Driving & Texting

•September 23, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Motorists highlight misuse of smartphones while driving

By Jamil Khan @ The Gulf Today-Sharjah, Sept 23, 2016

DUBAI: Life in the UAE has been blissful with ubiquitous technology morphing everyday life into a constant connection with friends, colleagues, relatives or social groups; but the use of such technology especially by motorists has raised some massive concerns.
Government agencies in Western countries have already tightened laws for motorists, ensuring their safety as well others.
Likewise, the UAE government through its various agencies also took serious measures to deter people from using their mobile phones while driving.
Talking to The Gulf Today, motorists from different sectors shared their concerns with readers.
Souraya Halloway, Marketing Manager at Cravia Inc, said that texting while sitting behind steering wheels is always a dangerous act. driving-text
“Motorists nowadays, when alerted about the threat of texting while driving, would reassure you that they can manage it pretty well, thinking that they are different from other people,” she said.
She pointed out that drivers, especially the youthful ones, think they are like superheroes and believe they can manage both tasks at the same time.
“People do not understand how hazardous this is. The lack of concentration is evident when they focus their attention away from the road while using hand-held devices or texting,” she added.
Pointing to the danger as well as the severity of punishments like fines, she mentioned that since we tend to be constantly connected to our phone, we should take advantage of driving time to enjoy one of the simpler pleasures of life: listening to good music.

Jess Santos, a Dubai resident who works in a multinational firm, asserted that motorists should be more conscious and drive with responsibility, as any mistake could harm or cause untold misery to others.
“Being on busy roads, we observe almost 70 per cent of smart phone users on their mobile phone while driving.
“A large number of drivers text while they are behind the wheel.
“We all have a part to play in ensuring our family and friends do not use their phones while driving,” he maintained.
Reem Masswadeh, a Dubai resident, said: “People, especially motorists, think they can manage multi-tasking and use their phones while driving.
“However, researchers suggest that our brain is not capable of fully concentrating on two things simultaneously.
“If you are texting or engaged in a cellphone conversation while driving, that leaves your brain with less cognitive load to focus on driving.”
She told that it is dangerous enough to make a phone call while driving, but texting is even more dangerous, as both eyes and hands are not focused on the road.
“The solution is in our hand to stop this dreadful habit; as a community we should give new drivers simple, clear instructions not to use their phones while driving.
“We should also lead by example; so if we need to text or talk on the phone, pull over to a safe place.
“If you think you have years and years of driving experience, think again as it only takes a second to get into an accident,” she pointed.
Ali Alotebi told The Gulf Today that the majority of drivers ignore the danger; sadly this not only puts their life in danger, but that of other road users as well.  In order to drive safely, drivers need to devote their full attention to the road, to be prepared for any potential accidents that could arise.
“Using their mobile devices not only reduces their preparedness, but also distracts them from driving safely and not being a danger to other cars on the road,” he said.
He further said that the importance of safe driving does not mean the negation of the importance of owning and using a mobile device.  Instead attention and focus needs to be on educating people on how to use these devices in a way that brings no harm to anyone.
“Using technologies that have facilitated this is easy. Options such as Auto-Text or Phone Car Kit, and hands-free headsets can be utilised to ensure safety,” he added.

1st Rashid Workshop

•September 22, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Syrian star amps up happiness of differently-abled students

By Jamil Khan @ The Gulf Today-Sharjah, Sept 22, 2016

DUBAI: Abed Fahd, a prominent film and TV actor from Syria, in his recent visit to the Rashid Centre for the differently-abled, witnessed the success stories of the students with special needs and vowed to help them pursue an acting career in thrashid-happiness-indicatore future.
Fahad, who has been a well-known showbiz personality in Arab world, was welcomed by Mariam Othman, Director General of Rashid Centre, who accompanied him in touring different sections and interacting with the students.
He also attended the first Rashid Happiness Indicator workshop where students from different sections narrated their success stories and showed great appreciation of the services offered by the Rashid Centre. The students who participated had different impairments like hearing, speech and physical and some needed a sign language expert and a translator to answer queries regarding their activities in the centre.
Fahd was mesmerised by the confidence and abilities demonstrated by the students and responding to the members of Rashid Star – students who perform drama, dance and other stage performances – regarding pursuing a career in acting, he assured them that he would help in teaching them about showbiz.
Othman, while talking to the media, said that it was the first Rashid Happiness Indicator workshop that was attended by a prominent film personality like Abed Fahd, which encouraged the students to be more confident in their expression. “Today, our students expressed their happiness and shared their success stories in the workshop like any mainstream students and didn’t show any signs of difficulties as the experts were there to help them convey their feelings,” she said.
She pointed out that the centre was extending all the facilities through its professional teachers for special needs students to provide happiness, as the Dubai government vowed to promote harmony, security and happiness among its residents. She further mentioned that the Centre would continue to hold such workshops with the help of the students, government departments and the general public.
Responding to a question, she said that the conflicts in many parts of the world, especially in Arab countries, were increasing the number of children with special needs.
Later, the Syrian actor also attended the performance of Rashid Stars and distributed certificates amongst the participants.

PAD Sports Arena

•September 21, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Sports facilities enthralling local community
By Jamil Khan @ The Gulf Today-Sharjah, Sept 21, 2016

DUBAI: A large number of community members from Pakistan who are residing in Dubai, especially the youth, are one of the major beneficiaries of a range of indoor and outdoor games being offered at the Pakistan Association Dubai.
The facility, which has expanded more after the completion of the Pakistan Auditorium, has been accommodating a large number of game enthusiasts interested in cricket, hockey, volleyball, basketball, badminton, lawn tennis and table tennis.
Practice and coaching session for the indoor games as well as outdoor games started in the evening throughout the week while members of different communities like from Philippines and others were also allowed access to hone their skills in different sports.
Besides the individuals, a number of Dubai-based cricket and hockey clubs are using the facility for their practice sessions and also to hold tournaments.
“Players, young and adults, from the members of the association are always welcome and have discounted rates for practice and coaching sessions while mini cricket and mini hockey coaching is being run by two local clubs 4 days a week,” said Dr Faisal Ikram, general secretary PAD, while talking to The Gulf Today.
He further pointed that the sports arena provides daily cricket and hockey coaching by professional players. “The facilities, especially the recently installed table tennis and badminton, have been receiving a huge response from Pakistani community as well as others who come daily and enjoy the facility that has ample parking spaces within the association,” he said.
Responding to a question, he said, “The association has its own hockey team and practices daily at the AstroTurf pitch besides a number of UAE National team players making the sports facility more valuable for young players who want to learn from and practice with prominent players.”
The association has been reaching out to local schools and clubs to promote their indoor and outdoor sports facilities and hold tournaments on various occasions to attract local families.
“Our long-term strategy to set up highly standard sport facility within the association is not only providing the community a better place on affordable fees but also to set up our own cricket and football teams to compete with local clubs and to rise on the local and international sports scene,” said Dr Ikram.
However, Sajjad Aziz, a Pakistani expatriate living in Dubai for a long time and whose children are part of cricket and table tennis teams, termed the opportunity as a better place for kids. “We parents are happy to have our own sports facilities in the association, as these days children prefer virtual games on their mobile devices and become less active. Places like such should be promoted among the expat communities for the overall benefit of youth,” he said.

The Citizens Foundation

•September 17, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Pak NGO head honoured with civil award

By Jamil Khan @ The Gulf Today-Sharjah, Sept 16, 2016

DUBAI: The UAE chapter of The Citizens Foundation (TCF), a non-government organisation working for the betterment of education in Pakistan, has said that recently Mushtaq Chhapra, Co-founder and Director of TCF, was conferred the Sitara-e-Imtiaz (Star of Excellence) by the President of Pakistan, Mamnoon Hussain, in acknowledgment of TCF’s efforts and its team.
Salman Siddiqui, a representative of TCF in the UAE, told The Gulf Today that “this award recognises the progress made so far in this journey and highlights the significant ground yet to be covered in resolving the education crisis in Pakistan.
“The cause of providing quality education to less privileged children deserves all the attention it can get and this honour for Chhapra is a great help in this regard,” he said.
During 2016, TCF has taken over management responsibilities for more than 250 government schools across Pakistan in order to help improve the quality of education, school administration and enrolment of out-of-school children, and including day-to- day operations.
TCF will mobilise school communities and introduce modern management systems and processes, curriculum enrichment, teacher training, and continuous monitoring and evaluation for these adopted public schools.
This effort is part of TCF’s broader strategy to magnify its impact to reach 1.5 million children with the help of organic growth as well as strategic innovation.
Other office-bearers of the organisation pointed that TCF is pleased that the President of Pakistan in Islamabad has awarded the Sitara-e-Imtiaz to Chhapra for his exemplary efforts in public service. Sitara-e-Imtiaz is one of the highest civil honours in Pakistan.
Chhapra has played a pivotal role in TCF’s journey during the past 21 years, including a stint as the Chairman of the Board for six years.
Driven by a strong desire to make a difference in the lives of the less-privileged, Chhapra’s active engagement with social work is not limited to TCF.
“We are and will remain indebted to Chhapra for his selfless devotion to the children of Pakistan and his unwavering belief in their potential to transform the future of their families, their communities and this country,” they said.

Eid Al Adha 2016

•September 16, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Business slow as livestock traders look forward to reap big from Eid Al Adha

By Jamil Khan @ The Gulf Today-Sharjah, Sept 05, 2016

SHARJAH: With a few days left to the start of Eid Al Adha, traders at the cattle market in Sharjah are yet to witness the Eid Al Adhha rush for sacrificial animals, considering their expectations for brisk business in the run-up to the festivity.
The major cattle market for sacrificial animals located in Rolla has been a reliable source of animals, to the residents of Sharjah, for sacrifice to mark Eid Al Adha. Sacrificing an animal on Eid Al Adha is obligatory for all Muslims who can afford to fulfil the Sunnah of Hazrat Ibrahim (AS).
When asked about the prevailing market condition, the traders told The Gulf Today on Sunday, that the low turnout of customers was a result of high prices for animals. “Currently the livestock in the market are of local breed. The prices for this lot are a tad high for the buyers. We are waiting for cattle arriving from India, which are coming by ship in two days. Then, all the shops and stalls in the market will be inundated with new livestock,” said Abdul Rasheed, a trader dealing who has been dealing in livestock for a number of years.
According to the prevailing prices of livestock in the market, the local breed of goats ranges from Dhs500 to Dhs700, while a cow is selling in the range of Dhs6,000 to Dhs8,000, depending on the size and age. Livestock from Syria and Saudi Arabia, which is also being sold in the local market, ranges from Dhs1,200 to Dhs1,400. Sheep imported from Syria and other countries range from Dhs400 to Dhs600.
Goats from Somalia and other countries are selling for between Dhs400 and Dhs650.
Sabir, also a trader at the market said, “The livestock from other countries such as India, Pakistan, Somalia and Saudi Arabia have been delayed this time round. This resulted in the slowing down of business for many traders. It is only traders who deal in the local breed of livestock that are catering for the current demand.
“As usual, we are expecting a huge number of customers on the eve of Eid Al Adha – Sept.10 to Sept.11. Then, our stalls will be brimming with fresh livestock and the prices will be affordable for many,” he said.
As is always the trend, residents who live in villas always buy their sacrificial animals weeks before Eid Al Adha to take good care of the livestock. On the other hand, residents who do not have sufficient spaces to keep the animals prefer to buy on the eve of Eid. This lot go to the municipality abattoir to sacrifice the animals.
A trader, who was seen impatiently waiting for new stock, said that with the availablity of livestock from India, the prices for goats and sheep will be slightly higher due to increased demand.

Travel Northern Ireland-IV

•September 3, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Humble chef
By Jamil Khan @ The Gulf Today-Sharjah, Sept 03, 2016

I recently had a chance meeting with a celebrity chef who had cooked food for world leaders like US President Barack Obama.
During a trip to Northern Ireland as part of Year of Food and Drink 2016, our group had a chance to enjoy an evening party at the Gordon Wilson Library in Lough Erne Resort, Fermanagh County, where once world leaders had gathered to attend a pre-summit meeting of G8 Summit held in 2013.
The resort is one of the most romantic destinations in Northern Ireland and people make their wedding bookings years in advance.
Noel McMeel, Executive Chef at the Lough Erne Resort, had prepared a number of traditional dishes with local produce for the leaders.
Top leaders, including Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Russian President Vladimir Putin, had attended the meeting.
“President Obama was so impressed by the food prepared by Noel McMeel that the chef was invited to show his culinary skills for the guests who attended the Saint Patrick’s Day 2015 event held in the White House,” a senior official told this scribe.
I could witness the chef churning out a humble smile.

Dubai Opera

•September 2, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Art lovers hail Dubai Opera opening

By Jamil Khan @ The Gulf Today-Sharjah, Sept 02, 2016

DUBAI: The opening of the Dubai Opera with the outstanding and well-attended performance by legendary tenor Placido Domingo has placed the emirate in the limelight.Dubai Opera
Dubai residents from different backgrounds and nationalities termed the grand opening of the opera house as not only a unique affair for the local cultural and art scene, but a springboard for legendary performers to showcase their spell-bounding charm to local audiences.
Vladimir Djapic, a Serbian national, who has worked as an art director in Dubai over a long time, told The Gulf Today that “the opera is a layer of culture in the world and Dubai has just added this missing layer on its culture scene. There is no doubt that the opera is fundamental in any culture and Dubai has its own identity of the refined form of the art world.”
He pointed out that Dubai is currently focusing on development of the mind and emotions, following its massive success in consumer-oriented projects. “Opera is a pattern of art. We will witness world-class performances soon in the newly established opera,” he said.
Djapic grew up surrounded by theatre and various forms of art, considering that his grandmother was an opera performer. Responding to a question, he affirmed that he will soon attend a performance at the Dubai Opera.
Reem Masswadeh, a Jordanian PR Consultant in Dubai, said: “Passing by the construction site frequently got us all excited to see the masterpiece of contemporary design as well as attend performances by leading actors. Dubai Opera is a unique and stylish tribute to Dubai as the most prestigious place in the world.”
She said she was thrilled about the opening of the masterpiece and could not wait to attend future performances. “It will definitely play a vital role as the new exciting cultural destination of Dubai, and it is expected to host the best international performances, allowing us and our families to experience uniqueness that you get only in Dubai,” she added.
Rehan Khan, a Regional Sales Director, Middle East & Africa at a local firm, has attended opera performances in London, Paris, Sydney and other places around the world. “Following the launch of its own opera, Dubai has placed itself in a unique league. The government not only announced, but it also showed the world its commitment to open the Dubai Opera,” he said. “We salute Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum for achieving this feat, which is another jewel in Dubai’s crown. Dubai now joins the list of cities such Sydney, London and Paris, which are known for their opera houses,” he said.
He added that the opera is a refined form of art that evolves after centuries. This is influenced by enthusiasts’ evolving tastes, following visits to famous opera houses around the world.
Khan said he intends to visit and have a feel of the Dubai Opera experience. “We are confident about Dubai’s potential, bearing in mind that the emirate is currently renowned for constructing highly sophisticated and attractive designed buildings that have world-class facilities,” he said.
Fareaha Tabish, a Pakistani expatriate who works with a local bank, is equally excited about the opening of the Dubai Opera.
Tabish, who grew up surrounded by a number of family members that participated in different forms of performing arts, frequently reads newspapers and follows social media to catch up on local art and cultural activities. “We knew that once Dubai announces the opening of an open opera house, the project will not only be unique, but it will also set a global example in terms of grandeur and glamour.
“The grand opening by legendary Spanish tenor Placido Domingo was more than a maiden journey of Dubai’s long ride to capture all leading titles.We wish Dubai great success,” she said.
She wishes to see Faran Tahir, a Pakistani-American film, stage and television actor, perform at the Dubai Opera. Tahir recently performed the title role in the theatrical rendition of Shakespeare’s classic literature work Othello, which was staged at the Sidney Harman Hall, Washington DC.