Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark and Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister
Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark and Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister

The wait is over: Game of Thrones returns to our screens



It’s time to sharpen your sword and strap on your armour: Game of Thrones is back. Judging by recent activity, the fantasy show based on George R R Martin’s book series, A Song of Ice and Fire, returns with anticipation – to put it mildly – at fever pitch. In New York, 7,000 fans, many of them in costume, turned up in Brooklyn for a special fan premiere of Two Swords, the first episode of season four of the HBO show.

“It’s one of the biggest TV series in the world now,” remarks the Irish actor Aidan Gillen, who plays the scheming Littlefinger, one of a countless number of characters that populate Martin’s fictitious land of Westeros. When season three’s finale debuted, it was named 2013’s most pirated show by episode (5.9 million downloads, according to the website TorrentFreak) for the second year in a row – beating even the last-ever episode of Breaking Bad.

But what’s driving audiences wild? “It’s predictably unpredictable,” answers the young British actor Thomas Brodie-Sangster, who plays the seer-like Jojen. “Your favourite characters get killed off and you don’t know what’s going to happen.” Witness last season’s Red Wedding scene, in the penultimate episode, as several major characters from the Stark family – one of several clans vying for absolute power in Westeros – were massacred.

Cut to Twitter meltdown and fans posting their reactions to the scene on YouTube. “The passion and the horror – it was so much fun to watch,” says the Danish actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who plays Jaime Lannister, the so-called Kingslayer. “But it shows that the audience is really invested in these characters.”

All the cast are regularly besieged by fans. “A guy put a curse on me in Poland!” remembers Gillen. “He was about seven foot tall and he looked like something out of Game of Thrones.”

Primarily shot in Belfast’s Titanic Studios, such is the scale of the show – devised by Dan Weiss and David Benioff – that segments are filmed all over the globe: Iceland, for scenes at the Wall, the 700-foot barrier that keeps Westeros (barely) safe from the zombie-like White Walkers and the tribal Wildlings; Morocco, doubling for Essos, the desert-like kingdom where Emilia Clarke’s dragon-nurturing Daenerys finds herself; and Croatia, for Westeros’s capital, King’s Landing.

So what can fans expect – apart from the unexpected? Coster-­Waldau estimates the forthcoming 10 episodes will be very Lannister-centric. “The whole dynamic in that family is very much at the core of season four,” he says, highlighting King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson), the homicidal teenage ruler, spawned from Lannister’s incestuous relationship with his sister, currently ruling Westeros’s Seven Kingdoms from the coveted Iron Throne.

With cast additions including Sherlock’s Mark Gatiss, most intriguing for fans will be the arrival of Pedro Pascal, who plays Prince Oberyn Martell, aka The Red Viper of Dorne, who – unsurprisingly – holds a grudge against the Lannisters for murdering his sister, Princess Elia of Dorne, long ago. “He’s very, very dangerous,” says Pascal, whose character looks more than handy with a sword. Factor in season four’s tagline, “All Men Must Die”, and it’s clear vengeance will be a major theme.

Take young Arya Stark (Maisie Williams), last seen stabbing to death a soldier who dared desecrate her brother’s corpse, killed during the Red Wedding massacre: “I feel like I’m playing a completely different Arya to the one I auditioned with,” says Williams, referring to Arya’s once jocular nature. “Now I feel that’s stripped away. Particularly in the forthcoming season that progresses more. She’s slowly losing that loveability about her and she’s turning into something quite different.”

This is just scratching the surface of the show’s labyrinth-like plotting. What of the Wall-guarding Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) or everyone’s favourite dwarf, Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage)? The stakes, it seems, will be higher for everybody. “The intensity is building,” says Gillen. “There are, quite bravely, several parallel storylines which have yet to dovetail. And all that stuff gets closer together.”

One thing is assured: while past series have kept the shocks reserved until later episodes – beginning with the beheading of Sean Bean’s patriarch Ned Stark in season one – this time action is promised from the off. “It’s a very, very strong, action-packed first episode,” says John Bradley, who plays Samwell Tarly. “The last 15 minutes are as epic as you’ve ever seen in Game of Thrones.”

• The fourth season premiere of Game of Thrones is broadcast at 11pm tonight on OSN First HD

The specs: Lamborghini Aventador SVJ

Price, base: Dh1,731,672

Engine: 6.5-litre V12

Gearbox: Seven-speed automatic

Power: 770hp @ 8,500rpm

Torque: 720Nm @ 6,750rpm

Fuel economy: 19.6L / 100km

match details

Wales v Hungary

Cardiff City Stadium, kick-off 11.45pm

The biog

Favourite book: Men are from Mars Women are from Venus

Favourite travel destination: Ooty, a hill station in South India

Hobbies: Cooking. Biryani, pepper crab are her signature dishes

Favourite place in UAE: Marjan Island

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Almouneer
Started: 2017
Founders: Dr Noha Khater and Rania Kadry
Based: Egypt
Number of staff: 120
Investment: Bootstrapped, with support from Insead and Egyptian government, seed round of
$3.6 million led by Global Ventures

THE SPECS

Engine: 1.6-litre turbo

Transmission: six-speed automatic

Power: 165hp

Torque: 240Nm

Price: From Dh89,000 (Enjoy), Dh99,900 (Innovation)

On sale: Now

Maestro

Director: Bradley Cooper

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Carey Mulligan, Maya Hawke

Rating: 3/5

In-demand jobs and monthly salaries
  • Technology expert in robotics and automation: Dh20,000 to Dh40,000 
  • Energy engineer: Dh25,000 to Dh30,000 
  • Production engineer: Dh30,000 to Dh40,000 
  • Data-driven supply chain management professional: Dh30,000 to Dh50,000 
  • HR leader: Dh40,000 to Dh60,000 
  • Engineering leader: Dh30,000 to Dh55,000 
  • Project manager: Dh55,000 to Dh65,000 
  • Senior reservoir engineer: Dh40,000 to Dh55,000 
  • Senior drilling engineer: Dh38,000 to Dh46,000 
  • Senior process engineer: Dh28,000 to Dh38,000 
  • Senior maintenance engineer: Dh22,000 to Dh34,000 
  • Field engineer: Dh6,500 to Dh7,500
  • Field supervisor: Dh9,000 to Dh12,000
  • Field operator: Dh5,000 to Dh7,000
Stuck in a job without a pay rise? Here's what to do

Chris Greaves, the managing director of Hays Gulf Region, says those without a pay rise for an extended period must start asking questions – both of themselves and their employer.

“First, are they happy with that or do they want more?” he says. “Job-seeking is a time-consuming, frustrating and long-winded affair so are they prepared to put themselves through that rigmarole? Before they consider that, they must ask their employer what is happening.”

Most employees bring up pay rise queries at their annual performance appraisal and find out what the company has in store for them from a career perspective.

Those with no formal appraisal system, Mr Greaves says, should ask HR or their line manager for an assessment.

“You want to find out how they value your contribution and where your job could go,” he says. “You’ve got to be brave enough to ask some questions and if you don’t like the answers then you have to develop a strategy or change jobs if you are prepared to go through the job-seeking process.”

For those that do reach the salary negotiation with their current employer, Mr Greaves says there is no point in asking for less than 5 per cent.

“However, this can only really have any chance of success if you can identify where you add value to the business (preferably you can put a monetary value on it), or you can point to a sustained contribution above the call of duty or to other achievements you think your employer will value.”

 

Water waste

In the UAE’s arid climate, small shrubs, bushes and flower beds usually require about six litres of water per square metre, daily. That increases to 12 litres per square metre a day for small trees, and 300 litres for palm trees.

Horticulturists suggest the best time for watering is before 8am or after 6pm, when water won't be dried up by the sun.

A global report published by the Water Resources Institute in August, ranked the UAE 10th out of 164 nations where water supplies are most stretched.

The Emirates is the world’s third largest per capita water consumer after the US and Canada.

ESSENTIALS

The flights 
Fly Etihad or Emirates from the UAE to Moscow from 2,763 return per person return including taxes. 
Where to stay 
Trips on the Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian cost from US$16,995 (Dh62,414) per person, based on two sharing.

Need to know

The flights: Flydubai flies from Dubai to Kilimanjaro airport via Dar es Salaam from Dh1,619 return including taxes. The trip takes 8 hours. 

The trek: Make sure that whatever tour company you select to climb Kilimanjaro, that it is a reputable one. The way to climb successfully would be with experienced guides and porters, from a company committed to quality, safety and an ethical approach to the mountain and its staff. Sonia Nazareth booked a VIP package through Safari Africa. The tour works out to $4,775 (Dh17,538) per person, based on a 4-person booking scheme, for 9 nights on the mountain (including one night before and after the trek at Arusha). The price includes all meals, a head guide, an assistant guide for every 2 trekkers, porters to carry the luggage, a cook and kitchen staff, a dining and mess tent, a sleeping tent set up for 2 persons, a chemical toilet and park entrance fees. The tiny ration of heated water provided for our bath in our makeshift private bathroom stall was the greatest luxury. A standard package, also based on a 4-person booking, works out to $3,050 (Dh11,202) per person.

When to go: You can climb Kili at any time of year, but the best months to ascend  are  January-February and September-October.  Also good are July and August, if you’re tolerant of the colder weather that winter brings.

Do not underestimate the importance of kit. Even if you’re travelling at a relatively pleasant time, be geared up for the cold and the rain.

Company profile

Company name: Fasset
Started: 2019
Founders: Mohammad Raafi Hossain, Daniel Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech
Initial investment: $2.45 million
Current number of staff: 86
Investment stage: Pre-series B
Investors: Investcorp, Liberty City Ventures, Fatima Gobi Ventures, Primal Capital, Wealthwell Ventures, FHS Capital, VN2 Capital, local family offices

Company Profile

Company name: Namara
Started: June 2022
Founder: Mohammed Alnamara
Based: Dubai
Sector: Microfinance
Current number of staff: 16
Investment stage: Series A
Investors: Family offices

Kill

Director: Nikhil Nagesh Bhat

Starring: Lakshya, Tanya Maniktala, Ashish Vidyarthi, Harsh Chhaya, Raghav Juyal

Rating: 4.5/5

The biog

Name: Sari Al Zubaidi

Occupation: co-founder of Cafe di Rosati

Age: 42

Marital status: single

Favourite drink: drip coffee V60

Favourite destination: Bali, Indonesia 

Favourite book: 100 Years of Solitude 

Results:

Men's wheelchair 800m T34: 1. Walid Ktila (TUN) 1.44.79; 2. Mohammed Al Hammadi (UAE) 1.45.88; 3. Isaac Towers (GBR) 1.46.46.

First Person
Richard Flanagan
Chatto & Windus 

Results for Stage 2

Stage 2 Yas Island to Abu Dhabi, 184 km, Road race

Overall leader: Primoz Roglic SLO (Team Jumbo - Visma)

Stage winners: 1. Fernando Gaviria COL (UAE Team Emirates) 2. Elia Viviani ITA (Deceuninck - Quick-Step) 3. Caleb Ewan AUS (Lotto - Soudal)

Results:

6.30pm: Maiden Dh 165,000 1,400m.
Winner: Walking Thunder, Connor Beasley (jockey), Ahmad bin Harmash (trainer).

7.05pm: Handicap (rated 72-87) Dh 165,000 1,600m.
Winner: Syncopation, George Buckell, Doug Watson.

7.40pm: Maiden Dh 165,000 1,400m.
Winner: Big Brown Bear, Pat Dobbs, Doug Watson.

8.15pm: Handicap (75-95) Dh 190,000 1,200m.
Winner: Stunned, Pat Dobbs, Doug Watson.

8.50pm: Handicap (85-105) Dh 210,000 2,000m.
Winner: New Trails, Connor Beasley, Ahmad bin Harmash.

9.25pm: Handicap (75-95) Dh 190,000 1,600m.
Winner: Pillar Of Society, Pat Dobbs, Doug Watson.

MATCH INFO

Uefa Champions League semi-final, first leg
Bayern Munich v Real Madrid

When: April 25, 10.45pm kick-off (UAE)
Where: Allianz Arena, Munich
Live: BeIN Sports HD
Second leg: May 1, Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid

Confirmed bouts (more to be added)

Cory Sandhagen v Umar Nurmagomedov
Nick Diaz v Vicente Luque
Michael Chiesa v Tony Ferguson
Deiveson Figueiredo v Marlon Vera
Mackenzie Dern v Loopy Godinez

Tickets for the August 3 Fight Night, held in partnership with the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi, went on sale earlier this month, through www.etihadarena.ae and www.ticketmaster.ae.

START-UPS IN BATCH 4 OF SANABIL 500'S ACCELERATOR PROGRAMME

Saudi Arabia

Joy: Delivers car services with affordable prices

Karaz: Helps diabetics with gamification, IoT and real-time data

Medicarri: Medical marketplace that connects clinics with suppliers

Mod5r: Makes automated and recurring investments to grow wealth

Stuck: Live, on-demand language support to boost writing

Walzay: Helps in recruitment while reducing hiring time

UAE

Eighty6: Marketplace for restaurant and supplier procurements

FarmUnboxed: Helps digitise international food supply chain

NutriCal: Helps F&B businesses and governments with nutritional analysis

Wellxai: Provides insurance that enables and rewards user habits

Egypt

Amwal: A Shariah-compliant crowd-lending platform

Deben: Helps CFOs manage cash efficiently

Egab: Connects media outlets to journalists in hard-to-reach areas for exclusives

Neqabty: Digitises financial and medical services of labour unions

Oman

Monak: Provides financial inclusion and life services to migrants

The Africa Institute 101

Housed on the same site as the original Africa Hall, which first hosted an Arab-African Symposium in 1976, the newly renovated building will be home to a think tank and postgraduate studies hub (it will offer master’s and PhD programmes). The centre will focus on both the historical and contemporary links between Africa and the Gulf, and will serve as a meeting place for conferences, symposia, lectures, film screenings, plays, musical performances and more. In fact, today it is hosting a symposium – 5-plus-1: Rethinking Abstraction that will look at the six decades of Frank Bowling’s career, as well as those of his contemporaries that invested social, cultural and personal meaning into abstraction. 

Switching sides

Mahika Gaur is the latest Dubai-raised athlete to attain top honours with another country.

Velimir Stjepanovic (Serbia, swimming)
Born in Abu Dhabi and raised in Dubai, he finished sixth in the final of the 2012 Olympic Games in London in the 200m butterfly final.

Jonny Macdonald (Scotland, rugby union)
Brought up in Abu Dhabi and represented the region in international rugby. When the Arabian Gulf team was broken up into its constituent nations, he opted to play for Scotland instead, and went to the Hong Kong Sevens.

Sophie Shams (England, rugby union)
The daughter of an English mother and Emirati father, Shams excelled at rugby in Dubai, then after attending university in the UK played for England at sevens.

MATCH INFO

Uefa Champions League quarter-final second leg:

Juventus 1 Ajax 2

Ajax advance 3-2 on aggregate

Recipe

Garlicky shrimp in olive oil
Gambas Al Ajillo

Preparation time: 5 to 10 minutes

Cooking time: 5 minutes

Serves 4

Ingredients

180ml extra virgin olive oil; 4 to 5 large cloves of garlic, minced or pureed (or 3 to 4 garlic scapes, roughly chopped); 1 or 2 small hot red chillies, dried (or ¼ teaspoon dried red chilli flakes); 400g raw prawns, deveined, heads removed and tails left intact; a generous splash of sweet chilli vinegar; sea salt flakes for seasoning; a small handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

Method

Heat the oil in a terracotta dish or frying pan. Once the oil is sizzling hot, add the garlic and chilli, stirring continuously for about 10 seconds until golden and aromatic.

Add a splash of sweet chilli vinegar and as it vigorously simmers, releasing perfumed aromas, add the prawns and cook, stirring a few times.

Once the prawns turn pink, after 1 or 2 minutes of cooking, remove from the heat and season with sea salt flakes.

Once the prawns are cool enough to eat, scatter with parsley and serve with small forks or toothpicks as the perfect sharing starter. Finish off with crusty bread to soak up all that flavour-infused olive oil.

Company profile

Date started: 2015

Founder: John Tsioris and Ioanna Angelidaki

Based: Dubai

Sector: Online grocery delivery

Staff: 200

Funding: Undisclosed, but investors include the Jabbar Internet Group and Venture Friends

UAE v Gibraltar

What: International friendly

When: 7pm kick off

Where: Rugby Park, Dubai Sports City

Admission: Free

Online: The match will be broadcast live on Dubai Exiles’ Facebook page

UAE squad: Lucas Waddington (Dubai Exiles), Gio Fourie (Exiles), Craig Nutt (Abu Dhabi Harlequins), Phil Brady (Harlequins), Daniel Perry (Dubai Hurricanes), Esekaia Dranibota (Harlequins), Matt Mills (Exiles), Jaen Botes (Exiles), Kristian Stinson (Exiles), Murray Reason (Abu Dhabi Saracens), Dave Knight (Hurricanes), Ross Samson (Jebel Ali Dragons), DuRandt Gerber (Exiles), Saki Naisau (Dragons), Andrew Powell (Hurricanes), Emosi Vacanau (Harlequins), Niko Volavola (Dragons), Matt Richards (Dragons), Luke Stevenson (Harlequins), Josh Ives (Dubai Sports City Eagles), Sean Stevens (Saracens), Thinus Steyn (Exiles)

The years Ramadan fell in May

1987

1954

1921

1888