GulfNews UAE

GulfNews UAE

UAE-Israel peace grows people-to-people ties, says Israel’s envoy

Government|: Abu Dhabi: Ambassador Eitan Na’eh, Israel’s first Head of Mission to the UAE, underscored the significant regional impact of growing people-to-people ties between the two countries. Ambassador Na’eh expressed, during a US-UAE Business Council webinar on Tuesday, the genuine excitement around the historic Abraham Accords. He said: “I have to pinch myself to make sure it’s real.” Emphasizing the importance of people-to-people exchanges, he said the Accords have not only allowed for direct flights between the two countries, but also the “normalisation of relationships". Israel is now “setting the groundwork for legal frameworks for the relationship,” including in double taxation, free trade, health, the environment, and communications. Remarking on these nascent frameworks, he said: “You name it, we are already in one or the other phase of negotiation,” noting that the UAE and Israel are moving “full speed ahead” on issues in which they have “common ground.” He also noted the importance of this cooperation for the entire Middle East region and that Israel is meeting the rest of the region today in the UAE. Dayle Carden, Managing Partner at the Elliott Barrett Group, echoed Ambassador Na’eh’s sentiments about the significance of the Abraham Accords. She explained that after 15 years in government, most of it spent in the Middle East, “to say that the announcement of the Abraham Accords was an exciting moment is an understatement.” Carden is now working to “bring the spirit of the agreement to a reality.” She also expressed her excitement about the business opportunities for both countries that have emerged from the agreement and the potential for expanded US-UAE-Israel trilateral cooperation. Conversation then turned to one of the first areas in which the fruits of normalisation have been realized: tourism. Already, over 100,000 Israelis have visited Dubai, and direct flights on FlyDubai, El Al, Wizz Air, and Etihad are connecting the two countries. Ambassador Na’eh stated that such exchange has “opened the eyes of people in the region to the possibilities and to the potential” of what may result from following the lead of the UAE. Ambassador Na’eh went on to describe the UAE as a “meeting place” for business people and individuals from the entire region. Ambassador Na’eh added that his presence in the UAE has allowed for dialogue with Palestinians, Iraqis, Kuwaitis and others about “not just the narratives of the past, but about the future and how we can both contribute to peace” by “building relationships. “This, Ambassador Na’eh underscored, is one of the most exciting aspects of his work and a major achievement of the Abraham Accords. He explained that people want peace and want change. Because this “change is coming from the bottom,” a new model for peacemaking is emerging and will have “ripple effects” across the Middle East and the world. Transitioning to the business opportunities emerging from the Abraham Accords, Ambassador Na’eh listed agriculture, water, medtech, AI, cybertech, and fintech as areas of cooperation. He explained that while Israel brings knowledge and expertise in agtech and water, there remains much to be learned from the Emiratis in this space. In the medtech field, Ambassador Na’eh commented, the UAE serves as an important regional hub. And, in the cybertech and fintech spaces, the UAE serves as an ideal location for companies to “scale and expand through the Middle East region.” He repeated the adage that while Israel is the region’s “startup nation,” the UAE is the regional “scale-up nation.” Carden added that US companies also have the potential to make major contributions to economic growth through trilateral business relations. Ambassador Na’eh then zoomed in on cooperation in the health sector and life sciences. He recognised the rapid pace of vaccination efforts and the life science expertise in both Israel and the UAE as key factors paving the way for successful partnerships. Ambassador Na’eh pointed to an ongoing Israeli life sciences delegation in the UAE as an example of ongoing cooperation in the space. He also noted that COVID-19 has reinforced the importance of medicine, particularly remote medicine, hybrid medicine, and the digitisation of medicine and that discussions between the UAE and Israel continue in this regard. Moreover, he explained that collaboration is taking place at the research level as well, with student exchanges and joint training. He remarked that “we are just at the beginning” of exchange in this critical vertical. Expo Dubai is one avenue that is poised to accelerate such exchange. Ambassador Na’eh noted that Israel had planned to set up a pavilion even in advance of the signing of the Abraham Accords. This venue, he said, will allow Israel to showcase its innovative solutions and capabilities. Israel will also work with the UAE government on special programming. Danny Sebright, President of the US-UAE Business Council announced that the Council will organise trilateral US-UAE-Israel programming at Expo to highlight the important ways, in which the three countries can together advance innovation and economic growth. Ambassador Na’eh noted the magnitude of developing Israel-UAE ties. He explained, “A window of opportunity has been opened,” and he hopes that as governments and as people, “we are up to the task” and “creative enough” to embrace “new structures and new thinking about the Middle East.”

GulfNews UAE

UAE passes law setting up National Human Rights Authority

Government|: Abu Dhabi: Members of the Federal National Council on Tuesday passed a draft law setting up an independent National Human Rights Authority which aims to promote and protect human rights in the country, and work to spread the culture of human rights and educate members of society about them. Under the bill, which requires signing into a law by the President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the authority will develop a network of individuals and institutions around the world that empowers vulnerable segments of society. “Women, children, labourers, the elderly, people of determination and the vulnerable have rights that must be safeguarded. The authority will advance our country’s efforts in protecting human rights,” Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, said as the Caniet approved the draft law in December last year. The authority will follow the Paris Principles for the National Human Rights Institutions adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. Khalifa Shaheen Al Marar, Minister of State, told the House the draft law is “a milestone for the UAE in the human rights record, and will advance its competitiveness and stature.” Al Marar added through the establishment of the National Human Rights Authority, the UAE government is looking to strengthen human rights standards at the national level, and to its contribution, with government institutions, in developing the relevant government work system in a way that achieves the interest of UAE citizens, create a mechanism to follow up on its development proposals, and to avoid any obstacles in this area. The move comes ahead of the UAE’s membership of the UN Security Council from 2022-2023, the Human Rights Council from 2022-2024, and the review of the country’s 4th periodic report on the human rights situation within the framework of the universal periodic review in 2023. “The establishment of the National Commission for Human Rights supports of the state’s position in all these international obligation,” Al Marar said.

GulfNews UAE

Abu Dhabi begins offering Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine

UAE|: Abu Dhabi: Abu Dhabi is now offering the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to eligible residents, with 11 different vaccination centres stocking the jab. This is in addition to more than 100 centres in the emirate also continuing to offer the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine, announced the Department of Health, Abu Dhabi’s health regulator. Like the Sinopharm vaccine, the Pfizer vaccine shots will be administered free of charge to eligible residents. But residents must first book an appointment at the designated vaccination centres, which include six public clinics under the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (Seha) and five private centres operated by Mubadala Health. The announcement follows reminders by government officials on Tuesday for all residents aged 16 years and older to get vaccinated against COVID-19. In a media briefing, Dr Saif Al Dhaheri, spokesperson for the National Emergency, Crisis and Disasters Management Authority, said stricter measures are being considered to restrict the movement of unvaccinated individuals in the UAE. Where to get Pfizer vaccine in Abu Dhabi: Abu Dhabi city Public facilities by the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (Seha): Al Zaafaranah Diagnostic and Screening Centre, Madinat Mohamed Bin Zayed Healthcare Centre, Al Bahia Healthcare Centre. Call 80050 to book an appointment. Private centres: Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, Healthpoint Hospital, Capital Health Screening Centre at Al Jazira Sports Club, Capital Health Screening Centre at Mubadala Tower. Call 8004959 or email mcv@telemed.ae to book an appointment. Al Ain Seha clinics: Oud Al Touba Diagnostic and Screening Centre, Neima Healthcare Centre. Call 80050 to book an appointment. Private centres: Capital Health Screening Centre. Call 8004959 or email mcv@telemed.ae to book an appointment. Al Dhafra region Seha clinic: Al Dhafra Family Medicine Centre. Call 80050 to book an appointment.

GulfNews UAE

Live auction of rare art items to raise funds in Dubai for 100 Million Meals

UAE|: Dubai: The Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives (MBRGI) will organise charity art auctions to raise funds for the ‘100 Million Meals’ campaign. The live auction, to be held on Saturday at Mandarin Oriental Jumeirah in Dubai, will display a piece of Kaaba cover (Kiswa), embroidered in gold and silver, donated by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai. There will also be rare artworks by world-renowned artists and figures including Pablo Picasso, Nelson Mandela, Salvador Dali and Henri Matisse. The live in-person auction will also see Hollywood actor Will Smith revealing a collaborative painting with British-Indian artist Sacha Jafri. Expanded scope Proceeds will go to the ‘100 Million Meals’ campaign, the largest food donation drive in the region, that aims to provide food parcels for disadvantaged individuals and families across 30 countries in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa during Ramadan. The food distribution operations expanded to 10 more countries after the campaign’s strategic partner Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Humanitarian and Charity Establishment (MBRCH) announced financing and implementing food relief operations in a rnew list of countries in Africa, Asia, and South America. One of the artworks at the auction. Image Credit: Supplied Simultaneously, a silent auction is running from April 19 to 30, with 53 items on display including signed jerseys by international football stars Cristiano Ronaldo, Mesut Ozil, Nicolas Anelka, and Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal. The online auction will enable the public to bid on winning exclusive experiences such as attending the famous Formula 1 race in Monaco or Abu Dhabi, watching the Northern Lights in Lapland, spending a vacation in the Italian countryside of Tuscany, and experiencing zero gravity and floating in the void as astronauts do. Organised in collaboration with Maupy Auction, the MBRGI’s Live and Silent auctions aim to bring together art collectors and enthusiasts and present a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the public to own rare and valuable items, while donating for a good cause. Collaborative Art The live auction will see the revealing of a unique collaborative work between Hollywood star Will Smith and British-Indian artist Sacha Jafri. The painting presents an additional layer on top of one of Jafri’s iconic canvas panels inspired from his $62 million painting ‘The Journey of Humanity’, which broke the Guinness World Records for the ‘Largest Art Canvas’ A unique opportunity to own one of the world’s most valuable works of art created as a collaboration by two living legends and world-leaders in their chosen fields: artist Sacha Jafri and actor Will Smith. Important Works The in-person public auction will have on display works by the late South African leader Nelson Mandela, such as the Swallow, in addition to a rare collection of gold and silver medallions designed by the Spanish artist Pablo Picasso. David Hockney’s paintings ‘The Sailor’ will be on display. Image Credit: Supplied David Hockney’s paintings ‘The Sailor’ and ‘The Western House’ will be on display alongside paintings ‘Untitled’ and ‘Waso’ by Joan Miró, ‘Flower and Vase’ by Henri Matisse, as well as drawing ‘Search in the Faces’ by Salvador Dali. Philanthropists across the world keen to provide food support to millions of disadvantaged people can know more about the Live auction through www.100millionmeals.ae. Series The MBRGI’s virtual silent auction will have on display 53 items, including unique art pieces, exclusive experiences, and collectibles from high-profile personalities. The public can see and bid on the items until the 30th of April on www.100millionmealsauction.com. Rare Collectibles The charity auctions series showcase personal collections of world leaders including Shaikh Mohammad, the late South African President Nelson Mandela, and other celebrities such as international football stars Cristiano Ronaldo, Mesut Ozil, Nicolas Anelka, and Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal. Coinciding with food distribution The auctions coincide with food distribution operations of the ‘100 Million Meals’ campaign that had already begun in several countries. The campaign aims to reach 30 countries, as part of the UAE’s contribution to global efforts to combat hunger and malnutrition. The UAE, through its humanitarian initiatives, is committed to offering relief and support to the needy and the afflicted, spreading hope and mitigating the effects of crises and disasters. Other Donation Channels Companies, businessmen and the public can donate to the ‘100 Million Meals’ campaign in four ways. First, on the campaign’s website www.100millionmeals.ae; second, by making a transfer to the campaign’s bank account through Dubai Islamic Bank (AE08 0240 0015 2097 7815 201); third, by sending “Meal” on SMS to the UAE specified numbers (Du or Etisalat) listed on the website; and fourth, by contacting the campaign call centre on the toll-free number 8004999.

GulfNews UAE

‘I could spend only 17 days with my wife’: How COVID-19 worsens separation anxiety for 'married bachelors' in the UAE

“I could spend only 17 days with my wife,” said Asad Parvez, an expatriate in Dubai since 2009, while recounting the early years of his marriage and life away from family. Asad is among thousands of ‘married bachelors’ around the world who choose to live alone in a different country to make a living. ‘Married bachelors’ are everywhere, but more so in developed countries, moving in from developing nations due to financial constraints. Staying away from family to eke out a living got more frustrating with the advent of COVID-19 pandemic, leaving many to rely on the only option to stay connected: Video calling. We at Gulf News look at the troubles and turbulences in the lives of married bachelors and their quest for happiness away from family. When the pandemic hit, the loneliness was worse: An Indian expat in UAE for 24 years Rajeev Pillai has lived in the UAE for 24 years and had enjoyed living with his wife and two children for 15 years after his marriage. For the past three years, though, he has had to go back to his bachelorhood, but this time as a ‘married bachelor’. “We had enjoyed a happy family life for 15 years,” recollects Rajeev. “We were living in a two-bedroom apartment. My children were going to school and doing extra-curricular activities here. But, everything changed when my company, which is in the diamond import and export business, faced a financial crisis three years back,” he said. Rajeev started feeling the pinch when the company cut 25 per cent of his salary. “I had credit cards and personal loan like most of the expats here. When I realised it would be difficult to maintain my family here, I was forced to send them back.” Rajeev Pillai with his family. Image Credit: Rajeev Pillai The mental impact has been huge. “You are alone when you come back home. When I ask children what I should get for them, all they say is that they want me! Being away from your life partner is also not easy.” Having enjoyed a vibrant community life earlier, Rajeev says he misses attending the community events with his family. “When I go to any function, I have to sit with the other bachelors. When my wife was here, I never had to cook regularly, though cooking was a passion for me. When I restarted full-fledged cooking, my wife became my virtual guide.” Notwithstanding the loneliness, Rajeev says there are some practical benefits also of a forced ‘bachelor’ status. “It took some time for the children to adjust to the new lifestyle back home. However, they have become more independent and self-reliant now. Also, our house was lying empty back in India. When my family went back, it helped in the upkeep of the house.” When the pandemic hit, the loneliness got worse. Rajeev says he overcame it by getting involved in the community service. “I invited one of my friends to stay with me. Both of us worked as part of a community helpdesk during the peak of the pandemic. And I could be in touch with my family on video calls all through.” The pandemic has taught us many things and Rajeev says he feels for the blue-collar workers who can go home only once in two years. “But we need to adjust to the situations and tide over the difficulties.” Rajeev met with an accident last month and missed his wife’s care the most. “My relatives and friends were there to support me, but it is when you feel sick that you want to be with your family all the more, right? So, I flew home for a couple of weeks.” Why are they called ‘married bachelors’? ‘Married bachelors’ is a strange nomenclature. Who coined the term, no one seems to know, but there are thousands of ‘married bachelors’ in the UAE. Who are these ‘married bachelors’? They are normal people staying away from their wife and children due to financial constraints or certain family commitments. Read more Image Credit: Vijith Pulikkal, Assistant Product Manager My decision gave my children a better life: Filipina expat in UAE “When I first came to the UAE in 2003, I hadn’t planned to stay on. I had left behind my five-month-old daughter and seven-year-old son and I just came to take a look at the prospects here. At the time, I had left behind a job as a licensed stockbroker because I was looking for a change. I thought I would stay for two years, send some money back home. But then I got a position as a financial consultant, with room for growth. I liked the lifestyle and just ended up staying on,” said Cristina Dagaz, 50, a Filipina manager at a recruitment firm in the UAE. In the end, my decision gave my children a better life. My 25-year-old son is now an advertising executive. If I could have another go at it, I would definitely try harder to sponsor my children. Cristina Dagaz, 50, a Filipina manager “I am a single mother, so I had left my children in the care of my parents. I was especially close to my son, Paulo, who had been my companion since his birth. So I missed my children very much. In fact, I was afraid my daughter, Kaya, would not know me, so I kept asking my parents and my son to keep pointing at a picture of myself with my children and keep telling Kaya that I was her mother. “It was hard, because back in those days, I could only afford to make an international call twice a week, during the afternoon discount period. At times, it was heartbreaking. I missed being a mum. So, I did all I could to spend time with my children. I would bring them down to the UAE during their summer break, even though this gave me just three months at a time. And I kept trying to sponsor my children, but I couldn’t. “In the end, my decision gave my children a better life. My 25-year-old son is now an advertising executive. If I could have another go at it, I would definitely try harder to sponsor my children. I came up against multiple roadblocks because I was a single mother, but I would continue trying. “And for others looking to go down the same path, I would definitely tell them that they should be prepared for the mental toll and homesickness. It is a big challenge and not at all easy. There is also a big cultural shock that one must be prepared for.” What are the mental issues faced by married people who have left their families back home due to financial difficulties or COVID-19 pandemic? The process of getting used to new cultures and routines living abroad is often part of the adventure, but the pandemic and its repercussions on travel has hit even the most seasoned members of the expat community hard, says Tooba Siddiqui, M.A. Clinical Psychology, Medcare Camali Mental Health Clinic. Parents and children alike can cope more easily with being apart when there is some level of predictability, some sense of routine or pattern or creation of a new routine or patterns. Tooba Siddiqui, Clinical Psychology “It’s natural to be experiencing a range of emotions — missing your network of friends and family ... It’s common to feel guilty about not being physically able to support people you care about those who are more at risk. Staying away from family do impact your mental and physical health gravely. No matter how much you deny, it directly or indirectly shows up in different ways, especially if you’ve been brought up in a collectivist society. “Having said that, parents and children alike can cope more easily with being apart when there is some level of predictability, some sense of routine or pattern or creation of a new routine or patterns.” Image Credit: Vijith Pulikkal, Assistant Product Manager Staying away from family was really difficult: A Pakistani expatriate in Dubai When Pakistani national Asad Parvez came over to Dubai in 2009, he was unmarried. He had to leave behind his parents to get a job here. He got married when he went home for his first annual leave a year later. “I could spend only 17 days with my wife,” recollects Asad who still continues to live as a ‘married bachelor’ in Dubai. “There was no video call in those days. Mobile calls were expensive. Staying away from the family was really difficult.” A father of two girls, Asad regrets not being there with his wife during their births. “I couldn’t be there due to my job requirements. I have always felt guilty about it. [A] husband should be there when [his] wife delivers. I couldn’t.” But Asad is aware of the practical side. He says: “If you bring over your family, you can’t support them well. It is very expensive to maintain them here with school fees, health insurance and so on.” Asad Parvez came to Dubai in 2009. Image Credit: Asad Parvez Apart from financial stability, Asad says he has some other reasons also for not bringing over his family to live with him in Dubai. “My children are very attached to my parents. I have two younger brothers too, who are married. They don’t have children yet. All of their emotional attachment with my children is a barrier [for bringing them here] today. Also, we are more comfortable with sending them to schools back in Pakistan.” After he changed his company and got a promotion, Asad has been able to visit them more frequently. “They had come here twice on visit as well.” Video calling has been a big solace since last year, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, says Asad. “Earlier, I missed being there so badly for all family gatherings and functions. Now, we are able to join them virtually at least. You feel like you are sitting next to them. But being physically present still makes a big difference. Children are growing up, they need you to be with them.” Because of the flight restrictions during the pandemic, he said he could not fly home for eight months. “Since I have more flexibility in my current company, I used to fly home every four or five months. Somehow I managed to go home for my sister’s engagement ceremony after an eight-month gap.” Of turning the chops and food court samosas: Gulf News staff member As I settled down at the workstation in office, an SMS flashed on my mobile screen. The Air India flight from Dubai had landed just a shade behind schedule in New Delhi. I breathed a sigh of relief that my wife and son were on home turf, literally. Immediately, my attention was drawn to the desk phone — the office landline and it suddenly struck me like a sharp jab from a knife or razor: That the Avaya phone will never again ring, showing my Dubai home landline number on its display screen. It was the first and rather crude realisation of a truth, a reality that was waiting to knock me out right from the day we decided that wife and son would return to India for son’s studies and to attend to my ailing mother. I had often tried to prepare myself mentally for the inevitable, but kept pushing all thoughts of being a ‘married bachelor’ to the back burner as I kept telling myself: ‘I’ll think about crossing the bridge only when I come to it.’ And there I was, staring at the phone and fighting hard to make sure my eyes didn’t get any more moist than they already were! Months later, as I put the first round of what was mentioned on the biryani masala pack as ‘3/4th boiled rice’ into the pan and got ready to get the marinated chicken pieces out of the fridge, there was just a hint of a smile on my wife’s face who was keeping a keen eye, through the Skype camera, on my maiden attempt at chicken biryani. “So you’ve taken the first step towards making sure that you no longer have to depend on takeouts and Maggie noodles,” she said, even as I told myself: ‘I’ve come to the bridge and crossed it too!’ Sanjib Kumar Das Almost five years have passed since I opted to be a part of the ‘married bachelors’ club’ in the UAE. And I must say that every crisis indeed presents an opportunity. In my case, it helped add a vital skill to my repertoire of self-help living. Culinary delights that were once the exclusive domain of printed menu cards and food-on-phone were gradually being rustled up in the open-plan kitchen at my rented Dubai apartment — one humble dish at a time; doing the groceries, I found out, wasn’t really a pain; keeping track of the laundry bag was no rocket science really; and an occasional movie can certainly be watched in complete silence with zero verbal interaction with the person on the next seat at the theatre ... Wonders never cease, I told myself. And as the days and weeks of ‘married bachelorhood’ made way for months and years of a solitary life in Dubai, I realised what exactly a senior colleague had meant when he once said: “Here, you are only as wanted as a social being as your family is. Without them, you won’t be considered a part of the ‘inner circle’.” How true those words turned out to be, as Diwali, Eid, Christmas and New Year passed by, year on year, without a single call or word from what I had once construed to be a close-knit group of ‘friends’ in Dubai! But no regrets. The Mall of the Emirates ground-floor food court and the Festival City promenade still rank among my favourite weekend haunts where many an opinion piece has been crafted over piping hot tea and samosas from Bombay Chowpatty; Amazon Prime and Netflix are reason enough to make the sofa the most sought-after place at home; I can still catch up with family on video calls and lest I forget — turning the chops on the stove can still keep me busy. And fortunately for me, I managed to visit family and home just before WHO declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. Life’s good. I haven’t seen my family in 14 months now: Sri Lankan expat in UAE “Looking back, I would probably choose to live with my family and look for options back home. This life has allowed me to provide for them, but it has also been extremely difficult,” said Ilanko Sithamparam, 56, a Sri Lankan housekeeping manager at a hospital. “I first arrived in the UAE in 2000. My son was then three years old and I was finding it hard to make ends meet as a building contractor. So I took up a job as a sales executive, then proceeded through the ranks until I joined the hospital as a housekeeping manager. Ilanko Sithamparam with his family. Image Credit: Ilanko Sithamparam “For a while, I brought my family over to the UAE. They were with me for five years, until my son turned 15 years. Then, it became too difficult for me to provide for my son’s education. So my wife and son returned home while I stayed on. I miss them very much, so I visit them at regular intervals — say every six months or so. But the COVID-19 restrictions put a brake on those, especially given the need to quarantine. I haven’t seen my family for 14 months now, and it isn’t easy," he said. “Every day, as soon as I get back home from work, I am on a video call with my wife. In fact, that is my ‘job’ when I get home every day. I would have preferred to live with my family all this while, but it may have stopped me from being able to support my family. In fact, my son is now studying medicine in Russia and my earnings have enabled that. As for my wife, she holds the sole responsibility of taking care of my elderly mother and my mother-in-law at home," Ilanko said.  “To be honest, I only planned to be in the UAE for a year or two. But time went by and now I’ve been here for two decades. I do feel sad because I feel like I’ve missed it all — the happiness, the milestones, the difficult moments. But this is the only way I have been able to give my family the life they have,” Ilanko said.  Sadness and despondency Regardless of perceived levels of control, a grief response — sadness and despondency, problems sleeping, conflicts with others, social isolation, tearfulness, changes in energy, headaches, muscle tension, problems keeping up with a daily routine — is to be expected after such a separation from family, said Tooba Siddiqui, a psychologist. Image Credit: Vijith Pulikkal, Assistant Product Manager So what steps should ‘married bachelors’ take to keep their families and themselves in a stable and happy state? A system created around healthy eating, exercising regularly, sleeping sufficiently and indulging in productive activities such as cooking or painting can help create a semblance of a routine that can be used as the initial groundwork for coping up with anxiety that comes with isolation, said Siddiqui. Image Credit: Vijith Pulikkal, Assistant Product Manager Anxiety of the pandemic months was like a silent killer: Gulf News staff member ‘Married bachelors’? I wouldn’t have known that such a term ever existed if I hadn’t spent more than 17 years in Dubai. Me and my colleagues had, of course, got accustomed to being the ‘summer bachelors’ over the years. This, in other words, meant just an extra sense of freedom over the months of July-August when most families would normally head back to India for the two months of summer vacation at schools. The ritual went something like this — the man of the house would eventually join the wife and children for the second half of the vacation — till it was time for all to again get back to the grind. Gautam Bhattacharyya Then at some point, you arrive at the crossroads. It’s time for you to take a call on whether the son or daughter — who has suddenly turned out to be a strapping young man or a lady — would take the next leap in their education in the UAE or is it time they relocate to India or move to any other part of the world. It was in early 2019 when I decided to send my wife and daughter back to Kolkata. Given we were a four hours’ flight away, it wasn’t such a bad deal as I gloated about taking the “right decision”. Those, of course, were the pre-COVID days. As the pandemic was kicking in and the flights were on the verge of shutdown globally, I had to pack them off on a short notice from Dubai — only to meet them a good nine months later. The so-called resilience that I had prided myself on was slowly broken. The silent anxiety about the welfare of your near and dear ones eating into you could be a killer. While my colleagues delved into some painstaking research to bring insight for the readers about the pandemic and how it affected lives, I was often more concerned about the brass tacks back home. How is India faring in terms of cases? Where is West Bengal now in terms of active cases? Is the state equipped enough to handle the rising cases? Or is the internet connection at home stable enough for my daughter to handle her online classes? Being a ‘married bachelor’ is not really fun ... certainly not for men at my age!

GulfNews UAE

American University in Dubai fetes student winners of short-film contest on COVID-19 impact

Education|: Dubai: Prizes have been presented to the winners of American University in Dubai’s (AUD) short-film contest on mental health of students amid COVID-19. Dr David A. Schmidt, president, AUD, congratulated all the students who participated in the competition, called ‘Mental health of school students due to the spread of COVID- 19’. It was organised by AUD’s Mohammad Bin Rashid School for Communication, in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Knowledge and Human Development Authority. Schmidt said the aim of the competition was to discover talents among students and to support and appreciate those talents. The presentation of prizes to the winners, in the presence of Dr Sabrina Joseph, AUD provost and chief academic officer, took place on Sunday. Student Sarah Al-Bashir from Al Hikma Private School in Ajman received first place and was awarded a scholarship to study at AUD for four years. Awards were also presented with certificates of appreciation to other winners: Shahd Al Jarman in second place, Maryam Al Janahi in third place, and Shawq Al Marzouki in fourth place. All of them are from Al Ittihad Private School — Jumeirah in Dubai. Read more Heriot-Watt University Dubai moves to new digitally enabled campus at Knowledge Park Summer break for Indian, Pakistani schools in Sharjah from July 4, others can start on July 1 Grade 10 ICSE exams cancelled, Grade 12 exams stand deffered in UAE and elsewhere UAE opens new vocational training institute for students of determination in Abu Dhabi Professor Hikmat Jabr, director of secondary girls’ department at Al Hikma Private School, expressed her appreciation for the efforts made by AUD in preparing this competition. Professor Iman Irsheidat, Head of Arabic Language Department, Al Ittihad School, thanked AUD for launching its annual competition that inspires students towards creativity.

GulfNews UAE

Video: Dh5,000 fine, three months in jail for begging in the UAE

UAE|: Abu Dhabi: Beggars in the UAE will be fined Dh5,000, and imprisoned for upto three months, the UAE Public Prosecution has warned. The penalty applies for acts committed to obtain cash and in-kind benefits. Penalties will be stricter especially if the individual begging is found to be healthy and with a source of income, or if the beggar pretends to be suffering from disability or illness. Other forms of deception, including pretending to offer a service for the donation, also makes the violation graver, the Public Prosecution said. Organised begging On the other hand, two or more people working to obtain funds and in-kind benefits will be considered guilty of organised begging. Convicted individuals will be fined Dh100,000, and imprisoned for at least six months. A Dh100,000 fine and six-month minimum jail sentence will also be imposed on anyone found to be organising the entry of expatriates for the purpose of organised begging. Meanwhile, each of the people who participate in the organised begging activity will be fined at least Dh5,000, or jailed for up to three months, or both. The warning has been highlighted by the Public Prosecution through its social media channels, with the aim of increasing awareness of the UAE’s laws and regulations during the month of Ramadan. The Abu Dhabi Police last week also warned residents not to fall prey to beggars, stressing that many employ false means to obtain donations, especially during the month of Ramadan.

GulfNews UAE

Now, you can pay your parking fees in Dubai through an app

Transport|: Dubai: Paying parking fees in Dubai has been made more convenient with an app. The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) has recently launched App Clips, an added feature in RTA Dubai App, to ease the payment of public parking fees in the emirate, especially for iPhone users. RTA announced on Tuesday that motorists can now scan the QR code affixed to parking machines and directional signs across Dubai to have their parking requests processed. “The initiative constitutes a quality addition to other options for the payment of parking fees in the emirate and will save 30 fils when the motorist opts for the mParking service involving sending an SMS. This new initiative offers a smooth option for the payment of parking fees via nol card or coins, especially when there isn’t enough balance or coins to make full payment,” RTA noted. Added feature App Clips is not an application that users must download on their iPhones, but rather an added feature of RTA Dubai App. It pops up once the QR code is scanned and enables the user to smoothly pay the parking fee through Apple Pay. Read more Dh2,000 fine for using public bus stops for pickup, drop-off or parking in Abu Dhabi Look: Diversion on Dubai-Al Ain Road from tomorrow RTA opens Al Khawaneej Roads Improvement Project to improve Dubai-Sharjah link Logistics company urges drivers in UAE who are fasting to be extra careful during Ramadan RTA added: “Users do not have to download RTA Dubai App to access this App Clips feature to pay parking fees. This feature will be available in both Arabic and English languages. We have affixed QR code stickers to parking machines and signboards in more than 70 per cent of public parking lots in Dubai. The process is gathering pace to cover all parking spaces shortly.”

GulfNews UAE

Dh2,000 fine for using public bus stops for pickup, drop-off or parking in Abu Dhabi

Transport|: Abu Dhabi: Motorists found parking their vehicles in bus stops, or using them to stop and pick up or drop off passengers, will be fined Dh2,000, transport authorities have warned. Abu Dhabi’s public transport regulator, the Department of Municipalities and Transport’s Integrated Transport Centre (ITC), stressed that the practice is illegal, as it can increase the risk of traffic accidents or result in bus service delays. Blocking a bus stop in this manner also impedes traffic flow, while endangering public bus users. The violation also extends to instances when private motorists use infrastructure and facilities marked out for public transport. Field inspections The ITC will soon deploy field inspectors to counter the practice, and it will also monitor bus stops through traffic cameras. It has also called upon motorists to use dedicated parking spaces to pick up or drop off passengers at all times in order to ensure the safety of all road users. Bus service improvements Over the last two years, the ITC has taken a number of steps to enhance the emirate’s public bus network and services, including redesigning routes and introducing 140 new vehicles in 2020. Abu Dhabi Emirate’s buses also offer free Wi-Fi connectivity, whereas a number of shuttles serve remote locations to ensure that commuters have easier access to public buses. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the authority has also ensured the regular sterilisation of public buses, and limited the number of passengers per vehicle in order to allow for social distancing.

GulfNews UAE

Video: New mangrove forest sprouts in Dubai

Environment|: Dubai: A wildlife sanctuary along the coastline of Jebel Ali has become the latest mangrove forest in Dubai that will help protect and host endangered marine species. Hundreds of saplings were planted at Dubai Mangrove Forest located at Jebel Ali Wildlife Sanctuary on Monday afternoon. Major Ali Saqer Sultan Alsuwaidi, president of Emirates Marine Environmental Group (EMEG), told Gulf News he started planting mangroves in the beach area, used as a breeding ground hawksbill and green turtles, over six years ago. “Now there are around 500 fully-grown mangroves along the coastline,” said Major Ali, adding: “We are targeting to have one million saplings planted this year that can go up to 3 million saplings in the next four to five years.” Major Alsuwaidi said the nature reserve, situated near the Dubai-Abu Dhabi border, has a total land area of 15 square km, including 6 square km of wetland. Mangroves that grow along the salty coastline not only protect the area against erosion but are also vital in promoting biodiversity. In the UAE, mangroves that grow in sabkha (mudflat or salt flat) environments protect the feeding and breeding grounds for crabs, marine reptiles and birds. They are also host to algae, barnacles, oysters, sponges and bryozoans while shrimps and mud lobsters use the muddy bottoms as their home and mangrove crabs munch on the mangrove leaves. Mangroves also capture three to five times more carbon dioxide than trees found on land. Decisive environmental action “The P&G Dubai Mangrove Forest is a decisive action towards earth restoration by creating a forest in the desert coastline of the UAE,” noted EMEG and consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble, that has a global initiative called ForestsforGood. “The sanctuary is a UN protected reserve, included in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance. The initiative is in line with the Dubai 2040 Urban Master Plan that maps out a comprehensive future map for sustainable urban development in the city,” they added. the nature reserve, situated near the Dubai-Abu Dhabi border, has a total land area of 15 square km, including 6 square km of wetland. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/ Gulf News In a statement sent to Gulf News, Hiba Al Shehhi, acting director of the Biodiversity Department at the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE), said: “On behalf of MOCCAE, I would like to extend our sincere appreciation to EMEG for launching this exemplary initiative that aligns with our efforts in the field of mangrove conservation. We also thank P&G for sponsoring the Dubai Mangrove Forest. As part of its second Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) under the Paris Agreement, the UAE has pledged to plant 30 million mangrove seedlings by 2030, and this project will make a significant contribution towards achieving this target. The Ministry works closely with NGOs and the private sector to fulfil the country’s commitment to safeguarding the sustainability of its blue carbon ecosystems.” Indigenous mangroves * Major Ali Saqer Sultan Alsuwaidi, president of Emirates Marine Environmental Group (EMEG), said mangroves are called Al qurum in Arabic. The species of mangrove tree commonly found in the UAE are Avicennia marina, commonly known as grey mangrove or white mangrove. * Mangroves are mainly found in the UAE’s sabkha environments. Sabkha is a coastal, supratidal mudflat or sandflat where saline minerals accumulate as a result of semiarid to arid climate. Sabkhas are coastal plains just above normal high-tide level. * Avicennia marina grow as a shrub or tree to a height of 3-10 metres or up to 14m in tropical regions. They have multiple branches and smooth light-grey bark made up of thin, stiff, brittle flakes. The leaves of full-grown mangroves are thick (5 to 8cm) and silvery-white or grey in colour. The species can tolerate high salinity by excreting salts through its leaves. * Instead of going down, the roots go up — these are called aerial roots — to allow the plant to absorb oxygen, which is deficient in its habitat. These roots also anchor the plant during the frequent inundation of seawater in the soft substrate of tidal systems. The grey mangrove can experience stunted growth in water conditions that are too saline, but thrive to their full height in waters where both salt and fresh water are present. Major Alsuwaidi added: “Nature itself can help us solve up to one-third of climate change. The aim of the Dubai Mangrove Forest is to help balance out Dubai’s cosmopolitan impact in agreement with Dubai 2040 Urban Master Plan, which aims to expand green spaces focused on enhancing the population’s well-being. Dubai Mangrove Forest will not only be used for foresting but also for animal rescue and species preservation.” Monitor mangrove via app The mini-cluster of mangroves within the sanctuary will soon become a forest. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/ Gulf News Visitors and residents are invited to plant saplings at Dubai Mangrove Forest and they can monitor their growth through an app. P&G said it has partnered with Hong Kong-based EcoMatcher for the initiative. “Using blockchain technology to ensure traceability, the aim of the program is to offer full transparency with tree-planting projects, allowing each individual to view their trees that have been planted through the EcoMatcher website in line with P&G’s mission to ensure sustainable growth and accountability,” the company noted. The mini-cluster of mangroves within the sanctuary will soon become a forest. Omar Channawi, CEO of P&G Middle East, East & West Africa and General Export Markets, said: “P&G intends to plant new mangroves on the Jebel Ali site and also adopt some mangroves that are older (four or five years old) to maximise the future carbon sequestration and offsetting potential.” “We are thrilled to see P&G’s Dubai Mangrove Forest project come to life here in the UAE, our first forest as part of P&G ForestsforGood Programme. Regionally, this campaign is focused on helping bring nature back to life, and we felt it particularly significant for the regeneration to take place in the desert,” he added.

GulfNews UAE

90 per cent of UAE citizens and residents happy with government services, study says

UAE|: Dubai: A new survey on Tuesday said 90 per cent of UAE citizens and residents are happy with the government services they had used in the past two years. The survey by think tank Serco Institute said “an astonishing 90 per cent of people described themselves as being ‘somewhat’ or ‘very’ happy'” with the services. The ‘Transformation, digitisation and happiness: Public opinion on UAE government services’ is the first output from Serco Institute in the UAE. A series of reports and research is planned for release throughout the year. The report also said people felt services could be “generic” and sometimes lacked “attentiveness”, but that these issues could be solved by creating more digital access. Link between happiness and service The research found a close relationship between the overall happiness of residents and citizens, and the quality of government services. 85 per cent of people said their experience of government services impacts their overall happiness. What people want The research indicates that while people are largely happy with the current quality of UAE government services, they want increased digital access, more unified platforms (multiple services accessible from a single app, website or location) and greater personalisation. Phil Malem Phil Malem, CEO of Serco Middle East, said: “We are very excited about the launch of the Serco Institute in the UAE. The insights they generate will help the government and their partners, such as Serco, and deliver the services citizens and residents want.” Serco Institute director Kate Steadman said: “Our research shows UAE citizens and residents are overwhelmingly happy with the quality of services they are receiving from the government. That said, service users want to see more unification, personalisation and digitisation. Read more Abdullah, Pakistan foreign minister share Ramadan greetings in UAE UAE: Abdullah bin Zayed receives Indian foreign minister UAE’s 50th anniversary: UAE Flag Balloon to be launched in November Endowments registered by Awqaf and Minors Affairs Foundation in UAE at the end of 2020 rises to 717 "The UAE is on a strong trajectory as it develops solutions to meet these demands, but as the government continues to transform how it delivers services, it faces the twin challenges of maintaining quality in services that are not changing, while ensuring new initiatives are a success as soon as they are launched.”

GulfNews UAE

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