Celebrate the beautiful culture of Oman with Atana Hotels

Atana Shereen Shabnam

For ultimate relaxation, Oman is the best place to head out to in the Middle East – from here in Dubai, it usually takes me a minimum of 6 hours to get Muscat so going to Musandam or Khasab is even faster. I love Khasab and Musandam as it reminds me of the tranquility back in Fiji and now I have more reasons to enjoy peaceful weekends with the new Atana Hotels in the area.

Travellers will be delighted to know that Atana Hotels will operate in Oman, focusing on traditional Omani hospitality at an international standard, in the Governorate of Musandam, Khasab, Oman. With two diverse hotels, Atana offers a gateway to the delights of the Musandam peninsula for families and adventure-seekers and a window into the diverse culture and traditions of the community.

Guests at Atana Hotels will find that the culture of Oman, interwoven with contemporary elements is celebrated from the design and layout of the buildings, clustered around a courtyard and ‘oasis’, to the Omani flavours in the restaurant, enhanced by the cultural activities on offer in the hotels.

Enjoying colourful landscapes, spanning green mountains to azure seas; its welcoming people and their communities, Atana Hotels supports local initiatives and the community in a variety of ways.

Newly introduced for 2016 are weekly cultural nights at Atana Musandam, featuring Omani artists and musicians showcasing their work with an Oud player and local ladies demonstrating the preparation of traditional Omani desserts, with the opportunity for guests to sample the unique flavours as well as learn how to prepare the recipes handed down through generations.

Toiletries provided in the rooms and suites are sourced and produced in Oman by Al Husn Toiletries, and the laundry bags are hand-crafted by local women from the Khasab Women’s Association, supporting the colourful textile cottage industry which is still very much part of the local community.

For added ambience, Omani’s in traditional dress light torches around the courtyard at sunset, guests can relax over coffee and dates whilst listening to the performance of an oud player, indulge in henna painting and breathe in the scented aromas of the bakhour (perfumed incense) spread around the courtyard to greet the starry nights of the region.

 

Egypt Tourist Authority Launches New Campaign

 

ETA-Arab Campaign - Red Sea Riviera 1

I love travelling to Egypt and some of my most memorable holidays have been in Assawan, Luxor, Horgada, Sharm Al Sheikh and of course Cairo. My favourite will always be the Nile cruise though. To drive more people to experience the charm of the beautiful, history laden nation, the Egypt Tourism Authority (ETA) has unveiled a new campaign titled “This is Egypt” (#thisisegypt),

In a change from previous ETA campaigns, #thisisegypt will be digitally-led, focusing on peer-to-peer advocacy and under-pinned by digital media spend, whilst traditional advertising methods will form a secondary promotional level.

Targetting the Arabic traveller from the Middle East region, #thisisegypt will harness the power of digital in a region where internet penetration is 5.8% higher at 48.1% than the world average* and social media sites such as Facebook play a significant role in 88%** of internet users’ daily lives.

The campaign focuses on personalising the Egyptian experience by encouraging the wider Arab audience to consider the variety of holiday which can be enjoyed in Egypt from a vibrant city break in Alexandria or Cairo to luxury beach getaway in Hurghada or Sharm El Sheikh. The campaign will highlight past-times which particularly resonate with an Arabic audience from shopping and dining to enjoying luxury accommodation and exciting nightlife.

ETA-Arab Campaign - Cairo

The campaign will highlight Egypt’s touristic destinations into four main geographic attractions: the Nile Valley, the Red Sea Riviera, the White Mediterranean and the Western Desert. The four destinations will be promoted across different audiences and seasons based on each of the targeted markets’ unique attraction points.

The hashtag, #thisisegypt, originally began as a grass-roots movement developed by Egyptians, but now will be adopted and refined by the ETA to boost tourism by portraying an experiential and authentic image of the country to the world.

The three-year campaign will focus on attracting and engaging diverse audiences, with a focus on millennials*** who are driven by personal experience, passion and adventure. Recent studies have shown that millennials take a higher number of trips annually compared to other age groups, driven by the aforementioned factors. Millennials also have the highest level of influence in their respective communities, which indirectly affects the travel decisions of their peers – upon which this campaign heavily relies.

The campaign comes as Egypt continues to work around the clock to enhance safety and security procedures to ensure the well-being of all travellers. The country recently passed an assessment by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) with inspectors from Russian, Dutch, Emirati and Italian airlines, and is also collaborating with delegations from the United Kingdom, Germany and Russia to implement the strongest security measures possible. As it launches the #thisisegypt campaign, Egypt has pledged to do all that is possible to provide all visitors – internal and external – with a safe and enjoyable experience in the country.

Explore Clumber Park

NJD Clumber Park

NJD

This summer, little diva got introduced to some serious nature by her paternal aunt and Uncle….at Clumber Park which is set on the old country estate of the Dukes of Newcastle and is home to beautiful avenues, plants, wildlife and an amazing picturesque trail for walking.

We walked through gardens, woodlands, light forests and NJD even had a Winnie the Pooh moment throwing twigs in the river and watching them come on the other end of a bridge over a waterfall.

NJD Clumber

We took photos of the chapel, a masterpiece of gothic revival, standing tall in grandeur of the past.

NJD enjoyed feeding ducks and swans while skipping along stopping only for ice cream after 3 hours of blissful nature around a magnificent lake. I got a nettle attack only to be cured by a leaf growing nearby in minutes.

We even came across a bridge that looked much like the troll bridge in the series ‘Once Upon a Time’. The day ended with scones and tea from the Café…delightfully English!

Natasha Dury Clumber

Tash climbs her first tree
Tash climbs her first tree

A taste of Fiji Islands comes to UAE

Cocktail evening at Intercontinental Hotel DFC- Little diva @NJD2000 with Fiji Prime Minister

 

Fijian smiles are the best 🙂 – UAE based Fijians welcomed the FIJI PM

Today is an awesome day for Fijians living in the UAE – we finally have an Embassy in Abu Dhabi. After nearly 12 years in UAE and explaining to everyone we meet where Fiji is, what the country is all about etc, we can now have access to resources at the Embassy to give out to people who want to know more about our beautiful paradise. 

I am particularly overjoyed that my ex-colleague from Fiji High Commission Kuala Lumpur, Emosi is part of the team in Abu Dhabi and I know from past experience he will make big things happen for Fiji in the region.

I remember a couple of years ago when the Prime Minister visited us in Dubai and the look on people’s face when he met them as they found him to be the most humble and friendliest of people ever. I recall us going shopping in DFC when the airline lost the PM’s luggage and the sales people were so overjoyed at being able to serve him. In fact, that is a trade mark of the Fijians. The warmth radiates from our soul and people pick that up so easily.

We had organised a wonderful function for him and his delegation at the Intercontinental Hotel in DFC where City 7 did an awesome programme on Fiji which was aired in UAE for the first time. I had a call from Ron who was the head of the TV station last night who was delighted to hear that PM was in UAE again and he reiterated that our PM was one of the most wonderful people he met after featuring hundreds of VIPs on his channels. Thanks to Regina, another superb islander, we had some wonderful times talking about how great it would be to have a bigger presence for Fiji in the UAE….now its come to reality.

The best thing about our PM is that he is a doer. After promising an Emirati friend who is married to a Fijian that he will make sure Emirati’s will not need a visa when they go to Fiji from then on, he kept his promise and today the Galadari family is one of the biggest advocates of Fiji Islands in the UAE and have returned to Fiji with other Emirati families in tow who continually talk about how incredibly beautiful our country is.

We may be a small nation but we certainly think big…we are proud of legends like Waisale Serevi in rugby 7s, Vijay Singh for golf and of course my friends at NTDE will tell you the many benefits of drinking FIJI water and how delighted they are to have supporting research for a product they market to show it really is the fountain of youth in its purest form.

As islanders, every Fijian is an advocate of our nation no matter which part of the world they go to…when people ask me why I don’t take a British passport after being married to one for 15 years, I don’t flinch a minute and say how proud I am to be a Fijian and how exotic and beautiful our country is that I never saw a need to.

It certainly is a celebratory time for Fijians the next few days and we welcome everyone in the UAE to get a taste of paradise when they are next thinking of taking a holiday. It will be totally worth it. 🙂

With my favourite Fijians 🙂
Fijians in UAE at Dubai Rugby 7s – bringing Fijians together
Natasha NJD2000 loves the rugby 7’s Fiji team

 

Another AMARI to try out

 

Inside Amari Hua Hin

The last time I stayed in an Amari Hotel was during a 5 day stop in Bangkok on a fairly complicated journey back to Fiji Islands. With NJD and her penchant for being curious, we thought it would make sense to stop in Bangkok and Adelaide Australia so she could have a break, meet her  godmother and we could have peace of mind on shorter flight times in between. The Amari we stayed in was right in Bangkok and it was an amazing experience – now they have a new hotel Amari Hua Hin, which is the latest addition to Amari’s portfolio of properties in Thailand.

Ideally located just two and a half hours from Bangkok and next to Khao Takiab, a popular stretch of beach, the resort offers easy access to the city’s shopping and entertainment venues. The 223-room Amari Hua Hin offers refined comfort and elegant resort style accommodation combined with exclusive services and facilities including new signature initiatives that involve bringing people together, whether a group of friends, colleagues or a family.

The food outlets at Amari Hua Hin offer a selection of popular and healthy choices from family-sized sharing baguettes at Reef Deli, a modern twist on Thai street food and international favourites at Aqua Pool Bar,  signature XL cocktails or a personal BBQ grill station at Shoreline Beach Club.

In addition to the extensive dining options, the resort also boasts; conference facilities, ballroom, fitness centre, kids club and kids pool, outdoor pool surrounded by landscaped tropical gardens, a vast sundeck, and a Breeze Spa and Salon. Through an “Amari Host”, based on property and a specially designed destination web portal, “Destination Amari”, guests will be encouraged to experience local culture, whether it is through visiting nearby attractions or by attending a festival or trying a local delicacy.

One thing is for sure, in Thailand there is always something exciting happening in every street corner you turn to 🙂

The breadfruits and the jackfruits of Fiji

A zoomed view of the greenery from the balcony of my current home in Fiji. Our tropical weather allows us to have the best of the best organic fruits and vegetables

This week I broke my fast at a Fijian friend’s house – she is married to an Emirati so the Iftar fare was a mixture of Arabic and Fijian cuisine. The reason I was there was because Rajah (my friend) had brought some breadfruit and cooked it in Fijian style with Roti and wanted me to go down memory lane as we enjoyed our iftar experience.

Fijian cuisine is unique and often one can’t recreate the taste elsewhere although in some cases one can come close. I have been battling to make soft round roti’s and curries abroad for years but because its hard to get fresh organic ingredients easily in other countries, the taste is never the same.

Occasionally we get overjoyed when we see a rare vegetable that we associate to our extensive Fijian produce and are able to cook it Fijian style as we have all the vegetables the rest of the world has but more….where else can you get a vegetable as tasty as daruka. (this is not going to be another whitebait style story, I swear. In my defence, there is no fish in the world that is as delicious as whitebait so I had to gloat about the fact that we get it in Fiji and my family always keeps this rare treat for me when it is in season)

In Fiji, we love our root crops – so instead of eating bread and rice all the time, we get our carbs through tapioca, yam (dalo), taro, breadfruits, sweet potatoes etc. We are also super lucky that our cuisine is influenced by old-world civilizations mainly Polynesian/Melanesians, Indians and Chinese with a dose of influence from our Kiwi and Aussie neighbours.

Our styles of cooking happen to be an interesting experience as well. As Polynesians, we love cooking lovo (food marinated and cooked underground on hot stones) often accompanied with root crops. We also enjoy spicy Indian cuisine and Chinese delicacies  (our chop suey, chow mien and stir fries are out of this world).

Our cooks, family members and young chefs are spoilt for choice when it comes to the variety of fresh food so they use their imaginations to experiment and come up with amazing food that Fijians abroad and visitors of Fiji keep coming back for. We come from a world where we can cook fresh white fish entirely in lemon juice, wash it and make a mean salad (kokonda) that our visitors talk about for days.

I also remember the times in Dubai both me and Rajah go scouring for jackfruit in Karama when we craved Fijian food – being a snobbish marama, I normally would not venture to Karama for love or for money but for jackfruit, or any Fijian delicacy, I am willing to put up with anything. Eaten ripe, jackfruits are the most sweetest and succulents of desserts (very popular in Asia) but I prefer the young ones cut in small pieces and fried with garlic, onion, chillies and tumeric with Fijian style roti.

I still go to Lulu Supermarket to get the ripe ones from Malaysia for my better half and the raw ones for me to cook with. In Thailand, the ripe ones are cut in small pieces and served in sweet coconut milk as desserts….lush! What is great also is that the green jackfruit is full of vitamins that helps to prevent many sicknesses like fighting cancer and lowering blood pressure.

Its going to be Eid next week and I certainly will miss my usual delicacies like fried jackfruit and going to the amazing markets in Fiji full of organic food fresh from the farms every morning. I’m glad though that NJD is coming back to Dubai post Eid and is bring me back some of the Eid goodies like barfi, coconut candy and a few other decadent and sinful things that I so enjoy!

In the meantime, I want to get my retirement sorted in Fiji – with the world in chaos, it’s about time I earned in Fiji dollars and enjoyed life under a coconut palm complete with a drink that has a multi-coloured umbrella in it. (I can see my stalker and the green-eyed monsters hoping a coconut would fall on my head and put a stop to this drivel). Oh well! – a girl can dream!

Patron of the Arts

Performers at a recent exhibition from Uzbekistan supported by Dubai Culture - I loved it
Thanks to Yasser & his team, my daughter loved the performance by a Chechen Dance troupe recently organised by Dubai Culture

The last few weeks has been awesome for Dubai Culture – I’ve always known the team there to be super dynamic (I seriously want to know where people like Yasser and Bilal get their energy) but I reckon recently they have surpassed themselves after hosting one amazing cultural performance/exhibition/celebration after another.

So when the equally amazing team of Asda who know I lap up anything that’s remotely associated with Art & Culture and would support the boys there anytime contacted me about the The Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Patrons of the Arts Awards,I jumped up and headed towards Jumeirah Zabeel – its not just the superb hammam there that pulls me towards this amazing hotel.

This key initiative was announced by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President & Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai and honoured 47 organisations and individuals for their contributions towards the city’s cultural scene …which I may add grows twofold every time I get my fabulous self to set some time aside after work to check my social calendar.

Organised by the Dubai Culture & Arts Authority (Dubai Culture), the Emirate’s dedicated Authority for culture, arts, and heritage, the awards were aimed at encouraging patrons of the arts to further strengthen the evolution of the city’s cultural landscape through patronage.

Saeed Al Nabouda, Acting Director General, Dubai Culture & Arts Authority was there and he looked so different than when I first worked with him during DSF 2000 – he has managed to get increased support from Government departments and organisations, in addition to a vast pool of new patrons for culture and the arts.

It was awesome to see some of my favourite organisations and the representatives from Emirates Airlines, Jumeirah Group, Dubai Duty Free and AGMC – BMW being honoured – these guys do great stuff for art & culture and the people behind these brands are the nicest you will find in Dubai.

I’m hoping more things like Art Week, Art Dubai, Design Days, Dubai International Film Festival, Gulf Film Festival, Emirates Airline Festival of Literature and Dubai Festival for Youth Theatre add to the culture and arts scene of the city….we definitely need to give more recognition as well to the performing arts which has struggled heaps over the last 10 years. The tides are changing thanks to the amazing work of Dubai Culture and this diva is pleased to be in a city that brings so much of the worlds static and performing arts to us on a silver platter. Smiling heaps!