traditional Yemeni bean stews with bread, cheese and local honey.




Caption

Our return flight — the last scheduled flight out before the end of the season – was cancelled due to a cyclone. That delay gave us the opportunity to explore Hadibu and engage further with the locals, who were very helpful. The island has no functioning ATMs and getting money was a struggle, as the island does not have much cash flow. We’d advise taking an emergency fund.

We’d also advise scheduling your visit for March — when the island’s famed bottle trees (desert roses) bloom — or in October or November, shortly after the monsoon season, when the island is green. But whenever you visit, Socotra really is like no other place on earth.


Gigi Hadid is collaborating with Buddy Valastro from ‘Cake Boss’

Gigi Hadid is collaborating with Buddy Valastro from ‘Cake Boss’
The 26-year-old model spent the entire day as a baker’s apprentice. Instagram
Updated 20 June 2021

Gigi Hadid is collaborating with Buddy Valastro from ‘Cake Boss’

Gigi Hadid is collaborating with Buddy Valastro from ‘Cake Boss’

DUBAI: Gigi Hadid spent an entire day interning at Buddy Valastro’s — star of America’s reality TV hit “Cake Boss” — Carlo’s Bakery in New Jersey this week.

“Best. Day. Ever,” the part-Palestinian model wrote alongside an Instagram carousel featuring piping bags and a selfie with Valastro. “Somethin’ coming soon from Cake Boss Buddy Valastro and his biggest fan/newest Carlos Bakery intern. Thank you to the whole famiglia for the warmest welcome. Big, big love,” she added.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Gigi Hadid (@gigihadid)

Valastro reposted the selfie on his personal page and wrote about his newest pastry chef: “You may know Gigi Hadid as a world-famous supermodel, but she’s also the sweetest person ever and one amazing cake decorator, too!”

While neither the catwalk star nor the Cake Boss offered up details about their collaboration, the two have a longstanding relationship.

The self-proclaimed biggest fan of “Cake Boss” revealed that she’s been watching the show for a decade and that there almost isn’t an episode that she’s missed.

Valastro memorably made the mother-of-one’s “everything bagel cake” that brought her to tears for her 25th birthday.

She wrote at the time that she “10/10 would be a Carlo’s intern whenever needed.”

Hadid also commissioned the famous baker to make the cake for her partner, former One Direction star Zayn Malik’s 28th birthday in January in the shape of a Bradford Football Club jersey.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Gigi Hadid (@gigihadid)


Moroccan-Italian model Malika El-Maslouhi is the face of a new fragrance

Moroccan-Italian model Malika El-Maslouhi is the face of a new fragrance
The 22-year-old is the face of La Perla’s signature scent. Instagram
Updated 20 June 2021

Moroccan-Italian model Malika El-Maslouhi is the face of a new fragrance

Moroccan-Italian model Malika El-Maslouhi is the face of a new fragrance

DUBAI: La Perla, one of the most luxurious womenswear labels, is starting its own cosmetics collection, La Perla Beauty. Launching next month, the new offering consists of four body-care products, five makeup products for the lips and eyes and nine fragrances, with Moroccan-Italian model Malika El-Maslouhi as the face of its signature scent.

“Proud to be the face of the very first signature fragrance by La Perla Beauty,” wrote El-Maslouhi to her 30,600 Instagram followers, alongside a campaign video for La Perla’s new signature fragrance shot by director Massimiliano Bomba where the catwalk star answers a series of rapid fire questions.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by MALIKA (@malika.elmaslouhi)

El-Maslouhi, who was born in Milan to a Moroccan father and an Italian mother, first teased the exciting news on social media back in May. The model posted a couple of behind the scenes snaps of herself clutching the glossy black and white fragrance bottle, captioning the carousel of images: “You have no idea how excited I am for this one!”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by MALIKA (@malika.elmaslouhi)

In the four years since she started out, the 22-year-old has racked up an impressive number of campaigns.

The breakout model has lent her face to a number of renowned fashion houses, including Calvin Klein Swim, Zadig & Voltaire, Off-White, Ralph Lauren and Lanvin.

She has graced the runways of fashion houses that most models can only dream of, such as Dior, Chanel, Valentino and Jacquemus.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by MALIKA (@malika.elmaslouhi)

When she’s not modeling collections, she’s helping to design them.

She recently teamed up with London-based retailer Ishkar on a range of necklaces handcrafted by jewelers in Kabul, Afghanistan.


Kevin Hart in a new form struggling with parenting a toddler in ‘Fatherhood’

Kevin Hart in a new form struggling with parenting a toddler in ‘Fatherhood’
‘Fatherhood’ is now streaming on Netflix. Supplied
Updated 20 June 2021

Kevin Hart in a new form struggling with parenting a toddler in ‘Fatherhood’

Kevin Hart in a new form struggling with parenting a toddler in ‘Fatherhood’

CHENNAI: Father-daughter relationships on screen come in many forms. While one of the best I have seen was the 2016 “Toni Erdmann” from Germany, the Paul Weitz-directed “Fatherhood,” now on Netflix and starring Kevin Hart, is rather different. Here, the focus is on a very young girl and her bonding with her widowed father.

The movie opens with Matthew Logelin (Hart) standing in a church completely devastated by his young wife’s death just hours after their baby girl, Maddy, is born. Based on Logelin’s 2011 bestseller, “Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss and Love, “ Weitz’s work is a tender tale of how a young father grapples with bringing up his infant girl, juggling between his strenuous corporate job and the demands of the baby.

The film stars Kevin Hart and Melody Hurd. Supplied

When she never stops crying, his friend suggests he use some kind of sound to lull her into sleep. And it works. His mother-in-law and his own mom both offer to stay with Matthew, but he says he wants to do it all by himself, playing both father and mother.

Even his two best friends, Jordan (Lil Rel Howery) and Oscar (Anthony Carrigan), are not sure that Matthew would be able to handle fatherhood. They have known him for years as one who took life easy and did not think much about responsibilities.

The emotional film touches on the relationship between a single father and his daughter. Supplied

But Matthew proves them all wrong, and the first half of the movie follows him through the ups and downs of single parenting, from changing diapers to sleep training.

A touching relationship evolves between the father and daughter, and we see her grow up into a perky five-year old, full of questions and pranks, but her father, in spite of pressing work assignments, never loses his patience. The tragedy seems to have completely elevated him into a finer human being, and he even lets go a relationship with his girlfriend when he finds that it comes in the way of his caring for Maddie.

With “Fatherhood,” Hart has transformed himself into a more serious actor. Supplied

“Fatherhood” is a tearjerker, and we see a very different side of Hart, who has been well known for comedy roles in films such as “Think Like A Man,” “The Secret Life of Pets” and “About Last Night.”

He has been a brilliant stand-up comedian, but with “Fatherhood” he has transformed himself into a more serious actor. It came as a lucky break for him when he was being accused of bitterly homophobic utterances.

“Fatherhood” appears to have pushed all these into the shadows, with Hart giving a wonderfully nuanced performance. But it is Maddy’s Melody Hurd who is completely adorable and a natural.


Moroccan-British model Nora Attal turns heads at Dior Cruise 2022 collection

Moroccan-British model Nora Attal turns heads at Dior Cruise 2022 collection
Nora Attal showed off a sporty look during the Dior 2022 Cruise collection show in Athens. Getty Images
Updated 19 June 2021

Moroccan-British model Nora Attal turns heads at Dior Cruise 2022 collection

Moroccan-British model Nora Attal turns heads at Dior Cruise 2022 collection

DUBAI: French fashion house Dior this week returned to live audience shows with an extravagant presentation of its partly-sports inspired 2022 Cruise collection in Athens’ Panathenaic stadium, the 4th-century site of the first modern Olympic Games, 70-years after an iconic Dior shoot at the Acropolis.

Dior’s Creative Director Maria Grazia Chiuri enlisted models, including Moroccan-British star Nora Attal, to showcase the sport-infused designs that made up the collection in the presence of celebrities that included film star Catherine Deneuve, model Cara Delevingne and “The Queen’s Gambit” actress Anya Taylor Joy, as well as Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou.

Nora Attal showed off a sporty look during the Dior 2022 Cruise collection show in Athens. Getty Images

Dior also broadcasted the event live on social media, television and in public areas in Greece.

For Chiuri’s first focused foray into athleisure, Attal wore a striped, waterproof unitard with an attached hood, paired with matching shorts and futuristic sneakers. A pair of scuba-inspired goggles, studded wristbands and an oversized bowling bag completed the look.

“The Queen’s Gambit” actress Anya Taylor Joy was one of the stars in attendance. AFP

The 22-year-old, who made her runway debut in 2017, is a catwalk fixture at the house of Dior. She has walked in plenty of shows for the Parisian maison, including the most recent Fall 2021 ready-to-wear show in March. 

She also turned heads at the French maison’s socially-distanced Spring 2021 ready-to-wear show in Paris, as well as at the brand’s Spring 2019 couture, Spring 2018 ready-to-wear and Fall 2018 couture shows, among others.

Dior creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri focused on athleisure for the cruise collection. AFP

The Dior Cruise 2022 collection — which featured a color palette of mostly black, white, grey, gold and blue — also boasted suits inspired by jackets and pants worn by iconic German-American actress Marlene Dietrich.

Peplos, the robe traditionally worn by women in ancient Greece, was also a major source of inspiration for the show’s eveningwear components.

The work of Greek artisans was featured in the collection, including a tailor and embroiderer from Argos in the Peloponnese, a silk factory in the northeastern town of Soufli, and a maker of fisherman’s caps from the port of Piraeus.

The work of Greek artisans was featured in this collection. AFP

Additionally, after receiving the green light from Greece’s top archaeological advisory body to have photoshoots in some of the country’s cherished ancient sites, such as the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, the temple of Poseidon at Sounio and the temple of Zeus at Nemea, Dior presented the photographs from the shoot during the runway show.

 


French fashion house Balmain seeks inspiration from Arab divas for Resort 2022 line

French fashion house Balmain seeks inspiration from Arab divas for Resort 2022 line
Balmain resort 2022. Supplied
Updated 19 June 2021

French fashion house Balmain seeks inspiration from Arab divas for Resort 2022 line

French fashion house Balmain seeks inspiration from Arab divas for Resort 2022 line

DUBAI: Balmain Creative Director Olivier Rousteing grew up not knowing who his birth parents were. He was adopted by a French couple from the region of Bordeaux when he was a baby. It wasn’t until very recently that the young designer discovered his genetic heritage. His mother is from Somalia and his father is Ethiopian. His parentage is set to be explored in a forthcoming Netflix documentary, “Wonder Boy,” launching on June 26. It will follow Rousteing’s 10-year tenure at Balmain, in addition to his search for his biological parents.

Due to the pandemic, Rousteing has been unable to visit Somalia or Ethiopia, though he has been vying to go. Instead, he has taken to researching the Horn of Africa and was particularly moved by a visit to the exhibition “Arab Divas: From Oum Kalthoum to Dalida” currently taking place at the Arab World Institute in Paris for Balmain’s Resort 2022 collection. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by BALMAIN (@balmain)

The exhibition’s influence is palpable throughout the new collection, which Rousteing has dubbed “perhaps his most personal offering to date,” especially when it came to the jewelry.

The designer also reflects on his Ethiopian and Somali heritage in the collection by way of loose silhouettes, strong patterns and rich textures.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by BALMAIN (@balmain)

The offering comprises 60-looks, and offers both womenswear and menswear in the form of roomy ponchos, silky kaftans and mini dresses for women as well as bomber jackets, loose trousers and sharply-tailored, embellished blazers for their counterparts.

The new collection marked the 75th anniversary of Pierre Balmain’s debut presentation with Balmain’s 2022 Resort Collection.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by BALMAIN (@balmain)

In celebration of the milestone, the designer chose to revive the archival labyrinth print, invented by Pierre Balmain and reintroduced by Rousteing, splashing it on oversized hobo bags, floor-length coats, palazzo pants, wrap skirts and crop tops. “The clients really like it, so we played with it even more,” he said.

Another highlight of the collection is a pair of fur shoes that are notably cruelty free– the footwear consists of a mix of faux fur and long-haired goat fur sourced from the goat-milk industry.