Unconventional Art Spaces

Latifa Al Azdi (@Latifazdi )

Latifa Al Azdi (@Latifazdi )

Latifa holds a BA in PR and Advertising from Zayed University and an MA in Tourism from King’s College London. She enjoys all forms of art, reading and running towards a half marathon. Through her column “The Art of Observation” she shares her experiences of art events, exhibitions and talks.
Latifa Al Azdi (@Latifazdi )

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Looking into how the use of alternative art spaces can be utilized to reach a wider audience in the UAE.

The art night at Al Serkal Avenue in November - Picture taken by Latifa Azdi

The art night at Al Serkal Avenue in November – picture taken by Latifa Azdi

A couple of weeks ago, I passed by Al Serkal Avenue in the Al Qouz Industrial Area, which recently became an artistic hub for arts and culture in Dubai. Galleries Night was taking place, which is when galleries open their doors to unveil their latest exhibitions. It is a recurring event that marks the beginning of the new art season in March of every year, and is followed by another event in the second half of the year (in November), which reveals a new of art exhibitions. The event consists of an hour-long VIP preview followed by a three-hour public event. What I have noticed during these events hosted by the Al Serkal Avenue is the audience. It is more diverse compared to any regular day in a gallery around town, which brings me to the concept of making art accessible to the masses. There is a generic notion associated with visiting an art gallery in its traditional set. You either have to be an artist yourself or a part of a social group that is particularly interested in art.

Unlike traditional venues, the idea of converting industrial warehouses offers a dynamic platform for art to be showcased. It increases the chance of appealing to a wider audience. Al Serkal Avenue demonstrates that by differentiating itself from any gallery located in a high-end part of Dubai, such as DIFC. The main distinction is the location of the avenue where galleries are based in an industrial area surrounded by showrooms and garages. It took some time to pick up within the community, but people now do associate Al Qouz with art galleries in addition to it being an industrial area. Ever since its humble beginning in late 2007, Al Serkal Avenue has become one of the most prominent hubs for contemporary art in our region.

Warehouse turning into an art gallery - picture taken by Latifa Azdi

Warehouse turning into an art gallery – picture taken by Latifa Azdi

A similar use of alternative spaces took place in Sharjah during the latest Sharjah Biennial 12, where an abandoned ice factory was transformed to exhibit art. The location was isolated and everyone visiting had to take a bus to the Kalba ice factory situated in Sharjah’s East coast. The trip to reach the location added an extra element to the experience as a whole. There was a sense of anticipation and eagerness that won’t be found going to an art gallery located in a shopping mall for example.

Not only are Dubai and Sharjah making use of alternative art spaces, Abu Dhabi recently joined them too. To keep up with the ongoing plans taking place in Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi residents witnessed the opening of Warehouse421. It is the new kid in town, the latest project by Salama Bint Hamdan Foundation, which is located in Mina Zayed Port in Abu Dhabi. Once again, it is the uniqueness of the location which determines how ambitious the vision is. The more unlikely the association of the place with art, the more challenging and exciting it is to witness the growth of an artistic hub within time. All these examples I mentioned took place in 2015, which reassures me that art in the UAE is paving its way for a broader audience.

Take the Fight Online

Alia Al Hazami (@AliaAlHazami)

Alia Al Hazami (@AliaAlHazami)

Column: Hidden Promises
Alia is an AUS student double majoring in International Studies and English literature. She is also the author of Alatash fictional novel. Her main goal is to make a change and empower the youth. Her column is meant to help the younger generations deal with tough situations. It was given that title as hidden promises is what us teenagers often believe; false promises.
Alia Al Hazami (@AliaAlHazami)
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In a time where cyberbullying is spreading, how will enforcing regulations impact it, and how will it influence schools and parenting styles?

Artwork by Hayat AlHassan (@HayatAlH)

Artwork by Hayat AlHassan (@HayatAlH)

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is a nursery rhyme almost all of us heard growing up. Yet, this statement has been at fault in several situations.

“Bullying”, a term that can be defined as the act of tormenting others who may be weak, is a way of harming individuals through words. With the advancement of technology, old-school bullying has evolved into a new form called cyberbullying. Its literal meaning shares the same concept of bullying, but its twist is that it takes place in cyberspace. The issue of cyberbullying has turned into such a hot topic to the extent where laws have been set in several places around the world to apply sanctions on bullies.

The UAE is witnessing a great rise in the use of social media. Naturally, not everyone is using social media positively. As an active person on Twitter, it has come to my attention that some individuals abuse it. I have come across a lot of people tweeting pictures and videos of others to make fun of their appearance and behaviors. Additionally, some accounts have been created for the sole purpose of mocking others. Sadly, when people undertake such acts, they usually deem it to be harmless; however, these acts have serious effects on the people targeted in such posts. Though old-school bullying is still a ubiquitous issue, it is important to acknowledge cyberbullying as well. Not only will the laws discourage future bullies from coming out, they can help in highlighting its significance.

For instance, applying laws can be educational. Parry Aftab, a lawyer specialized in Internet safety, stated that cyberbullying is the legal term used when the target of abuse are minors, while when the target are adults the legal term is cyber harassment. Since minors are the targets of this phenomenon, it only makes sense for schools to discuss cyberbullying. With law enforcement, the matter will be taken more seriously and a decline in cyberbullying is more likely to happen. It is vital for schools to talk to students and educate them about the impact words can have on others.

Additionally, laws can educate parents on an issue they probably did not suffer from when growing up. The laws can push parents into monitoring their children’s online activity. A survey conducted by i-SAFE America found that though 93% of parents felt they knew about the websites their child was surfing online, 41% of children between the fifth to twelfth grades said they do not share their online activities with their parents.

Moreover, another survey conducted by the same establishment found that more than half of the students surveyed (52%) preferred to surf the Internet alone. Given these numbers, laws against cyberbullying can educate children about the effects of harassing others and alert parents to the importance of monitoring their child’s online behavior.

Furthermore, cyberbullying victims’ mental and physical stability can add to the equation. With traditional forms of bullying, it usually takes place on the school’s campus, meaning that the child’s feeling of not being safe at school can disappear the moment they go back to their households. Conversely, with our excessive use of technology, the child is prone to be tormented not only during school hours, but at home as well. This way, the victim is at a constant risk of being bullied all day long.

Likewise, with the constant improvement in technology, adolescents now have more vicious ways to exude their negative energy. Keeping that in mind, the victim can reach a point where they no longer can tolerate the malicious behavior targeted at them which will then make them resort to harming themselves. To achieve a child’s happiness, it is crucial to provide a safe environment and a peaceful state of mind.

The laws can send out a message that everyone is responsible for their online identity. Nevertheless, laws are not the only way to tackle the significance of the matter. Schools can lend a helping hand by creating anti-bullying programs. The government of the UAE has succeeded in applying sanctions to anyone who harasses anyone whether physically or through social media. However, I believe that initiating an official campaign to raise awareness and endorse cyber safety is much needed now.

The Responsibility To Lead

Nasser AlFalasi (@nassakb)

Nasser AlFalasi (@nassakb)

Column: Just A Nassasary.
Nasser AlFalasi was born the year the cold war ended. For those who don’t know the year the cold war ended, Nasser’s columns in SAIL is exactly for that reason. Nasser’s undergrad was in Financial Services at the Higher Colleges of Technology. He then pursued his graduate studies at NYU, NYC concentrating in global affairs with a specialization in international relations and transnational security. His major interests include history and global affairs. Most of his columns will be in regards to those topics. By the way, if you haven’t already found out the year Nasser was born, its 1991.
Nasser AlFalasi (@nassakb)

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What are the differences and significant changes that Omar ibn Abdul’Aziz, the 8th caliph of the Umayyad, made during his ruling time, and which of them are still valid till today.

Artwork by Aalaa Albastaki (Instagram:@lalaa_albastaki, Twitter: @AalaaAlbastaki)

Artwork by Aalaa Albastaki (Instagram:@lalaa_albastaki, Twitter: @AalaaAlbastaki)

Omar ibn Abdul’Aziz (Omar II) was the first revivalist in Islamic history. He was the eighth caliph of the Umayyad Caliphate in year 717 until his assassination in year 719. Although he only had two and a half years in power, he revived the duties and responsibilities of the caliph, gave back the wealth to the people, set policies that are active till today, and worked on uniting the Muslim communities.

The Umayyad caliphate was generally a very successful caliphate that expanded its jurisdiction from Andalusia (Spain) to Khorasan (Central Asia). Although the Umayyads managed to maintain political and religious unity of the Ummah (nation), corruption started to manifest in the government, leaving the caliphate ruled by a very powerful autocratic dynasty. The Umayyads built luxurious palaces, wore expensive clothing, spent the public treasury as their own wealth. No one could question or hold the Umayyads accountable for any of their actions as they held supreme power in all public affairs.

When the Umayyad caliph Sulaiman lay on his deathbed in 717, he wanted to revive the Rashidun practice by nominating a caliph other than his son. Therefore, he nominated his distant cousin who had been the governor of Egypt and Medina for twenty-two years. According to Professor Dr. Nazeer Ahmed from Cornell University “Before his accession to the Caliphate, Omar bin Abdul Aziz was a dashing young man, fond of fashion and fragrance. But when he accepted the responsibilities of Caliphate, he proved to be the most pious, able, far-sighted and responsible of all the Omayyad Emirs.” [1]

The very first policy that Omar established as a caliph was that he discarded all his servants, palaces, robes, and wealth by returning them back to the public treasurer for the people. After doing so, he ordered all his family and relatives to do the same. One example of Omar ibn Abdul’Aziz giving back to the public was the beautiful oasis of Fidak located in Khaybar, modern day Saudi Arabia. The Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) was rewarded the oasis as a bounty after the battle of Khaybar. However, the Prophet left no inheritance and gave whatever he had to the community. The Umayyads had taken Fidak for their own private use, which then Omar ibn Abdul’Aziz restored to the public treasury for the whole community to benefit from. However, not all his relatives were very fond of this, which amongst his other decisions, led to his assassination two and a half years later.

The second policy that Omar established was to battle the corruption of the caliphate. The Umayyads frequently accepted bribes from merchants in exchange for favors. In addition to stealing from the treasury, the Umayyads harshly mistreated conquered people by unfairly enforcing heavy non-Muslim Jizya (taxes) even after they had accepted Islam. Omar abolished these practices and ensured that every citizen, be it Arab or Persian, had to pay equal tax. According to Ibn Kathir, a prominent scholar and historian in the 14th Century, due to the reforms taken by Omar ibn Abdul’Aziz, Persia alone saw an increased revenue from 28 million dirhams to 124 million dirhams (the dirham that was used as a currency at the time is not of the same value as current day AED). The reason was that less money was being stolen and a lot more was invested into the infrastructure and development, which leads to the third policy. [2]

Rules were established regarding education, social, and infrastructure developments. According to Dr. Nazeer, Omar offered high stipends to educators and scholars, abolished consumption of alcohol, fairly distributed zakat (charity) and undertook extensive developments of roads, canals, and hospitals in Persia, Khorasan, and Northern Africa. These developments contributed greatly to the increasing state revenue and livelihood of many residents.

Social tolerance and peace was highly encouraged between the various ethnic and sectarian divide of the Muslim community. When Yazid I came into power of the Umayyad caliphate in 680 AD, a few companions of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) refused to swear allegiance to him. The main reason was primarily the corruption, theft, and injustice that the Umayyad caliphate was practicing during its reign of power. Because of this, the Umayyad declared war on those who refused to pledge allegiance, thus leading to the battle of Karbala in 680 AD in modern day Iraq, Karbala. The battle of Karbala and the refusal of allegiance caused a divide in the Islamic community that has existed ever since, leading to modern day Sunni and Shiite sects. Omar ibn Abdul’Aziz established various policies to prevent this divide in growing by promoting unity and cooperation between the two sects. Amongst many policies and peaceful negotiations Omar ibn Abdul’Aziz initiated, there was one policy that is still present today. According to Dr. Nazeer, since the time of Muawiyah I, it was customary practice for a khatib (preacher) to insult the name of Ali ibn Ali Talib. Omar ibn Abdul’Aziz abolished this practice and decreed the following passage from the Quran to be read instead.

God commands you to practice justice, enjoins you to help and assist your kin and He forbids obscenity, evil or oppression, so that you may remember Him” (Qur’an, 16:90). Today this decree and the reading of this passage at the beginning of a sermon is still a very common practice throughout the Muslim world.

Omar ibn Abdul’Aziz led by example and became the change he wished to see in the world. He saw everyone as a responsibility to him and held himself accountable in front of his Lord for all his actions. There is so much we can learn from Omar ibn Abdul’Aziz, such as making sure you never obstruct the rights of others, be humble in your actions, and act towards the benefit of uniting and bringing together communities. Omar ibn Abdul’Aziz was rich and from a profound family, he could’ve had all what he wanted in addition to supreme power of a caliphate. Yet although all the society and those around him would not have stopped him, he held strong to what he felt was right and gave up all his possessions for the benefit of his people.


[1] P. N. Ahmed, “Omar bin Abdul Aziz,” 2009. [Online]. Available: http://historyofislam.com/contents/the-age-of-faith/omar-bin-abdul-aziz/?blogsub=confirming#blog_subscription-3.
[2] Ibn-Kathir, Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Riyadh: Darussalam, 2000.

AUSMUN Committees: A Brief Insight (@AUS_ModelUN)

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This article elaborates on the structure of committees in the Model UN in the American University in Sharjah.



His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qassimi had a distinct vision for the American University of Sharjah (AUS). One of the visions of His Highness was for the AUS to have a productive cooperation with the economical, cultural and industrial sectors of the society. The Model United Nations (MUN) that the AUS holds under the International Studies department reflects the vision of Sheikh Dr. Sultan and incorporates different parts of his visions of the AUS. The AUS’s MUN (AUSMUN) consists of eight committees and councils that vary in focus and resolve different issues, thus engaging a wide range of students in different ways.

The most common council is the Security Council. Just like in the United Nations, the Security Council consists of 15 delegates and is the only committee that could enforce laws and decisions on other nation-states.

Another committee being simulated in the 2016 AUSMUN is General Assembly First Committee (GA1). The GA1 Committee addresses questions of disarmament, global challenges, and threats to peace that affect the international community while also resolving challenges in the international security regime.

Along with the GA1, the General Assembly Fourth Committee (GA4) is also a committee modeled after the UN’s. The GA4 Special Political and Decolonization deals with issues such as, but not limited to, decolonization, refugees, peacekeeping and human rights. The General Assemblies are the biggest committees in AUSMUN, resembling their size, to scale, in the UN.

An important council in the United Nations is the Human Rights Council. It is an intergovernmental body with 47 States that work towards promoting and protecting the rights of humans around the world. The AUSMUN board sees the importance of this committee in international issues and conflicts and thus chose it as one of the councils to model.

The World Health Organization (WHO) came into existence in April 7, 1948; a date now recognized as the World Health Day. The organization works in 150 different countries with more than 7000 workers. Due to the recognition of the significance of the World Health Organization, one of our committees is modeled after it and addresses issues that are faced by the WHO.

The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW or UN Women) made significant contributions like the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination of Women (CEDAW), Beijing Declaration, and Platform for Action. The CSW is a subcommittee under ECOSOC, the Economic and Social Council, which is also modeled in AUSMUN. The questions before the ECOSOC concern “Combatting the Underground Economy” and “Strengthening Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance and Relief”.

AUSMUN is held at the AUS in the United Arab Emirates, therefore, it is honorable for us to represent the region we live in. The League of Arab States (LAS) is a council that was established in 1945 and consists of 22 members from the Middle East and North African region. With the rise of religious extremism in the region, it is only appropriate to address the issues in the LAS. The board has set forth the question of “Reversing the Tide of Religious Extremism”.

Several schools and universities in the UAE host MUN conferences. Still, AUSMUN remains one of the biggest and most versatile conferences. AUSMUN is an engaging opportunity for students of various high schools and universities from different parts of the world to come together and debate different issues in various settings as independent actors. The different committees and councils represented at AUSMUN is a reflection of the diversity and multitude of the conference.

To register, or know more, please access our website AUSMUN.org

Written by Hanan Arab, International Studies student at American University of Sharjah

To find out more about AUSMUN:

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A Historical Moment in the Road to Empowering Emirati Women

Iman Ben Chaibah (@ImanBenChaibah)

Iman Ben Chaibah (@ImanBenChaibah)

Iman Ben Chaibah, founder of Sail Publishing, a digital publishing house for online magazines and ebooks, and editor in chief of the Emirati Sail Magazine, an online magazine about community and culture written in English by Emirati columnists. Iman is a multi award winner in digital publishing, entrepreneurship, and literature. Iman has also completed the Leadership Strategies in Magazine Media Course in Yale University. Besides her work in publishing, she also lectures in Canadian University in Dubai.
Iman Ben Chaibah (@ImanBenChaibah)
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Yesterday we witnessed a monumental moment in the history of the UAE’s journey in empowering women. This moment was when Her Excellency Dr. Amal Al Qubaisi chaired the UAE’s Federal National Council (FNC) as the first appointed woman to ever take this position. It represents a hugely important moment in time for women empowerment in the country, and proves that the UAE walks the talk and practices what it preaches when it comes to women.

H.E. Dr. Amal Al Qubaisi has a history of great achievements backing her appointment. She started working in academia after graduating with a PhD in Architecture from University of Sheffield in year 2000[i]. H.E. has been in a large number of committees and organizations that focused on architectural heritage and preservations. Her most recent positions are General Manager of Abu Dhabi Education Council and Board Member in Abu Dhabi Executive Council[ii].

Her appointment as Chairperson of the FNC will serve as a precedent for having a woman as chair in an Arab parliament. For a person like myself who is always fascinated by case studies and data, this is a great foundation to build case studies on what impacts it would have on an Arab community and society with women leading the parliament. Statistics have been showing that companies led by women (or have more women on their board of management) perform better on equity, return on sales, and return on investments[iii] [iv], which surely means higher productivity in the overall work environment. So in the case of having a woman chair a parliament, how will that be reflected in the decisions that will be made, in the regulations that will be revised, and on the community overall?

Last week, I was invited to give a talk in the Young Women’s Leadership Summit about my experience and what pushed me to thrive. And I felt the responsibility to not only talk about my experience, but to also prepare the girls attending the summit for the world they are walking into, and what it is like to be a woman in it. I told them in my talk that a few of them will definitely be the first women in the careers they will choose, and they need to take that role as a huge responsibility because the weight of future female generations in those career paths will be on their shoulders. Whether we like it or not, any mistake done by them might not be attributed to a normal human mistake but a woman mistake. So they have to work double hard to sometimes get half the recognition, but it’s ok, because women are capable of that, and we can do this. I concluded my talk with a quote from Madeline Albright, who was the first woman to ever be appointed the role of Secretary of State in the US: “There is plenty of room in the world for mediocre men, there is no room for mediocre women. And so you have to lead.”

The role of H.E. Dr. Amal Al Qubaisi is tremendous from all angles. It is a big responsibility to lead the FNC and ensure she can leave an impact on the community with whatever authority she’s given. But it’s also important because she’s the first woman to take this role, so she will be setting the expectations of women in such roles. Any mistake she might make might not be attributed as a human mistake but taken against the entire female gender, and any positive impact might be associated as a result of her feminine side, not her long experience and attained wisdom. People might sometimes adopt a blind spot to all the great achievements she ever led before this role, and may only scrutinize every step she makes as the steps of the “woman” who is now leading the FNC.


A post shared by Manal M R Al Maktoum (@mmbinrashid) on

I wish Her Excellency the best of luck in her new role, and I’m sure she we will make us all proud. She inspires us all, women and men, to aspire for the biggest of roles, and to break the glass ceiling. Thank you to our country’s great leadership for appointing her as the FNC chairperson. I hope this will translate into more women being voted into the FNC, rather than leaving it to the leadership to place them in once the voting is over.

[i] http://www.albayan.ae/across-the-uae/news-and-reports/2015-11-18-1.2508487

[ii] http://www.thenational.ae/uae/government/first-woman-appointed-to-abu-dhabi-executive-council

[iii] http://www.catalyst.org/media/companies-more-women-board-directors-experience-higher-financial-performance-according-latest

[iv] http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-09-22/women-board-members-means-better-performance-byrne-says

Accepting Cultural Differences

Mozah Al Samahi (@_mozah)

Mozah Al Samahi (@_mozah)

Eager learner with two academic achievements: Bachelors in Management(AUS) & Masters in International Business (Brunel University, London). Mozah is an insightful motivated individual who enjoys spreading her thoughts out loud by being a spontaneous wanderer in life’s journey. Her columns are based on the changing issues facing the Emirati society especially the youth. She is an adventurous who is eager to spread positivity and creativity. Mozah doesn’t believe in the word “impossible”.
Mozah Al Samahi (@_mozah)

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Cultural differences are present everywhere, however it is best to keep the differences aside and embrace individuals for who they are rather than where they come from.

Artwork by Farah Al Balooshi (Instagram: @SenoritaFarah, Twitter: @FarahAlBalooshi)

Artwork by Farah Al Balooshi (Instagram: @SenoritaFarah, Twitter: @FarahAlBalooshi)

Ever since I was young my parents encouraged me to make friends with people who were not from the same school, same nationality, same neighborhood, or even same religion. As a young girl, like many others, I was shy to talk to or approach people whom I didn’t know well. I limited my circle of friends to school friends, my cousins and close neighbors only. However, my parents constantly encouraged me to accept others regardless of their differences and treat them with respect.

Today I can easily open a conversation with anyone regardless of where they are from. Nevertheless, will you, as an individual, be open to such conversations? I keep noticing that people will group themselves based on similarities and neglect the others whether at school, university, or at work, and that is normal. Yet, we currently live in a diverse community, and I believe fostering cultural understanding should be vital for everyone. I host, attend, and participate in meetups and workshops that involve interacting with diverse individuals, yet I repeatedly notice that there is a gap in the habit of interaction.

People don’t want to interfere with others if they don’t know them; the assumption of being misunderstood overtakes the willingness to learn about each other. Moreover, UAE nationals themselves are resistant to each other. Coming from a different Emirate, different family, and a different upbringing also plays a role in not reaching out to each other. We tend to stereotype each other unconsciously which shapes our behaviors towards others. Therefore, I can only suggest we shouldn’t assume before attempting to know others. As long as respect is present during conversations, other factors shouldn’t matter.

Perhaps the flexibility to reach out to others is also not very well-practiced here in the UAE. There are clear boundaries that are set in the minds of people that they should not talk to others outside of their circle. Some other people lack confidence, while others are not sure of the do’s and don’ts of some cultures so they avoid interaction altogether.

For instance, during one of my meetups, a French person told me that he was afraid to reach out to Emiratis because he believed that we would consider it as an insult. That is complete nonsense, right? Another incident was from a young Emirati girl who mentioned that she did not know how to speak to a non-Emirati because she wasn’t put into a situation where she had to, thus, it was hard for her to communicate with non-Emiratis even though she spoke English fluently. As a result of these imaginary boundaries, assumptions are created, which limit the inclination to interact with others. There are in fact many workplaces that foster cultural understanding and we are very fortunate for that, yet I would love to see more harmony in places where it is not practiced.

I suggest we instill in our children and ourselves the ability to be culturally competent, which is to be willing to learn about others, accept, and respect differences. At some point we will have to deal with people who are not from the same background as we are, so it is important to acknowledge these differences at an early age because diversity will always exist.

Workplace Flexibility

Sidiqa Sohail (@sid_90)

Sidiqa Sohail (@sid_90)

Column: Musings of An Entrepreneur

Sidiqa is 25 years old and is half-Emirati and half-Pakistani. She has a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the American University of Sharjah and a Master’s degree in Conflict Prevention, Sustainable Peace, and Security from the University of Durham in the UK. Sidiqa owns and manages the boutique-café concept store “Spontiphoria” in Wasl Square, Jumeirah.
Sidiqa Sohail (@sid_90)

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How does workplace flexibility impact the productivity at work? and what does it really mean for both the company and the employees?

Artwork by Dana AlAttar (@DanaAlAttar)

Artwork by Dana AlAttar (@DanaAlAttar)

Productivity is something that has long interested me. Let’s face it; we all have different methods of working and different times when we’re at our most efficient. This fact seems so apparent to everyone that it surprises me how the majority of work environments and corporate cultures are so rigid.

A significant proportion of work environments still require their employees to be present from a certain time to a certain time each day and expect all of the work to be done at an office desk surrounded by many other people all doing the same thing. That being said, however, rules are needed in the first place to ensure those that have a tendency to slack off don’t.

Almost everyone, however, understands the fluctuations in human productivity and the difference between each person’s optimal working conditions. It surprises me that although this is common knowledge, most workplaces are far from adapting more efficient practices.

In my belief, at the end of the day if the required tasks have been completed, the circumstances under which they were completed shouldn’t really matter. Workplaces should adapt to allow work to be done from home, from other locations, and at different hours of the day.

We must take full advantage of technology. Most corporate employees will tell you of the amount of time they spend simply writing emails or coordinating tasks or projects via email. This is something that can be done anywhere; so can most marketing, accounting, and strategy planning tasks.

I, for one, know that I am much more productive in a café environment than I am at an office. Ironically, for me, the distractions in an office are far too plenty compared to a café. Something about being out in public and only having a small table to call my own really pushes me to work. And when I need a break, I just look around and people-watch for a few minutes. This is one way that I got through my Master’s dissertation, as well.

And from personal experience, and observing and speaking to many of those around me; the productivity hours lie far on either side of the 9AM-5PM spectrum. There are people who can only work best in the twilight hours, when everyone’s gone to bed. For me, I work best at the time between 6-9AM when everyone is asleep or just waking up and offices haven’t started yet. Once the official work day starts, I am inundated with calls, texts, emails, and other day-to-day management issues to deal with that finishing one task takes three times the amount of time it would have otherwise taken me during my cherished morning hours. The ability to be flexible in your work, however, depends on the type of work you are doing. Professions that require active engagement with people such as those in the medical professions don’t have that luxury of choosing their working hours.

A case in point is right now, actually. I’ve been sitting down and trying to get this article done for several days. The ideas have been floating in my head and I’ve jotted them down but every time I sit down to actually write one thing or the other distracts me; an email that has to be sent right this hour, or a follow-up on an order, or anything else. Now it’s 7AM and I am tapping away at my keyboard without any disturbances.

That being said, work environments do have their benefits and I’m not advocating a complete downsizing of offices because everyone will be working from their own chosen locations. Of course, the obvious fact is that they’re good for meetings, they’re good for improving communication between staff members, for transparency, and for collaboration. But the option to work at one’s own schedule for certain days of the week should also be incorporated into our 21st century work culture.

A demographic that will certainly appreciate that is new mothers. Conditions need to be made more suitable for new mothers to ease their transition back into working life. That would include a longer maternity leave, but also the option of working from home, and working part-time. That way, offices in general and the economy as a whole do not suddenly lose out on a huge talent base.

There has been progress in a lot of forward-thinking corporate cultures. Google for one is very impressive in its human-centric approach to work. It understands the fundamental fact that happier staff, and a better work-life balance means more productivity and more innovation for the company.

With a better understanding of the nature of human productivity and its direct effects on a company’s efficiency and innovation, I hope that more companies take a flexible approach to working arrangements thus making it possible for more people to contribute at their maximum potential.

Inspirational Women of The UAE by Spontiphoria – Aida AlBusaidy (@AidaAlB)

Iman Ben Chaibah (@ImanBenChaibah)

Iman Ben Chaibah (@ImanBenChaibah)

Iman Ben Chaibah, founder of Sail Publishing, a digital publishing house for online magazines and ebooks, and editor in chief of the Emirati Sail Magazine, an online magazine about community and culture written in English by Emirati columnists. Iman is a multi award winner in digital publishing, entrepreneurship, and literature. Iman has also completed the Leadership Strategies in Magazine Media Course in Yale University. Besides her work in publishing, she also lectures in Canadian University in Dubai.
Iman Ben Chaibah (@ImanBenChaibah)
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In a new initiative by Spontiphoria cafe and boutique, called Inspirational Women of The UAE, the cafe hosts a series of talks by inspirational women in the UAE who are making waves in their respective fields. In these talks we hear their stories, and learn about why they do what they do, and what made them who they are.

This week’s talk hosted our very own Aida AlBusaidy, who aside of being Sail Magazine’s developmental editor, she has filled a number of leading positions in both private and semi-government sectors, was a columnist in a number of publications in the UAE, co-hosted a TV talk show in one of the national TV channels, and contributed to so many great community initiatives across the years.

Here is the video of the talk by Aida AlBusaidy hosted in Spontiphoria this week (10th November, 2015).

The Good Old Days

Shurooq AlBanna (@Shuroooq)

Shurooq AlBanna (@Shuroooq)

Column: A Moment of Contemplation
Shurooq, an Emarati from Dubai, has been on a journey of self-discovery ever since she shifted career from Science to humanitarian where she found joy. Her interests include traveling and foreign films. Shurooq’s column is influenced by those distinctive moments that give a deeper perspective on life.
Shurooq AlBanna (@Shuroooq)

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Our lives are getting more complicated by the day. It would serve us well to reflect on the simplicity of how the older generations lived.

Artwork by Aalaa Albastaki (Instagram:@lalaa_albastaki, Twitter: @AalaaAlbastaki)

Artwork by Aalaa Albastaki (Instagram:@lalaa_albastaki, Twitter: @AalaaAlbastaki)

For the most part of my life, some of my most memorable moments have been spent with my grandfather Ali, who represented the true essence of the Emirati ethos and integrity to me. Sitting with him on Friday afternoons, I always loved hearing his stories of the years gone by – stories about people and interesting experiences, many of which sounded like fairytales to me. However, in 2013, I lost this special person in my life, and I faced many questions regarding my links to a culture and era gone by. In an increasingly international country, how can I and the future generations connect better with our roots?

While there have been many historians who have published works on the lives of people in the UAE, I wanted to know more personal tales of people and details of their daily lives. The more I spoke with people, the more I realized that my grandparents’ generation had a simple and beautiful life.

The Emirati way of life, before the discovery of oil, was one that revolved around the families coming together to make every day happen. To begin with, the day started very early in the morning, where the whole family would be up by 6:30 am latest and sleeping in late was unheard of. Breakfast was basic, consisting of paper-thin Rigag bread, scrambled eggs with tomatoes, Chbab and Khmeer.

School timings were shorter in those days – they started at 7:30 am and ended at 1 pm. All students had to study Arabic, Islamic Studies, Geography, and History with English and French being offered as electives in high school. Lunch after school brought the whole family back together on the table. However, it was never about just food, but all about sharing traditional dishes such as foogah, maale7, m7ammar with a side dish of vegetables like spring onions and water or Pepsi. Dessert was even more basic, usually watermelon. But the best thing was that all families shared their food by sending a portion of their cooked meals to their neighbors. Back then, the streets were safer and the sense of community was strong.

After lunch, homework was rushed by the young ones so everyone could watch TV and play in the neighborhood. TV programs back then started at 4pm and finished early. Dinner was served after the Maghreb prayer and everyone ate what was served to them regardless of whether they liked the dish or not. Evenings were spent together as a family and the lights were out most days by 10 pm.

Days were busy, yet life was humble. But our lives have changed dramatically over the past four or five decades. As I compare between the lives people led back then and how today we go from day to day barely living, only surviving, I yearn for a less complicated lifestyle and wonder what can be done to make life simple again.

The Benefits of Vulnerability

AlAnoud AlMadhi (@aam_alanoud )

Column: Beyond Inspiration
Founder of @BetweenTheSips -a social media initiative that moderates social conversations. Alanoud’s passion is public speaking and designing infographics, reading and researching.
Through “Beyond Inspiration”, Alanoud aims to share personal experiences, struggles, and aha moments that can spark a flame within the reader to reach their full potential.

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Taking the reader through the thinking process of why vulnerability could be inspirational and why embracing it could make us better human beings.

Artwork by AlAnoud AlMadhi

Artwork by AlAnoud AlMadhi

I recently attended a leadership forum in Dubai. As a way of introducing ourselves, all 30 of us were asked to share what inspires us. The answer that caught my attention came from a gentleman who was sitting at the back of the room. His response was, “I am inspired by vulnerability.” This took me by surprise. I associate vulnerability with weakness and I was puzzled by how anyone could be inspired by weakness. So, as I sat there, I reflected on what he could possibly mean.

Years ago, I used to obsess about being perfect and acting strong. I forbid myself from showing people my laughter, my tears, and even my nervousness. I even numbed myself from expressing feelings of affection towards others – and I became rather good at it. In my mind, such strength was inspiring, and I took the respect I received from others as proof of that.

Although I have loosened up now, I sometimes disapprove of my vulnerability, and I do miss my stronger self. I wondered if vulnerability could really be inspiring and I decided to give it some more thought.

That night, when I got home in Abu Dhabi from Dubai, I turned to a book that had sat untouched on my shelf for more than a year. “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown had been a gift from a friend that I hadn’t dared to read. It explores “how the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead.”

As I read the introduction, I smiled. In it, the author quotes an excerpt from a speech by the former US President Theodore Roosevelt from which the title of the book is taken. This is my favorite speech of all time – I have had the words typed out and displayed on my desk at home for years. I knew then I was meant to read this book!

Two main points resonated with me. First, “Perfect and bulletproof are seductive, but they don’t exist in the human experience,” Brown writes. So, I thought back to all that time I had spent trying to be perfect; I had built a wall between myself and the world.

I also looked back at why I changed. It is only recently that I have started to loosen up. I did so because I was filled with fear and anxiety, but mainly because I didn’t feel authentic. By becoming more authentic I realized I had learned to be vulnerable. There are times when I laugh uncontrollably, I get emotional and tear up, and my voice gets shaky when I’m nervous. I even allowed myself to love. I have come to realize that it’s OK to be human. So, I believe that is what vulnerability is about.

Second that resonated with me from Brown’s book is: “Vulnerability is the birthplace of joy, creativity, belonging and love.” This made me think about how my relationships had been, and how they had improved after I decided to let my guard down a little.

I have more friends now – real, caring friends who freely share with me their joy, their sadness, their experiences good and bad, because now they can relate to me and so they trust me more.

As human beings, we live in communities and, whether we like it or not, interaction with others is a basic element of our lives. Having said that, by being open, we invite understanding and support. As a result, we can become better people and perhaps, in our own way, make the world a better place. That is inspiring. Just think of what you felt the moment a great leader teared up because of a tragedy someone else had suffered from.

Courage often connotes strength and being fearless in battle, but there is no sense in battling who you are. Instead, it takes courage to be open. When you let go of being always in control and when you let go of the exhaustion of perfectionism, you will cultivate a resilient spirit. That is also inspiring.

Do I miss my “robot” self? I must admit I do a little. It had its benefits. But I have no aspirations to return to that, because the benefits I’m getting now are much more fulfilling.

I’m not sure if the conclusion I have come to is what the gentleman meant. But I’m grateful to have got the opportunity to think deeply about this – and develop a fresh perspective on life.