Dubai: The UAE stepped up measures to combat COVID-19, by launching an extensive country-wide sterilisation drive to curb the spread of the virus. As a result residents have been forced to stay indoors, else face the risk of fines.
This is by no means an easy task for many who have spent years in the UAE, enjoying the country’s tourism and hospitality offerings. Remember in 2019, a UK online travel agency ranked UAE as top travel destination. Dubai in particular ranked world’s top 10 most popular cities with international visitors, according to Euromonitor International – a UK-based market research consultancy.
So we at Gulf News ask a few residents on how they are making the most of the time at hand and their answers are varied. Whether it is re-connecting with a forgotten hobby, a passion or discovering a whole new dimension about themselves, residents said they are utilising this time for self-introspection and spur creativity from within.
Take a look at some of these talented bunch…
Mustafa Al Shabandar, a civil engineer by profession, working as commercial director for a property development firm is also an avid aviator. He has spent at least half a million dirhams building remote control (RC) model aircrafts since the time he discovered the passion. And so when the national sterilisation drive was launched, he [Shabandar] did not waste any time. He dug out a kit from his make-shift workshop – one he built himself in teakwood in the garden area of his villa in Jumeirah Village Triangle. And in the last three weeks, he has built an RC Harlrock Viper Jet. Coming with a wingspan of 2500 mm, the Jet weighs 15.5 kg. It is powered by a Kingtech 210 Turbine, an electric landing gear system, among other interesting specifications. Shabandar said the cost of getting the Jet ready to fly is around Dh40,000, but it is an amount he is happy to spend. “It is my passion and hobby. Being home-bound, I just feel like staying connected with my hobby all the more.”
Shabandar has built a workshop in the garden area of his house. “I do my office work from 8 am until 5 pm. This is a priority as it is my bread and butter.” “After this I dedicate my time for building RC aircrafts and for my family.”
Indian expat Kavita Mathur lives in Abu Dhabi with her husband and daughters Tanya, Mallika and dog Pepper.
“We have been gifted with ‘time’ and we are trying to make the best use of it – something we could never have imagined.”
Kavita does not have any help at home as her employee is stuck in Phillippines owing to travel restrictions. “So we are cooking, cleaning, gardening and this takes up all day. In order to deal with the situation in the best possible way, we have divided the tasks amongst ourselves, so far everything is falling into place.”
A typical day in the Mathur household begins with some yoga and meditation. “My daughters do a workout together.”
Kavita also keeps herself busy with an in-house Bookclub with her parents, sister and her daughters. They all get on a zoom meeting and discuss a book daily. “We also did a virtual dinner with our neighbors via zoom meeting. We all dressed up and sat down at the the dining table with candles and flowers in place.
Work and studies have not been forgotten. “Tanya is preparing for her online university exams, while Malika is involved with her school activities. I personally am taking tutorials from my girls on how to maneuver my website (trihealers.com). Am learning to upload blogs and videos related to yoga and Ayurveda.
“End of the day, we are all doing something we love doing. Tanya paints, Malika sings and plays her piano and I write my gratitude diary – thanking the divine for another beautiful day.”
For Alexandra-Saikkonen-Williams and her husband Tomi, being in a lockdown situation just means working harder than ever from home. “Many businesses are being cautious and my marketing agency is having to work double as hard to find new and ingenious ways to support UAE companies during this difficult time, whilst remaining profitable and ensuring staff are paid at the same time. Honestly our working days have extended by up to five hours per day. While I try to spend time with my son, I shower and dress for business as usual as we have so many webinars that we are hosting to provide value added service to clients and we have meetings via Zoom and Google Hangouts with existing and new customers. Needless to say all business is currently digital!”
Poorvi Shah, 25, Indian, Business Management Student in Dubai said the “24 hours stay in” has given her ample time to take up things that she neglected the past years. “I finally started using my home gym equipment. I started baking all over again and have been trying some new recipes. My pet dog has been getting a lot of attention too these days from me. As a family we do a lot together as well – like play board games and video call our neighbours, relatives together. Trust me, we have a lively and social evening every other day.”
Emirati student Yousef Al Hashimi, 20, from Dubai said initially when the sterilisation drive was launched, he struggled with the slow pace at which things moved. “There were many tasks in hand, but I accomplished none. However, I quickly adapted to the pace at which things started to move following the drive. To kill time, I have pulled out my high school video games, started to learn cooking and help my family reorganise my home.
Hashmi also does video chatting with his buddies almost every day. “The current days are a pause from our everyday grind and a moment to self-reflect. It’s the perfect time to prioritise yourself too.”
Egytian expat, Mahinaz Saad, 21, a student living in Dubai said: “I have made a personal commitment to workout at least three times a week and honestly it peps my mood for the day.”
A movie fan, Saad said he is digging old classics online and watching them – something he was putting off before. “Lord of the Rings and The Godfather are two movies I have been busy with lately.”
These Indian expats are discovering themselves
A group of friends living in Executive Towers in Business Bay get together every other day for a virtual jamming session. Neelesh Bhatia and his friendly neighbours get together on Zoom meetings and do karaoke session. “We sing our favourite numbers and it is a whole lot of fun.”
He was thankful to the UAE government for allowing residents to use video calling apps not only for work purpose, but also for keeping in touch with friends and families especially during such difficult times.
Rahul Kaul, an event manager has started a YouTube channel after his food vlogs received a whole lot of appreciation on Instagram.
And a Dubai Marina resident Nisha Rajesh is taking out time to get a fitness workout with her husband.
“Every day, we are challenging ourselves to try new yoga postures.”
From headstands, planks, reverse prayer, the couple are going all out to stay fit during this time.
To make staying home more enjoyable and fun, Rajesh and her friends share food pics everyday – just to inspire each other.