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Get your Seawings and see a different perspective
Peaceful Sri Lanka
Think like a winner
Female horse riding team
Sharing your home –
the good, bad and the ugly
Dubai Summer Surprises
Law catches up with credit card predators
n common law jurisprudence, a suspect is a leading global bank once told a curious card presumed innocent until proved otherwise. customer that the interest charges were calcuBut as far as banks are concerned, particularly lated by the bank’s computer system and she when it comes to credit cards, the reverse must was in no position to provide any details. hold true. Any bank may be deemed an offender There are innumerable other ways of until it can establish itself to be above board. cheating as well. Suppose you deposit a certain There are signs that finally the law is catching number of notes of a certain denomination in up. The signing of sweeping credit card reforms the envelopes provided with the cash payment into law by President Barack Obama will hopefully terminals. Sometimes the amount credited shield consumers from predatory practices by credit will be a couple of notes less. There is no way By K Raveendran you can convince the bank that you had card companies. The American reforms in the credit card market deposited more than what has been credited. may be a far cry from their having any substantial It is the bank’s word, against anybody else’s, impact on the fortunes of the local and regional credit that matters. There is nothing you can do to redress your card customers, who enjoy little regulatory protection grievance, except pray that this does not happen to you a against policies that virtually amount to cheating. Shock second time. rate hikes, unannounced penalties for a plethora of alleged This is precisely what President Obama meant when he defaults, promotional offers that trap customers into debt said “credit card debt is easily a one-way street”, while signtraps are all standard practices. The small prints in the ing the legislation incorporating the credit card market credit card statements and application forms are veritable reforms: “It is easy to get in, but almost impossible to get traps for unwary customers. out.” Credit card companies and banks lose no opportunity The new law forbids rate increases on existing balances to cheat. And they keep discovering newer and newer ways unless consumers are at least 60 days late paying their bill of implementing their agenda. Some of these are truly or the initial rate was a promotional rate that has expired, ingenious. Take for instance long holidays like Eid and and requires 45 days’ notice to raise rates. Ramadan, when banks’ functioning becomes irregular. The new law bans fees for payment processing, such as Even cheques dated sufficiently in advance will not be surcharges for paying by telephone; imposes steep restricsent for clearance until it safely overshoots the payment tions on issuing cards to people under 21 years of age, and date so that the bank or the finance company concerned requires that promotional interest rates on new cards stay can charge a fine for delayed payment. And such fines valid for six months. invariably come accompanied by a series of other penalties, The new US law may not force international banks opincluding outrageous finance charges and complicated erating locally and regionally to play the game in the same interest calculations that can drive even a Maths wizard to spirit. But there is one consolation for the card customers desperation. here: the American banks would be accountable to at And if you ask for the break-up of the interest charges, least the US regulators, who could question the banks on the replies you get range from absolute nonsense to their policies and procedures all over the world. That’s calculated indifference. The lady call centre attendant of good news for us too.
UAE Digest, June 2009 l 1
Get your Seawings and see a different perspective
Peaceful Sri Lanka
DILEMMA SPORTS DSS
Think like a winner IN FOCUS Female horse riding team Dubai Summer Surprises
Sharing your home – the good, bad and the ugly
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2 l UAE Digest, June 2009
HOME & GARDEN
On the Cover
it’s an indiana Jones moment when you first see the flying boat land in the water. a local company takes up to six passengers on aerial sightseeing tours of Dubai and everyone gets a window seat.
Making room for others
The good, bad and ugly about sharing accommodation – your home – with others.
A winning mind
Focusing your mind on winning in life – both professionally and personally.
Modesty always in style
Modesty is now the new ‘in’, according to international fashion designer Rabia.Z, a UAE national.
Arabyana: Emirati women and horse riding
Nobody could have imagined UAE having its own women’s horse riding team. This dream has turned into a reality.
A small miracle
Sri Lanka is aggressively marketing itself as a destination that has ‘defeated terror’ and ‘restored peace’. ‘A land like no other’ is now a ‘small miracle’ - a new tagline for the island nation that has been plagued by three decades of conflict.
4 l UAE Digest, June 2009
IN THE NEWS
MegaTrends discussed at Emirates Palace
bu Dhabi University held the ‘MegaTrends, Essential Strategic Insights 2009’, under the patronage of HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Abu Dhabi University last month, at the Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi. A first conference of its kind, MegaTrends featured presentations and strategic advice from economic experts across the globe, complemented by local expertise. The opening address was given by HE Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan - Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA), Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (Adnec) and the Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC) - during which he outlined key business, tourism and educational initiatives aimed at winning new business for the emirate and at raising service standards throughout the local industry. He also updated delegates on performance forecasts for Abu Dhabi’s tourism industry – identified by the Abu Dhabi government as a key economic diversification driver. Meanwhile, HE Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri, the UAE’s Minister of Economy, discussed the global macro-economic situation and the UAE government’s plan to strengthen its economy. The main keynote speech of the day, and one that, as expected, generated huge interest, was given by Paul Krugman, Professor of Economics at Princeton University, and the 2008 Nobel Prize winner for Economics. He talked about the future direction of the global economy, examining the European response to the worldwide economic slump, the effectiveness of the US Administration’s economic policy, and looking at which countries are most likely to emerge faster and in better shape from the economic downturn. Professor Krugman is generally regarded as the foremost authority on economic recovery and an advisor to US President Barak Obama. He is also the author of several books, including best sellers, The Conscience of a Liberal, The Return of
Depression Economics and The Great Unravelling. HE Ali Saeed bin Harmal Al Dhaheri, Chairman of ADU, said Megatrends was central to anyone wanting to plan their organisation’s finances for the future, and offered networking opportunities with the biggest, best and brightest in the region. “It was a key forum for the development of a winning strategy for investment in the region, with the best and brightest industry leaders discussing their predictions. Attendance at this conference offered delegates the opportunity to extend their investment strategies to new, more profitable sectors across the whole of the GCC, and in particular within the UAE, allowing the enhancement of an organisation’s competitive advantage with better informed business strategies for the future. Attendees are now in a better position to develop new and improved banking and risk management techniques, enhancing transparency and improving liquidity in the banking and financial systems of the UAE, as they have got the inside track on how exposed investments in the property market really are,” he
HE Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan
concluded. Other highlights of the day included an address by the leading international futurologist Ross Dawson on the technologies that will drive growth and the opportunities presented by social and generational change. There were also three separate panel discussions looking specifically at the GCC’s financial landscape, the position of the UAE’s banks, and the future of the Gulf ’s property market.
Krugman wins Nobel Prize for economics
The American economist Paul R. Krugman won the Nobel Economics prize last month for his analysis of trade patterns and location of economic activity. Mr Krugman, 55, a professor at Princeton University in New Jersey and a columnist for The New York Times, formulated a new theory to answer questions about free trade, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said. “What are the effects of free trade and globalisation? What are the driving forces behind worldwide urbanisation? Paul Krugman has formulated a new theory to answer these questions,” the academy said, in its citation. “He has thereby integrated the previously disparate research fields of international trade and economic geography,” it said. Mr Krugman was the lone of winner of the 10 million kronor ($1.4 million) award, the latest in a string of American researchers to be honoured. The award, known as the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, is the last of the six Nobel prizes announced this year and is not one of the original Nobels. It was created in 1968 by the Swedish central bank in Nobel’s memory.
UAE Digest, June 2009 l 5
IN THE NEWS
Winners, charitable acts and other tidbits
from construction and real estate to education and health services, and achieved higher level of quality standards. The function was graced by H. E Sheikh Nahayan bin Mubarak Al Nahayan, UAE’s Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, who spoke eloquently, praising the achievements of these awardees and their valuable contributions not only to India and UAE, but also to the economies of the two countries. The Capital Club, Dubai’s premier private business club, recently held an event to celebrate its first anniversary and support the Start Foundation, a not-for-profit child development and art education organisation. HE Dr Omar bin Sulaiman, Governor of the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) and Chairman of the Capital Club, hosted the Club’s Board of Governors, members and other dignitaries at the club located within Gate Village at the heart of DIFC. Since its launch in late 2006, the Capital Club has attracted over 1,300 members, from some 600 organisations, including some of the region’s most senior decision-makers and leaders in business, finance and government. The luxury décor of the club – which houses
Secret Sound winner Ben Tomblin (right) collected a cheque for Dh80,000 from Dubai 92FM breakfast show hosts Catboy (left) and Geordiebird recently at a ceremony at Dubai Festival Centre. Tomblin’s keen ear helped him beat the competition for the jackpot when he correctly identified the sound that had frustrated the station’s listeners for weeks — Catboy dipping his hand into a pile of buttons! Ben, who has lived in the UAE for nine years, has various plans for the money, including treats for his wife and two school-age children.
he newly elected Board of the Indian Business & Professional Council (IBPC) held their first major event to felicitate the recipients of the prestigious Padmi Shri Award to Mr Sunny Varkey, Dr B R Shetty, Dr Ashok Gupta; and Pravashi
Bharatiya Samman Award to Dr J R Gangaramani. These awards were conferred on them by the President of India for their distinguished achievements in the fields of business and community services. All the awardees have been pioneers in their chosen fields of activity, ranging
From left to right: Dr GM Bajpai – Vice President, IBPC; Mr Kulwant Singh – Member, IBPC; Dr Ashok Gupta - Padma Shri Award Winner; Mr Sunny Varkey - Padma Shri Award Winner; Dr J R Gangaramani – Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award Winner; Dr B.R Shetty Padma Shri Award Winner; Mr Paras Shahdadpuri – President, IBPC; H. E Sheikh Nahayan Bin Mabarak Al Nahayan - Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research; H. E Mr Venu Rajamony – Consul-General of India; H. E Mr Talmiz Ahmad – Ambassador of India to UAE; Mr Nilesh Kumar Ved - Member, IBPC; Mr Navin Kapoor - Member, IBPC; Mr Abbas Ali Mirza – Member & Past President, IBPC
6 l UAE Digest, June 2009
restaurants, lounges, private meeting rooms, a wellness centre, and guest rooms - is exquisite and includes contemporary art from the region, fine antiques, handcrafted furniture and rich imported fabrics. In recent months, the Capital Club has hosted or been the chosen venue for exclusive events for members with high-powered international guests and speakers. These have included the President of Singapore, the Royal Family of the Netherlands, The British Royal Family, The Royal Family of Denmark, ministers from the UK, Thailand, Turkey and Switzerland, a Formula 1 Racing Driver, a World Champion snooker player, and the Board of the UAE Central Bank. Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC)’s new vault became operational at the end of April. Situated in the heart of the Jumeirah Lakes Towers free zone community, the DMCC vault combines the advantages of a unique location together with the highest global security standards. The vault is intended for both short and long-term storage of precious metals and other high-value products. The vault is open to local and international banks, corporates, HNWIs and DMCC members and uses the latest security equipment and inventory management systems. It is protected 24/7 by dedicated operational security and surveillance teams and offers state-of-the-art facilities to satisfy customers’ storage requirements. A direct link with Dubai Police Control Room helps ensure the fastest possible emergency response. DMCC has appointed Brink’s Global Services (BGS), the market leader in risk management and secure logistics for the complete day-to-day operations and management of the new vault. National Bonds Corporation, the UAE’s innovative Shari’a compliant National Saving scheme has announced a major revamp to the draw format of its popular saving scheme by changing the draw from a monthly to a weekly format. This new structure is aimed to encourage more people to save and reward them by becoming millionaires every week. National Bonds Corporation promotes a savings culture and strongly believes that by increasing the draw frequency, it will help bond-holders to achieve their short and long-term goals. The first weekly National Bonds Millionaire was announced on May 9, and from then on every Saturday of the week. Under the new format, there will be 101 prizes every week distributed across different prize categories - Dh1 million, Dh10,000, Dh5,000, Dh1,000 and Dh500. Bond-holders eligible to win the grand prize of Dh1 million every week are those with minimum savings of Dh10,000. While all bond-holders regardless of their savings amount, are eligible for the remaining 100 prizes. Nakheel officially opened the Palm Monorail to the public at a ceremony held at Gateway Station, Palm Jumeirah on Thursday, April 30, 2009, the first transport system of its kind to open in the Middle East. It is now running four trains between the Gateway Towers and Atlantis stations, with a capacity of 2,400 passengers per hour per day. The service runs from 8am to 10pm daily, with tickets costing Dh15 for a single journey and Dh25 for a round trip. The system will be increased to a total of nine trains per hour with a capacity of 6,000 passengers per hour per day once connected to the Dubai Metro. State-of-the-art technology has been employed to overcome a number of challenges, including running 1,000 metres of rail over-sea, meeting Dubai’s unique climatic conditions, and protecting the communities of Palm Jumeirah from noise pollution by using a virtually silent track system. Developed by a consortium of leading international companies, led by the Marubeni Corporation, the Palm Monorail’s system is fully automatic and driverless, although an attendant will be on board at all times.
(left to right) Mr. Arif Naqvi, Governor; H.H. Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Honoury Chairman; HE Dr Omar bin Sulaiman, Chairman of the Board of Governors; Guy Guillemard, CEO Signature Clubs Int.
(left to right) Chris Genockey, Manager - Projects/Commodities, Brinks Global Services; Chirag Sharma, Business Development Manager – Gold, DMCC; Pierre Grabowski, Director, Property Asset Security, DMCC; Ahmed bin Sulayem, Executive Chairman, DMCC; Malcolm Clingham, General Manager, Brinks Global Services; David Rutledge, CEO, DMCC; Clive O’Flynn, Vice-President of Operations & Security Brinks Global Services Ltd; and Harendra Kailath, Director – Gold, DMCC.
Nazek H. Al-Sabbagh, Marwan Al Qamzi and Col. Abdulla Ali Abdulla Al Ghithi at the Metro station
UAE Digest, June 2009 l 7
DSS is aimed at making vacation time eventful for kids
A summer of
By Ambily Vijaykumar
The twelfth edition of the Dubai Summer Surprises adds new features to attract more tourists
Dubai has earned the tag of being the fourth dominant retail city in the world. With 4,000 participating outlets and over 40 shopping malls offering sales, DSS is being marketed as a ‘shoputainment’ event. The opening ceremony is slated to be “full of surprises” as the organising authorities like to put it. Apart from shopping and dining, there will be various raffle draws, international events and dance shows, as well as 33 world class spas in Dubai, offering the best deals to visitors to rejuvenate. “We were inspired by the unparalleled attractions offered by our city and its state-of-the-art infrastructure, in addition to its ever-expanding entertainment and shopping destinations,” says Yousif Mubarak, COO of DSF Office. One of the stand-out attractions this year is the ‘cool activities at the beach’. Activities including rain parties, barbecue nights, covered sun beds, beach spa treatments, and sea-food restaurants, to name a few that will add flavour to the season. There are special offers at luxury spas, including the ones at Atlantis and The Address hotel. “Dubai, with its envious coastline offers the scope to transform its beaches into a hot spot this summer. The idea is to make the beach a festive zone for families,” explains Rania Al Mughrabi. Signature events include Sheila and Abaya Fashion, World of Stories, Junior
Children can take part in various creative activities during this festival season
welve years ago, an idea came to life; an idea to transform the desert summer into a festival. Dubai became the chosen home for a two-month extravaganza that has come to attract close to 15 million visitors from all over the world, so far. With a total spend of about Dh19 billion, the Dubai Summer Surprises (DSS) has become the crowning glory of entertainment during the scorching summers in the emirate. This year, the organisers have chosen a theme for the event that has packaged Dubai as a ‘Surprising’ destination. “It will be 65 days of non-stop surprises for visitors and residents,” says Rania Al Mughrabi, Director of Events and Strategy at DSF office. Beginning June 11, the event is being aimed at making the summer vacation a treat for all.
Chefs will compete in various categories to display their talents
8 l UAE Digest, June 2009
Raffle Draws will be one of the most sought after events during DSS
International groups will present performances that will hook viewers
Chef of the Year, Art Oasis, Kids Fashion Week, Kids Olympics Games, The Collectors, and a Photography Exhibition. Another first this year also includes a tie-up with National Geographic to spot the best photograph on local culture. The chosen photograph will win a handsome price packet. Events this year have been given a twist. The Kids fashion week will see children and their families introducing their personal line of collection on the ramp. This is being seen as an opportunity for families to pool in their creative energies together, while getting an opportunity to spend quality time with each other. “World of Stories has been a huge success with kids all these years. This year too, this event has been planned to attract young visitors. The new addition, however, has been the introduction of stories from the Holy Qurán,” informs Rania. It seems to be a season for innovation. Part of that is the ‘Hospitality Tent’ feature where locals will host guests in
DSS will also showcase local Emirati culture for the world
tents that have been a traditional home for Emiratis. This will give guests an opportunity to experience local culture from close quarters. There is also culinary talent on display with over 600 chefs from five-star hotels across the region participating in over 22 categories for the coveted Junior Chef of the Year Awards. Staying with talent, 16 fashion designers from the GCC and the UAE will also be putting their creations on display at the Sheila and Abaya Fashion. With outside temperatures soaring during this period, the in-mall events like Min Bladi Al Emarat are expected to be a huge draw. “Min Bladi has been a major crowd puller since it featured in the in-mall events. The main attractions are the competitions that are held to pick the best displays of local food and culture. The event is an authentic presentation of culture in the UAE,” explains Rania. To make the DSS an attractive feature for visitors, close to 350 hotels with
40,000 rooms will be offering attractive packages. The icing on the cake will be for visiting journalists. The Visiting Journalists Programme has been revamped for the year to include families of journalists who can come and stay in Dubai and experience the festivities during this period. The Apprenticeship Programme will host selected students from the GCC and the UAE for internships. This will offer students an opportunity to interact and exchange knowledge about their national cultures. This year will also see new destinations in Dubai being promoted, apart from the trademark ones that have come to represent the city. These include the Atlantis Hotel, Burj Dubai, Ski Dubai, Dubai Mall and the Bastakiya District. Adding to the fun and cheer of the festival will be the DSS mascot Modhesh. The ‘ambassador of smiles’ will be undertaking numerous goodwill tours around the region visiting schools and hospitals to meet children and spread the cheer.
Retailers will bring down prices to make the most of the DSS and the tourist count
Kids can’t get enogh of Modhesh
Participating retail outlets and malls will have sales on offer
UAE Digest, June 2009 l 9
Adventures in Dubai
From sports car racing at the autodrome and flying on a microlight aircraft to riding horses and having dinner on a crane above the sea, Dubai offers plenty for those inclined to get the adrenalin flowing in their veins
By Vanit Sethi
ith the temperature soaring above 40C, it’s a torture to step outside AC offices and homes. But while the body seeks rest, the mind has no such compulsions as it flits back to the pleasanter months when outdoor activities beckoned. For a journalist more used to sitting at a desk in front of a computer or covering literary seminars, seeking out sporting adventures had been the last thing on my mind. Yet, when such opportunities arose, I was too tempted to turn them down. Dubai has given me the chance to explore my wild side (I didn’t know I had one!) on four different occasions. Audi Track: Flashback to March 2008. I’m at the Dubai Autodrome for a press conference conducted by three iconic German brands – Lufthansa, Audi, and Kempinski. They have a triple promotion offer under which if you fly on a Lufthansa flight or test-ride an Audi car or stay at a Kempinski hotel, you are eligible for fantastic discounts and offers. I’m waiting impatiently to test ride the Audi on the
Autodrome’s track. The crowd files out, and we are given a helmet and protective gear. There are two persons per car and we are told to follow the leader. My partner takes to the wheel and I sit beside him, my heart pounding violently. As the car twists and turns along the racetrack, I feel a certain thrill in the beginning, but slightly giddy afterwards. I control myself and hold on to the door handle. I want to tell my partner, “Hey, slow down! You don’t have to drive that fast, you’re not a pro!” I wonder why the instructor told us to do 15 rounds each when five would have been more than enough. I look at my partner and give a big smile, muttering curses underneath. “How’s it?” he asks? “Great!” I answer (indeed!). Folding my hands and uttering a short prayer, I realise we are nearing the end of his turn. But now it’s mine, and I start praying again. After looking at the controls and having a feel of them, I press the accelerator and we zoom ahead. ‘Wow! This just flies on the track’. Funnily, I feel better now that I’m in control. But much as I would like to slow down on the curves,
this machine just does its own thing, and my reflexes work overtime. “Not bad! Ain’t I a pro!” I give a self-satisfied smirk. Now, time flies and my turn is through. I come out confidently, my chest swelling in pride. The Audi guys now debrief us and tell us not to treat Dubai’s roads as racetracks. Guffaws all around! Microlight flight: February 2009. The chill of winter is now almost over. At least in the day time. I’m feeling warm waiting outside for a hired bus to the Al Marmoon Reserve near Sports City. We are promised a flight on a microlight aircraft just above the reserve, courtesy of Mashreq Bank. The bus starts nearly one hour late after picking up all the latecomers (nothing new in Dubai). Another 40 minutes, and we are there at the gates of the reserve. We are told to gear up for the flight. Some ‘acrophobics’ backed out. We are told to await our turns (which turns out rather long for chivalrous males). Finally, my pilot calls me out and I’m sitting strapped behind him in the two-seater microlight (run by both machine and
10 l UAE Digest, June 2009
wind power – a cross between helicopter and hang glider). As the flying contraption takes off from an improvised runway, I feel like a bird, seeing miles of sand beneath me and suddenly a patch of green with oryx scampering around. “There, see them running,” my pilot blares out above the din of the machine. Above me, the glider wing sways in the wind. Powerful gusts of breeze, send a tingling chill down my spine. I realise winter’s not yet over. It’s already dark and the planes look very colourful – like lighted balloons floating around. The pilot gives a jerk on his joystick and we’re in landing mode. A gentle thud on the runway and we come to a halt. Crane’s Eyeview: It’s April now. The Walk is full of evening strollers enjoying their constitutional. The air is relaxed, it being a weekend. But I’m hurrying
towards Hotel Hilton where a 100-tonne crane will lift me in the air over Jumeirah Beach for a ‘Dinner in the Sky’. As I reach there around 7pm, I see a group of people suspended in mid-air, with waiters serving them soft drinks and snacks. I’m eagerly awaiting my turn on the last trip with 20 others. Shutterbugs are busy with their flashes. After the crane descends, we clamber on and are strapped to our chairs by the organisers Event Horizon and Mindset Media. We ascend up in the evening sky. As soon as we are airborne, waiters get busy. While our feet hang free in the air, our table for 22 rotates 180 degrees at 50 metres above the ground. We can almost peep inside Jumeirah Beach Residence, but while cameras were aplenty, nobody had thought of binoculars. “There, you can see Atlantis quite clearly, and the Burj Al Arab at a distance,” excited voices
screamed. Horse Sense: Just four days later, I’m learning how to communicate with horses inside the Hoofbeatz pavilion at Dubai Polo and Equestrian Club. Hoofbeatz is a first-of-its-kind programme designed to improve the quality and length of a horse’s life, increase the skills and knowledge base of equine care-givers and expand the horses’ reach to include the general public. The brainchild of Anwer Sher and Eileen Verdieck (a Pakistani-American couple whose love of horses brought them together), Hoofbeatz holds training programmes, horse riding classes, and horse shows with song and dance on weekends. I learn how horses are very much like human beings (introvert, extrovert, leftbrained, right-brained) and we need to understand them before gaining mastery of them. Eileen explains patiently all the characteristics of horses, while Anwer butts in with his expert comments. I see the horses being prepared for a show. One horse loves to stand on the centrestage to acknowledge public applause. Outside, we are first encouraged to pat the horses to gain their confidence, let them smell our palms to become familiar and then walk along with them before trying to mount them with the help of trainers. Once we are in the saddle, the horses walk around in circles showing perfect training. After a couple of rounds, it is time to dismount and say goodbye to Anwer, Eileen and the horses. But I’m still waiting to watch a show with my family. And of course, counting the days before the next adventure crops up!
UAE Digest, June 2009 l 11
The view down there
By Linda Benbow
t’s an Indiana Jones moment when you first see the flying boat land in the water. Memories of exciting moments in films of exotic rivers and coasts in faraway places with goodies and baddies waiting to see who would get on and off the seaplane stir in your memory. All the tourists at Jebel Ali Hotel Resort stared in fascination as a Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) motored towards the water plane with twin hulls instead of landing wheels (although I am informed that there are wheels in there – for the unlikely event that it has to land on terra firma). A young man confidently jumped from RIB to hull and cheerfully unlatched the side window, smiling at the gawping passengers inside the aircraft. This, and more, is what you should expect when flying with Seawings, a seaplane tour company which takes up to
six passengers at a time on aerial sightseeing tours of Dubai in a Cessna 208 Caravan amphibian aircraft. The single leather seats are in a 1–1 configuration which means that everyone has a window seat and can enjoy the scenery without interruption. The World Islands, Palm Islands, Jumeirah Beach, Dubai-land, Sports City, Burj Al Arab, Burj Dubai, Maritime City, Port Rashid and Festival City are only some of the popular tourist sights you may see on a Seawings scenic flight. Recently included in the Seawings offering are Lifestyle, Adventure and Sport activities, incorporating an array of events such as golfing, beach activities, kayaking, snorkelling, sailing, trekking and spa treatments. Whether it’s sailing on a dhow in the blue oceans of Musandam; or fishing on a Schooner
Dubai World Central Creek
Jebel Ali Port
12 l UAE Digest, June 2009
off the beautiful historic coastline of Ras Al Khaimah; or flying over the red dunes to Fujairah’s phenomenal wreck dives, plentiful coral reefs and abundant marine life, the company has a package to suit your needs. The flights take off from the marina at Jebel Ali Golf & Spa Resort and, to comply with coastguard regulations, each passenger needs to carry their original passport with them.
Burj Al Arab
UAE Digest, June 2009 l 13
Making room for others
Sharing your house with another family or individual is not as easy as it sounds, says Ambily Vijaykumar
(All characters in this piece are fictitious and any resemblance to anyone living, not dead, is purely intentional) me. I return courtesy with an exhausted smile and a sigh. It has been a hard day at work and I needed some rest; that is if my two-year-old allows me to. “So, they are finally here - and here to stay,” I said to myself. “How is your daughter now,” I ask. “She is better. I have put her to sleep,” she replies. Walter is an ex-colleague of my husband. When he was looking for a sharing accommodation, as fate would have it, my husband offered to have the family over at our place. My only introduction to our ‘future home-mates’ was, “they are in need, and humanity is primary.” Apart from humanity, economics behind the act was attractive too I thought. Having the monthly rentals halved was a proposition no one could refuse, even if it meant putting up with a constant third person during dinner, on the sofa, while watching a favourite film, or while having some personal talk. Physical presence apart, the occasional interventions in the form of questions was a bonus, as was also the disappearance and re-appearance of books from my personal collection in the living room. But undeniably, having a few more people at home does add cheer to an otherwise dull evening. So it was ‘wait and watch’ with Angela, Walter and their little one. Early mornings began with exchanging pleasantries with our new in-house neighbours. Added to my new task of re-adjusting the space around us was to teach my son a new t-word: territory. He knew toys and treats and he liked them too, but I knew he would not take a liking to the new one. He had to be told to not go into ‘uncle’s room’; not use ‘uncle’s bathroom’, and not ‘beat their daughter’. The side-effects of this daily exercise began to show within a few weeks of the new folks moving in. I and my husband would take turns to chase our restless son
he kitchen smells of fish, but my family is vegetarian. The television in the living room is on, but I’ve been out at work all day. The washing machine is busy too, but I was done with the washing on Friday. So am I the chosen one for some extra-terrestrial treat? Before I could conjure images of aliens infesting my house, a lady in her early thirties popped out of the kitchen with an overstretched smile. “Hi! I am Angela, Walter’s wife. We were supposed to move in yesterday evening, but had to take our daughter to the doctor, so we moved bag and baggage in the afternoon today. I hadn’t washed clothes in the last four days, so thought I might as well get over with that. I hope you don’t mind the smell of fish. Your husband says you are a vegetarian. MBC is showing one of my favourites,” she says, her smile intact throughout the entire conversation and finally extending her foamy hands towards
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who would barge into ‘uncle’s room’. Their daughter seemed perennially drawn to us. The Hindu faith believes in births and re-births. And this one seemed like a continuation from one of our previous births. Our son, however, took a particular dislike for her. “Why do you touch her and smile at her,” he would ask us. To which we would explain, “She is your friend.” The kitchen, including the refrigerator and washing machine, and the living room, including the television, was being shared so as to optimise space. But space was a constraint in the fridge with their cooked non-vegetarian curry being stored alongside my veggies. My utensils always smelt of freshly chopped fish. But that was okay as long as I was not eating it. The washing machine was ours but we took turns so that the new family also got to wash their clothes regularly. My only concern was that they would wash clothes in running water. “That was criminal wastage of water,” I told my husband. He spoke to Walter the next day and he got the point. Noise from the television could be heard well past eleven at night because Walter was a sports buff and most cricket matches were telecast late at night. We had been through the sharing business twice before this one. While one experience was excellent, the other was unbearable. The third one too was showing signs of the same. The kids would quarrel, Angela would shout, Walter would watch TV, and we would watch them like spectators in our own house. So we made it a point to go for long evening walks, hoping that by the time we got back, they were off to sleep. Sometimes our wishes were granted, but mostly we came home to the quarrelling couple. As if all this was not enough, the global economic crisis too made its way into our home (that is true of each home today). And that made the need for having someone to share our rental load more pressing. But fate had something else in store for Walter. Three months after moving into our house, he lost his job. Despite our lack of fondness for our home-mates, we decided to put up with things, because we couldn’t rub salt into their wounds. I began working towards the end of 2008. My parents took turns to come to Dubai to take care of my son till we found
a trusted maid to take care of him as well as the house. But February 2009 was a tough month. Neither of my parents could be here and there was still time before my maid could be brought to Dubai. I left my son at a relative’s place near my house for the whole day and put up with his anger and frustration after I returned from work every day. He was missing being at home. Adding fuel to the fire was a jobless Walter, his angry wife, and his ‘now aggressive’ daughter. But our perseverance paid off and the maid was in Dubai within a month, cutting short our ordeal. However, her presence meant that Walter and his family would have to leave. We did not know how to approach the issue. But again, as fate would have it, Walter found a job in Sharjah and wanted to move there because he was being offered a room on a sharing basis by one of his relatives. Our job was made easy and my maid (also a vegetarian), put up with fish, meat and eggs for two weeks before Walter and his family moved out. After nailing the idea of ‘territory’ into his innocent mind, I had to now teach him to redraw his boundaries, if only for a temporary period. The fear of new rental increases in the area of Dubai where we stay mellowed my dislike for house-mates. Having sworn never to give out any room in the house
on rent, now, I was back on a ‘housemate hunting’ mission. But I had burnt my fingers and learnt my lessons. Like a seasoned chess player, I knew my moves. So I placed an advertisement on a property website giving a detailed description of my requirements. It was almost like hunting for a husband. Back in India matrimonial websites have details of height, weight, complexion, caste, religion, salary bracket and also family status requirements in them. I was being kind with only three adjectives in the requirements category for our ‘house-mates’. After the last experience, that wasn’t asking for too much I thought. Soon I realised that I was asking for the sky. Hence, I began trimming my requirement list to find that I was being flooded with calls and was being spoilt for choice. That is when I realised that I have probably outgrown the old saying ‘Once bitten twice shy’. With an advantage of experience, I can now hope for the best and be prepared for the worst.
UAE Digest, June 2009 l 15
Focus on an element of a winning mind
By Kevin Abdulrahman
What does winning the game of life mean? Life is a game, and winning is the equivalent of success in whatever is of importance to you in this world. In your talks, you speak about a winning mind - can you describe it in one sentence? A winning mind is a very broad topic - it is a mind that is in control of emotions, a mind that is courageous, a mind that looks for the other side of the coin, a mind that is focussed on achieving their goals and desires. Let’s talk about focus. Tell us more about the importance of having focus in your life. Our lives are filled with events (big and small) that occur on a daily basis, that’s the beauty of life. With so much going on, it requires those with a winning mind to stay on course without being distracted by surrounding influences. If you are not focussed, you tend to lag behind in your commitments, your tasks and also achieving your goals. To be productive in your personal and professional life, you need to be focussed and able to deflect life’s distractions. How serious is this issue of lack of focus? Think of the signal that streams to your satellite dish. When uninterrupted, it gives you a crystal clear picture on your TV. What happens when there is interference in the signal, due to say wind or thunderstorms? The signal is interrupted and as a result, the picture on the screen is affected.
“Once the Mind is nourished, people tend to find that their world unlocks to a new level in both their personal and professional lives”. KA
The signal is the focus. The picture on the screen is the result. On the face of it, people don’t realise the price they pay for not being focussed. Especially at a time like this, many have let the economical and environmental factors distract them. This distraction brings about lower productivity in people’s personal lives. Within organisations, this has resulted in reduced productivity and therefore a reduction in potential earnings. What about those who want to have a few things on their plate, so to speak, to get ahead? This is a trap faced by most people wanting to win in their game of life. Sometimes it seems like you are getting ahead by having so much on your plate,
but focussing on completing one task at a time actually helps you achieve more. It may be boring, it may look dull, but you will achieve more, one task at a time. I see so many young entrepreneurs who are always looking for the next best thing, who are always trying to put deals together, who feel that they need to have their fingers in every single pie that they hear of. What they don’t realise is their energy is dissipated and they cannot achieve the higher result they would have if focussed on a single task at a time. Imagine you wanted to start a fire on a straw mat using a magnifying glass. Can you start a fire if you keep on moving the magnifying glass? We all know that one must hold the magnifying glass at a certain point over time in order to focus the rays from the sun. As a result,
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a fire is started by staying put and staying focussed. So I usually say, once you start a fire, then you can use that fire to start your other fires. A well-known icon focussed his skill of picking and buying stocks in undervalued companies and watched them flourish in their due time. As a result, he amassed a great deal of wealth. That man is Warren Buffet, the second richest man in the world. He applied the simple principle of focus. So how does one manage to do so without going off course? In whatever aspect of life, you must always ask yourself a simple question, “what price will I have to pay?” What is the price that you will have to pay to remain focussed to achieve a given task? Once you have answered that, you then ask yourself what is the price you will have to pay if you are distracted because life got in your way? Once you have both answers, you can weigh up which will cost you more. When I take my clients through this exercise, they usually realise that the price they pay for being distracted is much higher than the price of staying focussed. I also suggest to my clients that they have little rewards attached to completing a task, something to look forward to. This can be getting a cup of your favourite vanilla latte once you have finished your project, catching up with a friend once you have completed your assignments or going on a vacation with your family once you close a specific business deal. Can one obtain focus overnight? It amazes me how many people are resistant to change in their environment or in the actions they have to take. Yet the same people have an expectation of immediate results. You will find that like most things in life, focus becomes easier with practice and time. We weren’t born running; after learning how to move using our limbs, we learned to crawl, then we learned how to balance after hundreds of hard hitting falls, then we started to walk. After that we learned to run, then got on our bikes and learned to ride and then drive. Some of us have learned to fly and those who took it all their way even learned to get to the moon. The same applies with achieving immense focus in your life, take one
step at a time and most important of all, never give up. Keep doing it, persist and know that it will be hard especially when times are tough and you are under pressure. You will find that in time, mastering focus will show in the fire of your results. A winning mind knows that every day spent focusing on an end reward moves it one step closer to attaining its goals. No matter how minute the results, by focussing more, you will see yourself achieving more. When you start to achieve, you grow confident, but that is a different
topic altogether… “Have a winning day.” Kevin Abdulrahman is an international author of the book Winning The Game Of Life. He is also a world-class inspirational keynote speaker, a sought after mind nutrition expert, and a mind coach to the elite in every field. Kevin provides customised trainings to his clients, including individuals, teams, companies and athletes who want to catapult from where they are to where they want to and should be. If you want to go from good to great log on to www.MeetWithKevin.com or email his team on Coaching@MeetWithKevin.com
UAE Digest, June 2009 l 17
Painting a unique you
By Parinaaz Navdar
ne morning last Moni Atieh shared her make-up tips month, instead of Arabic cuisine, Xennya, the Arabic restaurant at Holiday Inn DubaiAl Barsha, was full of women of all types and ages waiting to be shown how to make themselves beautiful on a day-to-day basis. The captivated audience discovered Lise Watier’s cosmetic ranges, available at Paris Gallery. A passionate Moni Atieh, Lise Watier’s national trainer for the UAE, explained how Canada’s No. 1 beauty brand and award-winning name shot to international success. A model volunteered to have her face cleaned Ladies at the beauty workshop The ladies were introduced to and then made-up to show a new look the extensive, intelligent skin-care to keep it on for a meeting she had later in foundation and use compact or loose powlines formulated for the active woman. the day. The trick here, says Moni, is blendder which suits their skin type better. These included the firm’s latest anti-ageing ing – the eye shadow should be blended Razia Desai was chosen from the range and cosmetic breakthrough called in with the eyeliner, using a flat brush, to audience to have a make-over with each ‘l’experience’. get the desired effect. White eye shadow step being carefully explained by Moni, As the morning progressed, Moni lightly dusted just under the eyebrow who also cheerfully answered questions had lots of handy tips for the audience. completes the look. from the audience while continuing with She stressed that the base for any makeup ‘Savannah Dreams’, the current her dabbing and smoothing of creams and should always be a good moisturiser with seasonal look from Lise Watier, was a hit water-resistant eye-liner pencils which SPF20, at least, in a place as sunny as among the ladies, with the fashionably double-up as eye shadows when smudged Dubai. exotic appeal of its nude, tawny hues. As along the eyelid. To choose your foundation, it is best to Emile S. Farran, Cosmetics Division ManRazia was very pleased with the result. see which shade matches best against the ager of Gulf Beauty International said, At first, she said, she was “very worried inside of your arm, near the wrist. This is “Every woman is beautiful. Lise Watier is about the orange eye shadow” because because the top is more exposed to the sun about being beautiful and unique at the most colours tend not to suit her. She was while you’re out or driving. Also, people same time.” pleasantly surprised, however, and decided with oily skin should stay away from liquid
Areej, the cosmetics and perfume retail chain, continues its expansion by opening its fifteenth store in the UAE at the Dubai Marina Mall. This is part of the company’s growth plan to be present in strategically located shopping arenas throughout the UAE. On a total floor space of 1,750 square feet, the store offers a broad array of products from the top brands including Dior, Guerlain, Lancôme, Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Givenchy, Estee Lauder, Clinique, Clarins, La Prairie and many more
The Landmark Group has launched its first beauty retail concept in the Middle East, Beautybay, at the Oasis Centre on Sheikh Zayed Road. It has a range of internationally renowned beauty products encompassing both value and luxury offerings. A gallery for make-up, fragrances, skincare, facial, bath and body ranges, hair salon and beauty accessories, the store stocks several exclusive brands including Diego Dalla Palma, Erborian, Fenix, Rouge Bunny Rouge, and Mojo Fragrances along with brand favourites such as Givenchy, Dolce & Gabbana, Hugo Boss, Giorgio Armani, Calvin Klein and Christian Dior. The shop has in-house make-up artists and beauty experts to assist shoppers, along with individually designed beauty treatment rooms for private skin consultations and make-over’s.
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Cycling for charity across the UAE and Europe
uido De Wilde, Vice President, Regional Director of Starwood Hotels and Resorts in the Middle East, will participate in a cross-country cycling trip in Europe in September to raise $100,000 to support education and other programmes for homeless children. Guido, who began his career with Starwood in 1983, has been likened to the famous Godot, from Samuel Beckett’s play, Waiting for Godot. However, no-one will be waiting for Guido as he has already begun his charity drive to reach out to the deprived and impoverished children of the world. Age has not been a hindrance for the 50-year-old VP, who developed the initiative in addition to his challenging role of managing and leading the development of Starwood’s brands in the Middle East. Guido, who is Belgian and
can communicate in seven languages, is based in the UAE. He began training for the trip by cycling from Al Dhaid in Sharjah to Starwood’s East Coast Guido de Wilde cycled from Al Dhaid to property, Le Méridien Le Méridien Al Aqah Beach Resort Al Aqah Beach Resort in Al Fujairah. France and Spain. “Age will never stop you if you are honestly seeking to help others and Guido looks at this participation as a rejuvenation of his soul, not only because ease their pain, as the results of such a it is just a form of sport, but also because it humanitarian deed will be of a great help is essentially associated with the concept to overcome the difficulties and fatigue of CSR. “My participation was organised associated with this noble journey,” said through my company, which launched Guido. a non-profit initiative with the aim to In September 2009, Guido will parfurther strengthen and enhance Unicef ’s ticipate in a 360-km bike race over three programmes for the unprivileged children days, where he will climb seven mounof the world.” tain summits on the borders between
Johnson’s Baby, the world-wide trusted baby skincare expert, is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its ‘No More Tears’ (NMT) formula this year, which has brought laughter and fun to mothers and babies world-wide during bath time for half a century. Mothers understand the importance of selecting the right products which will gently cleanse the baby’s body without causing irritation to their eyes, skin and hair, leaving room only for cheerful memories during bath time. Fifty years ago, based on the deep understanding of the mother and baby relationship, Johnson’s Baby developed a new set of safety standards to mark the quality and gentleness of its mild, cleansing, soap-free shampoos; thus ‘No More Tears’ formula was born. Now recognised world over, and recommended by 95per cent of paediatricians in the Middle East, the NMT formula is not only available in Johnson’s Baby Shampoo, but also in body cleansers and wipes. So all over tender and safe care is provided for newborns and growing toddlers of all stages.
50 years of ‘no more tears’ during bath time
UAE Digest, June 2009 l 19
HEALTH & WELLNESS
Tanning your hide
ccording to Skin Cancer Research UK, children who have had sunburn at an early age have double the chance of developing skin cancer later in life. “This is why children, especially, must be protected from the sun,” says Dr Rolf Soehnchen, consultant dermatologist at the American Hospital Dubai. “This same caution and need for protection also applies to adults, whose skin can age prematurely through over-exposure to the sun,” he adds. Dr Soehnchen was speaking at a community information session held at the American Hospital Dubai recently, which was arranged free of charge to attendees along with skin screening days. The skin acts as a barrier, helping to regulate our temperature, receive sensory impulses and synthesise vitamin D. However, extended sun exposure can break down the barrier and damage the skin, causing a high risk of long-term damage. “Sun exposure, in general, causes short-term and long-term damage over the course of our lives; this includes permanent destruction of the skin’s supporting structure, premature wrinkling, pre-cancerous skin lesions, drug reactions, eye damage, dilated blood vessels, sunburn and the most dangerous is skin cancer,” warns Dr Soehnchen. There are many myths about exposure to the sun, such as that a suntan is healthy because it protects the body from sunburn. However, a suntan is not a sign of healthy skin. There are six skin types, 1 (pale white skin), 2 (White), 3 (White average), 4 (Beige or Lightly Tanned), 5 (Moderate Brown or Tanned) and 6 (Dark Brown or Black). Depending on the skin type, some people will tan and/or burn more easily than others. In particular, people who have skin types one, two and three need to pro-
La Roche-Posay held free skin consultations and electronic diagnosis near the pharmacy in The American Hospital’s Outpatients Department.
tect their skin with a minimum of SPF 30 in this part of the world. Nevertheless, it is important for all six skin types to protect their skin with sunscreen. Dr Soehnchen explodes another popular idea: “Another common myth is the idea that the more a parent exposes a child to the sun, the more the child will get used to it. Contrary to popular belief, the more exposure to the sun, the greater the risk of long-term sun damage and the development of more dangerous problems.” There is a popular belief that the sun is dangerous only when it is visible and strong. In reality, UVA rays are constant and do not depend on season, latitude or time of day. UVA rays are not stopped entirely by barriers such as windows, clouds
and the epidermis. Therefore, exposure to sunlight is still dangerous even when the sun is not visible. “Most people are exposed to sunlight on a daily basis and protection is therefore necessary,” Dr Soehnchen says. “The top rules for effective protection include avoiding direct exposure to the sun between the hours of midday and 4pm, as that is the period when the sun’s rays are strongest; never expose a child under three years old to the sun; and avoid long sun exposure, even if protected by SPF (sunscreen) which should be used every time the skin is exposed to the sun even when it’s cloudy, and it should be re-applied every two hours. All children should be protected with a hat, sunglasses, T-shirt and sunscreen.
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No smoking day
ubai Healthcare City (DHCC) signed up 500 smokers who committed to a 30-day Quit and Win programme to give up smoking, which started on May31, World No Tobacco Day. A recruitment drive was held two weeks before the big day through health information stands in shopping malls and workshops within major organisations, including Dubal, Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Noor Dubai, and Dubai Ladies Club. Dr Ayesha Abdullah, Senior VicePresident of DHCC said: “Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of premature death and disease. As a healthcare city committed to excellence, with over 1,400 physicians, DHCC has a responsibility to increasing health awareness and supporting disease prevention through initiatives such as Quit and Win. It is never too late to stop smoking and I hope the efforts of people taking part in this programme will encourage more smokers to make the life-saving decision to end their addiction.” Khider Mustafa, an employee of DHCC who signed up to Quit and Win said: “I have been smoking for 15 years. I have thought about trying to give it up in the past but never made a firm commitment. What I like about Quit and Win is that it is focused on behaviour and having the right support network, rather than any alternative ‘smoking’ products. I know the next 30 days are not going to be easy but neither is the future if I continue smoking, so I am entering this programme with both apprehension and hope.” Dubai Municipality also observed the special day with a wide variety of activities in its various buildings and public libraries. An exhibition was organised by the Clinic and Community Health Section of the Public Health Services Department explaining how smoking affects different organs of human beings. It also
showed the difference between normal lungs and diseased ones. The lung of the smoker cannot expand like an ordinary one. Tar collected in a jar on an exhibit shows how much tar goes into the lungs if a person smokes 10 cigarettes a day for a period of one month. The exhibition also showed how much smoking affects the mouth. Nusaiba Hassan Qaid, Head of Clinic and Community Health Section said the ‘No Tobacco Day’ campaign will continue throughout the month of June, and after the summer, it will spread to schools, colleges and universities in the emirate. More local women are taking up smoking shisha as part of a worrying new lifestyle trend within the UAE, respiratory doctors revealed last month. Although traditionally it is men who smoke in the Middle East, doctors say they are seeing increasing numbers of women with respiratory complaints and smoking-related diseases, as a result of shisha smoking. “We do not know how many ladies smoke shisha, because they go to a private area of a café and smoke, but we are in the process of conducting research to determine how prevalent water-pipe shisha smoking has become. It’s a big thing
for ladies to do now and shows that the health risks of smoking are not just about cigarettes,” said Dr. Bassam Mahboub, a chest physician and Vice Chairman of the Emirates Respiratory Society. Smoking cessation clinics needed to be set up in women’s health centres and maternity hospitals to help women quit, added Dr. Mahboub. Such clinics, which offer addiction counselling and access to new anti-smoking medications, such as Pfizer’s Champix, have been shown to be highly successful, upping quit rates almost four-fold after 12 weeks. “Women using shisha is a major problem, and when they come for a pregnancy test, they should be asked about this and encouraged to stop, and quit smoking clinics should be there to help them,” concluded Dr. Mahboub.
Eng. Redha Salman at the exhibition held on the occasion of the World No Tobacco Day at Dubai Municipality
UAE Digest, June 2009 l 21
signs created by leading Italian designers. Abdallah Massaad, Assistant CEO, RAK Ceramics said: “Elegance Ceramics is the perfect fit for customers with a distinctive taste in fashion, innovation and style. RAK Ceramics is keen to cultivate the immense potential of such a premium niche market as there has been an excellent growth in demand for high-fashion ceramic products and designs. With this range we have achieved greater flexibility to offer a more dedicated, diverse and personalised range of products and services. It delivers rich design concepts that cater to different tastes and conforms to diverse lifestyles.” “Our products are certainly not just mere wall claddings; they ultimately serve as an inspirational fashion statement and a metaphor for the emotions of life itself. This launch expands our scope for creativity and innovation, which will seal our reputation as a leading trendsetter and fashion icon in the global ceramics industry,” added Massaad. “This launch is part of a strategy to continuously expand our market base, create new revenue streams and ultimately increase profits. Moreover, it demonstrates RAK Ceramics’ resilience and its unique ability to remain focused on its goals despite the global economic challenges. We have performed exceedingly well in 2008, a highly delicate period that saw other companies sustain diminished sales and profits. More importantly, RAK Ceramics continues to showcase a positive performance this year as profits have now reached over Dh65 million in the first quarter of 2009 alone. These are clear indications that the company is in the right direction towards achieving another banner year,” said Massaad. RAK Ceramics has an installed capacity of 325,000 square metres per day for tiles and 12,000 pieces per day for sanitary wares, through 10 modern tile plants and two sanitaryware plants at its two million square metre manufacturing facility in Ras Al Khaimah. The company exports its innovative products and designs to over 135 countries, targeting architects, project developers and retail customers.
Beds and baths
ore than 30 years ago ‘And So To Bed’, a specialist firm in fine antique beds, was founded. When demand outstripped supply, they began to manufacture their own designs based on traditional pieces and opened their first shop on the Kings Road, London. Traditionalists at heart, the design team drew inspiration from a vast array of historical designs, from a Louis Philippe lit bateau to gilded Baroque styles, Gothic four posters fit for a castle to wonderful pure brass Victorian bedsteads. Alongside these antiqueinspired pieces, they also have timeless classics, perfect for contemporary interiors. From the simplest design to the grandest fantasy, these beds are heirlooms; hand-made and hand finished by artisans who are devoted to their craft. There is a breathtaking variety of polished wood, veneers and bespoke paint finishes available. Complementing the beds, are beautiful bedroom furniture in an eclectic range of styles as well as all the final finishing touches; from lamps and throws to luxurious linens, pillows and duvets. And So To Bed also specialises in mattresses and divans, offering the very best selection of quality ranges. The dedicated mattress area in every showroom is staffed by highly trained experts who will help you make the perfect choice for the best night’s sleep of your life. If you have a dream bed in mind, talk to the specialists in the
showrooms and they will do their best to make it a reality. RAK Ceramics, the world’s largest ceramic manufacturer, has launched its ‘Elegance Ceramics’, a high-fashion brand that caters to the needs and modern demands of its growing portfolio of elite customers in key markets around the world. Targeting a high-value niche market, this serves as a ceramics boutique whose new concept opens fresh creative possibilities and expands the horizon for innovation to satisfy the unique artistic demands of select customers who are willing to pay a premium. Accordingly, RAK Ceramics has opened exclusive Elegance Ceramics Boutiques in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah to complement its showrooms. The new top-range products feature a distinct fusion of art and fashion through an extensive array of concept de-
22 l UAE Digest, June 2009
True style is in the details
or over three decades now, Stefano Ricci has focused on maintaining the highest standards of Italian craftsmanship in the men’s apparel and accessories that he designs. Inspired by a family tradition of travel and the sophisticated atmosphere of his Florentine hometown, the designer has developed a passion for fabric weaving, which now fuels his continuing search for new materials and more innovative textile production processes. For example, he uses high-quality cotton from Egypt and the finest silk from China, where he has observed traditional modes of fabric making. Also interested in handprinted fabrics, Ricci combines different colours to create pieces that have a unique graphic identity. Among the brand’s current offerings are the Luxury Collection, which consists of exclusively printed silk ties and shirts, and the Millennium Luxury Collection, which includes silk embroidered tuxedos, cummerbunds, shirt ties and bowties accented with Swarovski crystals. Because details mean so much to this designer, he believes that every gentleman should also have a good selection of small but essential accessories such as jeweled cuff links that add colour and elegance to any masculine outfit. It appeals to the urbane man who travels widely and appreciates objects that are meticulously crafted from extraordinary materials and is preferred by Hollywood stars such as Tom Cruise and Robert de Niro, as well as by numerous business and political leaders. Stefano Ricci’s latest ready-to-wear collection and accessories are available at selected Rodeo Drive boutiques across Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Marks & Spencer Al-Futtaim, has launched an exclusive collection designed by renowned international fashion designer Zandra Rhodes. ‘Zandra Rhodes, Exclusively for Marks & Spencer’ is a capsule collection of key pieces incorporating iconic Zandra Rhodes prints. Available in Womenswear (both smart wear and accessories), the collection uses five original prints in a variety of colourways.
The range was designed by the M&S in-house design team, in collaboration and consultation with the designer. Zandra Rhodes is one of the world’s most distinguished and known fashion designers. Born in England, she was introduced to fashion at an early age by her mother and graduated from Medway College of Art and then the Royal College of Art in London, majoring in textile design. From the moment her early textile designs appeared in the 1960s, Zandra established herself as a designer who would create fashion. In the 1970s, she was one of the new wave of designers that put London at the forefront of the international fashion scene. Her image and lifestyle have always been as flamboyant, glamorous and extroverted as her designs. Having firmly stamped her identity on the international world of fashion, Zandra designed for the late Diana, Princess of Wales, and continues to create her inimitable designs for renowned figures around the world. Her honours include being made a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) by the Queen in 1997. A fashion show held recently at Coral Deira, Dubai raised the curtain on a range of uniforms offering new levels of sophistication and vibrancy. These were designed by Francois Desroches, Creative Director, MPJ – Marketing Pro-junction and will henceforth be worn by staff across all properties managed by Coral Hotels & Resorts. Francois distinguishes himself with his unconventional use of pattern, fabric and shape. And now, he has come up with an absolutely spectacular range of uniforms titled Notorious that’s exclusively designed for the hotel chain. Notorious is divided into three lines: Majestic for 5-star plus hotels; City Chic for 4-star hotels and Fantasy for resorts. Francois is a showman. He not only creates dresses but creates spectacles. Notorious is an incredible collection that makes a strong statement. It is a kaleidoscope of colours studded with exquisite details. And yet, a practical elegance runs through the entire collection.
UAE Digest, June 2009 l 23
Modesty always in
Her work can be described as hip, classy and a fusion of East meets West with a touch of modesty. Rabis.M meets Rabia in London and discusses how it feels to touch the international base at the Arabian Fashion World event, and how modesty is now the new ‘in’
s I waited for the Arabian Fashion World event to begin at the Intercontinental Hotel in London’s posh area of Park Lane, the crowd kept mounting up in the hall. It was an event organised by the ArabBritish Chamber of Commerce in aid of Islamic Relief Charity, the first-of-its-kind in London. The reception was full of corporate bigshots and members of the Saudi royal family plus others who attended this prestigious event. Among the fashion designers from the Middle East who really stood out was Rabia.Z, a UAE national. Other designers included Saudi fashion designer Amina Al Jassim, Moroccan Samira Haddouchi, Jordanian Omar Kashoura and Abed Mahfouz from Lebanon. At the end of the show, designers had the opportunity to interact with the public; it was then that I really looked forward to congratulate Rabia.Z on her outstanding fashion collection. She appeared to be a very friendly and smiling individual. Rabia Z was born in Dubai and completed her schooling at Cambridge High School. She carried on studying business as her major and took fashion classes for over three years in New York, California and Dubai. She was offered a place at the London College of Fashion where she completed her post-graduation. For Rabia, the people around her have always been a driving force. She recollects how, as a teenager, she was reminded of her strong fashion sense and good fashion forecasting: “My first mentor was my mother, I am also represented as one of her stories for her upcoming documentary.” Fashion for every individual has its own definition. For some it is about following a certain trend even if it does not suit you but for Rabia, fashion is all about self-expression and a style that is widespread at a given time. “For me, style is more than just fashion. As the experts quote: ‘Style is forever’, my logo for the past nine years has been revolving around modesty: ‘Where modesty is always in style’.” It was no surprise when Rabia mentioned the names of Yoji Yamamoto as her works remind of Yoji’s creations, but of course, inspiration is pivotal to every soul. She further adds the name of John Galliano for his creativity. Rabia’s participation at the Arabian Fashion World was an excellent platform for her on an international level. She was thrilled to be nominated as one of the five designers to exhibit their collections. “I was fortunate to have this opportunity and the best part is that aside from showing my collection in London, I have received such a warm welcome to my designs and styles, without having to edit my work to suit the needs and demands of a very selective event. I have been able to show my work fully styled the way I normally do on the ramps - having the models stylishly covered.” It is undoubtedly true that Rabia has revolutionised the face of Western fashion by incorporating it with an Eastern touch
who owned a very chic boutique. This is where I had the opportunity to play and dress up as a little girl.” When she first started taking up fashion courses at the Fashion Institute of Technology and Business in New York, she had worked at the Valentino store, where her manager Giorgio and his fashion magazine stylist wife Christine mentored her. “Christine taught me and both of them highly encouraged me as a freelance fashion designer. I freelanced as an evening wear designer from the age of 18, and since then, I officially launched my label in Dubai. My fashion industry mentor is my dear friend Soniya Kripalani, who is also an award-winning film-maker.
24 l UAE Digest, June 2009
- it seems very hip and chic, yet modest. She feels totally blessed and grateful and highly accomplished, for it is certainly hard work putting such creative ideas together and implementing them with an excellent collection. The influences are unique and the collections are something never ever produced by any other Emirati female fashion designer. Rabia explains what led her to launch her brand. “I started wearing the hijab back in America nine years ago and then sold basic long dress-shirts and tunics on my old website. Typically, in the Arab region, one can either expect too traditional or too modern a dress style, where it’s not modest or covers enough. That balance has been very hard to find in the last decade. There were no pret-a-porter labels specialising in such a concept.” Going international is something that should not come as a surprise to Rabia’s future plans, as she certainly has that on her mind. When her brand was first launched at the 2007 Dubai Fashion Week as an emerging talent winner, she immediately planned her sub-label Ruby and wanted to
launch it in the US at The Target stores. “This goes back one and a half years ago, before they started collaborating with renowned designers which is the next big thing done by them and H&M today. Though, I must admit it is harder to get in.” In order to make sure you are on the right path of success, it is important to ensure you are not lacking any determination, creativity and talent, which no fashion school can ever teach you. Rabia focuses on consistency and hard work, clear and unshakeable vision. Even though there is a great deal of struggle involved, along with sacrifice and compromise, and also battling for values, it is important not to give up and never to lose the purpose of accomplishing a dream. No creativity is complete without the support of loved ones, Rabia adds that it is through their support that she has been able to come this far in such a short period of time. She is a daughter, sister, wife and a mother to her four-year-old son. She feels that one of the biggest challenges faced by designers in the Gulf is
how the big malls don’t give retail space to region’s designers. This is something that needs to change. Personally, she does not feel any kind of competition as many designers work harmoniously. However, she adds that, comparatively, launching oneself as a designer in Dubai is not as hard as it is abroad. “Women can easily launch their labels here and outsource their work locally through tailoring shops. If they don’t have significant training and a professional production team to work with, it can be very difficult to be taken as a serious professional. Custom pieces like abayas and evening gowns are easier to make here. But ready-to-wear and mass luxury streetwear is extremely difficult to launch and create locally.” Since Rabia has got back from London, things have been hectic for her. She has just finished another fashion show in Dubai and is now looking forward to the Dubai Fashion Fiesta in June. “I will be back in London for another show in July, so I am looking forward to that, and I can’t say much at the moment, except that it will be very exciting.”
UAE Digest, June 2009 l 25
Atlantis Mayan Temple with sharks
Sizzling summer offers
ecreation-wise you may think the UAE’s sun is too hot to weather, but there are ways around that uncomfortable thought. After all, many people from around the world pay hard-earned money to come and visit the country and enjoy what is on offer during this time. Air-conditioned shopping malls, hotels and DSS events beckon. Take a tip from the tourists, put it together with local knowhow and enjoy the less crowded atmosphere. Go on, get off the sofa, go out somewhere and enjoy yourself. There is summer value at Atlantis The Palm with rooms available from Dh800 until September 19. This price includes lots of complimentary things such as: • unlimited access to Aquaventure – the regions’ largest waterpark • access to Lost Chambers where there are over 20 marine habitats within the
sunken avenues of the Lost City access to Kids Club for one day; the club has daily supervised activities with a focus on adventure, play, exploration and education • access for Club Rush for one day; this is a supervised club where teens can hang out • one free massage when you book a massage at Atlantis Spa, and • preferential rates at Dolphin Bay Earlybirds at Legends Steakhouse, Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club can enjoy reduced prices between 6:30pm and 8:30pm every day and receive a threecourse choice menu and half a bottle of vintage for Dh190. A perfect opportunity to sample superb food in magnificent surroundings. Tel: 2956000 Emirates Golf Club’s Friday Family Brunch provides something for all the family. Located in The Conservatory
Restaurant & Terrace, this informal brunch offers an international buffet with an English carvery, live pasta station and crepes, at Dh115 for adults and Dh55 for under 12s, available from 12noon to 3pm. For reservations Tel: 3802222 Views restaurant, Le Meridien Al Aqah, Fujairah, is offering a valuepacked Friday lunch from 12.30pm to 3.30pm, priced at Dh222, including unlimited bubbly. Visit www. lemeridien. com/fujairah Go to the Super Quiz Nights at the Courtyard by Marriott ballroom on Thursday the 4th , 18th and 25th of June from 8pm till late in the night. Team up with friends, family or colleagues for a fun night where you can win huge prizes with Deano and Justin as your hosts. Test your general, sports or entertainment knowledge in teams from four up to eight persons. At the end of the series, the team
26 l UAE Digest, June 2009
Sunset at Creek Clubhouse
with most points will win the super prize. For bookings call 8852222. Friday brunch with a side order of ‘Free Wheels’ at the Courtyard by Marriott. No worries, sit back and relax as you will be driven to and from the hotel for free. A memorable day awaits you and your family at Cucina the Italian Kitchen where you enjoy the best of trattoria style cuisine. Each Friday from 12noon to 4 pm Dubai-based luxury hotel company, Jumeirah Group, has recently introduced a unique global promotion, offering parents around the world the chance to treat themselves and their children to the perfect summer holiday at some of the most luxurious hotels in the world. Its iconic five-star hotels and resorts in Dubai, London and New York will be offering guests amazing value and memorable experiences with ‘Jumeirah Summer Days’ which will enable families with children below 15 years of age staying and eating on a complimentary basis at their Jumeirah hotel of choice. The host of benefits also includes a complimentary buffet breakfast, internet and movies, and a daily gift certificate redeemable in spas, sports and leisure facilities, and restaurants and bars. Both the young and the young-at-heart staying in Jumeirah’s Dubai hotels will also receive complimentary access to Wild Wadi Water Park. Dh450 per room per night is what it will take to indulge the comfort of beautifully appointed classic rooms and other facilities at Al Murooj Rotana Dubai this summer. Hurry to make your booking as there are a limited number of rooms allocated for this promotion. The rate is
valid until September 15 on room only basis and subject to 10pc Municipality fees and 10pc service charge. Located in the heart of Park Hyatt where large windows overlook Dubai Creek, The Lounge is surrounded by several water features and a central indoor garden, providing a peaceful haven where guests can savour one of the most beloved of English rituals: afternoon high tea. Served from 3pm to 7pm daily, this light, elegant meal consists of three courses, starting with assorted crustless finger sandwiches, freshly baked raisin and apple scones served with clotted cream and strawberry jam, and, finally, a selection of tea pastries and cakes. Taking centrestage is, of course, an assortment of nine varieties of fine tea. Afternoon Tea is priced at Dh115 per couple. From June 1st until September 18th, all diners who spend Dh400 in any of the Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Deira Creek’s 10 dining venues, and dhow dinner cruise, will receive a Dh100 cash voucher, valid until December 30, to be redeemed during their next visit to any of the outlets at the hotel. Warehouse, Le Meridien Dubai’s newly launched combination of bars, restaurants, and lounges, is gearing up for Jazz Nights every Tuesday, in association with Jack Daniels. Guests will enjoy live entertainment and Warehouse’s already popular fusion cuisine at the bar, in addition to a wide range of beverages. Jazz Nights will be held at Warehouse’s bars, in collaboration with Jack Daniels, featuring an exclusive JD cocktail selection at Dh30 apiece. The Afif Trio, a group
largely credited for the rise of jazz music in the UAE, will perform tunes from New Orleans from 8pm to 11pm. Ladies will receive a cocktail upon arrival, compliments of the house, and all guests will get to choose from a variety of starters, entrees, sides and desserts from a European caféstyle a la carte menu.
UAE Digest, June 2009 l 27
Beat the heat in Ajman Kempinski
or families deciding to forego their travel plans due to monetary reasons on account of the recession, it makes sense to try out cheaper options locally while chilling out at the weekends. Ajman has stunning views of the Arabian Gulf and a beautiful, pristine beach. In addition, it offers both a quiet weekend or a lively one, depending on your taste and inclination. One good place to escape with your family on a Thursday night for a two-day weekend is the Ajman Kempinski, with its fabulous sea views, luxurious rooms at affordable rates and a host of facilities like swimming, yoga, spa, tennis, boating, surfing, plus wining-dining options. The hotel also offers tennis and yoga classes. The Mahesh Bhupathy Tennis Academy (MBTA) opened at the hotel last year offering comprehensive courses and training programmes to suit different levels of players. The hotel also teamed up with Gems of Yoga to launch regular yoga sessions at the resort’s Laguna Beach Club, where expert practitioners guide both beginners and experienced followers. For businessmen, the hotel provides innovative and memorable open-air meeting experiences. Coined ‘Business on the Beach’, the concept can encompass everything from straight-laced board meetings to swinging Hawaiian ones, treasure-hunts, orienteering and yoga by the Arabian Sea. Cleverly planned meetings set among landscaped gardens of the hotel blend high-speed wireless internet connection in fixed areas, flip charts, comfortable seating and the relaxed ambience of fresh sea breeze. Meetings can culminate with sundowners by the poolside, incorporating a themed alfresco dinner, or fun and exciting team-building
activities such as Beach Olympics, relay races and water sports. The hotel has also introduced new levels of exclusivity with its Leisure Club room concept which features 24 lavishly furnished rooms offering a privileged set of amenities and personalised service. The rooms are elegantly decorated with a hint of Arabesque influence. All rooms have a private balcony with teak furniture where guests can enjoy private breakfasts while admiring unspoilt sea views, or sipping cocktails during dazzling sunsets.
HMH signs 15 new hotels
The Arabian Travel Market 2009 paid rich dividends for HMH – Hospitality Management Holdings - this year, with the group adding 15 exciting projects to its ever-expanding portfolio of worldclass properties. Michel Noblet, CEO, HMH, said, “This takes our portfolio of signed contracts to 60.” Giving details of the signings, Michel said: “We have finalised a management contract with YNNA Holdings for a palatial 5-star property in Morocco called Coral Mogador, Agdal – Marrakech. It is our biggest project so far and will include six restaurants, an exhibition hall and ballroom with a capacity to accommodate 3,000 people, plus several meeting spaces.” Another unique addition is Coral Cosmopolitan Hotel, the brand’s first project in Cairo. HMH also formalised contracts for Coral Martini Aleppo and Coral Plaza Al Ahsa in KSA. Opening soon will be Coral Cape Town, the brand’s first
property in South Africa. Owned by CII Hotel & Resorts Cape Town (Pty) Ltd a subsidiary of CII Holdings (Pty) Ltd., it is an ultra-luxurious property located in the heart of the city 20-minute drive from Cape Town International Airport. Making the announcement, Group CEO for CII Holdings, Mr Hamza Farooqui, said: “We are proud to say that Coral Cape Town will be open as planned well in advance of 2010 FIFA World Cup.” EWA Hotel Apartments doubled its portfolio of existing properties by clinching a mega deal with Al Hamra Palace Group for eight new hotels in KSA. Michel said: ‘All eight properties are already operational and spread across Riyadh City and Jeddah.” Corp Executive Hotels too secured a new agreement to manage Corp City Centre Riyadh - an outstanding property in KSA. Due for completion next month, the 86-keys hotel is strategically located in the commercial hub of Riyadh.
Mr. Michel Noblet, Mr. Hamza Farooqui, Mr. Ahmad Usman and HE Sheikh Mohammed bin Faisal Al Qassimi celebrate the fact that Coral International Cape Town is on schedule to open later this year, well in advance of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
28 l UAE Digest, June 2009
Room at Suitehotel Mall of the Emirates
Holiday Inn Dubai – Al Barsha
he first Suitehotel in the Middle East officially opened on May 31st in Dubai. Located within the vicinity of the Mall of the Emirates on Sheikh Zayed Road, the hotel offers a new way of hotel living and easy access to a world-class shopping mall and an indoor ski slope. Suitehotel Mall of the Emirates consists of 180 suites, including 54 Junior Suites (48 square metres each), 124 Master Bedrooms (31 square metres) and 2 special needs rooms. The suites are spacious and adjustable living areas designed to accommodate all lifestyles, whether it is for business or for leisure. There is a 24/7 Deli Boutique with irresistible freshly made food, as well as the possibility of dining at ‘Amici’, the Italian restaurant, and having drinks at ‘Ezaz’ bar. Specific services also include: • an outdoor temperature-controlled swimming pool at the rooftop, an exercise room with the latest fitness facilities • Play Station 3 gaming • a Reading area • an e -corner in the lobby with free internet access ; and • massages offered every Thursday. The hotel provides complimentary scheduled shuttle transfers to and from Dubai International Airport, as well as shuttle transfers twice daily to Jumeirah Beach Park.
Commenting on the opening of the hotel, Mr. Christophe Landais, Managing Director Accor Hospitality Middle East said, “Suitehotel Mall of the Emirates is an important milestone in our portfolio as it is the first project of its kind in the Middle East. A Suitehotel has recently been inaugurated in Marrakech, adding to the network of 25 hotels worldwide.” Meanwhile, also in Barsha, Holiday Inn Dubai welcomed a new General Manager, Mr Reda Moukthar, at an exclusive cocktail evening. Mr Moukthar, who assumed the post recently, brings a strong experience in hospitality, having worked with top hotel chains worldwide. Addressing the gathering, Mr Moukthar said: ‘Times are tough, but we still see tremendous business potential. Holiday Inn is a strong name that is able, by virtue of the brand, to generate a lot of business. We are confident of a turnaround in the market. When we look at our market, we see it as a perfect mix of both corporate and leisure sectors and Holiday Inn Dubai – Al Barsha is ideal for both.’ Having 310 well-appointed rooms, the hotel is conveniently located next to the Mall of the Emirates. Included in its facilities are six outstanding restaurants, state-of-the-art gymnasium, world-class meeting rooms and business centre, and a lovely swimming pool.
Mr Moukthar said, “Our hotel is averaging better than most others in the area. We have enough built-in appeal to attract a strong customer base and achieve healthy occupancy rates. A special emphasis is being placed on strengthening the hotel’s appeal to the corporate sector. We have devised some unique packages this season that not only offer good value for money but are designed around our customers’ needs. At the same time, we believe in empowering the staff, allowing employees to use judgement, rather than follow a rule book on customer service.’ Just nine months into operation, Holiday Inn Dubai – Al Barsha is extremely well-positioned in the market. ‘The feedback from our guests has been phenomenal. Most of the clients are eager to return.’
UAE Digest, June 2009 l 29
Ruth’s Chris’ Steak House
By Linda Benbow
hat do you wear when going to a steakhouse to eat? Jeans? Casual smart? Luckily, I decided to dress up a bit on hearing that Ruth’s Chris’ Steak House is situated inside the Monarch Dubai at One Sheikh Zayed Road, as the interior of the hotel just oozes sophistication and comfort. Friendly yet discreet faces showed us the way to the mezzanine floor restaurant which is a gem to discover among the cacophony of genteel dining choices in Dubai. America’s largest premium steak restaurant, Ruth’s Chris Steak House is now in Dubai. The chain has made its mark in the restaurant world with its premium quality steaks in true American style; large portions of indulgent food, an excellent beverage selection and exquisite interior design has placed them in a league of its own. Recently, with their awareness of being a value-driven premium establishment, the classy diner decided to offer more choices in portion size and pricing which now accommodates all appetites - from the ravenous to the less indulgent. So, instead of offering one size of steak portion, which was previously true to the American sizing of eloquently large, they are now offering the choice of two sizes with reduced prices in line with the change. A large filet steak, the most tender cut of corn-fed Midwestern beef, was cooked to ‘bleu’ perfection as requested, and enjoyed with the largest fried tomato that I have seen for a while, creamed spinach
and buttery mashed potato. I decided to try the petit filet, little filet, which were two junior-sized but equally thick steaks topped with curvy prawns cooked top-totoe to look like a perfect circle of pink. Other choices could have been T-bone, Cowboy ribeye, New York strip and Porterhouse for two to share. They serve salads, crab cakes, lobster, Louisiana seafood gumbo and Portobello mushrooms too. Desserts include caramelised banana cream pie, and bread pudding with sauce and cheesecake. Are you beginning to get the feeling that this is a feel-good, look-good eatery? You are not wrong. The restaurant is open Sunday to Thursday for lunch and dinner, and on Friday and Saturday for dinner. Bread Butter Pudding (serves 6) Ingredients • 8 cup French bread with crusts • 4 cup full cream milk • 120 grams salted butter • 2 cup sugar • 1/2 tablspoon cinnamon • 9 eggs • 1 pinch salt • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract • 1 Granny Smith apple • 120 grams raisins Preparation • Pre-heat oven to 150 degrees celsius • Cut bread into 3/4 inch squares. Dry out in 120 degrees celsius oven until crisp with no colour.
• • • • • • • •
Place milk and butter in a stock pot on stove. Add 1 cup sugar to milk and butter stock pot. Bring to a simmer. Mix 1 cup sugar and cinnamon together in a mixing bowl. Add eggs, salt and vanilla to cinnamon and sugar and mix togetherwhip until smooth. Remove stock pot from heat and slowly add simmering milk to egg mixture and whip to incorporate. Pour into container. Core and peel apples and chop into 1/2 inch pieces. Add to custard and mix well. Slowly add French bread and raisons and mix well. Let mixture soak for 30 minutes at room temperature, mixing every ten minutes.
Baking • Grease the inside of 6 mini-cake pans with softened butter. • Ladle a heaping 250 grams of bread pudding batter into the buttered pans and place onto a sheet pan. • Repeat with remaining pans. Pans should be filled to the top. • Place into pre-heated oven for 40- 50 minutes, until the top of the bread pudding is golden brown. • Remove from oven and place on cooling rack for one hour. Head chef Paul de Visser advises: “Best served with vanilla ice-cream or hot vanilla custard.”
30 l UAE Digest, June 2009
Wake up and drink the coffee!
ith 800 billion cups consumed around the world every year, coffee comes second as the most consumed beverage worldwide, after water. Yet, not many people realise that the exhilarating aroma, distinctive taste and invigorating spell they seek in a cup of coffee, are not all there is to ask for. Recent scientific research on coffee brings evidence of several of its positive effects on health, and eliminates some of the myths that have burdened the popular beverage for long. Perhaps one of the most common myths attached to coffee consumption is the effect of caffeine on health. Current scientific evidence shows that moderate intake of caffeine does not present any health hazards. On the contrary, it provides a number of benefits associated with mental and physical performance. Studies have shown that people who drink coffee are relaxed and more interested in their work. The caffeine in coffee helps restore and maintain alertness; improving performance and enhancing your mood. When studying, coffee helps improve attention and wakefulness; increasing attentiveness and, as a result, it facilitates learning. In addition, studies have established that moderate coffee consumption boosts energy for better physical performance. This could help athletes perform better at endurance exercises as well as high intensity routines. It can also reduce post-workout muscle pain and feelings of fatigue during the last minutes of a workout.
Moderation, however, is key in making the most of the caffeine benefits. “When we monitor our daily caffeine intake, it is also important to take into consideration the caffeine present in sources beside coffee, such as soft drinks, tea, energy drinks, or dark chocolate,” advises Al Khatib. Recent research demonstrates that coffee contributes significantly to the daily dietary intake of anti-oxidants which can help protect your cells from oxidation,
and by doing so, it contributes to protecting your body from heart disease, cancer and premature aging. Sipping up to alert your senses, enhance your mood, boost your performance and get plenty of anti-oxidants are major reasons to enjoy drinking coffee beside the exquisite taste and aroma. Experiencing the invigorating benefits of a refreshing cup of coffee is also an occasion to get together with family, friends and work associates everyday!
Coffee: Interesting Facts • • • • • • • • • • •
It can take up to four years for a coffee tree to reach mature production. Each cherry consists of two coffee beans. The two main types of commercially grown coffee are Arabica and Robusta. The word ‘coffee‘originates from the Arabic word ‘kaweh’, meaning strength or vigour. By the 9th century, coffee was widely consumed in Persia. It was widespread throughout the Arabic world by the 15th century. The Dutch began growing coffee on the island of Java, now part of Indonesia, in 1696. Coffee reached Europe early in the 17th Century. Louis XIV and Pope Clement III were early converts to the drink. London‘s 17th-century coffee-houses became known as ‘Penny Universities‘; for the price of a coffee it was possible to join in discussion with the artists, merchants and poets who frequented them. This led to Charles II attempting to close down coffee houses in 1676, thinking them hotbeds of political intrigue. In the 1700s, a French naval officer, Gabriel Mathieu de Clieu, stole a cutting from the King’s coffee tree, in the Jardin des Plantes, in Paris, and took it to the Caribbean island of Martinique. Fifty years later, there were an estimated 18 million coffee trees there. By 1800, Brazil had become the largest producer of coffee in the world. The beginnings of Soluble Coffee can be traced all the way back to 1930 when the Brazilian government approached Nestlé to find a solution to the surplus Brazilian coffee crops. Seven years of research and development by Nestlé technologists and experts resulted in a breakthrough in 1938: a quality cup of coffee simply made by adding water, while retaining coffee’s natural flavor. The new instant coffee powder was named Nescafe.
UAE Digest, June 2009 l 31
Chef at the Chaat Cart
Pav Bhaji Vol-au-vent
By Linda Benbow
night out in Barsha might not be everyone’s idea of fun, but as I live in that end of the town it was a pleasant surprise to find a new hotel with a new restaurant and a licensed bar. Not only that, but it was a weird place, in a nice way, if you know what I mean. India with a twist. The only time I’ve seen Indian sushi on a menu (turned out to be an assortment of individual tastes such as chicken satay on a stick, a cube of fish, and yes, a nori seaweed wrapped rice and tandoori chicken roll cut into small familiar-looking sushi shapes). Or try the Pav Bhaji Vol-au-vent or Mexican Bhel. D’fusion is the name of the restaurant in the Grandeur Hotel located near Mall of the Emirates. The taxi drivers already know the name of the place, I know this from first-hand experience. Having ordered drinks from the cocktail and mocktail menus, the next enjoying task was to sift through the options on offer in this new fusion restaurant. You vaguely recognise most of the names, and very agreeable tastes they turn out to be too with bhindi (ladies fingers), aloo (potato), roti (dried baked flat bread) and paratha (fried flat bread), among some of the known choices. But the best bit of culinary entertainment comes with the
Chaat Cart which is wheeled around the nightclub styled dining area to those who order puris and chaat. A chef moves the trolley of traditional Indian savouries to your table and treats them with equal amounts of respect, nouvelle flair and legendary Indian chutzpah. You choose from a variety of fillings and he packs them into the centre of tiny fried pastry delights. Cheese Sev Puri are puffed mini popodums filled with lentils and a sweet-spicy-tangy cheese, Paani Puri are puffed mini popodums filled with lentils and a sweet-spicy-tangy juice, and Sev Puri are mini popodums topped with crunchy, funchy Indian tidbits. Papadi Chaat are mini popodums topped with flaked potatoes and creamed fresh yoghurt, Dahi Bhalla are lentil dumplings in creamed fresh yoghurt while Fruit Chaat comprises of fresh fruit bits tossed
in secret spices, fresh mint and coriander leaves. Save room for stalwart desserts, such as halwa and gulab jamun which should lead you very nicely into the singing and dancing that happens on occasion with the Fusion Five live band entertaining diners all evening. Set to provide a full-on entertainment experience, the restaurant has also signed on a resident band, the Fusion Five, named so because of their ability to perform tunes from several different languages, focusing on five fan favourites – Hindi, English, Konkani, Swahili and Bengali. The music performed covers various genres that appeal to listeners of all ages, with a special focus on Bollywood hits. The Fusion Five also encourages guests to pick their favourite songs, and request forms are available throughout the evening. D’fusion is also a great afterhours spot. The full service bar features signature cocktails like Arabian Nights (rose-infused lime juice with mint leaves), Masala Mojito (the Cuban classic infused with Indian spices), infused golas (sweet, shaved ice treats) and an impressive someliers’ list that features a varied selection that can be ordered by the glass as well as by the bottle and perfectly complement one’s meal.
32 l UAE Digest, June 2009
Chocolat, the only company in the UAE creating luxury handmade Swiss chocolates, has launched its Taste of Arabia range. It will make private collections of chocolates for individuals and corporations
Cakes created by skilful pastry chefs from the kitchens of Raffles Hotel, Dubai are made to order and can be delivered at your home or venue
All aboard for the Gourmet Station
By Linda Benbow
The deli counter has over a 100 cheeses from England to France, yellow to blue, creamy to crumbly, and everything in between; this is a cheese lover’s paradise
here are pockets of culinary exclusivity in Dubai, and a network of word-of-mouth gossip that ensures that the hostess with the mostest can deliver scrumptious home-made meals at dinner parties that have guests willing to put their name on a waiting list for. They can keep their secrets! Now there is a place that brings in wonderful tastes from abroad so that all can taste and enjoy. Gourmet Station has opened on the third floor of the newly opened Oasis Centre on Sheikh Zayed Road. This rare concept is a boutique food market that brings to the city speciality gourmet food products in the retail sphere. So the best of products that were so long available probably only at a five-star meal, can now be bought off the shelves at Gourmet Station to prepare at your own home. They also have a speciality chef in-house who can tell you how to DIY. The store has some amazing features too – like smell management, a meat curing cabinet, a coffee grinder that custom grinds your choice of coffee beans; even their shopping trollies are specially designed to fit the curb of your leg so they aren’t a hindrance when you are walking around with it! Yes, a lot of thought has gone into making this gourmet destination. A feast to the eyes and a delight to the senses, this gorgeous food market brings to Dubai a rare accumulation of speciality meats, artisan breads, finest cheeses and even the best of grocery. That which so long would have been available only while enjoying a five-star meal, is now available off the shelves. As you walk into the bakery department you are greeted by the tempting aroma of fresh bread and cheese croissants made using black bomber and extra matured Welsh cheddar. For the evening, buy a whole lemon meringue pie which is good-to-go for a dinner party dessert. At the fish counter, you will find fresh catches and the most exotic choices of both salt and freshwater fish every day. The seafood section also sells a variety of edible and exotic seaweed. And caviar too. The meat counter is a veritable ‘fest’ with the choicest of fresh meat selected by an expert team with first-hand knowledge of the product, brought on by visiting the home farms and by building relationships with suppliers, thereby offering the very best to foodies.
From Karen and the guys at Le Mesurier, there’s Curried Marrow Mustard Relish and Pear, Tomato & Saffron Chutney that can liven up any meal A select menu of cooked food supervised by Executive Chef Francis Matthias. To preserve maximum possible taste, the kitchens utilise the ‘ blast chilling’ process whereby freshly prepared hot food is placed in an instant freezing unit that brings the temperature down within a matter of minutes, thus preventing bacterial growth. There is a theatrical open kitchen so customers can view all cooking procedures as they walk around the shop floor
UAE Digest, June 2009 l 33
A basket of goodies
elice threw open the doors of its newest and most extraordinary boutique yet in Dubai Mall. The well-known confectionery company celebrated its latest development in grand style, by hosting the wives of over 30 ambassadors based in the UAE. The VIP dignitaries were joined by top officials of Dubai Government and Emaar as they browsed through a wide assortment of exotic confectionery creations that have made Delice synonymous with style and luxury. Hand-made marzipan flavourings decorated with nuts sit cosily alongside chocolates with gold leaf adornments. All natural ingredients, with no additives, these sweets are made to eat and enjoy as quickly as possible. Expanding in an exceptional location with a strong retail presence, the Dubai Mall outlet is Delice’s most architecturally innovative store ever, featuring a distinctive 30-foot glass outlet that creates a stunning new attraction inside the mall. The iconic boutique offers more than 100 signature creations that are prized by the UAE’s royalty and an overwhelming number of five-star hotels in the region. Biryani aficionados got a chance to display their cooking skills at the fourth edition of Biryani Muqabla organised by award winning Indian restaurant Mumtaz Mahal at the Arabian Courtyard Hotel & Spa recently. The day-long cooking competition
was open to amateur chefs who would like to have fun while whipping up their favourite biryani recipes. This year, the organisers’ of Biryani Muqabla received over 500 entries, which were narrowed down to 10 finalists who got a chance to prepare their mouth-watering dishes in front of biryani-loving guests and a panel of judges consisting of Mr Rakesh Puri, author and food critic along with Mr Gareth Rees, food critic with a popular local publication. The best biryani concoction was selected on the basis of appearance, aroma, texture and taste. The winning cook, Ms Sonia Gonsalves with her ‘Dum Prawn Biryani’, took home a diamond pendant from contest sponsor Joyalukkas while the nine runners-up received consolation prizes. Fresh Fruits Company (FFC) is the first company to implement ISO 22000; a new international standard designed to ensure safe food supply chains worldwide. Food reaches consumers via supply chains that link many different types of organisations stretching across multiple borders. One weak link can result in unsafe food that is dangerous to health- and when it happens, the hazards to consumers can be serious and the cost to food chain suppliers considerable. In order to control the safety hazards in the food chain, Dubai Municipality introduced a new regulation called HACCP or ISO 22000 certification; this has become
mandatory for all companies involved in the supply of food and beverages in the emirate of Dubai. UAE is a cosmopolitan environment, comprising over 145 nationalities, all with different tastes and consumer preferences. This makes for a wide demand for mainstream fruits and vegetable varieties, not forgetting exotics to cater for, and this makes procuring supply for 12 months of the year a huge challenge, but with the right suppliers and relationships, based on experience and integrity, FFC have ensured that popular items like bananas, apples, pears, oranges, kiwi fruits and grapes are available all year round for the consumer’s fruit-bowl. Some of their current distribution outlets include: Spinneys, Choithram, Lal’s, major shipchandlers, major Ruler’s Palaces in Dubai, Carrefour, Burj Al Arab and Jumeirah Beach Hotel . France’s Moulinex has announced the Gulf-wide launch of Masterchef 8000 that makes food and juice preparation easier than ever before with the introduction of the direct drive technology. Featuring a new front-use appliance with a powerful 850 watt motor incorporating a 1.5 litre blender, preparing a meal is now faster than ever. It is designed for heavy use with full metal whisks and disks for perfect cutting, fine grating and slicing and a metal grid in the juice extractor for added durability.
Winner, contestants and judges in the annual biryani competition
34 l UAE Digest, June 2009
maar Properties, the developer of Burj Dubai, the world’s tallest building, has announced that visitors to the tower will be welcomed with more than 1,000 specially commissioned pieces of art that will adorn the interiors of Burj Dubai and the surrounding Emaar Boulevard, when it opens later this year. With art pieces from prominent Middle East and international artists, visitors will experience a breathtaking artistic tribute to the spirit of global harmony. Among the specially commissioned art for Burj Dubai, occupying pride of place in the tower’s residential lobby will be World Voices by internationally renowned artist Jaume Plensa. Plensa’s masterpiece in titanium and alloy was hand-picked by Emaar Chairman Mr Mohamed Alabbar following a year-long selection process led by the building’s architect Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) of Chicago. Jaume Plensa’s World Voices is composed of 196 cymbals that represent the 196 countries of the world - symbolic to Burj Dubai being a collaboration of people from across the globe and befiting its global iconic status. Cast in bronze and brass alloy and plated with 18-carat gold, the cymbals are horizontally suspended onto titanium rods anchored at the bottom of two pools, symbolising reeds in a lake. Finished by hand, the cymbals create a distinct timbre as they are struck by dripping water, which the artist compared to the sound of water falling on leaves. Speaking on the art focus for the tower, Mr. Alabbar said: “Art is central to the Burj Dubai project, not only as a visual statement but as a means to link cultures and communities. Thousands of people from around the world have collaborated to achieve this landmark, the world’s tallest building. By assembling one of the world’s
to adorn Burj Dubai
largest collections of art and sculpture from leading Middle East and international artists, we are celebrating their endeavour and the global significance of Burj Dubai.” He said: “World Voices will be a compelling addition to Plensa’s astonishing canon of public work. It takes inspiration from Dubai and sends a positive message to the world.” Burj Dubai’s architects and interior designers Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) approached international and Middle East-based artists to submit concepts for the centrepiece of the Burj Dubai’s residential lobby more than a year ago. Plensa’s winning design was chosen from a shortlist of five. George Efstathiou, the Managing Partner for SOM leading the Burj Dubai team said, “The 1,000 art pieces will include a wide range of contemporary artists as well as museum-standard historic art recognising the Gulf ’s unique heritage.” He added: “A part of SOM’s tradition is a strong connection of their projects with the art world. SOM has worked with leading artists from the world includ-
ing Picasso, Miro, Calder and now Jaume Plensa.” Emaar is developing Burj Dubai, the world’s tallest free-standing structure, and has opened The Dubai Mall, the world’s largest shopping and entertainment destination. The developerhas joined hands with Giorgio Armani to strengthen its presence in hospitality. The company is opening educational institutions and healthcare centres in South Asia, Middle East and North Africa, and the Subcontinent.
UAE Digest, June 2009 l 35
India is her inspiration
Vivacious and pretty, Rouble Nagi creates murals of beauty in her homeland and abroad. A frequent visitor to Dubai, she now trots the globe wherever her work takes her
By Vanit Sethi
Rouble Nagi has created 800 murals worldwide in 33 mediums. Currently, she is working on three high-profile projects in Dubai
Rouble Nagi sitting in front of her art work titled Flashback
er works adorn the walls of India’s most famous hotels, the new snazzy restaurants in metros, exclusive clubs in leafy suburbs, top corporate offices, upmarket schools and academies, and the living rooms of business magnates and Bollywood celebrities. And she’s only 29. Meet the charming and vivacious Rouble Nagi who now hobnobs with the likes of Salman Khan, Wasim Akram, Rahul Bajaj and Subhash Ghai while globetrotting to places like London, Paris, New York and Dubai, while also squeezing various Indian destinations in her itinerary. She loves the limelight and the fame it brings her, but her passion is holding art classes for underprivileged children. For this, the money pouring in from corporate honchos and Bollywood bigwigs comes in handy. Having already worked in 33 differentmediums, she has a lot going for her at an age most people barely find a foothold in their chosen careers. After graduating in Fine Arts from the Slade School of Arts in London at the age of 19 in 1999, she par-
ticipated in an exhibition in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal, where her potential was noticed in her very first endeavour. After that, there was no looking back for her. Her first opportunity at professional mural designing came in 2004 when she designed and executed ‘Frescoes and Mosaic’ for Hotel Kenilworth in Goa. In the short span of five years since then, she already has 800 murals worldwide to her credit. In Dubai, she has been associated with ETA and Dodsal, but is currently working on projects for three high-profile residences in Emirates Hills. With an exhibition slated for October in the city, she is keenly looking at exploring greater opportunities in the Gulf market. However jet-setting her lifestyle may be at the moment, she admits she is happiest in the company of poor, young children for whom art is both a medium of escape from their drudgery as well as a tool for expressing their creativity. Though her name is associated with a currency (the Russian), she is fascinated more by the colours of life than the colour of
money. And while her father was fascinated with Russian culture (which explains her name), she is more engrossed with the myriad tapestry of Indian customs and traditions, which finds expression in her various art works at home and abroad. Indian culture, literature and mythology has a strong influence on her works and inspires her through all the mediums. At the same time, books are her constant companion, with her favourite authors being Rabindranath Tagore, Richard Bach, Ruskin Bond and Paulo Coelho. Tagore’s Gitanjali and Coelho’s The Alchemist are her all-time favourites. She remarks excitedly: “In my country, India, whenever people encounter a difficulty, they seek out many ways to overcome it. It is this same powerful imagination that is driving the country and its people forward to a better future. This is the kind of emotion I bring to my canvas or mural.” And like Vincent Van Gogh, she concludes: “I want to touch people with my art.”
36 l UAE Digest, June 2009
Free Mind A mural of Dubai Metro A fresco in Hotel Taj Fort Aguada Beach Resort, Goa
With Bollywood heartthrob Salman Khan
Books are her constant companion with her favourite authors being Rabindranath Tagore, Richard Bach, Ruskin Bond and Paulo Coelho
Spreading cheer with ‘Rounak’ Personal milestones
“Every child has a right to express his creativity,” says Rouble Nagi, who has been organising art camps for underprivileged children and school kids for some time now, in association with a non-governmental organisation, Pratham, under the name ‘Rounak’. Having worked closely with underprivileged kids, Rouble believes this cause needs to be taken further. For this, she has roped in close friends like film-maker Subhash Ghai, businessman Sanjay Kapur, socialite and art patron Asha Patel, and founder of Pratham Madhav Chauhan, to form the Rouble Nagi Art Foundation (RNAF). The primary aim of the foundation is to initiate creative and emotional development of children in India and across the world through arts and crafts. RNAF will have art camps for children and hold exhibitions to promote the same. It will work closely with Pratham to help organise these art camps for slum and school kids, which will be supported by senior artists both from India and abroad. RNAF will also provide specialised art courses which will be included in their existing art classes, to be taught by trained teachers and volunteers. Apart from these, RNAF plans to sponsor and curate shows for young, physically challenged artists who cannot afford to exhibit their works. Sponsorships for education scholarships in the field of arts and entertainment for young students will also be provided by the foundation. Former Pakistani cricket captain, Wasim Akram has been signed on as the Goodwill Ambassador for the RNAF.
Brief Biography: • 1980: Born in Jammu & Kashmir, India. • 1999: Graduated in Fine Arts from Slade School of Arts, London. • 1999: Did English theatre Now She Says She’s God with Indian-British actor Tom Alter. Work Mediums: Glass Murals, Tile Mosaic, Cold Ceramic, Metal, Fibre, Frescos, Mix Media, Terracotta, C4X, Wood Carving, Designer Pots. Executed Projects: • 12 hotels in India, out of which 5 are of the Taj Group and 3 of Hyatt Regency. • 9 restaurants in India – 4 in Delhi NCR, 3 in Mumbai, and 2 in Kolkata. • 3 clubs in India – Club Link, Mumbai; The Palms, Gurgaon; Residency Club, Pune. • 13 commercial/corporate buildings, prominent ones being ETA and Dodsal in Dubai; Kala Academy, Mumbai; CitiBank, Mumbai; VGP Group, Chennai; Dalmia International School, Thane; and Whistling Woods International Ltd, Mumbai. • 16 residence-cum-office complexes in Mumbai, Delhi, Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Dubai and New York. Prominent ones are those of Indian film producer Sajid Nadiadwala, Bollywood actor Salman Khan, industrialist Bajaj, Ali Bagash (owner of Bagash Enterprises) in Dubai; and a house in New York. • She has worked with 9 architects, 3 builders and 3 international firms – HBA, Leiber Cooper, and BLD. Exhibitions and Auctions: Several exhibitions of her art works have been held in Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and Lucknow, with one exhibition scheduled for October in Dubai. Four of her paintings have been auctioned in London and Leeds.
UAE Digest, June 2009 l 37
The world of words
The first festival of its kind in the Middle East, the EIAFL was a runaway hit with more than 20,000 people attending the three-day event
By Vanit Sethi
he magical world of books and literature came alive at the Dubai Festival City towards the end of February. Sixty-five writers from across the world dazzled Dubai for three days with the sheer brilliance of their intellect and the power of their words. The Emirates International Airline Festival of Literature (EIAFL) benefited from the controversy over a book, due to which Canadian writer Margaret Atwood pulled out, but later regretted it and participated in a roundtable video conference on ‘Writers and Censorship’. Top authors attracted sellout audiences, despite the tickets being rather highly priced at Dh100 for some debates. Many writers were delighted to be in Dubai and talking to their fans from the region. They patiently autographed their works for readers, posed for photographs with them, and answered their interesting queries. Festival director Isobel Abulhoul expressed satisfaction over the ‘overwhelmingly positive feeedback’ from all the authors. Queues of adoring fans formed in the lobbies, with people waiting for two hours to get their books signed. There was a team of nine students and their teacher who travelled from Kuwait, one librarian flew in from Istanbul, and a student from India who posed questions
for most writers. In all, there were 51 events (including talks, conversations and debates) conducted in both English and Arabic, using simultaneous translation facilities provided by the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority and the Mohammed bin Rashid Foundation. Outside the venues, a whole range of books by the participating authors was displayed for sale by Magrudy’s, one of the festival organisers. Some books – especially those by Robin Sharma, Wilbur Smith and Anthony Horowitzsold like hot cakes. The winners of a children’s short story competition were thrilled to receive their prizes from Anthony Horowitz. All the winners (from ages 8 to 15) immediately became published authors as their stories (in English and Arabic) were collated into a book, called The Sea, which was selling briskly at the festival (available at Magrudy’s stores throughout the UAE). The final day of the festival (Education Day) saw authors fanning out to schools and colleges throughout Dubai to conduct presentations, engage in discussions and debate with students and teachers. Fringe Festival: Alongside the literary meet, a Fringe Festival too was vying for attention in Festival City malls and promenades. This event gave an
opportunity to more than 60 schools, colleges and community groups to display a range of talents. Among the highlights were Kathak (a classical Indian danceform), the foot-tapping Samba of Brazil, a Japanese tea-drinking ceremony and Arabic poetry sessions. Many visitors I spoke to expressed surprise that Dubai could pull off its first international literary event with such style. What was heartening was the presence of a large number of children and teenagers who had willingly come along with their parents.
The dazzling dozen
Choosing 12 writers from a stellar lineup of 65 can be an excruciating task, but one that I was consumed with. Judging by audience attendance, ticket and book sales, queues for book signings, and the remarks of book lovers, here is the shortlist. I admit it is largely subjective – given that festival organisers were reluctant to put authors on a literary race- track – but one, I’m sure, that will benefit our readers sift through the ocean of words. With the long summer months ahead, the world of books can provide the much-needed respite. It goes without saying that this is just a brief guide to authors (in alphabetical order) and their most-talked about works. It is not a bestselling list.
Book lovers browse through novels in the lobby of the Hotel InterContinental in Dubai Festival City
Writers participating in a debate on censorship issues. Margaret Atwood (left on screen) spoke from Canada through a video-link up
38 l UAE Digest, June 2009
1. Anita Nair (India) Best-selling author of the novels The Better Man, Ladies Coupe and Mistress, Anita Nair’s new book is Goodnight & God Bless, a collection of literary essays. She has also written four books for children and published a book of poetry. Her books have been translated into 29 languages around the world. Most recently, she was awarded the FLO FICCI Women Achievers Awards 2008 for Literature. Mistress: Radha, a beautiful woman in her early thirties, is married to a man she does not love. Chris, a foreigner, arrives in a small Kerala town to write a book on Radha’s uncle, an acclaimed Kathakali artiste. Radha has an affair with Chris and no qualms about cheating on her husband, who is unable to confront her.
2. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria/USA) Born in 1977 in Nigeria, Chimamanda studied medicine and pharmacy at the University of Nigeria, then moved to the US to study communications and political science at Eastern Connecticut State University, and later did an MA in Creative Writing from Johns Hopkins University. She has published several short stories, poetry, one play, and two novels. Purple Hibiscus won the 2005 Commonwealth Writers Prize, and Half of a Yellow Sun the 2007 Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction. Purple Hibiscus: Kambili is a young girl growing up in Nigeria, torn between the old pagan ways and her Catholic upbringing, her life structured by her strict father. However, a trip to visit her aunt in another town shows her another way of living. With the help of her brother, aunt, cousins, and a priest, she begins to see new ways of thought and action.
3. Frank McCourt (Ireland/USA) Born in 1930 in New York to Irish immigrant parents, Frank grew up in Ireland and returned to America in 1949. For 30 years, he taught in New York City high schools. His first book, Angela’s Ashes, won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the L.A. Times Book Award. Angela’s Ashes: Malachy Senior is an alcoholic, indifferent to his family’s suffering, though desperately fond of his children. Angela is simultaneously pathetic and heroic, with an ability to ensure the survival of four of her seven children. Denial kills three children and a marriage, while lack of the most basic human contact turns her to incest. Miraculously, Frank survives and thrives, driven by the things his father did not possess - common sense, hard work, sobriety, and literary genius.
4. Jung Chang (China/UK) Born in China in 1952, Jung Chang was a Red Guard briefly at the age of 14, and then a peasant, a ‘barefoot doctor’, steel worker and electrician before becoming an English-language student and assistant lecturer at Sichuan University. She left for Britain in 1978 on a scholarship for a Ph.D. in Linguistics from York University - the first person from China to receive a doctorate from a British university. Her award-winning book Wild Swans was published in 1991. With her British husband, Jon Halliday, she is also the author of Mao: The Unknown Story. Wild Swans: This inspiring biography tells the story of three daughters of China and their survival against Communism. Beginning in the early 1900s and ending in 1978, it chronicles the endless struggle of China to find its place in the world, the suffering of its people, and the terror that almost destroyed the nation.
UAE Digest, June 2009 l 39
5. Kate Adie (UK) The BBC’s chief news correspondent became one of the best-known faces on television for her reporting from major war zones. Her coverage of the American Embassy siege in Iran (1980) brought her to prominence. She later covered the brutal suppression of the student uprising in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. She was awarded an OBE in 1993. Into Danger: Regularly reporting from war zones has given Kate a curiosity about people attracted to danger. This fascinating quest has taken her to four corners of the globe - meeting stunt people, landmine exploders, political activists, criminals, prostitutes, and even a 96-year-old ‘snake man’ who was bitten countless times while trying to find venom for vaccines.
6. Mark Tully (India/UK) Born in Calcutta and educated in England, Mark Tully was BBC’s correspondent in South Asia for 25 years. He now works as a journalist in New Delhi with his colleague and partner, Gillian Wright, who also translates Indian language fiction into English. Together, they have worked on a number of books, including the highly acclaimed No Full Stops in India, The Heart of India, and his most recent India’s Unending Journey. India’s Unending Journey: In this fascinating and timely work, Tully reveals the profound impact India has had on his life and beliefs, and what we can all learn from this rapidly changing nation. Embarking on a journey that captures the many faces of the vast country, he explores how successfully India reconciles opposites, marries the sensual with the sacred, finds harmony in discord, and treats certainty with suspicion.
7. Mohammed Al Murr (UAE) Before assuming the position of Deputy Chairman of the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority (DCAA), Mohammed Al Murr served as the Chairman of Dubai Cultural Council from its establishment in January 2004 until March 2008, when it merged with DCAA. Born in Dubai in 1955, he began his lifelong obsession with reading and writing at an early age. Dubai Tales: A collection of 24 short stories, with each one of them having a sharp sting in the tail. The comic predicaments of his characters are all the more acute because their lives are caught between the conflicting claims of modernism and tradition, nowhere more intense than in the Gulf.
8. Rajaa Al Sanea (Saudi Arabia) She is the author of Banat Al Riyadh (The Girls of Riyadh), a phenomenally successful first novel (both in Arabic and English) about young Saudi women, causing some controversy in Saudi Arabia. Born into a family of doctors, Rajaa obtained her dentistry qualification from King Saud University and is currently studying for a PhD at the University of Illinois in Chicago. The Girls of Riyadh: Gamrah, Sadeem, Michelle and Lamees are all young and attractive, sneaking out behind their parents’ backs, dating, shopping, watching American TV and having fun, while still trying to be good little Muslim girls. But can you be a 21st century girl and a conservative Saudi woman at the same time?
40 l UAE Digest, June 2009
9. Ranulph Fiennes (UK/South Africa) A former member of the SAS and Army of the Sultan of Oman, Sir Ranulph Fiennes has led major expeditions to both poles and elsewhere in the world for over 30 years, earning him the Guinness accolade of ‘the world’s greatest living explorer’. He has written two autobiographies and three other books of adventure. Living Dangerously: This book takes Fiennes from his boyhood and army career to a series of breathtaking expeditions. His determination to seek new challenges has led him to the North Pole without dogs or motorised equipment; to find the lost city of Ubar, hidden in the Arabian desert; and an extraordinary journey across the Antarctic to the South Pole.
10. Robin S. Sharma (Canada) One of the world’s top experts on personal development and leadership, Robin Sharma is the author of seven major international bestsellers. He is the CEO of Sharma Leadership International Inc., a success coaching and training firm with clients such as FedEx, IBM, Microsoft, GM, Nike and Panasonic. The Monk Who Sold His Ferrrari: Julian Mantle, a lawyer, is forced to confront the spiritual crisis of his life. Following a heart attack, he decides to sell all his possessions and trek to India. On a life-changing odyssey to an ancient culture, he meets Himalayan gurus who offer powerful, wise and practical lessons that teach us to live fully, one day at a time.
11. Victoria Hislop (UK) Victoria studied English at St Hilda’s College, Oxford, and later worked in book publishing and public relations. After becoming a mother in 1990, she started working as a freelance journalist, before branching out into travel journalism. Her first novel The Island won her ‘Newcomer of the Year’ at the Galaxy British Book Awards in 2007. The Return: Beneath the majestic towers of Alhambra, Granada’s cobbled streets resonate with music and secrets. Sonia Cameron knows nothing of the city’s shocking past, as she is there just to dance. However, in a quiet cafe, a chance conversation and an intriguing collection of old photographs draw her into the extraordinary tale of Spain’s devastating civil war.
12. Wilbur Smith (UK/Zambia) Born in central Africa in 1933, Wilbur Smith was educated at Michaelhouse and Rhodes University. He became a full-time writer in 1964 after the publication of When the Lion Feeds. Since then, he has written 30 novels, all meticulously researched on his numerous expeditions worldwide. His books have been translated into 26 different languages. Assegai: It is 1913 and ex-soldier turned professional big game hunter, Leon Courtney, is in British East Africa guiding rich and powerful men from America and Europe on safaris in the Masai tribe territories. But Leon had not bargained for falling passionately in love with Eva, the Count’s beautiful and enigmatic mistress.
UAE Digest, June 2009 l 41
New programmes and innovative training schemes
training) at the end of July. The CST will be a 1:1 scale replica of an actual Airbus A320 fuselage, featuring a forward cabin complete with galleys, seats, overhead storage bins, door exits and electronic control systems. The 400-cycle electrics will power the galley areas, the refrigeration and the A/C systems, while the galleys themselves will be equipped with the same ovens, bun warmers, toasters and coffeemakers that would be used during in-flight service at 30,000 ft. The contract has been awarded to Spatial by EDM of Manchester, UK, who is a global provider of training and simulation systems for civil aviation and is a specialist in the design of military training devices for UK’s Ministry of Defence. The Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management, part of Jumeirah Group the Dubai-based luxury hotel group; is offering a Master of Science degree in International Hospitality Management - the first of its kind in the GCC region. Commencing in October 2009, the programme is aimed at the hospitality leaders of the future, building on the foundations laid by undergraduate studies with an emphasis on managerial competence. It will be open to students continuing their education with the Academy as well as external applicants looking to advance their careers into executive, corporate and senior management levels. The post-graduate curriculum is based on extensive industry and educational research and has been benchmarked against 15 other internationally renowned Masters programmes. With senior and executive managers from the hospitality trade contributing to the course design and content, graduates will emerge with highly developed skills and knowledge relevant to the industry. Turjuman Media Consultancy has launched the acclaimed International Public Relations License for the first time in the Arab World, in collaboration
bami Consultancy & Training has opened a brand new outdoor activity learning centre at the Al Ghazal Golf Club in Abu Dhabi. Located adjacent to the international airport, the centre provides facilities to deliver a comprehensive range of personal, leadership and team building activities. This experiential learning and development company has delivered over 374 Team and Leadership Programmes from its two learning centres at the Hatta Fort Hotel and Jebel Ali Golf Resort & Spa during the past three years and is now ready to train clients from all industry sectors, 365 days a year, at the Abami Al Ghazal Learning Centre. Managing Director, Graham Nugent explains. “Today, businesses need to be able to quantify their investment and know that the money spent on learning and development will have the greatest impact on business performance. The new activity learning centre will provide the highest level of training designed to meet the client’s exact requirements, developing a well-rounded and qualified workforce.” Implementing open and customised in-house learning workshops with a focus
on leadership, personal and team development, winning strategy and bespoke solutions, the learning and development programmes are designed using experiential learning methodology, where interactive exercises, business simulations and indoor and outdoor challenges combine with powerful and engaging facilitator discussions to deliver exceptional results. These unique methods provide challenging, motivating experiences that result in a dramatic difference in managerial and employee attitudes, knowledge and competence. A Jebel Ali-based manufacturer of crew training simulators for the aviation and aerospace industries—Spatial Composite Solutions—has been commissioned to design, build and instal an Airbus A320 Cabin Service Trainer (CST) for Etihad Airways. The device will provide Etihad with a realistic environment in which to train cabin crew on all aspects of premium cabin service and food preparation procedures. To be located at Etihad’s new Crew Training Academy in Abu Dhabi, the CST is scheduled to be installed and commissioned in June and will be RFT (ready for
42 l UAE Digest, June 2009
A member of the Spatial Composite Solutions team working on an Airbus A320 Cabin Service Trainer at the company’s Jebel Ali factory
Hult Velocity Warriors
with the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), the professional body for PR practitioners in the UK. The CIPR diploma – which is available in Arabic and English – aims to produce a new generation of public relations professionals, who will adopt the latest international public relations methods to avoid the incorrect application of public relations in the Arab region. The programme teaches trainees to properly manage public relations for private and public sector, and build a strong reputation and image that serve the strategic goals of various establishments. The programme is intended for public relations experts who have actual public relations experience. Beginners will first need to get a foundation level degree and advanced level degree before they are able to get the CIPR degree which is often described as the academic cornerstone for public relations professionals in Britain. The first group of students commenced their studies in April and will complete the programme in mid-December 2009, while the second group of students will start the training programme in September 2009. Hult Velocity Warriors Team from the Hult International Business School emerged victorious from the F1 in Schools Corporate Challenge 2009 recently after a race took place at the Schools Centre for Excellence at Dubai Autodrome. The competition is a multi-disciplinary technology challenge designed to apply academic learning to real life situations by using software to collaborate, design, analyse, manufacture, test and race miniature gas powered F1 cars, in the face of limitations in time-frame and design parameters. Kareem Hertzog, team manager
for Hult Velocity Warriors, and Sumeeth Shankar made notable contributions to the team’s victory. April saw HE Sheikh Nahyan Mabarak Al Nahyan addressing a gathering at the opening of a two-day forum in Abu Dhabi, entitled ‘Advancing and retaining UAE nationals in the workplace’. The forum was dedicated towards the Emiratisation of workforce in the UAE. The forum was organised by Abu Dhabi University (ADU), in conjunction with Aim events, to address the issues concerning the development of employee calibre, improving retention rates, maintaining a motivated workforce and managing quotas. In his address, HE Sheikh Nahayan stressed the need for collaboration among all sectors of society for creation of job opportunities for UAE nationals in the private sector, and thus, reducing their dependence on the government and other public sector agencies for employment. He added that “the number of people seeking employment, after all, is relatively small when compared to the large number of jobs required to drive our nation. However, as we all know, there are many complications connected with social, economic and technological considerations that affect the placement of nationals seeking employment in the jobs that are available.” Professor of Management Practice at the London Business School, and keynote speaker for the evening, Lynda Gratton emphasised on “significant investment in training for Emiratis and the creation of long-term career paths which includes developing new skills, but more importantly interesting and meaningful
work that will motivate and keep the best people in the organisation and help build a successful business.” Also in April, Al Hosn University in Abu Dhabi hosted the “First Annual Women in Engineering Event” at its Women’s Campus to discuss the achievements of women engineers and their key role in the UAE’s industrial and social development. Academic advisors from several schools attended the event to learn about women’s success in engineering and the different tools to acquire and enhance personal, community and national growth. The university has taken measures to encourage the entry of female students into engineering and other technical programmes, including recruitment of female professors in the engineering faculty.
HE Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahyan addressed a two-day forum entitled ‘Advancing and retaining UAE Nationals in the workplace’
UAE Digest, June 2009 l 43
Of crisis and change
The 8th Arab Media Forum dealt with a host of issues from the decline of print media to the growth of online media, from the global economic crisis to the Gaza war coverage, and from investigative journalism to satellite fatwas
By Vanit Sethi
rom Dubai Media City to Atlantis Hotel, Palm Jumeirah is a five-minute ride on the brand new monorail, but on two days in May they seemed like two different worlds. The opulent luxury of the ballroom’s grand structure faded from the mind as journalists from across the region engaged in electrifying discussions on the state of the media in the Middle East. After paeans to the vision of Dubai by Amre Moussa, the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, in the presence of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the gathering of journalists unbound its shackles, giving vent to a plethora of ideas that remain submerged in the grind of daily deadlines and the fear of complicated regulations. Secure in the comfort of a peer network and away from the shadows of official scrutiny, the torrent of words poured forth. It seemed a surreal world, though it dealt with very real issues. Issues of conflict and courage, corruption and censorship, convention and change, chaos and creativity. From the American investigative journalist Seymour Hersh to the Chinese business editor Hu Shuli, a range of opinions were expressed in the two-day jamboree. Held under the broad title of Arab Media: Weathering a Period of Crisis and Change, the forum kicked off with the impact of the global economic crisis on the media and its future implications. Questions were raised about the
Abdullatif Al Sayegh
print media with his audio-visual presentation. In his view, the future definitely belonged to the Internet as youngsters were turning away from newspapers. This was hotly disputed in the Q&A session. The new media was the focus of another discussion, which was especially televised for BBC Arabia’s ‘Open Agenda’. An interesting session was on the role of the business media during the economic crisis. Moderating the session, Todd Benjamin, former financial editor of the CNN, wondered where business journalists were before the crisis. Participants were of the view that they were not fully equipped to predict the crisis, even as they admitted they should have seen it coming. “Most of us got carried away by the hype during the boom time,” one of Mohammed Al them admitted.
independence of the media in the light of governments bailing out ailing establishments. Participants in the discussion warned about the grim scenario in the wake of closure of well-established media outlets. In another discussion, participants held out hope for the print media in the Arab world, even as it showed a definite decline in the West. However, Abdullatif Al Sayegh, CEO of the Arab Media Group, painted a bleak picture for the
Heat and light
On the second day, the Arabic versions of foreign TV channels came under the scanner, as doubts were raised about their objectives and messages. To questions on cultural invasion from the skies, Kuwait’s former minister of information Mohammed Al Sanousi rubbished the fears as ‘unjustified’, arguing that Arab viewers should be open to various cultural influences and stop suffering from a persecution complex.
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Nabil Al Khatib
‘It’s a new 24/7 world’
“Contrary to what I read in the Western press, I see a lot of development in Dubai,” said Amre Moussa, SecretaryGeneral of the League of Arab States. This was in contrast to the rest of the Arab region where negativity reigns supreme, he felt. “This culture of negativity must end if the region is to make any progress.” The next morning, Pulitzer-prize winning American investigative journalist Seymour Hersh was also all praise for Dubai, calling it at the ‘cutting-edge’ of competition. He felt journalists worked in the most trying circumstances. “The difference between us in the West and you here is that we get awards when we uncover a story, while you could be put in jail,” he remarked, while answering a pointed question on the issue of censorship in the region. However, he also felt that America had lost its edge in the media, as after 9/11, too many journalists became cheerleaders for the Bush administration. He feared Obama was making the same mistakes as his predecessor, despite his well-meaning intentions. “There is a feeling in the West that we know what’s best for you. But that’s not true. We don’t know what’s best for us either.” On the role of journalists, he was quite categorical that “we have to hold our leaders to the highest standards. That’s our job, and it’s good for our governments too.” But he admitted nobody liked investigative journalists and likened them to a ‘dead rat brought to a party.” Nevertheless, for things to change, the media has to do its job, he stressed. And things do change, he affirmed, when someone asked him whether the press did make any difference at all. He cited the Abu Ghraib torture in Iraq and the My Lai massacre in Vietnam – both of which he exposed – as instances of changes brought about by investigative journalism. In a final word to Arab governments, he said they have to be more responsive to their people. “Everybody is watching now. The Internet has changed our lives dramatically. Leaders can no more get away with crimes they could earlier. It’s a new 24/7 world. Things are not the same anymore.”
But the last session – Arab media coverage of the Gaza bombing was the one which drew the most fireworks. There was a virtual battle between Ahmed Al Sheikh and Nabil Al Khatib, representing Al Jazeerah and Al Arabiya. A prolonged debate raged on the issue of objectivity and impartiality, and also on the use of words like ‘martyrs’ for children. Nassim El Khoury, a professor in Lebanon, felt Al Jazeera was doing the right thing, while Salah Negm, Head of News, BBC Arabic, felt they were playing to the gallery. The Q&A session was also full of fireworks. However, the highlight of the forum was a conversation with Seymour Hersh on investigative journalism conducted by Najla Al Awadhi, Deputy CEO of DMI. Arab and expatriate journalists exchanged a lot of insights and opinions at the forum, making it a livewire event. Most of them seemed to cry out: ‘I want to break free.’
Arab Media Outlook
The Arab Media Outlook is a comprehensive overview of the media scene in the Arab World, published by the Dubai Press Club. It surveys the main trends and developments in the region’s media industry and forecasts the potential of growth and expected changes for the next five years. The study is based on extensive interviews with media owners, experts, journalists and top functionaries from other fields with close connection to the industry. The following table projects the Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of total advertising revenue in different media for the Gulf and MENA region. The fastest growth is in Qatar (25%) with the UAE and Saudi Arabia coming next (16% each), while the slowest growth is in Bahrain (5%). Country TV News Magazine Radio Outdoor Internet Total paper 16% 13% 60% 22% 9% 16% 16% 14% 19% 20% N/A 16%
U.A.E. 3% Saudi 8% Arabia Oman 12% 14% 4% N/A 11% N/A 13% Qatar 30% 23% 26% 6% 37% 82% 25% Bahrain -7% 8% 0% 31% 3% 27% 5% Kuwait 10% 13% 9% 0% 13% N/A 13% Pan-Arab 12% 3% 13% 29% N/A 45% 12% Illustrative projected CAGR of total advertising revenue by media (2008-2012) in the GCC and Pan-Arab region
UAE Digest, June 2009 l 45
VW races ahead
By Speed E. Ryder
t was a hot sunny day in May when over 200 invited motoring journalists, dealers, and others associated with the ‘vroom vroom’ trade of cars were invited by Volkswagen Middle East to try out some of their models in the safety of the tracks at Dubai Autodrome. The party of drivers came from ten countries across the region, and each of the speedsters were eager to try the Volkswagen brand and technologies.
Through vehicle demonstrations, driving sessions and brand education, participants were exposed to the ultimate that the Volkswagen model range, services and innovative technologies has to offer at one of the most established race tracks in the Middle East. The event elements also enhanced the attendees’ knowledge and understanding of the VW brand and better awareness of the different cars in the market.
Participants from Bahrain, Qatar, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Yemen, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Syria and the UAE were able to discover the exhilarating world and culture of Volkswagen in six key sessions conducted by three international product trainers and six professional driving instructors. In the driving session, participants were able to test drive the latest six Volkswagen cars launched in the Middle
Distinctive hubs of the third generation Scirocco
The Toureg goes through its paces on a specially built all - terrain circuit
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East region, such as the new sixth generation of the iconic Golf, which marks the car’s leadership position in the ‘Golf class’ in its full diversity and glory. The third generation of the Scirocco, the legendary two-door sports car which wrote history as the most successful Volkswagen coupé of all time, was under loving examination during the event for these speed enthusiasts. Participants also experienced driving the all new Passat CC, the sporty dynamic car which represents a brand new segment in the automobile industry combining the rationality of a saloon and the emotional appeal of a sports coupé.
The Tiguan Sport and Style, the latest compact Sports Utility Vehicle from Volkswagen, has its own driving experience circuit, especially for drivers who enjoy the individual appearance and flexibility of an SUV, but also expect a premium level of comfort, agility and variability. The other two Volkswagen cars which were presented and driven by the participants through different and challenging circuits were the Passat R36 and the Touareg V6. Drivers embraced the most powerful Passat in the Volkswagen series, the Passat R36, which is the second version to be debuting under the “R” sports
label after the R32. Lastly, Touareg V6 justified how it unites the world of off-road vehicles with the comfortable dimensions of a luxury sedan and the dynamic attributes of a sports car. Joerg Andrischock, Acting Managing Director of Volkswagen Middle East said, “The Volkswagen Driven By Performance event was a huge success, allowing the participants a chance to test their driving skills and Volkswagens latest range of cars and technologies, plus ensuring the best brand knowledge for all of our employees to help them meet all our customer’s future needs.”
Going uphill is no problem for the Toureg
UAE Digest, June 2009 l 47
A zippy ride in the City
By Linda Benbow
t came, I saw, it conquered my doubts. The new Honda City is a sporty saloon car that has a nippy feel and sound to it and a spacious interior volume. Put your foot on the pedal, zoom along the highway, and you will find that the roaring sound coming from the engine disguises the fact that you are actually travelling well within the speed limits. This is the sort of thing that I was looking for. A misleading vehicle. A car that looks like a steady, reliable, young person’s motto but is actually faster and quicker than you think. Watch the faces at the traffic lights as you quickly pull away when the lights turn green, and they are left watching the spin of your tyres. The reliable part comes from the good name of Honda which has proved itself over many years. Showroom prices are between Dh46,000 to 52,000, and may vary at the time of purchase. Check with the dealer for current prices and offers. Currently, Honda are offering finance if you have a salary of Dh4,000 or more. Also on offer are zero per cent deposit, low interest rate, servicing for up to 20,000 kms and free add-ons, including rust-proofing. Built to typical Honda finesse with sound engineering and innovative features, this car is available with a 1.3-litre i-DSI and a 1.5-litre VTEC unit. Three transmission
units are available: a 5-speed manual, a standard CVT and a 7-speed CVT with Steermatic, exclusive to the bigger 1.5-litre engine. This transmission uses F1-style buttons on the steering wheel to give the impression of a sportier drive. This new version is longer than its
predecessor by only 5 mm; however, the wheelbase is 100 mm longer. New design seats provide a lower driving position, thus maintaining a good head clearance. The spacious 506 litres of trunk capacity is equivalent or bigger than vehicles above its seg-
ment and ensures easy loading and unloading. The golf bags and other paranaphelia fit in the boot easily. The new City is equipped with 5-Speed Automatic Transmission which not only provides an improved drive performance but also improves fuel efficiency. The ‘Paddle Shift’ option (for EX grade) brings more sporty driving performance analogous to the Honda pedigree. You would expect safety features such as ABS (Anti-Lock Braking System) and BA (Brake Assist), which is what you get, but Honda goes one further by ensuring pedestrian safety by incorporating G-CON (G-Force Control Technology) body which mitigates impact energy efficiently and thus alleviates pedestrian injury. Nice to know.
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ubai Sports City’s The Els Club golf course has announced its summer rates, effective until September 30. Now, local and visiting golfers can play on one of the best golf courses around at a competitive daily rate of Dh450 per person. This 18-hole championship golf course was designed by three-time major winner Ernie Els. Opened in January 2008, it has received global recognition from international golfers and professionals alike. The course offers an unforgettable golfing experience combined with five-star service and is the centrepiece of the luxury golf residential community, Victory Heights, at Dubai Sports City. Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club’s summer promotions until September 30 costs Dh300 for 18 holes on Sunday to Wednesday and Dh400 on Thursday to Saturday. Pay for 9 holes and the price includes shared golf cart and unlimited range balls, and are available from 6:50am, 7 days a week. Pay Dh180/Dh240 for the 9-hole twilight rate teeing off after 4pm and play as many holes as possible before sunset. Lower rates apply to members. For those who like to play the Par 3 course, the price of Dh75 covers day and night golf and complimentary club hire during the summer period. During the hot summer months, make the most of your leisure time and join
Dubai Creek for an exclusive programme of golf that includes unlimited use of the 18-hole championship Dubai Creek Golf Course, unlimited use of the 9-hole Floodlit Par 3 Course and practice facilities, for Dhs.3,500 per person. The price of learning to play the game is reduced during the summer too. Try booking lessons during the cooler evenings after a hard day at work. It’s therapeutic. Dubai Autodrome is encouraging folks to use its indoor Kartdrome this summer, by charging Dh200 per person until the end of Ramadan. Teams wishing to zap each other with lasers can do so for Dh140 each at their Lasertag promo, also carried out in an air-conditioned environment. As declining economic growth pushes thousands of people further into poverty, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is preparing for a global walk against child hunger this June, “End Hunger: Walk the World”. Thousands of people will come together to walk over a 24-hour period, one hour in each of the planet’s time zones, to raise awareness and funds to feed children. On June 5, 2009 the UN is yet again giving the people of Dubai a chance to make a difference. The one-hour sponsored/donation walk is set to take place in Dubai Mall. The event will raise funds and public awareness to feed hungry and malnourished school-
children. For as little as one dirham, WFP can give a cup of porridge, rice or beans to a child in school – a small but highly effective investment in a healthy and productive future. The new World Hockey Academy, based at Dubai Sports City, will become the official home of hockey in the UAE following the signing of a historic development agreement between Dubai Sports City, the UAE Committee, and local teams. It will also be the first facility of its kind anywhere in the world. The parties agreed to support local league competitions at the World Hockey Academy and to establish a development pathway for school and junior teams. The academy houses two FIH certified (international standard) water-based pitches which are unique to the UAE, and have now been installed, complete with broadcast standard floodlighting. It will soon be a hive of activity with coaching programmes, local summer and winter leagues and school tournaments. Education courses for coaching and umpiring will also be on offer, with some of the most respected coaches in the world, provided by the FIH, delivering the programmes. It will also offer international teams a ‘best in class’ facility for training camps and competitions with a number of international teams looking to use the facility in preparation for the 2009-2010 season.
UAE Digest, June 2009 l 49
Emirati women and horse riding
Nobody could have imagined UAE having their own women’s horse riding team, this dream has turned into a reality and it is due to Arabyana. Rabis.M talks to Hanan Al Muhairi about the achievements, the trials and tribulations and why the society needs to give moral support to female horse riding.
hen Arabyana came into existence back in November 2006, little did the team know that they would come this far as, to many, this is a rather unconventional concept: setting up an all women’s horse riding team. The Arabyana team has been described as the ‘pioneer’ team in the UAE. It consists of six members who graduated from Dubai Women’s College in various majors, ranging from media to software engineering. Hanan Al Muhairi is the President and is proud to have set up a group which includes passionate and sincere members who are willing to go to any extent to make this team a success. There has been a great amount of
commitment displayed in the team’s intentions to match the standards of professional horse riding, they are progressive in their riding and maintaining stable management. Hanan explains that the main motive of Arabyana is to give a platform to the Emirati woman in being able to change the stereotype beliefs that people have against women riding horses. Despite the fact that they do not have an official place for meeting - their gatherings are usually conducted at horse riding centres or rooms-they discuss their progress and how they can reach out to notable organisations in the country. Even though it may look the journey is very smooth, Hanan explains this is not the case and they have had to con-
stantly face a lot of hardships as well as challenges to set up the team. “The problem is that some people here are unable to accept women as horse riders and they see this as a sport only for men. Arabyana is facing massive difficulties in gaining official recognition from the UAE government, and because we do not have a lot of team members who do own a horse, training becomes hard,” she explains. Getting funding to maintain this project has been a very hard nut to crack, as Hanan points out they did not have any special kind of support, as no one sponsors them or assists them in their training. The girls are paying from their own pocket to get qualified training at
50 l UAE Digest, June 2009
the Emirates Equestrian Centre. “We believed no one would support us until they saw our achievement and that’s what we were looking for. I must admit we have received a lot of support for our documentary film that was launched in April 2008. We are thankful to Hydra Properties, IMMSAM and United Nations for their constant funding support, and the volunteers who have helped us during the making of our documentary.” Interestingly, it was the formation of the two words ‘Araby’ (meaning Arab) and ‘Ana’ (meaning I) that brought Arabyana together( forming: I am an Arab), this is a representation for not only the UAE, but for the entire Arab world globally; this is what the girls aspire to. The team itself consists of varied characters who are unique, they form the world of Arabyana which they base on ‘their right to ride’.
I am keen on speaking to Hanan about the Arabyana documentary. She says it is the first of it’s kind. It was directed by her and was inspired by the experiences of the team members. The story is very simple, it is about the first Emirati female horse riding competitive group in the UAE; they face a lot of challenges, conflicts and struggles along their path. “The documentary highlights the various aspects of female horse riders from an Islamic point of view and a medical perspective too. They tackle headlong the several negative images of women riding horses. Traditionally, men are the ones who are either rifle-shooting, doing falconry or horse riding. The fear of not being accepted by their families and going against
the culture are among some of the issues that are raised in the documentary.” Modesty is another issue that raises an eyebrow, Hanan says the first thing that comes to the minds of the masses in Arab society in relation to women riding a horse is the way of her dressing when she is riding a horse. There is too much quarrel over that. Also the fact that this brings up issues about mixing around with women in the equestrian field and the misconception of a girl losing her virginity if she rides horses. “These are sensitive issues, I do understand, but then we should question men if they are prepared to accept the idea of allowing their wives, daughters and sisters to practice such a sport?” It should be noted that Arabyana are proud to be Arab, but at the same time, they would like to erase the stereotype against women in the Middle East that they cannot take on masculine activities. Women should be confident when dealing with men and try to prove it wrong that they would be misusing this interaction with men in a negative manner. Women should be empowered in a Muslim society because
Hanan Al Muhairi
it then breaks down the misconception about a Muslim woman. If we look back at the history of horse riding, women in Islam have been known to participate in wars. This is an evidence of how women were able to survive in extreme situations and that they have participated in strenuous activities. Khawla bint Al Azwar is one noble personality Hanan mentions here. Khawla accomplished a great deal to protect Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him). Other leading female achievers include; Princess Haya bint Al Hussein, Sheikha Latifah Al Maktoum and others. “There is a saying by the Holy Prophet that the good of the horses is held in their forelock until the day of resurrection.” With the overall aim of competing on an international level, Arabyana’s journey has taken five years to come into existence, and they are constantly evolving. Their intention is to place a strong footprint in the field of horse riding and make women proud. Hanan says women who want to achieve something in life need to start making an effort, never stop dreaming, and never give up on their dreams.
UAE Digest, June 2009 l 51
Rising, demanding and maintaining prices
bu Dhabi tenants, for the first time, have the chance to publicly voice their opinion on the state of the city’s controversial rental market, through the inaugural 2009 Lease|Rent Abu Dhabi Rental Market Survey, found online at www.leaserentuae. com/survey2009. Mark Saunokonoko, Communications Manager of Lease|Rent, said: “We felt that it was important to conduct research not just on prices in the city, but also the opinion of tenants who are trying to find accommodation in a very competitive environment because of the supply and demand imbalance. Our lettings team are out there day-in and day-out, working with prospective tenants who have more than reasonable budgets but are finding it increasingly challenging to find a property that fits their budget and their needs. The anecdotal evidence is out there. We have people moving to Dubai and Al Ain and commuting to Abu Dhabi because they literally can’t afford to live in the UAE capital. Now it’s time to start gathering some actual data. The results of the survey will be a basis for discussion, and highlight potential problems that could directly affect population growth in Abu Dhabi in the short-term, which would then impact the long-term growth of the city.” Meanwhile, on the subject of freehold, investors in the Hydra Village project, who are already locked in a dispute with the developers over delays, have now been hit by a new demand that is expected to
escalate the disagreements between the two parties. Hydra Investors’ Group has revealed that Hydra has sent out an email demand for immediate payment of Dh500,000, and threatening fines of Dh500 a day if payments are not made by the specified date. Graeme Perry, a spokesman for the group, says that members have been advised that any communication with Hydra in future should be conducted via a signed letter with company seal and couriered, so that all parties, Hydra included, are protected. “We are not happy with mass email demands whose provenance can neither be proved nor their admissibility certain in a court of law,” he said. Karl Howard, co-chair of the group, says that this letter has gone out to all interested stakeholders, irrespective of their relationship to Hydra. “Those who have signed a contract, but have asked their mortgage lenders to cease payment until
proof of construction has been ascertained, have received them,” he says. “In addition, people who have never signed, nor even seen the latest contract, have also received them”. “The attitude that they can force me to sign something I do not want to sign
under threat of severe financial penalty is just not on. No business in the world operates in this way,” commented one outraged investor. “I will not sign this contract and I never will until Hydra deals with the issues of escrow, a building schedule, and independent verification of construction.” Hydra maintains that a purchase reservation agreement, signed by many upon receipt of their initial reservation deposit, allows them to demand full payment. To complicate matters further, there is a sizeable number of investors who had never seen nor heard of this purchase reservation agreement, which Hydra alleges is legally obliging. Sweet Homes has announced that it is maintaining the prices of its property units despite the current slowdown of the global economy. The developer also reiterated its focus on construction to meet high quality expectations for its Ajman-based projects, and underlined its undivided focus on unhindered progress to hit the delivery targets for the Dh3 billion ‘Ajman Uptown’ and the Dh1.7 billion ‘Rainbow Towers’ projects. Currently selling at Dh900,000 to Dh4 million for villas and from Dh500 to Dh600 per square feet for apartments in Ajman Uptown, the company is taking all necessary measures to ensure that it will be one among the few developers in Ajman to deliver its projects on time. It also further underlined its commitment to its investors by becoming one of the first private master developers to register with the newly-formed Ajman Real Estate Regulatory Authority (ARRA).
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Al Hamra Village
Handovers and mortgages
l Hamra Village, Ras Al petrol and diesel distribution pontoon and and three-bedroom penthouses spread Khaimah’s luxury residential over seven floors in five residential builddispensers and boating facilities within the and leisure development, has Marina Yacht Club, among others. ings; and a hotel. All the apartments have announced that up to 385 floor-to-ceiling windows, giving access to Crown Dilmun Development townhouses and villas and some 310 flats large balconies. The breathtaking views previewed its first project in the UAE at in the Marina building have been handed will be complemented by roof gardens with Cityscape Abu Dhabi recently: a seven over, and 283 units in the marina are now pools, spas and gym, recreational facilities floor luxurious apartment complex on Al getting ready for handover following the including children’s play areas, mini-golf, Marjan Island, Ras al Khaimah, called completion of Phase 2 of the development. unique marine habitats, coffee shops, Dilmunia RAK. Creatively designed in Al Hamra Village further revealed that waterfront promenades, world-class cuisine a wave shape to allow all apartments to up to 85 per cent of units within Phase 2 and boutiques. The exclusive sales agent have sea views, Dilmunia RAK will be at had been sold out and delivery of units is for Dilmunia RAK is Asteco Property the heart of Al Marjan Island, the 2.7 milexpected to be completed by August 2009. Management. lion square metre man-made island that Construction on Phase 3 of Al Hamra extends two kilometres off the coast of Ras Buyers looking to acquire a property Village, is well ahead of schedule with in the capital this year will be able to take Al Khaimah. a phased handover of units scheduled advantage of a special promotion currently Dilmunia RAK is the first foray into between September 2009 and March 2011. being run by RAKBANK, offering some the UAE real estate market for its develLocated south of Ras Al Khaimah City, the of the lowest interest rates in the market. oper who has a track record of successful 2.5 million square-metre residential comCustomers who sign up for a mortgage projects in its home country including munity is a picturesque sight set against a finance deal with the bank before the end Marina Reef on Reef Island and the Landbackdrop of salt water lagoons, a champiof June will have home loans with interest mark Cityview apartments in the heart of onship golf course and its own marina. Al rates as low as 7.49 per cent, down from the Bahrain. Its parent company, the Ebrahim Hamra Village offers freehold property previous rate of 8.3 per cent, and among Abdulaal Group of Companies, has been options and features an excellent range of the most competitive in the market. The operating in the region for over 60 years in amenities within a secure, safe and luxuriinterest rate varies, depending on type of a variety of commercial sectors, including ous community. employment and loan amount. The promocontracting and real estate development. It has also been disclosed that the tion applies to UAE Nationals, residents Dilmunia RAK has luxury studio, planning for Phase 4 of the residential and non-residents purchasing existing and one and two-bedroom apartments, villas, project is now upcoming residential The Crown Dilmun Development team showcasing their first UAE project, Dilmunia RAK: Mohammad being finalised freehold projects, inAl Fahad, International Business Development Manager of Ebrahim Abdul Aal Group of Cos. (EAAG); and will begin cluding those on Al Tony Safarian-Chief Executive Officer, Waleed Abdulaal Alfahad-Managing Director and Ebrahim Ali construction Raha Beach and Yas Abdulaal Alfahad-Chairman of Crown Dilmun Development; Yogendra Madan, President of EEAG; soon. Aside from Khaldoun Kamal, Sales and Liaison Manager of Asteco Northern Emirates; Roger Clay, Project Director Island by Aldar, and a range of leisure of Crown Dilmun Development the Shams project and recreational on Reem Island by facilities, the vilSorouh. lage is also fully The bank offers equipped with up to 90 per cent essential utilities mortgage finance and and services up to a 25-year loan such as efficient tenure, and requires electricity and a minimum salary water billing of Dh10,000 from through a card applicants, among billing system, other criteria.
UAE Digest, June 2009 l 53
Upper Lake Drive - Kandy
A small miracle
By Ambily Vijaykumar
ri Lanka is aggressively marketing itself as a destination that has ‘defeated terror’ and ‘restored peace’. ‘A land like no other’ is now a ‘small miracle’. Sri Lanka has donned a new tagline in its travel brochures, and tourism officials believe it is going to do the trick for the island nation that has been plagued by three decades of conflict. “Ever since the conflict began in 1983, not a single tourist has been targeted, unlike other countries where tourists have been either caught in the conflict or held to ransom,” announced Deputy Tourism Minister of Sri Lanka Faiszer Musthapha during the Arabian Travel Market last month. This is the stance that the Sri Lankan government has taken to market the country that has “seen peace dawning” with the “LTTE being restricted to a small landmass” after the “government defeated one of the most ruthless organisations that also possessed air power.” Sri Lanka is hard-selling itself as a ‘shorthaul, budget destination’ in the Middle East. It is using its proximity and connectivity to the region as a factor to market itself as an “exotic destination” most travellers are looking for these days. But it is the budget factors in recessionary times that will catapult it into the top league, believe Sri Lankan tourism officials. “A family who, under normal circumstances, would have spent $5,000 on a
package holiday may well go for a holiday today as well. But they would want more value for money. And if the package becomes affordable at half the rate, then it will be preferred. Packages to Sri Lanka are probably one-fourth to one-fifth of the rates of our neighbouring countries,” says Amith Sumanapala, General Manager, Sri Lankan Holidays and MICE Division at Sri Lankan Airlines. Sri Lanka is within five hours of travel time from the region, which is an added attraction for residents from here who have traditionally had a preference for European destinations that are in excess of 12 hours of travel time away. “Since 9/11, short hauls have become the trend and people have realised the potential in neighbouring countries as against traditional markets that are at a greater distance. Because of our initiatives a few years back, we have realised the potential in neighbouring India, Middle East and South East Asia,” Sumanapala adds. The sure shot way of attracting more tourists in times like these have been attractive packages. A Sri Lankan holiday for a person from the UAE will cost Dh1,750; which includes return airfare, two nights accommodation in a five-star hotel, including breakfast and return airport transport. A seven-night package would costs around Dh2,700 per person. That is not all. Sri Lanka is optimising its network connectiv-
ity to the Maldives in offering an extended holiday in the Maldives for an additional Dh250. Middle Eastern travellers have a fetish for cooler climates and that is what Sri Lanka is capitalising on. “Colombo plays a vital role, being the capital of the country. But the hill areas, that are within three hours drive time from Colombo, offer a cool climate as well as vegetation change within one hour of driving outside the capital. Ceylon tea is also famous worldwide and we would like tourists to get a first-hand feel of the tea gardens in Kandy that produce this tea. Wildlife is also something that the Middle East market is not exposed to, and we intend to capitalise on that. The Middle East has some great beaches, but our beaches and the sea are very different from the ones in this region. It is a combination of these factors that will appeal to the holiday maker,” says Sumanapala. A good exchange rate is another added attraction. One US dollar fetches in excess of 117 Sri Lankan rupees. Add to that the fact that the country is an easy-to-movearound-in destination with a high literacy rate, which gives it the basic requirement to pull tourists. Connectivity plays a major role in tourism, and Sri Lankan airlines say they have the capacity to optimise on an already active market. The country’s national carrier
54 l UAE Digest, June 2009
flies in excess of 30 flights in a week to the Middle East through seven destinations. Dubai and Abu Dhabi are two of their key destinations. “The UAE, in particular, has played a vital role in our expansion to this region over the years. Apart from Sri Lankan airlines, some of the other major airlines also have regular flights out of the area. There has also been a long ongoing political relationship between Sri Lanka and the Middle Eastern countries. There is a lot of connectivity in terms of people-to-people contact with a substantial labour force from the island nation working in various countries across the region,” adds Sumanapala. But India too is hard selling itself as ‘Incredible India,’ and that campaign has been paying rich dividends. How does Sri Lanka plan to offset any dent in its tourist numbers that may result from India’s aggressive campaigning? “Price is one factor, and also the diversity that can be found within 25,000 square miles of the country. There are around 100,000 Indian tourists visiting Sri Lanka every year, and we have proved that the Indian market has huge potential. With more aggressive campaigning, we can sustain those numbers and grow,” says Faiszer Musthapha, Deputy Tourism Minister of
Sri Lanka. Moreover, he says there is no need for India and Sri Lanka to compete with each other when they can benefit by working together to attract more tourists, if they focus on the region as a whole. “We can work collectively. Each country in the region has something to offer, and within the Saarc (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) countries, India and Sri Lanka need not be competitors. We have a lot to offer each other and by working together, we could offer the traveller a more diverse package that might not be possible otherwise,” Faiszer Musthapha adds. With peace slowly returning, the nation is also looking at opening up its east coast as well as the northern parts for tourists. That is part of the larger strategy, especially in the backdrop of the current global economic climate. Tourism officials feel it will be foolish to talk about achieving fancy figures in terms of either tourist count or revenue. Tourism officials believe that the focus should be on sustaining what is already there. The Middle Eastern market was something that Sri Lanka was not even looking at three years ago, but now the equations have changed. Sri Lanka, though have tough competition from Malaysia and Thailand that have
become hot favourites among travellers from this region. “We have learnt from the Malaysia and Thai experience. In fact, we are following Malaysia very closely. We have the same diversity that they have to offer, but we have an advantage of proximity. One of the reasons the Arab traveller goes to Malaysia is that it has a sizeable Muslim population. Sri Lanka, with an eight per cent Muslim populace, that has been culturally tolerant of diverse religious beliefs. Apart from this factor, the climate and privacy that the Middle Eastern traveller seeks is in abundance in our country. There are a few requirements that have to be met and we are gearing up to fill in the blanks,” Faiszer Musthapha elaborates. Their efforts will be hugely helped by the fact that several airlines across the world are showing ‘great interest’ in the Middle East region with its ‘open air’ policy. Within the region itself, several airlines have shown interest in starting operations to Sri Lanka. Officials say Oman Air will begin flights soon. With about a billion of its population directly and indirectly benefitting from the tourism industry, Sri Lanka is pulling out all stops to ensure that the sector stays fully equipped for a tough competition from its neighbours in the subcontinent.
UAE Digest, June 2009 l 55
Casting a spell
Visa costs to Kenya have been cut down by half to promote tourism to the African nation from the Middle East By Ambily Vijaykumar
nce upon a time, the baobab was just like any other tree; then it became proud because it was the largest tree in the world. It walked around showing itself off, making the Creator angry. He grabbed the baobab and pushed it back into the earth upside down. Its twisted bare roots stuck up into the sky and its beautiful branches were buried forever. Too ashamed to move around, it remained that way.” Thus goes a Kenyan legend. And legend it is, the land being promoted now as ‘Magical Kenya’. The land of the Masais is now weaving its mystic charm on the Middle East. The recession has helped promote the idea of short-distance budget holidays, and Kenya, with its proximity to Middle Eastern countries, is going the whole hog while eyeing this market. The 2010 Football World Cup to be held in South Africa is being seen as a wonderful opportunity by its neighbouring African countries to pitch their tourism industry on, and Kenya is no different. Though it has individually carved a niche for itself in the world tourism industry, next year’s event is being seen as a golden opportunity to profit from. “We are working towards making Kenya
the transit route to South Africa for the competing teams as well as tourists. We want Kenya to be used as a venue for practice games, and for this, two of our stadiums with a total seating capacity of 60,000 i.e. 30,000 each, are being refurbished,” informs Najib Balala, the Kenyan Tourism Minister who was in Dubai recently. With an increase in tourist arrivals from UAE to Kenya last year, the country is looking to further tap the growing market in the region. An interim representative office of the Kenya Tourism Board is already functional in Dubai; a permanent office will be operational soon. That apart, an Arabic website will be launched soon to increase penetration into the Middle Eastern markets further. Last year alone saw an increase of 36 per cent in the number of tourists from the UAE to Kenya alone. Wildlife is Kenya’s strength, and coupled with a lack of exposure that the Middle East traveller has to the kind of diversity that Kenya offers, the stage seems set for an opening of the floodgates in terms of tourists from the region. With 59 national parks and reserves, the richness of the country’s natural gifts can only be ‘seen to be believed’” says Khalid Saleem, PR and Corporate Communications Manager of
Kenya Tourism. Climate in Kenya too is being pitched as another attraction. With a round-the-year maximum temperature averaging about 31 degrees Celsius, tourism officials feel travellers from the region will find it to their liking. The distance factor too is another added attraction. Kenya is within five hours of travel time from the Middle East. Additionally, direct flights from the region have also increased to 32 a week with Kenyan Airlines flying eight flights a week. Emirates flies twice daily from Dubai, Qatar Airways too has a daily flight to Kenya, and Air Arabia flies thrice a week. Connectivity, hence, has become an advantage as far as the African nation is concerned. However, travellers to Kenya have also had their set of complaints. The airport at Nairobi is one of their concerns. But tourism officials have clarified that the issue is being tackled. “The airport at Nairobi is being refurbished. The second phase of expansion is underway with the building of the fourth terminal there. This will enable more traffic to and from the country,” informs Najib Balala. Officials, however, admit to a practical problem that they have to deal with; the
56 l UAE Digest, June 2009
delay in delivery of aircraft is affecting the increase in flight frequencies to various destinations. But the country is aggressively promoting itself to the Middle East and Russia, as well as other African countries, as the best ‘weekend destination’. A growing need in the Middle East for short haul destinations has opened up vast opportunities in the region, and with a growing middle class population within Africa, intra-Africa tourism is also being targeted. “Considering the current global economic crisis, work commitments are not allowing people to take long breaks. So, weekend holidays are fast becoming the preferred choice. Kenya is positioning itself as the ideal place for a short break. The Indian market is also being explored with a direct daily flight between Mumbai and Nairobi opening. A representative office in Mumbai is also planned by 2010. Getting to Kenya too is being made very simple with the slashing of visa fees. Firstly the visa can be obtained on arrival at the airport and, what is more, there is a 50 per cent reduction in visa fees for adults - and for children below 16, the visa fees have been waived. The purpose behind doing that is to the double the tourist count from the UAE in the year 2010. Kenya also believes that with a huge fan following for soccer in the region, they will stand to benefit from traffic for next year’s FIFA World Cup. All these are incentives to explore the land that has become synonymous with safaris. Kenya boasts of 10 per cent of all bird species in the world and 30 per cent of all pink flamingoes. Tourists can spot over 100 species of animals in one single day in
the country. “Kenya has been a pioneer in wildlife conservation. Travel agents are given specific training sessions so that people coming here are better equipped and aware of what to look forward to,” informs Khalid Saleem. With 42 different tribes and 80 different dialects, it also has of a variety of ethnic population. Apart from wildlife, the country is also pushing sports as one of its attractions. “Kenya has had a history of producing athletes who have become a permanent fixture at the winning podium at the Olympics. As part of our package, we also offer training camps with our Olympics team, apart from scuba diving and ballooning to name a few other activities,” informs Khalid Saleem. Business tourism is also being promoted aggressively. As part of this, various golf courses-reputed for being the best in the world in terms of landscaping and facilities have been developed. There are 39 golf courses in all, of which 12 are used for championship events. Then, there is also the ‘Obama factor’ that is adding to the appeal of the destination. Kogelo is the town in Kenya where Obama’s paternal family resides. “The US ranked seventh on the list of tourist arrivals in Kenya five years ago. This year, it is number two,” informs Najib Balala. To optimise this, direct flights between Atlanta and Nairobi have begun this month, reducing travel time from 30 hours to 18. Tourism officials are quick to ward off any talk about security concerns in Kenya, underlining the country’s accessibility now, in terms of entry as well as distance, especially from the Middle Eastern market.
UAE Digest, June 2009 l 57
Bedroom inside a cave house, with heated tile floors The Laleh Kandovan International Rocky Hotel, Iran, is located on the edge of the mountain village of Kandovan, 27 miles south of the city of Tabriz. It has 10 rooms, with another 30 planned, and a large restaurant
Caving in Iran
he Laleh Kandovan International Rocky Hotel, in the province of East Azerbaijan in north-western Iran, is unusual in nature and fascinating in terms of its location. The hotel, which opened in 2007, is on the edge of the mountain village of Kandovan, 27 miles south of the city of Tabriz. The village is known for its cave houses; a population of about 700 live in hollowed-out rocks the shape of witches’ hats, like the ‘fairy chimney’ formations of Cappadocia in Turkey. Until the hotel opened, it was possible only to pay a day visit to Kandovan, where the inhabitants speak a Turkish dialect. Incorporated into caves that climb across the hillside, the hotel has 10 rooms so far, with another 30 planned, and a large restaurant. All the rooms have under-floor heating and some have whirlpool baths. A heater is hardly required because once the house heats up, it stays warm until spring because this rock, made of compressed volcanic ash, is superbly impervious to the cold. There are Persian rugs on the floor, and the walls
have recessed lighting. The decor is stylishly minimalist, using plenty of tiles and letting the rough rock sides do the talking. Kandovan means Land of the Unknown Carvers. No one knows how long people have lived here, nor who first had the idea of carving the soft rock, known as tuff, into houses. Some say the houses date from the 12th century, others that they pre-date Islam (7th century). There is even a theory that the surrounding region is the biblical land of Nod, where Cain was condemned to wander after murdering his brother Abel.
More cave hotels • Serinn House, Cappadocia, Turkey
(0090 384 341 60 76; www.serinnhouse.com) There is plenty of cave accommodation in Cappadocia, but the pick of the bunch is this luxurious and stylish boutique hotel, with five individually designed rooms plus their ‘famous’ breakfast. Hotel Sant’ Angelo, Matera, Italy
(0039 083 5314 010; www.hotelsantangelosassi.it) Sixteen historic dwellings set amid a Unesco World Heritage site. • Les Hautes Roches, Loire Valley, France (0033 247 528 888; www.leshautesroches.com) Part of this 18th-century manor house, a Relais & Châteaux hotel, is cut into the rock face of low cliffs, overlooking the banks of the Loire near Tours. • Alexander’s Hotel, Santorini, Greece (0030 22860 71818; www.alexandershotel.com) Located on the top of a caldera, with views of the Aegean. There are seven ‘cave villas’ and nine cave houses. • Desert Cave Hotel, Coober Pedy, South Australia (0061 8 8672 5688; www. desertcave.com.au) In the desert between Adelaide and Alice Springs, 19 suites have been gouged from the sandstone using opal-mining machinery. The hotel can arrange desert cave tours.
58 l UAE Digest, June 2009
In a constant process of evolution
F.D. Warden, Air India’s Executive Director for Middle East & Africa, talks about the airline’s plans for expansion in the region and beyond By Vanit Sethi
How has the global recession impacted Air India, and how do you plan to combat it? The global recession has affected most industries worldwide, and the airline segment is no exception. But Air India (AI), with over 60 years of experience, is confident that the downturn will be short-lived and traffic to/from India will once again witness an uptrend, considering the improved business environment and the enormous potential that India has to offer as a tourist destination. With a fleet of 152 aircraft, including 45 inducted in the past 18 months, AI has been gradually expanding its network to cover new destinations in India and abroad. The company operates 197 flights per week from the UAE to different Indian cities. Air India Express, our low-cost airline launched in 2005, operates 181 flights per week on its entire network from 17 Indian cities to 14 international ones including Dhaka, Colombo, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok, as well as places in the Gulf like Kuwait, Muscat, Salalah, Bahrain and Doha. As far as low-cost carriers are concerned, how does your airline plan to compete with similar ones operating in the region like Air Arabia, Jazeera Airways, and now, flydubai? AIE flights are operated with the next generation Boeing 737-800 aircraft. Our fares are very competitive. Unlike other low-cost airlines, Air India Express serves its passengers complementary snacks and soft drinks in pre-packed boxes. An important feature is the internet-based reservation system. This is customer-friendly and passengers can make reservations from their home or through travel agents. Passengers Trichy/Chennai route to a daily service, and recently launched a twice-a-week flight from Abu Dhabi to Trichy and Chennai. Tell me a little more about the in-flight facilities and entertainment AI offers its passengers? On the B777 LR in First Class, we have a 23-inch screen with 250 hours of video programming, mood lighting, gourmet food served at the time convenient for passengers, and fully flat beds. In our Executive Class too, we have very comfortable seats that can be transformed into 72-inch flat beds. The Economy Class seats are ergonomically designed for comfort during long-haul flights. The new Airbus A319/321 aircraft are equipped with personal TVs on every seat, featuring 12 audio and six video channels, besides a real time air map charting the flight’s progress. Does the airline tie up with Indian tourism departments and hotels to offer special packages for tourists travelling from the Gulf to India? Yes. We constantly interact with tourism officials and hotels to give our passengers the best offers. These packages are formulated, evaluated and updated from time to time. We’re in a constant process of evolution. Recently, we participated in road shows with India Tourism at Dubai, Muscat and Bahrain. At the recently concluded ATM, we had a good response at our stall in the India pavilion. We aim to attract more international passengers from the Gulf, who are now looking again at India with renewed interest. With a new government in power, and economic stability assured, tourism to India will get a fillip and we’ll surely benefit from that.
have access to fares and availability of seats, which makes it an extremely transparent system. So, for Indians working here and going back home on vacation, we offer a good choice. What are the new routes AI is planning to add in the near future? Frankfurt has become the operational hub for West-bound flights from March this year. This is aimed at strengthening the global network of the national carrier and restructuring its operations to Europe and the US. We are planning to start a nonstop Delhi-San Francisco and AmritsarFrankfurt-Toronto flights by the end of this year. It will be with the new B777-200 LR aircraft. We have already started a weekly flight to Srinagar from Dubai in February, the first international flight out of there. The response is fairly good, and we expect it to pick up in the coming months. It will boost tourism from the Gulf to the beautiful valley of Kashmir. With the overall situation improving there, we will increase the frequency of the flights on the route. We have also increased frequency on the Dubai-
UAE Digest, June 2009 l 59
nets along water-worn sandstone terraces. The region’s prime attraction is Pha Taem National Park, Thailand’s easternmost point. At dawn, few natural wonders could be more evocative. Some 400 million years ago, the Northeast was covered by an ancient ocean; a layer of seashells at Sao Chaliang attests to its marine origins. The centrepiece of the 340 square kilometre park is Phu Pha Kham, a tall cliff overlooking the Mekong river and Laos on its opposite bank. The sea receded and subsequent erosion carved downwards through the soft surrounding soil to leave a 60-metre-high cliff composed primarily of limestone and sandstone. It is capped by a massive, 200-metre-long flat, slightly sloping plate. Here, one is uncertain whether one is still on planet earth. Embossed interstices, rocks that resemble bone, deep crevices - all are testament to cataclysmic prehistoric forces. Elephant Life Experience is the only tailormade boutique elephant camp in Thailand. It is situated among the marvellous scenery, natural and beautiful setting with the river flowing gracefully and close by at Maetaman Valley. Tourists can also enjoy personalised rafting - a wonderful experience.
Pha Taem National Park
When wanderlust takes over
If you want to try out four different places across the continents, Vanit Sethi recommends Mekong, Cape Town, Patagonia and Athens for the sheer diversity of experiences ASIA – Mekong (Thailand)
Think of the most popular tourist destination in Asia, and Thailand immediately comes to mind. Think of Thailand, and three popular names spring up – Bangkok, Pattaya, and Phuket. But these three places have been over-exploited. Thailand has many other beautiful spots off the beaten track. One of these is along the river Mekong in the country’s Northeast. Venture along the river between the provinces of Ubon Ratchathani and Mukdahan in I-san, the country’s Northeast, and step into a world unlike anything in Thailand, or Southeast Asia. Great sandstone plates rear up, stone ‘mushrooms’ thrust into the sky, massive black rocks define swirling rapids, and tall cliffs soar. Only waterfalls and wildflowers soften this wild landscape. Whereas Central and Northern Thailand are dotted with sculptures shaped by human hands, here the sculptors are the wind, water and the sun. Four key sites lie along a road that leads through a wealth of geological formations reminiscent of Mars, the moon, or a meteorite. North of Ubon, one enters the 80 square kilometres of Kaeng Tana National Park. Bisected by the fabled Mun river, black rocks and broken sandstone slabs are jumbled together along the riverbanks. The surrounding landscape is harsh. The vegetation is spare, reflecting an ancient, epic stand -off between tough trees and unyielding stone. Just downstream from Kaeng Tana, the Mun flows into the mighty Mekong, its clear green waters declining to merge with the Mekong’s silt-laden stream. Instead, the two flow side by side for dozens of metres to create a two-colour river. It is a point of pride for the neighbouring villages. From the towering cliffs dominated by Wat Thamkhuasawan, a massive seated Buddha gazes down on fishermen casting
Here, one is uncertain whether one is still on planet earth. Embossed interstices, rocks that resemble bone, deep crevices - all are testament to cataclysmic prehistoric forces
60 l UAE Digest, June 2009
AFRICA - Cape Town (South Africa)
The dark continent happens to be the richest in flora and fauna. The southernmost part of the continent is blessed with stunning landscapes, salubrious weather and a rich, multicultural environment. The rainbow nation of South Africa has everything a tourist seeks – pristine beaches, rolling hills, amazing wildlife and a vibrant social scene. All that is miniaturised in one great city – Cape Town. Truly, Cape Town is a place like no other. Named by Newsweek as one of the world’s top cultural centres, it’s easy to see why it is one of South Africa’s most visited tourist destinations. From the cobbled streets and colourful houses of the Cape Malay quarter, to the energy and creativity of township life, together with a rich mixture of African and European influences, the city offers a cultural experience second to none. The city thrives on outdoor and sporting activities like bungee jumping, rock climbing, sailing and golf. It has more than 16,000 rooms – from five-star hotels to private guest houses - within a 45-minute radius of the city centre. Metered taxis, luxury AC coaches and shuttle buses regularly run between the airport, hotels and major tourist attractions. The city’s newest transport option is water taxis. Around the city, observe rock formations that are thousands of years old, or admire the city’s historical architecture as you amble through tree-lined streets. When it comes to food, Cape Town – called ‘Mother City’ by South Africans - is a truly cosmopolitan city. Outside the city, explore the soaring mountain peaks of the Western Cape or take a walk on the wildside through the spectacular floral wonderland of mountains and valleys. Six of South Africa’s top 10 tourist attractions are within one hour’s drive from the city centre. Table Mountain is arguably the world’s most recognisable mountain. As a World Heritage Site, this 1,086-metre high South African icon offers its very own eco-system with more than 1,470 plant species and a variety of wildlife. Set against a backdrop of inspiring sea and mountain views, the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront is not only SA’s most-visited tourist attraction, but also home to a plethora of stores, boutiques and
A view of Cape Town from Table Mountain
Named by Newsweek as one of the world’s top cultural centres, it’s easy to see why Cape Town is one of South Africa’s most visited tourist destinations
restaurants. The Waterfront is built around a centuries-old harbour which is still operational. One of SA’s seven World Heritage Sites is Robben Island, which houses the prison that was home to Nelson Mandela for 18
long years. Located at the tip of the Cape Peninsula, the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point jut majestically into the South Atlantic surrounded by 7,750 hectares of indigenous flora and fauna. You can travel here by cable railway to a breathtaking viewpoint located 678 metres above the sea, or you can take a spider’s web of walking routes that allow you to soak in the Cape’s natural splendour. Nestled beneath the slopes of Table Mountain, the spectacular Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens showcases a rich floral heritage. Covering only 0.04 per cent of the world’s land area, the Cape Floral Kingdom revels in more flowering plant species than the whole of Europe.
UAE Digest, June 2009 l 61
Los Glaciares National Park
SOUTH AMERICA – Patagonia (Argentina)
For people in this part of the world, the continent least travelled to is South America, mainly because of distance. But the continent always evokes images of a people full of life – salsa, samba, rhumba, sun-kissed beaches, bikini babes and festive carnivals. Yet not very far from Brazil and Rio’s party atmosphere is the serene land of Argentina. Travel south of this magnificent country and you encounter a region with a striking similarity to Switzerland – Patagonia. Lying between the Andes and the Atlantic, the legendary Patagonia comprises the provinces of Santa Cruz, Chubut, Río Negro, Neuquén, La Pampa, and Tierra del Fuego. Thousand-year-old forests with native plant species stretch along the lake shores. At the top of the mountains, nature bursts in the granite peaks, and ice fields pour their glacier tongues in lakes of incomparable beauty. Tierra del Fuego borders the Republic of Chile to the west and south, and Atlantic Ocean to the east. It is the last place to visit before sailing towards the Argentine Antarctica. Catamarans cruise through the Beagle Channel, the lighthouse at the end of the world. The winter resort (Cerro Castor) with the longest snow season (June-October), recreational fishing, eco-tourism, and rides in the fabulous prison train (also known as ‘the train at the end of the world’), are some of the options here. The Tierra del Fuego National Park preserves species from the subAntarctic woods. Marine bird sight-seeing is another attraction, especially at Lapatania Bay. Santa Cruz is one of Patagonia’s preferred 62 l UAE Digest, June 2009
tourist destinations. This inhospitable and captivating landscape is formed by lakes, glaciers, woods, mountains and steppes. Between September and May, El Calafate is the main tourist centre, and the legendary Perito Moreno Glacier can be reached from the Magallanes Peninsula, barely separated from it by a narrow brook from the Argentine Lake. This dazzling ice river, one of the few in the world that is still advancing, is the most visited spot in the Los Glaciares National Park, and one of the two World Heritage Sites in the province. The national parks are ideal for adventure tourism and ecotourism. The Los Glaciares National Park is home to amazing glaciers that descend from the continental ice field. Thirteen glaciers reaching towards the Atlantic pour their ice in the form of huge towers over the waters of Lake Viedma and Lake Argentino. Torre and Fitz Roy Mountains, within
the Los Glaciares National Park, are a challenge for mountaineers. Across the Andes, impenetrable forests and lakes are found. To the north, there are vast plains where thousands of sheep graze, and the city of Río Grande is located. The national parks, mountains and forests turn this region into an ideal place for camping, hiking and trekking. Fast-flowing rivers are ideal for rafting and canoeing. The area has six out of the eight ski resorts in the region. Tourists can visit the Cueva de las Manos in Santa Cruz, where cave paintings that have survived for almost 10,000 years represent the oldest expression of the South American people. Travelling aboard vintage trains is another attraction. Patagonia also offers a great variety of thermal springs and spa centres with state-of-the-art technology, highly qualified professionals, and affordable treatments. Surrounded by stunning landscapes, each region adds special features to the wine it produces. National Route 40 is the longest (5,200 kilometres) and the most incredible route in the country. Beyond doubt, it is one of the best ways to discover the region.
The winter resort of Cerro Castor with the longest snow season (June-October), recreational fishing, ecotourism, and rides in the fabulous prison train - also known as ‘the train at the end of the world’ - are some of the options here
A night view of Acropolis, the most famous landmark of Athens
EUROPE – Athens (Greece)
One of the oldest countries of Europe with an ancient civilisation is often bypassed by tourists for the more glamorous spots of the enchanting continent. Yet, Greece combines with remarkable ease, tradition and modernity, and an old-world charm with new-world dynamism. Its capital Athens is rich in history and culture, yet not bereft of a pulsating night-life. What’s more, it’s just a hop away from Dubai. Standing above Athens, the emblematic Acropolis offers the perfect starting point for a city-break. Once you are up there, the immensity of the Parthenon overwhelms you. Walk on the Grand Promenade and stroll down the most important archaeological sites, the Ancient Agora, the Roman Agora, Olympion, Stoa of Attalos, Kerameikos Cemetery, Onyx, and Areios Pagos. For the history enthusiast, the city also boasts Byzantine, medieval and 19th century monuments, as well as the world-renowned National Archaeological Museum. Far from being a museum piece, however, Athens is a buzzing metropolis. Feel the rhythm of the city with all your senses. Travel Athens via the city’s ultra-modern metro. Stop at Plaka for a light lunch. Pick up some great bargains in the Monastiraki flea market. Take a break in the city’s green oasis, the National Park. Sit in a bench and listen to the herons sing their song. Feel the cosmopolitan air in Voukourestiou and Stadiou streets, the exclusive designer boutiques, luxury goods and world-renowned stores. Dinner is a way of life in Athens. Savour
your favourite cuisine, Greek and International, in one of the hundred gourmet restaurants around town. At night, go up the Lycabettus Hill and let the view take your breath away. Listen to a classical concert in Megaron Mousikis, the Athens Concert Hall, or dance until dawn in one of the trendy night-clubs. Spontaneity and enthusiasm characterise the Greek approach to night-life. Friendly and extrovert, Greeks know how to enjoy themselves - Greek in tavernas, R&B, and hip-hop in funky restaurants, jazz, Latin, alternative rock in clubs and venues around the country. The night-club scene is one of the most sophisticated in Europe, with famous DJs regularly setting the dance board on fire. Get out on the veranda for fresh air and admire the view. Taste a cocktail or a glass of home vincture. Smell the aroma of jasmine which seems to
Spontaneity and enthusiasm characterise the Greek approach to night-life. Friendly and extrovert, Greeks know how to enjoy themselves
grow everywhere in summer. Watch a film in an open-air cinema, and escape from the pressures of everyday life. Learn quickly the steps of Sirtaki (a Greek traditional dance) and dance with the locals. Order a traditional Greek coffee and experience its strong taste and rich aroma. Sit in the plateia (square) of a small Greek village and talk till dawn - a favourite Greek pastime.
UAE Digest, June 2009 l 63
Power to the people
By Con Clude
fter being fed on gloom-doom stories and official denials of being hit by the financial tsunami, the sun seems to be finally peeping from behind dark clouds. But what really lifted the spirits of UAE’s largest expat population was news of the Indian elections. With the Congress-led UPA government sweeping the polls, India’s two biggest stock markets had an incredible bull run. The Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) and the National Stock Exchange (NSE) had to shut down on May 18 as both Sensex and Nifty shot through the ceiling. Traders shouted slogans hailing Sonia Gandhi (Congress party leader) and her son Rahul - believed to be largely responsible for the party’s excellent performance among youth. It was a thrilling moment for most Indians. The party’s good showing means it can provide stability. Free from the yoke of its erstwhile Left allies, Congress can move faster with reforms. The poor showing of the Communists, even in their traditional strongholds of Kerala and West Bengal, is a clear signal that voters rejected their anti-reform policies. BJP, the Hindu nationalist party, too was left licking its wounds after its disastrous performance – its divisive, communal agenda clearly out of tune with the electorate’s mood. Lastly, the dismal showing of regional, caste-based parties hit home the message to backward-looking, ‘frogin-the-well’ mentalities. So, the voters of India rejected the politics of caste, class and community all in one stroke. Three cheers to India’s common man, who has come to symbolise the power and pride of the world’s largest
democracy. The elections were a perfect example of how democracy has taken roots in the vast country. The Indian elections were, by and large, peaceful despite the massive nature of the exercise. Considering the security concerns raised earlier, the polls were indeed smooth. With the rising expectations of Indian people, the Congress has its task cut out - quicken reforms with a human face, lift the masses out of grinding poverty and propel the country forward. Other countries in the region are looking towards India for answers to certain questions. India, at this stage, must not let its own people and the rest of the world down.
popular even in non-cricketing countries, competing with soccer’s thrill. The UAE, which popularised ODIs in Sharjah way back in the eighties, has now built two new stadiums in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. While the Sharjah stadium had fallen into disuse since the match-fixing scandal, the two new stadiums promise to bring cricketing glory back to the nation. With Sharjah planning to renovate its stadium, one can expect a lot of action on the field here. Howzzat!
While politics held centrestage across India; another colourful event was played out on another continent. The Indian Premier League displayed its brilliance for over a month. Held in South Africa, eight cricket teams from India with international players battled it out. Night after night, one could see teams give out their best and provide ‘edge-of-the-seat’ thrillers. Two teams that finished at the bottom last year came out right on top this year – Deccan Chargers and Royal Challengers. The teams from India’s IT capitals, Hyderabad and Bangalore, gave thrilling performances with Hyderabad edging out Bangalore to lift the trophy. Shows how gloriously unpredictable the game of cricket is! While Test cricket is losing viewers and sponsorship, the one-day and 20-20 versions are gaining both eyeballs and footfalls, besides raking in the moolah. Cricket is becoming
With the weather turning hotter by the day, the mind wanders to cooler climes and greener spaces. The Arabian Travel Market (ATM) could not have been timed more appropriately. The ATM is aimed to cash in on droves of travel agents, corporate establishments and holiday travellers who yearn to escape from soaring temperatures. While many time their annual vacations back home in these months, others want a holiday at higher latitudes and altitudes. This year, there were plenty of good offers at the ATM to countries as far apart as Thailand and Switzerland, South Korea and South Africa, England and New Zealand, Australia and Argentina. For those who badly want a holiday now, the timing is apt, as fares (both airlines and hotels) are still quite low due to the recession. For those who can’t afford a holiday now, ogling at colourful brochures and surfing attractive travel websites could be an interesting pastime. Way better than watching moronic serials on the idiot box, I should say!
64 l UAE Digest, June 2009
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