Sheikha Hend Al Qassemi originally wrote the stories for her column for Velvet magazine. Jason Gareth / Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation
Sheikha Hend Al Qassemi originally wrote the stories for her column for Velvet magazine. Jason Gareth / Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation

Sheikha Hend Al Qassemi’s The Black Book of Arabia holds all the secrets



"You know when a plane crashes and everyone looks for the black box?" says Emirati writer, artist, editor and fashion label owner Sheikha Hend Al Qassemi. "Well, in the black box are all the secrets, the untold stories, the facts. So that's why I called my debut The Black Book of Arabia. There's no fanfare to these short stories, they're often just the result of hearing these incredible, sometimes secret, tales and wanting to tell them straight."

Which is just about the perfect way to describe her first collection. Originally written in shorter form for a True Stories column in Velvet Magazine (of which she is editor-in-chief), Sheikha Hend embellished stories that she'd either read about – like a bride who goes blind on her wedding day or a Yemeni who sells her kidney for love – uncovered in court papers (a Saudi woman with two husbands who files for divorce) or were told to her by neighbours. In fact, the column became so popular, Al Qassemi ended up getting unsolicited calls from people keen to tell their stories.

"What I started to hear was incredible," she says. "For example, I got a call from someone who told me how she was basically kidnapped by her mother and taken to Egypt. She said she'd broken so many bones in her body, she'd stopped counting. It was just ... horrible. So I changed some of the details, and that was From Riches To Rags."

Sheikha Hend is careful not to sensationalise such potentially dramatic material – she certainly makes good on her original intention to stick to the facts. But there is definitely a unifying theme: the strength and courage of Arab women. For all the interest the book will garner in the Middle East, there is the definite sense Sheikha Hend has something bigger in mind for this collection, a righting of the mistaken belief in the West that Arab women are somehow meek or subservient.

“Women have the same problems everywhere, actually,” she says. “They’re just spoken about in a different language – we all have difficulties with marriage or children. Usually you read stories of the heart-broken wife. Very rarely do you see what happens when you push her too far, and most of my stories feature women who are successful in the end. Does that make the collection feminist? I just think they’re stories I’d be interested in reading.”

Of course, the role of women in the Arab world differs depending on location, and there are plenty of nationalities present in Sheikha Hend’s tales. She loves being Emirati and all that it entails – “it’s a land of opportunity for both men and women,” she says – but understands that in Saudi Arabia, unshackling people from their traditions and customs is far trickier.

“They do fear too much,” she thinks. “I once had a Saudi partner and you’d be surprised how modern and forward-thinking the new generation are. But yes, many wouldn’t know what to do if they saw a woman driving. They’d go berserk. But only because they’re worried and scared for the woman, strangely. I don’t drive much, but only because parking is so annoying in our busy cities.”

It wouldn't be a surprise to see Sheikha Hend zooming from place to place in the Emirates with her driver either. Published author is just the latest in her long line of undertakings, which also includes fashion label House of Hend, photography and considerable charity work. There's talk that The Black Book Of Arabia might be made into a television series, and she's recently started work on a full-length novel.

“I just like the creative process, wherever that takes me,” she says. “And the secret is to create, delegate and supervise – that’s my formula! Seriously, though, I am very busy, and I’m thankful to be so. But this book was very fulfilling. Every story taught me a lesson.”

The Black Book Of Arabia (Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing) is out now

artslife@thenational.ae

'Brazen'

Director:+Monika Mitchell

Starring:+Alyssa Milano, Sam Page, Colleen Wheeler

Rating: 3/5

AT A GLANCE

Windfall
An “energy profits levy” to raise around £5bn in a year. The temporary one-off tax will hit oil and gas firms by 25 per cent on extraordinary profits. An 80 per cent investment allowance should calm Conservative nerves that the move will dent North Sea firms’ investment to save them 91p for every £1 they spend.
A universal grant
Energy bills discount, which was effectively a £200 loan, has doubled to a £400 discount on bills for all households from October that will not need to be paid back.
Targeted measures
More than eight million of the lowest income households will receive a £650 one-off payment. It will apply to households on Universal Credit, Tax Credits, Pension Credit and legacy benefits.
Separate one-off payments of £300 will go to pensioners and £150 for those receiving disability benefits.

Match info

Uefa Champions League Group H

Juventus v Valencia, Tuesday, midnight (UAE)

Where to donate in the UAE

The Emirates Charity Portal

You can donate to several registered charities through a “donation catalogue”. The use of the donation is quite specific, such as buying a fan for a poor family in Niger for Dh130.

The General Authority of Islamic Affairs & Endowments

The site has an e-donation service accepting debit card, credit card or e-Dirham, an electronic payment tool developed by the Ministry of Finance and First Abu Dhabi Bank.

Al Noor Special Needs Centre

You can donate online or order Smiles n’ Stuff products handcrafted by Al Noor students. The centre publishes a wish list of extras needed, starting at Dh500.

Beit Al Khair Society

Beit Al Khair Society has the motto “From – and to – the UAE,” with donations going towards the neediest in the country. Its website has a list of physical donation sites, but people can also contribute money by SMS, bank transfer and through the hotline 800-22554.

Dar Al Ber Society

Dar Al Ber Society, which has charity projects in 39 countries, accept cash payments, money transfers or SMS donations. Its donation hotline is 800-79.

Dubai Cares

Dubai Cares provides several options for individuals and companies to donate, including online, through banks, at retail outlets, via phone and by purchasing Dubai Cares branded merchandise. It is currently running a campaign called Bookings 2030, which allows people to help change the future of six underprivileged children and young people.

Emirates Airline Foundation

Those who travel on Emirates have undoubtedly seen the little donation envelopes in the seat pockets. But the foundation also accepts donations online and in the form of Skywards Miles. Donated miles are used to sponsor travel for doctors, surgeons, engineers and other professionals volunteering on humanitarian missions around the world.

Emirates Red Crescent

On the Emirates Red Crescent website you can choose between 35 different purposes for your donation, such as providing food for fasters, supporting debtors and contributing to a refugee women fund. It also has a list of bank accounts for each donation type.

Gulf for Good

Gulf for Good raises funds for partner charity projects through challenges, like climbing Kilimanjaro and cycling through Thailand. This year’s projects are in partnership with Street Child Nepal, Larchfield Kids, the Foundation for African Empowerment and SOS Children's Villages. Since 2001, the organisation has raised more than $3.5 million (Dh12.8m) in support of over 50 children’s charities.

Noor Dubai Foundation

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum launched the Noor Dubai Foundation a decade ago with the aim of eliminating all forms of preventable blindness globally. You can donate Dh50 to support mobile eye camps by texting the word “Noor” to 4565 (Etisalat) or 4849 (du).

Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace

Developer: Big Ape Productions
Publisher: LucasArts
Consoles: PC, PlayStation
Rating: 2/5

Fanney Khan

Producer: T-Series, Anil Kapoor Productions, ROMP, Prerna Arora

Director: Atul Manjrekar

Cast: Anil Kapoor, Aishwarya Rai, Rajkummar Rao, Pihu Sand

Rating: 2/5 

US tops drug cost charts

The study of 13 essential drugs showed costs in the United States were about 300 per cent higher than the global average, followed by Germany at 126 per cent and 122 per cent in the UAE.

Thailand, Kenya and Malaysia were rated as nations with the lowest costs, about 90 per cent cheaper.

In the case of insulin, diabetic patients in the US paid five and a half times the global average, while in the UAE the costs are about 50 per cent higher than the median price of branded and generic drugs.

Some of the costliest drugs worldwide include Lipitor for high cholesterol. 

The study’s price index placed the US at an exorbitant 2,170 per cent higher for Lipitor than the average global price and the UAE at the eighth spot globally with costs 252 per cent higher.

High blood pressure medication Zestril was also more than 2,680 per cent higher in the US and the UAE price was 187 per cent higher than the global price.

Empires of the Steppes: A History of the Nomadic Tribes Who Shaped Civilization

Author: Kenneth W Harl
Publisher:
Hanover Square Press
Pages:
576

Anxiety and work stress major factors

Anxiety, work stress and social isolation are all factors in the recogised rise in mental health problems.

A study UAE Ministry of Health researchers published in the summer also cited struggles with weight and illnesses as major contributors.

Its authors analysed a dozen separate UAE studies between 2007 and 2017. Prevalence was often higher in university students, women and in people on low incomes.

One showed 28 per cent of female students at a Dubai university reported symptoms linked to depression. Another in Al Ain found 22.2 per cent of students had depressive symptoms - five times the global average.

It said the country has made strides to address mental health problems but said: “Our review highlights the overall prevalence of depressive symptoms and depression, which may long have been overlooked."

Prof Samir Al Adawi, of the department of behavioural medicine at Sultan Qaboos University in Oman, who was not involved in the study but is a recognised expert in the Gulf, said how mental health is discussed varies significantly between cultures and nationalities.

“The problem we have in the Gulf is the cross-cultural differences and how people articulate emotional distress," said Prof Al Adawi. 

“Someone will say that I have physical complaints rather than emotional complaints. This is the major problem with any discussion around depression."

Daniel Bardsley

The specs

Engine: 3.9-litre twin-turbo V8
Power: 620hp from 5,750-7,500rpm
Torque: 760Nm from 3,000-5,750rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed dual-clutch auto
On sale: Now
Price: From Dh1.05 million ($286,000)

Why it pays to compare

A comparison of sending Dh20,000 from the UAE using two different routes at the same time - the first direct from a UAE bank to a bank in Germany, and the second from the same UAE bank via an online platform to Germany - found key differences in cost and speed. The transfers were both initiated on January 30.

Route 1: bank transfer

The UAE bank charged Dh152.25 for the Dh20,000 transfer. On top of that, their exchange rate margin added a difference of around Dh415, compared with the mid-market rate.

Total cost: Dh567.25 - around 2.9 per cent of the total amount

Total received: €4,670.30 

Route 2: online platform

The UAE bank’s charge for sending Dh20,000 to a UK dirham-denominated account was Dh2.10. The exchange rate margin cost was Dh60, plus a Dh12 fee.

Total cost: Dh74.10, around 0.4 per cent of the transaction

Total received: €4,756

The UAE bank transfer was far quicker – around two to three working days, while the online platform took around four to five days, but was considerably cheaper. In the online platform transfer, the funds were also exposed to currency risk during the period it took for them to arrive.

RESULTS

1.30pm Handicap (PA) Dh 50,000 (Dirt) 1,400m

Winner AF Almomayaz, Hugo Lebouc (jockey), Ali Rashid Al Raihe (trainer)

2pm Handicap (TB) Dh 84,000 (D) 1,400m

Winner Karaginsky, Tadhg O’Shea, Satish Seemar.

2.30pm Maiden (TB) Dh 60,000 (D) 1,200m

Winner Sadeedd, Ryan Curatolo, Nicholas Bachalard.

3pm Conditions (TB) Dh 100,000 (D) 1,950m

Winner Blue Sovereign, Clement Lecoeuvre, Erwan Charpy.

3.30pm Handicap (TB) Dh 76,000 (D) 1,800m

Winner Tailor’s Row, Royston Ffrench, Salem bin Ghadayer.

4pm Maiden (TB) Dh 60,000 (D) 1,600m

Winner Bladesmith, Tadhg O’Shea, Satish Seemar.

4.30pm Handicap (TB) Dh 68,000 (D) 1,000m

Winner Shanaghai City, Fabrice Veron, Rashed Bouresly.

Is it worth it? We put cheesecake frap to the test.

The verdict from the nutritionists is damning. But does a cheesecake frappuccino taste good enough to merit the indulgence?

My advice is to only go there if you have unusually sweet tooth. I like my puddings, but this was a bit much even for me. The first hit is a winner, but it's downhill, slowly, from there. Each sip is a little less satisfying than the last, and maybe it was just all that sugar, but it isn't long before the rush is replaced by a creeping remorse. And half of the thing is still left.

The caramel version is far superior to the blueberry, too. If someone put a full caramel cheesecake through a liquidiser and scooped out the contents, it would probably taste something like this. Blueberry, on the other hand, has more of an artificial taste. It's like someone has tried to invent this drink in a lab, and while early results were promising, they're still in the testing phase. It isn't terrible, but something isn't quite right either.

So if you want an experience, go for a small, and opt for the caramel. But if you want a cheesecake, it's probably more satisfying, and not quite as unhealthy, to just order the real thing.

 

 

Ain Dubai in numbers

126: The length in metres of the legs supporting the structure

1 football pitch: The length of each permanent spoke is longer than a professional soccer pitch

16 A380 Airbuses: The equivalent weight of the wheel rim.

9,000 tonnes: The amount of steel used to construct the project.

5 tonnes: The weight of each permanent spoke that is holding the wheel rim in place

192: The amount of cable wires used to create the wheel. They measure a distance of 2,4000km in total, the equivalent of the distance between Dubai and Cairo.

Eyasses squad

Charlie Preston (captain) – goal shooter/ goalkeeper (Dubai College)

Arushi Holt (vice-captain) – wing defence / centre (Jumeriah English Speaking School)

Olivia Petricola (vice-captain) – centre / wing attack (Dubai English Speaking College)

Isabel Affley – goalkeeper / goal defence (Dubai English Speaking College)

Jemma Eley – goal attack / wing attack (Dubai College)

Alana Farrell-Morton – centre / wing / defence / wing attack (Nord Anglia International School)

Molly Fuller – goal attack / wing attack (Dubai College)

Caitlin Gowdy – goal defence / wing defence (Dubai English Speaking College)

Noorulain Hussain – goal defence / wing defence (Dubai College)

Zahra Hussain-Gillani – goal defence / goalkeeper (British School Al Khubairat)

Claire Janssen – goal shooter / goal attack (Jumeriah English Speaking School)

Eliza Petricola – wing attack / centre (Dubai English Speaking College)

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Revibe
Started: 2022
Founders: Hamza Iraqui and Abdessamad Ben Zakour
Based: UAE
Industry: Refurbished electronics
Funds raised so far: $10m
Investors: Flat6Labs, Resonance and various others

Feeding the thousands for iftar

Six industrial scale vats of 500litres each are used to cook the kanji or broth 

Each vat contains kanji or porridge to feed 1,000 people

The rice porridge is poured into a 500ml plastic box

350 plastic tubs are placed in one container trolley

Each aluminium container trolley weighing 300kg is unloaded by a small crane fitted on a truck

Latest
Most Read
Top Videos