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Pedro Varela, Untitled (Night series), acrylic on canvas, 200 x 200 cm, 2013


LONG LIVE THE WHITE FORT Words: Anya Stafford

An evening at the Qasr Al Hosn festival presented an odyssey through the cultural history of the United Arab Emirates at Abu Dhabi’s oldest building

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asr Al Hosn is many things: the oldest stone building in Abu Dhabi city (built c.1761), the former home of the Al Nahyan royal family, and, more recently, a 10-day celebration of all things Emirati. This February, the festival staged its second edition of offering a multi-layered experience all about the UAE´s traditions. Events ranged from performances by storytellers, poets, and singers, to film screenings and workshops on everything from dhow building to palm weaving. Visitors also got a first peek inside the Qasr Al Hosn building, which remains under reconstruction. Cavalia, the equestrian spectacle, followed later at night, with a production adapted to reflect the location. 250 years of history has given rise to an impressive list of tangible and intangible cultural heritage. The White Fort, as it is also known, was divided into four areas: Desert, Oasis, Marine and Abu Dhabi Island. Emirati Ambassadors, in the shape of university students, were eager to educate and guide. They also acted as hosts for their fascinating compatriots, local elders who volunteered to sing and tell stories, and to deftly show off and share their age-old skills.


The adjoining Cultural Foundation, closed to the public since 2009 as part of the renovation works, hosted its own programme of performing arts. Re-opened for the duration of the festival only, the focus was on the building’s original intention, which was to foster creating, performing and learning. Creative powerhouse twofour54 curated the Emirati film programme at the open-air amphitheatre, with 2012’s Ostora being a highlight. This musical animation brings together the history of the UAE and Greek mythology via intricate graphics and a dramatic soundtrack. The excellent Farewell Arabia from 1967 unforgettably begins with Sheikh Zayed singing as he crosses the dunes in his Cadillac. It documents life in Abu Dhabi before and during the oil rush, and gives precious insight into Zayed’s pioneering era. City Of Life actor Saoud Al Kaabi presented the poetry sessions at the same venue, with the likes of local poets Hamdan Al Samahi and Saood Al Messabi dramatising shared memories and narratives of Qasr Al Hosn.

The learning pillar came in the form of demonstrations and workshops. Seeing local women prepare the scented bokhor bricks in the buzzing souq was aptly followed by the dukhoun (incense) workshop, where heady infusions of sandalwood and ambergris were mixed with oudh (Arabic woodchips) to take home. Over at the Desert, exquisite embroidery was being created. Telli is the twisted gold, silver and bright threading on the collars and cuffs of Emirati women´s robes. Participants were invited to sit at a traditional cajuja (wooden block) and weave their own bracelets. As for Qasr Al Hosn itself, its renovation involves removing a modern yet ill-advised gypsum layer from its walls. Underneath lies the original coral and sea stone masonry, which needs to breathe if it is to last another quarter century. Following this year’s airing, it’s likely that the Emirati traditions witnessed at Qasr Al Hosn will be similarly sustained into the future.

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The Nameless Face of Tragedy Words: Alberto Mucci

CRASH at Mathaf is one artist’s quest to change the media narrative on female victims in Saudi Arabian car crashes

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The artist’s astute point in CRASH is this: the media places the reader “at a distance from the tragedy” by reporting as if the protagonist of the story was the crash itself and not the victim. This happens in part because journalists follow the Saudi tradition of hiding the names and faces of female victims in order to protect the honour of the tribe to which she belongs. This denies the victim her identity and causes desensitisation to the tragedy among readers. As the artist rightly asks, how can the public mourn the death of a person who is rendered devoid of her identity? Al Dowayan is an important artist with an interesting cross-disciplinary background. She has a Masters degree in Systems Analysis and Design and worked as the Creative Director of the Saudi Arabian oil company for ten years before becoming a fulltime artist. Her previous residencies at the Delfina Foundation in London, The Town House Gallery in Cairo, and Cuadro Gallery in Dubai, on top of this live research exhibit at Mathaf, are testament to her growing voice as a critical artist in the Middle East.

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s can be witnessed from London’s Gagosian gallery all the way to Qatar’s Mathaf Arab Museum of Modern Art, J.S. Ballard’s controversial 1973 book Crash continues to inspire artists around the world. The theme of the novel is car-crash fetishism, or the excitement some people feel as they witness, or are part of, a car crash. Despite borrowing the title and sharing Ballard’s underlying message, Saudi artist Manal Al Dowayan’s new work, set up in Mathaf’s project space, is far from the British author’s dark fantasies. The artist’s exhibition is an on-going research project into something that she rightly considers to be an under reported national tragedy: the high number of deaths of female teacher drivers on Saudi highways. Many teachers in the Gulf kingdom have to work in villages that are far away from their homes because it is difficult for them to live alone in the patriarchal villages near the schools where they work. As a result, many are forced by the female driving ban to pool their limited financial resources, hire a male chauffeur and squeeze into one car. Saudi roads are some of the most dangerous in the world and the routes these women take tend to be far from hospitals and without mobile phone signals. As a result of these combined factors, too many are being killed. Al Dowayan’s installation calls for the Saudi media to report on these crashes in a radically different way. It does this by revealing the failings of the current reportage and by setting it against a range of critical ideas around the fetishisation of car crashes. Her installation records and exposes how these women are (mis)treated in the Saudi media using a series of maps, lists, statistics, photographs and videos.

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Going, Going,Gone 6/lj

Words: Alberto Mucci

Ayyam Gallery’s latest Young Collectors’ Auction was another successful instalment in the regular selling spree that brings works to the market from a mix of new and established artists


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s the auctioneer’s gavel hit the rostrum at the end of the Young Collectors’ Auction organized by Ayyam Gallery in Dubai this January, the attendees could not have had more satisfied smiles on their faces. The 18th of its kind by the gallery, this auction organized by the Syrian cousins and collectors Khaled and Hisham Samawi, brought together emerging and more established talents from both the Arab and the Iranian art world. The idea of blending young and old artists and selling their work for what can be considered relatively affordable prices seems to have been a winning model, at least if one looks at the numbers of this last auction. Of the 78 lots presented to the eager audience, 85% of the pieces where sold for a total of $627,000. The paintings auctioned included Untitled by Syrian Fateh Moudarres, that, despite an estimated market value of somewhere between $5,000 and $8,000, sold for $25,000. An oil-on-masonite creation by Egyptian-born Samir Rafi, again called Untitled, went to a keen collector willing to pay almost double its estimated market value of $15,000. The highest-selling contemporary Middle Eastern contemporary artist Abdulnasser Gharem’s mixed media work No More Tears V (Obama; No or Bad Signal), created by the artist in his Saudi Arabia studio, also went for more than it was worth according to initial valuation by Ayyam. Does the success of the auction and enthusiasm of its buyers mean that passion for an individual artwork can sometimes trump its ‘true’ market value? This may certainly be the case and has proved fruitful for Ayyam’s continued efforts to bring hitherto unknown artists to the market. New names whose work was sold in this particular auction included the young Iranian artist Mona Moein Ansari. Her work, We Are All Puppets in This World, went for $7,800, almost

opposite page: Mona Moein Ansari, We Are All Puppets In This World above: Yasmina Nysten, The Comedian 135 x 87 cm. Mixed Media on Canvas 2012 left: Samir Rafi, Untitled, oil on masonite

double the estimated price, in a success for the young newcomer who only graduated from London’s Central Saint Martin’s School of Art in 2009. A similarly-rising young gun who was introduced at the auction was Yasmina Nysten. Of Lebanese-Finnish origin, she is currently based in New York and her painting, The Comedian, went for $4,800 that day in Dubai. As such, this last edition of the Young Collectors’ Auction can hardly be described as anything other than a success for both the gallery and the artists – and of course the enthusiastic crowd which will surely keep an eye out for the next instalment: number nineteen.

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SLEEPING AT THE SOUK Words: Nour Harb

THE BOUTIQUE HOTELS DOTTED AROUND SOUQ WAQIF SHOW ANOTHER SIDE OF DOHA FOR VISITORS WHO WANT A CHIC AND INTIMATE EXPERIENCE

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ouq Waqif, at the heart of Doha, is the seat of the city’s trading history and has now been restored to become a lively cultural hub where people come to take in the atmosphere. Once the place where the Bedu would come with their sheep and goats to trade their wool, the souk is now filled with rowupon-row of little shops stocking everything from pearl necklaces and musical instruments, to herbs and perfumes, via brightly-coloured textiles, inlaid wooden furniture, and everyday household products. Sitting at the outdoor café tables and on the traditional restaurant banquets around the souq are a mix of locals and tourists from many different countries, which is notably diverse as the resident population of Qatar now comes from all around the world.


LEFT: The Musheireib lobby BELOW: Argan Restaurant at Al Jasra BELOW LEFT: The courtyard at Al Najada

The Qatari capital has built itself into one of the Gulf’s shining new cities defined by pristine art galleries, glinting luxury automobiles, and architectural trophies that reach giddily for the sky. Souq Waqif offers an antidote to all this, and its low-set, sandy stone archways provide shady respite from the blazing supermodernity that surrounds it. Tapping into this more vernacular identity, a network of small boutique hotels are tucked away throughout the souk, proposing a counterpoint to the faceless five-star complexes that most people stay in when visiting Doha. There are eight hotels and two sets of private residences amounting to nine apartments in total, and each is designed in its own individual style. The largest, Al Mirqab, has 37 rooms, while the smallest has only two. One of the most stylish, Al Jasra, has 24 rooms and suites, a contemporary design-led lobby

lounge, three restaurants, and a hammam-style spa. The smallest, which is also the oldest hotel in Doha, is the bijou Bismillah, which is a pair of only two luxury suites. From the many in between guests can choose whichever version of modern-oriental style best suits their personal taste, while also enjoying the privilege of using the facilities at all the other hotels – such as the different spas, the gym, the pool, or the various rooftop terraces and multi-national restaurants. While Bismillah is private and charming, with its relaxed and rustic setting, Al Jasra, by contrast, feels more social and stylish. Najada has a fabulous courtyard and private dining terrace, Arumaila a contemporary feel and fashionable outdoor grill restaurant, Al Mirqab a gorgeous courtyard swimming pool, the Muasheireb an opulent atmosphere, Al Jomrok a traditional formality, and Al Bidda a games room, French-style patisserie and Italianate piazza.

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THE ETERNAL STRUGGLE BETWEEN DARKNESS & LIGHT Pedro Varela

Words: India Stoughton

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From Dusk to Dawn‌ Threads of Infinity at the Anima Gallery takes viewers on a journey through the fantastic worlds of Brazilian artists Carolina Ponte and Pedro Varela


Carolina Ponte

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very fairy tale is different, but all are ultimately concerned with the battle between darkness and light. When the children lose their way among the knarled and twisted trees of the forest, or the princess succumbs to a cursed sleep, a primeval fear is awakened - that of being trapped forever in the dark. When light prevails and evil is vanquished, it remains nevertheless a tempered relief – the battle may be won but the war will never truly end. There is something fairy tale-like in the work of Brazilian artists Carolina Ponte and Pedro Varela. The two artists are staging a collective exhibition at Doha’s Anima Gallery this spring, as part of the Qatar Brazil 2014 Year of Culture. From Dusk to Dawn… Threads of Infinity brought together Varela’s intricate, deep blue paintings, capturing luscious, strangely fleshy plants adorned with night-blooming flowers, and Ponte’s intricate, crocheted soft-sculptures.

What ties the two seemingly distant practices of the two artists together is their ability to plunge viewers into fantasy worlds that awaken instinctive fears and promise unearthly pleasures. The deep blues of Varela’s work are alleviated by the rich colours of exotic blooms, glimpsed through the darkness. These find their mirror in the cheerful, vibrant colours of Ponte’s wool. Her playful sculptures, meanwhile, conjure up strange creatures; alien life forms perhaps at home in the depths of the ocean or the vacuum of space. Exhibited alongside Varela’s nocturnal vistas, their organic forms seem to echo the bell of a flower supported on a slender stem, or the swell of a leaf engaged in its eternal quest for sunlight. The artist’s use of crochet, a skill that few still practice in the instant gratification culture of our time, is a testament to the wonders accomplished by patience. Each of her enormous woollen sculptures must be painstakingly

produced a single stitch at a time, thousands of loops coming together to create intricatelycrafted panels, connected by looping tubes that festoon the gallery with alien life forms. Ponte is also exhibiting several paintings – delicate ornamental works whose vivid colours and interweaving designs are reminiscent of tapestry. Viewers could get lost for hours in Ponte’s seemingly endless webs, while Varela’s work conjures up more of a linear journey, from the dim blue of dusk to the pale relief of dawn. The artist’s verdant foliage may offer poison or pleasure, while his night time landscapes with their distantly glimpsed mountains are utopic scenes that hint at hidden danger. As the indigo of his midnight paintings moves towards dawn, the curves of his riotous vegetation are thrown into relief and the viewer is lead back to the safety of urban life, towards the artist’s fantasy cities, like architectural constellations adrift in place and time.

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The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra at the Emirates palace in Abu Dhabi

PLAYING WITH ‘THE OTHER’ Words: Alberto Mucci

The WEST-EASTERN Divan Orchestra made its Abu Dhabi debut at the start of this year and remains as politically pertinent today as when founded in the late 1990s

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new debut in Abu Dhabi for the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, the ensemble put together in 1999 by the late prominent Palestinian scholar Edward Said and internationally acclaimed Israeli Maestro Daniel Barenboim. In the jam-packed theatre at the Emirates Palace, Barenboim conducted Mozart’s Sinfonia concertante for Violin, Viola and Orchestra in E flat major and Beethoven’s Symphony No 7 in A major. The first piece is one of Mozart’s only experimentations with the concertante style, the cross- over genre between symphony and concerto popular during his time. With his usual graceful touch Barenboim gave directions to a lively composition, waving through fast-paced tempos that kept the public alert. As the concertante came to an end, Barenboim introduced Beethoven’s second symphony. Just as was the first, this second piece is an energetic and positive work. Composed by Beethoven as he was becoming deaf, the buoyant vigour and feeling of hope this symphony gives to its listeners were intended to benefit soldiers wounded in the battle of Hanau, Germany, where the Austrian army had lost to Napoleon’s. In both pieces the solo parts were led by the violin of Michael Barenboim, the 28-yearold son of the Maestro, in conjunction with internationally acclaimed viola player Yulia Deyneka, a 31-year-old musician born in Moscow but now living in Jerusalem.

The story behind the foundation of the Divan Orchestra is well-known within the world of classical music. Said and Barenboim, long-term friends, were one evening nestled over a cup of tea discussing politics, peace and the human condition, when the idea came to them to create an ensemble made up of the most talented young musicians from the Arab world. It was the 1990s and, just as today, the Middle Eastern political situation was unstable and a true peace between Israel and the Palestine was far from settled. In response to a climate dominated by hate and fear, Barenboim and Said wanted to put together an orchestra from every corner of the region and have them interact in the most harmonious of ways - through music. They both believed that this would create a shared language; one that would go beyond the usual rotten political discourse of division and animosity, and one that would empower people to consider a person first and foremost as a human being rather than a Syrian, an Iranian, a Shia, a Sunni, an Israeli or any other national, political or religious categorisation. The idea was, and still is, a powerful and bold one and so it is to no surprise that what set out as a one-off coming together became a longer-term project with members who, year after year, meet in Seville, Spain, to rehearse, discuss and exchange ideas on the future of the region. All this makes the Divan Orchestra more than just an ensemble. It is, as was always intended, a political statement. Edward Said was a leading Post-colonial literary theorist and developed his own theory of Orientalism. This gave him an acute awareness of how the categorisation of different groups leads to them being perceived as ‘the Other’. Seeing someone as Other makes it easy to construct a misrepresentation of them in the mind’s eye. The only way to avoid this – and it’s much harder than most of us like to think - is direct by confrontation with the Other. The Divan Orchestra enables precisely that. It also plays sublime music.


AT YOUR WHIM

Words: Eliana Maakaroun

The Bespoke service at Rolls Royce offers its customers a level of personalisation that places these luxurious vehicles in a league of their own

Interior craftsmanship detail from glove box exterior

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he Middle East is home to the highest number of cars under the Rolls-Royce Bespoke line, which allows the brand to take the luxury of personalised detail to a new extreme. “Every Rolls Royce motor car that comes to the Middle East has an element of Bespoke to it,” explains Richard Collar, Head of Bespoke Sales and Marketing at Rolls Royce. “Our ultra-highnet-worth individual customers expect this level of personalization.” Qatar is the leading market for Rolls Royce in the world and sales grew by 17% across the Middle East during last year. The Phantom is particularly popular in the region, as sales of this model have risen by a remarkable 45% in the same period. Of course the stand-out offering of the Bespoke service is that no two cars are ever alike, a rare proposition in the automotive world. Requesting distinctive features on behalf of their clients, Bespoke allows its customers to express their taste as they make as much of a bold statement on the road as they please. “We cater for individual tastes whether it’s through different colours, wood veneers or designs that can be especially incorporated into the car.” Rolls Royce clients have higher standards and expectations than the majority of wealthy consumers, and in order to satisfy

such a customer, the Bespoke programme is continuously growing, to expand its workforce and capabilities. The service will cater to any request that comes its way, provided of course it is in line with safety measures and Rolls Royce quality standards. Among the most unusual demands, Collar recalls that Bespoke was once asked to match the car paint to a favourite lipstick colour and the interior leather to a vintage Fendi coat. “A customer once came to Goodwood, home of Rolls Royce in England, and left us a jade necklace so that we could replicate its colour on his Phantom,” he remembers. “We were very nervous about having it and locked the necklace in a safe place and made sure we returned it to the customer afterwards,” he adds, with a laugh. Collar goes on to explain that everyone appreciates the flair of a Rolls Royce – even those who cannot own one. “Our product is appreciated by both customers and noncustomers alike. Everybody who loves the beauty and craftsmanship can appreciate such a fine car. It remains a rare event to see a Rolls Royce passing by, which means it feels like something of an occasion. And because we don’t produce in large numbers, the brand will always be very exclusive. It’s simply the pinnacle of super luxury to own one”.

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THE FIRE WITHIN Words: Helen Assaf

Kuwaiti painter Amira Behbehani says artists have a message to deliver and hold a responsibility to society to make people aware

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t the age of 14, Amira Bebehani began her first experiment in art with oil on canvas. Despite being disappointed with the result, she showed it to her uncle, a gallery owner, and his response was something that she will never forget. “There is a fire inside you,” he said, and his words continue to resonate with her today. That initial art experiment, however, was shelved and Behbehani’s life took a different turn. Married at age 19, motherhood soon became her focus, only to be followed later by a divorce that lead to her building a career in advertising. In 2001 she resigned from her position, weary of life as an employee, and took a room in an old house to begin a new chapter in her life. At this time she sought out other artists, and hosted exhibitions of their work on a regular basis. Meeting the Algerian artist Hamza Banou in 2003 proved to be a catalyst for Behbehani; together they began painting, he as a supporter, and she as a self-taught beginner. In 2005, Dar Al-Funoon Gallery hosted an exhibition of their works entitled Teacher and the Apprentice and since then she hasn’t looked back, with many group and solo exhibitions following. She is proud of being a self-taught artist, and in retrospect is relieved that the one time she applied for art classes she was refused (the teacher did not approve of her chosen subject of female nudity). Her unquenchable curiosity and thirst for experience means that she continues to experiment with materials and mediums,

opposite page: Amira Behbehani, acrylic & oil on canvas, 2006 above: Amira Behbehani, oil on wood, commissioned work on a door, 2013-2014 left: Amira Behbehani, The Doll, mixed media on

her latest acquisition being a camera lucida, an optical tool of the kind once employed by the Old Masters in their paintings. Directing a portion of proceeds from her exhibitions to charitable organizations adds a second layer of personal fulfillment for Behbehani. A self-avowed deep thinker with strong empathy for human suffering, she says, “I feel like I want everyone to be happy even though the things we are going through around the world are not.” Behbehani’s most recent solo exhibition was in Bahrain in 2010, entitled Traces of a Scent… Jawaher. It explored her relationship with her grandmother, who had recently

canvas, 2013 left bottom: Amira Behbehani, acrylic on canvas, 2012

passed away. “As a child I was always holding on to her from her abaya,” Behbehani says. “I learned the sense of smell from that time – it created relationships between me and my senses, not just physically but emotionally and spiritually.” She admits to going through phases and that whichever ideas she finds curious to her mind or her soul are what eventually manifest themselves in her work. Currently she is absorbed by the topic of violation and working on pieces to be exhibited in October this year. It’s a theme that she says has been with her for the past four decades buried somewhere inside, and based on things she saw happening to people around her. Although the work will touch on what could be seen as a sensitive subject, Behbehani is confident the result will not be confrontational. “I am attracted by the mysterious; I don’t like direct things, so it’s going to be an indirect act but the viewer is going to feel there is something there,” she says. In her view, each and every artist has a message to deliver and artists hold a responsibility to make people aware of what is going on in society. For Behbehani this need to deliver the message continues to burn brightly within.

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his fagottini “La Pergola”, a raviolo stuffed in carbonara sauce; his venison filet covered in pistachio crust; his pear sorbet covered with a thin layer of gorgonzola cheese mixed with nut crème… these have now become classics that food connoisseurs from all over the world have tasted and admired at least once.  Now all of this will be in Dubai, in the UAE’s Waldorf Astoria, within the walls of the large white neo-classical building that is neatly arranged in front of the city’s Palm Jumeirah. Beck’s homages to Rome’s working class cuisine, such as the fagottini, might be dropped from the new menu and replaced by new signature dishes such as the grilled tuna with wasabi mayonnaise or the soya poached beef fillet with black truffle and radicchio. But one thing is sure to remain the same: dinner prepared by Waldorf Astoria’s best chef will be outstanding – in Dubai, or in Rome.

DUBAI’S NEW ITALIAN Words: Alberto Mucci

Top chef Heinz Beck is departing Rome and moving to Dubai with Waldorf Astoria

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ext stop Dubai! Waldorf Astoria, the luxury hotel brand of the Hilton group, has decided to move its best chef, Bavarianborn Heinz Beck, from Rome to the UAE. The move may be the consequence of a reconsideration of the group’s priorities, but for the Italian capital it will surely be a big loss. Mr. Beck’s menu has, for years, been rated by the most important food critics in the world – Michelin, Veronelli and Gambero Rosso – as one of the eternal city’s finest.  Beck won such a standing through years of dedication to the meticulous study of spices and flavours that allowed him to climb to the top of the culinary Mount Olympus. Signature dishes include


ODYSSEY ACROSS THE ANDES Words: Owen Adams

Qatari quad-driver Mohamed Abu-Issa made his debut at the Dakar rally AND proved himself a gentleman as he helped his Dutch competitor

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he super-stellar rise of endurance quad-driver Mohamed AbuIssa couldn’t be more meteoric: less than a year after making his competitive debut, he became the first Qatari ever to complete the infamous Dakar rally 2014. The 23-year-old Dakar debutant finished first in the Rookie Qualification and fourth out of 15 quads overall in the 14-day, 8,700km off-road odyssey, while the experienced Chilean Ignacio Casales took first place. This route was said to be the toughest yet, with less than half of the vehicles - just 204 - reaching the finish line in Valparaiso. Just ahead of Mohamed, Dutchman Sebastian Husseini came in third, and it was the spirit of co-operation between the pair

during one of two 1,000km-plus marathons which helped ensure both made it through. Sebastian explained, “On the fifth day, I had a mechanical failure, which would have put me out of the race completely. Mohamed came along, got a rope and pulled me 80km in the desert and 150km on a mountain road. It was 45 degrees Celsius. He sacrificed his time to help me and get me back to the camp to repair my quad. I was about to quit, because we drove from 5:30am until 11:30pm, with barely no food and only water. I really appreciated what Mohamed did for me.” The interaction from fans at home and on social media was a major morale boost, said Mohamed, “It’s not about who gets there quickly. It’s about who gets there. Mentally, it’s a difficult rally. Sometimes you’re up, sometimes you’re down. So support really helps.” The Dakar rally began in 1979 with a cavalcade of 182 vehicles of all descriptions careering from Paris and across the Sahara to reach the Senegalese capital. The route shifted continents to South America in 2009, with even more challenging terrain. This year’s route left Rosario in Argentina and, for the quad and bike competitors only, crossed the Andes to 4,000m-high salt plains in Bolivia before looping south to Chile via mountain-sized sand-dunes, an ideal surface for anyone used to training on Qatar’s sublime sandscapes. Mohamed described his feelings, saying, “I’ve been dreaming of the Dakar ever since I was a little boy. I grew up in the desert and have been riding quads on a weekly basis. It was only natural to compete. My first Dakar was a life-changing experience.” Mohamed’s Dakar triumph is all the more incredible as in October 2013 a crash in the Morocco OiLibya rally left him hospitalised and doctors doubted he’d make a full recovery. He was ranked world’s men quad-biking number two. Pretty impressive for a young man who entered his first quad rally competition in Abu Dubi in April last year.

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this page: Maitha Demithan, Blossomed opposite page top: Maitha Demithan, Mark&Jill opposite page bottom: Maitha Demithan, Hassa

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THROUGH A SCANNER LIGHTLY Words: Anya Stafford

The Mutajadid exhibition by Maitha Demithan at Tashkeel shows the artist’s evolution as her scanographic portraiture integrates new processes

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n Mutajadid, Maitha Demithan’s show at Dubai’s Tashkeel, her subjects seem to shine as if coming from the black abyss beyond. Using scanner photography - or scanography - this prodigious Emirati artist pieces together experiences, time periods and artefacts to create large-scale painterly portraits. The result is an otherworldly effect. The subjects of her portraits have their eyes closed, which gives the impression that they are somehow floating in space. The title, Mutajadid, refers to progression, evolution and renewal. The way that traditions endure, in tandem with how they change, interests Demithan. Portraits are of people that she clearly esteems, from family members to colleagues, like Yvonne (2014), Rashid and Abdullah (2014) and Janet (2013). All magnify

or repeat body parts or items, such as Yvonne’s kindly hands and face, the falcon’s feathers on Rashid and Abdullah’s shoulders, or Janet’s blackberry and laptop. The series reveals the latest development in Maitha’s practice which has moved towards a process of collaging images onto fabric by hand, in an evolution from composing her images digitally, with paper as media. “I find the process similar to watercolour painting because one cannot subtract a step after it has been laid down….it is like a conversation; an outcome is not predetermined but evolves organically as a result of the interaction.” The subject and the object flow into one another and are indistinguishable in Mutajadid, and a presence is even felt in the ‘portraits’ of clothing. Children’s dresses

are a recurrent feature. The artist says that she wants to underline the individuality and validity of a child’s perspective. Maitha (2014) is the dress she wore to her sister’s wedding. Its spectral luminescence suggests a deep affection but also a melancholy. Azrag (2014) holds memories of the giver, a deceased relative, as well as traces of the wearer. Abbi (2014) and Ummi (2014) are a continuation of the water theme from Still Waters (2012), last seen at Abu Dhabi Art. In Mutajadid water returns in the form of digital rain, projected onto repeated images of her parents’ costumes: the burqa and the ghafiya. “Rain is a form of blessing in our culture and society…

I wanted to capture the feeling of rain, and the magic that comes with it from movement, to visual patterns that emerge.” Yewak (2013) is an abstract video of a falcon consuming its prey, and of the bird’s beauty despite the violence of the act. The camera stays with the falcon’s hood a while, its own artefact. Video and projections are where Demithan’s focus lies currently. In her current role as a resident at A.i.R Dubai, in preparation for Sikka Art Fair and Art Dubai, she comments, “I am absolutely out of my comfort-zone … which gives me the room to continue to explore the medium of video art and projection… only good things can come out of such an experience.”

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AUTO FRENZY Words: Owen Adams

Petrolheads in the Middle East and Europe experienced a fullthrottle whiff of excitement and intrigue at the first major events in 2014’s motoring calendar in Doha and Geneva

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ow in its fourth year, housed inside a new venue complete with its own banked oval racetrack replica, the multi-award-winning Qatar National Convention Centre, the fiveday Qatar Motor Show attracted more than 40 exhibitors at the end of February and – although figures haven’t been released yet – looked set to break its 150,000 attendance record. The most prestigious motoring event in the Middle East, organised by the Qatar Tourism Authority with esteemed international motorshow organiser Fira Barcelona debuting as a partner alongside q.media, showcased a plethora of top car models, for utility and sport, and the very latest technology. There were also superbikes and BMX, trailbiking and soccer daredevils, the Red Bull Racing team, defying the laws of gravity and reason with their amazing tricks. Enigmatic legend The Stig, from the UK’s Top Gear show, made a personal appearance, as did four-time Dakar champion Marc Coma, alongside stars of Formula One and Moto GP as part of the World of Speed seminars, supplying the insidetrack into the globe’s most famous rallies. A week after Qatar’s shebang, the venerable and massive Geneva International Motor Show took place in Switzerland. Now in its 84th year, this 10-day behemoth of shows is applauded by the motor industry as it gives equal space to German, Italian, British and other European manufacturers – in total 250 exhibitors from 30 countries take up 80,000 square metres of space, with a Green Pavilion celebrating environmentally friendly models, with 146 world and European premieres and with 20 cars retracing the 90-year history of the Le Mans 24 Hours race on display in one hall. Up to 700,000 visitors attended. Wows there were aplenty, across two continents.

Porsche Macan Turbo It’s already won hearts in North America, and now Porsche’s groundbreaking appeal to the SUV market made its regional premiere in Qatar. Pushing further into all-round capability following its Cayenne masterpiece several years ago, now the German luxury automaker has achieved a delicious fusion between sporty and utility, compact and spacious - as aero-sleek as a Porsche must be. Sports fans will adore the twin-turbocharged, 3.6-litre, six-cylinder engine and that it leaves other equivalents trailing in the dust with its 100 km/h in 4.8 seconds acceleration and top speed of 266 km/h. The versatility of the Macan Turbo means it handles the most brutal corners, is as efficient off-road as on-road and places passengers in a full comfort zone, with five Alcantara seats. Oh, and 14 Bose speakers for a real surround-sound experience.

Mercedes-Benz S-class Coupe The star of both Qatar – in concept form - and Geneva – the finished product - Mercedes-Benz hits all the right buttons for those desirous of the ultimate status symbol. Mercedes assuredly places its occupants in the lap of luxury - for instance, the option of headlines featuring 47 Swarovski crystals each. The sporty aspect is not only reflected in the two-door, but also three-spoke steering wheel and an option to tilt into corners for a supremely smooth driving experience. Using a technology that uses 6D Vision (that’s six dimensions instead of the usual two or three!) traffic and pedestrians are monitored up to 80 metres ahead of the car, and the suspension calibrated for the road ahead. In the words of Daimler, the silk and calfskinclad interior is “reminiscent of a whale’s fin just before it re-enters the water”.


Audi TT coupe One of the most hotly anticipated debuts of Geneva, the TT appeals as an affordable sports car, and an aluminium lightweight which has cornered a new, young go-fast market – and the new two-seater TT has evolved from past models in all the right ways. The thirdgeneration TT (‘technology and tradition’) is not a massive departure from the Mk1 or Mk2 range, but has sharper lines, a more angular nose, and is even lighter on its toes – meaning less fuel consumption and more dynamic handling. Inside, the infotainment is centred in an Audi virtual cockpit for minimalist appeal.

BMW 2 Series Active Tourer After shocking with its venture into SUVs, this marque of distinction brand has done the unthinkable – unveiled at Geneva a compact MPV, also known as a space wagon or minivan. The first front-engine, front wheel-drive BMW seats five people and their luggage spaciously, with a seven-seater model on its way. “The harmoniously proportioned Active Tourer oozes sportiness from every angle,” say Munich’s finest. BMW plans to up the sportiness quotient with a racier range later this year. With a long wheelbase, high roof, but with dynamic striking lines aimed at giving the impression of acceleration even when the car is stationary.


Maserati GT Concept

Jaguar F-Type

On the occasion of its 100th anniversary, Maserati is gunning for the same market at the Jaguar F-Type with its new GranTurismo but with the additional oomph of a Ferrari V8 engine. Due for production in 2016, with a mooted name the Gran Sport, Maserati’s GT is also aiming to get Porsche 911 fans to switch allegiances. The Italians’ GT design was unveiled at Geneva alongside a centenary-celebrating 100 limited edition Quattroporte Ermenegildo Zegna, paying homage to Zegna’s tailored clothing and accessories with leather and cloth seats.

The very best of British got a showing in Qatar – the F-Type lives up to Jaguar’s promise, the sweetest, most dynamic car on the racetracks. The V6 is impressive enough and suited to entry-level racers, while the V8 is the realisation of a new symbiotic relationship between beauty and the beast – heads will turn with admiration. Snugly sunk low inside, the Jag gives its occupants an intimate experience, a far cry from the world outside, with retro styling on the dashboard recalling the halcyon days of analogue. Themed in bright orange, this is a car for racing heroes. The only criticism is the tiny boot.


Land Rover Evoque Autobiography Dynamic With a moniker that takes so

on-centre precision, the chassis

long to annunciate, it needs

takes handling response up a

to be impressive. It doesn’t

level and it also looks great! It’s

disappoint. Classier than its

a bold design statement with a

winning Range Rover Evoque

new grille, jewel-like headlights

series, the Autobiography adds

and 20-inch alloy wheels. And

suaveness, more power and

like the new F-Type Jag, it’s

extra agility into the bargain.

orange, or “phoenix orange” to

And the nine-speed transmission

be precise, on the outside, with

really is something to behold.

a choice of six colour themes

The steering is finitely tuned for

for the leather interior.


Le Journal - spring 2014