Mali junta cracks down on hookahs

Mali junta cracks down on hookahs
Shisha bars have become popular in Bamako in recent years. (AFP/File)
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Updated 16 February 2023

Mali junta cracks down on hookahs

Mali junta cracks down on hookahs
  • Shisha smokers would be liable to a maximum of 10 days in prison and a fine of $0.45 to $15
  • Mali's anti-drug agency has carried out dozens of arrests in Bamako

DAKAR: The authorities in Mali have begun a crackdown on hookah smoking after giving a grace period to shisha bars to adjust to a ban.
The country's anti-drug agency says it has carried out dozens of arrests in the capital Bamako and seized water pipes after the six-month moratorium expired.
Bars where small groups of smokers -- primarily young men -- hang out to chat and puff on hookahs have flourished in Bamako in recent years.
But their days became numbered when the junta-dominated government on August 15 announced a surprise ban.
It warned that shisha smokers would be liable to a prison term of one to 10 days and a fine of 300 to 10,000 CFA francs ($0.45 to $15).
The Central Narcotics Office (OCS) in a Facebook posting said there had been "vigorous" raids by its agents in Bamako on Tuesday night, culminating in "about 50 individuals in prison and a large amount of seized material."
It published photos of young men and women being taken away in the back of pickup trucks and a picture of a pile of water pipes.
"The grace period given by the authorities for importers, distributors, sellers and consumers of shisha in Mali is over," the OCS said.
The ban has divided opinion in Mali.
The country is overwhelmingly Muslim, and interpretations of Islam are generally unfavourable to cigarettes and to shisha.
But it is also a secular nation that tolerates alcohol, even if consumption is limited to certain public places and most shops and restaurants do not serve it.
Shishas, or hookahs, typically burn tobacco flavoured with fruit to provide a sweetened taste. The smoke is inhaled in through a long rubber tube, passing through water to cool it down. "Shisha" is also the term sometimes used for the tobacco product.
A working group of the World Health Organization (WHO) warned in 2017 about the danger of shisha smoking.
The practice is up to 10 times more harmful than cigarettes but is not targeted by the same awareness campaigns as with tobacco, it said.


Their world was the oyster: Oldest pearl town found in UAE

Their world was the oyster: Oldest pearl town found in UAE
Updated 20 March 2023

Their world was the oyster: Oldest pearl town found in UAE

Their world was the oyster: Oldest pearl town found in UAE
  • The town was likely once home to thousands of people and hundreds of homes

SINIYAH ISLAND, United Arab Emirates: Archaeologists said Monday they have found the oldest pearling town in the Arabian Gulf on an island off one of the northern sheikhdoms of the United Arab Emirates.
Artifacts found in this town on Siniyah Island in Umm Al-Quwain, likely once home to thousands of people and hundreds of homes, date as far back as the region’s pre-Islamic history in the late 6th century. While older pearling towns have been mentioned in historical texts, this represents the first time archaeologists say they have physically found one from this ancient era across the nations of the Arabian Gulf.
“This is the oldest example of that kind of very specifically Khaleeji pearling town,” said Timothy Power, an associate professor of archaeology at the UAE University, using a word that means “Gulf” in Arabic. “It’s the spiritual ancestor of towns like Dubai.”
The pearling town sits on Siniyah Island, which shields the Khor Al-Beida marshlands in Umm Al-Quwain, an emirate some 50 kilometers (30 miles) northeast of Dubai along the coast of the Arabian Gulf. The island, whose name means “flashing lights” likely due to the effect of the white-hot sun overhead, already has seen archaeologists discover an ancient Christian monastery dating back as many as 1,400 years.
The town sits directly south of that monastery on one of the curling fingers of the island and stretches across some 12 hectares (143,500 square yards). There, archaeologists found a variety of homes made of beach rock and lime mortar, ranging from cramped quarters to more sprawling homes with courtyards, suggesting a social stratification, Power said. The site also bears signs of year-round habitation, unlike other pearling operations run in seasonal spots in the region.
“The houses are crammed in there, cheek by jowl,” he added. “The key thing there is permanence. People are living there all year around.”
In the homes, archaeologists have discovered loose pearls and diving weights, which the free divers used to quickly drop down to the seabed while relying only on their held breath.
The town predates the rise of Islam across the Arabian Peninsula, making its residents likely Christians.
Umm Al-Quwain’s Department of Tourism and Archaeology, UAE University, the Italian Archaeological Mission in the emirate and the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University all took part in the excavation. Umm Al-Quwain, the least-populated emirate in the UAE, plans to build a visitor’s center at the site.
Today, the area near the marshland is more known for the low-cost liquor store at the emirate’s Barracuda Beach Resort. In recent months, authorities have demolished a hulking, Soviet-era cargo plane linked to a Russian gunrunner known as the “Merchant of Death” as it builds a bridge to Siniyah Island for a $675 million real estate development. Authorities hope that development, as well as other building, will grow the emirate’s economy.
However, even this ancient site bears lessons for the Emirates.
The story of pearling, which rapidly collapsed after World War I with the introduction of artificial pearls and the Great Depression, holds particular importance in the history of the UAE — particularly as it faces a looming reckoning with another extractive industry. While crude oil sales built the country after its formation in 1971, the Emirates will have to confront its fossil fuel legacy and potentially plan for a carbon-neutral future as it hosts the United Nations COP28 climate talks later this year.
Those searching the site found a dumpsite nearby filled with the detritus of discarded oyster shells. People walking across the island can feel those remains crunching under their feet in areas as well.
“You only find one pearl in every 10,000 oyster shells. You have to find and discard thousands and thousands of oyster shells to find one,” Power said. ”The waste, the industrial waste of the pearling industry, was colossal. You’re dealing with millions, millions of oyster shells discarded.”


Range of Islamic toys launched in UK supermarkets ahead of Ramadan

Range of Islamic toys launched in UK supermarkets ahead of Ramadan
Updated 20 March 2023

Range of Islamic toys launched in UK supermarkets ahead of Ramadan

Range of Islamic toys launched in UK supermarkets ahead of Ramadan

LONDON: A UK-based Muslim dolls and toys company has announced that it will launch their Islamic toy range in over 150 stores across the UK.

The brand is well known for its dolls and toys that promote the Islamic faith and culture and has been working hard to expand its reach to make their products more accessible to customers across the country.

The launch coincided with a two-day meet and greet with their mascots, Omar and Hana, across London and Manchester.

The Omar and Hana singing dolls are one of the most popular items in the Desi Doll Company range. (Supplied)

It will see the dolls and toys in British supermarkets ASDA and Morrisons. The range will also feature at high-end department store Selfridges in its London, Birmingham and Manchester branches.

The Omar and Hana singing dolls, one of the most popular items in the Desi Doll Company range, are the company's first License toys based on a hit children’s animation with over 1 million subscribers. It features Islamic content around having good character and moral values.

“Ramadan is an important time in the Islamic calendar, and families become more focused on their faith during this month,” the company said in a statement.

“With this additional focus on faith, parents look for ways to make the month more meaningful for their children, and Desi Doll Company sees a peak in demand for their range of Islamic toys at this time of year,” it added.

“The fasting month ends with the celebration of Eid, a time, like Christmas, when parents are looking for extra special gifts for their children, and toys that have the added benefit of Islamic values are usually top of the list,” it also said.

Farzana Rahman, founder and director of Desi Doll, said: “We are thrilled to be launching our range of unique toys in supermarket stores across the UK,” that are designed to provide children with enjoyable, informative and educational experiences of the Islamic faith.

The launch coincided with a two-day meet and greet with their mascots, Omar and Hana, across London and Manchester. (Supplied)

“With the arrival of our toys in ASDA and Morrison stores, customers now have the opportunity to discover our unique toys while doing their weekly shopping,” she added.

“We are also excited that our range is also available in the iconic Selfridges stores, allowing us to reach even more households with our products,” Rahman said.


Social media, bloggers boost Arab tourists’ presence in Turkiye

Social media, bloggers boost Arab tourists’ presence in Turkiye
Updated 17 March 2023

Social media, bloggers boost Arab tourists’ presence in Turkiye

Social media, bloggers boost Arab tourists’ presence in Turkiye
  • People from MENA region influenced by popular Turkish dramas, social media and blogs
  • Instagram and Snapchat accounts dedicated to promoting Turkish tourism provide detailed information for holidays

ANKARA: Turkiye has witnessed a noticeable increase in the flow of tourists from Arab countries over the past few years thanks to social media and online blogs.
Over the past few years Arabs have been highly influenced and encouraged by popular Turkish dramas, social media and blogs to visit Turkiye’s most popular cities such as Istanbul, Ankara, Marmaris and others.
Kuwait’s News Agency reported on Friday that, despite the catastrophic 7.7 and 7.6-magnitude earthquakes that hit southern Turkiye recently, Arab tourists have still traveled to the country for its nature and cultural heritage.
Tourist Sarah Al-Enizi from Kuwait said she was tempted and intrigued to explore a small town on the coast of the Aegean Sea, Kusadasi, due to heavy promotional content on social media.
The detailed content she watched on a Snapchat account was of great assistance and made her trip to Kusadasi an enjoyable experience.
One Kuwaiti blogger documented the holiday of his compatriots Ahmad Al-Kander and Dalal Al-Mulaifi when they visited Sapanca and other cities.
They confirmed that social media played a role in choosing their holiday destinations in Turkiye.
Social media also inspired Egyptian tourist Ala’a Mohammad, who spent his honeymoon traversing across cities including Antalya. It also acted as an eyeopener in terms of visiting and enjoying several unexplored destinations.
Lebanese tourist Mariam Madi spent her vacation on Turkish beaches. She said she had unforgettable experiences at Buyukada, Marmaris and Alanya.
Meanwhile, the owner of an Instagram account dedicated to Turkish tourism, Abdulrahman Mousa Mohammed, said his passion for traveling to Turkiye stimulated him to create his own content and share his experience online for voyagers to benefit from.
His Instagram page offers all vital information on travel to Turkiye from transport, hotels, and various tips and advices.
Kuwaiti tourists were attracted to Bursa for tourism as well as buying real estate, according to Mohammed, who added that Sapanca was a top destination due to its breath-taking nature in addition to Bodrum, where most Kuwaitis seek to relax.
However, Mohammed warned against fake media accounts that entice tourists with low prices and great accommodations but end up facing horrible travel experience.


Australian surfs for 40 hours to smash world record

Australian surfs for 40 hours to smash world record
Updated 17 March 2023

Australian surfs for 40 hours to smash world record

Australian surfs for 40 hours to smash world record
  • Johnston raised more than $133,000 for mental health, taking on the record to mark 10 years since losing his father to suicide

Sydney: Australian Blake Johnston on Friday shredded the world record for the longest surfing session, dodging swarms of jellyfish to ride hundreds of waves across 40 punishing hours.
The 40-year-old former surfing pro broke down in tears after smashing South African Josh Enslin’s previous record of 30 hours and 11 minutes.
Johnston surfed back to shore in the evening to rapturous applause from the hundreds of supporters who had gathered at Sydney’s Cronulla Beach to watch.
Wearing a black cowboy hat and draped in a thermal blanket, he was carried off the beach on his friends’ shoulders after finally hanging up his surfboard.
Johnston raised more than $133,000 for mental health, taking on the record to mark 10 years since losing his father to suicide.
He rode more than 700 waves in setting the record, braving pitch-black seas that are home to many species of shark.
“I’ve still got a job to do. I said 40 (hours) so I’ll go and give it a crack,” he told reporters earlier in the day, after passing the previous 30-hour record.
“I’m pretty cooked, yeah, but we’ll push through.”
Johnston eventually surfed for more than 40 hours — he started at 1:00am on Thursday, using large spotlights to illuminate the water — but his official record time was not immediately known.


Under the rules of the attempt, he was allowed to sporadically leave the ocean so he could soothe his eyes with eyedrops, refuel with snacks and lather himself up in sunscreen.
Medics would check his heart rate and blood pressure before he dashed back into the swell.
With Sydney in the grip of a minor heatwave, the water temperature has been hovering around a balmy 24 degrees Celsius, lessening the risk of hypothermia.
Johnston had originally planned to raise money by tackling a 1,000-kilometer run, but settled on surfing when he saw the previous record was “only” 30 hours.
“I thought I could just do it,” he said before the attempt.
“I push myself to the limits with my adventures and to prove to myself that I’m worthy and can get through hard times, and that’s when my lessons are learnt.”
He anticipated infected ears, dehydration and sleep deprivation would push his body to its limits.


Johnston’s brother Ben said they had also prepared for the possibility of a shark attack, but it wasn’t something that had worried them.
“I surfed at two in the morning with him and the lights actually went out so it was pitch black,” he told national broadcaster ABC.
“There were a whole bunch of jellyfish out there, so it was interesting to say the least.”
It is not Johnston’s first time taking part in a marathon test of human endurance.
In 2020, he ran 100 kilometers along the rugged coastline south of Sydney — covering the vast majority of the trek in bare feet.


Scientists create mice with cells from 2 males for 1st time

Scientists create mice with cells from 2 males for 1st time
Updated 16 March 2023

Scientists create mice with cells from 2 males for 1st time

Scientists create mice with cells from 2 males for 1st time

For the first time, scientists have created baby mice from two males.
This raises the distant possibility of using the same technique for people – although experts caution that very few mouse embryos developed into live mouse pups and no one knows whether it would work for humans.
Still, “It’s a very clever strategy,” said Diana Laird, a stem cell and reproductive expert at the University of California, San Francisco, who was not involved in the research. “It’s an important step in both stem cell and reproductive biology.”
Scientists described their work in a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature.
First, they took skin cells from the tails of male mice and transformed them into “induced pluripotent stem cells,” which can develop into many different types of cells or tissues. Then, through a process that involved growing them and treating them with a drug, they converted male mouse stem cells into female cells and produced functional egg cells. Finally, they fertilized those eggs and implanted the embryos into female mice. About 1 percent of the embryos – 7 out of 630 – grew into live mouse pups.
The pups appeared to grow normally and were able to become parents themselves in the usual way, research leader Katsuhiko Hayashi of Kyushu University and Osaka University in Japan told fellow scientists at the Third International Summit on Human Genome Editing last week.
In a commentary published alongside the Nature study, Laird and her colleague, Jonathan Bayerl, said the work “opens up new avenues in reproductive biology and fertility research” for animals and people. Down the road, for example, it might be possible to reproduce endangered mammals from a single male.
“And it might even provide a template for enabling more people,” such as male same-sex couples, “to have biological children, while circumventing the ethical and legal issues of donor eggs,” they wrote.
But they raised several cautions. The most notable one? The technique is extremely inefficient. They said it’s unclear why only a tiny fraction of the embryos placed into surrogate mice survived; the reasons could be technical or biological. They also stressed that it’s still too early to know if the protocol would work in human stem cells at all.
Laird also said scientists need to be mindful of the mutations and errors that may be introduced in a culture dish before using stem cells to make eggs.
The research is the latest to test new ways to create mouse embryos in the lab. Last summer, scientists in California and Israel created “synthetic” mouse embryos from stem cells without a dad’s sperm or a mom’s egg or womb. Those embryos mirrored natural mouse embryos up to 8 ½ days after fertilization, containing the same structures, including one like a beating heart. Scientists said the feat could eventually lay the foundation for creating synthetic human embryos for research in the future.