Diary: a different city but the peace is constant

It is Ramadan 2009 and I am in the family home in Khartoum, Sudan. The air inside is filled with the tantalising scents of special spices and herbs, cinnamon, coriander, cumin and basil to enhance delicately prepared Sudanese dishes for iftar. My mum is busy in the kitchen putting the final touches to one of the most popular dishes, Aseeda, which is made with flour, yoghurt, water and a pinch of salt, and my sister is lending a hand.

The kids carry on playing and are oblivious to the fact the "grown ups" have been fasting all day. My eldest brother and his family come in time for the Azan (call to prayer) and have brought extra dishes. By now the house is buzzing with relatives. The atmosphere is quiet and cool outside, as many residents are at home preparing to break their fast, often stopping off at a bakery first for oven fresh Arabic bread.

While subconsciously checking the clock every so often, I am reminded this is my first Ramadan in my home country in as long as I can remember and it feels surreal. I had arrived a couple of weeks before, at the beginning of my break from work. We hear the Azan and break our fast with dates, in the same way as the Prophet Mohammed, then pray before heading back to the dining table. It is better not to get carried away while breaking fast as more often than not, one may feel drained and the benefits of the fast will be lost. During our meal we swap accounts of the day's events, then indulge in freshly brewed Arabic coffee and tea. If a good Ramadan programme is on TV, we may watch it, otherwise just relax under the evening sky. The rest of the night is dedicated to prayer or visiting family.

Living and working abroad always has its advantages and disadvantages and as I find myself in the midst of family, I feel blessed knowing what I will be most thankful for. It is Ramadan 2010 and today, I am in a hotel in a new country and a new city, Abu Dhabi, thousands of miles away from what is most familiar to me. For the first time, I will not be spending Ramadan with my close relatives. A few others most probably find themselves in the same predicament, one that can at times prove to be testing. However, although spending Ramadan surrounded by family is a feeling unmatched, there remains comfort in knowing I am in an Islamic city. The abundance of mosques and soothing sound of the Azan bring me peace as it travels through my window.

Contrary to some beliefs, Ramadan is not only about resisting the temptation of food until sundown. The first 10 days of the holy month are the days of mercy; seeking mercy and showing mercy to others as well as to ourselves. Every culture has its special ways of celebrating Ramadan and iftar preparation. So, will I miss the magical environment and flavours so familiar to me? Of course. Will it make me grateful for the time I had at home in past years? Definitely. Will it make me appreciate years to come even more? Absolutely.

Ramadan Mubarak. melshoush@thenational.ae

Another way to earn air miles

In addition to the Emirates and Etihad programmes, there is the Air Miles Middle East card, which offers members the ability to choose any airline, has no black-out dates and no restrictions on seat availability. Air Miles is linked up to HSBC credit cards and can also be earned through retail partners such as Spinneys, Sharaf DG and The Toy Store.

An Emirates Dubai-London round-trip ticket costs 180,000 miles on the Air Miles website. But customers earn these ‘miles’ at a much faster rate than airline miles. Adidas offers two air miles per Dh1 spent. Air Miles has partnerships with websites as well, so booking.com and agoda.com offer three miles per Dh1 spent.

“If you use your HSBC credit card when shopping at our partners, you are able to earn Air Miles twice which will mean you can get that flight reward faster and for less spend,” says Paul Lacey, the managing director for Europe, Middle East and India for Aimia, which owns and operates Air Miles Middle East.

Mia Man’s tips for fermentation

- Start with a simple recipe such as yogurt or sauerkraut

- Keep your hands and kitchen tools clean. Sanitize knives, cutting boards, tongs and storage jars with boiling water before you start.

- Mold is bad: the colour pink is a sign of mold. If yogurt turns pink as it ferments, you need to discard it and start again. For kraut, if you remove the top leaves and see any sign of mold, you should discard the batch.

- Always use clean, closed, airtight lids and containers such as mason jars when fermenting yogurt and kraut. Keep the lid closed to prevent insects and contaminants from getting in.


FA Cup semi-finals

Saturday: Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur, 8.15pm (UAE)
Sunday: Chelsea v Southampton, 6pm (UAE)

Matches on Bein Sports


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


Edinburgh: November 4 (unchanged)

Bahrain: November 15 (from September 15); second daily service from January 1

Kuwait: November 15 (from September 16)

Mumbai: January 1 (from October 27)

Ahmedabad: January 1 (from October 27)

Colombo: January 2 (from January 1)

Muscat: March 1 (from December 1)

Lyon: March 1 (from December 1)

Bologna: March 1 (from December 1)

Source: Emirates




Afghanistan v Zimbabwe, Abu Dhabi Sunshine Series

All matches at the Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi

Test series

1st Test: Zimbabwe beat Afghanistan by 10 wickets
2nd Test: Wednesday, 10 March – Sunday, 14 March

Play starts at 9.30am

T20 series

1st T20I: Wednesday, 17 March
2nd T20I: Friday, 19 March
3rd T20I: Saturday, 20 March

Supporters in the UAE can watch the matches on the Rabbithole channel on YouTube


Twenty20 International series
Thu Oct 26, 1st T20I, Abu Dhabi
Fri Oct 27, 2nd T20I, Abu Dhabi
Sun Oct 29, 3rd T20I, Lahore

Tickets are available at www.q-tickets.com


• Enterprise-grade security and privacy

• Unlimited higher-speed GPT-4 access with no caps

• Longer context windows for processing longer inputs

• Advanced data analysis capabilities

• Customisation options

• Shareable chat templates that companies can use to collaborate and build common workflows

• Analytics dashboard for usage insights

• Free credits to use OpenAI APIs to extend OpenAI into a fully-custom solution for enterprises

The Color Purple

Director: Blitz Bazawule
Starring: Fantasia Barrino, Taraji P Henson, Danielle Brooks, Colman Domingo
Rating: 4/5

if you go

The flights

Etihad, Emirates and Singapore Airlines fly direct from the UAE to Singapore from Dh2,265 return including taxes. The flight takes about 7 hours.

The hotel

Rooms at the M Social Singapore cost from SG $179 (Dh488) per night including taxes.

The tour

Makan Makan Walking group tours costs from SG $90 (Dh245) per person for about three hours. Tailor-made tours can be arranged. For details go to www.woknstroll.com.sg


Creator: Tima Shomali

Starring: Tara Abboud, Kira Yaghnam, Tara Atalla

Rating: 4/5


Company name: Znap

Started: 2017

Founder: Uday Rathod

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: FinTech

Funding size: $1m+

Investors: Family, friends

Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus

Developer: Sucker Punch Productions
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Console: PlayStation 2 to 5
Rating: 5/5

The specs: 2018 Ducati SuperSport S

Price, base / as tested: Dh74,900 / Dh85,900

Engine: 937cc

Transmission: Six-speed gearbox

Power: 110hp @ 9,000rpm

Torque: 93Nm @ 6,500rpm

Fuel economy, combined: 5.9L / 100km

Three ways to boost your credit score

Marwan Lutfi says the core fundamentals that drive better payment behaviour and can improve your credit score are:

1. Make sure you make your payments on time;

2. Limit the number of products you borrow on: the more loans and credit cards you have, the more it will affect your credit score;

3. Don't max out all your debts: how much you maximise those credit facilities will have an impact. If you have five credit cards and utilise 90 per cent of that credit, it will negatively affect your score.

Company Profile

Company name: Hoopla
Date started: March 2023
Founder: Jacqueline Perrottet
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 10
Investment stage: Pre-seed
Investment required: $500,000

Company Profile

Company name: Yeepeey

Started: Soft launch in November, 2020

Founders: Sagar Chandiramani, Jatin Sharma and Monish Chandiramani

Based: Dubai

Industry: E-grocery

Initial investment: $150,000

Future plan: Raise $1.5m and enter Saudi Arabia next year


1. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 171 points
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes-GP) 151
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes-GP) 136
4. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull Racing) 107
5. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) 83
6. Sergio Perez (Force India) 50
7. Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing) 45
8. Esteban Ocon (Force India) 39
9. Carlos Sainz (Torro Rosso) 29
10. Felipe Massa (Williams) 22

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


Director: Sudha Kongara Prasad

Starring: Akshay Kumar, Radhika Madan, Paresh Rawal

Rating: 2/5


Round 1: Beat Leolia Jeanjean 6-1, 6-2
Round 2: Beat Naomi Osaka 7-6, 1-6, 7-5
Round 3: Beat Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-2
Round 4: Beat Anastasia Potapova 6-0, 6-0
Quarter-final: Beat Marketa Vondrousova 6-0, 6-2
Semi-final: Beat Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-4
Final: Beat Jasmine Paolini 6-2, 6-2

The Specs

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

1,000 Books to Read Before You Die: A Life-Changing List
James Mustich, Workman


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

Keane on …

Liverpool’s Uefa Champions League bid: “They’re great. With the attacking force they have, for me, they’re certainly one of the favourites. You look at the teams left in it - they’re capable of scoring against anybody at any given time. Defensively they’ve been good, so I don’t see any reason why they couldn’t go on and win it.”

Mohamed Salah’s debut campaign at Anfield: “Unbelievable. He’s been phenomenal. You can name the front three, but for him on a personal level, he’s been unreal. He’s been great to watch and hopefully he can continue now until the end of the season - which I’m sure he will, because he’s been in fine form. He’s been incredible this season.”

Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s instant impact at former club LA Galaxy: “Brilliant. It’s been a great start for him and for the club. They were crying out for another big name there. They were lacking that, for the prestige of LA Galaxy. And now they have one of the finest stars. I hope they can go win something this year.”

The Transfiguration

Director: Michael O’Shea

Starring: Eric Ruffin, Chloe Levine

Three stars

Indian origin executives leading top technology firms

Sundar Pichai

Chief executive, Google and Alphabet

Satya Nadella

Chief executive, Microsoft

Ajaypal Singh Banga

President and chief executive, Mastercard

Shantanu Narayen

Chief executive, chairman, and president, Adobe

Indra Nooyi  

Board of directors, Amazon and former chief executive, PepsiCo



The biog

Favourite colour: Brown

Favourite Movie: Resident Evil

Hobbies: Painting, Cooking, Imitating Voices

Favourite food: Pizza

Trivia: Was the voice of three characters in the Emirati animation, Shaabiyat Al Cartoon

Picture of Joumblatt and Hariri breaking bread sets Twitter alight

Mr Joumblatt’s pessimism regarding the Lebanese political situation didn’t stop him from enjoying a cheerful dinner on Tuesday with several politicians including Mr Hariri.

Caretaker Culture Minister Ghattas Khoury tweeted a picture of the group sitting around a table at a discrete fish restaurant in Beirut’s upscale Sodeco area.

Mr Joumblatt told The National that the fish served at Kelly’s Fish lounge had been very good.

“They really enjoyed their time”, remembers the restaurant owner. “Mr Hariri was taking selfies with everybody”.

Mr Hariri and Mr Joumblatt often have dinner together to discuss recent political developments.

Mr Joumblatt was a close ally of Mr Hariri’s assassinated father, former prime minister Rafik Hariri. The pair were leading figures in the political grouping against the 15-year Syrian occupation of Lebanon that ended after mass protests in 2005 in the wake of Rafik Hariri’s murder. After the younger Hariri took over his father’s mantle in 2004, the relationship with Mr Joumblatt endured.

However, the pair have not always been so close. In the run-up to the election last year, Messrs Hariri and Joumblatt went months without speaking over an argument regarding the new proportional electoral law to be used for the first time. Mr Joumblatt worried that a proportional system, which Mr Hariri backed, would see the influence of his small sect diminished.

With so much of Lebanese politics agreed in late-night meetings behind closed doors, the media and pundits put significant weight on how regularly, where and with who senior politicians meet.

In the picture, alongside Messrs Khoury and Hariri were Mr Joumbatt and his wife Nora, PSP politician Wael Abou Faour and Egyptian ambassador to Lebanon Nazih el Nagari.

The picture of the dinner led to a flurry of excitement on Twitter that it signified an imminent government formation. “God willing, white smoke will rise soon and Walid Beik [a nickname for Walid Joumblatt] will accept to give up the minister of industry”, one user replied to the tweet. “Blessings to you…We would like you to form a cabinet”, wrote another.  

The next few days will be crucial in determining whether these wishes come true.

Hotel Data Cloud profile

Date started: June 2016
Founders: Gregor Amon and Kevin Czok
Based: Dubai
Sector: Travel Tech
Size: 10 employees
Funding: $350,000 (Dh1.3 million)
Investors: five angel investors (undisclosed except for Amar Shubar)

Gully Boy

Director: Zoya Akhtar
Producer: Excel Entertainment & Tiger Baby
Cast: Ranveer Singh, Alia Bhatt, Kalki Koechlin, Siddhant Chaturvedi​​​​​​​
Rating: 4/5 stars





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