Emirates Airline Festival of Literature 2012

Last night I went to the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature 2012 to listen to an author (David Nichols) whose book “One Day’ I’m reading after my NJD and Eric persuaded me that it was totally up my street – and they were right as I am currently enjoying this book as my bedtime reading. 

I bumped into people I know at the festival who enthused about the breathtaking display of readings, poetry, song and dance at the spectacular theatre that  is part of Cultural & Scientific Association at Al Mamzar.  This is where I saw the Japanese Drum show last week and it was wow.

The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature 2012 is held in Dubai between 6-10 March 2012 under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice-President & Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, and is held in partnership with Emirates Airline and the Dubai Culture & Arts Authority (Dubai Culture), the Emirate’s dedicated Authority for culture, arts, and heritage.

I am going to some of the sessions later today. As my first project in the UAE in 2000 (DSF 2000) was for Saeed Al Nabouda, who is now the Acting Director General of the Dubai Culture & Arts Authority, I look forward to catching up with him hopefully at the festival – always good to stay in contact with ex clients.

I am all set for the literary sessions today as well which look awesome. I wish local author Dedra Stevenson was part of the line-up too as my daughter loves her work too. Can’t wait to hear Rashad Bukhash speak on the architectural Heritage of Dubai. I love his groups talks on design and traditional architecture so it would be delightful to hear both Rashad and Peter Jackson share their knowledge in one session.

Taiko Legend – Heart beat from Japan

Japanese drummers in action - absolutely loved the show

This week, the Japan Foundation and the diplomatic team for the Japan Embassy and Consulate celebrated the 40th anniversary of UAE-Japan Diplomatic relations under the Patronage of H.H. Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the UAE. The main attraction was none other than Eitetsu Hayashi, Japan’s premier Taiko drummer and guest player Makoto Takei on a Japanese bamboo flute (Shakuhachi)

Playing a big part in this of course were our good friends from the Dubai Culture & Arts Authority (It was a delight to catch up with Bilal and Yasser after a long break).

After much struggle looking for signs to the Mamzar theatre, diva breathed a sigh of relief in discovering that the said theatre where the performance was going to happen was part of the Dubai Culture and Scientific Association building (I can be so ‘duh’ sometimes).

But it was worth the drive for the captivating performance titled The Taiko Legend – Heart Beat from Japan. Hayashi led the Taiko Group to perform ‘The Taiko Legend’. An acclaimed musician, Hayashi is ranked as one of the world’s leading taiko players and a foremost cultural and artistic asset of Japan. His performances range from tranquil to inspirational offering an unparalleled experience for the audience.

People who have lived in Asia may have come across Kabuki before. Until the first part of the 20th century, people in Japan used to play Taiko early morning on the performance days of kabuki theatre.  If you have not seen this before, put in on your bucket list for traditional entertainment.

I was suitably impressed by ‘Mitsumai’ (Three Dances) composed by Eitetsu Hayashi. A motif, reminiscent of matsuri bayashi (Japanese folk-festive music) is the basic phrase of this piece. The piece also featured the characteristics of Shimedaiko (this has a high pitched tone compared to other drums) and had the vital structure of a Taiko ensemble piece. I was told by my Japanese friends that Shimedaiko is traditionally accompanied with other instruments such as the vertical flute and mini tampani to make festive tunes for Japanese street festivals.

Out of the 6 main pieces, the one above was my favourite although the solo performance on the Japanese bamboo flute (Shakuhachi) came close. Ranging from traditional, to the contemporary and experimental, this simple instrument makes audience feel the beauty of sound and depth of expression.

As the Emirate’s dedicated Authority for culture, arts, and heritage, its awesome to see that Dubai Culture is just as dynamic & committed to strengthening cultural exchange as before, as well as facilitating exchange of ideas by providing Emirati and local artists the opportunity to work alongside international artists. All in all, a fantastic night out in terms of diva being being a culture vulture.

Diva is smiling….HEAPS!!!

Diva in the Mercedes SLK350 convertible

This year I decided to celebrate my birthday one week ahead…..partly because the love of my life NJD is going away on a ski trip to Switzerland on my birthday so my focus will mainly be on her this week…afterall this is her first trip on her own with her friends and at the age of 11, she may be confident about travelling and sliding down an icy mountain with no qualms but this mama is having mini heart attacks every hour as the trip gets closer.

So,,,,after a hectic and heavy week last week that included heaps of mental stress, PMS and warning signs to everyone around me to watch their step if they value their life, I decided to go on a sabbatical….not just any sabbatical but where I would live the life that I have become very accustomed to…in pure luxury.

Thankfully my early birthday presents came in form of experiences – Nick of Daimler reckoned diva needed a HOT car so he arranged for me to have for a few days none other than the top of the range 2 door sports car Mercedes SLK350 which I realised when I signed my life away to him was worth close to US$68,000/- (AED248,000/- roughly). But it was all good when at the touch of a bottom the roof came down and my hair went all sorts. It was an awesome convertible and since I get to drive the most expensive cars as and when I want, it really means that it must be fabulous if I start crooning about it. I don’t normally write entire blogs on cars but this baby deserves a whole piece dedicated to the fabulousness of the SLK….watch this space!

To top it off, Sarah decided that since I was meditating and moping anyway with all the problems my mind and body was going through, why don’t I breeze down to Abu Dhabi in the Merc and she would arrange for me to stay at the Suite in Shangri-la that came with a fabulous balcony, and separate living and dining area. Now most of my Malaysian friends were in Abu Dhabi this Friday so I breezed in, picked little diva up for the weekend and we spent the most amazing time at the Shangri-la suite, spa and I got to catch up with my Malaysian friends on Friday at the ‘Glorious Malaysian Galore’ festival in Mushrif Mall (Amazing stuff every evening until the 3rd of March). Lots of dancing, Malay food & Tim Hortons…what more can a woman want???

So all in all, I had an awesome time Friday night and Saturday thanks to two amazing people plus my Malaysian friends (Sakina & Sally ++) at a time I really needed to wind down. I feel a lot better in terms of being chilled and physically…well….if my PMS gets any worse and if these herbal remedies from Abu Dhabi don’t work their magic, I am seriously thinking of becoming a hermit for a week next month. (I wouldn’t be surprised if all the men in my life have noted the dates down to make sure they disappear during that period…women tend to be a bit more understanding and supply loads of chocolates, luxury holidays, sinful food and sweet & sour snacks instead).

Anyway… Having such a great time has left me smiling heaps…. I can’t wait for Sakina to return again to Dubai as she encourages me to get out of my shell, travel to new areas in UAE and generally have fun. I just hope she gets here while NJD is away cos I will be missing the little tyke heaps when she leaves on the night of my birthday and be away the next 10 days. Or I shall distract myself and write about my 2 nights of living in luxury at Qaryat Al Beri indulging in all sorts of fun stuff.

Gong Xi Fa Cai & Splashes of Red

ImageIts that wonderful time of the year when one treasures all things Chinese. Normally I would just be talking about food but for once, its about the celebrations all around for Chinese New Year. Its a bit special for me as it is the year of the dragon which has been lucky for me in the past and in 2000, which was the Year of the Double Dragon, my daughter Tash was born. (If you think I have a dynamite personality, you gotta meet this kid who on top of being a Double Dragon was born under the sign of Scorpio). All I can say is OUCH! But I love her and wouldn’t have it any other way as she keeps life exciting and I learn heaps of stuff from her almost every day.

In Malaysia and Singapore, it was so much fun to be around town during this period where for once, the city people actually take time to breath. As a student, I certainly received a lot of ‘Ang Paos’ from my older Chinese friends and absolutely loved the prosperity lunches and dinners. I still have not decided what to give my daughter tonight in her red ang pao packet when I explain the whole concept, cultural significance to her about CNY. I loved the red lanterns and dragon dances in particular during this period  in the KL, PJ and Subang Jaya areas of Malaysia. And Orchard Road in Singapore during this time is magic.

I am glad for once that close friends define me as the diva with splashes of red….during this time, red is meant to be a lucky colour so to add to my red carpets, candles, lamps & cushions and feathers, I am making extra effort to add more red elements into my house for the  next 15 days to celebrate. I wish the dragon on my desk was red and not green but that would totally destroy my feng shui side of things – oh well!

Because I lean more towards Mandarin when addressing all things Chinese, I say Gong Xi Fa Cai as greeting but a few friends of mine are from the Cantonese orientation and they greet friends saying Kung Hei Fat Choi (Philip, note I did remember the phrase this time). I wish my Chinese friends a prosperous new year and I could certainly do with a better year this time around for sure.

Talking about prosperity meals, today I prepared a special prosperity toss (yee sang) which is a combination of fish and vegetables of different colours. I hope this brings me good luck, prosperity, longevity, health and wealth. On Thursday, I will be having a special prosperity meal prepared by my favourite Chinese Chef at Shangri-la Dubai. Cant wait!

Speaking of cultural fusion, NJD and I just returned from the Dubai Berlin fashion show held from 8.30-9pm at the Pavilion. It was cool to see how 8 designers hailing from Germany and UAE used the abaya as their focal point to create designs fusing fabrics, cuts, styles from the 2 countries. Very nice indeed. We certainly love cultural influences on all fronts.

Hope the Water dragon brings happiness and harmony to all. 

Nepal memories

Taking a plane from Pokhara to Kathmandu

One of my advertising contacts is venturing to Nepal and asked me for some tips earlier today. I have conflicting memories about Nepal – I loved it for the shopping both in Kathmandu & Pokhara + the food but my diva side was not so thrilled at having to get up at 4am in the morning to go cycling and climbing base mountains in Pokhara so that I could catch the kaleidoscope of colours at sunrise on the snow capped Annapurna mountain range.
Ok…I have to admit it was worth it because the views were beautiful and I saw a lot of Sherpa families etc but by the end of the day, I was exhausted & kept dreaming of aromatherapy massages which I could only get the next day.
But breakfasts near the Pokhara Lake listening to ‘sur sudha’, the soothing Nepali music was fabulous and the people of Nepal are just WOW! If you like traditional buildings with a courtyard, try Dwarika’s Hotel in Kathmandu and The Fulbari resort in Pokhara (stunning views). *Oh yes, I took a bus from Kathmandu to Pokhara to make the most of the scenery and to meet locals – while the experience was great, my butt hurt cos of the seats and i had goats travelling with moi. So I took the plane back to Kathmandu. (Not exactly a 5 star experience but better than the bus).
My second trip to Nepal was as a VIP so it was more light & easy – Leila and I went on an inaugural Air Arabia flight with our Red team and we were completely amazed at the reception at the airport – the Airport officials had musicians welcoming us, beautiful garlands, silk scarves etc. Truly memorable and a must visit for globe trotters!

International Festival of Falconry

A friend, not long ago ventured into my domain clutching a Motivate Publishing book called ‘Falconry – celebrating a living heritage’ because she said I was the only chick she knew who got all excited about heritage of people more than the latest lipstick from Lancome. (At that time I took that as a compliment and added the so called coffee table awesome book into my ever expanding library that seems to grow faster than anything else in my stunted life). Yesterday she called screaming to let me know about the upcoming festival of Falconry in Al Ain.

She was so keen on letting me know about the festival that figures kept pouring out of her mouth about the fact that a few hundred (700 when I later checked) falconers and experts in falconry from 75 countries were attending the festival. Normally I wouldn’t give this a second thought as I know nothing much about Falconry but would like to understand more about it one fine day so I decided to see what was flying behind the scenes.

The gist is that this is the Second International Festival of Falconry that will be held in Al Ain from15th to 17th December. It is organised by the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH) in collaboration with Emirates Falconers’ Club and the British Falconers’ Club. Held under the patronage of HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, there will be officials from the UNESCO and international heritage and environmental institutions attending.

What it means is that Diva’s brains are now tickled to see what makes Falconry so interesting hence my coffee table book is now out and strategically placed in my sight lines to delve in when I have 2 minutes to myself. If you see me wandering around the sand dunes of the UAE dressed as a bedouin, don’t be too surprised. (I have been told I look pretty hot in rugged clothes when last seen checking out some tents in Jordan so this may actually be a great next leisure activity to take up yet)

Mawaheb

Next week, like many weeks recently, Dubai will see a surge in art exhibitions by artists of all ages, different backgrounds and mediums. A few have impressed me and I felt like writing a bit about them despite the hectic schedule of the Dubai Fashion Week that has kept us running all over the city in the evenings. I particularly liked the off beat ones organised to support noble causes.

For those who are not familiar with Art Sawa, their next bit is presented by Mawaheb from beautiful people called ‘Walk into our world’. Mawaheb is the Arabic word for ‘talented’. They are a non-profit art studio for young adults with special needs, the first of its kind in the UAE and located in Dubai’s cultural and historical district, Al Bastakiya.

Most artists, aim to create their own identity by forming a style that is unique. However, the artists from Mawaheb are gifted with an untainted and unique view of the world around them, vividly
reflected in the beautiful art that they create in their studio.

Most people say that about the paintings done by innocent children as well. A lawyer friend of mine last month showed me some amazing paintings done by his two daughters during their playtime. I was so impressed by the vivid use of colours and wished I had spent time with Tash doing these kind of creative activities while she was younger. I hope its not too late for her to invest more than an hour she gets in art class at school after hours.

Mawaheb guys endeavour as an art studio to be self sustainable and all money raised will be invested back into the future development of the studio, which will in turn benefit their artists. If you do have time to drop into Art Sawa next week, I am sure you will be inspired. I have made up my mind to give up gym for one evening and drop by on the way home after work to see what these young generation of artists have come up with.