My Ramadan with MMA fighter Ahmed Amir: Experiencing the Holy Month in Kuwait

Ahmed Amir is an Egyptian mixed martial artist based in Kuwait. (Arab News)
Updated 11 June 2018

My Ramadan with MMA fighter Ahmed Amir: Experiencing the Holy Month in Kuwait

  • Ahmed Amir (aka “The Butcher”) is an Egyptian mixed martial artist
  • He believes that it does not matter where you are during Ramadan so long as you are with your family

Ahmed Amir (aka “The Butcher”) is an Egyptian mixed martial artist who, when not fighting in ‘Brave’ events around the world, is based in Salmiya, Kuwait, with his wife and one-year-old daughter. Amir, whose fight record stands at 8-2-0, has lived in Kuwait since 2012 and believes that it does not matter where you are during Ramadan so long as you are with your family. He also works as a coach in a local gym.

Read on to experience Ramadan in the Gulf city in his own words...

As an MMA practitioner with a fight in the pipeline for later this year, the holy month of Ramadan poses some unique challenges. I mean, how can you train at high intensity while fasting and without drinking water? Some people would say it is impossible, but it is not. I am fasting for God and nobody else, so anything is possible.

I train twice a day and at the same intensity as ever, but for a shorter period — maybe 30-45 minutes instead of two hours. It’s very tiring, but I do the first session directly before iftar so I can rehydrate afterwards. In the evenings, I work at the gym from 9.30 p.m. until 2 a.m. and squeeze another training session in between classes. That way, I can drink water throughout. You see, with God there is always a way.

For me, that is what Ramadan is all about. It is the most special month of the year and offers a chance for self-reflection and to become closer to God. It is very hot in Kuwait, so with that and the need to continue my training it is hard, but it only teaches us how to be more patient. It is like when I have a meeting with some non-Muslims — they often do not eat in front of me out of respect, but I always say they can if they want. It makes no difference to me.

The Holy Month is also a chance to spend valuable time with family. I am fortunate in that my parents and three of my four brothers live nearby so I am able to enjoy iftar with them, chat a little, drink a fruit juice or coffee and sometimes video-call my other brother and his daughter in Egypt. I am trying to drop some kilos before my next fight, so when I hear the azan I tend to just rehydrate with water or milk with tamarind and eat a salad. Only after an hour or so do I eat the meat or seafood. I don’t like to eat too much too quickly.

Ramadan hasn’t changed much in the six years I have been in Salmiya. The weather has got warmer, but that’s all. There a few community events in the evenings with Arabic music and sweets, but because I am working at night, I am not able to go. I would never complain though, because the gym is my favorite place. I’m a fighter and coach and this is my life and career. I love it. The time spent in the gym and those few hours I have with my family are the best.

Fact Box
Name: Ahmed Amir
Age: 27
Profession: Mixed Martial Artist
Earliest fajr this year: 03:10
Latest maghrib this year: 18:49
Fasting tip: Ask yourself why you are fasting. If it is for the right reasons, then it won’t be hard.
Favorite restaurant for Iftar: I prefer to eat in the house with my family.
Best Ramadan dish: Sweets! Kanafeh and baclava are my favorites.
Most-watched Ramadan show: I don’t have time to watch TV.

Osama bin Laden’s son takes up painting

Updated 07 March 2021

Osama bin Laden’s son takes up painting

  • Omar’s works include landscapes of the mountains of Tora Bora in Afghanistan
  • His creations including vivid depictions of the US, a country he has never visited

LONDON: Osama bin Laden’s son Omar has reportedly taken up painting as a method of coping with lockdowns introduced to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Omar, the 39-year-old fourth son of the former Al-Qaeda leader, lives in Normandy in northern France with his wife Zaina, a painter from Cheshire in the UK.
His creations including vivid depictions of the US, a country he has never visited and against which his father waged a terrorist insurgency for many years, including the 9/11 attacks, culminating in his assassination in 2011.
Omar’s works also include landscapes of the mountains of Tora Bora in Afghanistan, where his father hid from US forces for many years.
He told Vice News that he had suffered for many years with post-traumatic stress disorder, following a childhood that saw him uprooted from his family home outside Jeddah to resettle in Sudan and war-torn Afghanistan as his father pursued his campaigns.
Omar later rejected his father and left Afghanistan following his experiences of the conflict there.
“I want the world to learn that I have grown; that I am comfortable within myself for the first time in my life; that the past is the past and one must learn to live with what has gone by,” he said. “One must forgive if not forget, so that one may be at peace with one’s emotions.”


’The Crown’ sweeps Golden Globes for television

Updated 01 March 2021

’The Crown’ sweeps Golden Globes for television

LOS ANGELES: British royal drama “The Crown” and comedy “Schitt’s Creek” won top television honors at the Golden Globes on Sunday in a mostly virtual bicoastal ceremony that took place under pandemic conditions and a furor over diversity.
Newcomer Emma Corrin, 25, who played a young Princess Diana in “The Crown,” was named best TV drama actress, beating veterans Olivia Colman and Laura Linney. Josh O’Connor, who played Prince Charles in the Netflix series, won best TV drama actor.

“I’m just sorry I am sitting here in my tragic little office and not surrounded by the people who make this show so lovely, ” said Peter Morgan, creator of “The Crown,” who appeared on a webcam.
A surprised Corrin said, “Thank you so much to Diana. You taught me compassion and empathy.”
Dan Levy, the co-creator of “Schitt’s Creek,” called the best comedy series win a “lovely acknowledgement” of the show’s message of inclusion.
Jason Sudeikis, wearing a hoodie, was equally taken aback by his best comedy actor win for TV series “Ted Lasso,” about an American football coach who gets a soccer job in London. “That’s nuts,” he said. “That’s crazy. Wow!“
The Korean-American movie “Minari,” about an immigrant family starting a farm in rural America in the 1980s, won best foreign language movie.

The cast of  "Minari," the film won the award for best foreign language motion picture at the Golden Globe Awards. (Josh Ethan Johnson/A24 via AP)

Elsewhere, British actors Daniel Kaluuya and John Boyega, and animated movie “Soul” were among diverse winners chosen by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), which has been lambasted for having no Black people among its 87 members.
Kaluuya won the movie supporting actor Golden Globe for his role as Black Panther activist Fred Hampton in “Judas and the Black Messiah.”
Boyega won TV supporting actor the “Small Axe” series about life as a Black person in 1970s London. “Soul,” the first Pixar movie to have a Black character in the lead, was named best animated movie and won best score.
Members of the HFPA appeared on Sunday’s show and pledged to do better. Ali Sar, the current president, who is from Turkey, said the group would create an environment where “a diverse membership is the norm, not the exception. We look forward to a more inclusive future.”

Webcams and gowns
The usual chummy gathering of A-listers at a gala dinner in Beverly Hills was replaced by webcams in the homes of glammed-up celebrities, small physical audiences made up of masked frontline workers, and a skit about self-involved celebrities consulting doctors with their coronavirus concerns.
Comedians Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, hosting from New York and Los Angeles respectively, opened the show with a series of jokes at the expense of the HFPA.
“We all know awards shows are stupid,” said Fey. “Even in stupid things, inclusivity is important and there are no Black members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. I realize HFPA maybe you guys didn’t get the memo ... but you’ve got to change that.”
In the movie category, Netflix period drama “Mank,” about the screenwriter of “Citizen Kane,” went into Sunday’s show with a leading six nods, including for best drama movie, for actors Gary Oldman and Amanda Seyfried, and for director David Fincher.
Netflix has yet to win a major movie awards prize.
The biggest competition comes from Searchlight Pictures’ “Nomadland,” a moving documentary-style drama about van dwellers in recession-hit America, and star-laden 1960s hippie courtroom drama “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” also from Netflix. The #MeToo revenge black comedy “Promising Young Woman” and the unsettling aging tale “The Father” round out the film drama nominations.
Aaron Sorkin won the Golden Globe for best screenplay for “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” while British actress Rosamund Pike was awarded best comedy actress for the movie “I Care a Lot.”
The Disney+ TV film of hit Broadway musical “Hamilton” and Amazon Studios’ “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” a satire on the America of former President Donald Trump, are seen as front-runners in the best comedy or musical movie category.
“Black Panther” star Chadwick Boseman, whose death at 43 of an undisclosed battle with cancer stunned fans and the industry, is considered the favorite for a best actor Golden Globe. His last performance, as a brash trumpet player in drama “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” was released after his death.


Celebrated Turkish actor risks jail for Erdogan ‘insult’

Updated 28 February 2021

Celebrated Turkish actor risks jail for Erdogan ‘insult’

  • He is in danger of becoming the latest victim in the Turkish leader’s years-long battle with what he dismissively calls “so-called artists.”

ISTANBUL: Mujdat Gezen’s half-century career as an acclaimed Turkish writer and actor has included awards, a stint as a UN goodwill ambassador and a taste of prison after a 1980 putsch.
Now aged 77, the wry-witted comedian and poet with an easy smile and a bad back risks returning to jail on charges of insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
He is in danger of becoming the latest victim in the Turkish leader’s years-long battle with what he dismissively calls “so-called artists.”
“I am even banned from appearing in crossword puzzles,” Gezen quipped.
Gezen landed in court with fellow comedian Metin Akpinar, 79, over comments the pair made during a television show they starred in on opposition Halk TV in 2018.
In the broadcast, Gezen told Erdogan to “know your place.”
“Look Recep Tayyip Erdogan, you cannot test our patriotism. Know your place,” Gezen said on air.
His parter Akpinar went one step further, saying that “if we don’t become a (democracy)... the leader might end up getting strung up by his legs or poisoned in the cellar.”
These are risky comments to make in a country still reeling from a sweeping crackdown Erdogan unleashed after surviving a failed coup in 2016.
Their trial is coming with Erdogan rattled by a burst of student protests that hint at Turks’ impatience with his commanding rule as prime minister and president since 2003.
Prosecutors want to put the two veteran celebrities behind bars for up to four years and eight months. The verdict is expected on Monday.

Jailed over book
Thousands of Turks, from a former Miss Turkey to school children, have been prosecuted for insulting Erdogan on social media and television.
Bristling at the jokes and comments, Erdogan warned in 2018 that his critics “will pay the price.”
“The next day,” Gezen told AFP in an interview by telephone, “police turned up and I was summoned to give a statement to prosecutors.”
The knock on the door reminded Gezen of how he ended up being dragged before the courts after spending 20 days in jail when a military junta overthrew Turkey’s civilian government at the height of the Cold War in 1980.
Gezen’s book about Nazim Hikmet — perhaps Turkey’s most famous 20th century poet, who happened to be a communist who died in exile in Moscow in 1963 — was taken off the shelves after that coup.
“I was chained up while being taken from prison to court with a gang of 50 criminals, including murderers and smugglers,” he recalled.
He was freed by the court in 1980, and may yet be acquitted on Monday.
Still, Gezen is uncomfortable with the similarities, and with Turkey’s trajectory under Erdogan.
“There is a record number of journalists in jail — we have never seen this in the history of the republic. That’s what upsets me,” he said.

Irritable dictator
An author of more than 50 books and founder of his own art center in Istanbul, Gezen says he has “either criticized or parodied politicians to their faces” for decades without going to jail.
His popularity and resolve earned him a role in 2007 as a goodwill ambassador for the UNICEF children’s relief fund.
But he fears that Turkey’s tradition of outspoken artists — “art is by its nature oppositional,” he remarked — is wilting under Erdogan.
“We now have self-censorship. But what is even more painful to me is that (some artists) prefer to be apolitical,” he said.
“The president has said how he expects artists to behave. But it cannot be the president of a country who decides these things. It’s the artists who must decide.”
To be on the safe side, Gezen’s lawyers now read his books before publication to avoid legal problems.
“It is risky in Turkey,” he observed.
Many of the opposition media outlets that once flourished have been either closed or taken over by government allies, leaving independent voices with even fewer options.
But he remains doggedly optimistic, calling democracy in Turkey something tangible but just out of reach, like the shore for a stranded boat.
“And then someone up on the mast will cry: Land ahoy!“

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Colorful Pakistani ‘boat art’ rules the waves

Updated 18 February 2021

Colorful Pakistani ‘boat art’ rules the waves

  • Artists in Karachi say the practice began in Ibrahim Hyderi, a fishing village in the Qur’angi district
  • A trained eye can distinguish vessels from Ibrahim Hyderi, or from nearby regions such as Keti Bandar, Gharochan, Badin and Somiani

KARACHI: In Pakistan, where traditional truck art adds color and humor to highways and roads, another unique form of ornamentation has emerged on the country’s coast — boat art, which lends beauty to fishing boats sailing the Arabian Sea.
According to Muhammad Ali Shah, chairman of the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, most of the 15,000 fishing vessels on the 350-kilometer coastline of Sindh province are decorated, but the local craft has yet to be acknowledged as art.
The origins of boat art — painting vessels with floral and marine patterns — are difficult to pinpoint, but artists in Pakistan’s port city of Karachi say the practice began in Ibrahim Hyderi, a fishing village in the Qur’angi district.
Some say that one man, Abdul Aziz, who has been painting boats for 50 years, pioneered the art form.
“My father used to paint boats for decades, and now I’ve taught the craft to my sons and apprentices,” the artist, affectionately called Ustad Aziz, told Arab News.
Aziz learned to paint when he was 12 and since then boat art has been his source of livelihood.
“The art of painting fishing boats started in Ibrahim Hyderi area, then other fishing communities also adopted it,” said Shoaib Ali, one of Aziz’s pupils.
Colors and designs are traditionally similar, but “some patterns act as geographical markers of their point of origin,” Ali said.
A trained eye can distinguish vessels from Ibrahim Hyderi, or from nearby regions such as Keti Bandar, Gharochan, Badin and Somiani.
Filmmaker and artist Sharjil Baloch said that while truck art also can be found in India and around the world, boat art is a uniquely Pakistani tradition.
Indian boats are simple and use only a basic matte coating to protect the wood from the climate and water, he said.
Boat art might appear similar to truck art at first glance, Baloch said, but it is actually quite distinctive.
“The shape of a boat is different, so the template is automatically different. Then you see truck art with landscapes, but here you’ll see seascapes.”
He added: “The way they decorate them and make detailed designs gives them their own identity.”
Jatin Desai, an Indian journalist and activist who has been working with fishermen, also said boat art was unknown in India.
In Gujarat or elsewhere in the country, “there is no artwork on Indian fishing boats,” he said.

Archaeologists make new discoveries in Egypt

Updated 03 February 2021

Archaeologists make new discoveries in Egypt

  • Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities announced last June the new archaeological find in the coastal city

CAIRO: Archaeologists have discovered 16 new tombs at the ancient Egyptian Taposiris Magna Temple in Alexandria, one of which contains a mummy bearing a gold tongue. Researchers say ancient Egyptians believed that such an accessory enabled the deceased to speak in the afterlife. Both the tongue and the mummy’s skeleton were found to be in good condition.

The Egyptian-Dominican mission of the Santo Domingo University, headed by Kathleen Martinez, contributed to the discovery. The university has been working on the site for nearly a decade.

Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities announced last June the new archaeological find in the coastal city. The 16 burials are in the Lockley stone-carved tombs, which were popular in Greco-Roman antiquity.

The ministry said that several of the mummies are in a poor state of preservation but nonetheless serve to highlight the characteristics of mummification in classical antiquity. The stone funerary masks are still intact, allowing the team to see what each person looked like.

Burial corridors, dating back 2,000 years and containing the remains of the deceased within a mountain or natural rock formation, were common in the Greco-Roman period.

The other 15 tombs also date back about 2,000 years. One contains a female mummy wearing a death mask, which covers most of her body and portrays her smiling and donning a head covering. 

Two more mummies were found with the remains of scrolls, which scientists are currently analyzing and deciphering.

Inside the temple, the team of archaeologists had previously discovered several coins engraved with the face of Queen Cleopatra VII, indicating that she ruled at the time when several individuals were buried in the tombs.

Statues and temple grounds reveal that King Ptolemy IV built the temple.