The Art of Wellness

Published in Villa 88 Magazine Winter 2016 issue (December).

Set amidst quaint villages against the backdrop of the Altean mountains, SHA Wellness Clinic is aiming to turn heathy living into an art. Priyanka Pradhan discovers how detox therapies and macrobiotic diet make for a luxury getaway to the south of Spain.
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“No sugar, no meat, no dairy, no eggs…”

As squinted while taking in the information, the chef added, “No eggs, no oil, no preservatives or artificial colors and ofcourse, no tobacco. ” He had a monk-like expression with the practiced ease of someone who is accustomed to seeing gawking faces.

“Welcome to the SHA method”, he smiled.

I found myself at SHA Wellness Clinic, perched high atop the scenic Altean mountains near Alicante, anticipating what my dinner will look like, not without a feeling of trepidation.

The macrobiotic diet forms the crux of the wellness program at SHA, which aims to offer a unique and effective approach to wellness and beauty- also known as the ‘SHA method’.

When founder, Alfredo Bataller Parietti realized how this diet cured his digestive ailment in less than two months – something western medicine could not do in his thirty years- he decided to share the benefits with others. ‘SHA’, meaning ‘luminosity’ in Japanese was born out of his passion to propagate this therapeutic diet, aiming to offer a healing and rejuvenating experience for the body.

“Its not just a diet, it’s a complete lifestyle”, says master chef Foraida Llamas. We tailor and personalize the macrobiotic menu according to our program for each guest. We also have specifically targeted diets for certain deficiencies that are common, such Vitamin B12, or cholesterol problems as well as various lifestyle diseases.”

For instance, the ‘Kushi’ diet is prescribed for those on a strict ‘Detox and Weight Loss Program’, based heavily on grains and vegetables with an intake of less than 500 calories a day and no use of oil. The more intermediate, ‘Biolight’ diet is meant for guests on anti-stress, anti- tobacco or rejuvenation programs, while the most lenient menu is that of the ‘SHA diet’, which offers a healthy alternative to every-day eating and general wellness.

Programs are tailor-made for guests after medical and nutritional consultations with in-house doctors. Along with a specific diet, guests are offered an array of services such as massages, beauty and aesthetic treatments and exercise modules with a personal trainer – all picked specifically, as per the guests’ health assessment and preference.

The hydroenergetica therapy, for instance, is one of SHA’s most popular treatments for relaxation, combining the effects of hydro massage and the therapeutic qualities of a seaweed body wrap and even color therapy, together. Other treatments such as ‘Indiba therapy’ target cellulite and water retention on the face and body, while the ‘BDR Facial’ aims to offer a luminous, even-toned complexion with the help of mechanical and chemical peeling.

The oriental therapies of Acupuncture and moxibustion are also offered at SHA, along with various massage techniques from across the world, in an effort to offer guests a wide spectrum of options to best suit their wellness needs.


“We recommend a two-week break to rejuvenate and detox here. Not only does that give time to actually relax and take the mind off daily life, but it also gives you time and space to adapt to the SHA method. Moreover, to enjoy full benefits of the treatments and see results, two weeks is ideal. We also have 7-day modules and a 4-day Discovery program for those who want to try our facilities for an overview of SHA – a wholesome approach to wellness,” says Pedro Catarino, Director of Wellness, SHA Wellness Clinic.

He adds, “I call us a luxury, ‘functional’ wellness clinic and spa, rather than a med-spa because we are result- oriented as well as exclusive and unique.”

The ‘luxury’ element of SHA is manifested best in its suites, particularly in the Royal and Presidential suites. Offering unrestricted, sweeping views of the Atean mountains as a backdrop to the quaint Spanish village below and a view of the gin-clear sea in the distance, the suites do elevate the SHA experience by a few notches.

“Besides, sunny Alicante offers a lot to explore outside of SHA as well. Experience the outdoors on a biking expedition, kayaking in the sea or even a leisurely walk across the neighboring villages – all of which add value to the ‘healthy holiday’ here,” adds Catarino.

My own wellness vacation wrapped up with a master class in macrobiotic cooking- indoors, but adventurous, nonetheless.

“Let’s try and take something back home from SHA– perhaps a certain heathy habit cultivated here or even a resolution,” says chef Llamas.

I opted to take her marinated tempeh and miso dressing recipe, along with a slice of the SHA philosophy and a helping of simple do’s and don’ts for a much-needed alternative, healthy lifestyle.

In all, I’d call it a sweet deal, even without the artificial sugar.



Published in Harpers Bazaar Interiors, September 2016

With dishes named Beyond Belief and Melt In Your Mouth, Colour My Plate serves up an offering that aims to be at once sassy, healthy and delectable, says Priyanka Pradhan

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The more colour on your plate, the more nutritious your meal is!”says dietician Hala Barghout, as she explains the concept for her Dubai-based healthy meals startup.

As a newbie in its category, Colour My Plate aims to differentiate itself in little details that go a long way in making a difference for both the serious calorie counters as well as those looking for an occasional, guilt-free parfait.

“Firstly, we’re all about ‘balance’, which means we focus on the right amount of lean protein, carbs and vitamins – we involve all major food groups in one meal, hence the different colours on a plate,” she says. “Secondly, our concept is to use clean, unprocessed and unrefined ingredients that ultimately make a huge difference in nutrition and taste.”

For example she makes her own peanut butter for her recipes at Colour My Plate from scratch.
“Nothing is store-bought,” says Hala. “We also use raw honey and organic maple syrup as opposed to the ones from supermarket shelves. So this makes it easier to customise meals to make them gluten-free, sugar-free, low-carb or dairy-free because all the ingredients are made in our own kitchen, including wraps and breads.”

Barghout’s personal favorites are the Melt In Your Mouth Avocado Brownie, a breakfast of egg-white bagel with avocado, tomato and spinach and the chicken teriyaki bowl – a main course with a base of black rice and quinoa topped with broccoli and salad.
If this sounds experimental, blame it on her roving eye for recipes from around the world and her adventurous kitchen persona. “I love researching new recipes and then experimenting with them on my own,” she says. “For example, I came across an Indian spicy rice and lentil salad to which I added more colour with carrots, cauliflowers, some greens and peppers – and fine-tuned it to taste delicious!”

Hala’s passion for food is palpable as she quips about her plans for a health food café. She wants to offer the local community a wider array of options and experimental and gourmet recipes on-demand. She is also concerned with the importance of education on healthy living and offers talks and lectures in schools, events and corporations.

Hala’s vision is simple – to help the community feel better, live longer and enjoy meals. And she aims to meet her goals, one colourful plate at a time.

On the Lankan Heritage Trail

Published in Villa 88 magazine, Autumn 2016 issue

Exploring Sri Lankan history and heritage through its boutique hotels sheds light on some amusing, colorful and delightful stories, writes Priyanka Pradhan


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In the morning sun, colorful little birds gather for a quick dip in the small, tiled fountain which forms the center of the open courtyard, inside what was formerly an 18th century Dutch mansion. Gigantic pillars create tall shadows in the corridors of the refurbished mansion, while the pale walls and high ceilings offer a sepia-toned throwback to Dutch-era Sri Lanka.

As sunbeams illuminate the ancient doors and windows on the façade of the iconic Galle Fort Hotel, stories from the pages of Sri Lanka’s history come to life. The estate has seen times of strife and turmoil as well as that of prosperity, as it morphed from a princely Dutch mansion to barracks for the Royal Air Force (RAF) during World War II, a post office, a bakery, and most recently, a pitch for Galle’s adolescent cricketers, before it was finally refurbished to become The Galle Fort Hotel in 2003.

The boutique hotel offers some unique insights into Sri Lanka’s journey through the ages. For instance, a suite named after a seven-foot tall eunuch, the Chinese Admiral Cheng Ho, commemorates his visit to Galle in 1406. The admiral had halted at Galle en route to an expedition to explore the Indian Ocean and Western Pacific with seven voyages, long before Cristopher Columbus set his anchor down on the sandy shores of Ceylon.

Recipient of the UNESCO Asia Pacific Heritage Award of Distinction, The Galle Fort Hotel is a treasure trove of such stories unearthed from history, culture and folklore. The architecture of the renovated estate also reflects more than one style and school of design. While a majority of the boutique hotel retains its Dutch charm, parts of it pay tribute to Sri Lanka’s British heritage as well as its ethnic Sinhalese flavor.

The Galle Fort Hotel’s sister property, the Thotalagala estate pays homage to this indigenous Lankan flavor. About 5 hours from Galle, in Sri Lanka’s northern Haputale district, a sprawling heritage boutique bungalow is nestled in the lap of hills, among 8,000 hectares of lush green. Formerly a tea planter’s bungalow, the 145-year-old property is restored to give connoisseurs from across the world an opportunity to sample the rich, homegrown essence of Ceylon tea. As the estate is fully functional, guests of the boutique property have the privilege of going tea picking with the planters for a more immersive experience and a glimpse into the traditional lifestyle of a tea planter.

A closer look inside the bungalow reveals seven luxury- themed suites based on personalities that shaped the history of tea culture in Sri Lanka- particularly Sir Thomas Lipton, who has the master suite dedicated to him in honor of his contribution to Lankan tea. Memorabilia from the British Colonial era, picnic breakfasts in the tea country and the traditional English cigar room in the bungalow make for an indulgent experience. Add to that, a kitchen with an exhaustive menu of local and international gourmet cuisines and on-demand services, Thotalagala aims to offer a decadent experience.

As the sun sets over the sea of green, just over the edge of the high tea table, it illuminates the not just the panorama of peaks and valleys but also that of history and heritage waiting to be explored through Sri Lanka’s luxury boutique stays.

A Colorful Life

Published in Villa 88 Magazine, June 2016 issue

Emirati entrepreneur FATIMA AL SHIRAWI decodes color therapy and its many shades, writes PRIYANKA PRADHAN
VILLA 88 JUNE 2016 113-page-001
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She lives, breathes and dreams in color. For Fatima Al Shirawi, hues have dictated every aspect of her life from home to work and from

her wardrobe to her inter-personal relationships. Perhaps this is why she chose to help people use colors to change their lives. “It’s been a very long and colorful journey,” says Fatima. “When I went to England to study fashion design, we had to take a class in color psychology and that’s when I was introduced to the world of color for the first time. It was an instant calling since the first day of my class and I’ve been mesmerized ever since.”

“When I came back to Dubai after my course, I realized this was something lacking in the market. People weren’t aware of how emotions could be associated with color. They didn’t know how in-depth the concept could go and how it could a ect various aspects of their lives. This was an opportunity waiting to be explored,” she says. This is how her brand The Gracious F was born.

Her client profile is truly diverse — ranging from age 26 to 50, working professionals to housewives, new moms to singles looking for love and from the newly wed to the newly divorced, who come looking for help to either change or simply enhance their lives through colors. The process is fairly simple. Starting with a general questionnaire about personality and preferences, a typical consulting session involves an in-depth analysis of the client as well as several color tests against their skin, to determine which palette suits them best. This palette is further customized into a personal color kit for the client, which can be used in their wardrobes, home interiors or workspace, depending on which area of life the client wants to work on.

“You also receive a full report on personal grooming according to your personality and body type- which colors to wear, hairstyles, fragrances, fabric, jewelry and make up choices, what careers suit you—it’s a complete lifestyle package,” she adds.

While working with clients to create personalized work and private spaces, she stumbled upon an idea to create a multifunctional piece for her clients— an interior décor project and her personal labor of love. “‘The object’ came about as a result of my own di culty while working in interior design,” says Fatima. “When I analyze an individual, I aim to customize and personalize their private space to the best of my ability. In the market, I couldn’t find something to match their individual personalities so I created something that my clients could use as an art piece in their homes and also something that was multi-functional. I further personalize ‘the object’ according to the client’s color individual therapy session.”

However, it hasn’t been the easiest journey to convince the market to buy into a concept that is fairly esoteric. “In order to create awareness about color therapy, I have been working on a lot of workshops and talks to educate people, which has in turn helped potential clients understand and try it for the first time, ” she says. “There was a considerable amount of skepticism when I started out first. I found that individuals are becoming more and more open to fresh, creative concepts to improve their lives as opposed to corporates, who are more hesitant to try something new,” adds Fatima. “In such a fast-paced environment such as Dubai, stress is a big problem amongst adults and they’re ready to try something new in their lives.”

The color therapy concept applies itself to the corporate world on a larger scale. Fatima will first assess the customer profile and target group of the store and carefully categorize them into groups. “We create each section for each type of personality. We blend in colors, textures and designs together to appeal to the customer profile or target group for the store. So when the customer enters the store, they automatically gravitate towards the section that appeals to them. For example, the majority of customers from the UAE, Levant and the Mediterranean belt are autumn personalities, so we can derive general characteristics of these personalities and determine the kind of colors they’re drawn towards.”

She may have scaled up her business by several leagues since she started in 2012 but she says her biggest achievement so far is something that cannot be quantified. “The feedback that I get and the happy faces of my clients —that’s the ultimate satisfaction for me and it keeps me going. They come in with questions and concerns and leave with a happy, positive feeling and that’s something that’s irreplaceable for me. My biggest achievement is seeing my clients’ lives turn around due to the positive e ects of color therapy.”

As for future plans, Fatima will continue to build The Gracious F and expand internationally, travel and acquire skills that will further enhance her work. With a wealth of experience, years of training as well as her inherent personal charm, Fatima aims to offer the world the ultimate color experience.

Avenue for creativity

Published in DestinAsian Magazine, Indonesia; April 2016.

With its recent expansion bringing
in a wealth of new galleries and more, Alserkal Avenue has cemented its reputation as Dubai’s hub for contemporary art and culture. – Priyanka Pradhan


Avenue for Creativity, published in DestinAsian Magazine,Indonesia.April 2016 issue.

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Back when Alserkal Avenue was established in 2007, taxi drivers would wonder what their Louboutin-wearing passengers were doing, coming to such a neighborhood. Smack in the middle of nowhere—or, more precisely, Dubai’s Al Quoz industrial zoneit consisted of a couple of streets of corrugated-metal ware- houses set across from dusty auto shops and rusty hardware factories. Fast forward to today, and Alserkal Avenue has evolved from that rugged, industrial landscape into an arts and culture destination pinned firmly on the map of the city—and, with its recent expansion, on that of the region too.

Created by renowned arts patron Abdelmo- nem bin Eisa Alserkal, whose family has owned the area for decades, Alserkal Avenue’s modest, brick-and-steel aesthetic is a sharp contrast to the glitzy glass skyscrapers of Dubai. The rst gallery to set up shop here was the Ayyam Gal- lery (No. 11;, showcasing new and old Middle Eastern contemporary art, soon followed by other well-known regional galleries such as Lawrie Shabibi (No. 21; lawrieshabibi .com) and Grey Noise (No. 24; As the years rolled on, places like The Fridge (No. 5;, an indie record company that organizes concert series and educational music programs, and The Jamjar (No. 74; the, which o ers workshops and a DIY painting studio for the public, joined the area, growing it into the mix that it is today: con- temporary art heavyweights alongside spunky, interactive creative spaces.

The Avenue’s recent expansion has seen it double in size to 50,000 square meters with the addition of a host of new galleries, places to eat and drink, and an OMA-designed project space that will open in September. “When we an- nounced the expansion of Alserkal Avenue, we pledged that we would use this opportunity to break new ground and stimulate new thinking,” says Alserkal, and the newcomers seem to be doing just that.

El Seed, the prolific French-Tunisian “calligraphiti” artist, installed himself in the Avenue’s first artist studio, where visitors can make appointments to come see his work known to juxtapose different languages, cultures, and identities. In another first, Swiss luxury watchmakers MB & F’s is making a splash as the only gallery of its kind in the Middle East, focused on kinetic art such as hand-crafted motorbikes, robot hands, and horology.

But the surest sign of the area’s success is the art-world power players who are moving in. While Dubai has yet to match the financial prowess of other contemporary art destinations such as New York, London, or Hong Kong, the international galleries flocking to Alserkal Avenue show that the future might be different. For example, the Avenue has just welcomed the New York–based Leila Heller Gallery,  a blue-chip gallery that’s a source for some of the most exceptional works from major 20th- century artists, Andy Warhol included.

“With the opening of many major museums and institutions in the U.A.E. in the near future, and the expanding design district and arts scene, the art world’s interest in Dubai is only increasing,” Heller explains. “And at the same time, the collector base here is growing, so it felt like the right moment to make a move here.”

“I was immediately attracted to the uniqueness of this district, where tire sellers and art galleries rub shoulders,” says Stephane Custot, whose Custot Gallery opened in mid-March. In its Paris and London locations, Custot has a legacy of fostering a dialogue between influential modern masters and international contemporary artists, and here in its gorgeous 700-square-meter Dubai outpost, it continues to do just that. In the inaugural exhibition,The World Meets Here, Robert Indiana’s textual sculptures and Marc Quinn’s giant metal seashells appear alongside hanging works from the likes of Miró and Picasso.

“The combination of Alserkal Avenue’s cheerful, diverse character and the large exhibition spaces available won me over, as I wanted to find a venue that could house large-scale sculptures and installations.” It seems that every tenant offers something different. The Jean-Paul Najar Foundation, a private nonzerofit museum, showcases the impressive American and European post-minimalist collection of the late Paris-based collector Jean-Paul Najar, set in Bauhaus-influenced architecture designed by Mario Jossa of Marcel Breuer & Associates.

On an entirely different note, Dubai-based gallery The Third Line moved here from its prior location in order to double its space (which now includes a lounge and screening room) and better support its 27 emerging contemporary artists, all of whom are Middle Eastern.

And it’s not just an appetite for art that Alserkal Avenue satisfies. Eateries have set up shop here—an outlet of Paris’s cold-pressed juicer Wild & The Moon; a soon-to-open artisan chocolatier, Atelier 68 —and fashion is making its way in too, such as the upcoming kimono boutique Chi-Ka.

In the words of its founder, “Alserkal Avenue is a home for dreamers, visionaries, and creative leaders who are looking to add to the cultural wealth of our region.” Needless to say, taxi drivers are no longer surprised by requests to come here.

Download PDF: Within The Palms. Published in VILLA 88 SEPT 2015

Within The Palms

Published in Villa 88 Magazine, AW 2015 

Emirati artist and designer Latifa Saeed attempts to revive the UAE’s traditional crafts through industrial design and art

Words by Priyanka Pradhan

Download PDF: Within the Palms. Published in Villa 88 Magazine,  September 2015

Download PDF: Within the Palms. Published in Villa 88 Magazine, September 2015

How can design trigger nostalgia? How can design make tradition relevant?”

These are some of the questions that ran through the mind of interdisciplinary artist, Latifa Saeed, before she embarked upon a unique concept to bring industrial design and tradition together. The Emirati artist’s latest design installation project, Kinetic Khoos, is a series of sculptural toys for children—a concept that aims to revive the traditional Emirati craft of toy making by using natural raw material such as khoos or palm fronds. She hopes the project challenges one’s perception of a traditional craft to recognize its relevance today.

“Traditionally, palm leaves and fronds were used to make fans, food trays, food covers, baskets, mats, houses and boats,” she says. “Fronds were even bound together and lined with pitch to make water tanks. An inconspicuous use for palm leaves was children’s toys—I remember when older women used to show us how to play with them when we were young, showing us techniques on how to build a fan and make it fly, to weave a thick piece of fresh palm leaf strip, and palm dolls dressed in the sheila (headscarves) and thoab (traditional dress); it brings back memories, emotions and laughter.”
VILLA 88 SEPT 2015 Extensive research into the different types of weaves led to artistic exchanges with local artisans and offered her an insight into how traditional artisans work, fabricate and survive in the modern world. According to Saeed, the sharing of passions and ideas created an interesting dynamic between her and Sheikha, an artisan she collaborated with, on exploring ways to connect the contemporary to the past.

As part of the Design program for Contemporary art organization, Tashkeel, Latifa Saeed was selected for a second time to represent them at Dubai Design Days 2015 with her Kinetic Khoos project.

“It took about two weeks to complete a single toy from the collection, starting from design to industrial machinery to assembly,” says Saeed. “For the limited edition crab, which is part of the collection and is sold out now, it took almost two months to produce each piece.”

But the most challenging part of the project was learning the ropes of industrial manufacturing on the go. “It was difficult to convince the industrial manufacturers at first because the concept was new and unheard of—it was difficult for them to understand the idea, especially without a sample product at hand,” she says. “Also, sourcing materials and finding artisans who are willing to have their work artistically manipulated was a tough challenge.”

But “persistence and refusing to give up” made sure the project ran to fruition.

Her previous project, Braided, was also supported by Tashkeel and showcased at the 2014 City Scape exhibition as part of Dubai Design Days last year. Inspired by hair braids—a very popular traditional hairstyle for children in the Emirates, the project saw her crafting a collection of furniture using braided linen cushion tubes upholstered in a wooden frame.

Unable to find a child-friendly and functional headboard in the market, she created her own design by experimenting and re-imagining the classic buttoned headboard. She then developed the technique of braiding linen cushion tubes and gathering them into clusters to create a padded surface of an organic pattern.

Infact, it was a picture of a headboard using her ‘braided’ concept on Instagram, that caught the attention of Sheikha Lateefa, founder of Tashkeel, who offered to mentor her under the Tashkeel Design Program last year.

VILLA 88 SEPT 2015 057-page-001Her commissioned work entitled Pleated Chair for Tashkeel, followed her experimentation with the headboard and went on to win positive feedback at Dubai Design Days 2014.

While her work so far has been fairly diverse, using vastly different concepts and materials, she says what she’s currently working on is even farther away from what she’s ever done before. “It’s confidential,” she says. “But let’s just say we will have a presence at the upcoming Dubai Design Week (26-31 October 2015) where more will be revealed,” she adds mysteriously.

Saeed’s ability to work in different disciplines without allowing herself to become restricted by a certain material or methodology is reflected in her attitude and free- spiritedness. “I can never have a favorite piece, discipline or medium to work in,” she says. “I’m wholly in love with whatever I’m working on at the moment but I know my next project will be even more fascinating!”

With Love From Dubai- Published in Conde Nast Traveller India (Aug-Sept 2015)

With Love from Dubai

Published in Conde Nast Traveller August- September 2015

Shiny malls are all very well but what about when you want to shop like a local? Priyanka Pradhan reveals some of the best regional brands.

With Love From Dubai- Published in Conde Nast Traveller India (Aug-Sept 2015)

Download PDF: With Love From Dubai- Published in Conde Nast Traveller India (Aug-Sept 2015)

When endless excursions to a daunting network of malls unearth the same souvenirs, done-to-death brands and boring keepsakes, it may be time to dig deeper. On your next trip to Dubai, take your pick from the UAE’s homegrown brands and products that are inspired by local culture, yet have a markedly global appeal. More than 202 nationalities make up the multicultural milieu of the UAE so expect a heady cocktail of influences on brands that are ‘Made in the UAE’. From Azabaijan to Africa and from travel to confectionery, the UAE is inspired by the entire world – and these ‘glocal’ wares make for memorable and meaningful take-aways, both for yourself and as gifts.

Inspired by the vivid colors of her favorite French confectionery, Lebanese-born founder Rima Khoreibi set up this cosmetics brand that is colorful in both, product and packaging.
Micaroon’s range of products including lipsticks, blush ons, accessories and body butter are named after popular local icons such as the Burj Khalifa and Arabic words like Ashq.

Bambah Boutique:
Dubai’s first and only high-end vintage boutique, Bambah sources one-off pieces from across the world. The boutique stocks period clothing and trinkets and owner Maha Abdul Rasheed’s own  ready to wear collection, which is a throwback to 50s’ glamour.

Nadine Kanso

Both as a photographer and jewelry designer, Nadine Kanso explores ideas of Arab identity and culture. Her jewelry collection, ‘Bil Arabi’ (which means, Ín Arabic’) collection takes inspiration from the Arabic alphabet  with words and phrases incorporated into 18 carat gold, and embellished with precious and semi-precious stones. In her second collection, Nadine K complements Bil Arabi with limited edition home accents, clothing and art.

House of nomad
The name of this contemporary fashion label is a nod to the original inhabitants of Dubai, who travelled from one temporary desert dwelling to another.  Co founders, Qatari Ahmed El-Sayed & Emirati Saleh Al-Banna typically use a single color for each collection creating sleek collections for men and women including sweaters, skirts and jackets but the main focus is on luxe sportswear.

Saray Couture turbans

This Dubai-based independent label, Saray’s handmade turbans and accessories are influenced by the Arab world’s heritage as well as western vintage style. The Azerbaijani founders of Saray draw inspiration from women who style their ensembles with regal turbans – Sheikha Mozah HH Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al Missned of Qatar, late Elizabeth Tailor and Barbara Streisand have all been fans of headwear.

In their fusion wear collection, Emirati sisters, Hanan and Hessa Ozair, combine local sensibilities and western design. Think abaya-style trench coats and rib cage shrugs. The sisters draw inspiration from art, architecture and sub cultures in the Arab world to produce only five limited-edition pieces of each design.

RAK pearls
The UAE has been producing fine pearls for over 7000 years, from a time when free divers would jump off specially made boats with nothing but turtle-shell nose-clips to find pearl oysters. Natural pearls were amongst the country’s biggest exports until the discovery of oil in the 1940s. Now, the industry is seeing a revival thanks to the efforts from RAK pearls Holding, which harvests around 40,000 pearls annually offering treasures from the Arabian Gulf, that are truly unique to the UAE.

Choose from natural Blue Baroque Keshi pearls, the very rare black pearls or the high-quality, iridescent cultivated variety of pearls seen at jewelry brands such as Mouwad.

Neemah Fragrance
Kuwaiti perfumer, Mohammad Neemah’s inspiration comes from his travels abroad but his sensibilities are deeply rooted in the Arab world- a characteristic that comes across in all his fragrances.

Some of his bestselling fragrances include ‘Laya’, meaning ‘Lady’, which is inspired by the orient and ‘Chateau Rouge’, which is inspired by stories of a free-spirited Arabian princess. Popular amongst Middle East cognoscenti, Neemah’s fragrances for men and women are also custom made for those who like to personalize their scent or the packaging.

Mastiha Shop – Dubai
Mastiha, a natural and rare tree resin that is native to the Mediterranean region and grows on the Greek island of Chios. It was documented as one of the first natural cooking spices and is a key ingredient in everything from coffee to medicines.

At the shop, you can happily while away a few hours choosing from a variety of mastiha flavored candies, cosmetics, shakes, massage and bath oils.

Al Khazanah
Camel leather is already known for its character and texture, but Al Khazahnah tannery based in Abu Dhabi aims to take it a few notches up by establishing it globally on par with luxury calf leather. The tannery designs its own handbags, wallets, briefcases, travel bags and accessories in different types of camel leather, including an easily biodegradable variety produced specially by them.
Al Nassma camel milk chocolates
The premium chocolate brand offers the first and finest camel milk chocolate, made in Dubai. Al Nassma describes its chocolates as not overtly sweet, with a hint of caramel and honey along with a mineral touch, which is characteristic of camel milk. The milk is sourced from a local farm where the camels are treated ethically and even given regular pedicures!

Dubai Perfume souk- Deira
No shopping list from Dubai can be complete without the traditional Arabic attar perfume oils from quaint little shops along the bylanes of old Dubai. Beautiful, vintage-style cut-glass containers in different shapes store concoctions of flower-based attar and the popular oud, perfume oil derived from one of the most expensive variety of wood in the world.
Many of these perfumers offer to mix and match oils and scents to customize the fragrance according to the preferences of customers, so you can get yourself a lovely bespoke scent.  A must-have for the perfume collection back home, for the unique fragrance and for well, an essence of the UAE.
Sikkat al Khail Road and Souk Deira

With Love From Dubai- Published in Conde Nast Traveller India (Aug-Sept 2015)

With Love From Dubai- Published in Conde Nast Traveller India (Aug-Sept 2015)

Download PDF: 'Less is More' -Published in GLAM Qatar May 2014

‘Less is more’

‘Less is more’
Japan’s oldest spa town offers a spiritual zen honeymoon getaway. – Priyanka Pradhan

Published in GLAM Qatar May 2015

Download PDF: 'Less is More' -Published in GLAM Qatar May 2014

Download PDF: ‘Less is More’ -Published in GLAM Qatar May 2014

It’s fascinating to see the relevance of ancient Japanese philosophy even today, as it resonates  across the natural theatre of Arima Onsen, and ricochets off the Spartan, zen-inspired homes of
this hilltop town. As it turns out, Arima Onsen, which lies in the Kobe region of Japan, is not
only the country’s oldest natural hot springs spa-town, but is also a slice of mystique, folklore
and philosophy.

I’m sitting at the quaintly decked out, yet ultra-modern luxury ryokan, the Arimasansoh
Goshobessho Hot Springs resort, waiting for an induction into the ancient Japanese tradition of
onsen (hot springs) community bath. My eyes wander towards a bright, somewhat circular
emblem seen across the room.

“It’s like a wheel – a circular device with spokes that converge at a central point,” Kazushige
Kanai, the young scion of Arima Onsen’s most prominent business families, follows my gaze and
attempts to explain to me. He introduces himself as CEO apprentice for his family’s ancestral
properties, the Arimasansho Goshobessho resort and ancient parent property, Tocen
Goshoboh, before continuing.

“What do you see at the center of the wheel? Nothing!” he says passionately. “It’s an empty
space – a ‘functional nothingness’. It’s functional because this ‘nothingness’ is what makes the
wheel useful to man. How would you attach the wheel to anything if it wasn’t for this empty
space in the center?”

He continues, “According to Japanese philosophers, people (and things) should have a certain
emptiness at the core, in order to understand, appreciate and serve a purpose. The wheel-like
emblem for our resort follows the same philosophy.”

Arimasansoh Goshobessho, the hot springs spa resort that’s responsible for launching us into
the throes of philosophy is tucked away innocuously atop the steep slopes of Arima, just a few
steps away from his family’s ancient spa, Tocen Goshoboh. The latter was established as far
back as the Kamakura period in Japanese history (12th century), lying adjacent to the only hot-
spring bathhouse of Arima at the time.

Today, with more than 30 inns and onsen resorts, Arima onsen is known to be a haven for
alternative therapy as well as spirituality. For Arima locals, however, the therapeutic powers of
hot springs are mythical.

According to the history of the ancient Tousen Jinja shrine in Arima, two Shinto gods discovered
Arima onsen more than 1300 years ago. When they passed by the town, they happened to see
three injured crows drink water from an onsen pool who were immediately healed, much to the
astonishment of the gods.  Legend has it that these ‘three crows of Arima’ were then
considered supernatural and became the only birds permitted to live in the town.

A few yards uphill from the Goshobessho, lies the same Tousen Jinja shrine, which takes more
than 50 rugged stone steps to climb. Cloaked in silence, the shrine houses the protecting deity
of Arima onsen and has the three crows carved into the entrance doorway. Wooden wishing
plagues called Ema brush against each other and water gushes out of an elaborate tsukubai
(stone basin), making the only two sounds heard across the compound. A peek inside the
sanctum sanctorum reveals a very simple and beautiful design, with prominent empty space in
the center, reiterating the ancient Japanese perspective of ‘less is more’.

Back at the resort, I’m staring at another sparsely furnished space – the community onsen
bathhouse. I’m wondering whether to plunge into the pool of steaming hot, reddish- gold
waters of the onsen, or simply return to the reassuring confines of my villa. My trepidation is
mainly because I’m told that one can only take a dip in this onsen completely in the nude – a
very common community bath custom in onsen tradition, but a bit of a culture shock to me.

Lying before me is the ‘Kinsen’, or ‘golden hot-spring’, one of the three types of natural springs
found in Arima.  The strongly basic ferruginous sodium chloride spring is known for its beauty
benefits, as the thermal water leaves the skin extremely smooth and moisturized. Therapeutic
effects of this onsen include healing of external wounds, menstrual disorder and infertility in
women, chronic digestive disease, rheumatism and even motor paralysis. It is also known to
help in therapy for active tuberculosis, malignant tumors, severe heart disease and anemia,
among other acute ailments.

“The hot springs in Arima surface from upto 60 meters underground, at temperatures more
than 98 degree centigrade,” Mr Kanai had informed me earlier. “Special pipes are then used to
route it straight to the bath houses of our two properties, where the temperature is controlled
at around 40 degree centigrade.”

A walk around the town, which is small enough to be explored entirely on foot, uncovers a
number of active onsen sources, seen steaming and whistling out of long pipes. Spices,
condiments, confectionery and tea are sold at every corner of the narrow, steeply sloping main
street of the town, which was once the path of a flowing stream across the town.

Local life is simple and relatively uninterrupted by the world outside, shielded by Mount Rokko
and wrapped in the rich heritage of the traditional onsen. However, the esoteric charms of this
ancient spa town have attracted travelers from across the world, including some that even set
up a small Western colony here, in the pre-World War II era.

As for me, I did eventually take a plunge into the onsen’s hypnotic waters and in doing so,
surrendered myself to a unique spiritual experience – one that stays with me long after the
effects of the onsen have worn off.

How to Get There:

Emirates flies direct and daily from Dubai to Osaka. The business class service aboard the Airbus A380 offers the perfect start to the spa vacation. With the chauffeur-driven service from your doorstep to the Emirates business class lounge in Dubai, and from in-flight services to regionally-inspired onboard gourmet dining, the Emirates business class service aims to be a seamless luxury travel experience.

Emirates also flies daily between Dubai and Doha, Qatar.

Where to Stay:

Arimasansoh Goshobessho, Arima Onsen. Guests have the option to choose between villas or two-storey maisonettes at the resort, established on the site of the ancient Arima Kiyomizu temple. Both types of stay offer views of the Kiyomizu lake or the Taki river and come with private thermal rooms and access to the community onsen.

Paparazzi Captured: Priyanka Pradhan. Published in Sorbet Magazine (May 2014)

Paparazzi: Captured!

Published in Sorbet Magazine, Issue 4 (May 2014)

Paparazzi: Captured!

They’ve been called creeps, stalkers and murderers of privacy, yet the paparazzi have always had their way with the stars. A look at their origins reveals some surprising facts and documents how these celebrity-chasing photographers have changed with the times.

By PriyankaPradhan

Paparazzi Captured: Priyanka Pradhan. Published in Sorbet Magazine (May 2014)

Paparazzi Captured: Priyanka Pradhan. Published in Sorbet Magazine (May 2014)

When Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini named a character ‘Paparazzo’ in his iconic filmLa Dolce Vita(released 1960), he could not have predicted that it would enter the official English lexicon as a common noun. Today, the global currency of that word (plural: paparazzi) is used to describe intrusive, offending photographers, often accused of voyeurism and stalking.

Fellini’s Paparazzo was inspired by a real-life Italian photographer, Tazio Secchiaroli, who was famous in the ‘50s, for capturing popular actresses red-handed with their paramours, celebrities in the middle of domestic quarrels and several ‘candid’ shots of actors caught unawares. When Fellini met Secchiaroli in Via Veneto, he was shocked to learn some of the photographer’s trade secrets. Secchiaroli had confessed that while ‘watching’ and stalking celebrities day and night was the norm, he even went so far as to puncture the tires of celebrities’ cars in order to trap them for a shot. These ‘caught in the moment’ images could fetch upto six million Italian Liras (US$ 3000) for photographers like Secchiaroli at the time.

Fellini later explainedthat the name of this photographer’s character was derived from the Italian word papatacci, which loosely translates to ‘large mosquito’ and razzo, which means ‘light’. In the film, Paparazzo’s character traveled on his scooter or in his Fiat 500, which enabled him to navigate the streets of Rome with the agility of a mosquito, in his mission to chase and capture his quarry with his 1950s’ style, flashbulb camera.

Cut to a decade later, from 1960s celebrity-obsessed Rome to 1970s Hollywood, when paparazzi mania was at its height and the phenomenon of weekly tabloids had just begun to surface. From the public’s fascination with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, former First Lady of the United States, to the adulation surrounding actress Elizabeth Taylor, one paparazzo, Ron Galella, captured it all.

The Italian-American photographer, dubbed ‘Paparazzo Extraordinaire’ by Newsweek and ‘The Godfather of US paparazzi culture’ by Time and Vanity Fair respectively, did not stop at anything to get the perfect shot. As the subject of the documentary Smash His Camera, not even a restraining order from the court, demanding that he stay 164 feet away from Jackie O and her family, or a broken jaw, courtesy of an angry Marlon Brando or jail time in Mexico could keep him from the task at hand.

Job hazards also included long and agonizing waiting periods, just to get the perfect shot. “Once, I was locked alone in a warehouse in London, from Friday, 4pm to Monday, 9am,” he tells Sorbet. “I had to wait for a wedding party to capture Bob Wilson, a former Scotland football player. Another time, I paid a steward to lock me in for the weekend at The London warehouse on the Thames, so I could shoot Liz Taylor and Richard Burton on their yacht, the Kalizma. My favorite hiding places, however, were just trees – I used trees as cover to photograph Jackie and John Jr. in Central Park, for example.”

Today, some of 83-year-old Galella’s work has travelled to galleries across the world, such as Tate Modern in London and the Helmut Newton Foundation Museum of Photography in Berlin. His most famous ‘Windblown Jackie’ portrait is housed at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, although the story behind it is a far cry from his current celebrity status.“I hid in the backseat of a taxi to capture my Windblown Jackie,” he says. “The driver honked and she turned, giving me that Mona Lisa smile. She didn’t know it was me because the camera was covering my face, but when I got out of the taxi, she recognized me and immediately put on her big sunglasses. She asked, ‘Are you pleased with yourself?’ I cheekily said, ‘Yes, thank you,’ and left.”

In fact, Galella had longstanding trouble with Jackie O. “One significant event gave the documentary about me its name,” he says. On 24 September 1969, I was shooting Jackie and John Jr. bicycling in Central Park, when she spotted me and told her secret service agent, “Mr. Connelly, SMASH HIS CAMERA!” Fortunately he didn’t, but then two other secret service agents demanded my film on Jackie’s order. I did not surrender the film, and I was arrested for harassment. The charges were dismissed by the judge. I had won, but Jackie refused to pay my legal fees. That was the beginning of what would later turn into the 26-day trial I faced in 1972. I lost that case, but I won a lot of publicity, which money couldn’t buy. I thanked Jackie for the publicity in 1974, when I gave her a copy of my first book, Jacqueline. She kept that book in her library until she died, and as I understand, it was donated along with many of the photos from both our trials to the JFK Library in Boston.”

In a career spanning three decades, Galella continued to photograph celebrities at their best and worst. After the Marlon Brandon broken jaw incident, he followed him with a football helmet for protection and continued to chase Burton, even after being seriously beaten up by his bodyguards. Later in the 80s and 90s, he snapped celebrities such as John Travolta, Michael Jackson and Mick Jagger.

This drive and ambition, however, was more of a survival instinct, according to Galella, a job he took up in 1958 upon graduating from Art Center College in Hollywood, when he could not afford a studio in Manhattan. “I was forced to shoot on the street at premieres, Broadway openings, Studio 54, etc., and develop my film in my darkroom in the Bronx,” he explains.

“Throughout my career, I was able to offer more realistic, truthful pictures of celebrities rather than the posed pictures that studio photographers like Avedon produced, which were more commercial as opposed to editorial. However, the photographers in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita were fairly negative since they ganged up on stars and provoked them to get more sellable shots. They were actually very much like the photographers of today, especially those in L.A.”

Today, celebrities and Hollywood starlets have also learnt to use the paparazzi as a PR vehicle, an exercise in self-promotion. However, these set-up paparazzi shots do not fetch more than a $75 each, while genuine pictures of certain celebrities are extremely lucrative, and can bring in millions of dollars for the paparazzo. The quality of paparazzi pictures may have been reduced to horrifying crotch shots of desperate Hollywood starlets seen stepping out of cars, and vintage flashbulb cameras may have been replaced by sophisticated super-zoom digital cameras, but the spirit of paparazzi remains unchanged. The ghost of Fellini’s Paparazzo perhaps still lurks behind trees and in the backseat of cars, for that perfectly incriminating shot of the Next Big Thing.

The Vintage Couture Bazaar- Priyanka Pradhan. Published in T Emirates: The New York Times Style Magazine (July 2013)

The Vintage Couture Bazaar

Published in T Emirates: The New York Times Style Magazine (July 2013)

The Vintage Couture Bazaar
The appeal of vintage fashion lies in its heritage, rarity and ingenuity, while its exclusivity is guaranteed by a premium price point. T Emirates investigates the growing popularity of vintage fashion as an investment opportunity.

By Priyanka Pradhan

The Vintage Couture Bazaar- Priyanka Pradhan. Published in T Emirates: The New York Times Style Magazine (July 2013)

The Vintage Couture Bazaar- Priyanka Pradhan. Published in T Emirates: The New York Times Style Magazine (July 2013)

Is buying a 1940s vintage couture gown as solid an investment as purchasing a Matisse masterpiece?

Yes, if vintage couture experts are to be believed.

Seeing the demand and appreciation in value of vintage couture at high-profile global auction houses, more investors and fashion-conscious folks alike are trying it for size. According to research by online resource vintage textile, which aims to educate and inform enthusiasts, vintage clothing benefited investors more than any other collectible category in the period 1990-2012.

The source gives the example of a Chanel women’s suit from the 1960s, which went up from $805 (AED 2,957) to $3,220 (AED 11,827) in less than six years (quoted prices are actual realized prices at major auction houses). This works out as a 300 percent appreciation over 6 years, or 20 percent a year.

A more recent example is a Charles James evening dress that climbed from $29,900 (AED 109,826) to $49,450 (AED 181,635), yielding a 65 percent appreciation, in two years.

As in the case of art investment, the ingenuity and rarity of the collectible play a major role in determining the price tag attached to the item.

But more specifically for vintage couture, the designer, period, fashion house and story or narrative of the item are just as important.the iconic little black dress designed by Givenchy and worn by Audrey Hepburn in the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s sold at Christie’s for $923,187 (AED 3,390,958) in 2006, while the estimated value was only between $98,800 (AED362,902) and $138,320 (AED 508,063).

Similarly, ‘The Collection of Elizabeth Taylor” in 2011, in the Christie’s “online-only” section, made a record $10 million (AED 36,731,000) in a series of

sales that made a total of $183.5 million (AED 673,995,473), showing the stellar demand for vintage fashion today.

According to Clare Borthwick, specialist at Christie’s vintage couture department, there’s growing mass appeal for vintage fashion, and the business is being fueled not only by seasoned connoisseurs and collectors but also by people influenced by Hollywood.

She says: “The wardrobes of film stars and generational legends often attract great attention at auction and command the highest prices due to their status as memorabilia rather than purely fashion pieces. We have, however, sold some memorable pieces of vintage fashion, including the personal collection of

Coco Chanel in 1974, as well as a 1966 YSL ‘Mondrian’ dress that fetched £30,000 (AED 163,961) and a 1939 velvet evening jacket by Schiaparelli that made £73,250 (AED 400,337) in our last vintage couture sale in 2012.”

Borthwick says they also see a lot of buyers from the Middle East, owing to significant interest in “modern vintage”, paying particular attention to luxury handbag auctions, specifically labels such as Hermès, Chanel and Louis Vuitton.

Apart from the high-profile auctions, vintage bazaars in discreet nooks and street corners of the world are also doing brisk business, but on a smaller scale.

Although the UAE is a bit behind the times, according to Dubai-based vintage boutique owner Maha Rasheed, the business is catching up, with increasing awareness of the nuances of vintage fashion in the region.

Rasheed, who runs Bambah Boutique and sources authentic vintage items from across the world from LA to Japan, says: “Perceptions are slowly changing, and

people are becoming more comfortable about wearing vintage and pre-owned items in the Middle East. If the items are impeccably restored, maintained and presented, one does not mind that the item is not brand new. Celebrities and movies have also made more people aware of vintage fashion, and there’s no taboo in buying worn pieces.”

She adds, “Even pre-owned or pre-loved items that are not vintage per se have a big market here in the Middle East, and I think it’s a good trend!”

One such “pre- owned” items’ fashion boutique owner, Dubai-based Micha Maatouk from Garderobe, says her customers are highly fashion-conscious, affluent, and know their vintage Birkins from their Kellys.

“While we do get a few good vintage pieces from 30 to 40 years ago,” she says, “we mostly deal with pre-owned luxury and designer items as young as 10-15 years. These are consumers who don’t like to be seen in the same designer dress, shoes or accessories more than once or twice and so sell their piece to us for half the price. We at Garderobe then split the profits with the consignee in a 50-50 agreement. So yes, they get to clear out their closet every season and get about half the price of the item back.”

Apart from the aesthetic value of the items and the history associated with them, the price of pre-owned fashion then becomes a key factor for her customers.

“The prices of these items could vary,” she says. “You could sometimes find a 30-year-old Valentino gown that originally cost easily more than AED 25,000 at less than 20 percent of the price now, but then you could also end up paying more than the original price of a designer vintage handbag that is not available any more, or has an endless wait-list at the brand’s store. I’d say the pre-owned market is increasingly becoming an important part of the vintage fashion movement.”

But because the authenticity of vintage items is difficult to assess, and they can sometimes be challenging to find or even uproariously expensive, “vintage-inspired” fashion and jewelry has come under the spotlight in a big way.

Inspired by the vintage era from the 1920s to the 1960s (by definition, items from before this period are considered “antique”, but the term “vintage” is being more loosely translated in today’s context), these fashion and jewelry pieces attempt to capture the cuts, colors, prints and essence of the vintage era for a slice of nostalgia, but without the price tag of the original vintage pieces.

Laurent Cathala, vice-president, emerging markets at Tiffany & co., says, “Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation movie, ‘The Great Gatsby’ has created strong interest and demand for 1920s-inspired jewelry.“Although Tiffany & co. does not offer vintage pieces for sale,” he says, “many of our designs are based on the original sketches and collections found in the Tiffany archives. These designs highlight the timeless beauty and unerring quality of Tiffany designs. These archival pieces also transcend fashion trends and hold great appeal for discerning customers.”

He adds, “In addition to Tiffany’s Great Gatsby and Blue Book Collections of fine and statement jewelry, we introduced this year the Ziegfeld Collection. Also inspired by the same Jazz age, it is named after New York’s legendary Ziegfeld theatre, a model of Art Deco architecture that opened in 1927. The jewelry captures the period’s elegance with freshwater cultured pearls, black onyx and sterling silver.”

Similarly, Swiss luxury watch manufacturer Jaeger-Lecoultre does not sell its original vintage timepieces, but helps verify the authenticity of rare vintage watches for its customers and also restores vintage Jaeger-Le coultre watches in its workshop in Switzerland. Certain factors of the vintage watch are then considered while evaluating the piece.

Stéphane Belmont, marketing and technical director of Manufacture Jaeger-Lecoultre, says: “In the case of an authentic vintage watch, the

watch has a story related to previous owners, a story of transmission of the piece. When a very small quantity of pieces were produced in a certain era, the offer of those vintage watches in the market is very limited today. Where the demand exceeds the supply, the price of the vintage watch goes up every year. The rarity of the watch depends on the quantity, exclusivity, quality of the movement and functioning of the watch, and its aesthetics.”

It is this quality and exclusivity that the vintage business is founded upon. In an age of global retail chains and uninspired, off-the-rack fashion, vintage couture has an undeniable appeal and immense value, as an asset.

The character of Carrie Bradshaw from the popular TV series, Sex and the City couldn’t have put it better: “I like my

investments where I can see them… hanging in my closet!”