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SCRF: Pakistan social media star makes theatre stage debut

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Pakistan’s young heartthrob Ahmed Shah and his brother Abu Bakr, who have garnered millions of followers and views online for their viral videos, made their much-awaited stage debut at the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival (SCRF 2023), on Sunday, enthralling hundreds in the highly acclaimed comedy production Akbar the Great Nahi Rahe (Akbar is no more ‘The Great’).

ALSO READ: Taj Divided: When Akbar praised this actor from Dubai

The special rendition of the popular play by the Bazm-e-Urdu group left the audience in splits with the young protagonists – Ahmed as the mighty Mughal emperor and Abu Bakr as the emperor’s brother Mirza Mohammed Hakim – and director Dr M Sayeed Alam of the Pierrot’s Troupe from India raising the bar with their comic timing.

The play, that revolves around an existential afterlife crisis faced by the Mughal emperor Akbar in his utopian abode called Burj Al Swarg (Tower of Heaven) and the dilemma by those around him whether to continue addressing him as The Great, has entertained thousands over the years with hundreds of stagings since its debut in India in 2019.

The narrative – specially curated in Hindi, Urdu and traces of English for the audience of the SCRF – takes a satirical approach to many contentious thoughts and ideologies that reflect contemporary India in the 21st century, over four hundred years after Akbar’s reign, when the greatness of many key historical figures including Akbar himself have come under the scanner.

The play opens with Akbar meeting emperors Ashoka and Alexander with their suffix of The Great firmly established for all three. But as they assess, along with Alauddin Khalji who ruled the Delhi sultanate in the 13th, whether Akbar indeed is worthy of his title, the plot thickens.

India’s former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee also adds to the unfolding drama with his characteristic take on the whole situation. Akbar then spends most of the time trying to fight eviction from Burj Al Swarg by holding on to his ‘greatness’ with references from Bollywood and Mughal history – much of what, he says, are today erased.

The 90-minute show also saw young Ahmed and Abu Bakr – dressed in regal attire – take the stage twice, introducing Akbar to the audience with pop quizzes on the emperor.

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UFC Fight Night set for August 3 on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi

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UFC, the world’s premier mixed martial arts organisation, returns to Abu Dhabi for an action-packed fight as No. 2 ranked bantamweight Cory Sandhagen faces No. 9 ranked Umar Nurmagomedov on August 3.

Tickets for the event, to be held in partnership with the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi), go on sale on Tuesday via etihadarena.ae and ticketmaster.ae.

Sandhagen (17-4, fighting out of Aurora, Colorado) returns to the UAE capital to cement his status as top contender in the bantamweight division. The Colorado native boasts wins over Rob Font, Chito Vera, and soon-to-be UFC Hall of Famer Frankie Edgar. He now hopes for a convincing win over rising star Nurmagomedov to make his case for a title shot.

Nurmagomedov (17-0, fighting out of Chelyabinsk, Russia) looks to put the division on notice by taking out a top-ranked opponent and making his first Octagon appearance in Abu Dhabi.

Nurmagomedov made his mark in the division after delivering dominant performances over Raoni Barcelos, Brian Kelleher and Sergey Morozov. Now, he sets his sights on securing the biggest win of his career by getting his hand raised against Sandhagen.

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Saudi Arabia’s Qiddiya to build ‘Aquarabia’, region’s largest water theme park

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Qiddiya Investment Company (QIC) has unveiled plans for Aquarabia, Saudi Arabia’s groundbreaking water theme park, set to open in 2025 alongside Six Flags Qiddiya City, marking a significant milestone in entertainment and tourism development.

Aquarabia, designed to embody the essence of Saudi hospitality and adventure, will feature an array of thrilling attractions, including four world-record-breaking rides and immersive experiences tailored for families. Complementing this, Six Flags Qiddiya City promises an adrenaline-fueled experience with its twenty-eight rides and attractions, including five record-breaking coasters.

Both parks, situated within Qiddiya City, will offer visitors a seamless and exhilarating entertainment experience, supported by innovative design and sustainability initiatives. With an expected creation of 10,000 jobs and a focus on environmental conservation, these developments align with Saudi Vision 2030’s goals, contributing to economic diversification and fostering local tourism.

Aquarabia and Six Flags Qiddiya City exemplify Qiddiya City’s commitment to sustainability by incorporating state-of-the-art technology for water use and waste management. These initiatives underscore Qiddiya City’s role as a master-planned destination dedicated to creating unforgettable experiences while prioritizing environmental stewardship.

The launch of Aquarabia signifies yet another milestone in Qiddiya City’s journey to becoming a global entertainment hub, offering diverse attractions that cater to the evolving needs of visitors and residents alike.

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Sushi-making with a ME twist at SCRF inspires young chefs

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 An interesting and kid-friendly version of the famous Japanese sushi has been a highlight of the cookery workshops at the 15th edition of the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival (SCRF), whose 15th annual edition is running until May 12 in Expo Centre Sharjah.

Armed with rolling pins, over a dozen young chefs set about flattening bread slices after chopping off their crust; then they squirted blobs of cream cheese on each slice and spread it to make the perfect bed for a thin slice of cucumber, sprinkled zaatar to spice up the rendition before rolling and securing it with a toothpick. 

Some even cut each rolled slice into smaller pieces to make it a tidy snack.

Aptly named “Divine Sushi Sandwich”, the preparation was truly divine for its nutritious quotient, ease of making and presentation. According to its creator Lamia Msallam, the sandwich made in sushi style is a safe and healthy option for young children. 

After four days of sandwich making, a “Mini Sushi Cake” workshop will engage children for the next four days, followed by another new dish with the same focus on healthy eating. The Palestinian chef added that she will use the nori paper used in sushi making for the ‘cake’ but without rolling it like in traditional sushi preparations.

The 15th edition, which runs from May 1-12, has the theme “Once Upon a Hero”. The 12-day action-packed festival for young readers, artists and creatives as well as their families showcases millions of books including latest releases in children’s and Young Adult (YA) literature from across the globe. 

SCRF 2024 is also offering the region’s largest platform for cultural and artistic appreciation with theatrical performances, culinary demonstrations, workshops in STEM, social media, music, and several exciting competitions, activities, animation events.

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