7 new Gulf short films to get noticed

Gulf Film Festival Shereen Shabnam

After watching heaps of romantic comedies, I have now expanded my genres into short films and documentaries thanks to the inspiration from local film makers and DIFF. The great news is that Enjaaz, the post-production support programme, and Image Nation Abu Dhabi have announced a collaboration that will see them joining forces to further support the region’s filmmakers in developing their own voices and taking their place in the international film community.

The move to strengthen the support for the production of Gulf short films was launched in 2011 between the Gulf Film Festival and the Dubai Film Market’s Enjaaz programme supporting 4 projects last year, and together with Image Nation Abu Dhabi will support 7 films from the 2012 Enjaaz cycle with the mission of bringing these projects to the big screen. This is the first time Image Nation Abu Dhabi and the Gulf Film Festival have pooled resources and funds with the common goal of supporting filmmakers from the Gulf towards the completion of their short films and further develop a sustainable film industry in the region.

The seven selected projects will see the filmmakers awarded up to $50,000 per project in production funds and access to a wealth of experience and guidance from Image Nation Abu Dhabi.  The Enjaaz projects include: Fragrance of the Dead from Bahraini writer Farid Ramadan and Iraqi director Emad Ali Abbas, Cholo written and directed by Munza Musafer from Oman, Don’t Leave me Behind from Emirati writer Yousef Ebrahim and director Khalid Al Mahmoud, The Crucified from Qatari writer and director Khalid Al Mahmoud, Cotton by Iraqi writer and director Loay Fadhl, Ambulance Driver written and directed by Hadi Mahoud and Our Screens written and directed by Mohammed Tawfik both from Iraq.

The projects Cotton, The crucified and Cholo were all selected through the Gulf Script Market for Short Films, an initiative that was launched in 2012 to raise the profile of the Gulf’s scriptwriters, assist them in fine-tuning their scripts and form partnerships with directors and producers. ..a lot to look forward to film buffs in the region 🙂

Stay safe with 2013 Nissan Altima

Nissan Altima Shereen Shabnam

I finally checked out a Nissan Altima at Al Awir last weekend….briefly… but it gave me a taste of what the car felt like. The 2013 Nissan Altima added another award to its trophy case with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) “Top Safety Pick Plus” designation, which recognizes passenger vehicles for excellent performance in five passenger safety tests.

Starting with 2013 models, IIHS introduced more stringent criteria and requirements to include the “Top Safety Pick” front, side, rollover and rear crash tests, as well as the newly added small overlap frontal test. The Altima scored well for each of these tests, adding the “Top Safety Pick Plus” award to the five-star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s New Car Assessment Program.

The Nissan Altima is equipped with a variety of standard safety features, including the Nissan Advanced Air Bag System, driver and front-passenger seat-mounted side-impact supplemental air bags, roof-mounted curtain side-impact supplemental air bags, Vehicle Dynamic Control, 3-point ALR/ELR seat belt system, LATCH System (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children), zone body construction with front and rear crumple zones and Tire Pressure Monitoring System with Easy Fill Tire Alert, which sounds the car horn to notify a person filling a tire with air when the recommended tire pressure has been reached.

Available features include next-generation Safety Shield technologies, including Blind Spot Warning, Lane Departure Warning and Moving Object Detection systems using an innovative single rear camera.

Celebrate Prophet Mohammad’s birthday with ‘Journey to Mecca’ at Meydan IMAX

Ibn Battuta Shereen Shabnam

After seeing ‘Journey to Mecca’ 4 times…. first in Kuwait, San Francisco, Singapore and in UAE, I am once again ready to view this amazing movie at Meydan IMAX this weekend….the timing is perfect as we have a long weekend and the subject so relates to what most people will be celebrating as they mull over the life and times of our Holy Prophet (SAW).

Now most of you think that I must have been married to Ibn Battuta in my past life seeing how he creeps into my life in one form or another. First it was doing the PR of Ibn Battuta Mall when our octopus team pretty much lived and breathed the man’s life…I recall hunting in my car one day a modern-day Ibn Battuta who was tracing the journey of Ibn Battuta himself…..I found him near what is now DFC and dragged him for some filming on site at the mall that was named after his hero. Thereafter I had to drop him in the exact same spot so that he could stay true to the journey and the footsteps of the real Ibn Battuta.

Then I end up working for MTE, the genius company behind the concepts, designs and implementation of the Ibn Battuta Mall …having to promote the mall via PR meant that Ibn Battuta was often part of the reason I woke up late nights trying to find ways to hook the media into writing about him and the mall and within the story talk about the amazing job our team did to get the mall done on time.

Now, I am going to take little diva to see ‘Journey to Mecca’ with the hope of educating her about Ibn Battuta, the famed 14th century Moroccan traveler and the man who I keep talking about in relation to my work.

Ibn Battuta left his native Tangier in 1325 on an epic journey to Mecca, the holy city where Muslims go for pilgrimage (every time I see the movie, I realize its about time I made that journey). Returning 29 years later, Ibn Battuta had covered more ground than Marco Polo and had many adventures which he noted down in his famous travel books, The Rihla, at the instigation of the Sultan of Morocco.

Journey to Mecca is an IMAX® documentary that tells the adventurous story of Ibn Battuta and shows a close-up look at Mecca, the city that draws over three million Muslims from around the world every year who go there to perform Hajj.

On the occasion of Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, IMAX at Meydan is commemorating this joyous day by bringing back Journey to Mecca, to show Ibn Battuta’s travels across the sands of time.

Join him if you are in Dubai on his adventures and find out more about the greatest traveler of pre-modern times as he embarks on a cross-cultural journey. Shows are on January 24th to 26th, exclusively at the Meydan IMAX Theatre.

Fifty Years of McLaren

McLaren...how sexy are cars :)

McLaren…how sexy are these cars 🙂

Friends have pointed out last week to me that I have not talked about cars much recently but due to not being stable and rooted in Dubai, its been hard trying to write as my business trips mean back to back meetings and then collapsing in bed with the computer on my tummy, sometimes with just the headline of a blog typed out.

No sooner I realized that I was losing touch and perhaps getting old, the words of a 27 year old Bruce McLaren popped at me saying ‘Life is measured in achievement, not in years alone.’

When Bruce McLaren penned those words in 1964, his new company, Bruce McLaren Motor Racing Ltd, was less than a year old. In those days, Bruce’s vision was shared by fewer than half a dozen loyal souls, who slogged across the world to race his self-made cars…he was a lucky man with people working with him who believed in him and he did not let them down for the McLaren brand we know today has certainly come a long way.

These days, the McLaren Group employs more than 2000 people, all of whom still share Bruce’s ideals of combining sportsmanship with solid engineering practice and cutting-edge technical expertise.

In September this year, the McLaren Group will celebrate its 50th anniversary….i know it’s a long way away in this diva’s perception of time but I was so taken by Bruce’s words, I just had to write about him, the brand and absorb his philosophy and thought on the fact that perhaps I should not base the success of my life based on years alone but measure it with what I have achieved…although sometimes I feel Tash being a graceful 12-year-old is my one and only big achievement as I get the most joy from her in all aspects of my life.

Going back to McLaren…If we were to follow Bruce’s words to the letter, there’d be little time for recollection, but on the eve of the brand’s half-century, the McLaren team are looking and reviling at the achievements built up in the indelible shadow of their founder.

I am told by sources that the echoes of the brand’s past will reverberate with a series of unique events and celebrations to be held across the anniversary year. ..maybe the scintillating moments with McLaren will help me forget that 2013 in my books means hitting the big 40… I wonder if I should celebrate my big day and a shiny little number from McLaren so that I only have eyes for the sexy looking mean machine and not the wrinkles around my deep intense eyes worrying about what the big 40 holds for me.

Tiffany ushers Lunar New Year with Elsa Peretti’s Brilliant Snake Necklace


Photo Credit: Josh Hasten


For my friends who cringe every time they see my Roberto Cavalli mother of pearl snake watch or my Swarovsky snake pendant….I have news for you. 🙂  To add to the collection, Tiffany & Co., has now announced that the Year of the Snake will be ushered in with Elsa Peretti’s daring and provocative snake necklace.

Although most of my friends get freaky when they see a snake nestling on the base of my neck…looking sensuous as though its slithering every time I move, I absolutely love it…the way it looks, the way it becomes a talking point for people I meet who I don’t know and the fact that it is different…and I like being different.

Back to Tiffany & Co…Their snake necklace typifies Elsa’s unique approach to natural forms that revolutionized modern design and placed her among the world’s most honored jewelry designers.

Working with master craftsmen, she captured the snake’s elegant movements with a series of graduated links handcrafted in 18 karat gold. Smooth and sculptural, the necklace beautifully complements the body’s contours. This sensual quality is a signature of her renowned collections, which debuted at Tiffany & Co. in 1974 and were met with instant acclaim.

Now as then, women around the world collect and wear her jewellery for its ease and versatility. Wrapped in the Tiffany Blue Box®, an international symbol of excellence, Elsa Peretti’s brilliant designs are the perfect choice for every gift-giving occasion in life…After all you can never go wrong with Tiffany. At least that’s what all women think…and women are always right!

George Classen impresses little diva at Burj Al Arab


NJD at Burj Al Arab checking out the art scene

NJD at Burj Al Arab checking out the art scene

Last Thursday I took little diva NJD to the Burj Al Arab to go through the world’s largest atlas plus get up, close and personal with the Aston Martin which is creating raves around the globe at the moment and to meet with Kurt, who promotes amazing art in UAE through the initiative, Swiss Art Gate UAE. I have been to see the works of a number of artists Kurt has brought to the UAE and Tash and I both loved what we saw at the World Luxury Expo in Burj Al Arab where Kurt had a number of paintings on display by George Classen.

George Classen, born 1942 in Lübben/Berlin, an early devotee of Albrecht Duerer, started his first graphic exercises by copying the famous engravings of the old german master from Nuremberg at the age of 7. It did not take him long, though, to indulge in his very own imaginative ideas, which he up to the present time did not cease to cherish and refine even further unto its most sublime limits. He was inspired by brilliant artworks of Picasso, Klimt and other masters of that time, but well-considered not to copy them, but to transform the inspiring impact to his own, unique style.

At the age of 13 he discovered his second passion, classical music, which from then on continued to dominate his search for perfection in the visual arts. The premature death of his father, however, annihilated the dream of pursuing a professional career in music and so one passion passed into the other. His obsession with music is well reflected in his very individualistic approach to the structure of his visual compositions. Circumstances demanded George Classen to leave West-Berlin for Frankfurt in pursue of a family-supporting profession with an american airline, however, he never abandoned his prime aim to serve the fine arts.

Exhibitions in Frankfurt, Hamburg, Berlin and Munich encouraged the artist in the late seventies, to exclusively dedicate his time and talent to painting alone, which decision became substantially enhanced and supported by his wife Eva, who in turn guided him to seek out for new impulses, motivation and inspiration and advised him of his abilities and failings.  Upon Eva’s enthusing George about Canada, where few of her family members were living, their honeymoon led them there in 1979. This journey should become a deciding turning point in their life.

Classen, at this time calling himself as a nervous and unsettled person, has been befallen of an, by then never known – absolute peace of mind in the north of Ontario. He experienced, as he is naming it, an initial experience, which let both to relocate from the Isar to the Ontario Lake.  Classen sent photos to interested places, where they had been so enthusiastc about his skills, that they invited him to Toronto in order to make a test-exhibition at the First Canadian Place. This perfect and very lucrative place let the artist encouraged to keep on reforming his already unique style, which by now endures, unperturbed by mainstream influences, as his own.

George Classen’s passion for music let the Toronto Galerist Kuchinski to commission a great series of paintings representing scenes of the grand operas of Giuseppe Verdi under the title “Hommage to Verdi”. On November 9 in 1989, when the fall of the Berlin Wall symbolized a drastic change for the whole world, George Classen’s long time desire to go back to his very own cultural roots started to take shape and resulted to his return to Germany in 1991. However, his new cultural environment in the eleven years of stay in North America enriched his artistic development though never neglecting his origins of European culture and his passionate love for 19th and early 20th century classical music.

In 2003, a family case of illness led George Classen and his wife Eva, who was born there, to Wels/Austria. The planned few months ended up in a permanent stay up to now due to various successful exhibitions in offical places as well as in his several art studios where he experienced the acceptance of the public. His very special style, that can absolutely cast a spell on the audience can draw the attention of people from very different heritage.

It seems that nowadays, with his 69 years, George forfeit nothing of his energy and motivation. Classic music always on his side, of course. More information about the artist and his work:www.georgeclassen.at or if you are in the UAE, speak with Kurt…he is friendly, sweet and always has a bowl of swiss chocolates on hand as you look through the paintings…I reckon that’s why Tash was so keen on going back to look at the paintings again 🙂


Despite being known as a go with the flow laid back Islander who schedules her life on the hop, I am doing the unthinkable and making sure my entertainment schedule is booked and planned week’s ahead, thanks to the amazing line-up of shows being brought to UAE by the Meydan IMAX. In case you didn’t know, the Meydan IMAX Theatre is a unique Theatre in the Dubai landscape, as it offers a diverse program that dazzles a wide range of audiences. Located at the prestigious Meydan in Nad al Sheba, the Meydan IMAX Theatre is home to the largest screen in the Middle East & Asia.

Thanks to Afsana, who is a fellow member of the Business Women’s Group and the Partner/CEO of Meydan IMAX, I found out about what’s in store and learnt about Maria Stuarda, one of a number of operas by Donizetti that deal with the Tudor period in English history. In fact, the lead female characters of the operas Anna Bolena, Maria Stuarda, and Roberto Devereux are often referred to as the “Three Donizetti Queens”.

Never before performed at the Met, this second opera in the composer’s so-called “Three Queens” trilogy portrays the lethal conflict between Mary, deposed queen of Scotland, and Queen Elizabeth I of England. The opera’s dramatic heart is a confrontation between the two queens that never actually took place in history but that figures in the Friedrich Schiller play on which the libretto is based.

An exclusive broadcast not to be missed at Meydan IMAX! The Met Opera stages its first-ever production of the tragic opera, Maria Stuarda by Gaetano Donizetti – January 28, 2013 at 7:00pm (approximate running time: 195 minutes). The Metropolitan Opera is the world’s leading provider of alternative cinema content, is now shown in more than 1800 theaters in 54 countries, making the Met the only arts institution with an ongoing global art series of this scale….how cool is that?

If you would like to see this and would like to get AED50/- knocked off your ticket, call Meydan IMAX on 800 4629 and mention ‘Fijian Chick’.

Check out the Cast list below and enjoy the show 🙂

Conductor: Maurizio Benini, Production: David McVicar, Set Designer & Costume Designer: John Macfarlane
, Lighting Designer: Jennifer Tipton, 
Choreographer: Leah Hausman, 
Cast: Elza van den Heever (Queen Elizabeth I), Matthew Rose (George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury), Joshua Hopkins (William Cecil, Lord Burghley), Mathew Polenzani (Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester), Mari Zifchak (Jane Kennedy, Mary’s lady-in- waiting), Joyce DiDonato (Maria Stuarda)

Shereen Shabnam IMAX

Bahrain Science Centre Displays project of Shaikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa

Shereen Shabnam Sheikh Khalifa

As part of the “Bahraini Innovations” theme, Bahrain Science Centre is showcasing the inventions that are done by Bahrainis in the science and technology fields.

One of the showcases that is attracting attention at the Bahrain Science Centre is the car that was assembled in 2007 by His Highness Sheikh Khalid bin Hammad Al Khalifa. It all started out as a school project. The son of His Majesty King Hamad created a hand- made car with a difference as part of his grade 11 and 12 physics project at the Ibn Khuldoon National School. He designed and built the car with the help of physics teacher Ghassan Afiouni and specialist welder Abdul Qassim.

The car is a two-seater, manual transmission; vehicle has a 2.4 litre Toyota Hilux engine and chassis, welded together with the rear of a Cushman garden truck. It comprises mainly of shaped piping, giving it a unique look. The car has remote-controlled doors, which swing open at the press of a hand-held device and the doors close automatically. In place of a rear-view mirror there is a camera at the back of the car.

However, the engine is started with a standard ignition key. The whole body is made of safe thermal, laminated glass and chrome. The body and the engine are LED lit and there is an in-built television and DVD player. 18-inch chrome wheels and a ‘mounted’ spare wheel at the back enhance the car’s sporty looks. The sound of the “extremely silent” engine is muffled by a triple silencer system.

The Bahrain Science Centre is located in Building 334, Road 109, Block 801, Riyadh Avenue, Isa Town, Kingdom of Bahrain and can be contacted on 17686466.

World premiere to composition inspired by the Porsche 911 GT1 car


Cars and music….two things together that mean that I am usually not too far away or at least get a wind of…:). A new composition inspired by the famous Porsche 911 GT1 racing car was given its world premiere by the uncrowned kings of classical saxophone music in Dubai – I wasn’t there which means the event didn’t exactly have the diva touch but I thought since it is a unique combination of the two things I love so much, I just had to put my two cents worth in.

The world-renowned Raschèr Saxophone Quartet from Germany delivered their first public performance of the intriguing work with the title “Straßenversion” (‘street legal’ in English), in the second concert of The Score Classical 2013 series at Dubai’s Madinat Theatre at Souk Madinat Jumeirah. The title of the new composition stems from a desire by Joanna Marsh – a British composer currently residing in Dubai – to write a piece with a subject strongly linked to Dubai.

It is named after the “Straßenversion”, the road legal version of the Porsche 911 GT1 racing car built in 1997, and Marsh has dedicated the piece to Ferdinand Alexander Porsche, the designer of Porsches iconic 911, who died last year. The appearance of the Rascher Saxophone Quartet from Germany was a rare treat for Dubai music lovers. The quartet appears regularly at major concert halls around the world and has inspired over 450 composers to dedicate music to them….keep an eye out for them next time!

Intersec 2013 – I’m feeling safer than ever living in the UAE

I love living in UAE…it is I reckon the safest place in the whole world to be. There is no place I can think of that comes close to the safety and security this awesome country provides but it takes a lot of hard work to keep it this way by various industries. I feel so grateful when I hear of the UAE supporting exhibitions like Intersec because it reflects the importance the country gives to security to ensure we stay safe in every aspect of our lives….the authorities here have the latest technology available in the securities industry to keep it this way and Intersec is one place they find what is the best for all types of safety and security.

Intersec has played a major role in the last 14 years in reflecting the security industry worldwide. The exhibition and conference combines a strong international profile, with a huge regional impact. Intersec last year I remember showcased the latest technologies and apparatus in Commercial Security & Information Security, Aviation, Homeland Security & Policing, Fire & Rescue and Safety & Health….I hear this year is no different.

I met casually with some decision makers from Dubai Police and Civil Defence Authorities and we got chatting about video surveillance last week – I would have loved to have some sort of IP surveillance when my daughter was small and I had to leave her with a maid while I was at work…..I am sure most parents feel the same way about wanting to know that their loved ones at home are looked after well while they are out. Then of course there is the airport security…without this we could have all sorts of dodgy people coming into the country so having this as a top-notch priority is great. I am glad that this is also something we are able to take granted for in UAE … the reason we are so safe is because of the tight security measures that are in place at airports etc. There are many safety and security elements covered at Intersec that is superb and I hope this year is no different from last year which had some cool gadgets for home use.

Intersec takes place from 15 – 17 January 2013, at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre. I personally can’t wait to check it out, especially the video surveillance systems and IP surveillance systems so that I can keep a watchful eye on my house and car. Check details on the exhibition on website: www.intersecexpo.com