There’ll probably be a collective sigh of relief at this – GeekFest Sharjah 1.0 takes place tonight at the Al Maraya Art Centre located at Sharjah’s delightful canal-side Al Qasba and it’ll be an Olives Free Zone. No readings, no talks about the book and not a copy on sale.
GeekFest is an offline gathering for online people that takes place sporadically around the Middle East and features geeky talks, demos, workshops and other fabulous things. There have been GeekFests in Cairo, Damascus, Amman, Beirut, Abu Dhabi and, of course, Dubai - and GeekFest Jeddah is to take place next month. It's something I didn't set out to start and have never attempted to organise, it's just sort of happened. You can find out more here.
Instead I’ll be giving a talk about Sharjah’s history, particularly the role of Imperial Airways, which used to form part of the global network of air-routes that tied together the British Empire in the years before World War Two brought that very Empire to its knees and closed that rich chapter in history.
In the 1930s, massive Handley Page biplanes took off from Croydon Airport and carried their passengers around the world in journeys that took days, compared to the weeks and months that sea and land journeys used to take. Documented in the important 1937 documentary film Air Outpost, these leviathans of the sky landed in Sharjah for an overnight stay at Mahatta Fort, today preserved as a museum in the centre of modern Sharjah. It's a little known fact that the road by Sharjah's 'Saudi Mosque' is, in fact, the old runway. I've long been fascinated by Mahatta and its history, so thought I'd share that tonight, as well as screening the original film.
And not an olive in sight! :)