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Weekly Planner: What’s on the Agenda for April 4-7

Continue spring break with super staycays, Easter treats, and food aplenty.

Sunday, April 4

If you’re looking for a top-notch family staycation deal, the new (and pet-friendly!) Vida Beach Resort in Umm Al Quwain should be on the top of your list.

The first beach resort by Vida, it boasts water views from every one of its 135 rooms alongside a wealth of family-friendly facilities such as a kids club with an outdoor playground, a kids pool, a dedicated kids-only splash area as well as kid-friendly water sports on the beach. 

Four-legged friends are also treated as a VIP – that’s Very Important Pooch – with special pet beds, toys, and bowls from Dubai Pet Food available throughout their stay. With dedicated dog-friendly areas and rooms, as well as alfresco restaurants welcoming all canine companions, you’d be barking mad not to book. 

Deluxe room rates start at AED 725, and pet stays are valid seven days a week for up to 14 days with a maximum of two pets per room. An additional one-time fee of AED 150 per pet and AED 50 per night for dedicated pet sanitisation measures apply. Get in touch with the property before your arrival so they can make the necessary arrangements for all furry guests.

Monday, April 5

Feeling creative? Then head down to Caya at Town Square for an egg-citing spot of Easter-inspired art. The cracking new eatery is hosting kid’s cookie decorating classes from now until April 10, with the chance for children ages 4 to 12 to express their creativity by decorating a giant Easter-themed egg and bunny-shaped cookies.

Priced at AED 55 per child, each class is limited to eight participants per session to adhere to social distancing requirements, with each table accommodating two children. Sessions start at 10am and run until 3pm, with each class lasting between 30-45 minutes. Kids play areas will be sanitised between each session as per all necessary health and safety protocols.

Call or WhatsApp 056 484 2836 to secure your spot.

Tuesday, April 6

Want to know more about veganism, vegan businesses, and opportunities in the growing plant-based sector? Then head to Dubai Marina’s Soul Santé this Tuesday, April 6 to take part in the first breakfast networking meeting hosted in partnership by the café, Vegan Entrepreneurs UAE, and Dubai Vegan Days.

Offering the chance to meet and discuss business with like-minded plant-forward entrepreneurs, Vegan Entrepreneurs UAE and e-retail site Not Just For Vegans founder Carly Dubrey, Soul Santé founder Manisha Advani, and founder of Dubai Vegan Days Ananda Shakespeare will be on hand to answer any questions about starting a vegan-focused business.

Priced AED 60 per person, admission includes a vegan breakfast, muffin, and drink. To pre-book your spot, click here.  

On April 6 and 7, the flavours of India and Latin America come together with explosive results, as esteemed chefs Richard Sandoval and Vineet Bhatia curate two exquisite and diverse four-course sharing menus over two evenings of must-try food.

As part of the extra special Four Hands Dinner experience on April 6 at Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort & Spa, Chef Sandoval will join Chef Bhatia in the Indya By Vineet kitchen for an evening of collaborative cooking as they prepare a four-course sharing menu, while on April 7, Chef Bhatia will cook with Chef Sandoval at Maya Mexican Kitchen + Bar, where each will contribute their own plates to another incredible four-course menu for guests to share and enjoy. 

For reservations, call 04 316 5550. 

Wednesday, April 7

What The Food by Alserkal Avenue is back with a bang for a ramped up second edition from April 7 to 10 as part of Dubai Food Festival.

A dynamic celebration of the city’s gastronomical concepts featuring some of Dubai’s most innovative and creative culinary entrepreneurs, Alserkal Avenue will present intimate supper clubs, art and culinary workshops, and cutting-edge culinary experimentation from 3pm to 10pm each day. Promising to be a fun, foodie extravaganza for the whole family (including your dog!), it’s a great way to top off the week and kick off the weekend. 

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You, But Better: The Gaggler Agenda for February

Mark your calendars.

February 1: Celebrate Literature

The first six days of February are all about celebrating storytelling as the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature returns its 15th edition, this year taking place at InterContinental Dubai Festival City and Mohammed Bin Rashid Library. On the roster? Comedian David Walliams, best-selling author Cecelia Ahern, Succession star Brian Cox, Indian politician Shashi Tharoor, and plenty more.

Learn more here.

February 3: Break Bread

Taste of Dubai is an institution in its own right, returning to Dubai Media City Amphitheatre from 3 to 5 February. The three-day event is popular for its bite-sized portions of beloved dishes from some of the city’s best restaurants, but there’s plenty more to look forward to. We’re talking live music, appearances by celebrity chefs such as John Torode and Daniel Boulud, interactive masterclasses, and lots more.

Learn more here.

February 5: Think Green

Art and nature collide at the Embroidered Botanicals workshop at Jameel Arts Centre. Designed for all ages, this family-friendly event led by Dr Hellen Dayton will introduce participants to the historic healing and hidden properties of botanicals found around Dubai. Participants will then learn to draw the designs of these flowers, transferring them into embroidered textiles that can be used for the likes of napkins, pillows or throws.

Learn more here.

February 12: Test Your Limits

If one of your New Year’s resolutions was to pound the pavement more often in 2023, the Dubai Marathon – the country’s oldest long-distance running event – should be your starting point. You can opt for the ‘10km Road Race’ if you’re in shape, or the ‘4km Fun Run’ if you’re looking to start slow. Feeling ambitious? Sign up for all 42.195km of the marathon itself.

Learn more here.

February 14: Feel the Love

The definitive address for all things wheel throwing, The Mud House Studio is inviting participants to discover the intuitive nature of pottery at a special edition just for Valentine’s Day. Entitled Candlelit Wheel Throwing, the (you guessed it) candlelit session will be rooted in perception through touch, resulting in an exploration of how clay responds to this sense – and a meditative way to celebrate the annual day of romance.

Learn more here.

February 19: Steam and Manifest

Sometimes dismissed as a hippy-dippy trend, womb steaming is actually an ancient remedy that has been used by women to support deep wellness with the help of herbal steam. Enter: the New Moon Womb Steaming Feminine Activation session led by Renata Nacimento at SEVA. The upcoming New Moon in Pisces is the perfect time to set intentions and tap into the mystical powers of the womb.

Learn more here.

February 22: Have a Laugh

If a family-friendly activity is long overdue, Shrek The Musical at Dubai Opera belongs on your calendar. Based on the Oscar-winning DreamWorks film, this larger-than-life production takes audiences into lovable ogre Shrek’s journey from living contentedly alone in a swamp to rescuing the feisty Princess Fiona, who is trapped in a castle surrounded by lava.

Learn more here.

February 25: Journey to Lebanon

Expand your culinary horizons at the A Story of Meat, Spices & Grapes supperclub hosted by Bassel Wehbe via the BreakBread platform. Promising the best of Lebanese-Armenian fusion cuisine, this intimate dining experience will take attendees on a journey that pairs meat and spices with culinary backstories aplenty.

Learn more here.

February 26: See the Light

Helping celebrate the fifth anniversary of multidisciplinary space Concrete in Alserkal Avenue is Rana Begum, whose work distils spatial and visual experience into ordered form. In what will be the visual artist’s largest solo exhibition in the region, her works will explore the interaction of light, colour, and form in dialogue with Concrete.

Learn more here.

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8 Tips on How to Shop More Mindfully

Save time, ease the burden on your wallet.

Mindful shopping is a practice of mindful living. Mindful living brings joy, happiness, and meaning to your life. By being a mindful shopper, you are intentionally making choices that contribute to you living your best life. One of my favourite inspirational quotes is:

“Buy less, choose well, make it last.”

The late fashion designer Vivienne Westwood made this powerful statement and showed that these three simple actions can change the way you shop, spend money, and live. A mindful shopper is a person who thinks carefully about what they buy. They consider the impact that the purchase has on their life before they buy the item. This might sound like a lot of effort to go through when shopping, but the more we think about what we buy, the more value we get from our money. Shopping becomes intentional, and you become more mindful about choices you make in life. 

Watch: How To Shop More Mindfully

Some of the benefits of being a mindful shopper include saving money and time. Not buying impulsively when shopping will save you money and, by knowing exactly what you want to buy, you also save time trying to make quick decisions on items you are not sure about. Mindful shoppers have a home with minimal clutter as they only buy what they need when they need it. This contributes to a simple lifestyle as you have less things to worry about in your home.

You may think that having less things means having a less valuable life, but it is actually the opposite. Purchasing only the items you need and love will add value to your life by cutting out items that do not add anything to your life goals. Mindful living is a lifestyle where you are aware of your choices and make decisions to nurture your mental and physical health. Here are eight tips to get you started.

1. Do a Stock-Take

Check what you already have before you go shopping. If you are planning to browse your favourite home and fashion stores, think about what you actually need. If you know there is a good clothing sale going on, go through your wardrobe and write down what items you need. For example, if you have a pair of jeans that are worn out, do you need to buy another pair or do you already have enough? 

If you are shopping for food, check what it is in the pantry and fridge. You may have forgotten what you have. Buy food that complements what you have, so you can use it in a planned and tasty meal. Shopping for food should be purposeful, and you should have certain meals in mind to ensure you use up what you have already bought. 

2. Use a Shopping List

A list helps you to shop with intention. Group together items on the list according to what shop you are going to. You likely already know what the best places are to get certain things, so be patient and stick to your plan. For example, if you are going to a certain shopping mall that you know has your favourite clothing store, think about what items you would need specifically from that shop. Also, write down optional items that you may not need right away, but are worth buying if they are on sale.  

3. Be Patient with Sales 

The purpose of a sale for the retailer is to sell as much of their current stock as quickly as possible so that they can make space for the new stock. Advertising for sales makes us think that we need to buy quickly or risk losing out on amazing savings. Do not fall into this trap! Only buy what you need when you are ready to buy it. If you do not find what you want on sale, do not settle for something less desirable just because it’s cheap. You will most likely not use the item, waste your money, and create clutter in your home.  

4. Be Careful of Deals

Marketing campaigns that are very popular are promotional deals like ‘Buy 3, Get 2 Free’ or ‘Buy 2 for the price of 1’. Do you really need so many of the same or similar products? Again, this could be a clutter trap. If you really only need one bottle of something, then only buy one bottle of something. Getting three more in order to save a few dirhams might not be the best decision if you do not have space to store the items and only use them once a month, for example. 

5. Buy to Enhance

Enhance what you already have. When you go shopping to buy new outfits or home décor, have a good look at your current style. What do you already have that could be worn differently? Would some accessories or a specific piece create new outfits from what you have? For example, if you have a good pair of trousers that you haven’t worn because of its colour, you could buy a new top to complement it.  

Are there décor pieces, say, of a certain accent colour, that could enhance the furnishings you already have instead of buying a complete set of new items? For example, you could buy new scatter cushions and a rug that brings in a new colour to your room instead of replacing the furniture. By enhancing what you have, you are reusing what you have in a different way and making it last. 

6. Think Quality, Not Quantity 

Buying quality items means they last longer, which means you save money in the long term. If items last longer, then you will also be buying less. Buying less means less clutter in addition to saving money and time shopping. Look after your purchases to help them last longer. A few things to consider when you want stuff to last: where you buy your items, how you store them, and how you maintain them.

For example, a simple item like a shirt will last longer if it is of better quality. Choose shops that you know have good quality shirts. Once you have bought a good quality item, wash it according to the recommendations to make it last. If you see a shirt on sale in a shop that you know is not high in quality, ask yourself if you really want it. 

7. Protect the Environment

Take your own bags when you go shopping. This is one of the easiest actions you can take to protect the environment. Avoid plastic bags where possible. Use reusable canvas shopping bags, and your handbag for small items. Keep shopping bags in the back of your car in case you forget them at home. Also, keep a small foldable tote bag in your handbag for unexpected purchases. 

When buying something, think about how it was made. Support small businesses and artisans if you can, which use methods that are less harmful to the environment. Buying less items over time will also help protect the environment. 

8. New Things In, Old Things Out

This depends on how much storage space you have for items. If your storage is already limited, you will need to get rid of old items as you buy new ones. Think about what you can donate or sell. By constantly doing this, you will have a clutter-free home. It will also help you to be more aware of what you have and what you need. 

If you would like to know more about how to organise and declutter your home, visit Fern McGahey’s website or follow her on Instagram and Facebook.

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6 Travel Destinations to Explore with the Kids

Wildlife, beaches, city breaks, and more.

With spring break for students and Eid al-Fitr holidays on the horizon, parents across the country are putting family vacations back on their radars. Admittedly, it feels a little counterintuitive to address family-friendly travel destinations considering we’re residents of the UAE. Not only was Dubai ranked the world’s number one destination in 2023, according to Tripadvisor, but Abu Dhabi was also named the world’s best city for a family getaway in 2022 by the experts at The Family Vacation Guide. Still, we’d be remiss not to reveal our favourites, and this guide features a bit of everything – wildlife, history, beaches, theme parks, and enough adrenaline to excite children of all ages.

Costa Rica

It may seem like an unlikely choice to begin with, but Costa Rica is actually one of the world’s best places to holiday as a family – particularly if an adventure is in order. This tiny Central American country has it all – untouched wilderness in the form of tropical rainforests and legendary volcanoes, an excellent ecotourism system, and additional security resources in areas frequented by tourists. We’d go as far as saying that it’s the ultimate starting point if Latin America is on your bucket list. And if the likes of waterfall rappelling, white-water rafting, or whooshing along ziplines feels too intense, you and your little ones can build sandcastles on Costa Rica’s beautiful palm-backed beaches.

Stay: The Springs Resort & Spa
See: The majesty of Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica’s most famous volcano, before discovering the ancient secrets of cacao through the Rainforest Chocolate Tour.
Do: Walk through the clouds at the truly unique ecosystem of Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve.

Iceland

Iceland regularly ranks among the safest countries in the world, making it a no-brainer for those new to travelling with the kids in tow. It also boasts a whole host of otherworldly attractions, each guaranteed to impress even the most jaded of teenagers. Nicknamed the “land of fire and ice”, this Nordic island nation is one of the best places to see the northern lights, especially between September and April. Elsewhere, activities such as whale watching, puffin tours, and dog sledding cater to all ages. As for an activity that’s unique to Iceland? Living like a Viking, of course! Head to Viking Village, where you’ll dine on traditional Viking meals as actors in Viking and Valkyrie costumes dance, sing, and tell stories – it’s just the right amount of kitsch.

Stay: Reykjavik Marina
See: The Golden Circle – Iceland’s most popular sightseeing route – by taking a bus tour that departs from Reykjavik.
Do: Bathe in the Blue Lagoon, arguably the most famous of Iceland’s many geothermal pools.

Japan

While travel is always engaging, opening the minds of young explorers, few places are as fascinating as Japan. In the capital of Tokyo, futuristic museums, robot-themed restaurants, and bullet trains stand seamlessly alongside ancient traditions like tea ceremonies. The city is also home to some of the best theme parks in the world – Joypolis and Tokyo Dome City included – with the likes of Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea under an hour away from the city centre. Your kids will also love immersing themselves in cultural obsessions such as anime, manga, Hello Kitty, and Harajuku style. As for activities you all can enjoy as a family? A hands-on taiko drumming class, a walk through the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, and a visit to the whimsical Ghibli Museum.

Stay: Hotel Gracery Shinjuku
See: The snowy faces of wild macaques bathing in hot springs at Jigokudani Monkey Park.
Do: Attend a Matsuri festival to indulge in street food and observe locals carrying huge, intricately decorated portable shrines.

Jordan

History, natural wonders, surreal landscapes – that is the appeal of Jordan in a nutshell. As for its famously hospitable people? Just the proverbial cherry on top. Located within a four-hour flight of Dubai, the capital of Amman will appeal to history buffs as it was once home to ancient Roman and Byzantine civilisations. The beautifully restored Roman Amphitheatre, for example, was built in the built in the 2nd century and used to hold 6,000 spectators during its heyday. Adventure-seeking families, meanwhile, can snorkel off the coast of the Red Sea and ride in the back of a 4×4 across Jordan’s seemingly endless desert. Above all, it’s the ancient Nabatean capital of Petra that’s carved from sandstone that makes this Arab country a real winner, especially if an easily accessible holiday is what you’re after.

Stay: Petra Bubble Luxotel
See: The Treasury – Petra’s most famous monument – late in the afternoon, when the whole facade is bathed in a reddish-pink glow from the walls all around.
Do: Float in the mineral-rich waters of the Dead Sea, the lowest place on Earth.

Kenya

A dream destination for any family with a safari on its bucket list, Kenya features an embarrassment of riches when it comes to incredible wildlife and natural beauty – but more on that in a second. This East African country has long been popular due to exhilarating offerings like hot air balloon rides over the Maasai Mara National Reserve and feeding and photographing a herd of Rothschild giraffes over breakfast at Giraffe Manor. They famously visit morning and evening, poking their long necks into the windows in the hope of a treat before retreating to their forest sanctuary. Still, going on safari is what brings people of all ages to Kenya, with older children in particular getting a thrill out of spotting lions, cheetahs, elephants, and zebras from a 4WD with a pop-top roof. It is the ultimate game of I-Spy, after all.

Stay: Baobab Beach Resort and Spa
See: The Great Rift Valley, a geological force that almost separated Africa into two, creating one of the most serene landscapes in the world.
Do: Plan your trip between July and October in order to witness the extraordinary spectacle of the Great Migration, an annual movement by millions of wildebeest.

Sri Lanka

Another easily accessible destination for residents of Dubai? The coastal city of Colombo, which happens to be pretty relaxed compared to most capital cities in Asia. The kids – regardless of their age – are bound to appreciate the many attractions of this teardrop-shaped island. Family-bonding on pristine beaches aside, you can feed orphaned elephants at Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, climb Little Adam’s Peak in Ella, absorb the country’s colonial past in Galle, and dine on interesting local delicacies like string hoppers. Incidentally, mass tourism hasn’t returned to Sri Lanka since civil unrest and the pandemic overlapped, which means you can enjoy the island with fewer crowds. Bonus: it’s also a lot more affordable than some of the other recommendations in this list.

Stay: Living Heritage Koslanda
See: The world’s biggest concentration of leopards, sloth bears, sambars, jackals, peacocks, and crocodiles at Yala National Park.
Do: Take the iconic train journey from Kandy to Ella, viewing scenic hillsides and lush tea plantations along the way.

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Dress Up Your Meals With These Healthy Salad Dressings

Simple recipes to customise and make meals more exciting.

Making your own salad dressing at home is so much better than getting store-bought — think fresh ingredients and none of the artificial flavouring, added sugar, or low-quality ingredients. It could even save you money in the long run if it’s something you use a lot. Plus, using fresh ingredients is another way to get creative with eating mindfully and exploring your relationship with food.

Making key ingredients like salad dressing at home is a small but powerful way to take complete control of what goes in your food, as well as what doesn’t. These simple salad dressing recipes are a great way to balance meals and make them more exciting. Every salad dressing recipe shared here — a basic vinaigrette, tahini sauce, and a riff on the traditional green chutney — starts with a few basic building blocks: a base, an acid, and something that adds a rich, creamy consistency. These recipes are fully customisable and function as a base for you to add your favourite ingredients to and experiment with flavour profiles.

You can also add herbs to season your dressing; dry or fresh, they’ll add further depth to the dressing and your meal by extension. Just remember to let the dressing rest for at least 30 minutes to allow fresh herbs to infuse with the mixture.

Salad dressing can keep for up to a week if stored properly in the fridge: fully covered and in an airtight glass container. It’s perfectly normal for oil-based dressings to harden or congeal in the fridge, but don’t worry — let it come to room temperature on the counter before serving.

Coriander and Yoghurt Dressing

Serving Size:
1-2 cups
Time:
5 minutes
Difficulty:
Very easy

Ingredients

  • ½ cup plain full-fat yoghurt
  • 1 ½ – 2 cups coriander leaves, tightly packed
  • ¼ cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Pinch of cumin (powdered or seeds, roasted)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup water
  • Optional: green chillies or roasted peppers to taste

Directions

  1. In a blender or food processor, add the water first, then lemon juice, yoghurt, salt, cumin, garlic, and coriander leaves and blend on high until everything is well-blended, about 2-3 minutes.
  2. Check for consistency; if the dressing is too thick, add more water one tablespoon at a time. If it’s too thick, add more yoghurt and adjust for flavour.

Simple Tahini Sauce

Serving Size:
1 cup
Time:
5 minutes
Difficulty:
Very easy

Ingredients

  • ½ cup tahini
  • 4 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Salt, to taste
  • Ice cubes
  • Optional: a dash of extra virgin olive oil, sesame oil, honey, or maple syrup

Directions

  1. In a blender or food processor, add the water, lemon juice, tahini, garlic, and salt. Blend for 30 seconds and add a few ice cubes, then blend until smooth.
  2. Check the dressing’s consistency and taste. If it’s too thick, add water 1 tablespoon at a time; if too bitter or sharp, add either olive or sesame oil to balance the flavour.

Simple Vinaigrette

Serving Size:
1-2 cups
Time:
8 minutes
Difficulty:
Very easy

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons mustard
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Optional: a dash of orange juice, or a sprig of rosemary to infuse

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk well. Alternatively, add all ingredients to a jar with a lid, close the lid firmly in place, and shake well for 30 seconds.
  2. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.
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How To Make Your Home Feel Like A Zen Den

This is what you need to turn any space into a stress-free, tranquil oasis.

It’s no secret that our mental health is just as important as our physical health, yet we often don’t take the time to nurture our minds and spirits in the same way we care for our bodies. A straightforward way to change that is to create zen in your home — a unique space where you can relax, meditate, do some yoga, or take a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Why Create a Zen Den in Your Home

In these hectic times, it’s more important than ever to have a space where you can relax and feel at peace. For many people, that space is the home. But what if your home doesn’t feel like a haven? What if it feels just as chaotic as the outside world? If that’s the case, it might be time to transform your home into a zen den. Here are some of the benefits of having a peaceful, stress-free home.

You’ll Sleep Better

When your home is calm and serene, your mind will follow suit. That means you’ll fall asleep more easily and sleep more soundly throughout the night. If you’ve been struggling with insomnia, making your home into a zen den may be just what you need to finally get some rest.

You’ll Reduce Stress and Anxiety

A cluttered, chaotic environment can be very distracting. Focusing on work or other tasks is hard when your surroundings are messy and loud, but when your home is tranquil and organised, you’ll find it much easier to stay on task and get things done. Creating a zen den is a great place to start if you’re looking to boost your productivity.

You’ll Reduce Stress and Anxiety

When you’re constantly surrounded by chaos, it’s no wonder you feel stressed out all the time. In contrast, a stress-free environment can significantly decrease your own stress and anxiety levels. If reducing stress in general is one of your goals, making your home into a zen den is an excellent way to achieve it.

woman meditating

Creating the Ultimate Zen Den in Your Home

The good news is that creating a peaceful haven in your home doesn’t take much. It doesn’t have to be big or fancy; it can be as simple as a corner in your bedroom or a spot in your backyard. You can turn any space into a tranquil oasis with a few simple changes. Here are a few tips and ideas for meditation rooms to help you start building your zen sanctuary, even if you only have a few square feet of space to work with: 

Choose a Quiet Spot

When choosing a location for your zen den, finding a place in your home that is away from the noise and commotion of daily life is essential. If you don’t have an extra room that you can dedicate to your practice, consider setting up your space in the corner of your bedroom or living room. 

Make It Comfortable

Once you’ve selected the perfect spot, it’s time to start making it into a space that promotes relaxation and peace. Start by adding comfortable flooring — choose mats or cushions for sitting or lying down during meditation. You might also want to include blankets and pillows for added comfort. 

Clean Your Space

Now that you’re done setting up, it’s time to start cleaning. This space should be clean and clutter-free, peaceful and calming.

Start by decluttering the room. Get rid of any furniture or decor that is not essential. Then, give the room a good cleaning. Dust all surfaces and vacuum the floor.

Bring in a Touch of Nature

One way to create a calm and relaxing environment in your meditation room is to bring in some elements of nature. Add some plants to the room or hang pictures of your favourite natural scenery. You can also add a water feature to the room; the sound of running water is very soothing and can help you relax.

If you have a window in your meditation space, open it to let fresh air in. Incorporating some elements of nature in will help create a calm and serene environment.

Add Some Soothing Elements

When you’re looking to create a space in your home that is peaceful and calming, there are two things you can do to achieve that goal — aromatherapy and adding soft touches. These soothing elements can help you relax and unwind.

Aromatic Atmosphere

One of the quickest and easiest ways to change the atmosphere of your home is with aromatherapy. When used in the home, it can help to create a more inviting space that promotes wellbeing for both body and mind. Here are a few of our favourite products to get you started:

SAANTE

Cinnamon, Clove, Orange & Vanilla Candle

AED 90.00

There’s something about a burning candle that just oozes cosiness. Whether you’re aiming to create a zen den at home or just looking for a way to relax after a long day, this Cinnamon, Clove, Orange & Vanilla Candle from Saante is the perfect option. Orange, clove, and cinnamon all have warm, stimulating aromas that help awaken the senses. On the other hand, vanilla induces a deep sense of relaxation in the body and mind.

candle

PALM LIGHTS

Juniper and
Cypress Candle

AED 90.00

This Juniper and Cypress Candle from Palm Lights bring a touch of luxury to your space. The flickering candlelight creates a soothing ambience, while the the crisp and fresh woody scent of Juniper helps to relax and calm the mind. The slightly woody evergreen scent of Cypress adds an exotic touch to the blend, making it perfect for an evening of relaxation. 

bottle

RUT ESSENTIALS

Lemongrass Essential
Oil Spray

AED 85.00

This Lemongrass Essential Oil Spray from Rut Essentials has a refreshing, citrusy scent that is perfect for creating a calm and relaxing atmosphere in your home. When diffused, lemongrass oil can help to reduce stress and promote feelings of wellbeing. In addition, lemongrass oil can be used to cleanse and purify the air, making it an ideal choice for use in your zen den.

diffuser

RUT ESSENTIALS

Earth Ceramic Diffuser

AED 37.00

This Earth Ceramic Diffuser from Rut Essentials is a great way to add some extra zen to your home. The sleek, white design is simple and elegant, perfect for placement on a shelf or table. The diffuser uses ultrasonic waves to vaporise water and essential oils, creating a soothing environment. The mist output is adjustable, so you can choose the perfect level for your space. The diffuser also features an auto-shutoff function, making it safe and easy to use. 

incense sticks

PALM LIGHTS

Sandalwood Artisanal Incense Sticks

AED 50.00

There’s nothing quite like the soothing smell of incense to help you relax, and when it comes to quality, nothing beats hand-crafted sandalwood incense sticks. These Sandalwood Artisanal Incense Sticks from Palm Lights are made with only the finest natural ingredients and provide a delicate yet complex scent that is perfect for use in any room. Whether you’re looking to create a relaxing atmosphere in your bedroom or add a touch of luxury to your living room, sandalwood incense sticks are the perfect way to do it. 

Soft Touches 

Another essential element to keep in mind for your zen den at home is to add soft touches. The goal is to create a relaxing and calming space, so it’s essential to choose materials to help you achieve that. Adding soft touches can help you to create a space that feels truly tranquil and serene. Here are our favourites:

yoga mat

EARTHISTIC

Vaastra Diamond Sambu Grass Yoga Mat

AED 180.00

For those who love the feel of grass under their feet, this Vaastra Natural Sambu Grass Yoga Mat from Earthistic is the perfect way to add a little extra softness to your zen den space at home. Made from natural sambu grass, this mat is gentle on the skin and provides a cushioned surface for yoga or meditation. Plus, the unique green hue of the grass is sure to add a calming touch to your yoga practice.

circle pillow

SAINE

Cherry Stone
Circle Pillow

AED 65.00

This Cherry Stone Circle Pillow from Saine is the perfect way to add a little bit of extra softness and comfort to your home. Made of clean, dried cherry pits, it can be heated or chilled. The result is a truly relaxing experience that can help to ease muscle tension and stress. In addition, the pillow’s unique shape makes it perfect for use as a neck pillow, lumbar support, or simply as a decorative accent.

kimono

KIMONOGIRL

Air
Kimono

AED 2,765.00

This Air Kimono from KimonoGirl is a beautiful and unique piece of clothing inspired by the element of air, which represents intellect, mental intention, and connection to the universal life force. If you’re seeking clarity or struggling to find your place in the world, air energy can help you to see things from a higher perspective. The Air Kimono brings an additional soft touch to your zen den space at home through a garment that looks beautiful and has special meaning. 

The Gaggler team is passionate about finding and sharing great products with our readers. We take pride in researching and testing products to find the best of the best, and we only recommend things that we love and think you will too.

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Emirates Airline Festival of Literature returns in 2023 with old friends and homegrown talent

For the first time ever, this year’s festival will feature sessions in multiple regional languages.

Ebtisam Al-Beiti, a Dubai-based former nursery teacher, wrote her first book during lockdown in an outpour of creative energy. Published in 2021, Can I Go Out Now? debuted at the literature festival that year, and the first edition of the book was also part of the Ministry of Education’s Reading For Pleasure project.

This year, she’s back with another book for toddlers just learning to read: Citrus the Smoothie Sloth. Already in its second edition, it’s about a cheeky little sloth that likes to make smoothies from rainforest fruit. 

Over the last 15 years, the literature festival has been a firm fixture on Dubai’s social calendar and has matured into a developed platform for young and upcoming authors with its goal of creating a sustainable literary ecosystem for the UAE and the region.

“I think the festival is an amazing platform for upcoming authors, especially for [visitors and attendees] to see local talent as well,” Al-Beiti told Gaggler. “They get to experience meeting the authors, talking to the authors, specifically for my age group — which is much younger children aged four to six — it’s during these early years that it’s important for kids to interact with authors and to really encourage them to start reading and to develop a reading culture.”

Friendships Old and New

The theme for this year’s literature festival is “Old Friends,” a fitting commemoration of the festival’s 15th anniversary. “It’s a very special year for us,” shared Tamreez Inam, assistant festival director and head of programming. “So when we were thinking of the theme, we thought of ‘Old Friends’ as a way to honour the authors who have been to the festival before, many of whom are returning for the 15th anniversary. But of course, we have new authors and new friends as well.”

‘Old Friends’ is also a reference to a quote by Al Mutanabbi, Inam explained, where he said a book is an old friend — the only friend you’ll ever need. “So we’re playing on that as well for the theme.”

In a first for the festival, this edition will break new ground in a bid to expand its reach by holding sessions in regional languages apart from Arabic and English. “For the first time, we’re going to have sessions in Malayalam, Filipino, Italian, Urdu, and Hindi. We really want the festival to be a celebration of all the communities that live here in the UAE,” said Inam. “It’s going to be our largest festival ever.”

What to Expect 

The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature will be returning for its 15 anniversary from February 1-6, 2023, bringing together more than 250 writers and thinkers from over 50 countries in nearly 300 sessions spread out over six days. 

The festival kicks off with Desert Stanzas, a signature event and integral part of the festival consisting of a night of poetry and performances under the stars in the desert. “Then we just have a whole six days of all kinds of conversations: fiction, non-fiction, lots of children’s events, and something for everyone,” said Inam, who revealed she’s most looking forward to the special commemorations in honour of the 100th anniversary of the publication of The Prophet by acclaimed Lebanese author Kahlil Gibran, as well as his 140th birth anniversary.

As for Al-Beiti, she’s looking forward to attending all of the sessions for children. “I attended David Walliams’ [session] last year and I absolutely loved it; I think I laughed more than the children! So I will definitely be attending David Walliams’ again this year.”

As for UAE-based authors on her watchlist? “We’ve got Kathy Urban, who I’m very, very excited for, and of course the legendary Julia Johnson as well. Also looking forward to Beverly Jatwani.”

“I’m so excited that as much as we have international authors, we get to attend the local authors as well.”

The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature will hold author talks, workshops, special events and more at the Intercontinental in Festival City and the Mohammed Bin Rashid Library from February 1-6, 2023. Buy tickets here.

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3 Breakfast Smoothies to Start Your Day Right

Breakfast in 60 seconds or less.

Looking for a healthy breakfast fix that won’t take more than a minute? Look no further than the smoothie, which can be served as a breakfast, afternoon snack, or as an alternative drink alongside your lunch.

While the key to a great smoothie is fresh ingredients, they’re a great way to reduce food waste, an easy way to transition away from added refined sugar, and increase your intake of fresh fruits and veggies. Make sure to add on some granola, seeds, or nuts for extra protein, especially at breakfast, to avoid a sharp glucose spike in the morning.

Yoghurt and Berry Smoothie

Ingredients

  • 1 cup blueberries
  • ½ cup raspberries
  • ½ cup Greek yoghurt
  • ½ cup almond milk (or water)
  • Almonds or walnuts
  • Granola or muesli
  • Ice (optional)

Directions

  1. Blend the milk or water, Greek yoghurt, berries, and ice until fine and thick.
  2. Pour and serve, and add nuts, granola, or muesli on top.

Mango and Peach Cooler

Ingredients

  • 1½ cup mango
  • ½ cup Greek yoghurt (substitute with 1 cup of water for a dairy-free version)
  • 1 cup peach
  • 1 small sprig of fresh basil
  • Ice

Directions

  1. Peel, seed, and chop mango and peaches.
  2. Blend everything together, aiming for a rich, creamy texture.

Banana Blueberry Smoothie

Ingredients

  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Ice

Directions

  1. Peel and chop bananas.
  2. Add the almond milk, bananas, blueberries, vanilla extract, and ice to a blender. Blend until smooth
  3. Serve immediately.
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Everything We’re Looking Forward to This Year

2023 will be a good one.

With Mercury in retrograde until January 18, the start of the new year brought with it technology breakdowns, communication issues, plans gone awry, and all-round chaos. But it’s not all bleak – between hotel launches, new restaurant openings, the return of beloved festivals, and a handful of big names headed to Dubai, there’s plenty to look forward to in the months ahead. Welcome to 2023. 

Hotels

Another year, another slew of staycation spots to consider. Dubai is set to welcome several new hotel properties in the coming months, but none will be quite as decadent as Atlantis The Royal. Expected to debut in March, the resort will feature 90 swimming pools, 17 restaurants, a day-to-night entertainment venue from Tao Hospitality, the largest jellyfish aquarium in the world, and more. Also opening soon and taking up residence on Palm Jumeirah? NH Collection Dubai The Palm. Incidentally, this 533-room hotel marks the first property by Spanish luxury brand NH Collection in the UAE.

Elsewhere, FIVE Hotels will launch a third property – FIVE LUXE – bringing its signature party atmosphere to JBR, while Kempinski will unveil a luxe floating hotel aptly named Kempinski Floating Palace off Jumeirah Beach Road. And if you’re curious about that architecturally striking building in Business Bay, we can reveal that come September, it will be home to The Lana. Designed by Gilles et Boissier, its interiors will reflect both the waters of Marasi Marina and elements of Emirati culture. As for a more affordable option with personality to spare? The always-hip Mama Shelter is scheduled to open later this year, giving tech-savvy millennials a new social hotspot in Business Bay.

Festivals

The sheer diversity of Dubai makes for a calendar packed with festivals catering to all manner of interests. With shopaholics catered to – the ongoing Dubai Shopping Festival will run until January 29 – the rest of you can mark your calendars, starting with Quoz Arts Fest from January 28 to 29. Themed ‘Shift Away’, the popular festival returns to Alserkal Avenue for two days of art, culture, markets, food trucks, workshops, and plenty of surprises. The upcoming tenth edition will be headlined by Syrian rapper Bu Kolthoum and Palestinian artist Saint Levant, both of whom will make their UAE debut.

The start of February will be all about celebrating storytelling as the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature returns its 15th edition, this year taking place at InterContinental Dubai Festival City and Mohammed Bin Rashid Library. On the roster? Comedian David Walliams, best-selling author Cecelia Ahern, Succession star Brian Cox, Indian politician Shashi Tharoor, and plenty more. Foodies, meanwhile, should make a beeline for Taste of Dubai. Taking over Dubai Media City Amphitheatre from February 3 to 5, this three-day event is popular for its bite-sized portions of beloved dishes from some of the city’s best restaurants alongside live music, appearances by some of the region’s best chefs, interactive masterclasses, and more.

High-brow entertainment comes courtesy of InClassica, a festival anchored in an engaging repertoire of classical music performed by talented musicians from around the world. Kicking off with a performance by the Çukurova State Symphony Orchestra, Massimiliano Caldi (conductor), and Fumiaki Miura (soloist), the event will be held from February 12 to March 10. The following month will immerse us right back into Dubai’s culinary scene as the Dubai Food Festival celebrates its 10th edition, which will take place April 28 to May 7. Expect offerings ranging from unique dining experiences and beach pop-ups to gastronomic set menus at affordable prices.

Heading off for the summer? You can look forward to the Dubai Home Festival upon your return. With incredible deals offered on furniture, homeware, and appliances across the city from October 13 to 27, an exciting home makeover awaits. A month later, you can dive into design through workshops, talks, and experimental mediums at the region’s largest creative festival, Dubai Design Week. Additionally, Downtown Design – the commercial centrepiece of this annual design festival – will be a certified zero carbon event.

Performances

Considering January alone entailed exclusive performances by Beyoncé and Tom Jones, we can assume the rest of the calendar will be packed with big names. Singer-songwriter Ashanti will be joined by Fat Joe and Ja Rule at Coca-Cola Arena on January 21, taking the stage to belt out R&B classics. The City Walk venue will also host Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer on both January 27 and 28, as well as Scottish musician Lewis Capaldi’s rescheduled concert on October 7.

Over at Dubai Opera, culture buffs can catch performances by legendary Egyptian pianist Omar Khairat on February 3, British electronica star Bonobo on March 11, and monk-turned-storyteller Jay Shetty on May 11. And if loud and cheery megamusicals are more your speed, you’ll want to book your spots for Shrek The Musical (February 22-26) and West Side Story (April 25-30) before tickets sell out.

Restaurants

Dubai’s dining scene evolves at a dizzying pace, now boasting a whopping 11 restaurants recognised by the Michelin Guide. Yet to meet the newcomers? Mott 32 (elevated Chinese cuisine), August (French-Mediterranean fare), and Sumosan (contemporary Japanese dishes) have just opened their doors, each debuting in January and adding something new to discover. As for what’s to come? Above Eleven will take over the rooftop of Marriott Resort Palm Jumeirah, serving Peruvian bites and colourful cocktails. Nearby, acclaimed Spanish chef Dani García will launch a one-of-a-kind steakhouse by the name of Leña – his first venture in the city of Dubai. Bebek, meanwhile, will add a playful spin to Turkish food in Jumeirah.

Pairing Mediterranean cuisine with the effortless glamour of a bygone era on Pearl Jumeirah, Bungalo34 will be the first beachside dining concept from Tashas Group (of Avli and Flamingo Room fame). Another new eatery by an already beloved talent? Hoe Lee Kow, described as “unconventional Korean BBQ” by chef Reif Othman. And if a global name from the world of gastronomy is what you’re seeking, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal at Atlantis The Royal is the one to beat. Incidentally, even Dubai’s new beach clubs will bear big names in 2023. Case in point: Nobu by the Beach, which will also take up residence at Atlantis The Royal. Other beachy spots set to debut in 2023? Ría (a new restaurant and beach bar at Club Vista Mare), Ayla (the latest addition to The Club at Palm West Beach), and Baoli (a swish import from the shores of Cannes).

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Doing Dry January? You Can Still Go Out in Dubai

You’re not missing anything.

January is well and truly here and brings with it a fresh sense of renewal and resolutions for the New Year to come. Whether it’s committing to a skincare routine or detoxing after the intense festive season with a plant-based diet, the start of the year is all about stepping back and dialling things down. Moderation. Abstention. Veganuary. Dry January.

Dry January started out in 2013 as a campaign in the UK in which participants volunteer to give up alcohol for the entire month of January. The campaign’s goal is to raise awareness about alcohol-related health issues, but it also serves to highlight unhealthy drinking culture and the widespread dependence on alcohol to socialise and entertain. Finding alcohol-free alternatives and non-alcoholic options on menus is far from a novelty now, especially when they’re this good and not just canned sodas or pumped full of sugar and food colouring. Read on to find some of the best places to go in Dubai if you’re not touching the bottle but still want to catch those after-work drinks with friends or a nice dinner with a special someone.

Amazónico

Step into a tropical paradise at Amazónico with a menu centred around seasonal and superfood ingredients, as well as a selection of non-alcoholic cocktails served in fantastic custom sculpted glasses. From the appetisers down to the mains, sides, and desserts, each course offers options that are perfect if you want to go out without the breaking your detox and dry January resolutions. Choose the Peacock Spritz, made with non-alcoholic Belli-No, maracuya, lemon, and tonic, or the best-selling Jaguarete with a carefully concocted mixture of papaya, tangerine, and salted cashew, finished with Perrier and Bôtan’s signature ‘No ABV’ spirit.

Amazónico, Gate Village 11, DIFC, Dubai, 04 571 3999 @amazonicodubai

KATA

This contemporary Japanese restaurant with iconic views of the Dubai Fountain at Dubai Mall’s Waterfront Promenade offers a year-round menu of delicious mocktails that complement its world-class food and has a wide range of alcohol-free beverages. Drinks include fruit-based takes on classic drinks, like the Redroni, which features red grape, botanical infusion, and forest fruits, as well as Ryui’s Kiss, which consists of infused juniper berry, hibiscus, and dragon fruit. The huge outdoor terrace dining area seals the deal.

KATA Dubai, The Dubai Mall, Downtown Dubai, 04 273 3800, @kata.ae

NoLo

As Dubai’s first dry bar, NoLo serves thoughtfully crafted non-alcoholic drinks and mocktails that feel just like the real thing. Open until 1am. With a food menu that features light bar snacks, the casual atmosphere is perfect for catching up with friends after work.

NoLo, Dusit Thani Dubai, 04 317 4515, @nolodubai

Lobby Lounge

As an alternative to boozy brunches, enjoy a calm, luxuriant afternoon tea any day of the week at the iconic Ritz-Carlton Dubai with an extensive tea menu featuring 10 different types of teas, as well as an assortment of finger and open-faced sandwiches, scones, pastries, and sweet treats.

Lobby Lounge, The Ritz-Carlton Dubai, DIFC, Dubai, 04 399 4000, ritzcarlton.com

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It’s Time to Leave Your Food Sins Behind

Starting with this detox shot.

After a long season of indulging in rich food, festive drinks, and way too many desserts, it’s time to treat your body to a refreshing juice. Go for an apple, cinnamon, and ginger shot to detox – apples are in season this time of year, and so good for you. The cinnamon and raw ginger in this recipe are anti-inflammatory and help boost immunity to fight those nasty winter colds, while the fibre from the apple is good for your gut and skin, as well as full of antioxidants.

Optionally, you can add a dash of turmeric, too – powdered or raw – for that brilliant yellow colour as well as its functional benefits. You can strain the juice after blending, but you’ll be missing out on all the good stuff that’s in the fibre. The same goes for peeling the apple before blending it for juice.

Apple Cinnamon Ginger Detox Shot

Serving Size:
1 cup
Time:
5 minutes
Difficulty:
Easy

Ingredients

  • 1 large apple
  • 1/2-inch knob of ginger, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnnamon powder
  • 1 cup (or 200ml) water
  • Pinch of turmeric (optional)

Directions

  1. Wash, core, and cut the apple. Peel, if you prefer.
  2. Add the chopped apple, ginger, water, cinnamon powder, and turmeric powder into a blender.
  3. Blend on high speed for a minute, or until completely blended. If the juice is too thick, add a tablespoon of water at a time.
  4. Pour into a glass and sprinkle with more cinnamon or turmeric according to taste.
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