Hobby culture: find a new passion for yourself and stay inspired

Hobby culture: find a new passion for yourself and stay inspired
Bernadette Abraham

Dubai-based hobbyists, enthusiasts and creative mega minds tell us how they keep themselves inspired all year round

By Melissa Randhawa

Published: Sun 31 Mar 2019, 10:02 AM

Last updated: Sun 31 Mar 2019, 12:59 PM

In a city that upholds everything from art and cars to literature and jets, to poetry and technology, to sports, music, food and much more, Dubai is a bedrock for nurturing extraordinary talent, and a platform from which to savour the cultural climate of our times. 
Take almost every event across the planet, you name it, Dubai has it. We've seen this characteristic phenomenon spring into higher gear since the turn of the new millennium, when the Burj Al Arab, and the Burj Khalifa became global landmarks for grandeur and largesse of lifestyle that is represented by sunny Dubai. 
An unbeatable fusion of beach, sun, desert, and sea, with scores of walkways, cafes, meeting points, residences and hotels ensure that this city of high standards has no shortage of people from all corners of the globe who are out to make the best of their time, and pop it onto social media for a bit more fun thereafter.  
What's caught on rather brilliantly, though, is an atmosphere for community-centric events that are corralled into action with the handy use of social media. Meetups, whether at large scale and highly publicised shows to niche gatherings with like-minded sorts, have found a wavelength of aficionados to revel in what is commonly known as: precious leisurely hours of life.
With gratitude to a bustling social calendar, there is literally something for everyone to do whether it's solitude they seek or, as the adage goes - the more the merrier.
Health is paramount : Bernadette Abraham
The gift of reading enabled Bernadette to transform her love and passion for health, nutrition and fitness into best practices to benefit others. "It's funny how people change.  I used to hate reading and writing, and here I am today, writing my first book - UNJUNK: How to raise healthy eaters in a process world, which will be published this November." 
With a Master's in Exercise Science and Health Promotion, Bernadette continues to add to her credentials while raising four children, because, "spreading this knowledge and making a positive impact on people's health and lives is what gets me out of bed every morning," affirmed Bernadette.
Art and design is a regular fixture on Dubai's calendar, and this year Art Dubai treated its lot to a hall of classic car fame, courtesy of BMW Art Cars. It housed collaborations with notable artists like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein who painted on classic cars in their signature styles.
Art aside, displays such as these are a high five to UAE's collective classic car community, and those car enthusiasts who have a talent for modifying these machines to enhance their performance. They're the ones who'll skip meals when lost in tinkering with their cars, and will each admit that their own machines have got masterpiece written all over it, which is perfectly agreeable in the eyes of motor artists.
From desert and dune driving, to taking their set of wheels out for a spin on a great interplay of highways and roads, car enthusiasts in the UAE have an endless supply of routes, ideas and tools with which to experiment.
Cars exhale art: Tariq Alhajeri
Multi-award winning classic car owner Tariq Alhajeri exhibited one of his 1958 Cadillac's at the Letters to Andy Warhol set up at Dubai Design District. His other artfully revamped Cadillac 1966 Deville, he has two more, recently won the best car at a local classic car festival - thanks to an unprecedented number of skilful modifications to heighten its artistic prowess and unmatched look. 
"I love air-bagged cars, the lower the cooler, and for me, Cadillac's were an obvious choice as I love car designs and colours from the 1950s and 1960s era," beamed Tariq. "In fact, I believe that modifying your car is like you are painting what you would like the car to look like. I've spent two years on creating illusions with adjustments to suspension and frame, by lowering the roof by three inches, removing all chrome mouldings and door handles, adding full moon hub caps to control air turbulence, and complimenting it with an exceptionally rare silver-grey matte finish," explains Tariq, while sporting a massive camera with lens craft in his hand. 
"Photography, is one of my pet hobbies," he added, "and, due to time limits, I have stuck to photographing cars, especially at scenic spots, and running a YouTube channel in Arabic which is loaded with guidelines and techniques about all things related to cars." 
His knowledge about cars is indeed, extensive. "I was into sports cars, but now I don't think I will put money on anything but classic cars, which besides having fun, are a great investment for the future," he advised. By default, Tariq is someone who always drives his cars to Dubai or any other shows within the UAE. "I maintain my cars myself, and I trust them. We have the best roads in the world, so there are no worries about any risk to harm the car," he continued. Tariq who has recorded a Castrol movie with Guinness World Record Holder for highest vehicle mileage - the late Irv Gordon, also revealed, "I plan to collaborate with my wife on a car project, for she is amazing at organising and putting the little touches that men miss out."
Desert is gold snow: Ghaith Al Falasi
Multi-award winning FiA Certified Driver and Drift enthusiast openly declares, "I'm married to my cars." He presently owns a Jeep JK, Jeep JL and a Dodge Challenger, and has raced numerous others all over the world, on desert, track and even on ice.
Talking about extreme sports such as karting, jet skiing, racing and drifting, Ghaith asserted that Drift requires him to master strong control over his jeep. He explained, "Since 2012, I've made several modifications - changed the ring pinion, put performance suspension and lift kit. I've also reinforced the front differential with Bilstein suspension, added custom racing breaks and a modified engine, racing seats and roll cage to enhance it from a safety point of view. Currently, I'm on Yokohama Geolander tyres, size 315 on 17-inch rims, with superchargers. All this makes me feel like I have a fully new car, and that gives me a lot of happiness."
"The desert is like gold snow to me," relays Ghaith, who perfects his motoring skills at every opportunity. As someone who regularly posts videos of drives through majestic deserts such as Liwa, Rafadah, Al Badayer and Al Fayah, he continued to express, "I've loved cars since the time I was a kid and used to have many of them as toys. My father used to drag race and build cars. I've watched him and developed my own skills." 
He recently watched a highly-motivational documentary film by National Geographic called 'Free Solo' -  it combined endurance, instinct and die-hard skills all in one. "I'm inspired by Rock climber Alex Honnold. Whatever I'll do, I'll do it two times now. He got me to think that whatever you want to do in life, just go ahead and do it. In fact, it's what I've done and what I'll continue to do," Ghaith concluded. 
Tasteful design modifications: Annelise Grobler
Annelise Grobler has been tinkering with her 1987 Nissan 300ZX V6 Turbo with manual transmission since 2016. "My dad taught me to service my own car when I was young, which was amazing and definitely got me interested!" declared Annalise, who also owns a classic 1990 Saab C900 convertible and two other Saabs, one a NG900 1996 coupe, and the other, her daily, a 2006 9-3 V6 aero. 
She has stripped the Nissan's engine bay completely, and is doing a custom engine bay harness herself. "It has a very sleek yet somewhat menacing stance. Like it's designed to be a fun, fast drive!" added Annelise. According to her, modifying cars is easier in the UAE. "I'm on a number of FB enthusiasts groups, and these guys are so helpful with lots of insights and advice. And sourcing parts is so easy. Everything is from US or Japan." 
With a distinct eye for design, Annelise prefers to keep the cars as stock in appearance as possible, as they had a very specific design intent. "Tasteful modifications," she advises, "which puts a personal stamp on the car is the way to go. For instance, I'm using a Majlis style fabric as a custom headliner in my Saab 900. It is relevant to our temporary home country and a nod to the graphic fabric designs which are so unique to this part of the world". 
Beyond the Face : Fatima Al Amiri
"As His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai said: Positive energy is contagious. We can transmit it to others, likewise," explains Fatima Al Amiri, "I believe that a creative piece of art or a story can make a significant difference to people's lives."
Fatima also believes that the more we connect with ourselves, the more we are able to connect with others. Her book called The Face is an expression of her enriching philosophy on human beings which she autographed for me under a wooden gazebo one breezy afternoon. "My deep joy in creating a painting or writing a story comes from being able to change positively. I feel like I want to create a feeling with colours," beamed the young Emirati who is currently completing a Master's in Arabic Literature and a Bachelor's in Interior Design and Architecture from the University of Sharjah. 
With a smile, she commented that reading and observing art shows people many things not only about life, but even inside of themselves. "It can support people, help them to look differently to solve a problem, or go beyond an illness," expressed Fatima.  
Retreat to nature:  Atif Kharwa
Atif Kharwa extracts every opportunity to combine his passions - photography and spending time in the desert, communing with nature. According to him, the UAE offers us several sweet desert spots to nurture our love for nature and photography. Pink Rock, Fossil Rock, Iftar Bowl, Half Desert Road and Liwa just to name a few. 
Harping on the beauty of the desert, which he describes as an ideal place to meditate, find solace and solitude, Atif continued, "My love for photography began in childhood seeing my dad capture unique moments with his camera and lenses of different sizes, etching that perfect moment permanently into memory. Whilst dad liked portraits, my calling has always been nature."
"Being brought up in the UAE and calling it my home for over 40 years, I have immense love for Al-Barr (the desert) and its preservation," conveys Atif. "I sincerely do hope that people leave the desert clean after they take in its beauty. Leaving trash behind, particularly plastic, is dangerous to the wildlife that resides in the desert," he remarked.
"Two photographs taken in the desert that I particularly admire are (1) stairway to heaven and (2) clouds giving way to rain. The first photograph was taken in the Wadi Al Amardhi area shortly after the first rains of the season. The stratocumulus clouds stacked up like a stairway leading to heaven. The rare phenomenon lasted for just a few minutes before dispersing, and I was lucky to capture that moment. The second photograph was in the Al Faqaa Desert just at the moment when the clouds broke, and a fierce downpour was about to commence," explained Atif with utter delight. 
Music transcends barriers: Paul Bester
"Except for singing, I have a passion for illustration and writing especially for a young audience," declared Paul Bester who is charmed by musical opportunities that abound in Dubai. When he's not using his free time by filling pages with crazy ideas - from flying sheep to lost baby rhinos - he'll describe unusual moments where mothers shove their children into his arms for a photo while he is performing. "Or people ask me where the restrooms are while I am singing a tender Aria about love lost," he grinned. 
Paul fondly added that this incredible country, where he's already clocked five years, has helped him dream bigger and bolder. "It is directly presented in my work, as I am inspired by this amazing city and how it pushes me to break beyond my cultural boundaries. Every day I have a prejudice and a preconceived notion about different cultures challenged. I love how this influences my art and my performances," he acknowledged with sincerity. 
"Sometimes I finish with a really big note and people around me act as if the radio was just shut off, but almost always when they leave the venue one person from the party would glance back with a smile and a thumbs up. I love those moments of human connection, and that is why I love music because it transcends language and cultural barriers," admits this fan of Dubai.
Magic of words : Sara Sadik
Reading, for Sara Sadik, author of 'Finding the Magic in Mommyhood' is a cossetted throwback to her own childhood, a graceful memory where she'd seen her parents immersed in reading their books. "When we'd holiday in the South of France for a long summer break, my parents would allow us to purchase one book a week," recalls Sara, now a mother of three little children. 
"The anticipation of choosing my very own book, just one for that week, then being absorbed by this world where there are no rules, where I could travel to another realm, such as The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, is a magical phenomenon that has stayed with me long since," Sara added.
Natural creative progression: Bhavika Bhatia
"There has always been a childlike fascination with colours, and so it began with lugging a backpack of crayons and colouring books wherever I went as a tottering three-year-old," recalled Bhavika Bhatia. She believes that we all have a creative side and we can learn to align it with whatever we do. Why? "Because there's enough mundaneness in the world anyway," she answered.  
Apart from being raised by a musical father who would make her sit beside him while he played the piano, nudging her to listen with intent, Bhavika grew up in a family who loved to cook, feed and eat. "We would go the extra mile to ensure that anything served on the table would be nothing short of our best. Thus began my own curiosity with food - cooking it, serving it, drawing it," she explained. 
Steal like an Artist is an aspirational book which has shaped Bhavika. "It is where Austin Kleon describes how creativity can be derived from absolutely anything around us," she denoted.
As a city with opportunities for creative expats like Bhavika, Dubai has enabled her to culminate all these beautiful subtleties that she abstractedly soaked up without realising until all these years later, "that everything in my life revolves around these three things - from running a restaurant to starting my own newsletter music blog to my daily attempts with taking the pencil for a walk on paper."
Indeed, Dubai has year-round activities for everyone to enjoy!

Tariq Aljaheri
Tariq Aljaheri
Ghaith Al Falasi
Ghaith Al Falasi
Annelise Grobler
Annelise Grobler
Fatima Al Amiri
Fatima Al Amiri
Atif Kharwa
Atif Kharwa
Paul Bester
Paul Bester
Bhavika Bhatia
Bhavika Bhatia
Sara Sadik
Sara Sadik

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