It’s been almost a year since the government announced amendments to a number of major personal and family laws that changed life in the UAE as we knew it. Covering a range of federal criminal laws – including divorce, cohabitation, women’s rights, and alcohol consumption – in a bid to improve living standards for the county’s multicultural residents, the sweeping changes have not only made a huge difference for current residents, but also those considering a move to the UAE.
But nine months on, there’s still confusion surrounding exactly what is and isn’t legal when it comes to cohabitation – arguably the most significant in these law changes – and the potential outcome for couples who have a child out of wedlock. And that’s where our conversation with a family law specialist comes in.
“Prior to this amendment, cohabitation outside wedlock was prohibited in the Emirates,” explained Dr. Hassan Elhais, Legal Consultant at Dubai’s Al Rowaad Advocates. “The Federal Decree Law No.15 of 2020 amended certain provisions of the UAE Penal Code, with one of the significant changes to criminal law the amendment of Article 356, which allows consensual sex between adults. As a result of these changes, unmarried couples may live in cohabitation as long as they are consenting adults.”
While instances of prosecutions for unrelated men and women sharing a property were rare before the amendment to the law was passed, unmarried couples are now legally allowed to share a property without facing any repercussions.
“Since consensual sex outside of marriage is now legal in the UAE, it is not a crime to have a child out of wedlock anymore,” continues Dr.Hassan. However, this doesn’t mean that falling pregnant while unmarried is a straightforward process. “Obtaining a birth certificate for children born out of wedlock is still a challenge and not guaranteed in many cases, so it’s worth considering the fact that single mothers may face difficulty in getting a birth certificate for their newborns,” he explains.
As for sharing a property with friends who are literally just that – friends? “It’s important to note that the change in law is with regards to cohabitation or more commonly live-in relationships,” says Hassan. “Matters related to people sharing one property or shared accommodation remain unaffected by this change as landlords, Dubai Municipality, and competent Rental Dispute Centers are better placed to review these matters on a case-to-case basis.”
An Expert on Turning Your Bedroom into a Sanctuary
Good sleep follows right design.
Creating the perfect space isn’t just about decoration. It involves the balance of textures, shapes, finishes, and arguably the most important factor: colour. Colour theory is an interesting concept. Certain hues can evoke particular feelings and moods, and colour can even affect primary sensory functions. This is why incorporating colour theory when designing a space is important. But there’s an art behind matching colours for a harmonious result – colours combinations should be visually pleasing, relaxing, or exciting to the mind at view.
All interior spaces have a purpose. For example, the bedroom should be a place of refuge where you can relax, unwind, and calm a racing mind. It is imperative to get the colour scheme right to ensure a peaceful night’s sleep. Along with the hue (colour), it is important to consider depth of colour when creating a certain ambience. Shades and tones that are too dark can make the room feel oppressive and heavy, whilst having a room that is too light can feel stark and sterile. An injection of colour – either with change of hue, tone, or tint – is necessary to balance all spaces efficiency and achieve the desired visual and mental result.
Of course, the colours chosen will also depend on the occupant of the space. For example, a master suite may require more muted tones, whilst a more vibrant colour palette may suit a child’s bedroom. There are also other things to consider when choosing the right bedroom colours – such as room orientation! For example, a south-facing room receives sunlight throughout most of the day. For this reason, you might want to add cool hues and accent colours such as blues and greens. For a north-facing room that receives little sunlight, it’s beneficial to warm up the space visually with the addition of colours such as muted reds (a strong red in the bedroom can imply negative energy), soft yellow, or orange.
Colour Theory Concepts
There are three tried-and-tested approaches to colour that are commonly used when choosing supporting hues for a space. These are analogous (colours that sit next to each other on the colour wheel), complimentary (colours that sit opposite each other on the colour wheel), and monochromatic (one single colour used with differing tints and shades). These colour concepts and combinations can be used with great results, creating a harmonious and serene bedroom.
A successful analogous scheme can benefit from a neutral base colour, such as beige or taupe. Neutral colours create feelings of warmth and comfort thanks to their low saturation of colour. These colours are uncomplicated and easy for the brain to process. Include varying tints of beige and taupe, along with off-white, to create depth within the main hue. The addition of colour accents such as oranges, greens, and yellows will add a certain vibrancy to the space due to the psychological effects of mixing cool and warm hues.
These hues can be softened with a tonal difference from the main colour. Try adding peach oranges, soft yellows, and light botanical greens to lift the space without creating too much energy. These colours invite feelings of self-confidence and vitality, finishing off the mood with a cheerful yet peaceful ambience. Add natural fibres and green foliage, along with artwork alluding to nature to create a truly natural look.
The below image shows hues with a low saturation colour, such as beige, which are uncomplicated and easy to process visually. Accessorise with colourful accents to finish the space.
Various tones of peach have been used as the main secondary hue in the below bedroom, with greens and the occasional soft yellow, along with nature-inspired naturals to create an analogous colour scheme.
Another concept to try is a complimentary scheme, where the colours sit opposite each other on the colour wheel. Because of what can be an extreme contrast of colours, a great base for this concept would be a colour such as grey.
Grey is seen as an achromatic hue (without colour) and is the perfect balance between black and white, making it extremely versatile. Viewing grey has been known to create a balanced mind, which lends itself well to a bedroom environment. The addition of pastel or muted shades of pinks and greens create a subtle, delicate, ethereal finish whilst enhancing vitality.
When choosing complimentary colours for a bedroom, try to avoid hues with high saturation, such as reds and very dark greens. These colours are too in conflict with each other to calm a space and will drag the ambience down, resulting in feelings of anger, despair, and confusion.
Grey and pink have been used in the below image to create a relaxed, romantic, and inviting scene for the bedroom.
The below image shows how an injection of green, along with a pink and grey finish can result in a complimentary colour concept with aesthetically pleasing results.
A monochromatic scheme involves using one hue as the main colour, and adding complexity to the space by using tints and tones to create depth and interest.
Blue is a pleasing choice for a monochromatic scheme as the hue can differ greatly, depending on the tone added. It can seem weightless when used in a lighter capacity, immediately bringing to mind blue skies and fluffy clouds. A darker shade adds a stark contrast, while changing the scene entirely and employing feelings of thought and decisiveness. Overall, blue is known to soothe, cool, and calm the mind, making it a great option for a bedroom where the aim is always peaceful sleep.
Art imitating nature is always successful, so monochromatic blue balanced with a stark white is a winning combination. The below image shows how this is possible. The monochromatic colour scheme easily suggests the lightness of air, immediately relaxing the senses.
Whilst the use of darker shades within the hue can be used to create a completely different result, deeper tones can produce a depth within the space – all with the use of one single colour.
Ramadan is the time for hearty iftars, communal prayers, and late-night gatherings with family and friends. This year, as we return to normalcy, we share our top tips on Ramadan done right.
TIP 1: Be a Good Guest
As a guest in the Middle East, it is important to respect the traditions and cultures of the country you now call home. You can start to do this by educating yourself on the meaning of this month. Ramadan is the ninth – and most sacred – month of the Islamic calendar. It is a time of fasting, reflection on one’s relationship with God, togetherness as a family, and study of the Quranic scriptures.
In this holy month, it’s also crucial to know how to exchange greetings. You can greet people by saying ‘Ramadan Kareem’ or ‘Ramadan Mubarak’ to acknowledge that we are in Ramadan. You can also add ‘Al Salam Alaikum’ – the standard greeting when meeting people – to enhance your Ramadan greeting. Here are some short but useful phrases to brush up on during the month.
If you would like to know if a colleague or acquaintance is fasting, you may ask, “Sayem?” You may also hear ‘Emta El Maghreb?’ quite frequently. This means, ‘What time is the Maghreb prayer?’ The fourth prayer of the day, it indicates what time the fast is broken.
TIP 2: Timing Is Everything
Work timings often become shorter during Ramadan as Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. You should also be mindful of prayer timings as Muslims pray five times a day – two of which take place during working hours. It is important not to schedule meetings or deadlines that will interfere with prayers during these timings.
The prayer time you should be most conscious of is the one that takes place around 6:45pm because that’s when the fast is broken for the day. If you have house help who observes Ramadan, you can lessen their workload during this time as fasting is not an easy task – especially at the beginning of Ramadan. Those who fast are most likely to be tired later in the day, so if you can schedule chores in the morning while they still have energy from eating suhoor, it would certainly show your mindfulness.
TIP 3: Avoid Eating and Drinking in Public
Eating (including chewing gum) or drinking in public during Ramadan is not allowed in the UAE, unless you have a medical condition. In this post-pandemic age, you also need to be cautious not to have food or drinks nearby during Zoom calls. Even if you’re not drinking or eating, do not have water or food nearby so that these items don’t appear within your Zoom frame.
As for alcohol? It is not okay to drink or show alcohol in public – either online or offline. And what does this mean? Comments or photos that display alcohol products or consumption on social media isn’t allowed – yes, this means #winenotwednesday is best left for after Ramadan. Also be sure to not display alcohol during your Zoom calls. This does not mean that you should change your preferences or lifestyle during Ramadan; simply continue to eat and drink as you would, but privately.
Watch the Video: Must-Know Tips for Ramadan
TIP 4: Fashion, But Make It Modest
Ramadan fashion has some strict no-nos – even on Zoom calls. This means no tank tops, shorts, low V-necks, or sleeveless tops. Instead, you can opt for jackets, long-sleeved tops, or an embroidered kaftan if you are feeling adventurous.
Looking to get into the sartorial spirit? During this time, you’ll see that several clothing outlets, online retailers, and local designers run Ramadan collections ranging from the affordable to the luxurious. Keep in mind that even if you don’t fast during Ramadan, it is still important to dress responsibly to show respect to your host country and its people.
TIP 5: Err on the Side of Caution
During Ramadan, make sure that you do not behave aggressively, engage in public displays of affection, dance or play music in public (although you may listen to music quietly with headphones), and swear (blasphemy is considered extra offensive during Ramadan). Generally, it is best to avoid doing anything that might be considered rude or wrong in Arab culture.
TIP 6: Be Generous and Charitable
Gift-giving is considered a significant act in Arab culture, especially during Ramadan. You could gift sweets or dates as it’s a way to wish your Muslim friends or colleagues a sweet life as they break their fast. Patchi chocolates and Bateel dates offer beautifully packaged gift sets during Ramadan. Another option is tea sets or coffee cups from O’de Rose.
Charity is one of the pillars of Islam, so if you’d like to get into the spirit of Ramadan by giving back, look into the One Billion Meals campaign. The recently launched charity initiative by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum aims to donate one billion meals to the poor and hungry worldwide. Giving back at this time is another way we can show love towards both our community and the country we call home.
Kickstart the holy month on a cultural note, exploring the colourful neighborhood of Karama through a Gulf Photo Plus photo walk entitled Suhoor Strolls. You’ll be given night-photography tips to capture images that depict Ramadan alongside a special tandoori chai stop, insights on local history, the discovery of hidden gems, and feedback on your work.
Research shows that painting can be a very potent method for expression and emotional release – and that’s where the Process Painting session at Kave comes in. Considering the experience of painting is more important than the outcome, you’ll learn how to trust your intuition and overcome blocks by embracing their hidden message.
Ramadan Nights at Jameel Arts Centre are all about family-friendly fun from 9pm until midnight. You can explore exhibitions, participate in workshops for both adults and children led by a locally based creative, join a hands-on activity at one of many stations, and enjoy a late night treat at farm-to-fork restaurant Teible or one of the local food vendors. Bonus: entry is free.
It’s no secret that women tend to put themselves last, and attempting to remedy the problem is the Women’s Empowerment workshop at Illuminations. Taking place onsite, it will teach participants about the art of self-care – tangible tools and strategies included – in order to achieve more balance, energy, vitality, and well-being.
Hosted by SEVA, the Full Moon ThetaHealing session is a wonderful opportunity to free yourself from the limitations and energy blocks in your life because the full moon phase is downright powerful – it’s an optimum time for recharging your energy field and clearing your chakras. Unsurprisingly, many cultures have full moon rituals because there’s so much pure energy in the air that can be used to yield incredible healing results.
The Clay Art For Wellbeing session at The Workshop in Jumeirah is not about learning pottery. Instead, it’s about working with clay to release stress as participants will be directed by prompts to mold and create a piece of art based on the theme of the day, with a registered Art Psychotherapist leading the workshop.
With the pandemic resulting in a rise of eating disorders worldwide, the A Parent’s Guide to Eating Disorders webinar hosted by The LightHouse Arabia is a great tool to help parents gain a better understanding of what an eating disorder is and how they develop. The session will help recognise the warning signs, learn about treatment, and learn practical tips for supporting young people with such issues.
With the return of Earth Day, the time for action is now – and there’s still time to register for the Green Call Project hosted by Emirates Environmental Group. To get involved and help heal the planet, exchange old mobile phonesand tablets for an opportunity to plant a native tree sapling in December.
The beloved Ramadan Iftar Program at Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding returns, taking place in a wind-tower house in Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood. Not only will guests have a traditional iftar with Emirati hosts, who will happily answer questions related to the holy month and local customs, but there will also be a visit to Diwan Mosque before returning to the center for dessert and tea.
If you haven’t heard of biophilic design, now’s the time to familiarise as it’s quickly becoming the next big design trend! As for what it means? Simply a connection to nature. This is achieved by the inclusion of certain materials, objects, and design methods into the interior space to allude to nature in your surroundings, with or without the physical elements of nature.
We spend a lot of our time indoors – 90% of our lives on average, in fact! This has increased even more in the last couple of years due to the pandemic and local restrictions that forced us inside for days, weeks, or months at a stretch. Biologically, we have an innate desire for connection to nature, and this lack of outdoor exposure has left a profound void in our lives, affecting our overall wellness. Biophilic design can help us fill that void within the interiors, thereby enhancing us both mentally and physically.
A biophilic-inspired interior is known to not only calm the mind, but also has many other coveted health benefits such as heightened cognitive ability, improved memory and concentration, and enhanced overall mood. It also has physical health benefits such as increased respiratory functions, lower pulse rates, a healthier gut, and fewer headaches. Who wouldn’t want all this just from making changes to one’s living space? And the good news is that it’s not as hard as it seems!
Inviting nature into an interior space can be done in many ways. Indoor plants, for example, are an obvious choice for use within a biophilic design. Not only are they aesthetically pleasing, but they also cleanse the air with their ability to remove harmful toxins and create more oxygen. Varieties such as rubber plants, peace lilies, and bamboo palms can give the best results. Creating a biophilic interior that will improve health and well-being involves the addition of certain essential components – even a few of these key elements will help improve the overall wellness of the occupant.
Visual Connection to Nature
Incorporate a visual connection to nature with a view of nature or plants, either external or internally. Try organising furniture (such as desks or beds) to face the window or add potted plants in carefully placed positions to bring nature into direct view. In the below image, the desk has been positioned with ample views of nature. This placement can enhance concentration and focus, along with reducing blood pressure.
The inclusion of the colours of nature – green, blue, and brown – is also an easy way to achieve a visual connection to nature. These hues can be added in various shades and tones to create a depth of colour to suggest the changing shades of seasons.
In the below image, the use of green in this setting is used in tonal form in reference to nature. This immediately calms nerves and sets a serene scene. Along with the addition of indoor plants, it creates a complete visual connection to nature.
Non-Visual Connection to Nature
A non-visual connection to nature involves allowing for the sounds of nature to be heard (such as chirping birds, wind rustling leaves on trees, or running water), along with the scent of nature. These can be either authentic or artificial – as long as the subsequent result still refers to nature.
Simply leaving a window open invites sounds and smells (think: freshly cut grass), whilst fresh flowers and strong-smelling citrus fruits or a diffuser with essential oils (with strong floral scents such as lavender or geranium) will spread the scent continuously when placed in common areas.
Ensure fresh air wherever possible, either through the opening of windows or doors, or the installation of a mechanical ventilation system to move the air at a steady pace. This is a simple and effective way to encourage cleaner interior air for a healthier mind.
Natural and Diffused Light
The management of light can be used to mimic nature’s rhythms and create the right mood or ambience. Allow for ample natural light in the interior space during daylight hours and use diffused light in the afternoon or evenings when you want to simply relax.
Try leaving the curtains slightly open when going to bed as this allows natural light to enter the bedroom at the natural wake time, which helps regulate the circadian rhythm, resulting in an enhanced and energised mood throughout the day. Diffused light can be achieved through a sheer curtain or a soft-white light bulb diffused through a fabric or frosted lampshade and strategically positioned in the space to bring in the right ambience.
Presence of Water
The sound or view of water is extremely beneficial in reducing blood pressure and pulse rate. The addition of water features directly outside an interior space can help achieve this.
Plant and Animal Motifs
Nature can easily be added to a space with finishes and objects. Try adding plants and animals in the form of artwork – either as photorealist or abstract pictures, or as plant or flower motif tiles in wet rooms. Wallpapers can be used with impressive effects, bringing the wall to life. The addition of figurines and sculptures is also another great way to add an injection of nature into the interior.
Material Connection to Nature
Add wood or natural stone flooring, along with untreated wood or natural marble, wherever possible. To bring in a softer texture, include furnishings made from wool, cotton, or cashmere. The nature of the material and the contrast of hard materials against soft fibres work together to bring feelings of comfort and ease. In the below image, the use of hardwood flooring finishes off and brings together all the biophilic elements of the space.
Other Elements to Consider
There are other factors that can be included, although these can be slightly more difficult to achieve. It includes the creation of refuge spaces by creating nooks and quiet areas for individuals to unwind in. The ‘allure of mystery’ is another element that can be considered. This effect can be achieved through the inclusion of partitions and semi-transparent window fittings.
According to Mayan belief, working with cocoa – a.k.a. food of the gods – allows one to cultivate awareness on an emotional and spiritual level, releasing what no longer serves you and guiding you in the direction that you need to take. And that’s where the Cacao Ceremony with Nacho at SEVA comes in. Led by a medicine man from South America, the ceremony will open your heart in order to help you see more clearly.
Knowledge of physical first aid is universally considered crucial and, now, The LightHouse Arabia is proving that mental health is no different. The wellness institute is offering a 10-hour course entitled Mental Health First Aid, which will teach participants how to identify, understand, and respond to the signs that someone in their life may be struggling with a mental health issue – depression, anxiety disorders, and addiction included.
W Dubai – The Palm’s popular wellness experience FUEL Happening returns, this time partnering up with leading fitness retreat BeFitreat to host an unrivalled week full of epic workouts and delicious healthy cuisine. Expect everything from Muay Thai sessions to mindfulness workshops will be offer, complemented by exclusive access to the Instagrammable WET Deck and overnight stays in the hotel’s Wonderful Room.
With the theme of International Women’s Day 2022 established as #BreakTheBias, the Joint Business Council event hosted by British Business Group at Hyde Hotel will delve into how gender equality factors into a more sustainable tomorrow. A number of inspirational speakers will share their own experiences in this area – Carly Dubery from (founder of Vegan Entrepreneurs UAE) and Nayla Al-Obeidli (founder of FixPro UAE) included.
With the seven chakras in the human body serving as potent energy centres that influence your life experiences in areas like relationships, finance, and career, knowing the flow of energy will help you make choices that can bring your desires to life. Enter: the free Online Chakra Reading with Bharti Jatti Varma workshop that is hosted by Illuminations and explores the chakra system in an interactive forum.
Yogafest Dubai – the largest and only eco-conscious wellness event in the Middle East – returns to the city, this time taking place at Dubai Internet City Amphitheatre. The yoga festival will consist of three days packed with sessions covering different types such as hatha, power, and vinyasa, complemented by pilates and meditation sessions and stalls selling yoga gear and health food.
Ideal for beginners and nature enthusiasts alike, the upcoming Gazelle Trek and Trail Notes led by UAE Trekkers will wind through hills and around a lake to see ancient villages, geological features, an old falaj, a gazelle enclosure, and more in Hatta. The first 40 minutes will be a gentle walk, followed by hikers climbing the first group of switchbacks and coming over the top of the ridge, back down the same side, clocking a total of 7.5km. Learn more here.
March 24: Explore Entrepreneurship
Taking place at Media One Hotel, the March edition of Female Fusion’s Firestarter Breakfast will delve into the challenges of entrepreneurship – and the roller coaster of emotions that comes with them. Attendees will therefore hear from three women who have not only faced massive challenges in life or business, but also managed to overcome them and thrive as a result. Expect to wrap up by noon with plenty of new wisdom to take home.
Few details are known about the closing ceremony of Expo 2020 Dubai, but if the pomp and circumstance of the global event’s opening ceremony is any indication, it’s not to be missed. While not everyone will be able to witness the spectacle onsite, it will be live-streamed on Expo 2020’s official YouTube channel. As for what happens after that? The site will transition into District 2020, a sustainable smart city that will reuse at least 80% of the Expo-centric infrastructure.
The first few weeks of a newborn’s life are fleeting times. Preserve these precious moments by picking the perfect photographer who can take your artistic vision to the next level.
1. Mahvin Photography
Mahvin Haghighatjoo is the go-to newborn photographer in Dubai and there’s no doubting why – her work is absolutely stunning. From classic Disney scenes to fairy woodland arrangements, adorable jungle safari sets, and more, Mahvin can put any vision to reality with her creative use of costumes, props, and backdrops. Her eye for composition and knack for lighting make her the perfect photographer to preserve precious moments that the family will cherish for a lifetime.
With experience in the UAE spanning more than a decade, The Photography Co is a team of leading photographers that specialises in a wide range of photography services. Whether it’s for events, fashion, or babies, this collective of talented individuals provides amazing shots that capture any moment superbly.
The Photography Co, @thephotographyco.ae, Studio 1001, Grosvenor Business Tower, Barsha Heights, 04 514 9896, [email protected]
3. Zoom In Photography
Zoom In Photography is a family-run business that brings happiness to other families. It takes pride in being able to document a child’s journey – from the mother’s pregnancy to a child’s graduation, the team behind Zoom In can capture life’s biggest milestones. Time and convenience is highly valued as well, with its on-location photography packages available at your convenience.
Zoom In Photography, @zoomindxb, Office 506, Level 5, The Icon Tower, Barsha Heights, 055 310 9333, [email protected]
4. Maria Mendez Photography
Maria Mendez is an artist in every sense of the word. She is able to project innocence and joy in her photographs through whimsical settings and minimalist themes. Through artistic use of light and focus, the photographer is able to capture a newborn’s most candid moments.
Maria Mendez Photography, @mariamendez_photography, Meydan South Villas, 056 115 2831, [email protected]
5. Sasha Gow Photography
Sasha Gow is a Dubai-based photographer who boasts an extensive portfolio of maternity, cake smash, and family photography, but she’s got her heart set on capturing newborns. The first few weeks of a baby’s life can slip away quickly, so Sasha believes in taking only the best photos for the family. With her skill set that utilises natural light and studio setting, new parents can rest assured that their baby is in good hands.
Headed by an amazing team of women, You+Baby Studio is a Dubai-based photography team that specialises in newborn, maternity, and family photography. Their modern, sophisticated style combined with creative knowledge of lighting makes their portraits a cut above the rest.
You+Baby Studio, @youbabystudio, Studio 1016, Churchill Tower 1, Business Bay, 058 518 0036, [email protected]om
7. Aleksandra Mandic Photography
Aleksandra Mandic is passionate about capturing the most important moments of your family’s life. She prides herself in designing custom scenes perfect for capturing the magic of the newborn’s first few weeks. With her crisp and colourful shots, every family will have quality keepsakes to treasure for years and years to come.
Ghazal Abdullah, more widely known in the industry as Gaga, is highly driven by her passion for family connections. She also always aims to preserve every priceless moment with your newborn through her talent in photography. Gaga has a sizable body of work that comprises projects in tandem with social and environmentally themed organisations as well as maternity, cake smash, and family photography.
Gaga Photography Studio, @gaga_photography, Office 1105, Fifty One Tower, Business Bay, 056 415 4624, [email protected]
9. Loomi Photography
Lama Kabbani has been a photographer for over a decade, and her broad experience is reflected in the way she conducts her photography sessions. Not only does she convert the deep connection of every parent and child through her work, but she also offers a fully equipped studio sure to suit any theme that a family fancies.
Sohail Asim and Suma Asim are a father-daughter team with a combined photography experience of over 25 years. From a baby’s first days to their first steps and beyond, this accomplished team has the ability to help you preserve your child’s every milestone in beautiful photographs.
Mirrorless Photography, @mirrorless.babystudio, 1559 Tamani Arts Tower, Business Bay, 055 564 3954, [email protected]
Jenny Lawson is broken, but in the best possible way – according to her latest book, that is. The New York Times bestselling memoirist is known not for her physical and mental health issues, but how she copes, using an unapologetic combination of sardonic wit and a hysterically skewed outlook on life. Her 2021 release Broken is easily her most personal book yet, chronicling the ups and downs of her life through a collection of essays that hold nothing back. Here, she gets candid on all things humour and health following her sessions at the 2022 Emirates Airline Festival of Literature. Listen in.
Mark Twain famously said, “Humour is tragedy plus time.” Is time the ingredient that helps you see the humour in a challenging situation or something else?
Personally, I’ve found that being able to laugh at terrible things as they are happening is a wonderful tool – if it works. There’s something about laughing at monstrous things that makes them somehow smaller and more manageable. It sounds strange, but my sister and I always end up giggling at funerals. In fact, we tend to laugh the most at the ones that are the hardest to be at, but I think that’s because laughing is such a wonderful way to counter terrible pain. The more I mourn something, the more I have to find a way to smile about what I’m mourning so that it doesn’t destroy me, so I guess I will consider myself a great success in life if there are people laughing hysterically at my funeral.
Your ability to put a light spin on a heavy subject has become a signature of sorts. What’s your earliest memory of using humour as a coping mechanism?
I’m not sure, but I do remember when I was about seven, my dad had to write a note to let me out of class early. We ended up creating a ransom note offering to exchange my teacher’s mother for me (at 2pm so I could go to the dentist), and I remember being absolutely delighted at how ridiculous it was and wondering why grown-ups didn’t always do these insane sorts of things. I vowed to always try to be ridiculous whenever I could, and it has served me (moderately) well. There’s enough darkness in the world, so sometimes, you have to take back joy in extraordinarily silly ways to counter it.
Around the world, access to mental health resources remains a luxury, which is why your An Open Letter to My Health Insurance Company essay resonated with so many. What did the process of fighting for adequate coverage teach you about yourself?
It taught me that, in spite of what the insurance company seems to think, I am worth fighting for. It taught me that depression tells you terrible lies about your worth, but that just because healthcare and coverage doesn’t come easy, it doesn’t mean that I’m not worth the time and effort. I’ve learnt that it’s okay to ask for help, and that includes asking for help from friends or family because when you’re in severe depression, you often don’t have the energy to fight for yourself.
Mental health is no laughing matter, but laughter has been proven to do everything from boost mood to diminish pain. Is laughing in the face of adversity a value that you’ve instilled in your teenage child, Hailey?
One thing that I’ve learnt is that not everyone deals with struggle in the same way that I do so, especially during the dramatic teenage years. I had to make sure Hailey understood that my way of dealing with things through humour didn’t mean that I was discounting how difficult or serious things can be. Just because that’s the healthiest way for me to deal with things doesn’t mean it’s the best way to parent because each kid is so unique in their needs. Luckily, Hailey has inherited a lot of our strange sense of humour, so we often find ourselves laughing at awkward situations and that makes it easier to discuss hard things.
You’ve addressed the overwhelming anxiety that comes with the responsibility of being a parent. Any advice for women who are first-time moms during such a socially isolated time?
It gets easier. And then harder. And then easier again. I discovered blogging when Hailey was a few years old and that really helped me to find other parents I could identify with. It is a really isolating time, but there are a lot of online resources that help. One of the best things I’ve learnt is that whatever decision you make is the right one for your child because you are their parent. Unfortunately, whatever decision you make is probably also the wrong one in some way, but in the end, it all works out. And if you screw up? It just teaches your kid that it’s okay to make mistakes.
When Hailey was young and my depression was terrible, the only thing I could do was sit on the couch and watch Doctor Who episodes with them. And I felt awful because other moms were making organic dinners and setting up playdates and doing laundry. I was just trying to breathe and waiting for myself to come back. But when Hailey was older and I apologised for those periods, they thought I was insane because they only remembered how I was spending time with them instead of cooking or visiting friends. What I thought was failure ended up being a wonderful memory for my kid. We need to give ourselves credit for the things we don’t even realise we’re doing.
Yet another side effect of the pandemic is that we’re a lot more socially awkward than we were in the past. As a self-professed introvert, is there a sense of relief that comes with those dynamics?
This pandemic is a marathon of isolation that I’ve been training for my entire life. Honestly, I sort of love that I don’t have to make excuses to avoid parties and awkward interactions. That said, I did have some dark times in the past two years where I thought I was going to go a little stir-crazy. We ended up doing a lot of serial-killer-escape-rooms-in-a-box and I literally read hundreds of books because that was the best way I could escape into another world that wasn’t my house. Now that we’re all vaccinated and more likely to get out, I’ve sort of become even more socially out-of-shape than before. I love to see old family and friends, but after 30 minutes, I need a break to catch my breath. It’s a little embarrassing.
Not all your fans were privy to the bonus chapter of Broken, which chronicles your life in quarantine. Can you give us a glimpse of how that has changed since 2020?
It changes from day to day, but the biggest difference is that I started a bookstore called Nowhere Bookshop. I literally opened it as the pandemic began. We couldn’t open the doors because it was too dangerous for our staff, so we did online orders and curbside book delivery. We also started a monthly book club called The Fantastic Strangelings and became (I suspect) the longest running bookstore that had never actually opened its doors to customers. Luckily, we eventually all got vaccinated and now we’re finally open. I spend a lot of time reading advance copies of new books because picking titles for the books club is pretty much my favourite thing. That book club saved the store and, in some ways, it’s still saving my sanity.
Sometimes, it’s easier to confide in or lean on complete strangers, and your thriving Twitter community is proof. Can you share a recent anecdote or example of how it has helped you through a particularly dark moment?
It’s not unusual to be struggling with anxiety at 3am, but I know if I reach out on Twitter – even when I’m feeling incredibly alone – there will be people who immediately tweet back that they’re also awake wondering why they said that dumb thing in 6th grade or whatever else is haunting them. And for some reason, it’s comforting when you realise you aren’t alone. Also, there’s something about telling other people it’s all okay and they should go to sleep that makes you think that maybe it’s also all okay for you and that you can go to sleep as well.
You’ve frequently credited reading for helping you through the pandemic. Which three books can we turn to for our own diminishing sanity levels?
Oh gosh, I don’t think I could narrow it down to three. Some of my most recent favourite escape-from-my-head-books are Still Life by Sarah Winman, Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik, and Meaty by Samantha Irby. Oh, and The Witch’s Heart by Genevieve Gornichec. And The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. And Madhouse at the End of the Earth. You should stop me now because I could talk about books all day.
Written notes have played a special role in your life – from your mom leaving them in your lunchbox to remind you everything was okay to connecting with classmates at a time of social anxiety. Can your experience carry over into the smartphone era? Can a tweet or text ever replace the magic of a written note passed discreetly in class?
That’s such a good question. I think electronic notes can absolutely make an impact and I am so incredibly lucky that texting exists because I have a fear of the phone, so it makes it much easier for me to talk to people without actually talking to people. But I also don’t think it’s a substitute for an ephemeral, handwritten note. You know, someone came into my bookshop and set up a little station at the bar with coloured paper, pens, and a little sign asking people to leave a kind note to a stranger and encouraging people to take home a kind note from a stranger.
I would see people spend an hour going through all of the colourful notes left all over the bar, and I didn’t blame them – I did the same thing. Sometimes, they were confessions or words of encouragement or funny stories. I noticed that people left them, but seldom took them, probably because they wanted others to enjoy them. In the end, we had so many that we started tucking them into books as we shipped them out so people would find a little secret note from a stranger. That’s the kind of magic that makes the world go around.
The Virgin Radio presenter on marriage, social media, and more.
How did you and your husband meet?
Jeff and I met in 2010. We both had mutual friends, and 2010 was definitely the year that I was out pretty much every weekend at a club. I kept seeing him around and, one day, I thought I’d go up to him and ask him to dance. Jeff said no, so I went back to dancing with my friends. The next day, I got a Facebook message from him and it made me laugh. We started talking and I really didn’t think anything of it, but the more we talked, the more I realised how much we had in common! And the rest, as they say, is history!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received about relationships?
Communication is KEY!
What do you think is the key to the success of your marriage and being happy together?
Jeff and I are best friends, we love hanging out with each other – and I think that provided a solid base for our relationship. We really don’t look for time away from each other. Instead, we’d rather do new things with each other. I also think the best thing we have learned about relationships is definitely a basic understanding of each other, especially with both of our careers. It wasn’t always easy finding time together before the pandemic, so we had to have a level of trust and understanding knowing that we wouldn’t see each other for days.
What is your favourite way to spend time together?
Honestly, any time we are doing something together, it’s fun for us. It can be cooking, working out, going for walks/hikes, or even when I force Jeff to do TikToks… he eventually loved it.
Do you think constantly being attached to your phone can have a negative impact on relationships?
It definitely can. The boundaries need to be set from the beginning. A lot of my work revolves around me being on the phone, so although it does irritate Jeff sometimes, he understands that it’s just a part of my world.
How did you celebrate your first Valentine’s Day together?
We cannot even remember! BUT we did start a tradition in the beginning that we would always alternate Valentine’s Day celebrations. We’re not big on gifts that day, so each year, we take turns organising some sort of an outing – whether that’s a dinner or an adventure.
The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature returns to the city, this year taking up residence at Al Habtoor City and hosting over 160 authors. Some of the names on the roster? Bridgerton author Julia Quinn, best-selling children’s books writer David Walliams, and Nadiya Hussain of Great British Bake Off fame.
Now’s the time to celebrate the legacy of humanitarian, amputee athlete, and cancer research activist Terry Fox as the Terry Fox Run returns to Dubai. Taking place at Jubilee Park, all proceeds will be donated to cancer research, whether you opt for the 3km or 5km run. Bonus: you can take part in person or virtually.
Escape the real world for 90 minutes, courtesy of the Creative Art for Wellbeing workshop at café and community space The Workshop. Led by a registered art psychotherapist and licensed lifestyle coach, it will feature creative prompts with a shared focus to help you connect with yourself, reduce stress, and gain new perspectives, leaving you feeling inspired and calm.
Leave it to SEVA to host the wellness events and workshops that truly matter. Case in point? The Powerful Strangers Men’s Gathering led by coach and men’s worker Tom Young. This ‘drop-in’ monthly forum allows men to communicate in a group setting, sharing honestly and confidentially without fear of judgment or shame – ideal if the man in your life is feeling misunderstood, grappling with workplace issues, or unable to share his emotions.
Part of Dubai’s appeal is being able to leave the frenzy of the city for the serenity of the desert. Enter: the Desert Bliss weekend escape hosted by Yoga House. Here awaits an evening of yoga, gong meditation, vegetarian dining, and glamping alongside like-minded individuals who have come together to cultivate a sense of nourishment and positivity. All the little extras – stargazing and sunrise views from a special vantage point – are just the proverbial cherry on top.
You know what you want your life to look like – now start living it. The LightHouse Arabia is hosting a two-part Val-YOU 2022 workshop that will delve into all things vision boards. Led by a psychologist Christine Kritzas, it will guide participants on how to visually express their dreams, offer strategies on living a life of purpose, and provide practical tools to start actioning one’s goals.
Sleep concerts date back to the 1960s, when avant-garde composers were looking for new forms of musical performance. Now, you can experience one in Dubai as the Sleep Concerts series takes place at the Theatre of Digital Art. The audio-visual show, complete with experimental electronic music concert provided by Russian artists Yuri Elik and Pavel Mikhailov, is designed to put the audience into a deep sleep. Bonus: each of the four sleep concerts will be unique.
Launching this month, Nara Nomad (yep, the same folks as the boho-chic Sonara Camp) caters to foodies, fashionistas, history buffs, and art enthusiasts across the UAE, showcasing Dubai in a totally different light through expertly curated, off-the-beaten-track guided city tours that span four hours. And if you prefer something customised to your personal interests, bespoke tours are also on offer.
Family relationships are some of the most complex ones out there, often riddled with conflict and miscommunication – and that’s where the Family Constellations workshop at Illuminations comes in. Led by Hypnotherapist and Mind Science Specialist Arpita Mitra Gupta, the day-long session will help you heal on a deep energetic level, addressing painful family situations and releasing blocks in the unconscious mind that limit growth, health, and happiness.
An Interior Designer’s Take on Pantone’s Colour of the Year
Pallavi Dean talks Very Peri.
If there’s one takeaway from Zanna Roberts Rassi’s recent appearance on The Drew Barrymore Show, it’s that head-to-toe purple is surprisingly flattering. The celebrity stylist (effortlessly) sported a suit made of wide wale corduroy in honour of Very Peri, a periwinkle shade selected by Pantone as Colour of the Year 2022 because it “encourages courageous creativity and imaginative expression”. But while the hue is sure to suit a spectrum of skin tones – already making it popular across the fashion and beauty industries – we can’t help but debate its suitability in the world of interiors. Enter: Pallavi Dean, Founder and Creative Director of boutique interior design studio Roar, for her take on this inquisitive “It” colour.
On Pantone’s pick of Very Peri:
“I feel the Pantone Colour of the Year 2022 taps into a greater movement that places emphasis on personal growth and well-being. Here, colour is used to stimulate our senses while soothing our bodies and our minds. It’s also a symbol of our time and the hybrid world that we currently live in, which flawlessly switches between online and offline.”
On the spaces best suited to Very Peri:
“Pantone tells us that, with Very Peri, it has created a colour that ‘displays a spritely, joyous attitude and dynamic presence’ while reflecting ‘the global innovation and transformation taking place’. In my view, this makes it the perfect hue for a study, a playroom, or a chill-out area – in other words, any space that is designed to promote inspiration, fun, and relaxation.”
On how to incorporate Very Peri into the home:
“I would always recommend starting small, subtly introducing the colour through curtains, cushions, or other elements of soft furnishing, for example. Another easy way to incorporate a new and untested colour in your home is to paint a wall or a segment of a wall – maybe even a door! – to create a visual contrast without overdoing it. And for those of you who are feeling a little bolder, you can experiment further and invest in a beautiful statement piece of furniture to create an unexpected focal point in your interior.”
On using colour psychology when designing spaces:
“Colour is paramount to any interior design scheme. I see it as the glue that brings a project together and gives it consistency, but more importantly, it’s increasingly being used as a way to influence people’s mood. That’s something we’ve been exploring at Roar for a while now, especially as improving the users’ experience through our designs is at the core of what we do.”
On what boosts her own level of creativity:
“I get inspired by all sorts of places and things. Designers are curious beings – we are people who can never switch off our creativity. I think of myself as an antennae, ever ready to tune into the inspiration from a book I’m reading, a place I’ve visited, a walk in nature, or simply listening to my own stillness post-mediation. All these impressions – whether they be triggered by a certain colour, texture, or shape – will consciously (or otherwise) inform my work.”