New respect for Samsung for helping Special Needs Students using New Technologies

It’s been ages since I last saw Isphana of the Al Noor Centre for Special Needs – she used to be a fellow member of the Business Women’s Group so catching up with her recently was literally a blast from the past in its true sense.

We were talking about the ipad craze and Isphana mentioned how Samsung products were now being integrated into Al Noor’s Centre curriculum to empower students with special needs and help them learn more easily. I always admired Isphana’s commitment to developing trans-disciplinary training programmes as this was something we always strived to do at the Juliett McCully Speech Training Centre in KL and was a hot topic when I was training in our Singapore Head office in 1999.

Isphana’s hard work in these areas thankfully is being recognised and I was delighted to hear that she was a few years ago the recipient of the Princess Haya Awards for Special Education as the Outstanding Special Needs Centre in the U.A.E.

Going back to Samsung Gulf Electronics and Al Noor Training Center for Children with Special Needs, Isphana mentioned how committed Samsung was to provide products focusing on enabling students to learn more easily by integrating Samsung’s technologies in classrooms. She has the support of Mr. Young Soo Kim, President of Samsung Gulf Electronics who in fact has committed taking the partnership with Al Noor one step further by integrating our technologies and products into the curriculum.

This integration will tap into the students’ inherent capabilities to help them reach their full potential with the hope to create specific applications in the future to suit each student’s needs….how remarkable is that.

As part of a new Memorandum of Understanding, Samsung will play a holistic role to support the Center’s cause. Under the ‘Samsung Hope for Children’ program, Samsung will donate 50 of its latest GALAXY Tabs and 15 of its newly-launched SLATE PC Series 7. The devices will be integrated in the students’ education curriculums to help them learn more intuitively. Samsung will also help raise funds for the organization through its Ramadan campaign and the Al Noor-Samsung Fun Fair. Additionally, Samsung has developed a volunteer program whereby its employees will have the opportunity to contribute their time to Al Noor.

What impresses me most is that through its dedicated efforts, Samsung will provide students with tools, technologies and resources that will empower them and give them equal opportunities to be an integral part of the community. Well done Samsung and congratulations to Isphana for her commitment to children with special needs.

Exciting new science centre to be launched in Bahrain

Children interacting at the new state-of-the-art Bahrain Science Centre

Bahrain’s Ministry of Human Rights and Social Development has appointed MTE Studios to run operations of the Bahrain Science Centre which is slated to open soon to public. Experts in Science Centre and Museums operations and management, the company has been awarded a two year contract for Commissioning and Operating the new state-of-the-art Bahrain Science Center (BSC). According to the Minister of Human Rights and Social Development, Fatima Al Beloushi, the science centre will fall under the Directorate of Family and Childhood Development in her Ministry, and will contribute to formal and non-formal science education and awareness programmes in Bahrain. Khalid Ishaq, Assistant Undersecretary of Community Development of Bahrain’s Ministry of Human Rights and Social Development said, “Importance of science centres to the community and education is undebatable. Our aim is to strengthen the science and technology culture of Bahrain by engaging young people, and their families, in activities that excite their interest in science, technology and engineering.” The Ministry has awarded a two-year contract to MTE Studios to develop the science centre. MTE Studios is a consultancy company that specializes in the conceptualization, design, development and operation of science centres, museums, visitor centres and other edutainment destinations. One of their most recent projects was the development of the Museum of Science and Technology in Islam at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia. Commenting on the appointment, Ishaq said, “We are excited to open the centre soon and collaborate with MTE Studios, whom we have identified as an experienced and valuable partner for our new Science Centre. We are confident that their extensive experience in operating Science Centre’s will help us achieve our goal in the accomplishment of social cohesion and attract the young generation towards science education and research. We look forward to the launch and success of the new centre.” “We are delighted to be awarded this contract as we believe that a science centre will contribute strongly to the Ministry’s social development programmes”, says the CEO of MTE Studios, Ludo Verheyen. “It has been shown worldwide that science centres are one of the most effective ways of bringing science and technology into the mainstream of society and strengthening a country’s science culture”, added Verheyen. Over 2 500 interactive science centres have been established in more than 90 countries worldwide, and they receive over 310 million visitors per year. 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 convey. The Bahrain Science Centre will be an active participant in this worldwide community of science centres. “Science centres play many important roles in society”, says Professor Mike Bruton, Director of Imagineering at MTE Studios and the Consultant Director of the new Science Centre. “These roles include promoting awareness of science and technology among the youth, families and adults, supporting the school curriculum in science, mathematics and technology, and creating a forum for public debate on topical science and technology issues.” School Groups will be formally invited to the Bahrain Science Centre from middle of April onwards. The target audience of the Bahrain Science Centre will be children as well as families and adults, and one of its most important roles will be to promote cross-generational learning between children and their parents and grandparents. The science centre will also endeavour to promote social engagement across different cultures as well as an ethos of lifelong learning.

Quirky Habits

Part of my miniature perfume collection

A friend walked into my kitchen, saw fridge magnets on two huge refrigerators in the kitchen and concluded that collecting magnets has to be my most quirky habit. Of course I didn’t tell her that I have two very big refrigerators in my kitchen not because I need them but the fridge magnets have to go somewhere and I couldn’t think of anywhere else creative to display them.

I’m sure plenty of friends have been been victims of this hobby of mine as I return armed with a bundle of fridge magnets from my travels. But fridge magnets are not all that I collect.

My biggest passion is collecting miniature bottles of perfume. I started this about 12 years ago fuelled further by Eric’s then habit of indulging me with whatever my heart desired and my heart still to this day desires cute little bottles of perfumes of all sorts. I have a collection already and continue adding to it while enjoying the more favourite scents.

Fridge magnets are still something I get wherever I go but miniature perfumes continue to be a passion that I love – I’m certainly glad that collecting Louis Vuittons and Jimmy Choos were very short lived addictions. Can you imagine if I continued that with the same vigour as I do collecting fridge magnets and miniature perfumes. I would feel very sorry for my smoking plastic card.

Funnily enough NJD has a habit of collecting stones for her memory chest…she does this without realising that every country we have been to, she has always returned with a stone which she forgets about afterwards as it lies around the house. As long as it does not translate into other kinds of stones like diamonds and emeralds which is very likely considering the diva qualities emerging from the little tyke, I shall keep mum about it…literally. I’m resigned to pick stones around the house with my mouth shut.

Lets just hope that there are no other quirky habits I have that I am not aware of…someone said I use the words ‘heaps’, ‘baby’, ‘sweetie’ ‘aye’ and ‘honeybunch’ way too much…does that count as a quirky habit too?

Fridge jumbled up is that?

Firdaws Fashion Show with Her Highness Medni Kadyrova

Last Saturday night I was a guest of The First Lady of the Chechen Republic, H.H. Medni Kadyrova, owner and founder of Firdaws Fashion House who is known internationally for her inner as well as outer beauty. 


The cool set up for the Fashion Show at Royal Mirage

H.H. Medni Kadyrova is a patron in the fashion world and believes in the importance of relentlessly polishing her own skills and those of all talented designers as the owner of the Firdaws Fashion House. She gets involved in the creativity process of the fascinating Firdaws collections from the onset – conception and designing – all the way through to the final touches including presenting breathtaking collections of art, which reflect the true Chechen spirit and style.

Thanks to my dear friend Thoraya Al Awadhi, I was able to experience first hand the fashion show at the Royal Mirage in the presence of H.H.Medni Kadirova, high level diplomats, celebrities and designers from the region including the renowned designers Zuhair Murad and Walid Atallah. My favourite evening dress is by Zuhair Murad so I was kicking myself for not wearing that for this show as he would have been super proud of seeing his designs being worn for an event like this…and he is so nice and down to earth like Walid Attalah – absolutely adore him and his gorgeous wife.

The were unique masterpieces of evening gowns and dresses for all occasions designed in traditional yet modern Islamic motives showcased on the catwalk, celebrating the beauty and elegance of Arab women in an array of beautiful classical pastel colours.

The designs are hand made from the finest silk and chiffon fabrics, and decorated with semi precious stones and beads. The collection combined the precious Chechen traditions and culture with the elegance of modern Haute Couture, to appeal to the region’s highly sophisticated and elegant women. Two magnificent performances by Vainakh, the national dance ensemble and Mezhieva, a national singer of the Chechen Republic, entertained the audience adding a touch of the rich Chechen culture to the event.

The First Lady of Chechnya is also known for her generous support and continuous efforts  in  supporting mothers and children living in the Chechen Republic through the “Akhmad-Hadji Kadyrov Regional Non-Governmental Foundation”…another great personality doing CSR and she is to watch out for on the global fashion scene.

To wrap up this wonderful and colorful show, the famous and renowned Lebanese singer Najwa Karam, wowed the audience with her astonishing voice, while celebrating the success of the inspiring Firdaws Fashion Show….i enjoyed the show but I wish it was Amr Diab performing instead of Najwa Karam…maybe I’m just very biased in my choice of music.

One of the designs

With H.H Sheikha Hind Al Qassimi of the UAE Business Women Council


With H.H Sheikha Hind last night

One of the nicest people I meet regularly through my local foster family is H.H Sheikha Hind Al Qassimi, Chairperson of the UAE Business Women Council so it was awesome to renew contact with her again last night with Sahar Madani, President of the Diplomatic Ladies in Dubai at the opening of Madi International’s new showroom.

As we know very well as women, Madi International is one of the Middle East’s leading distributors of internationally reputed professional salon Furnishing, beauty equipment and beauty Brands for Salons, Spas, Beauty Centers and Beauty Clinics – we come across the name every time we go to a salon or spa in the UAE.

The opening of Madi International’s biggest showroom was done by H.H Sheikha Hind Al Qassimi and Sahar Madani, both amazing and friendly women who continuously inspire me with their energy. I caught up with Sahar 2 weeks ago when Princess Ameerah was visiting for the dinner Sahar organised for women empowerment and its awesome to see her getting involved in all industries relating to women and organising events that we have all come to love as women living here.

With Sahar Madani, President of Diplomatic Ladies, Dubai

Naturally we were overwhelmed by Madi International’s new showroom – Mohammed Madi told me its  spread across a whopping 9,000-plus square feet and showcases all the leading beauty brands in hair care, skin care, nail care, make-up, salon & Spa furniture and equipment, among others. It truly is a one-stop-shop destination which caters exclusively to the beauty and wellness needs of consumers from the latest collections and styles  available.

As I was rushing out to a Chechen fashion show by Firdaws with another role model of mine, Thoraya Al Awadhi, I couldn’t meet Adnan Abou-naaj, GM of Madi International to ask him about the new identity of the company that makes the stores look vibrant with a more dynamic brand image. As a PR chick, I am interested to see how this was evolved from what they had before. Maybe next time.

All I can say is that from what I saw in the showroom, the UAE women are in for a treat the next time they venture out to beauty salons, clinics & spas that take on Madi products as they look awesome. My personal favourite is the black leather reclining chair for the hair wash – check it out. 🙂

Mohammed Madi opens his showroom with H.H Sheikha Hind Al Qassimi and Sahar Madani

Healing Juices….make it a habit

My first encyclopedia of healing juices that I've lent to many friends for inspiration and ideas

One of the healthiest things I started 2 years ago inspired by a book and my hydrotherapist was starting my mornings with juicing.

Armed with a juicer and an encyclopedia on juicing, I also encouraged my near and dear friends to follow suit and now its great to see them wake up every morning and juice the life out of various fruits and vegetables.

Its a legacy I’m leaving my closest friends and family so that even if they are far from me or travelling, I shall always be on their mind as the one who inspired them to take juicing seriously as an everyday habit.

My favourite combination for the morning juice is a mixture of carrots, cucumbers, celery, apples, ginger, orange and beetroot.

Couple of weeks ago I stayed at Shangri-La Qaryat Al Beri and to my delight, a mobile juice cart came to my table at Sofra restaurant on both mornings and the waiter had a long chat with me about different combinations he does for guests as well. His recipes were awesome.

On my birthday I went to the Dubai Shangri-La for a chilled out breakfast and was thrilled to see they also started a juice station which I looked forward to the next morning…they made some delicious smoothies as well as power juices.

There are so many benefits of juicing. I also bought my baby sister a juicer last year which I hope she’s using.

Here’s to a healthier and vibrant lifestyle with juicing and to friends and family who will always be bound by this tradition.

Artesian Water takes top position

Weekend indulgence - ice-cream with FIJI water

A bizarre phone call from a middle aged woman left me smiling today asking what makes FIJI water one of the purest form of water on the planet (I’m getting close to 40 soon so I guess that would make me middle aged too although I like to think 40 is the new 20 and I’m just about to start my life with gusto).

Anyway, it was to ask if FIJI water really did keep you looking young and what was the big deal about artesian waters and the obsession by Hollywood stars to bee seen with one. Now I am no authority on waters but I have a penchant for enjoying FIJI Water because it reminds me of home and it has silica in natural form as well as Acqua Panna which also tastes so awesome.

The high rate of silica in Fiji Water supports the biological processes of the body. Silica is presented as regulating body temperature, carrying nutrients and oxygen to cells, helps remove waste from the body, dissolves nutrients and minerals, cushions joints and protects organs and body tissues. So its more for health reasons although I find that my skin has over the last 3 years improved heaps from drinking more water that happens to be mainly FIJI.

While most people in Dubai like Perrier or San Pellegrino, I merely put up with it because it happens to be available in most restaurants. I also like local water but when I have a choice, I always go for FIJI or Acqua Panna instead of Evian, Perrier or San Pellegrino.

I drink Acqua Panna more for the fresh revitalising taste and FIJI for beauty/health purposes. I recall getting a frantic call from a hotel asking where they could get Fiji water supplied for a Hollywood celebrity coming to Dubai as they risked losing the booking if they couldn’t supply FIJI water in the room. I pointed them to NTDE and started investigating why water from my country was such a HOT stuff amongst celebrities and I’m glad I did as now I’m sold into drinking FIJI water whenever I can.

According to US Food and Drug Administration FDA studies, FIJI’s artesian water comes from deep within the earth and never comes in contact with the air. (In fact, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, water from artesian aquifers often is purer than other water sources because the multiple strata of rock and clay provide a critical protective shield against potential contamination.)

In the case of FIJI Water, natural artesian pressure forces the water up and into a completely sealed bottling system, which has been designed to eliminate any contact with the environment….i guess that makes it super pure but whatever the case….I’m sticking to FIJI water and Acqua Panna and if it keeps me looking upbeat, young and energetic, then that’s a bonus!

Corvette UAE Club (CUC) Pre summer drive


My drive today was in a red Corvette (Fahad's)- part of the CUC entourage

Today was an awesome day for NJD and me. After a leisurely breakfast with sweet Sakina and my weekend grocery shopping, I joined other Board members, Corvette drivers/owners at the Ibn Battuta Mall for our quarterly leisure drives that usually ends with a dinner at the Yas Island or Courtyard Mariott.

In the past we have done mostly Abu Dhabi drives in conjunction with Road safety campaigns, no phones while driving campaign etc but today was a low key event which made it nice and cosy. NJD joined Osama in his new black Corvette with red motifs while I joined Fahad in beautiful red one – I have to say we missed Hamad this time as I am usually his co-driver/passenger as well as our past race track driver Al Falasi, his wife Shamma and little Khalifa.

Of all the leisure/networking groups I am a member of, I find CUC the most tight knit as a family…all the members watch out for each other and I’ve always felt super protected and respected with the same level of comfort I would have with my close family members. In that way it stands out hence the reason I make extra effort to be part of the Club’s events. Today we skipped having police escorts we normally arrange so the route was a lot more flexible. We had fun at Atlantis as the entourage became the hottest attraction amongst the throng of weekend visitors and tourists who became camera happy as the cars passed by.

We toured to Madinat after Atlantis and then to Dubai Marine International Club where a photoshoot of the cars/members took place against the backdrop of yachts and the clear blue waters of Dubai. At DIMC, a London chick started jumping up and down as I got out of the car to pick NJD and she started screaming she had never seen so many nice cars all at once and almost mobbed me. It was a hilarious sight and it took me a while to realise she was probably a newbie in Dubai who in a Barasti influenced mellow state got a bit overwhelmed seeing so many Corvettes in one place and wanted to be  friends + go for a ‘drink’. (I can be ‘duh’ at times). Naturally I didn’t have the heart to tell her she didn’t remotely come close to the quality of friends I would choose to be associated with and I certainly didn’t wanna hang out with her at Barasti with my child – first impressions do count!

Anyway, thanks to Christian, a superb chef and one of our members since we first began, the drive finished at Courtyard Marriott with a dinner that was organised by Christian’s team. I skipped dinner for another event that in true diva style I overlooked in favour of Russell Peters & Once upon a time. (I am becoming a TV series addict in my old age).

I’m sure I’ll go to bed smiling today as I had an awesome time with Sakina, NJD, old friends from the Corvette family and packing in loads of laughs from Russell Peters with a bit of fairy tale drama. And it feels awesome to be part of a club that started out as a CSR initiative to educate super car owners on safe driving, be part of events for children with special needs and in the process has become part of a family where members look out for each other. CUC is yet another reason why I love being in the UAE so much.

Corvette Line-up at DIMC

Plastic money – prepaid provides relief

Over a meal recently an old friend Anu who I met through the Business Women’s Group gave me an overview on what she’s working on and it happened to be a seminar focussed the inaugural Middle East Prepaid Awards organised alongside the third Prepaid Summit Middle East.

It is apparently an area that is increasing rapidly and as a consumer, I myself now prefer prepaid cards – whether its for phone or my internet USB flash key. I also decided to give my 11year old a prepaid credit card to buy apps for her ipad 2 and this was only possible because my bank had started a bling card that can be used by kids easily (Naturally I have had multiple heart attacks at the beginning when this chick thought using a card meant she could go crazy with it without mumsy knowing – but all the transactions came to my email and I soon put a stop to young NJD being plastic happy).

Apparently loads of banks and retailers were involved in the summit that was held at Westin. From AlShaya and Ibn Battuta gift cards to travel cards, it seems like the industry is going crazy over safe, controlled plastic money.

The inaugural Middle East Prepaid Awards was presented in association with Visa Inc, and recognised the most outstanding and innovative organisations and individuals operating within the industry when it came to prepaid cards…all I can say is that I’m glad my little tyke has plastic money with a limit on it or else I just can’t handle dealing with the expenses of another diva within the same house.

Treasures of the World’s Cultures

Diva just received an invite to Treasures of the World’s Cultures, second in a series of exhibitions that paves the way to realising Abu Dhabi’s cultural vision and the opening of the Zayed National Museum.

Bringing life to elements of human history dating back 2 million years, the exhibition highlights examples of ‘buried treasure’ and recent artworks from around the world. I’m told the exhibition connects historical and modern cultural perspectives through one visual experience.

As a self proclaimed culture vulture,(I’m not just a fluffy chick obsessed with Romantic comedies only afterall), it would be interesting to see historic objects from across the world, including Africa, the Middle East, Europe, Asia, Oceania and the Americas, plus items from the Modern World.

Organised by Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority in collaboration with the British Museum, Al Ain National Museum and Sharjah Archaeology Museum, I’m glad to hear it will be at Manarat Al Saadiyat until July 17th – all I have to do now is organise the latest car launched in the market to be at my disposal for a weekend so I can go test it by cruising around Abu Dhabi and get to see this exhibition.

A number of talks and panels will take place to complement Treasures of the World’s Cultures. First of the series, on 18 April, will feature Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, who will explore the highlights of the exhibition and reveal some of the extraordinary stories they evoke… Diva reckons you should put it in your diary if you are in Abu Dhabi that day.