How many times have you seen a big old patch of lawn in the middle of Abu Dhabi and cringed? Lush green grass does not belong in the desert, and trying to make it so wastes water. That’s why Thomas Heartherwick came up with the idea of covering up an existing park with a shaded canopy, and it looks like a cracked desert landscape.
Abu Dhabi approached Thomas Heatherwick, a well-known and well-respected architect currently based in London, to rethink an existing park in Abu Dhabi.
“The existing public space evoked the style of a european park by covering the desert with a blanket of grass,” writes the studio.
“However, counteracting evaporation caused by the intensity of the sun was requiring a significant amount of purified water to irrigate it, produced industrially from salty sea water using a costly and high energy consuming desalination process.”
In response, the studio came up with the idea of creating a continuous domed canopy lifted about 65 feet off the ground. From above they look like cracks in the earth created by the desert sun, but below, they shelter a rich, cool and well-ventilated urban oasis.
“The idea for the park’s design developed in response to these challenges and as a way of celebrating the beauty of the desert and its distinct surrounding landscape,” the studio writes. “Instead of denying the presence of the desert that the city is built on, we set ourselves the task of making a park out of the desert itself.”
In addition to improving quality of life for residents of Abu Dhabi, who have to contend with rapid urbanization, thepark provides facilities for both learning and community activities.
Once completed circa 1917, the park will have cafés, play spaces, a library, pools and streams, as well as date palms and community vegetable gardens. There will also be a mosque, an outdoor cinema and indoor and outdoor performance areas.
“By creating partial shade for the planting, the canopy aims to reduce the amount of water lost to evaporation and so will improve the park’s energy efficiency and sustainability,” writes the studio.
Shaded during the day, and illuminated at night, the new and improved Al Fayah Park is bound to be a huge hit among locals.
Turkey is floating plans to build a new “eco-city” in the southeastern corner of the country, near the border of Syria, and green building experts from Gaziantep want to use energy from burning pistachio shells to keep it running.
The new 3,200 hectare city for roughly 200,000 residents would be located roughly six miles outside of Gaziantep in the province of the same name.
This is a historic city, one of the oldest continuously habited communities in the country, that is world renowned for its pistachio production. In fact the word pistachio means “Antep nut,” which refers to Gaziantep’s original name that is still used informally today.
Although the city also produces olives and other crops, Seda Muftuoglu Gulec from the municipality told AFP that it makes sense to look to the most ubiquitous natural resource as a source of energy, and pistachios are certainly that.
“If the region was abundant in wind power,” she said, “we would utilise wind energy.”
In 2013, Turkey exported 6,800 tons of pistachios worth roughly $80 million, and more than half of them were produced in Gaziantep.
A French engineering firm, Burgeap first discovered that burning pistachios can be harvested as clean, renewable energy, and that the local variety is the best suited for the job. The firm estimates that up to 60 percent of the region could be powered by renewables.
While local officials and landowners still have to come to an agreement, a 55 hectare area will be set aside as a test bed for the new city. Once agreements are made, Gulec says that the city can be built rather quickly.
In the last three years, Turkey’s energy demand has skyrocketed – it has the fastest growth in energy demand of all countries that belong to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECED), and the government is unable to meet 100 percent of its demand.
Finding alternative energy sources not only reduces this demand, but also slows down greenhouse gas emissions. Last June, Turkey submitted 9GW worth of solar projects within a span of five days – an indicator of its desire to incorporate more renewables into its energy mix.
Image of pistachio tree / Shutterstock
Barge-mounted desalination plants aren’t unique – the Saudis first deployed them in 2008 – but Israel’s IDE Technologies Ltd. and Japanese shipbuilders have a plan to take offshore floating desalination to a whole new level.
Fresh water is an unbelievably rare resource across the globe – one in six people lack access to clean water and more than 3.4 million people die each year because of its scarcity.
Even in places where water is plentiful, it may be contaminated, or the existing infrastructure may be ill-equipped to deliver sufficient resources to swelling populations.
Stationary desalination plants are restricted to towns and cities within reach of their pipelines, and they come with a smorgasbord of environmental complications.
Mobile, floating desalination plants can travel from place to place to deliver water to more people on an as-needed basis, but desalination is no panacea.
If anything, it spreads the problem, disperses it, and allows us to destroy our resources more quickly.
It’s expensive to make salt water fit for drinking as it requires a great deal of energy, and at the moment, most desalination plants are not solar-powered. Eventually this will change, but for now we’re mostly stuck with fossil-fueled desalination.
IDE Technologies recently announced that it is likely to deliver a fleet of custom offshore floating desalination plants within the next three years; each ship would be able to produce up to 120,000 cubic meters of fresh water in a day.
Udi Tirosh, a business development director at IDE, told Bloomberg News “ship-based designs could supply water for a city of 850,000 people and Japan’s shipbuilders are among potential partners.”
“The idea is to develop with our partners a multi-year, multi-vessel plan that would eventually supply significant capacity in various places in the world.”
Good news – getting fresh water to more people, saving lives – but also disturbing. What will our oceans look like in 10, 20, 30 years? Enormous cesspools of briny, trashy water filled with jellyfish and oil sheen?
Image via screenshot of IDE Technologies You Tube demonstration
Qatar plans to spend roughly $200 billion to prepare for the hundreds of thousands of fans who are expected to show up for the 2022 World Cup – a sum that appears to be four stadiums more than the Emirate can afford.
In its original FIFA bid, Qatar pledged to build nine new stadiums and refurbish an additional three to ensure adequate space for one of the world’s most popular sporting events.
The stadiums, it was said, would be constructed with state-of-the art technology that would incorporate solar power to cool interiors since temperatures are particularly high in the summer.
This has been the cause of ongoing controversy; earlier this year, FIFA’s Secretary General Jerome Valcke said it would be impossible to have a summer World Cup. But he spoke out of turn, and FIFA has left the issue open-ended for now.
And Qatar’s shady human rights record first unveiled by The Guardian brought even more scrutiny. Nepalese workers reported dismal working conditions and poorly ventilated, cramped living quarters and insufficient food and drink.
Last summer, according to The Guardian, roughly one person died every day from heart attacks brought on by extreme heat and exhaustion.
What, if anything, either of these two issues has to do with the decision to cut the number of planned stadiums by one third is not exactly clear.
Ghanim Al Kuwari, the organizing committee’s senior manager for projects, announced the plans at a conference in Doha yesterday, according to Bloomberg News, but failed to give a reason for the decision.
But John Sfakianakis, chief investment strategist at MASIC, a Riyadh investment company, told the paper that their decision was motivated by costs.
“It does always make good sense to do necessary cost-cutting and reviews of capex for such huge projects that are front-loaded.”
As it stands, Qatar will spend at least $34 billion on rail and metro facilities, $7 billion on port development, $12 billion on an airport that is behind schedule already, and $4 billion on the stadiums that will most likely fall into disuse once the World Cup is over, though it is very likely the end costs will far exceed early estimates.
Construction of Zaha Hadid’s Al Wakrah stadium, which many claim looks like a vagina, is underway and the Al Rayyan Stadium should be next. Construction on it should start by the end of 2014 or early 2015.
Vegetarians criticise meat eaters for giving the world cow farts (greenhouse gases) and for making animals endure unspeakable suffering. Vegawarians criticize both for not seeing the middle ground. Vegans take on all three groups saying that no animal products should be consumed by us humans, but there is another level of food piety: fruitarian.
When you think “Middle East” grilled lamb kebabs might come to mind. Other strange delights dangle on the Middle Eastern menu including sheep testicles.
But in Israel, the land of milk and honey and meat, about 2.5 percent of the population are die-hard vegans, with many restaurants offering vegan options. Among Israelis a new movement is emerging: fruitarianism. These fruitarians are people who eat nothing but fruit, some veggies and maybe some nuts.
They believe that even the vegan processed food industry is harmful and polluting and they are swearing off most every kind of food.
Despite having to eat kilos of fruit a day to sustain oneself, there are upsides: “it’s definitely less expensive than eating animals and animal products,” fruitarian Aviv Bracha, a 34-year-old psychologist from Lod told Haaretz.
Fruitarians also in general believe it’s just a healthier way to eat – with some fruitarians claiming that the size of our human jaw and teeth have been adapted to eating a fruit-only diet.
According to this fruitarian, fruitarianism in Israel is paradise: “I remember of eating the best figs, pomegranates, etc. there, and I suppose I couldn’t eat anything else but fruit, lol. It’s really the Garden Of Eden.”
With dates, figs and so many fresh options every season Israel is definitely a fruitarian paradise, like Thailand.
If you want more on Israel, the Hebrew-speaking community has a website 30 Bananas a Day which you can use to help find fruitarian food ideas when in the Middle East. If you can’t read Hebrew send it through a Google translate.
Ashton Kutcher, while rehearsing for his role as Steve Jobs
Idi Amin, Uganda’s military dictator while in exile in Saudi Arabia
Image of fruitarian catching some sun from Shutterstock
In the aftermath of the demise of Shai Agassi’s Better Place electric car network company, EV car purchasers in Israel feared they might become stranded due to not being able to recharge or exchange their car’s lithium batteries. Will Tesla, who said they wouldn’t, swoop in?
Rumors have circulated that Tesla Motors, manufacturers of high priced electric sports cars, might soon be introducing their cars into Israel to take advantage of the electric car infrastructure already set up by Better Place.
This rumor became ever stronger due to a partnership between California based Tesla Motors and the Israeli Mobileye company to produce the world’s first “driverless” car.
Using robotic technology to program and steer a car while the driver does something else was once a concept only found in science fiction. But due to technology developed by Mobileye, this fiction may soon become at least partial reality. In an interview at the Marker business section, Mobileye’s co-founder Amnon Shashua tried to set matters straight regarding how “driverless” his company’s system will actually be.
He said: “It’s not automatic driving in which the driver puts an address in and goes to sleep. The system permits control to be transferred to it for a limited time. You can read a text message or switch radio stations and temporarily turn over control.”
Tesla Motors was founded by South African entrepreneur Elon Musk; and named after one of the world’s most innovative electronics geniuses, Nikola Tesla.The cars start in price in the USA at nearly $60,000, with a new 2015 Tesla Motors “Falcon Wing” Model X CUV model expected to sell upwards from $70,000.
Some Tesla models are said to have a driving range of up to 425 kilometers. This positive factor is still not enough to sell Tesla cars to the mass market, as these prices put them out of reach of most car buyers, especially in countries like Israel.
As it looks now, the appearance of a Tesla electric sports car in Israel will be for driverless testing purposes only.
More articles on Tesla and other electric cars in the Middle East:
Photo of 2015 Tesla Model X, by Plug in Cars
Some people make injured sea turtles human-engineered solutions like this turtle that got new flippers but most sea turtles are just getting caught in fishermen’s nets or choking and dying from plastic without us even noticing. World sea turtle populations are steadily declining, but at some amazing sites in Abu Dhabi we still have hope.
Abu Dhabi has wildlife refuges such as the Bu Tinah Island Atoll, that is home to populations of rare sea turtles. Abu Dhabi is now going one step further to have these sites included in a UN sponsored list of locations which are vital to the preservation and well being of a number of endangered sea turtle species.
Abu Dhabi’s Environment Agency recently submitted a proposal to the Indian Ocean and South East Asia (IOSEA) Secretariat to include the Bu Tinah and Zirku Islands in the Secretariat’s network of locations vital to the survival of endangered sea turtle species.
The Bu Tinah Island Archipelago was particularly singled out due to its favorable conditions.
The Agency has been studying the sea turtle populations at Bu Tinah and Zirku islands since 1999 and has closely monitored the wildlife populations; including critically endangered sea turtle populations such as the hawksbill sea turtle.
Being listed by the IOSEA Secretariat will enable the Environment Agency of Abu Dhabi to receive more attention to help preserve their sea turtle populations, which number as many as 5,750 sea turtles inhabiting the waters during winter season and 6,900 during the summer.
Thabit Al Abdessalaam, the EAD’s senior adviser on terrestrial and marine biodiversity, said that being registered in the IOSEA’s network will help insure the island’s long-term conservation; particularly in regards to cleaner coastal waters and protecting these locations as nursery grounds for sea turtles and other wildlife species.
More articles on efforts to preserve sea turtles and other wildlife in the Arabian and Persian Gulf:
Rare Sea Turtles and Other Wildlife Living Happily on Persian Gulf Atoll
Greater flamingos return to Abu Dhabi Wetlands and hopefully to Bu Tinah
Protect the Middle East’s Natural Wonders – vote Today!
Persian Gulf Mermaids Face Man made Environmental Threats
Photo of hawksbill sea turtle by Wikipedia
Dubai International Airport (DXB) switched off all non-essential lights across its three terminals for 24 consecutive days to mark this year’s Earth Hour. It’s sister airport, Dubai World Central – Al Maktoum International, located 20 miles south west of Dubai, did the same.
Spurred on by the annual Earth Hour campaign, the airports’ action will save an estimated 300,000kw hours of energy and 129 tons of carbon dioxide emissions. A solid contribution by one of the world’s largest carbon-emitting industries!
Earth Hour took place globally on March 29, but the airports’ operator kicked off compliance early stretching the event to over 3 weeks of green behavior. The shutdown didn’t affect services within the buildings, which begs the question why were so many lights installed in the first place?
Blame the designers, and short-sighted airport operators who place aesthetics above the environment. It’s so easy to do both! (See how Saudi’s Hajj Terminal achieved this over thirty years ago – link here.)
Airports that embrace conservation see an immediate cash payoff. Energy efficiency projects (energy management systems, installing high efficiency lighting and occupancy sensors) have slashed Dubai Airports’ electricity and fuel costs by $4.33 MIL, cut water use by over 130 million gallons, and saved more than 72,000 tons of CO2. A win-win for operational and maintenance budgets and for the planet.
In the US and EU, stringent governmental regulations demand a minimum level of project environmental performance, and robust environmental assessment is compulsive during project planning and permitting processes which are overseen by national environmental authorities. Building codes, typically reflecting internationally accepted standards, mandate minimum energy efficiency characteristics for materials and equipment.
Major new airport terminal projects are underway in Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi, with continued airport expansion in Jordan. But in the Middle East, absent mature environmental agencies with strong governance over large capital building projects, conservation gets fitted into designs only if a designer convinces the client of it’s importance, or if that client is especially savvy to its benefits.
Safe to say it doesn’t happen unless the operator specifically demands it. And they usually don’t, until well after the project is over and the utility bills start to arrive.
Here’s hoping Dubai Airports sets a new trend that embodies an old UK adage: a penny saved is a penny earned. What’s good for an airport’s pockets turns out to be great for the world.Image of Dubai Airport at night by Shutterstock.
Masdar CEO Sultan Al Jaber is moving on to “greener” pastures, according to a statement released by Abu Dhabi investment giant Mubadala. The firm has appointed Al Jaber as its chairman; Masdar’s new CEO has been identified as Ahmad Belhoul.
Since its launch in 2006, Masdar has developed large-scale renewable energy projects with a total asset value of $7 billion and created two clean-tech investment funds worth $540 million. The company also established Masdar City in Abu Dhabi, a planned community, designed to be a hub for clean-tech companies, which aims to rely entirely on solar energy and other renewable energy sources and conform to a zero waste ecology policy.
Its first tenant was the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, a research university operating in partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. City development was originally intended to be completed by 2016 but the global financial crisis halted progress; full build-out is now pushed back to 2025.
Al Jaber wears several hats. In addition to his new chairman role, he will continue to serve as UAE Minister of State and as the country’s Special Envoy for Energy and Climate Change.
“Masdar has become a globally recognized renewable energy and clean-technology leader with investments and partnerships in Abu Dhabi and internationally,” Khaldoon Khalifa al Mubarak, group CEO and managing director of Mubadala told Gulf Business.
“It has also been pivotal in attracting the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) to Abu Dhabi. As chairman, Al Jaber will remain closely involved with Masdar to support its continued growth and ability to capitalize on high-value opportunities for Abu Dhabi.”
Belhoul had been CEO of Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing.
All eyes on Masdar to see how new leadership will affect performance and expansion of their green vision.
Image of Sultan Al Jaber (right) and Ahmad Belhoul (left) and from Gulf Business
Many conferences end in handshakes and no action, but Powering the Middle East aims to close deals. This two day summit in Amman hosted by HRH Prince Assem Bin Nayef from Jordan will connect energy and water players in the private sector with government officials capable of turning words into real projects.
Apart from the World Future Energy Summit (WFES) sponsored by Masdar in Abu Dhabi, and which Green Prophet is invited to every year, few summits in the Middle East region are designed to not only talk about the issues but to act on them.
Part of the Power Strategy Summit Series which will convene in Brazil, South Africa and other countries, Powering the Middle East will bring together governments from ten Middle Eastern countries and vested players in the private sector that together aim to turn worthwhile, meaningful, scalable projects to fruition.
An agenda advisory board will conduct ongoing surveys to ensure that the topics broached in panel sessions on 17 and 18 September, 2014 are absolutely the most relevant.
Members of this board include Alice Cowan, Program Director of The Clean Energy Business Council (CEBC), Loay Ghazeleh, Undersecretary Advisor on Major Infrastructure & PPP at Ministry of Works, Bahrain and Kishan Khoday, Regional Practice Leader for Environment & Energy at United Nations Development Program.
Unlike the WFES, which is like a small city when in full attendance, Powering the Middle East restricts delegates to 125 people with a 70/30 public to private split to ensure that the conference is manageable. And since quality is better than quantity, some of the most important businesses involved in the Middle East’s renewables industry will be there.
JinkoSolarco, Sun Edison, Tata Power, and First Solar are among the firms that will send representatives to meet up with governments from Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Oman, among others along with Ministers of Utilities, Academic and research institutes and Public sector bodies.
Fundamentally, this two-day conference aims to “erode the barriers to uptake of renewable energy sources and improve electrification in these economically growing and important regions.”
The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) is sending Dr Mustapha Taoumi, MENA Program officer as a representative, which speaks volumes about the summit’s expected efficacy.
“Renewable energy presents a powerful opportunity for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to achieve a globally important position in the renewable energy market – a market which is likely to become the cornerstone of the low-carbon green economy of the future,” Taoumi said in a recent statement.
“At Powering Middle East, IRENA will offer ideas on the business models most likely to attract investors and it will contribute to important discussions about policy and regulation, institutional frameworks, grid infrastructure, financial resources and capacity building.”
Visit: http://www.ese-power.com/register to get involved.
Stock image of men in meeting / Shutterstock
New York’s REX architecture studio has designed a pair of skinny media towers that feature ‘blooming’ Mashrabiya sunscreens that protect against excess solar gain. Mashrabiya is an old Arabian architectural practice to passively cool hot desert buildings.
After realizing that glass has no place in Middle East architecture given consistently sunny and hot climate conditions, studios involved in the region began to design external shading structures that shield buildings from too much sun.
Siemens recently incorporated fin-like shades on their new headquarters at Masdar, whereas the Al-Bahr towers in Abu Dhabi have a moving system that require a great deal more energy and materials.
REX has designed double-sided retractable mashrabiya screens for a pair of enjoined media towers. Both the client and budget are confidential, but the stone-clad towers with full glazing are designed for a narrow footprint somewhere in the Middle East.
“To efficiently accommodate the two media companies’ program within the precedent footprint, offices are stacked over broadcast and news studios, which in turn are stacked over each company’s common facilities,” writes REX in their design brief.
“The large studios which could not fit within the thin towers, and for which permanent blackout is desired, are organized below grade.”
Both sides of each tower are shaded by retractable sunshades with a 47.5 ft diameter. When the sunscreens overlap, they form a Mashrabiya pattern, “meeting the media companies’ shared desire for infusing the buildings with local iconography.”
The screens respond to the sun’s movement across the sky and open instantaneously, and at night, LED lights embedded in the shading structure create a massive 722 x 722 foot media wall that broadcasts the companies’ content in real time – this is visible from afar.
In terms of its projected environmental impact, shading the interior will help to reduce air-conditioning loads and LED lights reduce energy consumption as well, but this is going to be a mammoth undertaking if it ever gets underway.
Within the 2,600,000 square foot twin towers are offices, studios, an amphitheater, auditorium and theater, a cafe, canteen and even a fine dining restaurant, a lounge for regular employees and one for executives, a health club, majlis (not the floating kind, unfortunately) and an art gallery.
Coming up on my fourth year of taste-testing my way through Jordan – where the seasonal foods of the Levant pack a triple punch of being delicious, healthy and affordable – I amp up the smart-eating quotient by always avoiding desserts, filling up on marvelous mezzes and entrees because regional sweets leave me flat.
Knafeh (hoisted on you at every turn) is sticky, local ice cream is plastic-y, and an array of bread puddings seem lifted from the pages of Brit boarding school cookbooks. And someone please explain the appeal of Turkish Delight?
An English food writer has shared a recipe for a simple cake with emphatically Middle Eastern ingredients that might just get me to step away from the fruit bowl. Check out Diana Henry’s orange and pomegranate cake recipe, one of the featured desserts in her latest cookbook, “A Change of Appetite: Where Healthy Meets Delicious” (Mitchell Beazley, £25).
Ingredients for the cake:
50g (1¾oz) wholemeal breadcrumbs
100g (3½oz) ground almonds
175g (6oz) soft light-brown sugar
2 tsp baking-powder
finely grated zest of 1½ oranges
215ml (7½fl oz) olive oil, plus more for the tin
4 eggs, lightly beaten
Ingredients for the syrup:
juice of 1 orange
100ml (3½fl oz) pomegranate juice (pure juice, not ‘pomegranate juice drink’)
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
2 tbsp runny honey (let Miriam steer you to the real deal!)
Garnish with seeds from ½ pomegranate (Karin shows you how to get them out of the shell – and fast – link here)
Mix together the breadcrumbs, almonds, sugar and baking-powder. Add the zest, 215ml (7½fl oz) olive oil and eggs, and stir well.Pour the batter into an oiled springform cake tin 20cm (8in) in diameter. Put it into a cold oven and set the heat to 190°C/375°F/gas mark 5. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until the cake has browned and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
Meanwhile, gently heat all the syrup ingredients together. Stir a little until the honey has melted, then increase the heat and simmer for five minutes. You should end up with about 100ml (3½fl oz) of syrup.
When the cake is cooked, pierce the surface all over and slowly pour on the pomegranate syrup, allowing it to sink in. Leave to cool completely in the tin. It will sink a little in the middle, but don’t worry – this makes a lovely dip in which the pomegranate seeds can lie. Scatter the seeds on top just before serving.
Henry suggests serving this uber-moist cake with a dollop of Greek yogurt – which is unavailable in Jordan markets. Maybe improvise with some labneh instead!
Image of orange and pomegranate cake from Laura Edwards and The Telegraph
Want to see a city on “speed” grow? This time lapse video captures Doha as it expands rapidly for the 2022 World Cup in soccer.
Doha is getting exactly what it wanted when it made its bid for various international events: a lot of exposure. Most people will struggle to place Qatar’s capital on a map, but compelling time lapse videos like this and other marketing campaigns leading up to the 2022 World Cup will eventually make the emirate a household name.
Michael Shainblum has done a remarkable job of making Doha look like the world’s most enticing city with and for Zoom Arts.
A pulsing soundtrack adds dimension to a dynamic survey of such fixtures as souqs and mosques and ancient forts, while sublime footage of modern life in the oil-rich city makes traffic look incredibly glamorous.
It really is quite intoxicating – the city skyline somehow exudes more sophistication than its cousin of excess Dubai, which has forever sealed its fate as an oversized novelty store with developments such as the curious ‘Aladdin City’ complex currently underway in Dubai Creek.
Shainblum impressively resists the impulse to only represent stereotypical Doha by showing less glamorous parts of the city – such as its mammoth oil refineries, but he does pull off what amounts to a moving monument to globalization and “progress.”
The glittering towers demonstrate great wealth, while construction zones remind the viewer of what an extraordinary metamorphosis the city must undergo in order to prepare for the huge influx of soccer fans that are expected in 2022.
While it is clear to anyone who reads the news that we need to make some very real societal changes, that the rapid growth development model based on more consumption of finite resources is simply unsustainable, this time-lapse is professional, exciting and deserves to widely celebrated.
An expert blend of old and new Doha, Welcome to Doha is a reminder that the Arabian Peninsula has its finger on the pulse of the world’s most cutting edge technology, ideas and marketing savvy.
If you have any doubt, check out what happens after 2:20.
Restaurants and cafes in Jeddah have posted signs warning women that if they want to be served sheesha, their mahrams (male guardians) must be at their side.
The message – which comes from the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (Haia) - also requires that sheesha only be sold to customers over age 18. Fair enough, that bit. But the ban has Saudi women sheesha lovers steamed.
“I don’t want to drag my husband or my son to a café in order to have sheesha,” said businesswoman Alaa Daani.
“What if I want to go to a women-only gathering where we don’t want men with us,” she told Arab News, “I don’t see the need of a male guardian for this. This has nothing to do with gender mixing or anything against the rules of Islam.”
Complicating the issue is the fact that many women keep their love of sheesha secret from their mahrams. “No one knows I smoke sheesha, this is why I don’t smoke at home because my family doesn’t want me to do anything that harms my health,” said college student Hayat Ali. “I go with my friends once a week to any café to smoke sheesha and have a good time. There is nothing else to entertain us here but shopping and smoking sheesha. What are we going to do now?”
The new ruling comes on the heels of an indoor sheesha smoking ban and coffee shop owners say this might further harm their businesses. “We lost a lot of money and many clients after the regulation of serving sheesha only outdoors, which led us to rent more space and expand the café to the rooftop in order to serve it,” said café manager Jameel Mohammed, “I guarantee our business is going to lose a lot and we might have to shut down the café.”
Social media grabbed the news and ran with it – both sides of the argument weighing in loudly. “I am totally supporting this idea because it is sad when I see young women smoking sheesha in public,” said Ahmed Al-Shammari on Twitter. In his judgement, sheesha smoking makes “them look cheap and easy.” Sheesha’s popularity is at least partly attributable to the fact that it (unlike the women who like it) is so cheap and easy to access.
This is one smoking regulation that will likely trigger some intense heat.
Image of female sheesha smoker from Shutterstock.
Glow-in-the-dark roads recently debuted on a 500 meter stretch of Netherlands highway! Brought to you by the guy behind glow-in-the-dark trees. He’s been burning the candle at both ends – not so much to increase light levels, more to roll out new applications of his natural luminescence designs.
Standard street lighting has been replaced by light-absorbing glow-in-the-dark road markings in this pilot project, first proposed by Studio Roosegaarde in 2012, now installed after an arduous government approval process.
All reports indicate that the road safety project is more like a stunning art installation. A local news report said, “It looks like you are driving through a fairy tale.”
Daan Roosegaarde, studio founder and lead designer, told ARStechnica, ”I was sitting in my car amazed by these roads we spend millions on – but no one seems to care what they look like and how they behave. I started imagining this Route 66 of the future where technology jumps out of the computer screen and becomes part of us.”
He imagined road lighting provided by naturally glowing plant life or bio-engineered surface coatings. He thought about markings integral to road surfaces that would be triggered by temperature change to broadcast weather news to travelers (see image above).
This project is limited to glow-in-the-dark road markings on the N329 highway in Oss, and was developed in cooperation with road construction company Heijmans by combining photo-luminescent powder into road paint.
There is tremendous potential for products like these given stressed government budgets, ratcheting transportation operation and maintenance costs and ever-increasing demand for electricity. Heijmans plans to expand the project after monitoring performance of this first installation, but some challenges are expected. The paint emits light for up to eight hours but light quality is diminished by uneven application or rough surfaces. Eight hours is also insufficient in longer hours of northern winter darkness.
Studio Roosegaarde is a social design lab where artist Daan Roosegaarde with his team of designers and engineers create interactive designs that explore the dynamics between people, technology and space. They aim to bring technology and design to the real world, with practical and beautiful results.
Roosegaarde makes an open plea to governments around the globe to facilitate labs like his, “We should create labs in the city where we can experiment and explore these kinds of solutions. Like a free zone. We want to do it safely, but just give us a park and we’ll prove it to you. Be more open.”
Direct application of glowing pavement markings are impractical throughout much of the Middle East, where roads are not naturally cleansed of dust and oil by frequent precipitation. Here in Amman, light-reflective road markings are rendered ineffective soon after installation as vehicles grind dirt and debris into the sun-softened thermoplastic paint – preventing the light-reflecting components of the coating from performing their intended function. Bit this extraordinary pilot is a promising first step towards embedding renewable technologies into transportation.
Images from Studio Roosegaarde
An Israeli costume designer has created a series of hats that look good enough to eat, serving up 3-course millinery that pretty much covers soups to nuts. File this under “silver linings” - Maor Zabar cooked up his headpieces after being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.
His new obsession with avoiding illness-triggering foods infused his day-job designs!
“There is nothing I adore more than to let my imagination fly. To design colorful, fantastical hats, fascinators and other head couture,” says Zabar on his Etsy shop website, “I’m a costume designer for the theater and dance, with a particular passion (obsession?) for creating headpieces…for all those unique and special people who love a little drama and fun – I mean you.”
Each piece is meticulously hand-made from felted wool; gorgeously detailed from natural fibers, he never makes the same piece twice. Inspiration comes from history, culture, and fashion as well as from everyday foods. One of his designs is a wood-like sushi platter holding California rolls and a salmon nigiri (fiber chopsticks and a dollop of felted of wasabi included).
Another is a gorgeously rendered raspberry pie that has burst its pie crust, it “drips” becomingly down the wearer’s forehead. Too sweet for you? Then tuck into a healthy house salad hat or opt for a fried egg, with a side of mushrooms and asparagus.
The hats could prove poignantly nostalgic if World Food Program claims that the Middle East’s driest winter in several decades will radically change local crops and global food prices. (That report predicts that varying degrees of drought occurring across 66% of arable lands in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, the Palestinian territories and Iraq will have significant negative impact on regional diets).
For now, the designer (presumably with a full belly) hopes to expand his costume designs to include opera and theater productions outside of Israel.
“Millinery is not a common profession in Israel and most people here don’t wear hats or spend a lot of money on hats,” he says.
Maybe he could link up with fellow Israeli Kobi Levi, the freelance designer of fantastical footwear, and put the nation on the map as the epicenter of Gaga-esque couture! See more of Zabar’s extraordinary hat collection on his facebook page (link here).
All images from the designer’s website.
Dubious developments allow us to print 3-D guns, grow “hamburgers” in a petri dish, and design environmentally responsive haute couture. Now a new application of technology radically transforms the human experience! Four women have had new vaginas surgically implanted; organs fully lab-grown.
Don’t let this provocative body part distract you from the news – this experiment powerfully changes modern medicine.
The procedure - the latest example of regenerative science - was performed by doctors at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina and published in medical journal The Lancet. The implants happened eight years ago, but this is the first time the results have been reported.
The four patients – teenagers at the time of surgery – suffered from a rare condition known as vaginal aplasia, wherein the vagina does not properly form in a developing fetus. Previously, treatment involved surgical creation of an internal cavity, which is then lined with intestinal tissue or skin grafts. The condition is often associated with other reproductive organ abnormalities, but two of these patients had fully developed uteri, making it theoretically possible for them to conceive post-transplant.
To build the organs, doctors harvested tissue samples from each patient’s underdeveloped vulva (ensuring a perfect match), from which a large batch of cells were then lab-grown. A biodegradable “scaffold” was formed to the right size and shape for each woman; muscle cells were attached to the outside of the scaffold and vaginal-lining cells to the inside. Placed inside a bioreactor where nature took, building right-for-purpose tissues until they were suitable for surgically implant.
“Really for the first time we’ve created a whole organ that was never there to start with, it was a challenge,” said Dr. Anthony Atala, Director of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Wake Forest. All four patients subsequently reported normal sexual function.
Lab-grown tissue built upon biodegradable substructures could soon bump out current practice of removing cartilage from ribs or ears or in order to perform facial reconstructions. (3-D printed substructures are already used to regrow bone). Atala told the BBC that he expects 3-D printing to further revolutionize the field.
Living tissue has already been used to grow fully functional human bladders and blood vessels. Researchers at the University of Basel in Switzerland have used similar techniques to reconstruct noses damaged by skin cancer. And Professor Martin Birchall, a surgeon at University College London, successfully lab-grew and transplanted human windpipes.
Faintly beating hearts and urine-producing kidneys have been created in animal studies. Can human applications for more complex organs be far behind?
All images from Wake Forest Institute
A turtle that washed up on a beach in Israel was found with his two left flippers dangling hopelessly by his side – they had been severed by sharp fishing lines. The Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Michmoret named him Freedom and kept him for four years.
The center had no choice but to amputate Freedom’s necrotic fins, but when they did, he was no longer able to swim or breathe properly, according to NBC News.
“When he gets stressed, panicking for some reason, he gets into a spin as he can only use one side to paddle, his head tilts down to one side and he starts taking in water,” Yaniv Levy, the center’s director, told NBC.
Freedom, whose Hebrew name is Hofesh, lived like this for four years before an industrial design student came around looking for a meaningful design project to complete for his thesis.
Shlomi Gez’s work was cut out for him since the turtle needed prosthetic limbs that he could use to swim, but these are not easy to strap to a hard shell.
The Bezalel Academy student did some research, contacted a Texas rescue center that is rehabilitating a turtle with a similar condition, and eventually settled on a couple of angled fins that attach to Freedom’s shell.
Inspired by the tail of a Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor jet, they are made with an “advanced plastic” and have restored the turtle’s ability to move without assistance.
Freedom will never return to the Mediterranean Sea, where Levy estimates only 10-20 Chelonia mydas breeding females have survived reckless overfishing, pollution and oil spills and other human and environmental threats, but he will become a breeder – just as soon as his new girlfriend Tzurit is ready.
Photos via the Israel Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center
The ‘historical imagery’ function on google earth is particularly helpful in tracking changes to landscapes since about the turn of the millennium when satellite imagery became commonly available.
For instance, it has allowed me to estimate that the army of earth-moving vehicles that I saw at work have been excavating this site west of Abu Dhabi for almost a decade. The area of the development extends to roughly 39 square miles. The carbon footprint of this project defies belief.
The landscape was originally a large tidal sabkha plain. The developers had to first construct a sea barrier around the whole area, allowing the diggers to move in and lower the ground level.
A network of deep channels was created and then flooded through pipes before the removal of the sea barrier, allowing the area to become tidal again. The channels allow a deeper penetration inland of the high tide and make the whole ‘swamp’ navigable.
The process is currently being repeated on further areas, and the waste created by the excavations is being laid over the adjacent sabkha plain, raising the ground level and, presumably, creating an area suitable for future development.
‘Beds’ created by the channels have been planted with mangrove shoots, although with limited success so far. It is the stated aim of the Environment Agency to expand the Emirate’s mangrove forests. In fact, at least two million mangroves are slated to be planted along the coast by the end of this year.
Mangroves are known to store carbon efficiently and provide rich environments for wildlife. Many natural mangrove areas have been impacted upon by development around Abu Dhabi island.
I find tragedy in many aspects of this project: the destruction of a natural landscape, the excruciating regularity of the channel grid system and, of course, the energy consumed in order to create it, to name but a few.
Maybe it will eventually become a valuable environmental asset. But even if it does, it will always be there to stand testament to man’s fossil-fueled subjugation of nature.
Please see for yourself the breath-taking scale of this project on google earth at 24° 6’26.77″N 53°57’0.02″E
Note from the editor: this photograph is part of a series called “Consumption” that seeks to document consumerism’s impact on the environment. From resource extraction and commodity production all the way down the supply chain to retail stores and waste processing facilities, Richard artfully examines what nature has come to mean in a world that depends on buying stuff.
Three lamp-shaped towers make up the new Aladdin City that is being constructed in Dubai as part of an effort to boost the city’s profile ahead of the 2020 World Expo. I wonder what the genie thinks?
Dubai is becoming something of a legend itself with indoor skiing, the world’s largest tower, and a suite of artificial islands. But a new development project seeks to pay allegiance to an ancient folk story that is well-known around the globe – Aladdin from The Book of One Thousand and One Nights.
Instead of one lamp, however, the new complex will boast three: office space, parking buildings and luxury hotels will be incorporated into the three interconnected towers located within the commercial vessels port in the old area of Dubai – in Al Rigga, Dubai Creek.
“The symbolic content of the architectural form of the project buildings was inspired by the ancient legends from the 11th century, where vessels were sailed from Dubai Creek to the coast of East Africa, India and China,” Hussain Nasser Lootah, Director General of Dubai Municipality told Gulf News.
“It may have been here where the tales of Sindbad and Aladdin came from.”
A completion date has yet to be announced, but the Dubai municipality is expecting to draw more tourism to Dubai and stimulate the emirate’s economy either in time for or ahead of the 2020 World Expo.
The municipality also said that they are trying to improve their land use in Dubai, though this project does pose several challenges given the location in which it is being built.
Lootah told the paper that authorities want visitors to the region to still have access to the wooden abra boats that travel across Dubai Creek, as well as the harbor, without causing disruptions at the project site. Plus, visitor safety near a construction zone should be of concern.
Nothing has been said about the project’s environmental impact, but we don’t have high hopes.
For starters, the complex will have a footprint of nearly 361,000 square feet in an already crowded part of the Dubai, and its visual profile is nothing short of kitschy. At least the towers won’t be too tall however. The tallest will have 34 floors, while the other two will have 26 and 25.
Also, rather than creating a pedestrian-friendly environment, the project will provide 900 parking spots – further entrenching the car’s role in the city.