Michael Fillon and the band Sandwash will play at the Alpha Club in Dubai on Friday.
Michael Fillon and the band Sandwash will play at the Alpha Club in Dubai on Friday.

From Latin rhythms to groovecore

Ben Elton is one of those public figures whom it's hard to see clearly through the hail of political crossfire. He started out as the reigning genius in Britain's lefty-ish alternative comedy scene, writing classics of post-punk television such as The Young Ones and Blackadder, foaming with politically correct indignation on Saturday Live and generally sticking it to Thatch. The right detested him.

His response, prophetic as it soon seemed, was a conciliatory drift towards the middle of the road. He churned out doorstop satirical novels that somehow managed to do double-duty as mass-market airport fiction. Any British sitcom about bumbling dads was likely to bear his fingerprints. And then there were the endless, unfathomably cynical musicals - jukebox money-spinners that brought the hits of Queen and Rod Stewart to the West End, in the process spoiling all three.

By now, one can hardly mention Elton's name in Britain without triggering an avalanche of rancour from one quarter or another: for what he was or what be became. And so, short of seeing his stuff for yourself, it's hard to get a clear read on whether or not he's actually any good. This week, the Dubai Drama Group offers us the chance to do just that. It's staging Gasping, his 1990 play that imagines what would happen if air were to become a yuppified designer product. It's not the best of his theatre works (that honour goes to Popcorn, a meditation on media violence inspired by Natural Born Killers), but it's a sight less abject than his musicals. At the very least, it really runs with the premise of a luxury market in oxygen. Moreover, the one-dimensional characters are somehow easier to bear in the flesh than disembodied across the 400 pages of one of his novels. Perhaps that's to be expected: whatever else he is, Elton is a great plot technician. On stage, this manifests in a blend of intricacy and nastiness that seems almost Jacobean in character. There's a flair for villainy, here - but then, this is the man who wrote We Will Rock You.

No such caveats are necessary with the Habana Son Music Club, the veteran Cuban band that is coming to Abu Dhabi this week as part of the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage's persistently interesting Music of the World programme. These are serious scholars of Latin Caribbean music: two of them actually studied under Ruben Gonzalez of the Buena Vista Social Club fame, which gives a fair idea of where they're coming from. But they also make a point of exploring the deeper sources of Cuban music - the cha cha, bolero, rumba and salsa. They also have the most flamboyant maraca player since the Happy Mondays, which is recommendation enough.

Finally, the Alpha Club in Dubai is celebrating its first birthday with a crowd-pleasing line-up of local bands. The opener is Sandwash, purveyors of a sludgy brand of party metal known as groovecore. They're very much the backbone of Dubai's live scene, and if you have yet to see them, your initiation into UAE nightlife is incomplete. Next up are Swerte, Jabbar and Hirabeat, two MCs and human beatbox from the much-praised Recipe hip-hop collective. They've picked up some admiring coverage recently, not least from the global music e-zine Spin Earth, and a visit to YouTube is all it takes to see why. Juliana Down are heading the bill, however, as is only fitting for a band more or less officially recognised as the UAE's act-most-likely-to. The melodic rockers are perennial sidemen for visiting megastars, making their way on to the Dubai Bike Week bill along with Deep Purple, supporting Justin Timberlake, and so on. This anniversary show is a welcome opportunity to see them take a starring role. They've done their time, after all.

Gasping Friday and Saturday, Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Centre, Mall of the Emirates, Dubai Habana Son Music Club Thursday, Al Dhafra Auditorium, Cultural Foundation, Abu Dhabi See You Next Friday Alpha's Birthday, Friday, Le Meridian Hotel, Dubai

Monster Hunter: World


PlayStation 4, Xbox One

West Asia Premiership

Dubai Hurricanes 58-10 Dubai Knights Eagles

Dubai Tigers 5-39 Bahrain

Jebel Ali Dragons 16-56 Abu Dhabi Harlequins


Company: Eco Way
Started: December 2023
Founder: Ivan Kroshnyi
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: Electric vehicles
Investors: Bootstrapped with undisclosed funding. Looking to raise funds from outside

The specs: 2018 BMW R nineT Scrambler

Price, base / as tested Dh57,000

Engine 1,170cc air/oil-cooled flat twin four-stroke engine

Transmission Six-speed gearbox

Power 110hp) @ 7,750rpm

Torque 116Nm @ 6,000rpm

Fuel economy, combined 5.3L / 100km


Company name: Klipit

Started: 2022

Founders: Venkat Reddy, Mohammed Al Bulooki, Bilal Merchant, Asif Ahmed, Ovais Merchant

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Digital receipts, finance, blockchain

Funding: $4 million

Investors: Privately/self-funded

UAE Tour 2020

Stage 1: The Pointe Palm Jumeirah - Dubai Silicon Oasis, 148km
Stage 2: Hatta - Hatta Dam, 168km​​​​​​​
Stage 3: Al Qudra Cycle Track - Jebel Hafeet, 184km​​​​​​​
Stage 4: Zabeel Park - Dubai City Walk, 173km​​​​​​​
Stage 5: Al Ain - Jebel Hafeet, 162km​​​​​​​
Stage 6: Al Ruwais - Al Mirfa, 158km​​​​​​​
Stage 7: Al Maryah Island - Abu Dhabi Breakwater, 127km

UAE athletes heading to Paris 2024

Abdullah Humaid Al Muhairi, Abdullah Al Marri, Omar Al Marzooqi, Salem Al Suwaidi, and Ali Al Karbi (four to be selected).

Men: Narmandakh Bayanmunkh (66kg), Nugzari Tatalashvili (81kg), Aram Grigorian (90kg), Dzhafar Kostoev (100kg), Magomedomar Magomedomarov (+100kg); women's Khorloodoi Bishrelt (52kg).

Safia Al Sayegh (women's road race).

Men: Yousef Rashid Al Matroushi (100m freestyle); women: Maha Abdullah Al Shehi (200m freestyle).

Maryam Mohammed Al Farsi (women's 100 metres).

The Transfiguration

Director: Michael O’Shea

Starring: Eric Ruffin, Chloe Levine

Three stars

Company Profile

Name: HyveGeo
Started: 2023
Founders: Abdulaziz bin Redha, Dr Samsurin Welch, Eva Morales and Dr Harjit Singh
Based: Cambridge and Dubai
Number of employees: 8
Industry: Sustainability & Environment
Funding: $200,000 plus undisclosed grant
Investors: Venture capital and government


5pm: Handicap (PA) Dh70,000 1,400m
Winner: AF Tathoor, Tadhg O’Shea (jockey), Ernst Oertel (trainer)
5.30pm: Handicap (TB) Dh70,000 1,000m
Winner: Dahawi, Antonio Fresu, Musabah Al Muhairi
6pm: Maiden (PA) Dh70,000 2,000m
Winner: Aiz Alawda, Fernando Jara, Ahmed Al Mehairbi
6.30pm: Handicap (PA) Dh70,000 2,000m
Winner: ES Nahawand, Fernando Jara, Mohammed Daggash
7pm: Maiden (PA) Dh70,000 1,600m
Winner: Winked, Connor Beasley, Abdallah Al Hammadi
7.30pm: Al Ain Mile Group 3 (PA) Dh350,000 1,600m
Winner: Somoud, Connor Beasley, Ahmed Al Mehairbi
8pm: Handicap (PA) Dh70,000 1,600m
Winner: Al Jazi, Fabrice Veron, Eric Lemartinel

The Year Earth Changed

Directed by:Tom Beard

Narrated by: Sir David Attenborough

Stars: 4

Company Profile

Company name: Cargoz
Date started: January 2022
Founders: Premlal Pullisserry and Lijo Antony
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 30
Investment stage: Seed

The Facility’s Versatility

Between the start of the 2020 IPL on September 20, and the end of the Pakistan Super League this coming Thursday, the Zayed Cricket Stadium has had an unprecedented amount of traffic.
Never before has a ground in this country – or perhaps anywhere in the world – had such a volume of major-match cricket.
And yet scoring has remained high, and Abu Dhabi has seen some classic encounters in every format of the game.
October 18, IPL, Kolkata Knight Riders tied with Sunrisers Hyderabad
The two playoff-chasing sides put on 163 apiece, before Kolkata went on to win the Super Over
January 8, ODI, UAE beat Ireland by six wickets
A century by CP Rizwan underpinned one of UAE’s greatest ever wins, as they chased 270 to win with an over to spare
February 6, T10, Northern Warriors beat Delhi Bulls by eight wickets
The final of the T10 was chiefly memorable for a ferocious over of fast bowling from Fidel Edwards to Nicholas Pooran
March 14, Test, Afghanistan beat Zimbabwe by six wickets
Eleven wickets for Rashid Khan, 1,305 runs scored in five days, and a last session finish
June 17, PSL, Islamabad United beat Peshawar Zalmi by 15 runs
Usman Khawaja scored a hundred as Islamabad posted the highest score ever by a Pakistan team in T20 cricket


The flights

Emirates flies direct from Dubai to Rio de Janeiro from Dh7,000 return including taxes. Avianca fliles from Rio to Cusco via Lima from $399 (Dhxx) return including taxes.

The trip

From US$1,830 per deluxe cabin, twin share, for the one-night Spirit of the Water itinerary and US$4,630 per deluxe cabin for the Peruvian Highlands itinerary, inclusive of meals, and beverages. Surcharges apply for some excursions.

Company Profile

Name: Direct Debit System
Started: Sept 2017
Based: UAE with a subsidiary in the UK
Industry: FinTech
Funding: Undisclosed
Investors: Elaine Jones
Number of employees: 8

Where to buy and try:

Nutritional yeast


Organic Foods & Café

Bulletproof coffee

Wild & The Moon


Comptoir 102


Organic Foods & Café

Charcoal drinks and dishes

Various juice bars, including Comptoir 102

Bridgewater Tavern

3 Fils


Supermarkets across the UAE

The Specs

Engine: 1.6-litre 4-cylinder petrol
Power: 118hp
Torque: 149Nm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Price: From Dh61,500
On sale: Now


The flights
Emirates and Etihad fly direct from the UAE to Los Angeles, from Dh4,975 return, including taxes. The flight time is 16 hours. Alaska Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Aeromexico and Southwest all fly direct from Los Angeles to San Jose del Cabo from Dh1,243 return, including taxes. The flight time is two-and-a-half hours.

The trip
Lindblad Expeditions National Geographic’s eight-day Whales Wilderness itinerary costs from US$6,190 (Dh22,736) per person, twin share, including meals, accommodation and excursions, with departures in March and April 2018.