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women entrepreneurs

Dubai’s Magnificent Mumpreneurs

As we celebrate Mother’s Day in the UAE, we meet 3 fabulous, family-focused entrepreneurs to talk babies, business, and building more than just a brand…

When it comes to entrepreneurship, the UAE has always been a a hotbed of activity – chock-full of incredible women launching their own businesses day in, day out. But with the events of the past year impacting drastically on all aspects of life, more women than ever have before have been encouraged to take firmer control of their career path and start out on their own, juggling the myriad roles of motherhood with nurturing a fledgling business. As we celebrate UAE Mother’s Day, The Gaggler met three of Dubai’s incredible mumpreneurs to find out how they got started as a business owner, what it takes to be your own boss, and why they’ll never go back to the corporate world.

Q&A With Rachel Dowes

Co-Founder, Beyond Wellness

Q

TELL US WHAT YOU DO?

A

Beyond Wellness offers a 360-degree mind, body, and spirit experience for individuals and corporate entities, including wellness retreats in the UAE, the Maldives, Bali, and beyond – promoting physical, mental, and spiritual wellness.

Q

WHAT CAME FIRST? THE BABIES OR THE BUSINESS?

A

You could say the business gave birth to the babies! Having worked in the fashion world for many years, I suffered the health consequences of the stress and responsibility of corporate life, and unfortunately during that time, suffered multiple miscarriages. You could say these experiences ‘opened me up’. I said to myself “Something has to give – and what can I do to help others who are struggling?” This is where Beyond Wellness was born, and I made the transition into wellness and the start of my own journey from infertility to having a family of three. I believe that to be a mind, body, spirit philosophy, and something I now teach at our retreats.

Q

HOW DO YOU MANAGE BEING A BUSY MUM, WIFE, AND ENTREPRENEUR?

A

As a busy working mum of two boys aged 2 and 5 years (and with a third now on the way) life certainly isn’t slow! With the challenges of Covid on top of this, homeschooling and the like has definitely added an extra layer of stress. Meanwhile, we’ve enjoyed more time together as a family, and I’ve loved having the opportunity to see my children learning and growing as their school teacher would have done. We’re also blessed to have the help of a wonderful nanny at home, so we certainly can’t complain, and with the children going back to school, the light at the end of the tunnel is truly in sight! 

Q

WHAT’S THE BEST THING ABOUT BEING YOUR OWN BOSS?

A

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that time with our children is truly sacred and precious. While I was in the corporate world, I missed out on time with my children – now I can plan my days around them. As a mumpreneur I’m now able to drop them at school, collect them from school and be present with them. This makes me happier and more productive. In addition to that, as a business owner, no day is ever the same, and I get to do what I genuinely love!  

Q

HOW HAS YOUR MUM INFLUENCED YOU AS AN ENTREPRENEUR?

A

My mum was a school teacher, and always taught both myself and her students to follow our dreams. When she saw me burning out in the corporate world, she was the one behind me, spurring me on to pursue my passion in women’s wellness. With her support, I qualified in Clinical Hypnotherapy and Psychology, all whilst holding down a full time corporate job. Juggling all of those things, I slowly made the transition into founding my own wellness practice. Since then, I haven’t looked back.

Q

DO YOU THINK MORE MUMS HAVE LAUNCHED THEIR OWN  BUSINESS VENTURES SINCE COVID-19 HIT?

A

Absolutely! I’ve seen a number of mums starting up businesses during the pandemic who have been hugely successful in a short time. So despite all the disruption and uncertainty, it certainly isn’t all doom and gloom. Those who can see opportunities, whether by going online or offering services tailored towards stress and anxiety, can reap great financial rewards and personal fulfilment by knowing they are doing their bit to help. For Beyond Wellness, while that meant we had six months where we weren’t able to run retreats, our online business skyrocketed; with demand for one-to-one coaching, meditation and hypnotherapy sessions at an all time high. As well as this, we’ve recently seen huge interest in our short-haul retreats. 


Q&A With Lama Jammal Houssami

Founder, Mamalu Kitchen and Eazy Freezy

Q

WHAT’S THE BEST THING ABOUT BEING YOUR OWN BOSS?

A

Running everything on my own time. And time for me is so precious – so yes I might work until midnight, but then the next day I know I can take my kids to school with no stress, or pick them up because no-one is clock watching me. I also feel it doesn’t limit my creativity, and that’s so important to me – to feel as creatively free as I possibly can be, whenever I want to be. 

Q

WHAT’S THE USP OF YOUR BUSINESS?

A

For Mamalu Kitchen, it would definitely be the interpersonal experience and the energy. It’s really fun – we make cooking fun! We take care of the stuff that you don’t want to worry about when you’re learning to cook, like cleaning your dishes and chopping everything up…you just have to be there and enjoy yourself. For Eazy Freezy, it’s definitely the convenience factor…the fact that we provide great, home-cooked food that’s full of flavour and nutrients and that’s really good for you, but containing no preservatives. 

Q

WHAT’S IT LIKE BEING A MUMPRENEUR IN DUBAI?

A

It’s amazing to be a mumpreneur in Dubai – I genuinely think it’s the best place in the world to do it, because everything that’s in place here makes the whole process and the journey easier. So you’re able to have your own business, and be a hands-on mom, and be socially active, and work out – I feel that Dubai really facilitates that for you, whereas if you’re in Europe, or somewhere else, it’s a completely different story. It’s all about support. I have an amazing group of female friends that support me, and so that’s like my own tribe, and my husband is the most supportive human in my life.  I’m also a part of EAO – Entrepreneur’s Organization Accelerators, and now I’m a part of the Spinneys Incubators, which is an amazing business support system.


Watch the video: Interviews with Dubai’s magnificent Mumpreneurs


Q&A With Sara Chemmaa

Founder, Citron

Q

HOW DID YOU FIRST COME UP WITH THE IDEA FOR YOUR BUSINESS?

A

My son was always a fussy eater. When I introduced solids at six months, he never wanted to eat, and always refused food, which made it really hard for both him and us. At 18 months, he started nursery, and I had to pack a lunchbox for him. One day when I went to pick him up, his teacher told me that he was really upset because his water bottle had leaked, and got into his food, and he’d refused to eat anything. Very frustrated, I went straight to the stores and looked everywhere for a lunchbox with compartments that didn’t leak, but couldn’t find any, either online or on the shelves. So I spoke with a friend who had been producing goods in China for many years, and asked them to help me make this product that would make mealtimes for mummies and kids be stress-free and fun. And this is how it all started

Q

WHAT’S THE USP OF YOUR BUSINESS?

A

We have many, but the main one is that Citron products are designed by mums for mums. We learn from a kid’s experience of the product, and we build on that – every product is designed and tested with the help of our children. We also take great pride in our quality and material we use, ensuring all our products are safe for kids as well as working brilliantly.

Q

WHAT’S THE BEST THING ABOUT BEING YOUR OWN BOSS?

A

Being in charge of your own time! 

Q

HOW HAS YOUR MUM INFLUENCED YOU AS AN ENTREPRENEUR?

A

My mum always worked – she started as an employee for a large corporate firm  and switched to entrepreneurship afterwards. She taught me that resilience and not settling for average are the keys to success.

Q

IS THERE ENOUGH SUPPORT FOR MUMS STARTING OUT WITH THERE OWN BUSINESSES HERE IN THE UAE? IF NOT, WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE?

A

We have a wonderful support system in the UAE, and I feel very happy about the number of groups that are popping up to help mumpreneurs grow their business. I’m part of the Female Fusion group, as well as many Whatsapp groups, and I find these to be the best places to get information and guidance from other entrepreneurs. I also have a wonderful support system at home with my incredible husband, and my wonderful nanny, who I wouldn’t be able to do without.

Q

WHAT WOULD BE YOUR TOP TIP FOR ANY MUM CONSIDERING LAUNCHING HER OWN BUSINESS?

A

Understand your own, personal monthly needs, do a small market study, don’t go for niche products, try it out and then see how it goes – be brave!

*With very special thanks to Tania’s Tea House, Dubai.

Check out the world’s 7th Most Instagrammable cafe at www.taniasteahouse.com

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podcast dubai

5 Podcasts Defying Stereotypes about the Middle East

Headphones at the ready.


Considering the recent revival of hakawati, the ancient Arab art of storytelling, it’s no surprise that the podcast scene in the Middle East is booming. According to data released by markettiers MENA, there are 5.1 million regular podcast listeners in Saudi Arabia and a further 1.3 million regular podcast listeners in the UAE – numbers that are only rising as we speak. As for the podcasts that are helping defy stereotypes about the region on a global scale? Here are our favourites.

Bedouin’s Coffee Corner

Airing from the heart of the Middle East and hosted by Saudi journalist Sabal Almadi, Bedouin’s Coffee Corner is anchored in highlighting initiatives, progressive movements, and change-makers in the region. The episodes introduce local talents (photographers, designers, makeup artists, and more), helping fellow Arabs feel proud of their heritage and encouraging them to embrace their rich history. Simultaneously, the platform shines a light on the side of the Middle East that’s not seen in mainstream media, highlighting its cultural diversity while overcoming the most common prejudices around Arab culture. Win-win.

Listen to Bedouin’s Coffee Corner here.

Kerning Cultures

The first venture-funded podcast company in the Middle East, Kerning Cultures is also female-led, raising the bar for audio storytelling in the MENA region. Offering an alternative view on the Arab world, it spans the spectrum of what’s happening here and now – past episodes have explored the growing interest in K-pop in the region, racism towards black Arabs, the journey of Port of Mokha coffee from Yemen to a hipster coffee shop in America, and more. More recently, Kerning Cultures has signed with CAA, which will work with it to expand its projects into TV, film, and publishing.

Listen to Kerning Cultures here.

Pass The Kabsa

Twice a week, the three ‘Kabsa Boys’ sit down to discuss trends, pop culture, relationships, music, and current affairs – and virtually no topic is off-limits, resulting in raw and uncensored views about life in Saudi Arabia. Vocal about its mission to serve the culture and people of the kingdom, it encourages its audiences to embrace their thoughts and individuality in order to become leaders and help inspire change, never shying away from the problems faced by the country’s creative community. The result? Insights that are brutally honest with a side of humour.

Listen to Pass The Kabsa here.

Rep

Over two decades after 9/11, renowned journalist and activist Noor Tagouri has set out to examine the misrepresentation of Muslims in US media and how this impacts American culture through her recently launched podcast, Rep. A thoughtful investigation of our beliefs and understandings – and how they exist within the dynamic of politics, pop culture, and public opinion – it features well-known faces (Brother Ali and Huma Abedin included) alongside stories that are deeply personal to Tagouri’s family history, like the 1986 US air strike on Libya.

Listen to Rep here.

The Dukkan Show

One of the first podcasts to be launched in the MENA region, The Dukkan Show is the voice of Neo-Bedouins, exploring the concept of home and modern-day nomadism. Hosted by three third-culture kids, it’s also the first show globally to host a #TodayAtApple talk. Incidentally, the word ‘dukkan’ means shop in Arabic, resulting in a podcast inspired by the conversations held between friends as they hang out at their respective store stoops. As a result, everything from entrepreneurship and local events to hip-hop and motherhood are discussed in a manner that feels laidback and easily accessible.

Listen to The Dukkan Show here.

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Hidden Gems in Dubai

5 Hidden Gems Worth Exploring This Summer

Bonus: they’re all family-friendly.

Summer’s here, and schools will be closed before you know it, resulting in that all-too-familiar feeling of restlessness. But jetting off to a foreign destination isn’t always an option, which is why we’ve scoured the city of Dubai for a handful of hidden gems, each of which caters to all ages. Win-win.

1. Courtyard Playhouse

Courtyard Playhouse, Hidden Gems in Dubai

For those who think Dubai lacks culture, listen up. Independent theatre Courtyard Playhouse, located in Al Quoz, is where it all happens – acting classes, improv workshops, theatrical productions by amateur theatre groups, and more. Culture vultures will love National Theatre Live, an initiative by National Theatre to broadcast the best of British theatre live from the London stage to cinemas around the world. 

And as Courtyard Playhouse is a partner venue, past screenings have included the likes of Fleabag, Hamlet, and Hedda Gabler. The ultimate family-friendly offering, meanwhile, are the highly interactive Improvised Kids’ Storytime sessions held every Saturday. They’re especially popular amongst families as children aged 4-11 can get in on the action, volunteering on stage or directing the actions of the actors, resulting in a wonderfully whimsical afternoon every time.

Visit www.courtyardplayhouse.com for more information.

2. TheJamJar

It’s no secret that art is easily one of the best ways to express oneself – or just a great way to while away the hours during summer. Enter: thejamjar, a community arts space rooted in supporting the development of Dubai’s arts scene through educational initiatives, community projects, and more. Tucked away in Alserkal Avenue, the studio hosts everything from guided DIY sessions to classes that cover drawing techniques and even workshops on connecting with your deeper self through art. 

Young ones, meanwhile, are welcome to attend the bi-weekly Jam Time sessions where anyone over the age of four can paint for two hours together and take home the artworks. And if your kids are even younger? Opt for Toddlers Artsploration, which serve as bonding sessions between toddlers (ages 1-3) and their guardians while helping them develop their motor skills.

Visit www.thejamjardubai.com for more information.

3. History of Cinema Museum

History of Cinema Museum, Hidden Gems in Dubai

To walk into the intimately sized History of Cinema Museum is to step into a world of mechanical wonders. A hidden gem in every sense of the word, it’s open by appointment only and discreetly located in Barsha Heights, chronicling the progression of visual entertainment from its inception to the advent of early cinema through a collection of over 300 antiques. 

The magic of the moving image comes to life through interactive exhibits that take visitors on a journey through time and technology – they can peep into an 18th century peep box or turn the reel of an early 20th century mutoscope to see the flicker effect. As for the rarest piece? A toy magic lantern with a 1001 Arabian Nights theme from Germany circa 1860. A guided tour, for obvious reasons, comes highly recommended.

Visit www.hocmuseum.com for more information.

4. Mirzam

Artisan chocolatier Mirzam offers so much more than its beautifully wrapped creations. Workshops and tours are also offered at its facility, so there’s always something to look forward to – like the Coffee & Cocoa Pairing Workshop, for example. This one’s a must for anyone who loves chocolate and coffee as it takes attendees on a sensory journey expertly pairing signature single-origin chocolates from its Maps collection with single drip V60 coffee from El Salvador, Brazil, and Ethiopia. 

And if restless kids are in the picture, we suggest booking the Chocolate Factory Tour & Custom Wrapper Making Workshop instead. Fun for all ages, the workshop allows participants to design their own wrappers, which they can then use to wrap their custom chocolate bar, followed by a  tour of Mirzam’s chocolate-making process.

Visit www.mirzam.com for more information.

5. Mazmi Café

Mazmi Café

While there is no shortage of memorable sunset spots across Dubai, Mazmi Café gets our vote for its backstory and location. Owned by an Italian woman and her Emirati husband, this seriously underrated destination is located in Old Dubai and serves up an honest snapshot of the city – especially as Textile Souk, Shiva Temple, and Grand Mosque are all in the vicinity. 

But it’s the must-try homemade gelato (flavours include stracciatella, saffron, and pistachio) that makes it popular with kids and adults alike. And because it sits at the edge of Dubai Creek, Mazmi is not only frequented by residents in need of a change of pace, but it also translates to endless photography opportunities. Incidentally, Mazmi also houses a three-room B&B, where Afghan fabrics, black-and-white photographs depicting fishing scenes, and coffee table books dominate the soothing aesthetic. 

Visit www.mazmi.me for more information.

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Packing Lists Hacks

Pack Happy: Your Summer Holiday Starts Here

A checklist for every vacation type.

Every day brings with it a hit of dopamine as more countries lift travel restrictions, whetting our appetites for adventure and kicking our summer plans into high gear. But exploring a new destination starts with one rather tedious aspect: making a packing list. Here, we do the legwork, putting together a list of tips and hacks by holiday type.

Beach

Packing Lists Hacks

You’re in dire need of some vitamin sea. We hear you. But whether you’re headed to Boracay, Bora Bora, or Zanzibar in search of palm-fringed beaches and crystalline waters, there are a few things to keep in mind.

  • You’ll need a beach bag, so use yours as a carry-on baggage
  • Reef-safe sunscreen 
  • A kindle packed with beach reads (why lug books around?)
  • Two to three pieces of swimwear
  • One or two cover-ups to take you from the beach to dinner
  • A light sweater for chilly evenings
  • Polarised sunglasses
  • A wide-brim sun hat
  • SPF lip balm
  • Flip-flops and a pair of dressy sandals
  • Wet wipes aplenty 
  • An after-sun hair product, like the multitasking Solar Sun Oil by System Professional

City

Summer Holiday Starts Here

City breaks bring with them a bit of everything – food, culture, art, history, and adventure, all in a matter of days. But first? A few packing reminders rooted in comfort and practicality.

  • A lightweight rain jacket
  • A handful of statement accessories
  • Comfortable sneakers
  • Light layers to dress according to weather changes
  • An anti-theft backpack
  • A power bank or portable charger
  • A travel document holder
  • Dresses – they’re light to pack and can be dressed up or down
  • A reusable water bottle
  • A lightweight travel camera
  • A portable WiFi device
  • Packing cubes

Cruise

Packing Lists and Hacks by Holiday Type

Taking a cruise is a great way to explore several new destinations without long layovers and having to pack and unpack multiple times. Bonus: someone else is responsible for all the planning.

  • Seasickness bands/patches
  • Eveningwear in case dinner comes with a dress code
  • A hanging toiletry bag with clear pockets
  • A backpack or beach bag
  • A travel-size wrinkle-release spray 
  • Necessary medication and a copy of your prescriptions
  • An international travel adapter
  • Destination-appropriate outerwear
  • A waterproof phone case
  • Activated charcoal tablets in case of food poisoning
  • Specialised attire for themed nights
  • Oh, and steer clear of the pineapple motif – it’s code for wife-swapping!

Safari

Going on safari is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and the memories you’ll make while wildlife-spotting are priceless. As for what you’ll need in the midst of a sprawling savanna? Read on.

  • Insect repellent
  • A wide-brim safari hat
  • Moisture-wicking clothing in neutral hues
  • Local currency for tipping and snacks
  • A lightweight scarf
  • Lightweight pants and long-sleeve shirts to prevent scrapes and mosquito bites
  • A utility jacket
  • Sturdy closed-toe shoes
  • A multitasking antiseptic, like Sudocrem
  • Proof of inoculations
  • Soft-shell luggage (hard-shell suitcases are banned on the small planes flying into the parks)
  • A sizable dry bag to protect your belongings from rain and mud

Skiing

 packing lists and hacks

Between the surge of adrenaline during the day and the après-ski traditions that follow, escaping the summer heatwave for powdery pistes is a no-brainer. Just be sure to follow these packing tips.

  • Resist the temptation to buy pricy ski equipment – rent instead
  • 1 to 3 waterproof ski jackets and pants
  • Thermal base layers and fleece layers
  • A non-cotton balaclava or ski mask
  • Goggles, ideally with changeable lenses for sunshine and low visibility
  • Bring your own ski boots, and roll up small clothing items inside them
  • Sunscreen and lip balm, both high in SPF
  • A daypack to carry all your essentials on the slopes
  • Windproof and waterproof gloves
  • Thick, moisture-wicking socks
  • An insulated flask for hot liquids
  • Disposable hand and foot warmers
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Travel Guide to Zanzibar

Spice Makes Nice on This African Archipelago

Your trip to Zanzibar starts here.

Sun-drenched shores, picturesque sunsets, and palm-fringed beaches blend seamlessly with chaos of the best kind – meet Zanzibar, an archipelago of four major and several small islands with charisma to spare. Located 35km off the Tanzanian coast, Unguja (more commonly known as Zanzibar) is the largest and most populated of these islands. And to say Zanzibar is the ultimate Indian Ocean experience is an understatement. 

Ride aboard a traditional sailing dhow, stop to admire weathered doors with intricate carvings, and explore the heady scents of the many spices that have earned Zanzibar its nickname, ‘Spice Island’. Here, diversity reigns supreme. The Assyrians, Egyptians, Indians, Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch, English, Omanis, and Shirazis have all been here, some settling down and marrying into local families – thus turning Zanzibar’s modern-day residents into true symbols of its colourful heritage.

Travel Guide to Zanzibar Island

Living History

Any trip to Zanzibar should be anchored in exploring Stone Town, its historical capital and the only functioning ancient town in East Africa. Located on the island’s central-west coast, its cobbled streets and crumbling 19th century architecture make it easy to see why it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. While you could simply stroll around its bathhouses, craft centres, mosques, and colourful backstreet markets at your own pace, a guided tour comes highly recommended for true insights into this traditional society – and tidbits that you would undoubtedly miss on your own. For example, Zanzibar’s iconic doorways are not only functioning works of art, but they’re also storytellers, revealing the origin, occupation, religious beliefs, and social status of their original owners.

The town has changed little during the past 200 years, and boasts a multitude of important architectural highlights. History buffs should start at the imposing Palace Museum. Once the official residence of the Sultan of Zanzibar, it was renamed the Peoples’ Palace following the revolution in 1964 and turned into a museum in 1994. Another defining feature is the Old Fort, the first defensive structure erected by the Omani Arabs when they seized the island from the Portuguese in 1698. The structure once performed double duty as both a prison and place of execution. These days, its restored rooms house offices for the Cultural Arts Centre Zanzibar, while the open-air amphitheatre provides a dramatic screening venue for the Zanzibar International Film Festival. On the lookout for authentic souvenirs? Be sure to make a pitstop at the Cultural Arts Gallery – which is housed within the fort – to watch local artists in action and purchase their works.

Trip to Zanzibar

The most attractive landmark in the cultural heart of the island, however, is the Old Dispensary. This late 19th century building was commissioned by prominent Indian merchant Tharia Topan, and has been successfully restored after falling into disrepair in the 1970s, so a visit to admire its peppermint-green latticework balconies is a must-do. But no trip is complete without exploring Zanzibar’s beleaguered past, as the island remained a hub of slave trade in East Africa for several centuries. Christ Church is built on the site of the world’s last open slave market, its altar marking the spot where slaves for sale were lashed. While you’re here, be sure to walk over to the poignant slave memorial outside that depicts five slaves standing in a pit wearing original neck collars and chains, their haunting expressions serving as a grim reminder of a not-so-distant past.

Food Matters

An evening spent at the waterside Forodhani Gardens comes highly recommended. Here awaits a carnivalesque atmosphere, courtesy of the al fresco food market that comes alive every night. This is the place to sample everything from crab claws and calamari steaks to the hearty Urojo soup, hand-pressed sugar cane juice, and Zanzibar’s take on pizza – all on a budget, too. Celebrating a special occasion or in the mood to splurge? Head to Tea House Restaurant at Emerson on Hurumzi hotel. Pairing authentic Swahili cuisine with expertly made cocktails, it’s the magical setting of this restaurant that you’ll long remember – think: vibrant floor cushions, dimly lit lanterns, live taarab music, and views over the motley roofs of Stone Town. Just be sure to book ahead and get there in time for sunset.

What Lies Beyond

At least one day trip outside of Stone Town is needed for a change of pace and, considering Zanzibar is blessed with several offshore islands, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Prison Island, originally used by the Arabs to detain insubordinate slaves, is only a 30-minute boat ride away. You can sunbathe or simply gaze at the warm turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean on its powdery-white beach, or snorkel as it is also fringed with a beautiful coral reef. Prison Island is also home to a family of giant tortoises – some of which are over 100 years old – that were imported from the Seychelles in the late 19th century.

Trip to Zanzibar Island

Another jaunt not to be missed is the Princess Salme & The Spices tour operated by Zanzibar Different. Because many of the islands produce nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon, it incorporates a guided tour through a spice plantation as well as tracing the footsteps of Zanzibar’s rebel princess by way of Mtoni Palace ruins, Persian baths, and a coffee ceremony amidst spice plantations. The company also runs Mrembo Spa, where employment is offered to blind and deaf therapists with a deft touch. The menu here spans everything from henna application to aromatherapy massages, but for a treatment rooted in tradition? Opt for the Singo Scrub that Swahili women undergo before their wedding day and is made using the likes of ylang ylang, sandalwood powder, rose petals, and rosewater – any excuse for a little R&R after navigating Stone Town’s labyrinth of alleys.

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Ghaliah Amin

At Home with Saudi Model Ghaliah Amin

Meet a woman on a mission.

In a world where impossible body types (read: skinny) are glorified, regardless of the cost, International No Diet Day is a celebration that deserves more recognition. Marked annually on May 6 to promote body acceptance and body shape diversity, it aims to help both men and women worldwide to appreciate their own bodies – a mission that Ghaliah Amin is all too familiar with.

She is widely hailed as Saudi Arabia’s first plus-size model, but in the process of breaking boundaries and defying stereotypes, prefers simply to be known as ‘a model from Saudi Arabia’. The Dubai-based model and TV host is also an outspoken body positivity activist – and full of surprises. For starters, she has a master’s degree in Art History and Museum Studies, a fact reflected in every inch of her eclectic apartment, where we spent an afternoon discussing filters, photo retouching, family pressure to lose weight, and the often-unseen resilience of Saudi women.

She also founded the Ana Ghaliah (I am precious) social media initiative to promote body positivity after first-hand witnessing the lack of diversity and inclusion in the fashion world. “Beauty is all about becoming the best version of you,” she says, setting out to remind all women that they’re precious, regardless of their shape or size. And because the correlation between a positive body image and improved mental health is undeniable, we’d be remiss not to celebrate this model – and role model – for her self-love message on International No Diet Day, today.

Watch The Video: Ghaliah Amin Gets Candid

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You, But Better: The Gaggler Agenda for May

Mark your calendars.


May 2: Eat Green

The Dubai Food Festival is set to return for its ninth edition, the programme featuring two weeks worth of culinary events across the city. Our pick? The Vegetarian Chef’s Table from May 2 to 15 at Avatara, the first and only all-vegetarian fine dining experience in Dubai. Here, the menu is inspired by humble seasonal ingredients that are pure, clean, natural, and energy-boosting, translating into a reincarnation of soulful Indian food.

Learn more here.

May 8: Revisit the Classics

Catering to fans of classical music, the InClassica International Music Festival returns to the city for its eleventh edition. Taking place at Dubai Opera and running from May 8 to June 2, the series of concerts will showcase renowned soloists, orchestras, and conductors from across the globe performing works by the likes of Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Mozart.

Learn more here.

May 10: Capture Nature

Start your day deep in the dunes with the Al Qudra Desert photo walk led by Gulf Photo Plus. With the assistance of a professional photographer, participants will be challenged to capture the essence of Al Qudra desert and Al Qudra lakes, gaining exposure to the colours, textures, flora, fauna, and atmosphere of the desert.

Learn more here.

May 12: Laugh Aloud

Laughter has been proven to strengthen the immune system, diminish pain, and protect from the damaging effects of stress, so attending a citywide comedy festival spanning 11 days feels like a no-brainer. That’s right – the Dubai Comedy Festival is back after two successful sell-out seasons, bringing with it stand-up gigs by acclaimed comedians like Russell Peters and Jo Koy alongside variety shows and activations like Comedy Bazaar.

Learn more here.

May 13: Enter the Metaverse

While the term ‘metaverse’ remains both vague and complex, it is indicative of a major shift in how we interact with technology. Case in point: the Digital Extravaganza exhibition at Theatre of Digital Art. Taking place from May 13 to August 31, the exhibition invites visitors to imagine themselves as travellers on a multisensory narrative journey, exploring unknown lands before finally immersing in the Metaverse gallery, thereby witnessing different perspectives of visual art.

Learn more here.

May 16: Chant Along

Because May’s full Moon is a total lunar eclipse and part of a set of eclipses falling along the Taurus-Scorpio axis (from November 2021 to October 2023), it is one of several cosmic pushes towards understanding and improving our attachments, financial state, and intimate life. Enter: the Lunar Eclipse Chanting session led by Eda Gungor at Seva. Incidentally, ‘man’ means mind and ‘tra’ means wave or projection, and putting it together translates to the sound current that controls mental vibration.

Learn more here.

May 21: Make Amends

Family relationships are some of the most complex ones out there, often riddled with conflict and miscommunication – and that’s where the Family Constellations workshop at Illuminations comes in. Led by holistic psychotherapist Irina Khanna, the day-long session will help you heal on a deep energetic level, addressing painful family situations and releasing blocks in the unconscious mind that limit growth, health, and happiness.

Learn more here.

May 23: Heal from Heartbreak

Coping with the breakdown or end of a committed romantic relationship is never easy, and there could be collateral damage, but healing is made a little easier with the free Heartbreak Support Group at The LightHouse Arabia. Designed for men and women over the age of 21, it’s led by a clinical psychologist and aims to provide a safe space to share, connect, seek support, and explore the challenges that come with break-ups.

Learn more here.

May 29: Indulge Your Inner Child

The Palestine in Plasticine Painting workshop invites anyone looking to get creative with their hands to paint the map of Palestine in plasticine, a non-drying modelling clay that’s similar to playdough in texture, and fun and easy to use. Led by leading artist Farah Nasrawi, this highly therapeutic activity will take place at Kave in Alserkal Avenue, with guidance provided throughout the duration of the workshop.

Learn more here.

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Astrological Forecast

Your May 2022 Astrological Forecast Is Here

A game-changing eclipse is upon us.

May 2022 comes on the heels of the new moon and eclipse in Taurus. Your idea of stability and wealth may have been challenged in quite a harsh, sudden manner. We start off the month on a more cheerful note on May 1, with Venus conjunct Jupiter in Pisces. Romanticism is flying high. This is a great time to go on a first date, especially for Pisces and Virgo. 

What to Expect This Month

On May 4 and May 5, the sun is conjunct Uranus in Taurus. This is a great day when the impulse to change is heightened and highlighted. It may feel harsh for some Taureans, especially those who have a harder time with change, but trust that it’s for the best. Mercury goes retrograde on the 10th in the sign of Gemini. Beware about any actions or agreements you come to around this date, as they may need to be revisited later. Avoid big purchases and signing contracts – figurative and literal.

Around the middle of the month, on May 15 and May 16, sun in Taurus square Saturn in Aquarius followed by the full moon and eclipse in Scorpio on the 16th. This continues with the tension between Taurus and the more Uranian sign of change Aquarius, this time adding Saturn to the mix. The impulse to change and innovate is still there, but it starts to be challenged by some practical matters that forces limits upon change. With the full moon and eclipse, there is release, but it can be a very chaotic and traumatic release. 

On May 17 and May 18, Mars conjunct Neptune in Pisces. This energy is there for the taking, but it can be used for good or for ill. It can be a burst of creative inspiration for many, especially Scorpio, from where great creative works can be born. It can also be a time for some people to get cheated on and conned. Be careful around this time; some very skillful conmen and people that don’t necessarily have the right intentions are out there. On May 18-20, there’s a Trine between the sun in Taurus and Pluto in Capricorn. This is a great day for a healing session, therapy, or shadow work. Trauma comes to the forefront in a harmonious manner to be addressed and healed.  

Finally, we end the month on May 28-30, with Mars conjunct Jupiter in Aries. We started off with quite a feminine energy that’s all about being magnetic, and we end off on a more masculine note that’s all about getting empowered and embracing the bountiful energy that’s out there for the taking.

What This Means for Your Zodiac’s Horoscope

Aries

Affirmation: “I do my best work when I listen to my intuition first.”

This month calls you to be more balanced in your approach to life and finally rewards you with a burst of energy by the end. The first conjunction between Venus and Jupiter can be challenging for you, as it encourages you to look within and trust your gut – two things that don’t come too easily for you. Around the 4th and 5th, be careful with your finances. You may have to deal with an unexpected expense or bill. The month ends on a beautiful note for you. You will have plenty of energy to complete all of your projects and then some. You feel powerful and strong.  

Taurus

Affirmation: “I can adapt to change, I can thrive with change.”

The new moon from the past month may have shaken things a bit for you, but it was just a small sample of what this month has in store for you. May will be a rollercoaster, full of thrills but also drops. The best thing you can do is embrace change. The Taureans that go with the flow and learn to see the beauty in change are the ones who will get the most enjoyment out of the month. Your love life will be hectic around the full moon and eclipse. Trust that everything is happening for your highest good. Some of you will meet your soulmate right after all of this is over. 

Gemini 

Affirmation: “I question my own beliefs so they don’t limit me.”

The transit that will affect you the most is Mercury retrograde on the 10th. You’re used to doing things a mile a minute, and it will force you to slow down and look within. Do some journaling or art. Learn how to listen to yourself speaking. You will experience big career moments, first at the beginning of the month (where you’ll feel like you have a thousand opportunities calling your name) and then by the end of the month (where you’ll be ready to take action and become unstoppable). 

Cancer

Affirmation: “Love is directed my way.”

Whether you’ve been trying to meet someone new or release your ex and finally move on, this will finally manifest with the Trine between the Sun and Pluto of the 18th to the 20th. If you’ve been in pain, healing energies will come your way. If you do end up meeting someone, it will be someone who will grow to love you deeply exactly as you are, but who will also encourage you to grow and change. 

Leo

Affirmation: “I release anything that’s bringing me down.”

The full moon in Scorpio is a great time to let go of anything in your home life that isn’t serving you anymore. Declutter your space and get rid of any items that don’t bring you joy anymore. All of that empty space will help you manifest anything you want to attract into your life later on.  

Virgo

Affirmation: “I use my words to build my reality.”

The beginning of the month is a great time for you to meet someone new or go on a first date. By contrast, mistrust anyone you meet around the 17th and the 18th, as you’ll be particularly prone to being duped by a suitor or lover. The energy around the full moon will feel intense, but you may finally drop some anxious attachments and toxic communication patterns if you learn to embrace said energy. 

Libra

Affirmation: “I go slowly and enjoy the present moment.”

You feel like your luck in love has been waning. It is not like it is a complete drought of fun and romance, but it is rare and hard to come by. By the end of the month, things will change drastically, but be patient until then. A nice partner who matches up to your ideal will appear. Take things slow until Mercury goes direct. Do not take anyone who wants to go too quickly seriously. Slow and steady wins the race. 

Scorpio

Affirmation: “Healing in my love life is just around the corner.”

If you want a brand new beginning with a current partner or to meet someone who finally lives up to your standards, pay attention to what happens around the full moon and eclipse. It will reveal something key about yourself that you’re trying to find in others instead of healing in yourself. Once you gain this insight, you will finally find the missing piece that’s been holding up your love life. 

Sagittarius

Affirmation: “I am magnetic.”

A surge of creativity is coming your way by the end of the month. You will become a magnet for all sorts of opportunities, both in love and career. However, you will have to purge your subconscious mind before this and do some serious healing to truly embrace these opportunities and avoid seeing them vanish.  

Capricorn

Affirmation: “I express myself to heal my soul.”

Self-expression will be big for you this month. Whether you’re an artist or you simply learn to be more assertive, you will make big steps in this area. You will be incredibly fertile this month – do with that information what you will! The Trine of 18th to the 20th will be a time of respite after your string of unlucky events. You will shine through making art from your pain and your trauma or simply embracing it quietly. 

Aquarius

Affirmation: “I grow stronger in adversity.”

This will be a bit of a difficult month for you. However, if you learn from the lessons that the universe throws your way, you can blossom in quite a beautiful way by the end. Mercury retrograde in particular will hit you hard. Take it easy until it goes direct next month. Refrain from changing your life in big, dramatic ways just yet. Introspect and reflect. 

Pisces

Affirmation: “I am wise and attract wealth.”

The beginning of the month is the best time for you to find love. After Mercury goes retrograde, try to avoid dating new people if you can. As Venus, the planet of valuables is exalted on your own sign and being magnified by Jupiter, this is also a great time to manifest wealth. After the 10th and especially around the 18th, however, there will be some ill-intentioned people who will notice your good heart and tendency to be the best in people and try to con you. Do not fall for it!

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Bahrain Sea View

This Isn’t Your Typical Island Getaway

Is Bahrain on your bucket list yet?

A five-day Eid break is headed our way, but not everyone is keen on the idea of long-haul travel. And that’s understandable. Still looking to explore a new destination and satiate your wanderlust? One word: Bahrain.

Not only is it the only archipelago in the region, but it’s only a mere 70-minute flight away. And between its UNESCO World Heritage Sites, trendy eateries, old-school souks, cultural institutions, and endless island-hopping opportunities, it’s also seriously underrated – especially if a quick getaway is all you can manage.

Sleeping In

By now, many of the major luxury hotel groups have landed in Bahrain – Sofitel, Four Seasons, and Ritz-Carlton included. But we’re slightly biased towards boutique hotels, preferring to stay at properties that have an entirely distinct personality of their own. Enter: The Merchant House, an ultra-contemporary property that boasts 46 beautifully appointed suites, a lush rooftop terrace, a library curated by The Ultimate Library of Oxford, and an eclectic collection of artworks by emerging and established artists. Another plus? Location, location, location. The Merchant House is ideally placed in the always-vibrant Bab Al Bahrain area.

Stepping Out

Speaking of which: a stroll through Manama Souq is part retail therapy, part cultural experience, so skip the malls and head here instead. The main entrance is the historic Bab Al Bahrain, taking you back in time as you browse shops specialising in everything from jewellery and antiques to calligraphy, handpainted room dividers, embroidered poufs, perfumes, and more. It’s not just kitschy souvenirs, we promise. Oh, and keep an eye out for the art installation inspired by the traditional Bahraini necklace ‘martasha’ while you’re around. Strategically located at the entrance of Manama Souq, it is composed of 20,000 gold-plated coins that are attached to seven-metre strings suspended from the ceiling. 

All that walking around will leave you famished, and no trip to Manama Souq is complete without pausing at Haji’s Cafe, where time has essentially stood still 1950. Sitting on those bright-blue benches surrounded by vintage photos and platters of delicious food in a narrow alley is such an unadulterated joy. Bahrain’s tolerance of all faiths is well-documented, so try to visit the Shri Krishna Temple, even if it’s tricky to find at first. Not only was it built in 1817 – making it a whopping 204 years old – but it has also recently been renovated and decorated in the traditional Mewar style of art that originates in Rajasthan. 

Take a couple of moments to appreciate the colourful detailing before stepping into Manama Post Office. No ordinary post office, this museum houses an archive of photographs from the postal service since its inception, an extensive catalogue of stamps from Bahrain and all over the world, and a collection of vintage scales and franking machines. As for its claim to fame? It was designed by none other than interior designer Ammar Basheir.

Food Matters

Bahrain is an island beloved amongst foodies, and it’s easy to see why. A district by the name of Block 338 is where everything from Nikkei cuisine hotspot Clay and patisserie Café Lilou to Japanese restaurant Mirai and Mexican eatery Calexico reside. Elsewhere, rustic-chic Italian restaurant L’ORTO is still the hottest ticket in town, bringing a taste of the Tuscan countryside to Manama – after all, everything chef Susy Massetti touches turns to gold.

Another firm favourite is Fusions By Tala, a dynamic eatery where Bahraini chef Tala Bashmi – the poster child for culinary experimentation – captures the essence and flavours of local cuisine while transforming it into lighter, more elevated fare. But if an entirely unexpected experience is what you’re seeking, make a beeline for Japanese teahouse Chawan. Here, a Bahraini tea master by the name of Budoor Steele hosts traditional tea ceremonies, celebrates Japanese festivals such as Tanabata and Tsukimi, and serves intricately crafted nibbles like onigiri, mochi, and nerikiri.

A visit to Bahrain

Culture Quest

The island’s art and culture scene is constantly evolving, but Muharraq is where it’s at if you’re pressed for time. You don’t have to go looking for its charm either – it’s there in spades, especially if you’re guilty of Golden Age thinking. And the best way to discover the neighbourhood? A walk down the Pearling Path, a 3.5km trail that snakes through its storied alleyways, rehabilitating this urban center of yesteryear while introducing contemporary infrastructure to match modern-day lifestyles. It’s especially suited to those interested in street photography, public art, street food, and coffee pitstops. 

Most people don’t realise that Pearling Path includes 17 public squares that are dotted along the different neighbourhoods that the path crosses, with strategically placed lamp posts guiding visitors through the streets. For an optimum introduction to Bahrain’s pearling era, start at the Pearling Path Visitor and Experience Centre, which sits at the entrance of Qayssareyah Suq and hosts rotating exhibits on pearling history alongside a café and an auditorium. Alternatively, you can begin at the trail’s southern starting point, Bu Mahir Fort (from where boats used to set off for oyster beds) and its glass-walled visitor centre. 

While you’re around, be sure to see the Vertical Garden up close – what it lacks in size, it makes up for in innovation. This living laboratory at the entrance of Muharraq is home to over 200 plant species, mostly from subtropical and desertic areas around the world and is the first of its kind in the region. Sheikh Isa Bin Ali House, one of the most impressive examples of Gulf Islamic architecture in Bahrain, is another interesting spot. Stroll around its multiple courtyards and walk up and down the various staircases to take in the carved wooden doors, ingenious wind towers, and perforated gypsum panels for insights into royal life circa 19th century.

Journey Back

There’s no shortage of ancient sites on the island, and one’s more intriguing than the last. The UNESCO-recognised burial mounds from the Dilmun era, for example, are a must-visit. Unique and mysterious, they continue to dominate the A’ali landscape due to their sheer number – there are over 11,000 of them and therefore impossible to miss. Prefer to time-travel within the comfort of a cultural landmark? Of the many exhibition halls at Bahrain National Museum, one focuses on the artifacts and history of the Dilmun civilisation, while another showcases its fascinating burial practices – it even features an actual burial mound that was transported from A’ali and reassembled onsite!

Meanwhile, as Bahrain residents turn to trendy rooftop bars for great views, we suggest Qal’at al- Bahrain (or Bahrain Fort as it is commonly known) instead. Walk around this UNESCO World Heritage Site, and you’ll encounter plenty of vantage points while breathing in the soothing ocean air. On your left, you’ll see the adjoining Karbabad Beach, which explains that aforementioned breeze. Straight ahead? An excavated coastal fortress dating back to the 3rd century AD, with the glistening city skyline rising above the horizon. The site is also surrounded by groves of palm trees, which you’ll notice on your right. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more exceptional example of human occupation that spans nearly 4,500 years.

Sun, Sea, Sand

You’d think an island would entail plenty of beach clubs to choose from, but alas, that is not the case. Luckily, boho-chic Solymar Beach brings dining, partying, swimming, sunbathing, and lounging in luxury to one highly Instagrammable venue. However, what makes Bahrain truly unique in this part of the world is that it’s composed of 70 natural and 33 artificial islands. Jaradah Island is arguably the most famous as it’s only visible during low tide. Another great option is Al Dar Island, despite its size. 

For starters, it’s just a 10-minute boat ride from Sitra Fishing Port. If facilities are high on your agenda, this one’s for you – everything from palm leaf huts and chalets to fishing trips, dolphin-watching excursions, and water sports are on offer. There’s even a burger joint on the island in case you get peckish. For something a little more serene, think Nurana Islands. Whether you head here for a run, a horse ride, a swim, or killer views, it’s utter bliss.

beaches in Bahrain

The Great Escape

A journey deep into the lush green mangroves in Tubli Bay is one that every tourist should take. This one-of-a-kind eco tour feels like a true escape, taking you away from the commotion of the city centre and introducing you to the aquatic plants and diverse wildlife of this protected ecosystem. Birdwatchers are also bound to enjoy the boat ride due to the sheer variety of resident and migratory birds spotted throughout. 

The Great Escape

Mother Nature has blessed the island with so much more than the aforementioned mangroves, though. The height and density of the trees at Karzakan Forest is unexpected, to say the least, making it a popular place for impromptu photoshoots and early morning cycle rides. But if you’re going to make the time to visit only one natural wonder, it has to be the Tree of Life. For over 400 years now, this 32-foot mesquite tree has stood all by its lonesome in the barren desert with no water source in sight, making it an enigma to many – and a source of pride for Bahrain.

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Turning Bedroom Into A Sanctuary

An Expert on Turning Your Bedroom into a Sanctuary

Good sleep follows right design.

Creating the perfect space isn’t just about decoration. It involves the balance of textures, shapes, finishes, and arguably the most important factor: colour. Colour theory is an interesting concept.  Certain hues can evoke particular feelings and moods, and colour can even affect primary sensory functions. This is why incorporating colour theory when designing a space is important. But there’s an art behind matching colours for a harmonious result – colours combinations should be visually pleasing, relaxing, or exciting to the mind at view.

All interior spaces have a purpose. For example, the bedroom should be a place of refuge where you can relax, unwind, and calm a racing mind. It is imperative to get the colour scheme right to ensure a peaceful night’s sleep. Along with the hue (colour), it is important to consider depth of colour when creating a certain ambience. Shades and tones that are too dark can make the room feel oppressive and heavy, whilst having a room that is too light can feel stark and sterile. An injection of colour – either with change of hue, tone, or tint – is necessary to balance all spaces efficiency and achieve the desired visual and mental result. 

Of course, the colours chosen will also depend on the occupant of the space. For example, a master suite may require more muted tones, whilst a more vibrant colour palette may suit a child’s bedroom. There are also other things to consider when choosing the right bedroom colours – such as room orientation! For example, a south-facing room receives sunlight throughout most of the day. For this reason, you might want to add cool hues and accent colours such as blues and greens. For a north-facing room that receives little sunlight, it’s beneficial to warm up the space visually with the addition of colours such as muted reds (a strong red in the bedroom can imply negative energy), soft yellow, or orange. 

Colour Theory Concepts

There are three tried-and-tested approaches to colour that are commonly used when choosing supporting hues for a space. These are analogous (colours that sit next to each other on the colour wheel), complimentary (colours that sit opposite each other on the colour wheel), and monochromatic (one single colour used with differing tints and shades). These colour concepts and combinations can be used with great results, creating a harmonious and serene bedroom

Analogous

A successful analogous scheme can benefit from a neutral base colour, such as beige or taupe. Neutral colours create feelings of warmth and comfort thanks to their low saturation of colour. These colours are uncomplicated and easy for the brain to process. Include varying tints of beige and taupe, along with off-white, to create depth within the main hue. The addition of colour accents such as oranges, greens, and yellows will add a certain vibrancy to the space due to the psychological effects of mixing cool and warm hues. 

These hues can be softened with a tonal difference from the main colour. Try adding peach oranges, soft yellows, and light botanical greens to lift the space without creating too much energy. These colours invite feelings of self-confidence and vitality, finishing off the mood with a cheerful yet peaceful ambience. Add natural fibres and green foliage, along with artwork alluding to nature to create a truly natural look

Make Your Bedroom A Sanctuary

The below image shows hues with a low saturation colour, such as beige, which are uncomplicated and easy to process visually. Accessorise with colourful accents to finish the space.

Your Bedroom A Sanctuary

Various tones of peach have been used as the main secondary hue in the below bedroom, with greens and the occasional soft yellow, along with nature-inspired naturals to create an analogous colour scheme.

Make Your Bedroom A Total Sanctuary

Complimentary

Another concept to try is a complimentary scheme, where the colours sit opposite each other on the colour wheel. Because of what can be an extreme contrast of colours, a great base for this concept would be a colour such as grey. 

Grey is seen as an achromatic hue (without colour) and is the perfect balance between black and white, making it extremely versatile. Viewing grey has been known to create a balanced mind, which lends itself well to a bedroom environment. The addition of pastel or muted shades of pinks and greens create a subtle, delicate, ethereal finish whilst enhancing vitality.

Complimentary

When choosing complimentary colours for a bedroom, try to avoid hues with high saturation, such as reds and very dark greens. These colours are too in conflict with each other to calm a space and will drag the ambience down, resulting in feelings of anger, despair, and confusion. 

Grey and pink have been used in the below image to create a relaxed, romantic, and inviting scene for the bedroom.

The below image shows how an injection of green, along with a pink and grey finish can result in a complimentary colour concept with aesthetically pleasing results.

Monochromatic

Monochromatic

A monochromatic scheme involves using one hue as the main colour, and adding complexity to the space by using tints and tones to create depth and interest.

Blue is a pleasing choice for a monochromatic scheme as the hue can differ greatly, depending on the tone added. It can seem weightless when used in a lighter capacity, immediately bringing to mind blue skies and fluffy clouds. A darker shade adds a stark contrast, while changing the scene entirely and employing feelings of thought and decisiveness. Overall, blue is known to soothe, cool, and calm the mind, making it a great option for a bedroom where the aim is always peaceful sleep.  

Art imitating nature is always successful, so monochromatic blue balanced with a stark white is a winning combination. The below image shows how this is possible. The monochromatic colour scheme easily suggests the lightness of air, immediately relaxing the senses.

Whilst the use of darker shades within the hue can be used to create a completely different result, deeper tones can produce a depth within the space – all with the use of one single colour.

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Haiya Afroze

Meet The Foodie Behind Pass Me The Dim Sum

Haiya Afroze talks all things Ramadan.

If your mindless scrolls on Instagram are accented with enticing flatlays of culinary delicacies, you have one woman to thank: Haiya Afroze. Not only is she the founder of Haiyatea, a tea room and artisanal tea shop, but she’s also the creator of our favourite foodie account, Pass Me The Dim Sum. Haiya’s feed is focused on wholesome, educational recipes as well as offering a glimpse into her always eventful daily life. As a proud and practising Muslim, she talks to us about what Ramadan means to her and how tea fits into the holy month.

Q

Why do Muslims break their fast with dates, and what’s
their importance during Ramadan? 

A

Dates are easily digested, making them a quick source of energy and nutrients. Eating dates after a long day of fasting can help the body’s blood glucose levels quickly return to normal. Our Prophet (PBUH) used to break his fast with dates, so it’s a tradition followed by all Muslims. Modern science also proves how beneficial they are on an empty stomach. 

Food Blogger Dubai

Q

In what ways can non-Muslims help observe Ramadan
with their Muslim friends?

A

To be quite honest, Muslims try to retract from worldly activities and do more self-reflection and worship than usual in the month of Ramadan. My personal struggle with my non-Muslim friends is the peer pressure to hang out, go out, socialise – and that’s just not something I enjoy as much in Ramadan. These are golden days, and any worship done is rewarded many folds, so that’s how I want to spend most of my time in Ramadan. I would love if my friends understood that.

Q

What is your go-to dish to cook during Ramadan, and why? 

A

My husband and I aren’t very traditional and, because we live alone and have no relatives here, we tend to keep our iftars (the meal at dusk to break the fast) quite light and simple. They often just comprise of the regular meals we would’ve had anyway. The one thing that’s different is that we’ll always have dates and Arabic coffee – flavours and scents I now associate with Ramadan – on our table. We’ll also have a fruit salad as it’s perfect after a long day of fasting. We avoid sugary drinks and opt for water, and sometimes we’ll have dahi phulikiyaan, a dish comprising of crispy rehydrated gram flour swirls submerged in whipped yoghurt. So refreshing!

Q

How will you incorporate your love for tea into Ramadan this year?

A

My love for tea doesn’t stop during Ramadan! What’s amazing to me is that on a normal day, skipping my morning matcha will give me a migraine, but God just makes it easy during a fast. After we have iftar, I’ll fire up the humidifier with a refreshing scent of choice and spend the evenings reading Quran and refilling my pot of tea several times. 

Q

Do you always go traditional for Ramadan or shake it up with other cuisines?

A

Ramadan really is about revisiting and embracing traditional foods, but as I am not a very traditional person and don’t always relate to the culture I’ve inherited, I always merge traditional with untraditional. For example, I was once commissioned to create an Arab-inspired dish using oats. Saudi oat soup is the most traditional dish that comes to mind when I think of oats, but I couldn’t do that – that’s too easy. So, I made a savoury granola using za’atar, cumin, and pomegranate molasses, serving it alongside Turkish tomato sauce, grilled eggplant, and whipped garlic yoghurt. 

Q

What dessert do you always cook during Ramadan, and why? 

A

I love basbousah! It’s a semolina cake of sorts, which is drenched in sugar syrup. I bake it with orange juice for some zestiness, and line the pan with tahini for more decadence! 

Q

Can you share your favourite Ramadan recipe with us?

A

I wanted to incorporate my treasure chest of oats into recipes that are popular this time of year, regardless of whether or not those recipes traditionally call for oats. I grew up in Saudi Arabia, where pull-apart cheesy bread is a common and standard teatime accompaniment all year round, but an especially popular item on the iftar table. Each little pillow of dough is stuffed with a cube of firm white cheese (mozzarella, halloumi, or Kiri) because there is no such thing as ‘too much cheese’ or ‘too many olives’ in the Middle Eastern vocabulary.

Q

What is your most cherished Ramadan memory, and why? 

A

My most cherished memory, without a doubt, are the iftars I had alone with my late grandmother at her place. She was the ‘hostess with the mostess’ and always expressed her love through food, but during the many Ramadans I spent with her when there were no guests? Those are my favourite memories. She would make two perfectly portioned bowls of fruit salad and a few pakoras for us both – pakoras are gram flour fritters and they’re my ultimate Ramadan weakness, but I avoid making them as they’re deep-fried and I could eat a plateful. We’d then go straight to dinner. Those iftars encompassed the true essence of Ramadan for me: modesty, simplicity, family, love. And no gluttony! 

Q

What’s a dish that you never thought you would try, but love?

A

Fermented green tea leaf salad. It’s a Burmese snack that’s sweet, savoury, spicy, and oh-so-moreish. 

Q

What tips can you share to help others through the Ramadan season?

A

When you’re fasting, you want to eat a horse. Don’t do it. Don’t go overboard with iftar preparations – make just as much food as you would for a regular dinner because chances are you’ll want to eat even less than you usually do. When you make too much food, though, you tend to overeat just so you don’t have to deal with leftovers. And obviously, drink lots of water between dusk and dawn. During suhoor (the morning meal before the sun rises), avoid spicy or greasy foods that will make you thirsty and try to have some yoghurt. I always find that yoghurt makes me feel less thirsty throughout the day. 

Q

Are there any other changes that you make in your life during Ramadan?

A

It’s not advised to change our religious inclinations during Ramadan and return to a lifestyle that is un-Islamic. However, we do try to better ourselves in whatever personal capacity we can and see ourselves lacking in, but with the intention of maintaining those ways – not just for a month.  As Muslims, we are encouraged to give charity throughout the year. In fact, one of the fundamental pillars of Islam dictates that we must donate 2.5% of the savings we have had for over a year to the less fortunate in order to keep income disparity at bay. However, charity peaks during Ramadan because we believe that all good deeds are rewarded many folds during this blessed month. The spirit of generosity during Ramadan is truly palpable in the air.

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