Hamida Aman Builds Cultural Bridges and Promotes Peace Through a Community Music Festival

Children are seen scribbling messages of peace and tolerance on a big board, ahead of the “Salam Aleikum” peace concert at Zabeel Park on Friday evening.
Children are seen scribbling messages of peace and tolerance on a big board, ahead of the “Salam Aleikum” peace concert at Zabeel Park on Friday evening.

 

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:

 

“Salam Aleikum” peace concert’s logo celebrates the harmony and connection of youth from different cultures and ethnic backgrounds.
“Salam Aleikum” peace concert’s logo celebrates the harmony and connection of youth from different cultures and ethnic backgrounds.

 

The word “Salam” means peace in Arabic. Artists in Zabeel park painting the letters of the word “Salam” ahead of the concert start on Friday.
The word “Salam” means peace in Arabic. Artists in Zabeel park painting the letters of the word “Salam” ahead of the concert start on Friday.

 

Indian reggae band duo Delhi Sultanate and Begum X perform songs of equality, community, and positivity at the first ever Salam Aleikum peace concert at Dubai’s Zabeel Park on Friday.
Indian reggae band duo Delhi Sultanate and Begum X perform songs of equality, community, and positivity at the first ever Salam Aleikum peace concert at Dubai’s Zabeel Park on Friday.

 

UD Review: Yas Waterworld Abu Dhabi Waterpark

UD visits Yas Waterworld waterpark in Abu Dhabi!
UD visits Yas Waterworld waterpark in Abu Dhabi!

 

I can’t believe it took me this long to visit Yas Waterworld waterpark in Abu Dhabi! I think the main reason was the fact that I don’t drive, and so the idea of venturing out of the city requires some sort of planning and transportation arrangement.

The best part was that I got to spend my Friday doing something completely new, fun and exciting! Plus, being an outdoorsy person and a cancerian, means that walking around barefoot on grounds made cool with water sprays and splashing in water for a full day is my ideal definition of the word leisure!

If you need an instant boost to your mood, an intense dose of adrenaline rush, or simply a unique and fun way to spend a weekend, then Yas Waterworld should be on the top of your list 🙂

The park is open from 10 am to 7 pm daily. And there are clear directions for how to get there on the waterpark’s web site.

UD is excited about visiting Yas Waterworld!
UD is excited about visiting Yas Waterworld!

 

What’s unique about this waterpark?

  • Yas Waterworld is not your ordinary waterpark. It’s a waterpark with an Arabian theme and concept.
  • There are water sprinklers on most of the spaces in the park. So you don’t have to worry about walking barefoot in the UAE summer heat.
  • There are even members of staff spraying water on you at different locations – just to cool you off while you walk to your next ride.
  • The whole atmosphere in this waterpark is so lively, upbeat and full of a strong zest for life and happy times 🙂
  • There are professional photographers scattered around the park to take your picture in the water, in front of the slides, or even at the roller-coaster ride.
  • There is underground irrigation, which helps keep the ground cool at all times. This makes it easy to walk without flip flops throughout the park.
  • There are dance competitions for kids with passes as giveaways.
  • There was a pearl diving show for both adults and kids. Which is great for expats to learn about the pearl diving culture and heritage in the region.
  • There were performers all across the park on the day I visited. As it was the first day of the start of the 100 family days – an event which will go on until the end of the year.
  • The park has a wide range of food and drink options. The ice-cream is not to be missed! super delicious!
  • There are different levels of the rides. So whether you just want to slide down a river in a floater or go down a vertical drop slide, there’s definitely something for everyone.
  • There’s a good number of rides and activities for kids too.
  • There was music all over the waterpark. And my favorite radio station – Channel 4 FM – were at the park on that day 😀

Here are some of the photos from the rides that I went on (mind you, my friends and I went on all of the rides twice and three times on one of them!):

The Bandit Bomber is a super cool roller coaster ride – only more fun since you’re in your swim wear! This ride gives you a full tour of the waterpark with crazy detours and turns that will blow you out of your mind 😀  in a good way though….it’s also very breezy up that ride!

 

Bandit Bomber ride at Yas Waterworld in Abu Dhabi
Bandit Bomber ride at Yas Waterworld in Abu Dhabi

 

This ride had different speeds and you can choose the one that matches your fitness level 🙂

 

Slither's Slides at Yas Waterworld waterpark
Slither’s Slides at Yas Waterworld waterpark

 

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waterpark fun at Yas Waterworld in Abu Dhabi
waterpark fun at Yas Waterworld in Abu Dhabi

 

The “beach” or “waves” pool is great for chilling out in between rides. This is me doing poses in the “beach” pool 🙂

 

UD at Yas Waterworld "beach" pool
UD at Yas Waterworld “beach” pool

 

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Great fun at Yas Waterworld in Abu Dhabi
Great fun at Yas Waterworld in Abu Dhabi

 

Being the coffee addict that I am, of course I had to look for a place that serves iced-coffee. And I’m glad to say that I wasn’t disappointed because Yas Berry Cafe serves up a variety of drinks from smoothies to coffees to all things refreshing and delightful…

Yas Berry Cafe at Yas Waterworld
Yas Berry Cafe at Yas Waterworld

 

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iced coffee at Yas Waterworld
iced coffee at Yas Waterworld

 

The surf pool seemed cool, maybe I’ll try it next time 🙂

The surfing pool at Yas Waterworld Abu Dhabi
The surfing pool at Yas Waterworld Abu Dhabi

 

Dancers at Yas Waterworld stage
Dancers at Yas Waterworld stage

 

Chilling at Yas Waterworld
Chilling at Yas Waterworld

 

They even have body drying machines at the park! which come in handy when you forget to bring your swim suit wet bag like I did…

Body Dryer at Yas Waterworld
Body Dryer at Yas Waterworld

 

There’s no end to the leisure activities, top quality service and upscale facilities that Yas Waterworld has to offer! Read on to find out more:

  • Private cabanas.
  • Sun loungers scattered all around the park and at the area by the “beach” pool.
  • DJ playing cool tracks near the “beach” pool.
  • River with floaters that takes you from one side of the park to the other. We used the river to get to the next ride location 🙂
  • Waterfalls, water splashing at you from random places, and all sorts of water park fun.
  • Friendly and helpful staff. The general atmosphere at this waterpark is highly positive and refreshing. Everyone is happy to be there and to do their job at their best level.
  • Professional picture taking – you can choose to buy your photos at the end of the day. I had mine saved on a USB stick.
  • Good way to stay fit in a fun and cool environment.
  • Great options for food and drinks. I must try the coconut drink at my next visit. The quality of the food was excellent too.
  • A range of activities and things to do for kids. As well as exciting competitions.
  • Events for families. The “100 family days” event will go on till the end of the year. But there will also be other events throughout the coming months.
  • Upcoming events include: festival of lights, music events, and winter activities.

 

Result?

I honestly woke up with an unusual high the next morning after my Yas Waterworld adventure! I guess it was the adrenaline rush from going on all those fun and exciting rides. I think everyone should head out to this original and vibrant waterpark every once in a while. It’s a truly refreshing and invigorating way to spend a Friday. One that’s suitable for the whole family too. Everyone from the babies to the elderly and all ages in between were having a blast at this cool waterpark.

Here are the prices that I took a picture of at the ticket booth on my way out…

Yas Waterworld ticket prices
Yas Waterworld ticket prices

 

Note: If you’re visiting the park on a weekend, you might want to go for the premium admission passes. The premium admission tickets allow you to access the rides through the fast lane/track. This means that you will avoid waiting in the long queues for some of the popular rides on a Friday.

 

For more information, check out Yas Waterworld’s web site or Facebook Page.

 

I can’t wait to visit this lovely and magical waterpark again. Have you visited Yas Waterworld? If so, what did you think? 🙂

Love,

The Rebellious Saudi Diva

Gourmet Food, Sun and Live Music!

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Taste of Dubai is a fun outdoor festival revolving around food and music. It’s held annually at the Dubai Media City Amphitheater; the same area where the Christmas festival took place and I wrote a post about it here.

It was a Friday, and on that day the festival started in the morning and went on until midnight. I didn’t have a set time as to when I would go, but I was glad that I went during the afternoon (around 4:30) and stayed till around 8:45 in the evening. I was also thankful that I put some sun protection cream on my arms before heading out, because it was sunny and the sun cream did help me get a nice tan.

What most of you would be wondering now is what did I eat? Well, let me show you with pictures:

Steak fillet with a crab cake on top from Ruth's Chris Steak House
Steak fillet with a crab cake on top from Ruth’s Chris Steak House

 

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Seafood Phad Thai from Mango Tree
Seafood Phad Thai from Mango Tree

 

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Sirloin Steak Cubes with Potato Gratin from Seafire Steakhouse and Bar
Sirloin Steak Cubes with Potato Gratin from Seafire Steakhouse and Bar

 

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Dulce de Leche Creme Caramel (Asado) and Chocolate Mousse (Ritz-Carlton)
Dulce de Leche Creme Caramel (Asado) and Chocolate Mousse (Ritz-Carlton)

 

DJ at the Ritz-Carlton Stand
DJ at the Ritz-Carlton Stand

 

 

Guacamole from Maya Mexican Restaurant
Guacamole from Maya Mexican Restaurant

 

 

I would have to say that my favorite dish was the sirloin steak with potato gratin from Seafire steak house. It was perfectly made and tasted so good. The other steak I had from Ruth’s Chris steak house was kind of average. Maybe the combination of crab cake with the red meat didn’t appeal to me that much. And although the seafood Phad Thai from Mango tree was good, I must admit that I did regret filling my stomach from their stand, mainly because I had recently eaten there with my dad a few weeks back. And so, a better choice for me during the festival would have been to sample other restaurant’s dishes. Especially the ones that I don’t get the chance or time to dine at on normal occasions.

Another choice that I regret making was the creme caramel from Asado. When I was at their stand, I asked the lady if she would recommend the Dulce de Leche creme caramel or ice-cream, and I went with her answer. However, only to be disappointed and wishing that I had went for the ice-cream instead! Yes, that was what I was thinking the whole time that I was eating that creme caramel, which I must admit that I didn’t even finish! And that folks, is a big deal for someone who never leaves a grain of rice in her plate, because there are millions of people starving all over the world! I was greatly satisfied with my chocolate mousse biscuit-like cake from the Ritz though. I even took the second piece with me home and devoured it the next day 🙂

When I saw that there was a Mexican stand after I had already had my mains and desserts, me and my friend decided to try out Maya’s (the famous high-end Mexican eatery) guacamole. Which we both thought was surprisingly below average.

With prices ranging between 20 to 30 Dirhams for most dishes, I would say that Taste of Dubai is worth visiting if you love food and don’t mind paying that amount of money for a small portion from a high-end, gourmet restaurant.

The main attraction of the festival, well to me at least, had to be the opportunity to sit outside in a park-like atmosphere with the company of good friends and great live music.

 

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My Hong Kong Trip – Day 6: The Famous Peak, Kowloon Park, and my Low-key NYE!

The Famous Victoria Peak
The Famous Victoria Peak

 

While I was still in Dubai and was telling my friends that I would be visiting Hong Kong, they all recommended that I check out the Peak. So naturally, The Peak was on my list of top attractions and I made sure that I would see it before heading back home.  Thinking that it would be a smart decision, I decided to visit the Peak on a Monday morning to avoid the crowds as the trip web site reviews suggested. What I didn’t take into consideration though, was the fact that the Monday that I chose for my “Peak” visit, happened to be the last day of the year. Yes, it was the 31st of December 2012. And just like me, almost every tourist in Hong Kong had decided to check out the Peak on that very special day 🙂

I arrived to the Peak Tram Station at around 10:30 in the morning.  To my surprise, the queue for the ticket window extended all the way to the street. So you had to walk for some time to figure out where the line ends so you could join it. As we all waited and slowly advanced in line, some of us were getting coffee from the nearby café or waiting in a shaded area until their family members or friends got closer to the ticket counter. It was a sunny yet windy day. Luckily, I was wearing a winter hat that day and was able to get some shade from the cap attached to my hat.

When I finally reached the beginning of the tram line, it was already 1 o’clock! There was some sort of fight to get on the train, and there was no one organizing the order by which people boarded the cable car. This led to a lot of chaos and rude looks and comments from other tourists.

To be honest, I was greatly disappointed by what I saw when I made my way up to the sky terrace. Which is the highest level that you can reach to see the Victoria Peak. Let me make it more clear; I personally didn’t think that the view was worth the two and a half hour wait to take the train! What you would see basically was the Hong Kong city sky line that includes the sky scrapers and modern high-rise buildings. In addition to the green natural surroundings of the area. To me, it wasn’t a view to die for. Maybe I had seen more beautiful natural and artificial views in my life. Having lived in Leysin, Switzerland at an extremely high altitude where I could literally see the clouds beneath me from my dorm room terrace, I wasn’t the slightest bit amused by the Victoria Peak view.

Nevertheless, having waited all that time to get up here, I had to snap as many pictures as I could. And of course ask random people to take my picture as well! But the drama doesn’t end here. I was surprised to find another queue greeting me at the station to take the tram back to the ground level. Thankfully, it was only a twenty minute wait this time.

I was delighted to exit the Peak madness and go back to Kowloon for my next attraction for that day: Kowloon Park.

Kowloon Park is more like a community park where the locals and residents of the area go to relax, have their lunch or practice tai chi. The park is considered a hidden gem as its location requires you to make a slight turn from Nathan Road. So if you didn’t know about it, you wouldn’t guess that there would be a park in the area. I think what makes this park listed as one of the top attractions in the city is its wide range of things to do and see. You wouldn’t see a flamingo pond in your local park, would you? And I don’t mean one or two birds swimming in a pond. This one had a flock of birds flapping their wings and posing for pictures 😉

There’s a beautiful bird sanctuary with colorful and pretty birds, a statue garden, a small maze and an observation deck.

Crossing to the other end of the park takes you to the Harbour City area. Where a large shopping mall with the same name would be a good place to spend a few hours. More so if you happen to visit during the holiday season, when all the sales are on. Since shopping wasn’t a concern for me at this particular trip, I opted for a soup dinner. Finding non-authentic Chinese food in Kowloon is like finding water in the desert! I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw a salad and sandwich place. But my greed and curiosity made me decide to look around the mall for something better. Before returning to that shop an hour or so later only to find out that they are closing early because it was the 31st of December. So all I could have was what was left of the soup of the day. It was a soup with shredded chicken. And let me tell you this: I have never had soup with such a huge appetite in my life! It had been a few days since my stomach ache and I had to go on a strict diet of bananas and yogurt. So for me to actually find a place that serves healthy western-type food and to be able to taste some real food after my days of starvation, was a real revelation.

It was almost time for the year to end. I was a few hours away from the new year. I was in Hong Kong; the city of lights. And my hotel was within walking distance from Victoria Harbour. So you would think that I wouldn’t think twice about going to the harbour to see the fire works that night? Well you are absolutely wrong! I can’t recall how many times I have changed my mind back and forth about going alone to the harbour to see the New Year fire works! Mainly because my local friend had warned me about the extraordinary crowds and the long hours it would take me to get back to my hotel if I decided to go to the harbour. As much as I didn’t like the idea of being stuck in the NYE crowd and the abnormally busy streets of Kowloon, I knew that I didn’t fly all the way from Dubai to Hong Kong during the holiday season to spend my New Year’s Eve at the hotel. So I gathered all the courage in the world (or Hong Kong for that matter would be enough since it’s such a busy city) and headed out of the hotel – after asking the reception staff if it would be a great risk for me to go out to the streets on NYE – and made my way to the legendary Victoria Harbour. The streets were closed off so that people could walk in them and take pictures. No cars were allowed to go through the streets for the night. We had to take different routes to get to the harbour. When I finally got there, I found out that the area where the fire works would be taking place was closed with barriers, and police officers were standing on the spot. It was around 10:30 pm and the area was already packed with the New Year celebratory crowd so they weren’t letting in any more people. Looking at the time and thinking if I really wanted to hang around for a couple of hours and possibly get stuck in the crowd when it was time to go back to my hotel, I decided to make a wise decision and call it a night and walk back safely to my hotel.  On my way to the harbour, I did get to witness an Indian community group parade, local teenagers in New Year costumes and accessories, a young band performance, and almost everyone having their picture taken in the middle of the closed down light-filled streets.

While I didn’t get to celebrate or ring in the new year in Hong Kong style, or attend the hotel’s NYE dinner party which I found out about the next day, or watch the world-famous fire works at Victoria Harbour (or even on TV!), I am grateful for the many privileges that I have in my life. One of them being the opportunity to visit a far-eastern country for the first time, and experience the thrills associated with exploring a new destination and culture.

Although I am almost two months late, but I would still like to wish all of you: A very happy and adventurous new year!

 

 

Waiting Time Sign Board at the Peak Tram Queue
Waiting Time Sign Board at the Peak Tram Queue
A View from The Peak Terrace
A View from The Peak Terrace
Post A Letter to your Loved Ones at The Peak
Post A Letter to your Loved Ones at The Peak
Flamingo Birds at Kowloon Park
Flamingo Birds at Kowloon Park
Bird Sanctuary at Kowloon Park
Bird Sanctuary at Kowloon Park
Shredded Chicken Soup!
Shredded Chicken Soup!
View from Harbour City Mall's Terrace
View from Harbour City Mall’s Terrace
The Peninsula Hotel Christmas Lights
The Peninsula Hotel Christmas Lights
Local Band Performance on NYE
Local Band Performance on NYE
Pedestrian-only NYE Streets
Pedestrian-only NYE Streets