RAS AL KHAIMAH TOURISM DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY PARTNERS WITH AIRBNB TO PROMOTE RESPONSIBLE HOME SHARING

Left- Hadi Mousa GM of Airbnb, Right- Haitham Mattar RAK TDA  CEO.jpg

Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA) and Airbnb have today signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to promote responsible home sharing, boost tourism and diversify the tourism offer in the Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah.
The announcement was made today by Haitham Mattar, Chief Executive Officer of RAKTDA and Hadi Moussa, Airbnb’s General Manager for the Middle East and Africa, at a press conference in Ras Al Khaimah.

This agreement follows the recent adoption of a new Directive which makes clear that people in the Emirate are allowed to share their space as long as they respect basic safety rules and register via a simple online process.

 

As part of the MoU, Airbnb and Ras Al Khaimah will:

  • Promote the new rules and responsible home sharing by creating a Responsible Hosting Page informing hosts of the rules and linking to official information and sending regular email reminders to hosts;
  • Exchange insights and learnings about travel trends on Airbnb in order to raise awareness about the positive impacts of the Airbnb Community and boost tourism.

Haitham Mattar, Chief Executive Officer of RAKTDA, said; “The MoU that we’ve signed with Airbnb marks a massive milestone towards diversifying the tourism scene in Ras Al Khaimah. We aim to welcome one million visitors by end of 2018 and 2.9 million by 2025, and therefore the demand for more rooms is essential to accommodate those visitors. We are confident that our partnership with a leading international hospitality pioneer such as Airbnb will help take Ras Al Khaimah’s tourism offering to the next level. In addition, this project will strengthen our ability to increase the choice of options for our guests and cater to a more diverse traveler portfolio, particularly in light of growing demand towards the sharing economy.”
On the new Directive legitimising home sharing, Haitham added: “As part of RAKTDA’s responsibility, we will ensure that hosts adhere to the quality standards of safety, insurance, health and amenities needed to enhance the visitors experience.”
Hadi Moussa, General Manager Airbnb Middle East and Africa said “Ras Al Khaimah is a wonderful place to visit and I’m excited that our growing host community will support the Emirate in attracting more travellers to the region and help the diversification of tourism. Airbnb has so far partnered with over 350 governments around the world and we are committed to being good partners to the Emirate and support the responsible growth of innovative forms of tourism.”

The new Directive and agreement between RAKTDA and Airbnb will ensure that more residents of Ras al Khaimah will be able enjoy the benefits of tourism and more guests will be able to discover all the Emirate has to offer.

Pure Indulgence – DoubleTree by Hilton Resort & Spa Reserva del Higuerón

By Shereen Shabnam

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This has been a year of exploring my adopted country Spain and during a road trip, we stayed at the DoubleTree by Hilton Resort & Spa Reserva del Higueron, belonging to the Hilton brand family.

The first thing that greeted me at the hotel was the most beautiful classic car in the lobby and being a motoring enthusiast, I was in love. The hotel is a unique, modern, comfortable, spacious and airy complex. The Hotel is leader in design, leisure and services, with a combination of entertainment, health, sports, relaxation, culinary and activities.

Ideally located in one of the most exciting destinations in Europe, “Costa del Sol” between Malaga and Marbella, is known for its sandy beaches, golf courses and subtropical climate with 320 days of sunshine a year. The Resort combines the quietness and the proximity to the best beaches. It is easy to reach from the international airport, and Málaga town center, 10 minutes by car or 30 minutes by train from the station just 200 meters distance from Resort entrance.

The beautiful city of Malaga, one of the oldest in the world and known as the capital of the Costa del Sol. Through the combination of magical and monumental surroundings, this city offers visitors a cultural and cosmopolitan appeal with several major European museums (Picasso Museum, Pompidou and Thyssen) among others. Also just minutes away you can visit Marbella and Puerto Banus to enjoy a luxurious and exclusive shopping.

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The Resort has 177 rooms, including 24 junior suites, all with spectacular views of the Bay of Fuengirola, areas with permanent artworks,9 meeting rooms for up to 500 people, 5 restaurants. All in accordance with the standards and services of the Hilton brand.

Sport Club and Spa Nagomi

Within the complex you can find Sport Club, a sports entertainment center with fitness facilities, monitored activities (Pilates, Yoga, TRX), 11 paddle courts, 2 tennis courts, an exclusive area of sand of 4,000 m2, two heated indoor swimming pools and 3 outdoor pools.

Learn a new concept of wellness through Nagomi SPA experience with dynamic jet pool, massage, waterfalls, contrast pools, sauna, steam room and relaxation area. And a wide range of treatments for health, welfare, beauty and nutrition, with the help of the best professionals, also having hairdressing, manicure and pedicure.

Infinity pool and terrace

The Infinity top roof terrace, is one of the most impressive areas of the hotel, an infinity pool waterfall in south side that blends in harmony with the vision of the Mediterranean Sea. Impressive, pool accompanied by Balinese beds with stunning views of the Mediterranean where you can enjoy the best cocktails, drinks and snacks.

Dining options

The Resort offers a comprehensive food and beverage concept where 5 restaurants including SOLLO´S, quality restaurant awarded Chef Diego Gallegos with Michelin Star 2016, specializes in river fish and caviar. ARARA BISTRO BAR by Diego Gallegos with the best options of Brazilian and Peruvian cuisine. PALMERAL BUFFET is an open and modern restaurant in the heart of the hotel offering breakfast buffet, a la carte lunch and dinner buffet, INFINITY BAR with fresh choices of meals and snacks, and Snack Bar LA HIGUERITA completes the offer healthy foods for sport people.

 

Top things to do in Madrid

By Shereen Shabnam

 

With the holidays approaching, there’s no better time to start planning for your winter getaway. Madrid is one of the most celebrated and beautiful places in the world and a magnet for elite international tourism and shopping is always top of the list for Madrid visitors.

My daughter has a soft spot for the the iconic El Corte Inglés department store in Castellana, where she has her first ever VIP shopping experience and did a colour consultation that showed her which colours suited her the best.

The store is a draw for shopping lovers as one of the world’s largest stores, there are many amazing activities for the discerning traveller within close proximity.

And while you are in Madrid, here are some of Madrid’s top sights to catch between a shopping spree at El Corte Ingles.

1: Santiago Bernabéu Stadium

Just a nine-minute walk from El Corte Inglés, Madrid’s main football stadium is home to the city’s most popular team: Real Madrid. Opened in 1947, the stadium is enormous and has undergone multiple renovations over the years, now seating up to 81,044 people. There is no better way to experience an integral part of the Spanish culture than to cheer on Real Madrid at a game.

2: Puerta de Alcalá

A quick 10-munite drive from El Corte Inglés, the Puerta de Alcalá, meaning the “Citadel Gate” and derived from the Arabic word al-qal’a, is a neo-classical monumental city gate, and regarded as the first modern, post-roman, triumphal arch in Europe. It was built between 1769 and 1778, using granite and stone from Colmenar and makes a wonderful backdrop for a memorable picture.

3: El Prado Art Museum

Not falling short on culture, Madrid’s Prado Art Museum is one of the world’s first museums to hold a royal collection of art from the 15th to the 17th centuries, including the works of Velazquez’s ‘Las Meninas’ and El Greco’s ‘The Annunciation’. Art lovers can also head to the neighbouring Reina Sofía and Thyssen-Bornemisza finishing the Golden Triangle of Art to admire the works of many world-renowned abstract and surrealist artists, all only a short ride from the famous El Corte Inglés.

4: Plaza de Cibeles square

Adjacent to Paseo del Prado, marvel at marble sculptures at the city’s most famous plaza. Known for its stunning architecture, the fountain features the Roman goddess Cybele who represents Earth, agriculture and fertility, and was adopted by the city’s football team. After a winning match for Real Madrid, this is the spot to celebrate the victory.

5: El Corte Inglés

The seven-storey department store is the hotspot for visiting fashion mavens. International visitors receive a 10% reward discount card year round and can ask to have their shopping delivered to their hotel or home country, along with assistance with their tax refund. Celebrating its 75th anniversary, this shopping mall is in the heart of Madrid, and a stone’s throw away from many local attractions. The store features over 8,000 Spanish and international brands and is the ideal answer to the most discerning shopper with its comprehensive collection of designers.

People travel the world to find the beautiful and fantastic, and Madrid brims with exceptional experiences, whether it is the latest collection of a fashion designer at El Corte Inglés, a painting at one of its museums, or historic buildings that defy time. Let the imagination run wild and find inspiration at every corner of this storied city. El Corte Inglés is an iconic landmark of fashion that marks itself as a destination in its own right.

Christmas at Grand Hotel Zermatterhof

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By Shereen Shabnam

My favourite place in Switzerland, the Grand Hotel Zermatterhof Zermatt, dominated by the Matterhorn is a rare place where everything works in synergy and GCC travellers can enjoy memorable winter stays including a generous breakfast buffet during the festive season at this majestic property.

My favourite memory from my visit is the transfer to and from the Zermatterhof and Zermatt station in a horse-drawn carriage or electric bus on the day of your arrival and departure.

Guests can enjoy a generous breakfast buffet, mineral water and soft drinks from the minibar, Ronnefeldt-Tea, Nespresso coffee machine with capsules, use of the spa, pool, steam bath, saunas, jacuzzi, ice grotto and gym and wireless Internet in the room and in all public areas.

Once you step into the Grand Hotel Zermatterhof, hospitality and luxury takes on a whole new meaning. It is a hotel you want to spend time in, meet with other guests and enjoy a hot chocolate while gazing at the Matterhorn.

Zermatt is situated far from the hustle and bustle of everyday life at an altitude of 1,600 metres above sea level. The historic village oozes with charm and the high street is lined with luxury shopping, world-class restaurants and stylish bars.

And Grand Hotel Zermatterhof is where time means something different from what it means in the city. It is the perfect place to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

For ski enthusiasts, there is no better place than Zermatt to flirt with adventure and enjoy the sport with untouched stunning terrain and a helicopter to give you a lift there. Zermatt is the Alps’ largest heli-skiing destination and offers the best snow with the stunning beauty of the Alps.

Zermatt is a private playground for guests who truly want to get away and indulge in a memorable holiday. 

In love with Doner Deli

Shereen Shabnam

Street food is my comfort food so when I recently went to Doner Deli with a couple of friends to indulge in some great Street food and was pleasantly surprised with the choice, taste and ambience of the restaurant.

The dishes are perfected by the founders Hazem Elgendy and Mustafa Alrefaie who love Doner and travelling and hence visited Turkey, Greece, Lebanon and Germany for inspiration before coming up with their own Doner recipe with innovative preparation methods.

I loved the combination of the Kebabs in Pita Bread with the creamy potato salad. The sliders were good too but I saved some space for the delicious brownies. The potato salad was a perfect side dish to accompany the kebabs.

The kebab in Pita bread is the real deal…it must be the sauce, which is tangy, but with a garlic kick in it that just enhances the taste of the meal. The sliders were good but I would have sneaked more of the sauce from the kebab. Brownies were the melt in your mouth kind so we naturally left the place on a high note.

For the drinks I went with lemon mint, which was not too sour or sweet, hence just right to make it refreshing in between. I sneaked a sip of the Oreo Shake from my companion and it was pretty decadent. Good for her but not good for my waistline hence I opted for the lighter drinks.

It was easy to get seats and while waiting for the food, I looked at the large artwork done in chalk on the wall. It creates a warm ambience and gives it a trendier look.

Certainly a place to go back for more with an extra dash of the Doner Deli magic sauce and definitely a lot more brownies.

There are 4 branches of Doner Deli in Dubai and two in Abu Dhabi.

My Andalusian Journey

Seville, Granada and Cordoba

By Shereen Shabnam

Ever since I bought a home in Spain, visiting Andalusia, a Moorish empire named Al-Andalus (Arabic for “land of the west”) has been top of my agenda to immerse myself in the history and character of the Iberian Peninsula. This year, my Andalusian road adventure lasted three weeks filled wandering through narrow, white washed alleys, relaxing siesta, tapas bars, historical monuments, lush green gardens and so much more. I drove to over nine cities but my experiences in Seville, Granada and Cordoba were the most memorable.

Seville

I started my journey from the Hilton Garden Inn Sevilla after a refreshing nights sleep and headed to Seville City, the heart of Andalusia surrounded by gorgeous buildings with a vibrant flamenco and tapas scene. Seville is after all a city full of art, rich history and colorful culture.

Seville’s beautiful Moorish Giralda tower was visible from a distance as during Moorish times, it served as a minaret and watchtower. I headed straight to the Alcazar and basked in the grand architecture and the beautiful gardens. The palace was occupied from Roman times but later expanded to form the great court of the Abbadid dynasty and each corner is breathtaking.

Seville’s cathedral was a sight to see with tombs, a courtyard of orange trees and afterwards it is great to explore the old Jewish Quarter with vibrant alleys filled with souvenir shops. The Las Setas, a modern art structure and canopy is impressive and the Metropol Parasol offers great photographic opportunities. The historic Buhaira Gardens was where I left my heart. It is stunning and one can spend hours in awe of it.

Granada

Going back to the Alhambra in the historic city of Granada never loses it charm no matter how many times you visit the palace and its impressive and very extensive gardens. Exploring the attraction alone is never enough. After a full day in the Al Hambra, I still ventured out to a nearby hill (Mirador de San Nicholas) to see the building in all its grandeur at sunset.

The afternoons are best spent wandering around Calle Caldereria Nueva for some tapas, tea and to enjoy Hammam baths that compares with the ones we have here in the Arab world and in Turkey. Baths played an important role in Muslim life and you can relive the experience in modern day steam bath venues. Shopping in Granada is a must as you get the best quality souvenirs and at a lot more reasonable cost than other cities in the area.

Cordoba

In Cordoba I stayed in a convent that was later designed into a boutique Hotel. The city was great to walk in and features one of the world’s greatest Moorish buildings, the Mezquita, at its heart.

My first stop was the Mosque of Cordoba followed by the Roman Bridge of Cordoba, Calahorra Tower, the Roman temple of Cardoba, the Museum of Fine Arts of Cordoba, Medina Azahara and the Royal Botanical Garden of Cordoba.

Built between the 8th and the 10th century, Cordoba’s mosque is a beautiful example of Spanish Islamic architecture and brought back memories of working on the publicity of my first architecture project in Dubai for the Andalusia Court in Ibn Battuta Mall.

The evenings were a delight in Andalusia in general as we enjoyed the extravagant Moorish architecture and the exuberant street life of the different cities. There is always a lot going on in Andalusian cities and its picturesque cobbled streets as you encounter historic monuments, tapas bars and fiery flamenco at every corner.

 

Filipino Favourite Pancake House Welcomes Guests To Its First Location in Dubai at BurJuman

A brand that is as familiar and dear as a childhood friend among the Filipino community, the Pancake House has just celebrated its arrival to the UAE with the launch of its first outlet in Dubai at BurJuman following a partnership with Tablez Food Company.

With a presence in the Philippines since 1974, the Pancake House has gained a spot in every Filipino’s heart and established itself as a community favourite thanks to its exceptional pancakes that are made fresh from scratch for every order, retro style, and memory evoking homey feel it is mostly known for. Today, the Pancake House boasts over 160 stores in the Philippines and around the world, including its latest outlet at BurJuman Dubai, as it has been growing with its guests, celebrating their happiest moments with family and friends, and now proudly welcoming second generations of patrons in both the Philippines and the UAE.

Entering the Dubai food scene with a bang, The Pancake House’s delicious menu will introduce the public to some of the restaurant’s most iconic dishes available every morning, noon, evening, and at all times in-between, boasting a wide selection of crowd pleasers ranging from fluffy pancakes and scrumptious waffles, to mouth-watering main courses, delicious snacks, and refreshing drinks. The Pancake House will be welcoming its well-loved friends to celebrate the arrival of their favorite brand to the UAE, and will be bringing home goodness all the way from the Philippines to also create new memories with the ones who are not yet familiar with the concept, inviting them to explore the original creations as it offers something suitable for every palate

Commenting on the opening of yet another exciting concept, Shafeena Yussuf Ali, CEO of Tablez Food Company said: “The decision of bringing The Pancake House to the UAE came from a sheer love for the concept, the warmth it exudes, and most importantly a respect for its team’s dedication to offer an unbeatable taste and experience, which are the founding principles for Tablez as well”. “At Tablez Food Company, we are strongly committed to associate ourselves with concepts we have an emotional connection with and truly believe in, and we are extremely excited for what the future holds for The Pancake House as it’s now set to cater the same positive vibes and great food not only to Filippino guests living here but to all foodies in Dubai”, she added.

“We are pleased to welcome the Pancake House to BurJuman,” said BurJuman Management. “With our relaunch last year, we took a conscious decision of getting closer to our customers by bringing them the best in community in-mall entertainment, dining and shopping experiences. A nostalgic favourite with the Filipino community, the Pancake House, is a welcome addition to our culinary offering and is sure to become a popular destination for customers and the wider community alike.”

The Pancake House’s doors are now officially open. For more information, including opening hours, visit burjuman.com.