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.

Celebrated Turkish actor risks jail for Erdogan ‘insult’

Updated 4 min 39 sec ago

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!“

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.


Angelina Jolie sells Morocco painting Churchill gave to FDR

Updated 01 February 2021

Angelina Jolie sells Morocco painting Churchill gave to FDR

  • “Tower of the Koutoubia Mosque” was painted by British war leader in 1943
  • Jolie and then partner Brad Pitt bought the painting in 2011

LONDON: A painting by Winston Churchill that is a piece of both political and Hollywood history is coming up for auction.
Christie’s auction house said Monday that the Moroccan landscape “Tower of the Koutoubia Mosque” — a gift from Churchill to US President Franklin D. Roosevelt — is being sold by Angelina Jolie next month with an estimated price of 1.5 million pounds to 2.5 million pounds ($2.1 million to $3.4 million).
The image of the 12th-century mosque in Marrakech at sunset, with the Atlas Mountains in the background, is the only painting that Britain’s World War II leader completed during the 1939-45 conflict.
He painted it after the January 1943 Casablanca Conference, where Churchill and Roosevelt planned the defeat of Nazi Germany. The two leaders visited Marrakech after the conference so that Churchill could show Roosevelt the city’s beauty.

Angelina Jolie and then partner Brad Pitt bought the painting in 2011. (AFP/File)

“Roosevelt was blown away by it and thought it was incredible,” said Nick Orchard, head of Christie’s modern British art department. He said Churchill captured the view in the “wonderful, evocative painting” and gave it to Roosevelt as a memento of the trip.
Churchill was a keen amateur artist who completed some 500 paintings after taking up painting in his 40s. Orchard said that “the light in Morocco and over Marrakech was something that Churchill was passionate about” and painted again and again.
“He loved the dry air, the light, the sun and the way it played on the landscapes,” he said. “And that’s absolutely visible here in this painting. You can see the long shadows and the turning purple of the mountains and the deepening of the sky — classic sunset time.”
The painting was sold by Roosevelt’s son after the president’s death in 1945, and had several owners before Jolie and partner Brad Pitt bought it in 2011.
The couple separated in 2016 and have spent years enmeshed in divorce proceedings, amid speculation about the division of their extensive art collection. They were declared divorced in 2019 after their lawyers asked for a bifurcated judgment, meaning that two married people can be declared single while other issues, including finances and child custody, remain.
The painting is being sold by the Jolie Family Collection as part of Christie’s March 1 modern British art auction in London.
Orchard said the auction house was hopeful it could set a new record for a Churchill work.
“The record price at auction for Churchill is about 1.8 million (pounds) for a painting that, in my view, is not as important as this,” he said. “And I think this is probably his most important work.”

Egypt announces ‘major discoveries’ at Saqqara archaeological site

Updated 17 January 2021

Egypt announces ‘major discoveries’ at Saqqara archaeological site

  • Egyptian archaeologist says discoveries will rewrite history of region

CAIRO: An Egyptian archaeological mission working in the Saqqara area near the pyramids of Giza in Egypt has discovered dozens of archeological finds, including a Pharaonic funerary temple.

The Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities announced that the discoveries —  made by the joint mission between the council and the Zahi Hawass Center of Egyptology — include wooden wells and coffins from the New Kingdom, dating back to 3000 B.C.

Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of the council, said that the discoveries are located at the Saqqara necropolis, near the pyramid where King Teti, the first king of the Sixth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom, who ruled Egypt between 2323 and 2291 B.C., is buried.

Zahi Hawass, Egyptian archaeologist and head of the mission, said that these discoveries will rewrite the history of the region, especially during the 18th and 19th Dynasties of the New Kingdom, during which time King Teti was worshiped.

Hawass said that the mission found the funerary temple of Queen Nearit, wife of King Teti, part of which was uncovered in the years prior to the mission, as well as three mud-brick warehouses on the southeastern side, used to store offerings and tools that were involved in a revival of the queen’s creed.

The mission also discovered 52 wells, ranging in depths between 10 to 12 meters and containing more than 50 wooden coffins from the New Kingdom era. This is the first time that coffins dating back to 3000 B.C. have been found in the Saqqara area.

The surfaces of the coffins depict various scenes involving the gods who were worshipped during this period, in addition to texts from the Book of the Dead that help the deceased pass on to the other world.

Inside the wells, the mission found numerous artifacts, such as statues of the deity Ptah, as well as a four-meter-long papyrus, representing chapter 17 from the Book of the Dead, with the name of its owner recorded on it. The same name was found on four statues.

Other finds included a set of wooden masks; games for the deceased to play in the other world, one of which is similar to chess; and statues and a shrine of Anubis, the god of death.

The mission also discovered a bronze ax, indicating that its owner was one of the leaders of the army in the New Kingdom era, and paintings inscribed with scenes of the deceased and his wife and hieroglyphic writings.

A large amount of pottery dating back to the New Kingdom was found, including pottery establishing trade relations between Egypt and Crete, as well as Syria and Palestine.

Hawass explained that this discovery confirms that the Saqqara antiquities area was not used for burial during the Late Period only, but also in the New Kingdom.

The mission studied the mummy of a woman who was found to be suffering from a disease known as Mediterranean fever or swine fever, which comes from direct contact with an animal and leads to a liver abscess.

Hawass asserted that the archeological discovery is one of the most significant ones of this year and will make Saqqara an important tourist and cultural destination. It will rewrite the history of Saqqara in the era of the New Kingdom and will confirm the importance of the worship of King Teti during the 19th Dynasty.