Ignition time: ‘The Fastest’ introduces regional racers to the world

Ignition time: ‘The Fastest’ introduces regional racers to the world
“The Fastest” is Netflix’s first Arabic-language unscripted reality series. (Supplied)
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Updated 26 November 2021

Ignition time: ‘The Fastest’ introduces regional racers to the world

Ignition time: ‘The Fastest’ introduces regional racers to the world
  • The new Netflix reality show represents a huge opportunity for some of the best drivers in the Middle East

DUBAI: All Syrian racecar driver Bushra Nasr knew, as she drove her beloved car far into the Abu Dhabi desert, was that she would be taking part in a race. She knew there would be cameras, and that whatever happened there might end up airing somewhere in the region.

It wasn’t until later that Nasr, along with the nine other racers from across the region that had gathered there on an abandoned airstrip, learned they were secretly participating in Netflix’s first Arabic-language unscripted reality series entitled “The Fastest.” It was an opportunity that could potentially change each of their lives.

“Honestly, the whole thing was a complete surprise. I thought we might participate in just one race. Then, every day they would come and tell us where we would go next, and without any warning we would take off to different races and different challenges, all unique and different and unlike anything we’d done before,” Nasr tells Arab News. “The entire experience was very exotic.”




Bushra Nasr is a Syrian racecar driver. (Supplied)

For years, Nasr has been pursuing her love of cars and racing in her every spare moment, spending weekends steadily building her profile on the track, winning competitions and earning respect of the region’s drivers one by one — even the men who never imagined a young woman would be able to surpass them.

But her dreams were not just about winning races. They went much further. Nasr harbored the secret hope that fate might one day allow her to become the next Jeremy Clarkson, the erstwhile host of the famed show “Top Gear,” someday.

With “The Fastest,” she and her fellow contestants may finally have a way to achieve their goals, and the worlds of possibility that the show’s potential success could open to them are now on each of their minds. Nasr is not focused solely on herself, however. Her focus is on all the young women that she hopes can be inspired by her success in the show, as well as her fellow female contestants.




The contestants say they have forged real friendships with each other since the competition concluded. (Supplied)

“The whole experience was amazing for us as women, and it will show the world how many women feel passionate about this sport and hopefully help others feel motivated too. I hope the whole thing can act as an inspiration for young women to be more and more involved in racing,” says Nasr.

While competition was fierce throughout the first season of “The Fastest,” Nasr’s success in the series was a joy to watch for her competitors, including seasoned Saudi driver Abzulaziz Al-Ya’eesh — a fellow finalist.

“The most memorable part of this show, to be honest, was seeing Bushra (succeed) with her unique and challenging spirit. The show proved that racing not only depends on the car, it depends on the driver’s skills and expertise. By having such varied men and women competing on a level playing field shows how much the sport is expanding in very different circles. (We are) people who came from across the Middle East to share our passion for cars,” says Al- Ya’eesh.




For Saudi contestant Abzulaziz Fudhili, what excited him most when he found out “The Fastest” would be available in 190 countries on the world’s biggest streaming platform was that it could show the world the true passion for racing in the region. (Supplied)

While the Middle East’s reputation as a global hub for car culture grows by the year, it is more than just a home to some of the most impressive collections of supercars past and present. There are enthusiasts from all backgrounds, who have all come to the track from a very different, and often bumpy, path.

For Saudi contestant Abzulaziz Fudhili, what excited him most when he found out “The Fastest” would be available in 190 countries on the world’s biggest streaming platform was that it could show the world the true passion for racing in the region. Fudhili is a prime example of that. He borrowed money from almost everyone he knew to buy his car, and his achievements on the track are allowing him to pay them back.

“I couldn't believe that we would be seen all over. Not only were we going to race, we could show the world that the Middle East motorsport scene is a force to be reckoned with,” Fudhili says. “The world knows we love cars like no one else, but they have never seen the heart we bring behind the wheel.”




Nasr’s success in the series was a joy to watch for her competitors, including seasoned Saudi driver Abzulaziz Al-Ya’eesh — a fellow finalist. (Supplied)

“The Fastest” is no amateur competition though. It involved some of the best racers in the region, such as second-generation Kuwaiti racer Ali Makhseed, who only agreed to join the show once he was certain the competition would equal anything he’s found in the region’s premiere races.

“I had second thoughts about joining the show,” says Makhseed. “I’m a professional driver, and I thought it was going to be just a bunch of enthusiasts and fans, not people who really knew street racing. But when I saw some racers I had known for years on that track, I was relieved, and the competition they brought struck a fire in me.”

The show’s six-episode first season is hosted by Saudi YouTube star Tareq Al-Harbi, (aka 6ar8o), whose comedic stylings have gained him more than one million subscribers and almost 10 million Instagram followers.

For Al-Harbi, even though he did not race, hosting the show was a life-long aspiration fulfilled. He could finally be a part of a show that he felt was as good as anything any other country had made, and that never felt like an imitation — a show that was truly the region’s own.




Kuwaiti racer Ali Makhseed only agreed to join the show once he was certain the competition would equal anything he’s found in the region’s premiere races. (Supplied)

“Having an Arabic-language show that is so well made and suspenseful is a fantasy for Arab viewers,” Al-Harbi says. “You won’t be able to predict the winner until the last minute. I think people aren’t going to be able to stop watching this show, and that makes me incredibly proud.”

Despite his enormous success, Al-Harbi considers “The Fastest” perhaps his greatest personal achievement.

“It has been an incredible journey for me,” he says. “I still remember how hard it was when I started off. I am thrilled to reach this level. I also think of it as a big responsibility for me.”

The contestants say they have forged real friendships with each other since the competition concluded — trading racing tips, helping each other with their cars, and reliving some of their favorite moments on the track against each other and the lessons they learned about themselves.

“The experience overall was an education to me, and I’d be happy to be part of this again,” says Al-Ya’eesh. “I will make sure to be prepared with my car and learn more about each driver, so that no one can beat me next time.”


Record-breaking 555.55 carat black diamond unveiled at Sotheby’s Dubai

Record-breaking 555.55 carat black diamond unveiled at Sotheby’s Dubai
Updated 17 January 2022

Record-breaking 555.55 carat black diamond unveiled at Sotheby’s Dubai

Record-breaking 555.55 carat black diamond unveiled at Sotheby’s Dubai

DUBAI: Gemstone collectors now have the chance to own the largest cut diamond in the world. Titled the “The Enigma,” the Guinness World Record-breaking rare black diamond made its public debut at Sotheby’s Dubai on Jan. 17, where it will remain on show until Jan. 20. Weighing in at a whopping 555.55 carats, the unique jewel will be on view at the Dubai Diamond Exchange, before making its way to Los Angeles and London, where it will be opened to bidding online from Feb. 3-9.

The carbonado black diamond is an extremely rare natural occurrence. Dating back to 2.6 to 3.8 billion years ago, they are said to have been formed from a meteoric impact or from a diamond-bearing asteroid that collided with Earth. It contains traces of nitrogen and hydrogen abundant in space, as well as osbornite, a mineral uniquely present in meteors.

In addition to its record-breaking size, the jewel is imbued with numerical significance. It’s shape is inspired by the Middle Eastern palm-shaped symbol, the Hamsa – a symbol of protection from the “evil eye.” The Hamsa is associated with the number five, and the diamond is not only 555.55 carats in size, but it also contains exactly 55 facets.

“We are honored that Dubai has been chosen as the first stop for this exceptional rarity and are thrilled to play a part in its journey, which began so many millions of years ago,” said Katia Nounou Boueiz, Head of Sotheby’s UAE, in a released statement.

The diamond will be available to purchase with cryptocurrency, a first in the UAE.

“This is the first time we are introducing our cryptocurrency offering in the UAE, a move that is in line with the government’s own commitment to exploring new digital, technological and scientific advances. Unveiling this one-of-a-kind stone - both in our DIFC gallery and at the unparalleled Dubai Diamond Exchange - is a clear continuation of our dedication to showcasing the best of the best in the UAE,” added Boueiz.

“The Enigma” is previously unseen on the market and has never been exhibited to the public before.


A taste of what’s to come: What food trends can we expect in 2022?

A taste of what’s to come: What food trends can we expect in 2022?
Updated 17 January 2022

A taste of what’s to come: What food trends can we expect in 2022?

A taste of what’s to come: What food trends can we expect in 2022?

DUBAI: Entrepreneurs and husband and wife duo Luma Makhlouf and Haider Al-Assam are the founders of Dubai’s hugely popular Maiz Tacos and Good Burger. Here, Makhlouf pens her thoughts on the food trends we can expect to see in the region in 2022.

Coming off the back of a challenging year largely centered around the pandemic, we are declaring 2022 the year of health and rebuilding.  Looking forward, food trends will incorporate a return to local produce, entertaining and sustainable food practices.

 Luma Makhlouf. Supplied 

Homegrown produce

More than ever before, consumers are focusing on their health and are looking to strengthen their immune system, making fresh local produce their preferred choice. What used to be an industry that knew no borders, the pandemic meant importing food became more expensive and less timely. Returning to basics, consumers will choose organic, local produce and clean ingredients. Post pandemic, some of the most successful brands are the homegrown ones that built up their resilience under tough conditions. Local suppliers offering authentic “farm to fork” produce will resonate with consumers seeking to focus on their health.

Return to entertaining

As people start to celebrate events they missed out on during the pandemic, catering demand is set to increase. Consumers are looking to create new, out of the box experiences and are therefore seeking tailored, personalized catering solutions. We are seeing increased corporate marketing budgets as demand for events such as product launches increase in line with the reduction of pandemic restrictions.

Sustainability

Photo: Getty Images

Consumers are increasingly choosing sustainable produce as they become more aware of their carbon footprint and the impact of their choices. As the population increases, so too will food production. Aquaculture and hydroponic farming are two aspects that will help the UAE in particular create a more sustainable food industry, and consumers will favor the health benefits of fresher, healthier produce. An increase in plant-based diets means consumers’ choices will be less taxing on the environment and they will be looking for ethical, sustainable ingredients that can help them achieve their health goals.

The increase in demand for healthy, nutritious and sustainably sourced foods will shape the food industry this year. Consumers will look for foods and catering options with nutritional benefits as healthy eating becomes mainstream and entertaining with our loved ones finally returns.


‘I’m really happy to represent my roots,’ says French-Tunisian ‘Scream’ star Sonia Ben Ammar

‘I’m really happy to represent my roots,’ says French-Tunisian ‘Scream’ star Sonia Ben Ammar
Sonia Ben Ammar was born in France to a Tunisian father and a Polish mother. Instagram
Updated 17 January 2022

‘I’m really happy to represent my roots,’ says French-Tunisian ‘Scream’ star Sonia Ben Ammar

‘I’m really happy to represent my roots,’ says French-Tunisian ‘Scream’ star Sonia Ben Ammar

DUBAI: French-Tunisian actress Sonia Ben Ammar is joining the ever-growing list of rising Arab stars working their way up the ladder in Hollywood, such as Ramy Youssef, Sofia Boutella, Dali Benssalah and Mena Messoud to name a few.

The 22-year-old recently made her Hollywood debut in the fifth instalment of the “Scream” franchise, which hit theaters on Jan. 14.

With French-Tunisian heritage, Ben Ammar is the first Arab main character in a “Scream” film, performing alongside the most diverse cast in the history of the franchise.

“I’m just really happy to be a part of it and represent my roots and I’m excited for people to watch it,” Ben Ammar told Arab News.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Sonia Ammar (@itsnotsonia)

“I’m really looking forward to films representing more of real life and the people and the places we live in so I am really stoked (about) that,” she added.

In her second film role and first Hollywood feature, the actress plays the part of Liv McKenzie, a teenager who is targeted by Ghostface, a mysterious masked killer on the loose. Starring alongside “Scream” veterans Courtney Cox, David Arquette and Neve Campbell, Ben Ammar makes an impressive debut despite her aversion to horror films.

She said that “Scream” is a new experience for her because, unlike the film’s loyal fanbase, she does not like scary movies.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Sonia Ammar (@itsnotsonia)

“Doing something that scares me and being a part of that was interesting,” she said, adding “But I think being part of the behind-the-scenes process of being in it really takes a lot of the scary elements out of it. When I saw the movie  (at) the screening for the first time, I was jumping up from my seat.”

Although “Scream” marks Ben Ammar’s first high-profile Hollywood gig as an actress, it is not the Paris-born actress’s first foray into the film industry.

Ben Ammar, who is the daughter of Tunisian film director Tarek Ben Ammar and Polish-born actress Beata, previously starred in Guillaume Canet’s French-language film “Jappeloup,” as well as the stage musical “1789: Les Amants de la Bastille.”

Before following in the footsteps of her parents, the multi-hyphenate made headway in the fashion world as a model, fronting campaigns for the likes of Dolce & Gabbana, Miu Miu and Chanel.


Actress Melissa Barrera talks ‘Scream 5’ wearing a statement jumpsuit by Elie Saab

Actress Melissa Barrera talks ‘Scream 5’ wearing a statement jumpsuit by Elie Saab
The Mexican actress wore a black Elie Saab jumpsuit to promote the new film. Instagram
Updated 16 January 2022

Actress Melissa Barrera talks ‘Scream 5’ wearing a statement jumpsuit by Elie Saab

Actress Melissa Barrera talks ‘Scream 5’ wearing a statement jumpsuit by Elie Saab

DUBAI: “Scream” will hit theaters in Saudi Arabia this week, more than 25 years after the late Wes Craven’s slasher classic thrilled fans. The new film is the fifth title in the cult series and is a direct sequel to 2011’s “Scream 4.” Directed by filmmakers Matt Bettinello-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, “Scream” sees franchise mainstays Courteney Cox and Neve Campbell reprise their roles, while newcomers include Sonia Ben Ammar, Melissa Barerra, Jenna Ortega, Mason Gooding, Dylan Minnette and Jack Quaid.

“Scream” follows a new Ghostface-masked assailant who begins targeting teenagers to resurrect secrets from the town of Woodsboro’s past.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by laChambre (@lachambrehq)

Following the hotly-anticipated movie’s successful release in the US on Jan. 14, Barrera sat down with show host Kelly Clarkson to promote the new film and to discuss her role in the latest installment of the “Scream” franchise. For her appearance on “The Kelly Clarkson Show” the rising Hollywood star decided to don one of the most versatile pieces in fashion — the jumpsuit.

The 31-year-old exuded casual glam wearing a black power jumpsuit from Lebanese couturier Elie Saab’s Resort 2022 collection, which was titled “Infinite Horizons.” The design featured short, layered sleeves, white stitching throughout and a delicate bow on the neckline. The loose track-suit style jumpsuit boasted a black stripe running down the side. The Mexican star paired the look, which was put together by stylist Penny Lovell, with open-toe pumps and a bedazzled Ghostface-shaped hairclip to secure her raven lengths.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Lilly Keys (@lilly_keys)

The disco-era favorite that is undergoing a renaissance on the runways — it popped up on the Spring 2022 catwalks of Alberta Ferretti, Etro, Isabel Marant and Fendi — is slowly migrating to the red carpet and photo calls.

Meanwhile, the Monterrey-born star is certainly one to watch. For the past few years, Barrera has split her time between Mexico and the US. After growing up in Monterrey, Mexico, she studied in New York at Tisch School of the Arts, then returned to Mexico to star in telenovela “Siempre tuya Acapulco.” The Clinique brand ambassador moved back to the US to film the TV drama series “Vida” and later to star as Vanessa in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s screen adaptation of the musical “In the Heights.”


Quirky Saudi vintage collector lays down a challenge to the fast-fashion world

Alia Kurdi, a 27-year-old fashion enthusiast, uses shirts from her grandfather’s Versace collection that are often loud and bright in her outfits and receives compliments for her style. (Supplied)
Alia Kurdi, a 27-year-old fashion enthusiast, uses shirts from her grandfather’s Versace collection that are often loud and bright in her outfits and receives compliments for her style. (Supplied)
Updated 16 January 2022

Quirky Saudi vintage collector lays down a challenge to the fast-fashion world

Alia Kurdi, a 27-year-old fashion enthusiast, uses shirts from her grandfather’s Versace collection that are often loud and bright in her outfits and receives compliments for her style. (Supplied)
  • ‘Re-accessorize everything, borrow from your friends and lend them stuff. The perfect way to not buy for occasions’

JEDDAH: A young Saudi fashion enthusiast is trying to make people aware of vintage fashion and the footprint that fast fashion has on the world.

Alia Kurdi is a 27-year-old fashion enthusiast who collects, designs, and sells vintage clothes in Saudi Arabia. She has always felt that, growing up, the only way she could express herself was through her clothes,
“There weren’t many venues for self-expression, and because I am a bit of a radical person, I began showing my personality through my clothes, and that is when I began building this connection to different pieces.”
The appreciation of vintage clothes ran within the Kurdi family. She told Arab News that her grandfather collected Versace shirts that were often loud and bright, “He didn’t dress like the typical Arab man. I still wear some of his shirts today, and people compliment them and are often shocked to find out that they belong to my grandfather.”

I feel like I already have a connection with a piece; I feel called to a store, and immediately from a distance, I know the thing I am going to buy as if these pieces speak to me. Usually, they are extremely special, whether the texture or the pattern.

Alia Kurdi

People in Saudi Arabia have always recycled their used items through charity.
However, the situation has changed as conversations around resale and pre-owned pieces have evolved.
Kurdi said that she began shopping mindfully ever since she learned the footprint that fast fashion had on the globe; that is when she started venturing into vintage and second-hand shops. The collector said that once she had started, she never looked back, and 2022 marks her fast-fashion-free seventh year.
Kurdi advised people thinking of going into fast fashion to start with baby steps and set realistic goals, “One of the most negative things is buying for occasions because people think they cannot repeat. Re-accessorize everything, borrow from your friends and lend them stuff. That will be the perfect way to not buy for occasions.”
The collector said that she loves exploring different streets and shops to find her clothes; she described the process of selecting what to buy as “intuitive.”
“I feel like I already have a connection with a piece; I feel called to a store, and immediately from a distance, I know the thing I am going to buy as if these pieces speak to me. Usually, they are extremely special, whether the texture or the pattern,” she said.

Alia Kurdi has recycled these pants from a vintage skirt. (Supplied)

Kurdi also said that the pieces she selects turn out to be beautiful, and she has developed this compass to find hidden treasures.
She describes her style as an “Emo Unicorn,” someone who likes a lot of black but with loud colors, as well. Her emotions are reflected in the outfit she is wearing.
“I did get a lot of negative comments as I was growing up, and I was very triggered by it. However, now not only have I changed my approach, but people are celebrating it a lot more; they say things like it’s amazing that I have stayed true to myself,” she said.
“Still, a lot of people have said that I was much prettier a few years ago, and I recognize that at that time I was much more insecure.”
She said her favorite piece of clothing is a ‘Google Chrome’ jacket that she bought in Berlin: “It’s black with a lot of bright colors. I broke my spending limit rule for this one jacket because I actually had to have it. So many people have complimented me. I made a friend through it as well. I am so glad that it found me.”
She gave that name to the jacket because the colors looked like Google’s logo. If she were to sum up her style and personality in an item of clothing, this would be it: “It is rough in some spots and soft in some, it is all black but also colorful. Kind of like what I feel all the time.”
The collector has started her own brand where she connects people with pieces with stories, “Diskofrenzy was born because often I will find pieces that were very special but not my size, but I had to collect them and keep them with me. My goal for my brand is to make Diskofrenzy the ultimate go-to for vintage and up-cycled fashion.”
The name connects two very personal things for Kurdi: Disco, which is vintage but is now making a comeback, and she said that she feels a frenzy only when she is dancing or shopping. This is why she decided that the perfect name for her brand would be Diskofrenzy.
She said that people often come up to her and say that only she can pull off a certain style. However, in her opinion that is not true, “Anyone can pull off whatever they want. Just be quirky and weird and a little bit rebellious. Express yourself through what you wear.”