Tea with Culture

A podcast about the cultural happenings in the United Arab Emirates presented by Hind Mezaina (The Culturist) and Wael Hattar.

For the Love of Film 2015



The Culturist is an Official Honoree of the 16th Annual Webby Awards 


Hurrah! I received this email yesterday.


Dear Hind,

It is my pleasure to inform you that The Culturist has been selected as an Official Honoree of the 16th Annual Webby Awards in the Blog - Cultural category.

In recognition of the exceptional quality of submissions received this year, the Academy has acknowledged outstanding entries as Official Honorees, alongside our Nominees. With nearly 10,000 entries received from all 50 US states and over 60 countries, the Official Honoree distinction is awarded to the top 15% of all work entered that exhibits remarkable achievement.

Congratulations – this is an outstanding accomplishment for you and your team!


The 2012 Webby Honorees page goes on to say 

With nearly 70 categories, Website entries make up the majority of Webby Awards Winners, Nominees and Honorees. Some are beautiful to look at and interact with. Others are a testament to usability and functionality. And a handful excel across the board. To be selected among the best is an incredible achievement worthy of praise -- and perhaps a little bragging.

As a result of the superior quantity and quality of sites entered, the 16th Annual Webby Awards recognized sites and teams that demonstrated a standard of excellence.

Of the 10,000 entries submitted to the 16th Annual Webby Awards, fewer than 15% were distinguished as an Official Honoree. This honor signifies an outstanding caliber of work. Congratulations to all of our Official Honoree selections!


Here's the full list of Webby Honorees in the Cultural Blog category:




I'm happy, happy, happy.


This Is My Home 

This Is My Home is a short film by Kelsey Holtaway and Mark Cersosimo from Departure | Arrival Films. It's a delightful film about Anthony Pisano and his home that is full of items he's bought/collected from his travels over a span of 32 years. At first glance, it looks like a vintage shop, but after meeting Anthony Pisano, you realise it's his home.


On an unseasonably warm November night in Manhattan on our way to get ice cream, we stumbled upon what appeared to be a vintage shop, brightly lit display window and all. As we began to walk in, a man sitting out front warned us that we were welcome to explore, but nothing inside was for sale. Our interests piqued, we began to browse through the collections the man out front had built throughout his life. This is a story of a man and his home. 
Kelsey Holtaway and Mark Cersosimo



There are some great lines and stories in this short film, but this is my favourite quote from it,

A lot of senior citizens feel that they've been discarded, but  when people stop in front of my place they bring life to me because they're recognising me in a sense. That "Wow, what is this place" and they'll stop.  

A lot of people pass, they have these earphones on they'll see me but they'll just go by. They never question. As if people are afraid to talk one on one and that doesn't give me any satisfaction as far life is concerned.

Life is you talk with people, you touch them in a sense.






Here's the film. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


Google Earth Alphabets in Kuwait by Patrick Semaan

The Google Earth Alphabet project by Patrick Semaan
gives you a bird's eye view of the country by soaring over landmarks that look alphabets. Inspired by the Google Maps Typography project by Rhett Dashwood, Patrick Semaan thought he could do a Kuwait version.

I first started this 3.5 years ago, reached about half the letters and kinda gave-up / slept on it. I started re-working on it again in the past 4 months and finally got to finish it. It required lots and lots of patience and attention to details. The hardest letters were R, N and Z.


He's covered all 26 alphabets in this video which I really like, makes me feel like I'm flying over Kuwait. Enjoy.


Fighter by Khawla Al Marri


Khawla Al Marri is an artist from Dubai who aims to create cultural awareness in all her work. She says her work involves adopting and learning from the works of Warhol, Van Gogh and Picasso and merging it with "a taste of life in her native UAE". 

Khawla's first solo show, Fighter will feature a series of paintings portraying  women as warriors in the Arab world. It will open on 25th April at Ara Gallery and will be on till 2nd June 2012. 


The story of 'Fighter' is a powerful mix of two subjects, a fact from Arabia which is the existence of Arab women warriors in history, warriors who fought bravely with all their heart making their mark in books till this day.

The other merged subject is the power and positivety of modern women in this region. The fact was taken and linked to seven existing names close to the artist, all that are females who spread positivety.

The war zone is linked to life and its difficulties. The female warriors spread color and color is another beautiful description of 'life'. 

















Booms-a-Daisy is a name for a dance which I've never heard of before.

Don't know much about this dance, apart from the description from the video which says: "Old time dancing is celebrated in 1939 in Blackpool, England."

Where can I find some Boomps-a-Daisy dancing? 






The Dubai 50

The Dubai 50 is a guidebook with a difference. It's a satirical take on Dubai and the 50 things that make the city what it is. 

When I asked Conor Purcell, the man behind the book, what inspired him to write this book, he said, "I have been living in Dubai for nearly 6 years now and have a read a lot about the city, but nothing that mentioned many of the things that are part of every day life. I also felt a lot of the books were very dry and that something with a bit of humour would be more fun. Dubai, after all, is a fun place to live - but I didn't see that reflected in what I was reading." 

He's right, a lot of the books about Dubai are too dry and too formulaic. So it's quite refreshing to see a book like this. The intro inside the book says it all:  

This is a book about Dubai, but there will be no pictures of sand dunes, sheikhs, ‘then and now’ aerial shots, camels (OK, one, and it’s an illustration, not a picture) or whimsical descriptions of a ‘timeless past’. If you were expecting any of those things, we apologise now, although we still urge you to buy this book (and tell your friends how much you enjoyed it). If you are new to Dubai, you might learn a thing or two; if you have been here a while, you will probably get a laugh (not a legally binding claim) out of some of the things we have featured.

The Dubai 50 should be taken with a pinch of salt/grain of sand/not seriously. We just want to mention that, in case anyone gets offended (and our legal team told us to). We actually like Dubai, we like living here, and we feel, at times, the city could benefit from not taking itself so seriously. It’s a lot of fun living in this city, and in the following pages, we will outline some of the reasons why.


Here's the list of 50 things featured in the book and below are I've included extracts from the book. 


The Old Hand
Adjective: Someone who has been here a very long time

‘I remember,’ says the Old Hand, sat at the bar, his hooded, bloodshot eyes staring into space, ‘when all this was just desert. We’d have to make a weekend of it if we wanted to go to Jebel Ali. Sheikh Zayed Road? Two lanes in those days. Hit a wadi? Well, you’d have to get out and push! I remember when they were building the airport, we couldn’t believe it. An airport in Dubai?! And now look at it! Was such a tight-knit community back then. Everybody knew everybody. The Sheikh used to have us round for tea. Such a lovely man.

Of course, in those days, there were no doors, just palm fronds attached to some twine. If we were going on a long journey we’d take the Land Rover, for shorter journeys, the camel. No metro back then of course. Didn’t need one. Dubai was such a small place, you just needed to shout and whoever you were looking for would soon arrive, carrying dates and tea and petrol. Wonderful times. Of course, now it’s all different. Facebook?! We didn’t even have mobile phones back then. If we wanted to call back home, we’d have to take a dhow into international waters and wait for a navy frigate. We’d shout our message and the telephone number up to them and they’d call home for us. Wonderful bunch of lads. Another pint?’ 



Jumeirah Janes
Noun: A lady who lunches 

A ‘Jumeirah Jane’ (JJ) is a lady who lunches. And shops. And sometimes picks her kids up from school (if the nanny is sick). She can be seen gliding around Jumeirah 1 in an oversized SUV, or a lipstick red sports car, depending on the JJ’s age. She also drinks a lot of coffee, carries a lot of make up and eats lunch at the Lime Tree Café. A JJ can be of any nationality, but most seem to be British – in fact, the whole phenomenon seems to be a colonial hangover. OK, so a three bedroom villa near Satwa does not make you an ambassador’s wife, but if you had more staff than a mid-sized technology company, you might wander around with your nose in the air too.

Of course, some JJs do work, often in doomed-to-fail vanity retail projects (usually something to do with fashion, art or flowers), bank-rolled by a long-suffering husband. At night, JJs leave the confines of Jumeirah and head to one of the many social events the city has to offer. Art gallery openings, perfume launches, events of any kind – if there is a photographer present, you can expect a horde of Botox-laden ladies replete with the latest designer handbags. Their husbands are often present too, their vacant, hollow eyes staring grimly into space. 


The Springs
Noun: A large cluster of identical villas 

The Springs is a sort of Dystopian suburban nightmare – a master-planned community of more than 10,000 people, all (this is a guess) living identikit lives in identikit villas. The drab, cream-coloured houses stretch endlessly around tarmac roads, punctuated by the odd SUV or errant tricycle. What goes on inside these villas? No one really knows for sure. There are rumours of deviancy, marital experiments and such like, but for the outsider, it is almost impossible to breach the bland walls that surround the compound, for the whole area is dotted with security gates, where uniformed men write down the number plates of visitors.

What happens to all these numbers? Some (us) claim these lists are pulped at the end of every month and shot by cannon into the sea somewhere near Jebel Ali. No one (us) really knows for sure. What we do know is that the security men are there to stop interlopers from sneaking in to live the ‘Dubai Dream’ for a few hours without clearance or a legal rental agreement. If you do manage to make it inside, you will see the architectural equivalent of a failing marriage; everything looks just fine from a distance, but take a good look, a really good look, and you will see peeling paint, dying flowers, and the odd scream and the whiff of burning BBQ meat passing slowly through The Springs’ air. 



You can find The Dubai 50 in Jashanmal and Kinokuniya. It is also available online on  and on


Shaa'ir and Func at the Chill Out Festival 2012


I first heard about Shaa'ir and Func when I was researching all the acts coming to the Chill Out Festival later this month. I've been listening to their music for the past few days and quite like it, especially "Goodbye Cruel World". I'm really looking forward to seeing what they are like performing live. 


Shaa’ir and Func formed in 2005, when Randolph Correia and Monica Dogra met accidentally at a party in Bombay at 5 am.  They formed Shaa’ir + Func, and proceeded to write and release 3 albums in 4 years whilst touring the world.  First to last, their records are named, New Day: The Love Album, Light Tribe, and Mantis.  

Shaa’ir and Func is considered one of India’s most successful bands in the Indie music community, for having accomplished more than most bands twice their age. The Sunday Guardian labeled them, “India’s Most Important Band” and “one of the defining Indie bands of our generation”.  

They won the Jack Daniel Rock Awards for Best Vocalist two years in a row, and Album of The Year, with nominations for Song of the Year as well.  The Asia Voice Independent Music Awards also nominated S+F for Best Pop/R&B song, Best Dance Electronica Song, Best Dance Act, and Most Genre Bending Track, all in 2009 after the release of their 2nd album.


Goodbye Cruel World


Everytime You're Around


Do It Again



Shaa'ir and Func will be performing on the second day of the Chill Out Festival, on Saturday 21st April. 


Ticket details:
One Day Pass Advance AED 200 | Door AED 250
Two Day Pass Advance AED 350

Online tickets are available from: and 

Tickets are also available in the following locations in Dubai: 
Virgin Megastores, Zoom, Souk Madinat Jumeirah Box Office, EPPCO and ENOC 


Gulf Film Festival 2012 - International Shorts Competition

Still from Hatch 

This year's Gulf Film Festival will see the return of the International Shorts Competition which was launched at last year's festival and was my favourite part of the festival. There were some powerful story telling in the short films I saw last year and I'm really looking forward to seeing the films taking part this year.

There are entries spanning from North/South America to Europe. Here's my list of top 5:


A Fábrica / The Facory (Brazil), 15 mins
Director: Alysson Muritiba 

An inmate convinces his mother to take a risk smuggling a cell phone for him into the penitentiary.


The Sea is all I Know (USA), 29 mins
Director: Jordan Bayne 

An estranged couple come to the aid of their dying daughter. The experience sends them spiralling into a spiritual crisis and brutal heartbreak. In the end, an act of selfless love, renews their lives, transcends their loss of faith and even death itself.


Hatch (Austria), 19 mins
Director: Christopher Kusching 

'Hatch' follows two couples as they make heart-wrenching decisions. As illegal immigrants, one couple must acknowledge they cannot raise their newborn. The second couple, older and more stable, desperately want to welcome a child into their lives. Decisions borne of desperation cause their lives to briefly cross.


Eisblumen / Ice Flowers (Germany), 30 mins
Director: Susan Gordanshekan

Amir, a young Bosnian, does not have a residence permit. He fights his secret burden. When out of work, he ends up as a care-giver to Mrs Osterloh, who has dementia. An encounter between two people on the fringe who hold on to each other for a moment and lose one another soon after. 


Grenouille D'Hiver / Winter Frog (France), 18 mins
Director: Slony Sow 

Benjamin’s wife dies in his arms following a long illness. As he contemplates death, a young Japanese woman, gently guides him through his mourning – through a series of symbols and exchanges between two cultures.


Gulf Film Festival 2012 - My Top 20 Picks

The fifth edition of the Gulf Film Festival is back this month with an eclectic line up of short and full feature films from the Gulf as well as international participants. The festival is on from 10th-16th April in Festival City in Dubai and for the first time, the festival will also screen films in Abu Dhabi at the Abu Dhabi Theatre. 

The Gulf Film Festival has something for everyone, here's my list of top 20 picks, but you can see the full line up, along with the schedule on



Tora Bora (Kuwait), 102 mins
Director: Walid Al Awadi

Abu Tarek and Umm Tarek set off on a brave journey to search for their youngest son Ahmed, who after being brainwashed by extremists, decides to leave Kuwait for Afghanistan. 


Amal (UAE), 88 mins
Director: Nujoom Al Ghanem

Amal arrives in the UAE full of hope and dreams. After her first year in the country, she finds herself struggling to achieve and implement the bare minimum of her plans. She slowly finds herself coming to terms with the realisation that despite her rich artistic background in her home country, she is restricted to the margins of the cultural landscape in the Emirates. 


Silence: All Roads Lead to Music (Italy, UAE, Iraq), 80 mins
Director: Haider Rashid

From a small seaside town in Sicily, a musician who has left the stage 15 years ago travels across the Mediterranean island to put together 'The Silence Project', an unusual combination of ethnic and classical musicians who meet and play for the first time during an Arab Film Festival. Coming from four different backgrounds, these eclectic artists travel from their separate worlds, uniting into a sound that blends Sicilian, Arabic, Aboriginal and jazz styles into the realm of the purest border-free music.


Halabja - The Lost Children (Germany, Iraq, Syria), 72 mins
Director: Akram Hidou

Ali visits the cemetery of Halabja, Kurdistan, Iraq and remains silent in front of a tombstone with his name scratched name upon it. Twenty-one years after Saddam Hussein's poison gas attack in 1988, Ali returns to Halabja looking for his lost family. Meanwhile, five families have their hopes pinned on him to be their missing child.


Glitter Dust: Finding Art in Dubai (UAE), 60 mins
Director: Katy Chang

In the documentary feature 'Glitter Dust: Finding Art in Dubai', three artists come to terms with the truth and the artificial. Delightful hand-drawn animations interplay with live footage as art and life are intertwined in this funny, yet poignant journey of the artists as they're followed on their quest for culture.


Bahiya and Mahmoud (Jordan), 14 mins
Director: Zaid Abu Hamdan 

Bahiya and Mahmoud are an aging couple, who have fallen into a predictable routine of bickering and making one another miserable…Until one morning, Mahmoud wakes up and finds Bahiya has left. 


Wonderland - A True Story (Kuwait), 38 mins
Director: Dana Al Mojil 

An adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland' that is set in Kuwait. The film highlights the similarities between the social and political situation in modern-day Kuwait and Alice's Wonderland.


Huna London / This is London (Bahrian, UAE), 17 mins
Director: Muhammad BuAli

A couple's objective of sending a photograph of themselves to their son in London should be an easy enough task. However, when the wife refuses to go to the studio, the photographer must devise new ways to capture her in a perfect shot.


Snap Shot: A Trekking Man (Saudi Arabia), 17 mins
Director: Tareq Yosef 

Jalal Bin Thaneya starts his pilgrimage to Mecca from Abu Dhabi - by foot. The director Tareq Yosef walks with him for a day to learn more about the man and his journey.


En Let Brise / A Light Breeze (Denmark), 26 mins
Director: Rania M Tawfik 

En Let Brise / A Light Breeze is an experimental multi-camera graduation documentary from The National Film School Of Denmark. Sahar derives great joy through dance. How easy is it to experience happiness?


The Gamboo3a Revolution (UAE), 17 mins
Director: Andulrahman Saleh Al Madani  

When the traditional sheila and abaya were reinvented to launch a trend of ‘Gamboo3a’, (the bee-hive hair or ‘camel hump’), society was divided over it. 'The Gamboo3a Revolution' explores this debate, of fashion v/s modesty.


Cats (UAE), 15 mins
Director: Marwan Al Hammadi 

‘Cats’ shines the spotlight on the lives of wild cats adopted by families in the UAE. Through four characters, we are introduced to the care and concerns of owners as they rear these magnificent species.


Znikniecie / Vanishing (Poland), 20 mins
Director: Battosz Kruhlik

35-year-old Iwona looks after the house in her husband's absence. She tries to imoprove her relationship with her son Michal. One day, Michal doesn't return home and none of his friends knows where he is.


La Vitesse du passé / The Speed of the Past (France), 17 mins
Director: Dominique Rocher 

Margot and Joseph are moving in to their new country house. Suddenly time stops, as Joseph falls off the roof and gets stuck in space time. Joseph's suspension in space-time forces his wife Margot to wait all her life. 


Timeglass / Hourglass (Norway), 16mins
Director:  Pedro Collante

Anna and Anton live in a small Norwegian town and are about to enter adolescence. They deal with boredom in different ways. Anton is eager to explore the world, while Anna spends most of her time with Bamse, her big fluffy dog. One day Bamse finds a mysterious wooden box on the beach... 


Artificial Melodrama (Singapore), 18 mins
Director: Giovanni Fantoni Modena

A European actress wants to leave Singapore soon after she arrives. The promise of a new world of opportunities has faded away, and she is only left facing the hyper-modernity of the new Asian cities, until a taxi driver shows her the hidden beauty of Singapore.


Hranice / Border (Czech Republic), 16 mins
Director: Martin Philipp Raiman 

Czechoslovakia 1972. A young couple decides to leave everything behind. Friends, families, loved ones. Taking a train to Yugoslavia they quickly discover that they need more than will to escape. The regime works without mercy and occupies the couples’ minds - to the end. 


The Akram Tree (UAE), 81 mins
Director: Francesco Cabras, Alberto Molinari 

The Akram Tree' is a journey through the personal and professional world of the celebrated British choreographer and dancer Akram Khan. Khan works with artits from around the world to compose a beautiful narrative and interpretation of dance that draws from his Bangladeshi heritage.


Sea Shadow (UAE), 97 mins
Director: Nawaf Al Janahi 

Set in a small seaside village in the UAE, 'Sea Shadow' follows teenagers Mansour and Kaltham as they struggle with tradition and convention in their journey towards adulthood. Bound by family and deeply-rooted values, the pair must find the courage to forge their own paths. 


Carrom (Saudi Arabia), 12 mins
Director: Hamzah Tarzan 

Abo Hanan, a 55-year-old man, diligently sets up his game of carrom every day. After a long wait, Mohammed comes along to play with him. 



It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World


Last night as I was switching channels on TV, I came across this scene from It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World featuring Milton Berle (J. Russell Finch) and Terry-Thomas (J. Algernon Hawthorne) - it made me laugh and I ended up watching the rest of the film.

It's a madcap comedy about a group of people all chasing a hidden suitcase with money and is quite funny. The film includes Spencer Tracey, Sid Caesar, Mickey Rooney, Ethel Merman and a lot more. 

Here's the quote from the scene I'm talking about and the video is added below:

J. Algernon Hawthorne: I must say that if I had the grievous misfortune to be a citizen of this benighted country, I should be the most hesitant of offering any criticism whatever of any other. 

J. Russell Finch: Wait a minute, are you knocking this country? Are you saying something against America? 

J. Algernon Hawthorne: Against it? I should be positively astounded to hear anything that could be said FOR it. Why the whole bloody place is the most unspeakable matriarchy in the whole history of civilization! Look at yourself! The way your wife and her strumpet of a mother push you through the hoop!
As far as I can see, American men have been totally emasculated- they're like slaves! They die like flies from coronary thrombosis while their women sit under hairdryers eating chocolates & arranging for every 2nd Tuesday to be some sort of Mother's Day!
And this positively infantile preoccupation with bosoms. In all time in this wretched Godforsaken country, the one thing that has appalled me most of all this this prepostrous preoccupation with bosoms.
Don't you realize they have become the dominant theme in American culture: in literature, advertising and all fields of entertainment and everything. I'll wager you anything you like that if American women stopped wearing brassieres, your whole national economy would collapse overnight. 

[via IMDB]





I love it.