Margaret Thatcher in the UAE and 'The Matrix' premiere: Five events that happened on March 24 in history

This is our new daily list of important events from the last century

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A political event, a magician's birthday and the premiere of one of the world's favourite films – here are some of the most interesting things that happened on this day in history.

Margaret Thatcher visited Ras Al Khaimah

Year: 1998

Margaret Thatcher was not a particularly camera-shy woman, but here she is seen, alongside Sheikh Faisal bin Saqr Al Qasimi, chairman of the Ras Al Khaimah Free Zone, cautiously waving a photographer away. The so-called Iron Lady, who was Britain’s prime minister from 1979 to 1990, travelled to the UAE 22 years ago today for the opening of a British exhibition. Her first-ever visit to the UAE happened in 1981, when she was in Abu Dhabi to assist with negotiations for the supply of military hardware and training facilities to the country. Thatcher died in 2013 aged 87.

Halle Berry became the first woman of colour to win the Academy Award for Best Actress

Year: 2002

When Halle Berry became the first African-American woman to win an Oscar for Best Actress in 2002, for her role in Monster's Ball, it was seen as a game-changing moment for the movie industry. Yet, it's now 18 years on and major awarding bodies are still being accused of favouring white men in their selection process.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Sipa/Shutterstock (379656b)
Halle Berry wore Elie Saab to the 2002 Oscars. Shutterstock 

While there has been an uptick in roles for people of colour, Berry remains the only black woman to have won this prestigious gong. Berry told Teen Vogue in 2017 that what seemed to her like a milestone, now feels meaningless. "That moment really meant nothing," she said. "I thought it meant something, but I think it meant nothing."

French novelist Jules Verne died

Year: 1905

If you haven’t already heard the name Jules Verne, you will most certainly have heard of his works, which laid the foundations for modern science-fiction.

The prolific French novelist, poet and playwright penned some of the world's most prized adventure stories, including Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864), Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870) and Around the World in Eighty Days (1873).

He was born on February 8, 1828, in the town of Nantes, France and died aged 77 in Amiens. He left a draw full of nearly completed manuscripts, which were then posthumously published between 1905 and 1919 by his son, Michel, who, it later turned out, had completely rewritten much of his father’s work.

American-Hungarian illusionist Harry Houdini was born

Year: 1874

Forget Derren Brown and David Blaine – Harry Houdini is arguably the most famous illusionist of all time. He was certainly one of the first to capture the world’s imagination, as he performed some of the most sensational escapes for his time, including being buried alive and being suspended by his ankles while wearing a straitjacket. He was born Erik Weisz in Budapest and moved to the US four years later. While he began his magic career in 1891, it wasn’t until 1899 that he got a break and met manager Martin Beck, who was impressed with his handcuffs act. Houdini went on to work his way through the vaudeville theatre circuit and, by the early 1900s, he was entertaining audiences all over the world. He died of peritonitis on October 31, 1926, aged 52.

‘The Matrix’ first premiered

Year: 1999

American actor Keanu Reeves has had a patchy career over the years, with big box offices highs and lows. One of his biggest mainstream successes, however, was undoubtedly when he played Thomas Anderson, a computer programmer known by his alias "Neo", in The Matrix, which first premiered on this day 21 years ago. It tells a story of how humans are unknowingly inhabitants of a world controlled by machines.

Keanu Reeves first appeared as Neo in 'The Matrix' in 1999. Courtesy of Warner Bros
Keanu Reeves first appeared as Neo in 'The Matrix' in 1999. Courtesy of Warner Bros

Directed by the Wachowski sisters, the fantasy flick, which also starred Laurence Fishburne and Carrie-Anne Moss, has since been praised as one of the best science-fiction films of all time and it went on to win four Academy Awards. Its success led to a franchise of two sequels, a series of animated short films, three video games, comics and short stories. The Matrix 4 is to be released in 2021.