In Dubai We Trust

Ever since I got the Hard Rock Café worldwide loyalty card, I’ve become a huge fan of their merchandise and its now tradition for me and my babe to get some retail therapy everywhere we visit that has a Hard Rock cafe….the food and drinks are great but the retail is even better.

It is at Hard Rock Dubai where I met Salma and Khalid from ‘In Dubai We Trust’….a coincidence as I was there for something else and after a quick chat with them, I made up my mind that I will talk about their cool initiative….In Dubai We Trust.

As anyone will tell you, I am the biggest fan of the UAE and all the Emirates…. I constantly end up telling people who try to say anything bad about the country that they are welcome to go back home if they have issues with the UAE as there are plenty other people who appreciate the place and love to live and work here.

Although UAE and Dubai has nothing to prove to anyone as the place speaks for itself, it still is great for people who live here to talk about the best things that Dubai has to offer and show the many positive sides that people don’t usually pick up on because they are so involved in their own little worlds, they would rather stay on their sofas and complain instead of actually venturing out and enjoying the many amazing things one can do here.

‘In Dubai we trust’ is a non-profit organization striving to unify the multi-cultural population of Dubai by celebrating the emirate’s achievements. Their tag says…..’In Dubai we trust, with Dubai we bloom, in Dubai we see our future grow. Moving forth with strong will and determination, an economy with power & inspiration. With achievements across the borders untold, Dubai our land, where peace and love unfolds.’

The group since their inception has organised many events that show the different facets of the Emirates….they were also part of the Burj Khalifa opening, have organised events for mother’s day, brought women from different nationalities together in a spa environment and now they will also be part of the Walk of Beauty 2012 event. This is part of the amazingly popular exhibition Beautyworld Middle East 2012 starting on the 29th of May.

UAE and Dubai has become a second home to many….its about time we celebrated the many great opportunities the country has given us and make people aware of the many things they can do here that they would not be able to do elsewhere.

If you are a big fan of Dubai, you can join In Dubai We Trust’ on the following:

http://www.facebook.com/groups/188737619862/

Follow them on Twitter- http://twitter.com/indubaiwetrust

Youtube Videos:
(UAE 3-D Show @ Dubai Mall -Jan 2010 )
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23lnTiH3sHE

( IDWT Interview)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=we88TCCSqRU

Its time for Dim Sum

Little Diva NJD is ready for dim sum in Seoul Korea

Taking mandarin lessons is tough….the language is tough as it is but for some reason, most syllabus use food a lot in the lessons – I guess because everyone knows Chinese food so our dear teachers think it’s the easiest way to teach us the language.

Tonight my lesson was on Shaomai (shāo mài) which  is a traditional Chinese dumpling served in dianxin/dim sum. The first time I had this was on a roadside stall in Malaysia on my way from KL to Penang. My companion spoke mainly Cantonese and was a huge fan of dim sum. All I knew was that I loved the little bamboo steamers it came in and enjoyed each delicate piece with a dollop of spicy chilli sauce.

In my lesson today, I learnt that I should be able to recognise a Shaomai as it has a fluffy and flowery shape on the top. Although shaomai originates from steamed stuffed bun (I’ve seen a lot of these a lot on the streets of Malaysia, Hong Kong, Macau and Singapore), these two similar kinds of food have two main differences. First, the outer covering of shaomai is made of a thin sheet of lye water dough; Secondly, shaomai differ from steamed buns in that their outer covering is not sealed but instead has a pomegranate shape….i prefer the shaomai any day.

Once well steamed in the pot, shaomai are prized for the thin skin and abundant fillings. Shaomai is in the shape of a cup, not only delicious but also beautiful. There are two regional varieties of shaomai: a Cantonese version and a version from the Jiangnan region…frankly I couldn’t tell the difference but I certainly love a good shaomai in my Friday brunch.

In KL, I loved the dim sum varieties at the Pan Pacific Sunday brunch, In Singapore its best to try it at Paradise Point and in Dubai, Shangri-La does it best! I didn’t have much time in Korea and Macau to try good recommended Dim Sum but the best has to be in Hong Kong – I wanted to go to Maxim’s on the way to Fiji but the stopover was too short so I tried random restaurants and they were all awesome for dim sum.

Once again, I have diverted to food… I blame my Mandarin instructor. Each lesson this week was related to food and brought back heaps of memories from Asia.

Hidden health secrets from Kiwifruit

How gorgeous and tempting is this Kiwi Artwork

One of the beauties of coming from an exotic island tropical paradise is that you grow up eating wholesome organic fruits in abundance….and what we don’t have in sunny Fiji Islands, we get from our neighbours Australia & New Zealand. Without doubt, one of the most healthiest fruits from NZ is kiwifruit and the best ones to get is from ZESPRI which is now on the supermarket shelves of the UAE….delightful!

Since I am always on the lookout for the next best thing with health benefits, ZESPRI’s  “superfruit” status caught my eye. Citing the high levels of Vitamins C and E, low glycemic index (GI) and high fibre content of kiwifruit, New Zealand growers stress that it is particularly well suited to the UAE due to the help it provides in the management of diabetes, which is so prevalent here.

Supporting ZESPRI’s campaign is Hala Barghout, a leading nutritionist and licensed clinical dietician in Dubai. She stresses that everyone knows that citrus fruit contains vitamin C, but a kiwifruit actually contains twice as much vitamin C as an orange of the same size – and three times as much as a lemon. “Vitamin C helps strengthen the body’s defences and promotes healthy bones, teeth and blood vessels. Kiwifruit is high in fibre and is also a good source of the antioxidant Vitamin E. It provides twice the level of Vitamin E as an apple and is five times more nutritious.”

I met Warren Young and Ben Hughes from ZESPRI International who were explaining the difference between traditional green kiwifruit now on sale in the UAE and the newer gold variety which will be here later – it provides faster Vitamin C absorption in the body than an artificial vitamin supplement. I am the only one at home who eats Kiwifruit so I was delighted to hear what Hala and Ben had to say and may use this to convince NJD to start eating kiwifruit.

The kiwifruit actually originated in China and was known initially as the Chinese gooseberry when seeds were first transported to New Zealand. However, New Zealand growers became the world’s largest source for the fruit, which became known globally as the kiwifruit after New Zealand’s national symbol…..in fact in Fiji, when we say ‘are you a Kiwi?’, we mean are you a New Zealander. Since 20% of my family members are now Kiwi’s, perhaps its about time to hang out with them in Kiwi Land and try ZESPRI straight off the fields.

Inspirational coffee moment with Colm McLoughlin

With Colm and Sinead…. movers and shakers behind the most successful brand in Dubai

After seeing Colm McLoughlin around town and in the media for over 11 years, I finally had a chance for a delightful chat with the man behind the most successful Duty Free retail venture in the world. I always wanted to do a blog on him so when our awesome Group was given an opportunity to get up, close and personal with Colm one morning a few months ago, naturally I jumped at the opportunity, had a chat with him and then found out even more later about the many initiatives he and his team help support via DDF.

Arriving in the UAE from Ireland in 1983 to help set up Dubai Duty Free (DDF) on a short-term contract with just a team of 10 people, Colm was enticed to stay longer to realize the vision of H.H Sheikh Mohammed to make DDF the most vibrant, successful and profitable airport retail organisation in the world. Over 28 years later, we find that the growth of DDF has surpassed all the goals that Colm had set and has gone beyond that into other fields as well. From 100 staff and earning 72 million revenues, DDF today has over 4,000 employees and posted Dhs4.6billion in revenues.

About 48 members of the original team are still with DDF and after facing the many travel related challenges over the years, and starting with concession shops to see the company grow into a major airport retailer today. Apart from owning the Aviation Club that houses the Dubai Tennis Stadium and The Irish Village and Century Village, Colm tells us of DDF’s plans to build a hotel within the same complex that would be run by the Jumeirah Group. The five star Jumeirah Creekside hotel will have 293 bedrooms with an all day dining restaurant.

While most people revel in DDF’s retail success, many associate the brand also with major sports tournaments and CSR initiatives. Colm tells us about the birth of Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, the 20th year anniversary of the tournament this year and the fact that it is seen worldwide on TV in over 400 million homes. He is particularly delighted by the fact that the players always vote DDF as the best tennis championship in the world. The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships was honoured by the ATP, being named as the ATP World Tour 500 Tournament of the Year for 2011. This is the eighth time in nine years that the Tournament has won the Award, a truly impressive achievement.

Other than tennis, DDF also sponsors the Desert Classic Golf Tournament, World Cup Horse Racing the Dubai Film Festival amongst other key events that help drive tourism and put Dubai on the map for world class events. Other events associated with DDF is the Irish Derby, Emirates Festival of Literature, local productions like City of Life, Gulf For Good, the library at DUCTAC as well as managing the DDF Foundation for children’s education and health in countries like Vietnam, Philippines, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

Dubai Duty Free also supports ‘Hand in Hand for Haiti’, the travel retail industry-funded educational initiative, where DDF Foundation provided US$500,000 to finance a new Sports Complex at the Lycee Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable School in the town of Saint Marc. The DDF Sports Complex at the Lycee school will offer pupils and the wider community in Saint Marc an outstanding sports and leisure facility. Facilities will include an international regulation soccer pitch, a 6-lane athletic track, a basketball court and a volleyball court.

During our conversation, it also emerged that DDF has won over 250 awards. But Colm personally also received an award recently by the Garbally College, which presented 55 former pupils with Alumni Awards. Colm with his two brothers Ray and Feidlim were amongst fellow alumni that included prominent and highly respected Irish professionals from the field of Business, Politics, Science, Education, Religion and the Arts. Both of Colm’s older brothers, Ray and Feidlim, have enjoyed highly successful business careers combined with high profile sporting success on the rugby field.

In addition to awards and CSR related events, Colm also supports initiatives by DDF to raise awareness and create environmental ambassadors within its operation. Dubai Duty Free sponsored two of its employees’ recently to participate in the ‘International Antarctic Expedition 2012’ expedition led by the renowned polar explorer and environmentalist Robert Swan, OBE. I asked Colm on DDF’s future plans and he enthusiastically tells us about Dubai Airports expansion plans, which would result in further growth of DDF with at least 1,000 more staff and 8,000sqm of retail space at concourse three. The concourse is anticipated to complete beginning of next year followed by another concourse three to four years later.

With the two new concourse areas, Colm expects sales to exceed the Dhs10billion mark with staff numbers increasing to over 8,000 to support the footprint at the bigger airport due to increased traffic. Speaking of some of his proudest achievements, Colm talks about team building initiatives and training provided to DDF staff. The management encourages staff to achieve exceptional results and provide them with all the facilities and tools to help them perform better in the workplace.

DDF is known to provide sports facilities at the residences of staff as well as computers and programmes so that they continuously improve their skills. Colm attributes this initiative to His Highness Sheikh Ahmed who is seen as a superstar as a boss who provides opportunities to his team to grow themselves and DDF to new heights.

In his leisure time Colm loves to cycle, swim and play golf. In ten years he hopes to see DDF doubling the business with more than 50 nationalities working together to sustain DDF in its pole position as the best airport retailer in the world. It was a pleasure spending the morning with Colm and Sinead and I hope to get insights from him and his team, who are equally dynamic, more often.

Mike Rutzen at Atlantis – education on Great White Sharks

With Mike Rutzen & the beautiful Rima at The Lost Chambers, Atlantis

After driving on race tracks, bashing dunes, sky diving and generally doing anything that raises the blood pressure, my next big adrenaline driven adventure will be diving with sharks…..inspired by none other than Michael Rutzen, who is known as one of the few people in the world who free-dives with Great White Sharks and campaigns for their preservation around the world.

Mike is so passionate describing his unique adventures as he travels extensively around the world to create an understanding and respect for this great predator, sharing his knowledge and involving as many people as possible in his conservation battle.  I met Mike at Atlantis, The Lost Chambers as he was with the Atlantis Marine Team who are keen to go to Fiji to experience the awesome dive sites there. (I reckon I have convinced marine conservationist, the beautiful  Rima Jabado to hang out in my flat in Nadi while doing day trips diving near untouched islands – since we have over 330 beautiful islands, it’s a diver’s dream paradise)

Mike Rutzen is sweet, down to earth and if you love the marine world as much as I do being an Island girl, watch Mike’s travels and activities which are extensively documented on TV programmes including ‘Beyond Fear’ with National Geographic, ‘Sharkman’ and ‘Shark Night’ on Discovery Channel, ‘60 Minutes special’  with Anderson Cooper, ‘The Great White Shark’ on CNN and ‘A Living Legend’ on BBC Natural World. Mike has been face to face with one of the greatest predators in the world, with no protection and no fear!

I hope someday I also get to spend some time with Steve Kaiser of the Marine Sciences and Engineering team at Atlantis –  I believe he works hard to provide education to the masses about sharks through a number of activities including the thrilling Shark Dive in the Shark Lagoon at Atlantis. It would also be great to talk more about Rima and her work on marine conservation and I reckon that will be a whole new blog on its own…watch this space.

Guests to the next Lost Chambers ‘Family Fun Day’ will be able to meet Michael Rutzen and hear him speak about Shark Conservation. Other Atlantis activities include special educational sessions with marine animal specialists, interaction with the Atlantis scuba divers, touch and feel marine exhibits, face painting, treasure hunts etc.

You can also meet ‘Shark Man’ Mike face to face as he will describe tales of his adventures diving and protecting sharks around the globe on Saturday. In his talk “The Great White Shark Carcharodon Carcharias – Behaviour and Conservation,” He will tell stories about diving with sharks; his free-diving and behavioural observations; eco-tourism as a winning solution and his research and future projects.

I warn you though…Mike is so passionate about his work, the enthusiasm rubs off on you and like me, you will find yourself navigating the high seas in no time! Thanks to the awesome team at Atlantis who always have interesting activities lined up at The Lost Chambers for kids like little diva @NJD2000, we as adults also end up learning about environment, conservation in a beautiful setting like Atlantis.

I am starting diving courses with Al Boom next month when my traumatised left arm is back in action so I can do the shark dive at Atlantis – super excited. (And no…the arm was not traumatised flipping the car on a race track as all my near and dear ones seem to think).