Dubai Health Authority strategy launched

The long-term strategic plan for the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) was launched today in a briefing for the ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

The DHA strategy will operate from now through to 2025, through 43 separate initiatives that are designed to fulfil four goals:

  1. Prevention and awareness
  2. Easy of access
  3. Quality
  4. Competitiveness

It builds on Sheikh Mohammed’s vision of long-term sustainable development of Dubai as a health tourism destination, among patients from throughout the Gulf and internationally.

The DHA also launched a three-phase plan to find urgent solutions for immediate customer service issues, followed by administrative and technical affairs in the medium term and strategic issues in the long term.

On his visit to DHA headquarters, Sheikh Mohammed was accompanied by the Dubai Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Deputy Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

During the presentation, Sheikh Mohammed viewed designs for proposed health projects within the strategy, including:

  • rebuilding of Rashid Hospital at a total cost of AED 3 billion and with a capacity of 900 beds;
  • expanding the current trauma centre to 160 beds;
  • expanding the out-patient clinics to 160 treatment rooms;
  • establishing new centres for heart, cancer, kidney and cosmetic surgeries;
  • building six new specialised centres.

The strategy also envisages two five-star hotels to serve those accompanying patients.

Other future projects viewed by Sheikh Mohammed are the expansion of the Care Home for the Elderly and three other hospitals which include Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Hospital, the Al Maktoum Hospital and the Al Khawaneej Hospital.

Sheikh Mohammed also launched a DHA website for measuring customer satisfaction.

Originally broadcast on Emirates News, 19 May 2013.

Desert Ice Cafe

Image Credit: Chillout Cafe Dubai

Dubai is renowned for its year-round warmth and iconic landmarks, but there’s also a place visitors can take in the sights without working up a sweat.

At the Chillout ice lounge in the Times Square mall, sub-zero temperatures not only keep the tourists cool, but prevent the ice sculptures of Dubai’s best-known landmarks from melting.

Visitors are supplied with thermal jackets, boots and fur hats as they enter the cafe, which holds its temperature at a constant minus-six degrees Celsius.

Image Credit: Chillout Cafe Dubai

Hani Fanoos is the head of service. He says, “This country is known for its really hot weather, so to have a place made of ice like this is a really unique idea.”

Fanoos says most visitors came from Gulf countries which, with their traditionally hot and arid climates, never experience snow or ice.

They focus on attracting return visitors too.

“Every year, especially during the month of Ramadan when we are closed,” he says, “we do new ice carvings, come up with new ideas and new ice figures as well.”

It is not just the sculptures that are frozen. Everything from the chandeliers and paintings, to the tables, chairs and plates, and even the menu, are all carved out of ice.

Chillout first opened its doors in 2007. Visitors pay AED60 for a 40- minute visit, including a hot drink.

For one Saudi family, it was the first time they had come across such a concept.

Janna Aref says, “It’s a new idea and I don’t think it exists anywhere else in the Arab world.”

As well providing visitors with warm clothes, the cafe also covers its frozen seats with fur and treats the floor to prevent slipping.

Owners say the ice lounge attracts around 100 visitors a day.

Originally featured on Emirates News, 17 May 2013

Inspiring Young Innovation


The region’s biggest student science exhibition opened in Dubai today to showcase innovations designed and created by the UAE’s top science students.

Hosted by the Emirates Foundation, Think Science aims to inspire students to engage with technology and then help them connect with industry.

There are 160 projects on display here, representing the work of 400 students, which shows there’s hope yet, for the next generation of young scientists, according to Clare Woodcraft-Scott, CEO of the Emirates Foundation.

“A lot of young people are getting a bit disillusioned with the concept of science and technology,” she says.

“It’s not an easy subject and we see a reduction in the number of young people choosing this as either a subject or a future career,” says Woodcraft-Scott. “We feel that’s a real shame because the UAE’s future growth is going to depend on science and technology talent.”

Mariem el Moctar, Al Qadisyah School

Mariem el Moctar, Al Qadisyah School

There’s no mistaking how just much talent was on display at the Dubai World Trade Center today though.

Mariem el Moctar from Al Qadisyah School is demonstrating how to collect electricity from wasted heat.

“Everyone knows that in the UAE the weather is so hot and in every building there is A/C so using the wasted heat that A/C produces, to produce electricity,” explains Mariem.

Gerard Ezcurra, Director of International Business at Vernier Software & Technology also sees an opportunity to harness this energy, to convert bright young scientific minds into the UAE’s technological workforce of the future.

“We live in such a scientific world and science is losing its joy amongst the children so we’re very excited when we can come over here and give them some extra tools, some extra way to build their excitement,” says Ezcurra.

Thousands of scientists are needed to fill positions in the UAE workplace, especially the private sector, with priority areas including nuclear engineering, aeronautical engineering, energy and IT.

Sami Issa is the  Executive Director of the Advanced Technologies Investment Corporation (ATIC). He says events like this are crucial to attracting home-grown talent.

“ATIC is highly interested, as is Mubadala, in developing the science and technology generation and we invest heavily in programs to promote science to educate Emiratis and move them towards more science and technology,” says Issa.

To encourage them to pursue work at the forefront of innovation, they need to be able access the very latest technologies.

Amal Al Masri, Al Shohub School

Amal Al Masri, Al Shohub School

“The science that you and I learned a long long time ago, computers, technology has progressed so far, our students are so much more sophisticated, we want to give them the same level of sophistication,” said Ezcurra.

Another practical application of chemistry is demonstrated by Amal Al Masri from the Al Shohub School.

She says her model of a basic hydrogen fuel cell relies on artificial photosynthesis to extract the hydrogen from water.

Oxygen isn’t the only by-product from the process – students are finding they’re getting hooked on science, without even knowing it.

“Because they’ll get engaged with the subject as well as the project and work very hard for it and represent the chemistry or the project and the rest. I think this program is the best,” said Amal.

And that engagement is precisely what today is all about.

Once they’re hooked, the challenge is keeping them there – which the Foundation has covered as well.

“Emirates Foundation is really a one-stop-shop for young people so we keep those people engaged in our database, they will be engaged some of them as ambassadors, says Woodcraft-Scott.

“Equally the companies are going to be reaching out to them so the companies here are not just interested in showcasing their employee proposition but they’re also interested in Emirati talent.”

A panel of 42 scientific experts from universities and corporate entities will review and evaluate the 160 projects to determine the winners, which will be announced in June.

Originally broadcast on Emirates News, 21 April 2013

Peeta Planet

A new genre in digital entertainment is about to hit our screens bridging the divide between broadcast television and social media. It’s Emirati creators, call it social television, and through it, they will introduce you to people all around the world.

You might know Peyman and Mohamed Al Awadhi as the force behind the Wild Peeta restaurant chain but soon they’ll be household names as the roving restaurateurs behind Planet Peeta.

Their social television concept came up back in 2009, when they were looking to take a well-earned break from their busy lives and started asking for travel tips online.

“What social media has done over the past few years is its connected us with people across the world, locals,” says Mohamed Al Awadhi, “so when we do travel to those cities we connect with those locals and they show us their cities through their eyes. We eat at the places they eat at.”

His brother explains that from that search, their concept of travelling the “ultra-local” way grew.

“Mohamed and I are very much of the type, we love the ultra-local experiences, when we travel, we rarely go to the places you’d find on the sites like TripAdvisor and things like that,” says Peyman Al Awadhi.

“We rarely do the things that are known. We always do the take the roads less travelled as we always say. We felt like that is when you actually see a city and understand the soul of a city. We wanted to share that experience and we call it social travel.”

Naturally, that form of travel relies heavily on access to the right type of technology, explains Maha Abouelenein, Google’s regional head of communications.

“Google acted as a digital concierge so helping them figure out where to go when they were looking for information, to help them navigate through Maps, using Google Translate in countries where they didn’t speak the language.”

Technology may have helped them tackle the tyranny of distance, but they also had to learn how to cross the cultural divide.

It always started a little bit awkward because somebody dressed like this in a foreign country comes across a little bit intimidating and the guest was always wary of what shouldn’t I say and will I offend these people and what happened was with everyone as soon as we started talking, what we looked like and what passports we held just melted away and it was just two people with similar ideas.

Coming from an Emirati upbringing also brought some very distinct advantages.

“We talk about crowdsourcing alot and that’s something that we as Emiratis, we’re very good at doing I mean our leaders consistently do that with everything that they do, they run the cities and the country that way,” says Mohammed, “and now we’re doing that on a very small scale on a tv show and I tell you what this is the future of TV.”

Peyman says their goals is to tempt us away from package tours and “sanitised” travel that leaves you disconnected from your surroundings.

“You travel to the same cities, you visit the same monuments,” says Peyman, “you probably will not eat local food, you’ll probably eat at a fast food franchise and the only locals that you will meet will work in hospitality industry.”

Originally broadcast on Emirates News, 14 April 2013

Dubai Dragon Boating

The 2013 Dragon Boat Festival was far from being just a spectacle. Competition was as fierce as the name would suggest, as Noni Edwards reports.

This year’s event at Festival City was the seventh time it’s been held in Dubai and its popularity is gaining.

It’s no wonder, with its combination of fun, sunshine and the all important team spirit.

Courtesy of Dubai Calendar

“It’s very fun because it’s a team sport. It’s the ultimate team sport, says one competitor. “It’s synchronized, it has to be together, you have to play with the whole team. One stroke, one sound.”

57 teams are competing this year over the two days, for titles in 200, 500 and 1,000 meter races.

Globally, organisers say it’s the second most popular team participation sport in the world, with over 50 million participants.

“Dragon boating has been around for the last two and a half thousand years. Originating from China, and here it is now in the UAE, says one team member. “It brings together different nationalities, different people of all ages, different abilities, and we’re having fun on the water.”

The UAE Dragon Boat Association was founded in 2006 but organisers say the sport has been practised in the UAE for about 80 years.

Originally broadcast on Emirates News, 13 April 2013

Bridal Business = Big Business

Image Credit: Noni Edwards

Image Credit: Noni Edwards

Few places in the world do a wedding like the UAE. The bridal business is big business here, so the Bride Show at the Dubai World Trade Centre naturally attracts a lot of attention from both sellers and buyers.

This year’s annual wedding survey from Informa Exhibitions surveyed 900 brides-to-be in the UAE and found family values rule for the majority.

40 per cent rank their family’s attendance at their wedding, as the most important factor in their impending nuptials.

The wedding dress was the most important element for 20 per cent of brides. Wedding vows were the most important thing for a mere 15 percent.

The survey also reveals that brides-to-be would love a helping hand on their wedding day with more than 40 per cent of brides planning to use the services of a wedding planner and that’s only the beginning in terms of the price-tag for the average marriage in the UAE.

Image Credit: Noni Edwards

Image Credit: Noni Edwards

The UAE wedding industry is worth a total of $700 million every year.

Bride Show director Daphne Cota explains, “I think the wedding service market in the UAE is bigger than any other country, as a wedding costs an average of $100,000 as against $20,000 in western countries.”

At a traditional Middle East wedding, a bride usually wears a whole set of gold jewellery, such as earrings, necklaces, rings and bracelets.

The UAE’s annual gold consumption is reportedly 40 grams per capita, every year.

But while appearances count, family values are rock solid. A fact the industry knows very well, according to Bride Show exhibitor, Shaima Alwahdi.

“Most of the younger generation are fully aware that there are priorities in life, so what comes first is the important things, then the little other things like parties and stuff we will do but in a logical and reasonable way,” says Alwahdi.

Image Credit: Noni Edwards

Image Credit: Noni Edwards

The show reflects the changing aesthetics of wedding in the UAE, with many brides wanting to combine traditional and modern, East with West.

Iconic white wedding dresses stood next to elegant abayas and ornate saris.

The show runs until Saturday.


This story originally featured on Emirates News, 11 April 2013.