Saudi poet, literary editor Ahmed Al-Ali discusses career ahead of Emirates Literature Fest 2023

Saudi poet, literary editor Ahmed Al-Ali discusses career ahead of Emirates Literature Fest 2023
Saudi poet, translator and literary editor Ahmed Al-Ali. (Supplied)
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Updated 01 February 2023

Saudi poet, literary editor Ahmed Al-Ali discusses career ahead of Emirates Literature Fest 2023

Saudi poet, literary editor Ahmed Al-Ali discusses career ahead of Emirates Literature Fest 2023
  • Former software engineer gave up his job to pursue his dream in 2012, moving to New York City

DUBAI: Saudi poet, translator and literary editor Ahmed Al-Ali has worn many hats over the course of his career, but the Dubai-based writer — set to speak at a panel at the upcoming Emirates Airline Festival of Literature — started out as a software engineer.

“I wasn’t satisfied being a software engineer who has no time to read books except before sleeping. ‘There are people who read all day and get money for doing that,’ I told myself. By that time, I was aware of the literary scene in the Arab world, had written two poetry collections, translated three titles into Arabic, and had my articles published in newspapers and edited many books. I taught myself everything I needed,” he told Arab News. 

“Then, in 2012, I resigned from my job, applied for a scholarship, and flew to New York City with no clue that I will study publishing. I just went there to be in the center of the world and to have my chance to do something with my life.”

Al-Ali — along with children’s publisher and writer Amal Farah and poet and writer Qasim Saudi — will speak on the panel “How to Market Your Book” at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature on Feb. 3 at 4 p.m. If there were a debate on the topic, it would be fair to assume that Al-Ali would advocate for authors sticking to writing and writing well, and nothing else.

When asked if authors should really be worrying about the marketing side of the publishing business, Al-Ali said: “Marketing books is the tool book sellers and book outlets use to sell the ‘products’ they offer, which is the job of neither the publishing house nor the author. Publishing houses should market their authors and brand them. Why do you think a planner that features quotes by Margaret Atwood would sell more than some of her titles? Authors need to know that writing good books and caring for their public image are all that they can do and ought to do.”

Currently working as the managing editor at Sharjah’s Kalimat Group and its fiction imprint, Al-Ali is responsible for introducing the Arab world to international authors like James Baldwin, Raymond Carver, Julian Barnes, Ian McEwan, Margaret Atwood, John Ashbery, Ali Smith, Michael Ondaatje, John Banville and Claire Messud.

He has also personally translated several English novels. “Paul Auster’s ‘The Invention of Solitude’ is so close to my heart because I was discovering NYC in real life and also discovering it through the literature of this author,” he said when asked to pick a favorite.

But what Al-Ali is probably most known for are his poetry collections. Poetry, to Al-Ali, is the medium best suited to “seeking the truth” about the world.

“I tried in each of my books to illuminate one topic. My ‘Facing Skype’ book discovers having an avatar in social media versus your real persona in real social life. ‘The Drifter’s Guide to NYC’ is about the known and hidden gems of the city written in prose poetry. ‘Lavender, Hotel California’ claims that this life is a ‘hotel’ and tests this claim via various poems,” said Al-Ali.  

The author’s current work-in-progress, a project about oil-hunting in the region, is “a work of poetry, research, translation and editing; it embodies everything I can do.”

But, unsurprisingly, the poet inside Al-Ali is jaded by the current state of the literary world.

“My generation and the younger ones are caught in the web of competitions and awards; they are not seeking anything real. If you don’t realize that there are huge efforts to program people, and that we are in a matrix and you must break through, then what do you know as a poet?” he said.

UAE’s Sheikha Fatima bint Hazza honored at London’s Arab Woman Award

UAE’s Sheikha Fatima bint Hazza honored at London’s Arab Woman Award
Updated 16 sec ago

UAE’s Sheikha Fatima bint Hazza honored at London’s Arab Woman Award

UAE’s Sheikha Fatima bint Hazza honored at London’s Arab Woman Award
  • She was recognized for her philanthropy and her contributions to female empowerment
  • ‘I am proud to represent my country, where women have not had to struggle to obtain their rights’

LONDON: The UAE’s Sheikha Fatima bint Hazza was honored on Tuesday with the Arab Woman Award at a ceremony in London in recognition of her contributions to female empowerment in the region and her philanthropic efforts in various countries, Vogue Arabia reported.

Sheikha Fatima has been a strong supporter of cultural initiatives, particularly those involving the arts and sports. 

She has endorsed several programs aimed at boosting the cultural scene in the UAE and the region through her role as chairwoman of the board of directors of the Fatima bint Mubarak Ladies Sports Academy and the Fatima bint Hazza Cultural Foundation. 

Her other accomplishments include increasing access to education in Bangladesh, building schools in Kenya, and forming the Fatima bint Hazza Fund for Emirati women to pursue higher education abroad, Vogue Arabia reported.

She is “committed to enhancing the role of women in various ways, as she is a supporter of sports and arts, and we are honored to bestow her with the Achievement Award in Cultural Development,” the Arab London Foundation said.

The philanthropist has also helped broaden young people’s interest in fields such as art, literature, sustainability and community interaction, Vogue Arabia reported. 

The Fatima bint Hazza Cultural Foundation recently launched a series of short stories for young people focusing on culture, local identity and sustainability

Upon accepting her award, Sheikha Fatima praised Emirati leaders and their efforts to encourage women to pursue their dreams.

“Effective participation and making progress and positive change are the core values that we have been raised on,” she said. 

“I am proud to represent my country, the UAE, where women have not had to struggle to obtain their rights but have always been at the forefront since the establishment of the state.”

Nora Attal models for Gigi Hadid’s Guest in Residence 

Nora Attal models for Gigi Hadid’s Guest in Residence 
Updated 22 March 2023

Nora Attal models for Gigi Hadid’s Guest in Residence 

Nora Attal models for Gigi Hadid’s Guest in Residence 

DUBAI: British Moroccan model Nora Attal showed her support for her friend Dutch Palestinian catwalk star Gigi Hadid by modeling for her fashion label Guest in Residence. 

Hadid shared a picture on her brand’s Instagram page of Attal wearing one of her cashmere pieces from the label’s Core collection.

She then reshared the picture to her private account, tagging Attal and adding a white heart.

Instagram/ @guestinresidence 

The pair have appeared on many runways together, including the Versace show in Los Angeles earlier in March. 

Hadid wore two outfits. The first was a floor-length gown with a semi-sheer corset bodice and a voluminous satin bottom, while her second look featured a structured black blazer, a knee-high skirt with black leather gloves, shoes and a bag. 

Attal wore a sheer turtle-neck top with a puffy miniskirt and black stockings. 


A post shared by Nora Attal (@noraattal)

Hadid launched her clothing label, which features soft, colorful knitwear, in September. 

“Over the last handful of years, I didn’t want to be backed into starting my own line just because there was an offer on the table or a deal to be made,” she wrote to her followers on Instagram at the time.

As a result, the 27-year-old rejected many opportunities until she found a path that “felt genuine.”

“The earliest days of Guest in Residence came about when I started to question the cashmere market, and those answers gave me a path,” she wrote.

“I believe that because of its sustainable qualities — natural and made to cherish and to pass down — cashmere is a luxury that should be more accessible.”

The model hopes her brand will encourage investment in quality pieces at reasonable prices, “and a wardrobe that can grow and change with your style, that can endure life with you, and that can become heirlooms.”

Ramadan 2023: how to manage a child’s first fast

Ramadan 2023: how to manage a child’s first fast
Updated 22 March 2023

Ramadan 2023: how to manage a child’s first fast

Ramadan 2023: how to manage a child’s first fast

DUBAI: As the sun rises on Thursday, the holy month of Ramadan will begin, ushering in a period of quiet contemplation, fasting during the day, feasting with family and friends in the evening, and getting in touch with our spiritual side.

This is also a time when youngsters look to their community and want to join in the festivities. Parents then have a tough call to make: Are their children ready for fasting? And, if the answer is yes, how can they ensure it is a relaxed, happy experience?

The first thing to remember is not to start too early — those younger than 7 may face negative consequences, health experts warn.

Dr. Samer Saade, specialist paediatrician at UAE-based Medcare Medical Center, said: “Children can start fasting when they reach puberty, so that’s between 10 and 14 years in girls and 12 to 16 years in boys. All in all, the best age to start fasting is between 10 and 12 years old.”

The second thing to keep in mind is the effect that lack of food can have on mood and cognitive function, especially since children need more fluids and energy to meet their body’s metabolic demands and for brain development.  

“While fasting, a child’s demeanor may range from weakness, fatigue, decreased cognitive function, altered sleep schedule, reduced attention span and short temper to headache, abdominal pain and fainting spells,” Dr. Nasreen Chidhara Pari, specialist pediatrician at UAE-based Life Medical Center.

Slow and steady


The key to a successful fast is being gradual, with short periods of abstinence, experts say.

“Parents should decide how long their child will fast (if they fast), based on their child’s health, eating frequency, ability to tolerate hunger and activity level,” Pari said.

She suggests children attending school carry an emergency food pack with a snack and water to break their fast if they become dizzy or find themselves unable to continue.

Should a child break their fast, it is important for adults nearby to stay calm and offer reassurance.

Practice positive reinforcement when a child breaks their fast; tell them it is OK and encourage the child to try again when they feel ready. “Extend the duration of fast time in small increments,” she said.

Gentle parenting


Saade echoes this sentiment, calling for positive thinking, gentle parenting and remaining calm during the process. This will ensure a more effective path to fasting, and also raise a child’s self-esteem.

During this period, what we eat becomes doubly important. Sakina Muntasir, a dietitian with UAE-based Prime Hospital, said that suhoor for children should be similar to suhoor for adults in order to prevent thirst, hunger pangs and make the fasting period comfortable.

“Oats, eggs, wholegrain bread and fruit are all good choices,” she said.

When it comes to iftar for children, begin with fresh juice or water-rich fruits or dates.

“Avoid fried or oily foods when breaking the fast. Divide the evening meal into three parts, iftar, dinner and post dinner, to ensure the child has good opportunities to take in enough nutrition,” she said.

Dinner should be a balanced meal with healthy carbs, protein and vegetables. After dinner, have them eat a few nuts and a glass of milk before bed.

Golden triangle


Children can be notoriously picky eaters, so remember the golden triangle: protein, fiber and healthy fat for a healthy meal.

Following these guidelines will ensure a healthy first fast. However, if suhoor is skipped or child  is not eating well, give them a multivitamin to avoid any weakness or deficiencies, Saade said.

Dr. Shahid Gauhar, specialist paediatrician and neonatologist with UAE-based Prime Hospital, said: “Do not force children to overeat during suhoor or iftar. It is likely to result in indigestion, bloating and discomfort.”

Keep the sweets at bay. “Avoid high-sugar food since it will increase their cravings, and provide few nutrients but many unneeded calories,” he said.

Experts agree that knowledge is key to a successful fast. Explain the significance of Ramadan and observing a fast, so it is not just about mimicking grown-ups. Reward milestones, whether it is five hours or a whole day of fasting.

“Celebrate their first fast with family and friends, and reward them, said Gauhar.  

Activity during Ramadan


Play is important for all children, even those fasting, in order for the brain to develop.

However, during the holy month, exercise and activity must be approached differently.

“Prepare activities to keep them busy during the day, but avoid those that need a high level of energy,” Gauhar said.

Iraqi Kurdish artist Hayv Kahraman’s explores how an understanding of microbiology can help deal with trauma 

Iraqi Kurdish artist Hayv Kahraman’s explores how an understanding of microbiology can help deal with trauma 
Updated 22 March 2023

Iraqi Kurdish artist Hayv Kahraman’s explores how an understanding of microbiology can help deal with trauma 

Iraqi Kurdish artist Hayv Kahraman’s explores how an understanding of microbiology can help deal with trauma 

DUBAI: The latest exhibition from Los Angeles-based Iraqi Kurdish artist Hayv Kahraman, on show at Dubai’s The Third Line gallery, is called “Gut Feelings: Part II.” The title is both instructive — the majority of works depict a female figure, or figures, with a knot of guts spilling from some part of their bodies — and allusive, as the show is informed by Kahraman’s exhaustive research into the gut microbiome and its effect on our mental and physical health, as well as by her own experiences of trauma. The imagery somehow manages to be unsettling, funny and comforting all at once. 

The most immediate influence from Kahraman’s own life on this body of work was her mother’s diagnosis with lung cancer, which she received in 2018.  

“That’s when I started digging into the biosciences and immunology,” Kahraman tells Arab News. “My mom was a naturopath, she tried a lot of alternative (medicine). If my mom were alive, she would have so much input into this. And it is a way of getting closer to her; it’s all connected to this work.  

“I started with immunology and I was struck by how militaristic the language was. You’re ‘fighting cancer.’ You’re constantly at war with your body, you know? Why can’t we have something that’s looking at it as more of a journey, rather than something you’re fighting against? I really reacted to the semantics,” she continues.  

“From immunology I shifted into microbiology, and that’s where this (show) was born. I really got into a rabbit hole,” Kahraman explains. “There are ecosystems of microbiota all over our bodies; inside, outside, around. There’s something called aura microbiota, so right now, as we’re sitting next to each other, my microbiota is mixing with your microbiota, which is just beautiful if you think of it, because then all of these notions of ‘us and them’ or where I end and you begin — these dichotomies — shatter. I found out — and this was mindblowing — our bodies have a 1:1 ratio of human cells and microbial cells. So where do ‘you’ start and where do ‘you’ end? You’re equally other: microbe, germ, dirty. As somebody who’s been an immigrant, a refugee, ‘othered’ in so many ways, I’m constantly thinking about difference. So with the microbes, it was, like, ‘Ooh, these are my friends.’” 

Hayv Kahraman, Feeding on entanglements, 2022. (Supplied)

Kahraman was born in 1981 and grew up in Baghdad. Her mother worked for the United Nations and her father was a university professor. “My parents were very liberal. We had a little playroom in our home that we could paint all over; walls, ceiling, doors. That was very empowering. That room was filled with all kinds of stories — our concerns, things that we wanted to celebrate,” she says. 

Her parents also hosted regular soirees attended by Iraqi creatives. “I’d sit in the room next door and do these quick gestural paintings, and every now and then one of these creatives would come in and look at my painting and give me a mini critique. And that was amazing; to get that from multiple voices,” she says. “That was pivotal to my life.” 

The family fled Iraq to Sweden when Kahraman was 10, after the first Gulf War. They arrived as undocumented refugees and were eventually granted asylum. “I went through a process of assimilation when I arrived; I wanted so desperately to belong and become Swedish,” she says. “And when that happens to you, you’re robbed of who you thought that you really were; whatever that is. I did everything I could to become Swedish; dyed my hair, had a perfect accent, so I didn’t sound like an immigrant. And that’s a very violent thing to undergo, because you really are erasing something. This is something I revisit in my work all the time; I’m so concerned with not being erased. ‘I’m here. I exist. Listen to me. Hear me. See me.’”  

Hayv Kahraman, Neurobust, 2022. (Supplied)

That, she says, is why the female figure in “Gut Feelings: Part II” has been recurrent throughout her work. It was first created in Italy, where she moved to intern as a librarian at an art school. There have been many “transmutations” of the figure, however. In 2007, for example, at the height of Iraq’s sectarian violence, when thousands of people were dying there each day, Kahraman had just moved to Phoenix, Arizona. “I was consumed by guilt, being in this country that was currently at war with my own. So the work was very violent — you had women setting themselves on fire, women hanging themselves...” She was also in an abusive relationship at the time, although she says it took her many years to realize it, “but it came out in the work.” 

Having lived through so much trauma, it’s unsurprising that Kahraman describes herself as having a tendency to be “very dark” and to regularly become obsessed with certain topics (such as microbia).  

“If I could, I would just live in my obsessions,” she says. “My work is about working through things — trauma and those obsessions. Why am I obsessing about the microbiome, and health, and torshi (fermented beetroot, which features heavily in the show, and is rich in ‘good’ bacteria)? My mom used to make torshi when we were kids and we used to paint with it. I didn’t consciously link it at first. The academic research came before, and then I’m like, ‘Oh my god. Yes. That’s why I’m here…’” 

She stresses, however, that as much as her art doubles as therapy, it also brings her joy. And there is lightness in the exhibition too — the comic book-style gut-spillage has a certain humorous appeal.  

“I am trying to channel that levity. I think I’ve got a nice balance between the really grotesque and… I wouldn’t say beauty, because that’s subjective. I’d say, connection, maybe,” she says. “I wanted the audience to walk in and feel like they’re inside the body and that it’s comforting and that there’s compassion and healing and that it’s a safe space.” 

French label Messika stars 3 Arab talents in Ramadan campaign

French label Messika stars 3 Arab talents in Ramadan campaign
Updated 22 March 2023

French label Messika stars 3 Arab talents in Ramadan campaign

French label Messika stars 3 Arab talents in Ramadan campaign

DUBAI: French jewelry brand Messika unveiled their new Ramadan campaign, starring three Arab talents paying tribute to the women of the region.

The three stars are Laila Abdallah, a Lebanese actress based in Kuwait, Yara Alhogbani, the first and only Saudi tennis player competing on an international level, and Mariam Al-Remeithi, the first and youngest Emirati theater costume designer and abaya designer who recently took her work to Paris.

“A large part of Ramadan is about introspection and committing oneself to growth and lasting change,” said 18-year-old Alhogbani in a statement. “I make sure to take the time to distance myself from distractions so that I’m able to see where I can personally improve to better the journey that I’m currently on.”

Al-Remaithi, the acclaimed fashion designer who began pursuing her passion for clothing design from childhood, said: “Ramadan has always been a source of inspiration for me. By tuning into my spiritual self, I am able to to recalibrate my creative vision and goals.

“There is a sense of serenity and demure elegance that is unique to Ramadan, which I tend to channel into my designs,” she added.

Abdallah said: “Ramadan is a time to rejuvenate the mind, body and spirit. It is a special month that brings peace to my soul, allowing me the opportunity to self-reflect and create invaluable memories with loved ones.”

In the campaign images, the three talents wore Ramadan-inspired jewelry, including multi-layered necklaces, bracelets and earrings, as they posed for pictures together.