Kabul-born Hamida Aman Organises a non-profit peace concert at Dubai’s Zabeel Park, under the Patronage of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Centre for Cultural Understanding
Featuring seven talented alternative music artists from the Middle East, North Africa and South Africa, “Salam Aleikum” concert was held at Dubai’s Zabeel park for the first time.
The non-profit music festival aims to promote peace and cultural tolerance amongst the youth and to present a more positive image of Muslims to the rest of the world.
The concert is organised under the patronage of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Centre for Cultural Understanding, by Hamida Aman, the General Manager of Guru Production, a Dubai Media City production company.
The centre supports community events, but this was the centre’s first community music project.
Nasif Kayed, Managing Director of Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding said: “We are all for any good cause that promotes peace between mankind, we are a non-profit organisation ourselves and always count on the support of our friends out there.”
Hamida Aman, Owner of a production company and radio station in Kabul, Afghanistan has organised a similar peace concert in Afghanistan two years ago.
“In 2013, I had a concert in Kabul for peace, where artists from neighboring countries performed in Kabul. It was very successful without any security problems.”
Since 2010, Aman has been based in Dubai as the General Manager of Guru Production, but she still visits Afghanistan regularly.
Hamida thought that it was the right time to bring the project to Dubai after a recent trip to Europe. She noticed the mainly negative perception that the West had of Muslims.
“I was very shocked that they had such a bad image of the Muslims,” she said.
The festival brings together artists from different cultures and backgrounds to communicate a positive message about Muslims and encourage peace and cultural tolerance.
Hamida adds: “We are not all terrorists. We are not all aggressive. We know how to be happy as well.”
“For me Dubai is one of the best places to celebrate togetherness. Here, all communities are living together in peace and harmony.”
Aman’s personal experience as a refugee in Switzerland for half of her life strongly inspires her peace-focused projects and initiatives.
“Because I know what war is, what is destruction and what it means to be a refugee and to go in exile, it’s important that we keep fighting to avoid this for future generations,” she said.
“My generation always lived in war and exile, and I don’t want this to continue happening in other places.”
The alternative artist line-up featured musicians whose songs carry powerful messages.
Hamida plans to organise future peace concerts in other Middle-Eastern cities.
“This is the first one in Dubai, and I hope that I will manage to bring it to Jordan, Lebanon and to Cairo eventually – to make a caravan,” she said.
The non-profit initiative will continue to spread the message of peace, and will always be for the community.
“The concert is for a cause and I want to keep it like that,” Hamida says.
“I would like to keep it like that – always for free.”
YouTube Video link:
A short video recorded at the venue while Indian Reggae band, Delhi Sultanate were performing on stage at the “Salam Aleikum” music festival at Zabeel Park on Friday:
Dubai-based Creative Group – ING Creatives – teams up with graffiti and multi-talented artist, Ruben Sanchez for an original community initiative
ING Creatives, a Dubai-based organisation that supports local artists and creative professionals teamed up with Artist Ruben Sanchez for a JLT community initiative.
The Spanish-born graffiti artist, Ruben Sanchez created a colourful outdoor mural with a local theme.
Using 150 spray paint cans, Ruben transformed the wall – which looked so raw with meaningless words – into a beautiful piece of artwork.
Ruben’s inspiration comes to him while he’s drawing the sketches. “The idea was creating itself as I was sketching.” He said.
Based in the Jumeirah Lakes Towers residential area of Dubai, the community wall has a local theme behind it.
Ruben’s main inspiration were the local elements and culture that surround him. He explains the mural’s main subject as a love story: “You can see the guy playing the Oud, and he’s looking to this woman who’s not facing him. She’s acting tough.”
“That’s basically a love story – courtship.” He continues.
The local elements that inspired this artwork are evident in Ruben’s mural. “I wanted to bring things from the desert. I was playing with the local elements, like the camel.” He said.
Ruben began painting on the blank wall on the 11th of February, and the artwork was completed on the 18th of February.
“It took exactly seven days to complete the project.” He said.
The graffiti artist describes his style as Neo-Cubism.
“Since 10 years ago, I’ve been developing this style.” Ruben explained.
As a strong advocate of community art projects, Ruben was very delighted to re-paint the wall. He explains that getting involved in community art initiatives is the essence of graffiti art.
“Nobody was doing graffiti in the beginning to get money.” He explains.
The talented artist is also happy to see the street life and street art culture evolving in the Arab region and the UAE in particular.
Despite being in its novice stages, Ruben notices the street art scene progression in the city.
“Now street art is getting a lot of recognition. And huge festivals are done for it.” He says.
DMCC – the government entity which regulates trade for the JLT area has supported the community initiative by providing the paint and the cherry-picker (the lift) used to paint the wall.
Another significant supporter to the project was Ramy Alawssy, Founder of ING Creatives.
Ramy’s organisation aims to bridge the gap behind the industry and the creative professionals.
Providing a platform for illustrators, designers and photographers to showcase their work is the JLT-based company’s main concept.
Ramy’s idea of converting the raw wall into a piece of artwork became a reality after a long waiting period.
“It took DMCC one year and four months to revert with the final permission to start the work on the wall.” He said.
The delayed response from DMCC didn’t hinder Ramy’s aspirations for an enhanced community experience. His hard work was clear once the work was completed as community members were happy to take photos and play around the wall.
Ramy said: “When we removed the barriers, kids were running towards the wall and touching it, and wanting to take photos with it. So it shows you that it really is a community wall.”
As for Ramy’s choice of artist to paint the wall, he explains: “I really liked Ruben’s style, I felt it really fitted with the community.”
When Ruben is not painting or sketching in the studio, he can be found skating at one of the city’s newly developed parks.
Skateboarding is a part of his lifestyle since he was living in Madrid.
“I was skate-boarding since I was a teenager, and I was doing graffiti since I was a teenager too.” He said.
The artist misses the convenience of being able to skate at any street pavement, like in Europe.
Ruben finds the street life scene in Dubai very limiting, due to the city’s design and layout.
“It’s very confined to designated locations. It’s not like in Madrid or Barcelona, where you just go out and go skating or walking or ride your bike anywhere.” He said.
The ING creative community wall by Ruben Sanchez can be found in JLT, Dubai, Cluster V – at the lake level.
ING Creative Conference
ING Creatives are hosting a conference on the 27th and 28th of March, 2015.
ING Creatives regularly host talks and portfolio review sessions. But this will be their first conference at this scale.
The conference includes talks, workshops and portfolio reviews that are designed to motivate creatives, give them the support they need and help turn their ideas into reality.
“We’re built for the creative community. We’re not built to help communities that are outside. We’re here to help the community in the UAE, in the region, because they lack the support.” Ramy said.
To describe the group, Founder Ramy said: “We’re a creative community, we’re based here in Dubai.”
“We help creatives to make ideas happen. So we do that through talks, workshops and portfolio reviews.”
International speakers who are experts in their respective creative fields will be flying into Dubai from major cities. Ramy explains:
“We’re flying and getting 15 international speakers from New York, San Francisco, Milan, Madrid, Barcelona, and Singapore.”
“Some of these line-ups are great illustrators, designers, creative directors, fashion designers, and they speak at international creative conferences.” He continues.
The event caters to creatives from different disciplines. “Whoever has a visual portfolio, or anybody that is in the creative field. Whether there’s photography, illustration, graphic design.” Ramy explains.
“We’ll be doing it every year from now on.” He said.
The tickets are 725 AED for both days including talks and portfolio reviews.
Today’s post is another University project that I just completed for this term’s photojournalism course. I present to you:
My Photo Essay on Sole DXB event that took place on the 14th and 15th of November. I was there on the 14th of November for a few hours, taking photos and meeting up with some friends.
First up, the short synopsis about the photo essay:
Many think that Dubai’s street culture doesn’t exist. The organisers of Dubai’s urban lifestyle and culture event want to change that misconception.
The city’s first – one of its kind event, Sole DXB was staged at Dubai Design District to showcase the region’s latest street culture trends. Specifically the footwear, fashion, basketball, hip hop, and street art.
Those who made their way to the venue were treated by regional retail brands; Nike, Puma, and Reebok. DJ’s, live performances and panel discussions pumped life into the event and gave it a fresh and exciting community atmosphere. With a hidden construction site chosen as a venue for this year’s Sole DXB event, indeed it is underground.
Professional basketball players take turns at shooting hoops at Sole DXB’s grounds in celebration of basketball culture. Dubbed ‘Ball Above All’, the competition saw the victor walk away with 10,000 AED. The game has proved to be a popular way to bring the community together. The only stipulation was that entrants must be 18 or older to apply to play in the tournament.
British artist, Remi Rough and his counterpart YesBee are busy creating the freestyled ‘Mondrian vs Wildstyle’ art piece. A 3 x 10 meter art work; spray painted using ‘Montana 94’ paint. Remi’s art began on walls and trains in South London in 1984. By his own admission, “I didn’t invent straight lines, I just made them funky!” – said Rough of his work.
Canadian pop artist, Antoine Tavaglione – also known as Tava is a muralist and illustrator based in Montreal. Famed for his signature ‘dripping milk’ paintings, his “Che Cazz” piece proved a popular addition to Sole DXB. The cat figure mural was created in one day, and produced using spray cans.
Additional work from Tava – showing more of his favourite cartoon figures – this time, Bart Simpson. Made using acrylic colours on canvas, Tava said: “I like to recreate iconic characters that are very nostalgic to me, and add my signature dripping effect to them as if they are melting ice cream.”
‘The Irezumi Girls’ are part of a limited edition created by Dubai-based design studio Robot and Spark. The figures are made using cast resin material with a chrome finish. The artist imagined these toys to live in the year 2075 in the city of London. ‘The Irezumi Girls’ are a gang of heavily tattooed, uber cool, superhero vixens hailing from Baker Street Station.
Creative Director Robert Gibbs from design studio Robot and Spark has been working on these original figurines since 2009. The germ of the idea came from a fiction-story about a group of futuristic, rebellious and superhero vixens – namely Lipstick and Suicide. The futuristic fantasy eventually came to life at Sole DXB’s gallery, after a five-year obsession.
British artist and photographer, Julian Castaldi expresses his love for Italian company ‘Campag’ with this painting of a vintage bicycle. His cobalt blue piece was inspired by his love for cycling, and the iconic company. Julian explains the concept by saying: “I have always loved the logo and story behind the brand.” The ‘Campagnolo’ painting uses acrylic, enamel, pastels, and lacquer on a 4 feet x 3 feet canvas.
Corcel, a Dubai-based bicycle and apparel store take cycling lovers back to the good old days with their 50’s/60’s inspired collection. The ‘Bikeid’ range was created for a nostalgic bicycle experience. The simple, elegant, and vintage designs can be customized for personal taste. A couple interested in getting a bike are looking at the catalogue and selecting their preferred colour of bike and tires.
An amateur artist is keeping himself busy by drawing a pair of sneakers using spray paint. Despite his aching fingers from the excessive amount of pressure while completing this piece of art, he is determined to leave his mark at Sole DXB. He asks the audience: “Does it look like a shoe?” and feels ecstatic after their approval.
The stylish crowd attending the urban lifestyle event did not overlook making a fashion statement with their favourite pair of sneakers. A young lady sporting a very bright and colourful pair of ‘Nike’ trainers caught my attention. She told me that they were a recent buy from the brand’s latest collection.
Another original pair of ‘Nike’ trainers worn by one of the ladies attending the street art event. When I asked her about the unique running shoes, she told me the story behind them and how they’ve been worn out at a music festival overseas. “I bought them from Barcelona – for a rave.” she said. I thought they still looked new and exotic!
A priceless moment in time, as I am transformed back to the 90’s at street wear label Amongst Few’s interactive gaming space. The highlight of the event for me was discovering this cool 90’s inspired concept brand. Founded in 2013, Amongst Few is a Dubai-based street wear brand that merges traditional Emirati outfit inspiration with Western style. In my nostalgic 90’s flashback, I can be seen playing the game ‘Duck Hunt’ on a 1983 Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) console – complete with classic TV sets and 90’s memorabilia.
A great variety of second-hand sneakers on display at the sneaker swap stall. Trendy and pristine trainers to match every age and style fill the wooden racks at this sneaker wonderland. Get lost in time as you look for the perfect pair to replace your worn out and tired sneakers. No cash? Don’t worry, you can trade in the currency of sneakers!
Dubai-based urban and R&B DJ, Mr. Shef Codes livens up the Reebok space with his top old-school R&B beats. Shefan Lantra, better known as Mr. Shef Codes is currently signed with Bliss Inc Entertainment and plays at local venues around the city. The tunes he was playing were so addictive, they kept the crowd glued to the Reebok stand far longer than they intended to be there.
Iraqi artist, designer, calligrapher, and typographer Wissam Shawkat creates a ‘calligraffiti’ piece of art in his signature modern Arabic calligraphy style. The art work includes the words (love, affection) written in calligraphy style. The Dubai-based artist has been in love with the classical writing style since he was 10 years old. He is using acrylic colours on canvas to create the aptly titled ‘Love for the Sole (Soul)’ piece.
Some additional images that were not part of my photo essay project:
I won these lovely designer PUMA sneakers in a competition that I entered with Stylist Arabia magazine. All I had to do was share a photo of my favourite pair of sneakers! This pair was part of a collection for autumn/winter 2014, in a collaboration between PUMA and East Coast creative Sophia Chang. The designer’s illustrations are inspired by New York, and specifically the Brooklyn area.
Here’s the finished wall that Remi Rough and Yesbee were painting:
here are other paintings from Julian Castaldi that were on display at the event’s gallery:
Materials used: acrylic, enamel, lacquer on canvas : 4feet diameter.
Concept: Just love the old school soda labels I actually collect vintage skateboards, soda bottles amongst other things.
Materials used: 100cm x 70cm in metal frame.
Concept: Shot in London and used in Urban Outfitters.
Materials used: 100cm x 70cm in metal frame.
Concept: Love the signage and billboards around LA lots of hand painted and distressed signage which looks amazing, this was shot around Melrose in LA.
Materials used: 100cm x 70cm in metal frame.
Concept: Used to drive past this private members club on Santa Monica Blvd, it had a mysterious look and I stopped one morning to shoot the pic.
Framed original Polaroids shot in LA 2005 on painted board.
Framed original Polaroids shot in 2012 on painted board
“I have been shooting Polaroids for over 20 years and my Private Rooms project includes Polaroids I have taken of John Malkovich, David Bailey, Oasis, Pearl Jam and many more.”
For more information about Sole DXB or any of the artists mentioned in this post, check the links included in this post.
When I received the invite for the private view event for London College of Fashion‘s “Art of Dress” exhibition, I was so excited and knew that this would be the perfect topic for my next video journalism University project.
I had attended LCF back in 2009, as a first step towards changing careers into journalism. The course that I took was a foundation course in fashion media and communication. It was an intensive one year course, equivalent to the UK A-Levels. At that point in time, I wasn’t ready for an intensive study program. Mainly because I had been working in IT support for the past 4 years before starting that course. So it wasn’t easy for me to go back to education and to take an intensive course.
However, I did manage to successfully complete one term of that course. And I still plan to go back to LCF one day to finish that course and maybe take a post graduate course too! I always believe that it’s never too late to achieve your goals and follow your dreams.
The last time I met with the lovely LCF people was two years ago at Okku restaurant and lounge in Dubai. It was an alumni event organized for the college’s alumni in Dubai and short courses’ students and graduates.
As expected, attending the private view event was a great decision made by me, and deciding to cover the event for my project was just as interesting as I thought it would be. I had a wonderful time meeting everyone from the College and conducting the interviews with my lovely and professional talents.
I will leave you now with the video, that was filmed, reported and produced by me. I researched the story, arranged for – and conducted – the interviews, filmed the footage at the event and at the interviews, and edited and produced the short video.
Here’s the link for the short video about LCF’s Art of Dress exhibition private view event, held in Dubai’s AlSerkal Avenue.
I will be sharing the full interviews with Professor Frances Corner and Linda Roberts on the blog soon. So stay tuned for that.
Here’s a news story that I did for one of my University projects. The course is called “Web News Production” and it really helped me in a lot of ways. I learned how to write news stories for the web, add photos to a slideshow (coming soon in my next project) and create a short video to add value to the story.
The video you will watch in this story was shot and edited by me. I was the camera woman, the reporter, the writer, the editor, and the video producer 🙂
In a genuine desire to share knowledge about coffee and its roasting process, Sabado Coffee Club – a group founded by Matthew Wade who co-runs fat Nancy’s new diet with Anabelle de Gersigny – hosts a monthly coffee tasting event for coffee lovers around the city.
The venue for the club’s meeting – which takes place on the first Saturday of each month – is subject to change. Anyone who is interested in attending their events can follow the club’s coffee, art and culture dedicated blog (http://fatnancysnewdiet.com/) for details about the next event’s date and location.
On the 1st of November, the coffee club’s tasting event was held at A4 space in the city’s creative arts and cultural hub – Al Serkal Avenue.
Kim Thompson – who collaborates with Matthew Wade, Founder of Sabado Coffee Club in this non-commercial event – explains the concept behind the insightful coffee tasting event: “Our main aim is to share knowledge about coffee, to create a more discerning customer.”
With the majority of the residents in the Gulf region accustomed to getting their coffee from the big franchises widely available around the city, the Dubai-based independent coffee club is working towards changing that trend.
Getting the community involved in coffee sampling events is a greatly informative and interesting way to start this initiative.
At a symbolic fee of AED 25, coffee club members get to sample coffees from a wide range of roasters from various countries, before identifying their favourite cup.
The event begins with a dry coffee sampling round, where group members smell different coffee beans and note their best pick.
Then, a brewed coffee tasting round takes place. In this caffeine-filled sampling, coffee enthusiasts take little sips of various coffee cups – using spoons – and look out for distinct features in these freshly-brewed coffee selections.
A devoted coffee connoisseur explained to me the characteristics that make up a good cup of coffee. These mainly include; the body, the acidity level, the smoothness and ease to drink, and the taste.
Coffee comes in a variety of diverse flavours. These include nutty, floral, citrusy, or with a hint of lime or fruit.
The fun and engaging event ends with a vote for the best coffee on the table by the group members. The winning brew is then served to all participants.
Matt Toogood – who also collaborates with Matthew Wade, Founder of Sabado Coffee Club – emphasises the fact that it is a non-commercial event that allows people to learn about the various coffee options – apart from the big brand names and franchises.
The Club’s next coffee tasting experience takes place on Saturday, the 6th of December. The event starts from 12 pm and goes on for two hours. It will be hosted at “The Magazine Shop” in the DIFC area.
This post might resonate with a good deal of people who grew up with Arab or Asian parents. Since both cultures have a lot of similarities – especially when it comes to the family and social issues.
If you need some introduction to the way things are in the Gulf Region, have a look at my previous post about the topic here.
Now that you have a general idea about our lifestyle from my previous posts about this highly complicated and rich subject, let me present to you the top 10 signs that you were raised by GCC parents:
1. Your curfew time is at around 9 or 10 pm the latest if you’re a girl.
Whether you’re a University student, an employed adult, or a teenager, staying outside the house for a late hour is a big no-no. You can try to beg or ask for permission politely to stay late at your best friend’s graduation or wedding party, but rest assured that all your pleas will be faced with a clear rejection. Note: This rule does not change no matter how old you are or serious the situation may be. So even if you’re in your fifties or sixties or spending the night at ICU, you still must be home by the earliest time possible!
2. You’re not allowed to have male friends.
If you happen to mention the name of a male work colleague, brother of a friend, or any other person from the opposite sex, then this must mean that you have feelings for him. Therefore, the two of you must get married ASAP. The simple and basic fact that you mentioned him in your conversations must mean something. You can’t talk about a man for no reason, right? this must mean that you like him, and this gesture must immediately translate to a marriage contract 🙂
3. Attending concerts, visiting another city/country on your own are all considered indecent acts for a single young woman.
Growing up in the Eastern Province of Saudi as a teenager, with neighboring Bahrain, only meant that we had access to famous artist concerts and shows. But I had to argue my way to each and every one of those concerts that I managed to attend! Yes, I’ve always been a rebellious one 😉
Now this rule doesn’t only apply to concerts, it goes for any type of outing that involves a bit of freedom. Examples include visiting neighboring Bahrain for shopping and movie trips, or just meeting up with friends. You can’t go alone, even if you’re in your twenties. A parent must tag along to ensure that the reputation of the family stays intact :p
4. Traveling abroad for leisure on your own or with girlfriends is another no-no.
Of course, for some liberal families, this rule can be broken. When I was in school, many of my friends were able to travel together in groups without their parents’ company. If not at school age, then maybe later in life – when they’re in their twenties. But for me, this scenario was out of the question. I actually went on my first solo trip for leisure purposes in late 2012. You can read about it here. This is not to say that I wasn’t lucky enough to travel abroad to live and study when I was only 18. But – as you might have guessed by now – I fought really hard for that privilege. My mother used to genuinely think that going away on a beach holiday in the summer is a silly and superficial thing to do! She actually thinks that my desire to do something that the rest of the Universe does – take a beach holiday – is a complete waste of time and resources. And obviously, is not acceptable by all means.
5. The house maid or house keeper transforms into a body guard to accompany you at the local mall.
I think this headline requires little or no explanation. For those of you expats who currently live in the Gulf region, you might have already noticed this phenomenon at the malls. Every so often, I see young GCC ladies walking around the mall with their house maids, and I’m taken back in time to the days when I had to be accompanied by my own house keeper. Luckily, she was a very warm and lovely lady. God bless her, but she did get on my nerves at times. You can’t blame her though, she was only following my mother’s strict instructions!
I also had my eldest sister accompany me to University in Bahrain. Even when she didn’t have classes herself. But that’s just going to make this point longer than intended. So let’s end it here 🙂
6. Your mom reminds you that it’s time to go to bed at around 9 or 10 pm when you’re in your early or late twenties.
I think this one also requires no explanation. Arab mothers like to take full responsibility for their children – especially the daughters. And this includes making sure that you go to bed at an early time and don’t spend any extra time hanging around or doing pointless activities.
7. Your dad tags along as you shop for under garments at the department store’s lingerie/sleep wear section.
Not sure what is worse; shopping for underwear at Saudi shops and asking for assistance from the male sales people (which I don’t recall doing), or browsing the high-end department store’s lingerie and underwear section (in Bahrain or other location outside Saudi) with your dad at your back in every step you take. Hmm…both are difficult situations to find yourself in – I must admit.
8. Your mother constantly gets you clothes and tops that are one or two sizes bigger than your actual dress size.
I think anyone who comes from a conservative family will find this point familiar. Traditional Middle-Eastern mothers think that a woman shouldn’t expose her figure by wearing tight-fitting outfits. This applies to all body shapes and sizes. So no matter how slim or flat you are, you are not encouraged to wear skin tight clothes that flatter your body. Even if you had a gorgeous body that you don’t mind showing off 😀
Note: Most of the time, mothers also decide what type of outfits you should wear and what fashion style you should follow. As a teen and a young adult, I always felt more comfortable wearing jeans and a nice top. So this didn’t really affect me that much. In fact, until today, I prefer to wear loose and comfortable clothes on most days. And only dress up for occasions. I guess I’m a bit of a tom-boy 🙂
9. Your mother continuously compares you to others.
Be it your class mates, your close friends, your relatives, you name it, she’s got it covered. Arab mothers see this comparison as a form of motivation. They think that by comparing you to others who are in some way or another better than you, you will be influenced in a positive way to become a better version of yourself. Of course when done on a regular basis, this causes serious issues of low self-esteem and diminished self-worth. When I say ‘better’, I mean various things. So it can be in their social skills, their fashion style, their attitude, anything really.
10. Your father makes all sorts of decisions on your behalf.
If you read my previous post about the lifestyle in the Gulf Region, you would understand this point. Basically, since the parents (mostly father) support their children financially even when they are adults, they also have the right to ask you to follow their own rules and visions for your own life. This means that your father will feel that he has the full right to make choices for your education (University level), career path, personal, marriage, and ultimately all life aspects 🙂 This is valid for as long as you are single and is being supported by him financially. And as long as both you and him are alive and well. They also tend to always think that they know what’s best for you – even when that’s not the case. And they feel privileged to make decisions on your behalf – as if you don’t exist really.
So the financial support also means that you must play by their rules – and only their rules!
Now I would love to hear your views on this topic…do you agree? do you disagree? does any of the points that I mentioned resonate with you? did you grow up in a liberal type of GCC family with very liberal parents? do you think I’m just a spoiled brat for writing this post?
Whatever your opinion is, feel free to share it 🙂
And because I always like to see the bright side of every situation, I must admit that having grown up with somewhat controlling and over-protective parents has taught me many useful life skills. One of these important skills is the ability to practice self-discipline in my daily life. So, I am thankful to my parents for that. I can say that I have a considerable amount of self-discipline that comes in handy at times. That of course is coupled with a huge lack of self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-worth 🙂
I’m also thankful for being more privileged than many others who share my struggles. It’s true that I had to fight for what I have, but I’m still more lucky than many others who might not have the opportunity to get their voices heard or their side of the story listened to.
The photos in this post are by the highly talented Yasir Saeed. You can read my review of his photography session here.
Crowne Plaza Muscat offers its guests a complimentary shuttle bus service to a couple of tourist attractions. These include the “Grand Mosque”, the “Grand Mall”, and a traditional street market called “Muttrah Souq“.
Since I grew up in this region, visiting a mosque wasn’t exactly something that I would choose to do while on vacation. I think that type of excursion is more suitable for Western tourists who want to learn more about the region and visiting a mosque can be a good introduction. Especially in the Gulf region. At the same time, coming from Dubai – a city famous for its endless glitzy and shiny malls – going to another mall during my trip wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. Luckily, I can visit the grand malls of Dubai anytime that I wish.
“Muttrah Souq” sounded interesting. The concept of a traditional street market selling all sorts of souvenirs and local goods was something that I could do on one of my days in this enchanting and original city.
So, I decided to take one day off of my strict tanning and beach lounging schedule to check out “Muttrah Souq”. I actually gave up one full day of going to the beach to visit this old traditional souq. So I hope that you will like the photos that I took as it was mainly for the blog 🙂
Here’s the shuttle bus that takes the hotel guests to the various touristic spots:
Here are some random photos that were taken at Muttrah Souq:
I thought that it was ironic that there was a store titled “Dubai” shopping center in the street behind “Muttrah Souq”!
Muttrah Souq is a true and authentic street market with its branched out and narrow alleys. While walking around this super cool and traditional market, I decided to make my market experience even more rich by sampling some street food. I snacked on two samosas (one with a vegetable filling and the other with potatoes) and one piece of falafel. Now I have to give you guys a valuable piece of advise: stick to the falafel and avoid the samosas! The samosas are way too greasy and you can barely notice any flavor other than the taste of oil used to fry those samosas. Although the falafel was very dry, it had a nice flavor to it and I regretted not getting three falafels instead of one falafel and two samosas!
For someone who is from the Gulf region and has grown up in it, I can frankly tell you that Muttrah Souq is severely authentic and is a true representation of the culture, traditions and icons of the region. Almost every item that is sold at that souq resonates with me in one way or another. The antique boxes for example, are used to decorate corners in houses in the Gulf region. At our house, we used them to store old newspapers and magazines! Yeah I know what you’re thinking, we’re a weird bunch 🙂
I will be posting the rest of the photos from my Muscat trip on the Facebook Page soon. So that you won’t miss a thing from my trip.
If you didn’t get a chance to check the previous post from my trip, you can find it here.
Time for me to go to bed, as I have been out all day doing something quite adventurous…you’ll hear all about it soon. Simply watch this space.
If you need some introduction about life in the Gulf region, and a general idea of the social structure there, you can check out my previous cultural post, titled: The “Bubble” Life.
Today’s topic is somewhat relevant. It can also be considered more of a personal topic since I’ll be talking about my specific story.
Most Arab parents tend to be over-protective with varied degrees of controlling behavior when dealing with their children. You’d think that these strict and firm ways of upbringing would gradually lessen as the kids grow older, but the truth of the matter is that they never do.
Most Arab parents like to plan their children’s future lives, and be in control of their education, career, love life, marriage and daily life decisions!
Unless a daughter is married to another man and moves out of her parents house, she continues to live by the rules of the parents. No matter how old she gets, or what her status is (employed, jobless, student, PHD graduate), she is forever subject to the rules of the parents. And they are eternally responsible for her every move, decision, and personal freedom in general.
Of course, there’s always a positive side to every bad situation. Parents in the Gulf Region and most Arab countries also continue to support their daughters financially for as long as they have to. But that financial support doesn’t come without a price tag. It is coupled with the obsessive controlling behavior from the parents side.
My post is not meant to portray a negative image about the Arab or GCC culture. It’s more of a realistic explanation of my personal story and background. Since moving to the UAE in 2010, I constantly get asked by people from various expat countries about the method or way by which I am able to support myself financially, and that is usually followed by a certain amount of surprise and words like: “You are lucky.”
That’s why I decided to write a series of cultural, social and personal posts to clarify some aspects of Arab and GCC culture. I don’t mean to generalize though. I can only speak about my own personal experience and that of the society that I grew up in.
I also get asked about how we spend our weekends in the Gulf. Well, most of us in Saudi would either hang out with girlfriends at the local mall, cafe, or restaurant. We tend to spend some time at home too. We can have gatherings, dinner parties or house parties too! But, these would be exclusive to girls only. Since in Saudi and in most Gulf countries, the society is mainly gender segregated. You might ask, but who are you to talk about this lifestyle? Well, I grew up in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, and I didn’t attend an International school. I actually went to an all-girls elite private school, where an Arabic curriculum was being taught. So I can say that I lived a traditional Arab lifestyle for the most part of my life…
I can elaborate about my life in Saudi in another post, but let’s get straight into the topic of this post. It all goes back to a quote that my dad made at one of his short visits to Dubai…we were talking about some general stuff, when he utters the words: “The way it goes is that one should only be going to work, and then straight back home.”
To make things clear, my dad is not a sociable person whatsoever. He literally practices what he was preaching in the phrase that I just mentioned. But that’s his choice, his life, his decision. And I don’t judge him for it, or wish if he would change it. Honestly I don’t.
But what I thought was hilarious and if I dare to say a bit insane in those words that he directed to me was this: If I choose to listen to his advise and to follow it to the nines, then how on earth would I possibly meet a potential partner?! 😀
I have somewhat weird parents. They have unrealistic expectations of the world, their own children and the people surrounding them.
They live in a bubble of their own creation, and they expect people, events, and everything around them to follow the rules of that imaginary and non-existent bubble. They live with the illusion that everyone and everything must match their own distorted image of the world surrounding them. They are extremely opinionated and will stick to their unrealistic and distorted views no matter what happens or what anyone tells them. They are also not open to hearing other views that conflict with their own. They will just cut you off, will stop listening and will not engage in any form of discussion. (That’s mostly my mom, although my father doesn’t like to listen to varying opinions either!).
They impose highly unrealistic rules, standards, and expectations on every life aspect you can imagine. These rules only exist in their “1960’s generation” heads.
This was only a brief and short explanation of my parents and the way they are. I can talk more about this topic in another post.
Now the problem is that these days, my University course requirements and blogging don’t leave me with much free time to go out and meet new people. So, instead of spending my evenings going out to night spots or events, I find myself sitting at Starbucks or on my bed writing blog posts! But that’s OK, because once I’m done with this course in two semesters from now, I should have more time to go out and mingle 🙂
Basically, I will make it my life mission to meet as many new people as possible. Truth to be told, it will take a lifetime for me to reverse my previously closed and restricted GCC lifestyle! I’m so glad to have the privilege to do that…and if you think I’m a super-lucky girl, just be reminded that each one of us has an equal amount of suffering. And that financial freedom and stability are not the only elements that guarantee a happy and peaceful life.
I hope that I could make part of my story more clear to some of you who might be intrigued to know. And for anyone interested in learning more about the Gulf region, its culture, and lifestyle, stay tuned to this blog…
I must admit, I have a crazy obsession with lists. I make lists for everything; from to-do lists for the next day’s tasks, to grocery/random shopping lists, to future plans lists. My uncontrollable compulsive obsession with lists even gets me writing lists for the topics that I want to discuss with the people that I meet! sometimes these people are ones who I meet for the first time for business, but many times, they’re just friends who I’m catching up with over lunch or coffee!
I’ve always been super organized, and overly systematic in my thoughts, my plans and my life in general. Now while this may not necessarily be a bad thing, or anything to be worried about, the conflict that I face when dealing with others who don’t follow the same pattern of thinking or lifestyle was my main inspiration to write this post.
Anyone who lives in Dubai knows that it’s a melting pot of different ethnic groups, religions and nationalities. Each with their own set of values, cultures and lifestyles. This strong multi-cultured kaleidoscope obviously has its advantages and challenges. It’s always interesting and insightful to learn about other backgrounds and cultures, to hear stories from different voices and nationalities, and to connect with others who share your triumphs or successes.
At the same time, dealing with people from multiple parts of the world can be challenging and draining at times. Some of the differences between cultures can cause serious conflict between individuals, and lead to immense stress and misunderstandings. The value of time and planning are one of the main concepts of clashes between people from different cultures and backgrounds.
While some of us might be punctual to the minute when it comes to time, others may not think it’s a big deal if they showed up 20 or 30 minutes late to an appointment or a meeting. Planning is another one. While I like to plan the next day’s tasks well in advance, and arrange any meetings with people accordingly, those individuals who I’m meeting with may not have given that appointment much consideration and will therefore end up cancelling at the last minute, because they found out that they had other “commitments” and so won’t be able to make it.
For someone who occasionally plans their casual conversations with friends and family, I find it difficult to understand people who act so spontaneously and who make their plans up as they go about their lives. Not only do I don’t get them, I also try my best to avoid meeting them or working with them, resort to distancing myself from them, and sadly, I also loose most of my respect for them.
I’m not saying that relying on your wits and doing things randomly is a no-no at all times. Sometimes, being spontaneous leads to fun experiences, gets you to explore new things, and even brings the things that you need the most your way!
This is why, I think a balance between planning and improvisation is the best way to go. You shouldn’t be totally against going with the flow, as you never know where that might take you. Making room for spontaneity is essential in keeping our lives rich and vibrant, away from boring routines and monotonous activities and lifestyles. So, despite not being totally against being spontaneous, I am a firm believer in planning and setting daily goals for yourself.
I always wonder how non-planners know when they’ve reached a specific goal that they have set for themselves? Or do they not bother with setting goals and working towards them in the first place?
In my opinion, the only way that you can progress and improve yourself and your life is by setting definite goals, working towards them, and then changing them along the way. Not sure how that works for people who don’t like to make plans. I tend to set all types of goals for myself; personal, career, financial. And in the end, they are all connected to make up who you are and what kind of life you are – will be – living.
I always aim big, then lower my goals according to reality. I set very high standards – sometimes unrealistic or unachievable – and then work my way towards them. Until I either reach those exact goals, others that are close, or decide on new goals and work towards those.
OK, for the sake of not wanting this post to turn into a self-help book (article in this case), I will end my post by asking you to tell me what type of person do you consider yourself to be – an avid planner or someone who likes to be creative and make things up as they go along? Do you mostly rely on your instincts and just do what feels right for that moment in time? or do you have endless to-do lists and planner books filled with daily tasks, and plans for next year’s summer holiday maybe?
As most days in the city of Dubai, it was hot and sunny and I was walking at the Marina promenade after a nice breakfast at a cafe in the area. And as I was lost in my own trail of silly thoughts – mostly about planning what to do next – a certain sight caught my attention and brought back intense and sad memories.
The image that made me look was that of a teenage girl wearing a loose fitting grey T-shirt and short denim shorts speeding away on a skateboard. While this could be a very ordinary sight for most people from Western countries, for me; this was nothing but a purely broken dream!
As a Saudi teenager living in Saudi, and at the same time being exposed to the Western world and lifestyle through TV, books, travel or the city’s expat residential compounds, I very badly wanted to own a skateboard and ride it somewhere (even if it’s in our house’s garden). I must admit that I was more of a tomboy back in those days. So being able to skateboard was my ultimate dream at the time. But because I was living in a country where you had to adhere to certain rules and regulations, and because I was the daughter of highly over-protective and controlling parents, my dream was buried and never saw life.
When I reflect on this incident today, as a 30-something year old Saudi living in the UAE, I can say that my restrictions have diminished, but surely haven’t been completely eliminated. I believe that even after our physical restrictions have been removed; in my case it was my parents’ controlling and over-protective behaviour, the effects and imprints of those conditioned beliefs continue to haunt us.
The ironic part of it is that I’ve seen this kind of unconscious attachment to restricting thoughts or actions in some of the people I have met who don’t necessarily come from strict countries or cultures. We all share one thing in common though, we were raised in a restricting environment, and have been trained to always act, behave or speak in a specific manner. We were always under the scrutiny of someone, whether it was our parents, spouses, family members or even the communities we lived in.
It’s astonishing how we continue to limit ourselves and our life experiences long after those boundaries and restrictions have been removed. Sometimes, our thoughts follow the same confining patterns that we have developed over the years. And it becomes almost impossible to break free from limiting behaviours and thoughts that we don’t agree with or want to possess.
After many years of being confined, oppressed, and judged for the simplest of things, an imaginary bubble is created. Sadly for some of us who have lived in that bubble for the most part of our childhood, adolescent and adult life, breaking away and bursting that bubble for good proves to be a highly challenging and time-consuming task.
Luckily, the Universe has helped me meet some good people – who later became friends – who share my “bubble” life story, can understand my struggles, and can strongly relate to my dreams and aspirations. Despite the fact that we are all still relatively living in that bubble, I believe that with the support of a strong social circle, we can all grow and evolve to become the free spirits that we were born to be.
Having said that, I’m not so sure how I would look wearing a casual T-shirt and hot denim shorts while skateboarding in my fifties! As it might take me a while to eventually get to that kind of personal freedom. I guess we’ll have to wait and see