British explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes on his new book ‘Lawrence of Arabia’

British explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes on his new book ‘Lawrence of Arabia’
Renowned British explorer, travel writer, expedition leader and former soldier Sir Ranulph Fiennes has lived his life on the edge. (Supplied)
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Updated 14 February 2024
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British explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes on his new book ‘Lawrence of Arabia’

British explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes on his new book ‘Lawrence of Arabia’
  • The British explorer talks to Arab News about the parallels between his life and that of T.E. Lawrence, and his own time in the Arab world 

DUBAI: The renowned British explorer, travel writer, expedition leader and former soldier Sir Ranulph Fiennes has lived his life on the edge. He was the first to cross Antarctica on foot and reportedly the only person to set foot on both the North and South Poles.  

Since he started his travels back in 1967, when he was in his early twenties, Fiennes has seen it all, including the great mountains Kilimanjaro, Everest and Elbrus, the latter being the highest mountain in Europe. So, where has this drive come from?  

“It’s called DNA,” Fiennes tells Arab News. “My dad was killed in the Second World War, four months before I was born. My mum told me all about him. He’d been wounded so many times. He was in command of the greatest British tank regiment of the time and all I wanted to do, as I grew up, was to get into the British army and then become a colonel like dad. But I only reached the rank of captain.”  

After exploring cold climates, Fiennes decided to head into “the great heat,” just like one of his heroes — the British archaeologist and intelligence officer T.E. Lawrence, famously known as Lawrence of Arabia — did.  




An undated portrait of Sir Thomas Edward Lawrence, known as Lawrence of Arabia. (AFP)

Lawrence had a reputation for being a friend to the Arabs who were seeking autonomy from ruling Turks during the centuries-long Ottoman Empire. During World War One, he famously led bold military raids with Arab tribesmen in the great Arab Revolt. Like Lawrence, who died in 1935 at the age of 46, Fiennes was also involved in strategic military action in the Gulf, specifically Oman. In the late Sixties, he captained Arab troops in the Dhofar Rebellion, fighting against the Marxist threat.  

“I saw an advertisement from the Sultan of Oman for a two-and-a-half year posting and I put my name in immediately and was accepted,” he recalls.   




Ranulph Fiennes (front, center) with recce platoon in Dhofar 1968. (Supplied)

Fiennes has recently written a biography of Lawrence, in which he also offers his own perspective of battle. Lawrence’s story of the harsh heat of the desert has always resonated with Fiennes.  

“When I went out (to Oman), I had a copy of one of Lawrence’s books with me and I really felt more about him than any other person that I’d read about,” he says.  

Fiennes also explains in the book that “it was only after treading in his footsteps and embarking on similar adventures that I realized the man’s true greatness. . .  While there are some interesting parallels between us, I’ve often found that he is a man without equal. His adventures in the desert were enough to stir the blood.”  

Lawrence’s life of adventure began with a difficult childhood. He was reportedly abused by his mother. But his intelligence and maturity shone through from an early age.  

“It was said that he could recite the alphabet by the age of three, while he could also read the newspaper upside down before he was five. He became fascinated by military history, devouring all manner of books on the subject, including all thirty-two volumes of Napoleon’s correspondence,” according to Fiennes.  




Ranulph Fiennes (right) in Oman in the late 1960s. (Supplied) 

After studying history at Oxford University, Lawrence visited the Arab world for the first time in 1909, and it left a lasting impression on him. A few years later, he performed archaeological work in Carchemish in northern Syria.  

Lawrence was fluent in Arabic, friendly and approachable, developing a bond with Arab communities, as well as offering them medical assistance. Fiennes says that the man fit right in.  

“I came out with the definite opinion that he did love working with those particular Arabs and I loved working with the Arabs in a military situation, like he was. His actions made a great difference to the whole fight against the Ottoman Empire. He got on very well with the key guys, like Feisal. I don’t think you could have had a better person — Muslim or non-Muslim — than him in every way,” notes Fiennes. 

The ‘Feisal’ that Fiennes is talking about is Prince Feisal Bin Al-Hussein, the son of the Grand Sharif of Makkah. The prince was the leader of the revolt, and a close ally of Lawrence.  

“I felt at first glance that this was the man I had come to Arabia to seek, the leader who would bring the Arab Revolt to full glory,” Lawrence once wrote of the prince in his memoir, “Seven Pillars of Wisdom.”  

Between 1916 and 1918, the revolt galvanized Lawrence and Arab troops to attack Turkish-heavy locations in modern-day Syria and Jordan, notably the Hejaz Railway and the Aqaba fort. There was a lot of marching in the desert for miles on end, an intense task which tested Lawrence.  

“He was a very hardy guy,” says Fiennes. “He could put up with discomfort an awful lot. On one occasion, when he was leading an attack, he shot his own camel as he charged and fell off. He managed to just get back on again and carry on. That was just one of many examples of his hardiness. It’s not normal to start camel travel with a gun. You normally do it slowly and learn to get comfortable on board a camel.”  

Aside from setting foot in Damascus and Aleppo, Lawrence also stayed in modern-day Saudi Arabia. His traditional two-story house in the city of Yanbu, located on the Red Sea, still stands today. It was recently renovated to attract visitors and history enthusiasts.  

Victory for the Arab Revolt turned sour when the winners of the First World War — Britain and France, among other nations — unveiled their own plans for controlling the Levant, going against Lawrence’s promise that the Arabs would have the right to self-rule.  

“He felt terribly guilty that the Brits would take over, like the French and sometimes the Russians, instead of handing it straight over,” says Fiennes. “Unfortunately, he was not in as important a position as those people who wanted the French and Brits to divide Arabia between them.”  

When the disappointed Lawrence returned to England, he kept a low profile. “He was very honest about his own view of himself. He didn’t want to be famous or infamous. He just wanted to disappear,” says Fiennes.   

Nearly five decades have passed since Fiennes’ days in Oman, but despite the fact that he and his men were in a situation where life could be snatched away at any moment, he has many fond memories.  

“I am very lucky to have had such a wonderful time with many Arab soldiers in Oman,” he says. “Many things that were in Lawrence’s book remind me of the happy times — all the nights sitting around the fire, joking and laughing — with those soldiers in the desert.” 


Hollywood’s Will Smith and Martin Lawrence hit ‘Bad Boys’ red carpet in Riyadh

Hollywood’s Will Smith and Martin Lawrence hit ‘Bad Boys’ red carpet in Riyadh
Updated 55 min 22 sec ago
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Hollywood’s Will Smith and Martin Lawrence hit ‘Bad Boys’ red carpet in Riyadh

Hollywood’s Will Smith and Martin Lawrence hit ‘Bad Boys’ red carpet in Riyadh

RIYADH: Cameras flashed and crowds cheered as Will Smith and Martin Lawrence hit the red carpet at Roshn Front’s VOX Cinema in Riyadh on Friday night to mark the fourth installment of the “Bad Boys” film franchise.

“Bad Boys: Ride or Die” arrives 30 years after Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett, played by Smith and Lawrence, respectively, teamed up as the infamous buddy cops.

The latest film, exclusively in cinemas on June 6, shows how the characters have changed over the years.

“Their backs have gotten weaker, and their knees hurt more,” Smith said jokingly.

“Part of what we wanted to do with the franchise is to have the characters grow in an age-appropriate way,” he told Arab News.

“We are trusting that the audience wants to grow with us, wants to go with us, and wants to follow the natural progression of life and what these characters would be going through.”

The film continues to mix action, drama and comedy, but also allows the characters to grow and develop spiritually.

“The core of the movie is about friendship, love, and family,” Smith said.

“And would you ride or die for your partner?” Lawrence added.

The film builds on the success of the third installment, “Bad Boys For Life,” released in 2020, with the directorial duo for the latest production, Bilall Fallah and Adil El-Arbi,  reportedly inspired by video games.

Lawrence said the “top notch” directors were great to work with, and inspired the actors to “come up with magic.”

Smith added: “It’s interesting working with non-American directors; there’s such a different perspective… You know, they were (young) when the first movie came out, so there’s such a reverence for the original films. They’re bringing that energy, but they also want to put their signature on it. Energetically, it was fun to work with them, and also their openness to the spirituality of the film was also refreshing.”

Action films, whether “Mission Impossible” or the more recent “Monkey Man,” have enjoyed a revival in recent years, and both actors believe the genre will always have a place in the industry.

“The physical wars of humanity represent the inner wars that we go through. So, I think human beings are always going to like watching a good visualized external battle that they can relate to,” Smith said.

“We all know internally that life is kind of a series of ordeals. How do you manage these ordeals and put things back together? And I think that this movie is a comedic look at two people trying to be friends, surviving ordeals together, which changes them without life breaking their relationship. It’s like a standard bromance.”

With the film premiere taking place in Saudi Arabia’s capital, both stars expressed their excitement over initiatives underway in the Kingdom.

Smith said: “I performed at Soundstorm and everything is brand new. The energy of 40 and 50-year-old people in Saudi is like the energy of 20 and 30-year-old people in America.

“It’s like there is this powerful sense of being on the cusp of the future. It’s showing up in music, it’s showing up in art, it’s showing up in architecture, and hopefully shows up at the cinema tonight.”


Dave Chappell says support for Gaza war is result of ‘antisemitism in the West’ at Abu Dhabi show 

Dave Chappell says support for Gaza war is result of ‘antisemitism in the West’ at Abu Dhabi show 
Updated 24 May 2024
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Dave Chappell says support for Gaza war is result of ‘antisemitism in the West’ at Abu Dhabi show 

Dave Chappell says support for Gaza war is result of ‘antisemitism in the West’ at Abu Dhabi show 

DUBAI: US comedian Dave Chappelle performed to a packed audience at Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Arena on Thursday as part of Abu Dhabi Comedy Week, where he also addressed the war in Gaza.

“What is happening in Gaza is a direct result of antisemitism in the West,” he said on stage.

“If you are in America, the best thing you can do is to make American Jews feel safe, feel loved and supported so they can know they don’t have to support a country that is committing genocide just to feel safe,” he added. 

Chappelle previously slammed the Israeli bombing of Gaza, as well as the US support for it, at a show in Boston in October.

According to people in attendance, an audience member asked Chappelle to shut up, which sparked a heated response from the comedian.  

“You can’t take tens of billions from my country and go kill innocent women and children and tell me to shut the f--- up,” he said, according to the Wall Street Journal.  

Some members of the crowd began chanting “free Palestine,” to which Chappelle replied: “You are damn right, free Palestine.”  


World celebrities hit red carpet at Saudi-backed amfAR gala

World celebrities hit red carpet at Saudi-backed amfAR gala
Updated 24 May 2024
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World celebrities hit red carpet at Saudi-backed amfAR gala

World celebrities hit red carpet at Saudi-backed amfAR gala
  • Red Sea International Film Festival sponsors for fourth year
  • Demi Moore was host, which Elizabeth Taylor held in 1993

DUBAI: Some of the world’s biggest stars, in the French Riviera for the Cannes Film Festival, made appearances on Thursday at the 30th annual amfAR gala as Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea International Film Festival took on the role of presenting sponsor for the fourth consecutive year. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by amfAR (@amfar)

Among those in attendance were Demi Moore, Michelle Yeoh, Heidi Klum, Kelly Rowland, Andie MacDowell, Diane Kruger, Colman Domingo, Michelle Rodriguez, Winnie Harlow, Robin Thicke, Diplo, Paris Jackson, Petra Nemcova, Karolina Kurkova, Natasha Poly, and Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by amfAR (@amfar)

The RSIFF’s CEO Mohammed Al-Turki and chairwoman Jomana Al-Rashid were also present.

The American Foundation for AIDS Research, or AmfAR, is dedicated to the support of AIDS research, prevention, education and advocacy. It has raised nearly $900 million since 1985.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by amfAR (@amfar)

Demi Moore, whose film “The Substance” caused a stir at Cannes, hosted this year’s gala, a role launched by Elizabeth Taylor in 1993.

The red carpet at the Hotel du Cap, Eden Roc, was awash with models, actors, singers and fashion designers as well as plenty of festival movers and shakers.

A few celebrities opted for gowns by Lebanese designer Zuhair Murad including German model Toni Garrn, sports commentator Alex Scott and Brazilian model Thayna Soares.

Garrn wore a purple beaded strapless gown with scalloped edges and spider web-like details, while Scott was adorned with a rose gold off-the-shoulder sheer tulle beaded gown, and Soares opted for a hooded gold beaded short dress with a plunging neckline and embroidered tassels.

German model Kim Dammer dazzled on the red carpet in a glamorous halter-neck black gown, intricately embroidered with geometric shapes by Lebanese couturier Rami Kadi.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Kim Dammer (@kimdammer)

Lebanese designer Nicolas Jebran was championed by Turkish actress Hande Ercel, who wore a black gown adorned with red and blue beads and featuring a plunging neckline.

Egyptian actress Yasmine Sabri was also in attendance, wearing a sparkly silver dress by Lebanese designer Jean Pierre Khoury. The dress featured thousands of mirrored tube beads hand-sewn onto a corseted silhouette, according to the designer.


Summer cinema: The blockbusters coming your way over the next few months

Summer cinema: The blockbusters coming your way over the next few months
Updated 24 May 2024
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Summer cinema: The blockbusters coming your way over the next few months

Summer cinema: The blockbusters coming your way over the next few months

DUBAI: Here are eight blockbusters coming your way over the next few months.

‘Deadpool & Wolverine’ 

Director: Shawn Levy 

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Hugh Jackman, Emma Corrin 

Release date: July 26 

In what will likely be the summer’s biggest box-office draw, the now-retired Wade Wilson — aka the indestructible mercenary Deadpool — is pulled from his sedate existence by the Time Variance Authority and forced into carrying out a mission with fellow anti-hero Wolverine, of X-Men fame. Both men reluctantly engage in a task that “will change the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.” 

‘Hit Man’ 

Director: Richard Linklater 

Starring: Glen Powell, Adria Arjona, Austin Amelio 

Release date: May 24 (June 7, Netflix) 

Action-comedy from one of the best directors around. Gary Johnson (Powell, who co-wrote the movie with Linklater) is a straight-laced college professor who moonlights as a fake hitman to entrap criminals for the local police department. But when he falls for a prospective client, Madisson (Arjona), Gary gets in way above his head, and his lies start to catch up with him. The bizarre premise is actually based on a true story (although Linklater has stressed that his film is not a faithful recreation of events).  

‘Bad Boys: Ride or Die’ 

Directors: Adil & Bilall 

Starring: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Vanessa Hudgens 

Release date: June 7 

Detectives Mike Lowrey (Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Lawrence) are back for a fourth big-screen outing. This time, they’re investigating their own, when their late captain is accused of having been working with drug cartels. The two men set out to clear their captain’s name and find out who in the Miami PD could be responsible for framing him, only to be set up themselves and forced to go on the run. 

‘Inside Out 2’ 

Director: Kelsey Mann 

Starring: Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Lewis Black 

Release date: June 14 

The sequel to Pixar’s much-loved “Inside Out” — about a young girl called Riley and the five personified emotions that determine her thoughts and actions — finds Riley entering her teenage years, and ushering in some new emotions (Anxiety, Ennui, Embarrassment and Envy) who throw off the delicate equilibrium achieved by the veterans Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust. 

‘The Bikeriders’ 

Director: Jeff Nichols 

Starring: Jodie Comer, Austin Butler, Tom Hardy 

Release date: June 21 

Nichols’ tale of the exploits of the fictional Chicago-based biker gang the Outlaws MC over the course of the 1960s is inspired by the photo-book of the same name by Danny Lyon. What, at first, is intended as a place of refuge and sanctuary for local outsiders where they can feel free to be themselves evolves — or devolves — into a violent crime organization.  

‘Despicable Me 4’ 

Director: Chris Renaud 

Voice cast: Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Pierre Coffin 

Release date: July 3 

Gru — once a supervillain, now an agent for good — is living happily with his wife (and fellow agent) Lucy, their three adopted daughters, and their newborn baby boy. But when Maxime Le Mal, the dangerous criminal that Gru helped put away, escapes from prison, Gru and his family (and, of course, his Minions) must go on the run. 

‘Fly Me to the Moon’ 

Director: Greg Berlanti 

Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Channing Tatum, Anna Garcia 

Release date: July 12 

Set in the Space Race of the 1960s, Berlanti’s romantic comedy-drama finds NASA director Cole Davis preparing for the launch of Apollo 11. An already stressful situation is made worse when he falls for marketing specialist Kelly Jones, whom the government has appointed to stage a fake moon landing in case anything goes wrong with the real deal.   

‘Borderlands’ 

Director: Eli Roth 

Starring: Cate Blanchett, Kevin Hart, Jack Black 

Release date: August 9 

With video-game adaptations no longer the dross they used to be, thanks to the success of TV shows like “The Last of Us” and “Fallout,” hopes are high for this star-studded take on Gearbox Software’s all-action looter-shooter. Blanchett plays Lillith — a much-feared outlaw who returns to her home planet of Pandora on a mission to find the missing daughter of the universe’s most powerful man, Atlas. To achieve her goal, she teams up with a band of misfits to tackle monsters and bandits and find the girl. 


The Roundup: 3 pop culture highlights from across the region 

The Roundup: 3 pop culture highlights from across the region 
Updated 24 May 2024
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The Roundup: 3 pop culture highlights from across the region 

The Roundup: 3 pop culture highlights from across the region 

DUBAI: Here are three pop culture highlights from across the region.

‘Drawing Time: Duets’ 

This exhibition, from the collection of Sharjah Art Foundation, runs until August 4 at Al-Mureijah Art Spaces. The show, the organizers say, “grew out of a two-year research project into conserving paper” and brings together works from 15 artists (including Baya, whose “Femme au paon” is pictured here) that “present a composite picture of what drawing is and could be today.” It also “delves into the concept of the double” by presenting the works in “artistic duets.”  

Gultrah 

‘Revival’ 

The popular Tunisian alternative outfit’s second studio album is billed as “Tunisian reggae,” a “distinctive fusion” of “innovative blends” that “delves deep into introspection and self-acceptance.” With touches of funk, ska, and Afrobeat, the nine tracks on “Revival” address a number of social issues as well as “the quest for inner peace,” and should help Gultrah build on the success of their hit single “Win.” 

Dima Ayad 

The Dubai-based Lebanese fashion designer’s latest collection of dresses, pants and coats is based around “a harmonious fusion of nostalgic 90s style elements with contemporary sensibilities,” according to a press release. The collection features “warm earth tones,” blacks, whites, and splashes of bright pink, while the new one-shoulder dress provides “a unique twist to the (designer’s) knitted signature fabric.”