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.

Corvette UAE Club & Road Safety

Our Corvette Drive in Abu Dhabi with me in car number 3

I’m having one of those roller coaster weeks…. After being extremely excited about the upcoming Corvette UAE Club meeting for which I am a board member, I now come to realise that I will probably miss most of the drive and proceedings. Instead I will only venture out for part of the event to celebrate my daughters birthday with the club members at YAS island where I hope to see a lot of fellow car enthusiasts and people promoting road safety.

I am sad about missing the main part of the road safety campaign because I have just qualified for a 2 day intensive camera course which I hope to study from a script writer’s perspective. It was something I have always wanted to do so when I had to choose between this course and the drive, it was indeed painful as I would like to be both in Dubai and Abu Dhabi at the same time. Especially as Ford Middle East has given me the most awesome, state of the art Ford Explorer to experience and be seen in and I really wanted to have a leisurely drive in it behind the corvettes to support the safety campaign :). Very excited though that I will at least make it part of the event.

For people who are passionate about road safety, this is a good time to follow the example of our club and attend the lectures organised on road safety. Members and public will be signing on a roll up presenting the campaign of not using phones while driving.

The CUC gathering is on Friday 28th Oct in Abu Dhabi 3:30pm @ the Abu Dhabi International Marine club parking opposite Marina mall. The parade starts at 5pm after the talks to go to YAS island.

Also the corvettes will have a sticker of the campaign on each car’s rear to support this noble cause. The sticker urges people not to use the phone while driving.

As a speed junkie who has reformed to now release any adrenaline energy on safety controlled race circuits, I am a strong advocate of this campaign. Lucky for us, we have the Autodrome and the YAS Marina Circuit to try our driving skills on without having to risk the lives of innocent people on the roads….speed is NOT for public roads. Its a CUC message.

* CUC’s new campaign slogan is “Your commitment, your safety” – a pretty straight forward message that urges drivers to be responsible of their own lives (not much to ask now, is it?)

6th Science Centre World Congress attracted more than 400 delegates from 56 countries including the Middle East

The 6th Science Centre World Congress recently held in Cape Town South Africa concluded successfully attracting more than 400 delegates from 56 different countries including UAE, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. The Congress chaired by MTE Studios, Director of Imagineering Professor Mike Bruton was hosted by the Cape Town Science Centre; the Southern African Association of Science and Technology Centres; and the North Africa and Middle East Science Centers Network.

With the theme ‘Science across Cultures’, the Congress comprised 5 plenary sessions, 55 concurrent sessions, as well as poster sessions, workshops, science cafés, demonstrations, talk shops, commercial and NGO displays, and visits to local cultural institutions. Ludo Verheyen, CEO, MTE Studios and Professor Bruton were part of the concurrent sessions addressing science centre and museum professionals from around the world at the Congress where the consultancy firm also had its presence at the exhibition running parallel to the event. MTE Studios was also a major corporate sponsor and contributed significantly to the success of the Congress.

“We are proud to be associated with such a high profile event which provided a comprehensive overview of strategic thinking in the science centre community,” said Ludo Verheyen, CEO, MTE Studios. “Our Imagineering Director, Professor Bruton chaired the Congress which was a perfect platform for delegates to meet from all corners of the globe to discuss issues facing science centres and the important role that science centres can play in increasing public engagement in science and technology. We are delighted to learn that Professor Bruton has been invited to serve on the international organizing committee for the 7th Science Centre World Congress to be held in 2014.”

The 6SCWC was widely acclaimed to be the best Science Centre World Congress held so far. Science Centre World Congresses are held every three years. The last event was convened in Ontario Canada (5SCWC); the 7SCWC will be in the form of a Summit and will be held in Belgium in 2014.  This year’s event continued the dialogue from previous world gatherings assessing the impact of science centres worldwide and formulating plans to ensure that they continue to play a constructive role in addressing global issues at the interface between science and society.

Highlighting the importance of events like the Congress, Professor Bruton said, “Globally, science centres and interactive museums have taken the lead in hands-on, inquiry-based learning, and have achieved a high trust rate for the accuracy of the information that they communicate. They focus on promoting dialogue and debate while learning, and on deriving explanations, rather than just providing answers, for important scientific discoveries and phenomena. They endeavour to promote social engagement across generations and cultures as well as an ethos of lifelong learning.”

“Each year, over 310 million people actively participate in the in-house and outreach science engagement programmes organized by over 2500 science centres in more than 90 countries and administrative regions. These science centres recognize that the three pillars of interactive science engagement are science knowledge, hands-on interaction, and dialogue and the co-creation of experiences with scientists and the public. Thus there is a need for improved dialogue between scientists and the public during the course of the scientific process that leads to societal change. I am honored and excited to be invited to be on the International Programme Committee for the upcoming 7SCWC,” concluded Bruton.

At the 6th Science Centre World Congress, leaders of science centres and museums worldwide resolved to:

•Encourage the establishment of science centres and museums in parts of the world where they are lacking.

•Support a policy of investment in science, technology and innovation in response to global economic and financial challenges.

•Partner with formal education, arts, business, policy makers and media where relevant.

•Strive to address cross-generational science- and technology-related problems that are relevant to local, regional and global communities, and to develop programmes that allow the general public to contribute actively to the resolution of these problems.

•Continue to develop programmes that promote awareness of the multi-cultural roots of science and the value of indigenous knowledge systems.

•Continue to develop partnerships to promote science awareness and engagement across cultural, political, economic and geographical boundaries.

•Conduct further research that measures the efficiency and effectiveness of their programmes, and to act on this information in order to improve their efficiency and impact.

•Further promote dialogue between scientists and the general public so that public opinions on science and technology can be heard and incorporated into decision-making processes.

•Further promote creativity, invention and innovation that leads to more sustainable life styles.

•Work together to ensure that they share their joint experience and knowledge of the most effective methods of engaging with science and technology with other local, regional, national and international bodies that promote science and technology awareness.

Plans to achieve these resolutions will be developed, as appropriate, at institutional, national and international levels. At the 2014 Science Centre World Summit, to be held at Technopolis in Mechelen, Belgium, in 2014, science centres and museums shall assess the extent to which they have, as individual institutions and collectively, achieved the goals set out here.

For further information, please contact Shereen Shabnam on +971 507690087

Think Pink


Tash in Pink

Normally when I think Pink, I think of my dear friend Susan Macaulay, founder of While I’m known as a fanatic of splashes of red, Susan always has a dash of pink on her and she looks absolutely fabulous in it. She has done more for women empowerment and growth than anyone I know. I do digress however….the reason I’m thinking pink is because the calendar has now turned to October and Dubai is starting to see a good amount of Pink in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month.

My spa has all their staff wearing pink ribbon bows and  many organizations have become supporters in one way or another to help create awareness and raise funds for breast cancer research.  We may have come across people who have been affected or have heard stories about how it affects people.

With all the research and communications encouraging early screening, we will hopefully start to see a decrease in the amount of women this affects. Check out events that are going to be organised By venues like Burjuman, five star hotels in Dubai such as The Raffles, the pink book sales and walkathons this year.

My favourite event is the pink polo since I love attending my polo events…at least now it will be for a cause and this is on the 29th of October at the Ghantoot Racing and Polo Club. Enjoy pony rides, falcon shows, photo sessions with polo players, or just relax in the reserved picnic areas. Visit the “The Pink Majilis” and meet medical experts, learn self-examination techniques and undergo free screenings at the mobile mammography unit. Don’t forget to dress in pink and win prizes for the best pink outfit!

It also a great time to head to the retail outlet of Lingerie brand, K-Lynn at MOE. Every woman who takes the pledge at the store will receive a voucher for a breast care consultation at Dubai London Specialty Hospital, along with free mammograms and sonograms where required. Plus the Raffles Spa is another place to head to – get some great treatments while supporting a cause at the same time.

There are a lot more initiatives around Dubai this month – I’ve merely listed my choices based on my personal interests in the game of polo, spa sessions and lingerie. It’s amazing what can be done when people get behind a cause they feel passionate about. This is definitely one of them.

Take your time with Art – An evening with Miro Persolja

Most people who know me well know I’m a sucker for good art and design – I’ve missed a number of sumptuous fine dining to walk around galleries at DIFC and Al Quoz and that is an ultimate sacrifice knowing that I am a connoisseur when it comes to good food.

Tonight I gave up a traditional Kim Chi and Korean meal hosted by the Korean Consular General at the Grand Hyatt to go to the Burj Al Arab to see the art of Italian artist, Miro Persolja whose name I heard about plenty in the art circles and in particular from Dipesh’s dynamic team. (I did pop in to say hello to the Korean team minus the dinner and with no regrets because Miro’s work was awesome)

As I walked down the stairs of the Al Falak ballroom at the Burj al Arab, I noticed a man in a suit with a long white flowing coat looking as regal as one can look regal. There was an air about him that he owned the place and without asking anyone, I knew that could only be the artist whose work along the corridors upstairs  left everyone in awe.

Miro describes his work as beyond form, beyond tale and is attracted by a symphony of light. The lights at the Burj tonight brought life to his work which I can only describe as an explosion of colors and its a borderline between painting and sculpture, mosaic and stained glass – each piece conveyed through vibrant light and colour.

I had an interesting chat with him tonight on his inspirations that come from nature. I am pretty sure I’ve convinced him to go to Fiji Islands for his next round of inspiration and his team have promised me a mind blowing Italian meal the next time I set foot on their soil.

Miro draws colours from breath taking colored sunsets to the serene colours of the alps. I loved so many of his art pieces tonight….the more subdued ones of course without the glitz. My favourite pieces include the Oro Tagliente (mixed media with crystal dust), I grandi bottoni which is with crystal dust and gold foil and Senza Ali with the horses. While his paintings cost mostly over 100,000 dirhams, it is worth every penny.

I have the most beautiful catalogue of his latest work if anyone wants to have a look… was a short evening as I left by 8.30pm but one that was well worth the visit. 

Oh Sydney!!!!!

Amongst my top 3 cities to visit (after Paris and San Francisco) has to be Sydney. The Mediterranean climate, architecture, walks along the Sydney Harbour, the outdoor life and most of all the cool Pacific people just sometimes make me want to pack my bags and run there. This is aside from the fact that my daughters godmother is permanently based there and a quarter of my family members and friends from school are scattered all over the city – it is always a pleasure to catch up with them.

Sydney is where I aim to stop over everytime I go back home to Fiji. The city’s beauty provides immense indulgent pleasure just by being there and I reckon its because one can be unpretentious and just chill with whatever is most comfortable to each and its all cool. While I lived in KL, it was easy to get there via Singapore (They had the most comfortable flights at that time) although last month I went with Emirates and it was not too bad. (My daughter still raves about the Emirates A380 Business class cabin to whoever will stop and listen – she cant get over the fact that there is a place to lounge at the back while to me it looks like a glorified bar – I’d rather be horizontal on their nice seats watching ICE). But then she is ten times the diva that I am and appreciates the VIP Emirates hospitality and comfort based services a lot more than I do.

My daughter loves  Sydney as much as I do…the chocolates, the weather and the fact that even at the airport we can have a spa session together. We spent 2 hours in August at the airport spa waiting for our flight instead of the lounge. I recall a few years ago when we were cold and chilly walking down the streets near Sydney Harbour while she was giggling away because the temperature was different for her and she loved it. She couldn’t wipe the smile off her face as we took a cruise with the Sydney Opera House in view.

Australians love the sea….so if you are into watersports, you can consider yourself being in heaven with like minded individuals. The food is awesome and the city is vibrant in every way you can imagine. You just have to walk and get into the smaller streets off the beaten track to discover the true hidden gems.

Speaking of gems, no visit to Sydney is complete without buying Opals. Like diamonds and pearls, getting an exquisite pendant or opal earrings is awesome. My daughter has already told me she is inheriting all my opals….as long as she does not kill me early to get it, I guess I am cool with that.

If you are a shopaholic, markets in Sydney are awesome. Plus get to the area with the IMAX theatre (wish I could remember the name of the place)….it is superb for walks and people watching. If you have kids, get to Taronga Zoo and Sydney Aquarium and your kids would love you to bits. As for me…I shall stick to Bondi Beach, the Opera House and the boutiques 🙂

The Glitz & Glamour of Los Angeles

The first time I went to Los Angeles was purely for my daughter’s sake heading straight to Disneyland on arrival – I’m not sure who enjoyed Disneyland more, the husband or the child. After that it was a lot more of a grown up holiday as I don’t particularly enjoy kids stuff and my last 2 trips to LA was on my own…must find my inner child for my daughter’s sake.

So what’s nice about Los Angeles…plenty actually. There’s endless fun stuff to do in every part of the city. Who doesn’t love Hollywood – one can walk on the footsteps of the legends and be inspired. Universal Studios and the Arts District are particularly great places to go. I cant remember much about Warner Brothers Studios or if we ever made it to the Palladium so will have to dig through my daughters photos to go down memory lane on that one.

Downtown is equally interesting with great cinemas, the music centre, museums etc. On one visit I was luckily to be there as the same time as AAM (American Association of Museums) conference so was able to do tours of all the museums in LA in the evenings as part of the event. Other than science centres, I did like the Torrance Cultural Arts Centre that has inspired me to one day have my very own Japanese Garden. I would love to see a performance at Walt Disney Concert Hall, Ahmanson Theatre or the LA Opera which I’m told shows Puccini’s Madame Butterfly.

I was never interested in the Madame Tussauds wax museum…prefer meeting real people although I did have a bit of fun in Vegas (check my pic with Whoopi Goldberg on twitter) when walking towards Venetia and I must say that coming across Johnny Depp on Fisherman’s Wharf San Francisco was nice…even though he was all waxed up :).

For evening drives in LA suburbs, my favourite places include Brentwood (my friends who live there describe it as paradise), Robertson Boulevard, Malibu, Santa Monica and San Fernando. I found the people at San Pedro dodgy because a few kept touching my skin as though it was the most exotic soft thing they’ve come across. After the fifth time, I jumped in the car and left the Maritime Museum to avoid the creepiness.

It was interesting to see that Mexicans were treated like God….everyone loved their food, clothes and culture etc. The South Americans were treated like dirt and as low class citizens…they were the maids, waiters, prostitutes and street sweepers. I was hoping I would pass off as a Mexican and be treated like a goddess 🙂 . Although I do love the Brazilians too and would love to go to Peru one day….my only 2 bucket list spots in that part of the world are Rio de Janeiro & Peru.

I was told most North Americans find that the presence of poor South American nationalities lead to increase in crime and prostitution that makes most North Americans look down on people from places like Uruguay, Argentina and Bolivia. Naturally I made sure the LA peeps knew I was an exotic Fijian so got treated like a diva instead.

I missed visiting the LA library which I’m told as a Literary MA student I should have made a priority. Apparently the building has Egyptian style architecture and has amazing literature books. If you love the hustle bustle, don’t miss the California Plaza, the Venice Ocean Front Walk and Griffith park. I didn’t have time to do much retail therapy because of trying to take it all in, driving from one place to another but I’m sure shopping in LA is a lot of fun. My friend and ex colleague Siew keeps harping about The Grove, Glendale galleria, Beverly Center and Montana Avenue – she’s a HOT LA model so she knows a thing or two about fashion. Must compare this with the fashion scene in Paris.

If you  are into cuisine and like pasta (my sister still makes fun of me wanting pasta in LA), Matteo’s Restaurant is an LA institution. I still cant imagine why she ridicules me on this as the pasta there was WOW! Anything Mexican is fabulous and I love the seafood at Kendall’s (this was introduced to me by a make up artist to the Hollywood stars and I was not disappointed). One day I will listen to her advise and actually stop at the Farmers Market for tapas and other world cuisine. Hopefully I will find a travel companion whose appetite for fine cuisine matches mine. Speaking of tapas, I must at some stage write about Spain.

Whatever the case, I feel that driving from one attraction is the best way to see LA – you can really spend time at venues that appeal to you without the worry of having to catch a tour or worrying about transport when exploring the suburbs.