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inside Event An overview of Round 3 of the ‘2009 Nivea for Men Endurance Challenge’ in Dubai; you’ll see why gokarting makes for such wholesome family fun!

People Top Chef Shannon Bennett shares his recipe for success and life.

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Front-Runner He’s a composer, filmmaker, director, writer and organiser… Meet Jean-Philippe Rieu who recently composed an ode to His Majesty, the Sultan.

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26 Focus An indulgence called Godiva!


Cars Introducing the Mercedes Gullwing’s spiritual successor — the SLS AMG.

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58 Food Court Get your dose of sun, sea and sheesha at the über-cool TCHETCHE Café.

Up Front

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Collectible

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Preview - OER Golf

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Art

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Preview

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Event - Regatta

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Travel

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Technology

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Sports

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Gaming

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Index

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The Last Word

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COVER IMAGE Courtesy: Bait Muzna Artist - Tonny Holsbergen Photography Satyadas C. Narayanan CONCEPT & CREATION PRIYA NAIR CONTENT DEEPA RAJAN GHALIB ABDULLAH AL FORI FATMA AL ARAIMI MOHAMMED FAHMI RAJAB SUSHMITA SARKHEL ART Art Director - SANDESH S. RANGNEKAR Designer - ALIYA AL WAHAIBI PRODUCTION HEAD GOVINDRAJ RAMESH ADVERTISING & MARKETING Group Advertising Manager - MIMI DEB Asst. Advertising Manager - RITU Sr Media Executive - FAREEDA S AL BALUSHI CORPORATE Chief Executive - SANDEEP SEHGAL Executive Vice President - ALPANA ROY Vice President - RAVI RAMAN DISTRIBUTED WITH OER by United Media Services LLC Signature is an OER presentation published monthly and released in the first week of every month. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the publisher. The publisher does not accept responsibility for any loss occasioned to any person or organisation acting or refraining as a result of material in this publication. Signature accepts no responsibility for advertising content.

Correspondence should be addressed to

Signature

United Media Services LLC, PO Box 3305, Ruwi, PC 112, Muscat, Sultanate of Oman,

FROM THE EDITOR’S DESK

WE ARE THE WORLD Copenhagen, December 2009 Japanese Prime Minister, H.E. Yukio Hatoyama: “If we cannot manage (to achieve a deal) we will not have fulfilled our responsibilities as world leaders, which is a disgrace to the world.” Indian Prime Minister, H.E. Manmohan Singh: “Each one of us acknowledges that those worst affected by climate change are the least responsible for it. Whatever emerges from our negotiations must address this glaring injustice; injustice to the countries of Africa, injustice to the least developed countries and injustice to the small island states whose very survival as viable nations is in jeopardy.” G20 London Summit, April 2009 The official communiqué issued at the close of the G20 London Summit: “We face the greatest challenge to the world economy in modern times; a crisis which has deepened since we last met, which affects the lives of women, men, and children in every country, and which all countries must join together to resolve. A global crisis requires a global solution.” “We are determined not only to restore growth but to lay the foundation for a fair and sustainable world economy. We recognise that the current crisis has a disproportionate impact on the vulnerable in the poorest countries and recognise our collective responsibility to mitigate the social impact of the crisis to minimise long-lasting damage to global potential.” The world economy and the world environment have much in common, don’t they? In both cases it is a gross inequity; the impact is being and will be felt, for the most part, by the already vulnerable and the countries already struggling to survive. Everything that can be done needs to be done now, and not later. The world needs to right itself quickly…

Mobile +968 99849242 Fax +968 24707939

e-mail: signature@umsoman.com/ reachsignature@gmail.com An

We need to learn from our mistakes. We need guarantees that they’ll never be repeated. We need to stop thinking that it doesn’t really affect us. And looks like the year 2010 will show us the way… Happy New Year!

Presentation Copyright © 2008 United Press & Publishing LLC

We’ll see you next month…


UPFRONT

The latest and out-of-the-ordinary…

by the conflict between night and day in Mozart’s ‘The Magic Flute’. And, BeoTime from Clever Little ItBangis inspired & Olufsen is an alarm clock, visually unlike anything you have ever seen. Innovation grounded in functionality, its horizontal line and square panels relax the eye and you can place it on a table or Thing clever hang it on the supplied magnetic wall fixture. This clever little thing comes with a built-in motion sensor

and subtle automatic backlighting. And, you can choose to wake up to BeoTime’s discreet chime or the sound of your favourite TV programme, radio station, or piece of music.

Paying Homage Two outstanding Montblanc writing instruments — the Mahatma Gandhi Limited Edition 241 and the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Edition 3000 — have been created to pay tribute to the wisdom, vision and boundless energy the indomitable Mahatma displayed as he struggled to free his beloved nation, India. The Memorial Edition, which is a limited edition of 3,000 pieces — both in fountain and rollerball pens — signifies India’s multitudes that were devoted to Mahatma Gandhi. While, the distance of 241 miles that Mahatma Gandhi and his followers travelled by foot during the famous Salt March has inspired the Limited Edition 241 fountain pen made in 750 solid white gold piston.

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UPFRONT

Discover Croatia Here’s a destination you might want to explore, and we know exactly where you can stay. For, the relatively undiscovered region of Croatia now has its first Five-Star luxury seaside Golf & Spa Resort: The Kempinski Hotel Adriatic. Located on the northwestern coast of Istria, at a fivehour drive from Milan, Munich and Vienna, this modern, active seaside Golf & Spa Resort offers spacious accommodation with 186 rooms and suites with a warm, Mediterranean feel and atmosphere. All rooms have a balcony overlooking the sea or the green of the countryside and the golf course. And if you fall in love with the place and decide to stay back a while or want to buy a vacation home, you can choose from 20 luxury apartments and 22 outstanding stand-alone villas, in four different designs, which are available for sale on a freehold basis.

The Scent of Green

The Body Shop is all about fair trade and the ecology. And their new perfume for women, Love Etc... is made of materials that live up to that. The glass bottle is recyclable; the carrier of the scent is Community Trade alcohol distilled from organic sugar cane in Ecuador. Its crisp white FSC-certified cardboard carton, fuchsia lining and kaleidoscope of brightly-coloured hearts are a refreshing change from the usual Body Shop packaging. Created by well-known perfumer Dominique Ropion, the scent itself is very heavy and substantial with bergamot, jasmine heliotrope, lily of the valley and sandalwood off the top, followed by vanilla and creamy musk.

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UPFRONT

Triple Indulgence

Celebrate life’s rich tapestry with LaPrarie’s new collection of fragrances: Life Threads. Silver, Gold and Platinum, the three exquisite fragrances within Life Threads, speak to the nuances of a woman’s life — one that can shimmer her world into sensual Silver; one to drive success and go for the Gold; one that makes Platinum the power centre for her dreams. Together, Life Threads are a triple self-indulgence. Simultaneously simple and luxurious, the clean architectural lines of the clear lucite bottles are softened by the complexity of delicate threads woven throughout, giving each a distinct precious metal personality.


UPFRONT

Exceptionally Timeless

Khimji’s Watches at Shatti Al Qurum present a fresh Limelight watch collection (for 2009) from Piaget’s Geneva jewellery atelier. Each Exceptional Limelight collection watch is known for being a serious haute joaillerie item of art. Given Piaget’s indispensable standards of beauty (and diamonds) the watches are interesting, original, and most importantly beautiful. Brilliant-cut diamonds cover every surface of the timepieces (as much as is possible), and materials like mother-of-pearl make up the watch dials. The cases and bracelets themselves are each done in 18k white gold.

Shangri-La’s Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa set some records this Christmas. A team of 24 talented and creative chefs greeted the festive season with the longest Black Forest Yule Log in the country. Measuring a huge 36m in length, the longest Black Forest Yule Log took 24 hours to create. Among its many ingredients, the delicious Yule Log was prepared with 450 eggs, 90kg of sugar, 10kg of cookies, 5kg of strawberries and 40kg of cherries!

Festive

Feat

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UPFRONT

Pure LOVE

The house of Pure Gold presents a new jewellery collection called Pure Platinum, designed especially for those who want to express their love in style. The signature line will initially offer two types of rings — a duo band with 50 cents diamonds each, perfect for couples. The duo platinum bands represent bonds of eternal love. The ‘his and her’ ring set is priced at AED 5,999 (approximately Rials 628) only. The other offering from the Pure Platinum Collection is a half carat certified diamond solitaire ring, set in platinum, which is priced at 3,999 AED (approximately Rials 419) only.

Sporty & Elegant

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The new Audi A5 Sportback has been introduced to Oman, by Wattayah Motors, as the third member of the A5 model family. Featuring an awe-inspiring design, practicality and a sporty character, its engines are as efficient as they are powerful. The launch engine for the Middle East will be a 211 bhp 2.0 TFSI, which delivers its power to the quattro permanent all-wheel drive system. This five-door coupe is defined by elegant lines; it is 36mm lower than the A4 Sedan. With its short front overhang, long wheelbase, wide track and the four frameless doors with their slender window lines, it’s pretty much sporty elegance at its best.


Collectible

Hello Extravagance! It’s a record holding good looker, and so much more… GoldVish’s ‘Le Million’ Piece Unique is temptation at its best! It is the most expensive mobile phone in the world and has a Guinness World Records stamp certifying so! The ‘Le Million’ Piece Unique was introduced by GoldVish, a Geneva-based luxury communications goods company, at the Millionaire Fair in Cannes 2006. It was purchased for 1 million euros by a Russian businessman for his wife. So what makes this phone such a tease? This ‘crown jewel’ from the GoldVish stable has been designed by Emmanuel Gueit, who is

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well-known for his work with brands such as Audemars Piguet and Harry Winston. The handcrafted cell phone is made of 18-carat white gold, mounted with 120-carats of VVS-1 graded diamonds and has exclusive crocodile leather inlays for the back available in 12 colours. It is also equipped with the latest in mobile technology, such as worldwide GSM coverage (Quad band), GPRS/ Edge Class 10 connectivity, and Bluetooth technology. Features include a photo/ video camera with optimised

(8x zoom, 2 mega pixel) CMOS lens, MP3 player, Worldwide FM radio receiver and PC inter-changeable 2 Gb SDmemory for songs, pictures, movies. The ‘Le Million’ was created as an addition to GoldVish’s ‘Illusion’ collection and is only available on special request. Perhaps, this is what makes it the world’s most exclusive phone as well. Not that one needs any excuses to splurge on an extravagance that is as tempting as this one!


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Advertorial Signature 20.4x27.6.pdf

12/28/09

5:35:53 PM


PREVIEW

In Full

Swing!

The countdown to the much-awaited OER CEO Golf 2010 has begun! And the big news this time around is that the event will be held at the Muscat Hills Golf and Country Club — the first 18-hole green course in the country.

OER

CEO Golf 2010 which will be held on February 25, has all the makings of an international golf tournament, taking place as it is, at the PGA-certified lush greens of the Muscat Hills. Lavish hospitality, powerful opportunities for highlevel networking, a great day of fun away from the boardroom with corporate captains and attractive prizes, all mean that this is one notto-be-missed event! OER CEO Golf, now in its sixth year, attracts the cream of the business world in Oman. These professionals mean business as they vie for top honours, while golfers-to-be get a chance to learn ‘the real game’ as they experience first-hand why golf is now an integral part of business networking. Fact is, OER CEO Golf remains a premium event that offers the corporate world an excellent opportunity to network over a round of golf. And the fun is not limited to the greens, the excitement carries on off the course as well.

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And this year, more importantly, all the participants will be on the greens of Muscat Hills to play an intense 18-hole game. While the pros try to score birdies as they exchange light-hearted banter and golf jokes and probably even get down to business outside the boardroom, the newbie-golfers’ aspirations will be boosted by some invaluable tips from a teaching pro. They can even square off in an exclusive 4-hole round of golf. With this session, we hope, golfing enthusiasts would take that step forward towards becoming pros soon. “Business and golf are natural partners. OER CEO Golf is a perfect meeting ground not just for golf lovers but also for decisionmakers of top companies in Oman to develop and strengthen business relations,” says Sandeep Sehgal, Chief Executive of United Media Services, the publishers of Oman Economic Review. Come to tee off, watch the pros in action or to learn; it’s going to be a memorable event and day. You wouldn’t want to miss it for anything!

OER CEO Golf 2010 is organised by Applause Events, an event management specialist in the Sultanate of Oman. For more details call Kush Gupta on 00968 99253729.


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FRONT-RUNNER

A composer, filmmaker, director, writer and organiser, Jean-Philippe Rieu’s approach to life is what makes him passion’s favourite child. Deepa Rajan met him on his recent visit to Oman.

Soul Symphony 22


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he afternoon, Jean-Philippe Rieu was born in Maastricht (December 16, 1956) his father was conducting Mozart’s Figaro in Amsterdam. Born into a family of six children, JeanPhilippe took to music like a fish takes to water. “When I was two I’d sit on my mother’s lap and listen to all the symphonies and operas (His father, André Rieu senior, conducted the Limburg Symphony Orchestra at the time). We lived in the South of Holland, very close to the Belgian border. As a little boy I began attending the conservatorium nearby and also went to school side by side.” Jean-Philippe officially started playing at the age of four-five. “I played the piano and had also begun composing. For example, if

my father was conducting a Tchaikovsky composition, I was making the opera scores and the piano scores. It was like a second language to me…” he says. “Perhaps a first language,” he adds as an afterthought with a smile. Does that not make him a genius then? Jean-Philippe vehemently disagrees. “I am no genius! I do not like that word. It is all about the passion inside you. I just wanted to do it. At my time, I couldn’t talk about it to my teachers, because they thought it was impossible for a child to be doing the two together. But, nevertheless, I did.” By age 17, he had already conducted the Liege Philharmonic Orchestra, performing his own compositions. ���Everything in my life has been an automatic process. When I finished my secondary education, I was conducting my own scores. Later, I was also assisting my father.” Jean-Philippe took courses in piano, composition, musical theory and conducting at the Liege and Maastricht Conservatorium. During that time he was an Assistant Conductor and Répétiteur (a person who acts as a coach for and directs rehearsals of singers, dancers, etc., as in opera or ballet) with the opera houses of Leipzig and

“It’s always about the soul. Everything should rise from the soul.”

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FRONT-RUNNER

“I am no genius! I do not like that word. It is all about the passion inside you.”

Berlin. “I also worked for the Maastricht Conservatorium as a Conductor and Main Subject Teacher for 15 years. I educated young people in composition and I conducted as well. I founded the Opera school in the south of Holland.” Shortly after the world premiere of Leonard Bernstein’s largest opera ‘The Quiet Place’ in Vienna, he produced and conducted this opera there. During this period he also composed contemporary, religious, romantic and experimental music which he conducted personally. Subsequently, Jean-Philippe worked with his brother André Rieu (world-renowned violinist, conductor, and composer best known for creating an international revival in waltz music with his ‘Johann Strauss Orchestra’). for six years. With him he composed and released six CDs and produced and directed twelve large music films for television and DVD that are distributed all over the globe. Taking up direction was born more out of the urge to create more than a technical film of music. “Both my brother and I were unhappy with the way such movies were made. They were often too technically shot, not from the heart. So you have 20 or 25 cameras, if you have a big production house and you put everybody in the camera. But what does it tell? If someone is simply shooting my nose and hands without even capturing the essence or the feeling attached to it,

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it is just a frame. It has to be beyond that. It has to be about communicating the reaction on the listener’s face.” He adds, “It’s more than words can say. So I combined the musician and the listener’s reactions and I followed my instincts.” Like all artists with a free soul, Jean-Philippe was tempted to venture out and create something of his own, independent of his brother. Thus was born the JeanPhilippe Rieu Media in 2004 and since then he has been active as an independent composer, filmmaker, director, writer and organiser. And, he dons each role with as much ease as one changes clothes. Driven by his soul, the Dutch composer has always been a staunch follower of his gut instinct. It was this feeling that led him to Magda, his wife of 23 years. “She was with my youngest sister at school and somehow I knew she was the one for me. It was purely the soul that brought us together.” He asked her to marry him when she was just 18 and he was still finishing his schooling at the conservatory. He would write letters to her every day. “In fact,” he says, “all the love songs that I have composed are for her.” And it’s not just his wife, but his three beautiful children — Jean-Paul, Rose, and Jerome — who are also his highest motivation and also the inspiration behind his children’s book about a fairy named ‘Marie’. “Our three

children are now 17, 15, and 14 respectively. When they were small I’d tell them bedtime stories and ‘Marie’ would often feature in them. Before we knew it, ‘Marie’ had become a part of our family.” The book will be released in Dutch and will also be translated into many other languages including Spanish, French, Korean and English (for the American market). Jean-Philippe has also compiled a music DVD for the book. “You can listen to it along with the story,” he says, “I have manipulated the illustrations to make it look like a big concert.” Whether it’s writing love songs or story books, JeanPhilippe is all about passion and hunger to give the world something more than just music. And fuelled by this

very emotion and the added encouragement provided by the Dutch Ambassador to the Sultanate, H.E. Stefan van Wersch, Jean-Philippe even composed an ode to His Majesty, the Sultan. “His Excellency Stefan introduced me to Oman and the progress that it has achieved in the 40 years under the leadership of His Majesty, the Sultan. It is exemplary how all this has been achieved with peace, harmony and hard work. That inspired me to write an ode to His Majesty, the Sultan for leading the Renaissance.” The composition is a prelude to the National Anthem and a fitting tribute to Oman and its peaceful approach to life. Of course, Jean-Philippe’s own approach to life is almost idealistic to a fault and perhaps that is what makes

him passion’s favourite child as well. He believes that love, truth, openess and purity are the most important driving forces in one’s life and adds, “Believe in yourself, trust your own intuition, learn to look your fears in the eye and no matter what you do in life, it should come from within.” And, he quite drives the point home when he adds: “It’s always about the soul. Everything should rise from the soul.”

Favourite composers and compositions

Bach, Mozart and impressionists such as Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel. Also loves Don Giovanni and Giacomo Puccini’s La Bohème.

Beyond music

Reads a lot, loves painting, especially nature; Loves sitting by the fireplace.

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EVENT

The True Test of The Location

Dubai Autodrome, MotorCity

MotorCity is a development based on a unique automobile and motor sport theme that includes residential, business, sports and leisure opportunities. MotorCity is in fact ‘a city

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within a city’ with five project components that includes: the Dubai Autodrome, the F1-X, the Business Park MotorCity, UPTOWN MotorCity and the Green Community MotorCity. It is developed over an area

of approximately 38mn. sq.ft., located on Emirates Road. Officially inaugurated in October 2004 when it hosted the final round of the FIA GT Championship, the Dubai Autodrome is designed to accommodate all types of motorsport events from world class to local. It is the region’s first fully-integrated motorsports facility.

incorporates a Race & Driving School and a CIK approved Karting Track.

The complex not only includes an FIA sanctioned 5.39 km circuit, which offers six different configurations and supporting services (pit garages, grandstand, race administration, medical centres, etc.), but also

It also offers manufacturers and racing teams a perfect location for testing, prototype development, vehicle demonstrations, product launches, driver training and hot weather car research for international manufacturers.

This multi-purpose complex also serves as an ideal setting for concerts and corporate events, whether conferences, seminars, or motoring exhibitions. Its race calendar includes major races such as the above mentioned FIA GT.


Go-Karting makes for a great family event and is just as competitive as any motorsport can get. Malcolm X Crasta joined the Signature team in Dubai to bring you an overview of Round 3 of the ‘2009 Nivea for Men Endurance Challenge’

Endurance The Track

Outdoor Kartdrome

The 1.2km international standard circuit at the Kartdrome features 17 corners to test drivers’ skills and a tunnel and bridge to add to the excitement. It can be divided into two smaller circuits of 720 metres and 525 metres each. This challenging circuit offers maximum safety to all drivers and spectators and is equipped with a complete set of flood lights to offer perfect viewing for nighttime racing. During races, 24 pit garages are ready to ensure that each team has a private area for servicing.

Above the pit garage are several multi-purpose rooms, including a timing room and a race control room equipped with CCTV cameras covering every corner of the track. The state-of-the-art facility hosts Arrive & Drive sessions daily while also providing kart owners the opportunity to practice on the track. The venue also hosts rounds of the DAMC Karting Championship, the Nivea for Men Endurance Challenge 24 Hour races and the Middle East Karting Cup.

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EVENT

The Karts

Sodi RX7/390cc The Karts used at this event were provided by the organisers themselves and were distributed to the teams through a ballot. To keep the playing field even, all karts were of the same variety — Sodi RX7. Sodikart is one of the leading kart-producing companies in the world. When their activity is at its peak, 30-40 karts are manufactured in its production unit every day and annual production reaches at least 4,000 chassis. Europe remains the largest export market for Sodikart, although its karts regularly reach over 40 countries in the world, thanks to a considerable presence in Asia, North

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America, the Emirates and also Africa. Sodikarts are among the best choice for a rental track as they offer top levels of quality, durability and drivability. The fruit of many years of research, the SODI RX7 paves the way for a new generation of rental karts. Boasting a unique design supported by major technological innovations in this market such as the shock absorbent integral protection and shaft steering; SODI RX7 is revolutionising the market and allows an extraordinarily

economic operation and provides unmatched reliability and a novel system for seating and pedals arrangements. The Karts used for the race were powered by a single 390cc Honda 4-Stroke engine producing 13.5 BHP. They were even equipped with

hydraulic brakes, adjustable and padded seats, adjustable pedals, full rear axle protection, nose cone and side pods to ensure the safety and comfort for all drivers throughout the race.


The SPORT

24 hours Endurance Go-Karting

Irrespective of your age and gender, or whether it is a family fun day out or a corporate or team building event, Karting is a perfect motorsport option. It is this freedom that makes it the perfect family sport where everyone can participate. In fact, the Kartdrome in Dubai offers Arrive & Drive sessions for anyone above the age of seven. Karting

is also considered to be the stepping stone for anyone determined to enter the world of serious motorsports. It can prepare the driver for high-speed wheel-to-wheel racing by helping develop quick reflexes, precision car control, and decisionmaking skills. In addition, it brings an awareness of the various parameters that can be altered to try to improve

the competitiveness of the kart that also exist in other forms of motor racing. Many notable Formula 1 race drivers started their careers racing karts, namely Michael Schumacher, Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Fernando Alonso, Kimi RäikkÜnen and Lewis Hamilton. As the name implies, the endurance race lasts an

entire 24 hours. But it may not necessarily last that long always; endurance races can range anywhere from 30 minutes to 24 hours or maybe even longer. In these races, the winner is the team that completes the most number of laps before the end of the time limit. It is a test of fitness, skill, pit strategy, consistency and teamwork rather than all-out speed.

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EVENT

The RACE

The 2009 Nivea for Men Endurance Challenge ‘Round 3’ There were 26 teams from around the world participating, facing rain and a slippery track; the drivers were in for the most challenging leg of the three races so far. This was not until later in the race though and the qualifications and start benefitted from a dry track and relatively cool weather. The good initial racing conditions saw South African female karting champion

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Fabian Lanz make history by becoming the first female driver ever to win pole position for the start of the Nivea for Men 24 Hours. With the teams, accompanied by family and friends, preparing for the upcoming 24 hours in the pits, the race began at 2pm on December 11. Unfortunately for Lanz, her lead didn’t last long, a bad start saw her fall from the leading position

in the early stages. This allowed Team Grohe to pull out a narrow lead over Bahraini team Batelco and championship leaders NFM Professionals. While early indications are that these four teams would battle it out throughout the following 24 hours, the beginning of what ended up being the highest rainfall of the year, rendered the track wet and slippery posing a major challenge for all drivers. Throughout


The Drivers of Team Signature Raed Dawood - (helped manage the team) Mitesh Khimji Andreas Petre Tarik Al Said Fareed Hinai Rishi Khimji From Left to Right

the race a battle waged for the lead between the NFM Professionals, Batelco and Team Grohe who led for much of the early hours of the race after striking an early lead. Only eight hours into the race, the NFM Professionals managed to pull away from Batelco and had started to breathe down the necks of the race leaders Team Grohe. Soon, both teams were constantly exchanging the lead before NFM professionals’ superior tactics saw them edge out their competitor all the way till the chequered flag. Team Grohe came in second ahead of Les Frangins Falcetta, a

great result for the debutant team, and Batelco.

and eventually came out one position ahead.

Our own team, Team ‘Signature’, had effectively retired from 24hrs karting seven years ago but decided to come out of retirement for this race. Unfortunately, they had a slightly disappointing qualification being placed on the grid at the 20th position. Despite this, they put up quite a fight and managed to pull up two places before the end of the race coming in at a respectable 18th. They shared their pit with ‘gourmet gulf’ (the only other Omani team) with whom they had duelled for the duration of the race

Following the race a special award for outstanding performance during the 24 hour race went to Fabian Lanz for her exceptional qualification lap. Victory for NFM Professionals in the final of the three 2009 Nivea for Men Endurance Challenge races netted them the overall Championship, with Ocean Rubber second and Tracktalk Speedsters third. Forum Racing won the Nivea from Men Corporate Challenge Championship with Multiplex Racing coming in second and Repton Racing third.

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ART

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Be it drawing people, landscapes and caricatures or fusing glass to make Omani masks, or playing musical instruments, Tonny Holsbergen infuses new life into everything she puts her heart and art into, discovers Deepa Rajan


art with the big

‘A’


ART

“Life is movement and I always tell

my students to focus on that as well.” “I love people. I do not create still lifes or landscapes without painting people in it. It is always a challenge for the artist to catch the movement and the character of the people, not to mention the expression on people’s faces when they see the exact likeness of their image,” says

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Tonny Holsbergen, a wellknown portrait artist. Born in 1952 in the Netherlands, Tonny grew up near a zoo and often spent her time there, drawing the apes and lions. Her romance with ‘balance’ and ‘perspective’ began at the early age of five “As a child I always

carried a sketch book with me wherever I went.” So it was only natural that she went on to study art at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy and Government Academy for Fine Arts in Amsterdam for seven years. It was here that she learnt to appreciate the human form and perhaps

realised that portraits were her calling. You can easily see that being able to achieve the exact likeness of the person is a challenge that Tonny thrives on. “I always manage to get the exact likeness in the end,” she says and explains, “If I were to make a portrait of you for


instance, I see you differently than you see yourself in the mirror. And, you’ll be able to see what I see, only if you view yourself with a mirror in front of and behind you. I catch what you cannot see and give your portrait that character. In the end it is always the real you,” she

says smiling sagaciously. As an artist is she not tempted to try her own interpretation? “Of course, I am,” she admits. But then, how does she convince her subject? “When I am doing a portrait my way and it is half-done, I usually call the person who has commissioned it and show it

to him/her and explain what I have done so far. The choice is theirs, of course, to decide whether they’d rather stick to what they want or do it my way.” So, given all this hard work, is there a creative process that keeps her going? “I really cannot define it. It is

a way of life. It is just like breathing to me. Be it a street or a bunch of people, I am always making compositions in my head without even knowing it. It’s almost like I have a lens fitted inside me,” she says. And what about the challenges, assuming there are any?

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ART

“Be it a street or a bunch of people, I

am always making compositions in my head without even knowing it.”

“For me it is still being able to catch the movement. Life is movement and I always tell my students to focus on that as well. When you are painting a model that is moving, more often than not you have to rely on your mental image of the model and his/her movement and that is not an easy thing to do, given that the object is forever in motion.” Something that, she says, French Impressionists mastered: A quick and special eye for detail. “Also, it is always interesting to see how French Impressionists such as Manet, Monet and Degas (to name just a few) have played with the light to transform simple images into something magnificent and awe-inspiring.” Among contemporary artists, she admires the works of Bacon, but as “a figurative artist herself,” it is the impressionists that provide Tonny with the much required inspiration. Tonny, who lives across from the Rembrandt House, also finds that his works prove to be a wonderful lesson, especially his etchings. It is still a learning process for Tonny, who is a teacher and has conducted workshops and held exhibitions across the world including Oman, which holds a special place in her heart. Her current exhibition ‘Faces of Oman’ on at the Bait Muzna Gallery is proof enough of that. Tonny first visited Oman in 2001 as a tourist with her husband. She camped out under the desert sky, met the Bedouins and was really fascinated with their way of life. “I loved everything about the desert. I listened to the sounds of the desert and wanted to start drawing immediately.” Every scene moved her so much that she wanted to

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capture an essence of the Bedouin lifestyle and the desert in her paintings and that is how ‘Faces of Oman’ was brought to life. Each painting is a representation of the myriad hues of the desert; a reflection, perhaps, of Tonny’s dynamic personality itself, that is quite contrary to that of an artist’s who is often seen as a recluse. Tonny is somewhat of an entertainer as well and has been working as a cartoonist at business and wedding

parties and seminars. She can make your caricature in under four minutes, she claims. “When I am doing my art with the big ‘A’, I am often closeted between the four walls. I began working as a caricature artist 15 years ago and began to enjoy it. It only helps me improve my skills and I also make contacts for my bigger art. I kill two birds with one stone,” she chuckles. Be it drawing people, landscapes and caricatures or fusing glass to make Omani masks, or playing

musical instruments such as the Hurdy-Gurdy (that her father makes), the Northumberland Smallpipes or the traditional Swedish Nyckelharpa, Tonny infuses new life into everything she puts her heart into. “Life”, she says, “is too short and you have to grab every moment. One minute spent without laughing is akin to not being alive.” Perhaps, it is this very joie de vivre that makes Tonny a true artist and her paintings true works of art.

“I love

people. I do not create

still lifes or

landscapes

without

painting

people in it.”

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FOCUS

Each creation from the house of Godiva Chocolatier, Official Supplier to the Royal Court of Belgium, offers you a nibble at its history, almost as rich, deep, and sensuous as the chocolate itself…

Cocoa Beans & the Legend of a Lady

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arquise de Sévigné, a French writer and lady of fashion, once wrote in a letter: “If you are not feeling well, if you have not slept, chocolate will revive you. But you have no chocolate! I think of that again and again! My dear, how will you ever manage?” That was in 1677 and today we still pose the same question: Can one manage without chocolate! And it still remains purely rhetoric… Chocolate is truly the ultimate indulgence and that experience is taken up many, many notches when it is a Godiva. Created in 1926 in Brussels by Pierre Draps Senior, Godiva Chocolatier, Official Supplier to the Royal Court of Belgium, Godiva has become one of the most prestigious chocolate brands in the world. But where did all this begin? The Draps family began their chocolate and sweet-making workshop in the Brussels of the 1920s. Their ‘pralines’— typically Belgian, filled chocolates

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FOCUS

—were made for the larger shops, which in those days were regarded to be frequented only by those au courant (we suspect had Marquise de Sévigné been alive, she would have made a worthy customer!). At the age of fourteen, Joseph Draps (Pierre Draps’ eldest son) joined the family business and found his ‘calling’ for chocolate and the business. Thus was born Godiva, an obvious reference to the legend of Lady Godiva. And legend has it that when Lady Godiva, wife of Lord Leofric, protested against the taxation of his subjects he struck a bargain with her. He asked Lady Godiva to ride through the streets of Coventry, “clad in naught but her long tresses”, and if the population remained in shuttered buildings, their tax burden would be lifted. The following morning she made her famous ride, the citizens graciously stayed inside and Leofric kept his word and reduced the taxes. Lady Godiva won the hearts of many. Her passion, purity, sensuality, style and boldness is in essence what a box of Godiva chocolates aims to offer chocolate-hungry souls. The crest of Lady Godiva has quite naturally found its place amongst the gold and splendour of the Grand Place in Brussels, a huge

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backdrop against which Godiva opened one of their most prestigious shops. Success was not too far off. Godiva expanded throughout Belgium. And soon the first shops were opening abroad — in the Rue Saint-Honoré in Paris in 1958. More shops in the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and other countries followed. Godiva made its American debut in 1966, at one of the country’s most elegant department stores — Wanamaker’s in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. And in 1972, the first Godiva boutique in the US opened on New York’s Fifth Avenue. The first Godiva chocolates became available in Japan in the well-known Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi Department Store in central Tokyo, also in 1972. Today, Godiva Chocolatier owns and operates more than 450 boutiques and shops worldwide where consumers with good taste can find a comprehensive selection of Godiva offerings. Godiva products are also available at finer department and specialty stores. Additionally, the company issues six seasonal mail-order catalogues a year in North America and accepts phone and internet orders. From New York to Paris to Tokyo to Muscat, Godiva brings the best of Belgium to the world. Through the years, standards

have been maintained as diligently as Draps’ recipes have been guarded. Careful attention to quality is apparent even in the exquisite European-style gold ballotins (traditional packaging for fresh chocolate assortments. The concept and the name are Belgian in origin) and handcrafted seasonal packaging that have earned Godiva a reputation for design excellence. So how is this extravagance crafted? An art nonetheless, Godiva uses two production methods to manufacture the various sizes and shapes of chocolates — enrobing and shell-moulding. Enrobing involves coating a formed centre, like rich caramel, with smooth, melted chocolate, while the shell-moulding process begins with a mould composed of intricately designed ‘impressions’ to create delectable confections easily recognised as ‘Godiva.’ Each cavity is filled with melted, tempered chocolate. The mould is inverted and most of the chocolate runs out. It is then cooled, which solidifies the remaining chocolate, forming a ‘shell’. The shell is filled with a centre, allowing enough space for a thin layer of melted chocolate to be layered over the filling. After cooling, the chocolates are released from the mould.

Godiva also produces some exquisite symmetrical shellmoulded confections by ‘book-molding’ two identical filled moulds together. The now famous Heart, Walnut, Chestnut and the Scallop shapes are all book-moulded. More than 80 different chocolate creations ranging from pralines (the Belgian name for the filled chocolate shell), ganaches (extremely smooth filling obtained by mixing full cream brought to the boil, which is added to the chocolate and stirred until a smooth paste is obtained.) and caramels, fresh creams, marzipans (a mixture of peeled almonds and white sugar), fondant creams and fruit pastes, truffles, carrés and chocolate bars; each mouthful gives you a sense of the Godiva legend — rich, deep and sensuous. While each recipe is almost always guarded with the zeal of a protective father, the secret, we feel, lies in the exclusive ingredients and the fine art of chocolatemaking. As Thierry Muret, Master Chocolatier at Godiva Chocolatier says, “Truly fine chocolates have several characteristics in common: they are always fresh, contain high quality ingredients like premium cocoa beans and dairy butter, are usually less sweet and feature unusual textures and natural flavours.


Consequently, their taste differs greatly from less expensive chocolates, which tend to use artificial flavours and preservatives to achieve a longer shelf-life.” Be it the choice of cocoa beans, the fresh fruits and dried nuts, the degree of torrefaction, the fineness of the milling...Everything conspires to give the chocolate an aura almost as mystical as the legend that is Lady Godiva. The Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa once remarked: “Look, there’s no metaphysics on earth like chocolates.” That definitely stands true in the case of a ‘Godiva’.

A Truffle Story

The Godiva Truffes Légendaires Collection showcases the rich heritage of Godiva truffles, beginning with the first truffle made by Chocolatier Joseph Draps in 1946. Draps was committed to finding the perfect ingredients, scarce after World War II, to make this ultra rich and indulgent truffle for his loyal consumers. The result? The Création Truffe Chocolat, featuring rich dark chocolate cream enrobed in dark chocolate and rolled in cocoa powder, which introduced a new level of luxury in chocolate. For the next 60 years, each Godiva truffle created has echoed Draps’ commitment to redefining the chocolate experience through the use of different shapes, inspirations and flavours.

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PEOPLE

Top Chef Shannon Bennett of the ‘Vue’ at Al Bustan, is really not your regular ‘Celebrity Chef’. He simply serves up the best with a dishy smile on the side, says Deepa Rajan.

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T

he only critic who can take on this ‘enfant terrible’ of Australian haute cuisine is his five-year-old daughter! For Shannon Bennett, who beat Australia’s top chefs in an open competition in his teens, talks turkey when it comes to his job and has more than once made his critics eat their words with his culinary accomplishments. Shannon has worked in some of Europe’s toughest kitchens, including those of Marco Pierre White, John Burton Race and the Roux brothers — Albert and Michel. The 35-year-old Chef today runs the award-winning ‘Vue de Monde’ restaurant, two ‘Café Vues’ and ‘Bistro Vue’ in Melbourne, Australia. Shannon, who was in Muscat recently to help design a Christmas menu for his ‘Vue’ at the Al Bustan Palace InterContinental, spoke to Signature on his recipe for success and life. Let’s start this very interesting story at the very beginning… “I want to be a Chef.” Shannon’s Irish mother came to Australia as a backpacker where she met and fell in love with his dad. Growing up in West Meadows, a very poor part of Melbourne, Shannon says he didn’t really come from a foodie background. “I’ve got a brother — he’s a pilot and he’s a very good cook too. My dad has no idea how to cook. He makes ‘Benny Burgers’, which are pieces of charcoal in between bread.

My mum is quite a good cook though but it’s not something we grew up with.” His biggest influences growing up were his uncles (especially his Uncle Tom who lived in the UK), who were all self-employed and had lives of their own. “I started to fall in love with food when I went to stay in London with my Uncle Tom, who was the Lead Guitarist for a band called ‘The Londoners’. After he retired, he opened a couple of gastro pubs. We’d visit these Michelin Star restaurants, and he had this amazing 22-yearold Italian girlfriend when he was in his late 40’s, so I remember thinking, ‘I want to be a Chef’, as it all seemed so exciting. I just fell in love with the lifestyle. I had no idea how to cook. But, from then on it was all I wanted to do.” Well-known author Paulo Coelho says in his book ‘The Alchemist’, “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” Perhaps that also explains why Shannon, who was a bit of rebel in school (he went to Melbourne’s Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School), got thrown into a Home Economics class! “I was the first male student there and I loved the class! It was one of the subjects I excelled in because I really loved cooking.” Of course, he gives credit to his Home Economics Teacher Mrs. Malcolm, who first recognised his culinary aptitude and helped him hone his skills.

“You know when something’s right!” “Hard work and passion,” says Shannon, “are all one needs to set one’s course to success.” Well that, and his love for food, got him an apprenticeship at the Grand Hyatt Melbourne and he went on to work in a two Michelin Star Restaurant for John Burton Race. And that opened the doors to his childhood hero Marco Pierre White’s kitchen. “I had been unsuccessfully trying to get into Marco’s kitchen for a long time, but little did I know that working for Race would be my ticket to any kitchen in Europe, including Marco’s. I worked with him for two and half years and then with the Roux Brothers — I did a pastry apprenticeship for Albert Roux.” He also worked at the Hotel De Paris in Monaco for Alain Ducasse before heading back to Australia (courtesy an ex-girlfriend who wanted to live in Australia). Fortunately, says Shannon he couldn’t get a job anywhere. “No one knew the Chefs I had worked for and so I decided instead to start my own restaurant. I looked for the cheapest restaurant I could find, in a place called Carlton. That’s where it all really began for me. In my case, it was something that ‘you just know’. You know when something’s right! From there I gradually grew and today I own three cafés, a bistro and the main restaurant ‘Vue De Monde’.” Quite a

long way from his first job at McDonalds, which he lied to get! Shannon laughs as he recalls how at the time all he wanted to do was save up for a surf trip to Bali, “And it was more about the freedom that money could give you, so I doctored my birth certificate to get the job. But I was really good at what I did.” “I set a goal to win that Award.” According to Shannon, “Any job you do when you’re young helps you discipline yourself for a bigger one in the future.” To him, his apprenticeships meant the most because they taught him the tricks of the trade and why not, for it’s his determination and training that have won his ‘Vue de Monde’ a plethora of awards, including the Three Hats from The Age Good Food Guide 2009 and Three Stars from the Australian Gourmet Traveller. “One of my most memorable experiences has been winning the Restaurant of the Year Award from the Australian Gourmet Traveller.

An Omani Vue

‘Vue’ opened in January 2009. Shannon chose Oman because he thought it was something of an adventure. “I just loved the fact that it was quiet and it was unpredictable. It took me three months after first coming here to decide. But, once I decided, that was it. I love this place and I want to see more local young Chefs. It would be a fantastic thing to say that a local Chef is running our operations here. For now, the reception we have had here has been great! Josh (the Head Chef) is really doing a great job!”

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PEOPLE

I set a goal to win that Award, a very difficult one at that and we won. We were the first ones in Melbourne to win it, that too two years in a row!” “There’s enough confidence in me now…” History was made, but for Shannon it’s still all about the food. To him it’s interesting to discover the history of the dish or knowing where the ingredients are coming from. He also encourages the use of locally-grown ingredients while cooking. “Vue at Al Bustan has its own tiny garden, where they grow herbs and other vegetables and they also use the local produce such as fish. We are going to experiment with driftwood plates and frankincense burning… try and tell a whole story, you know.” According to Shannon, food has evolved tremendously given that there is a lot more technology now to help one cook, “It has helped fine tune our food/methods and make it a lot simpler and in many ways easier. When I first started, I tried too hard and wanted to impress the diner in one plate. Now it’s not

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about that. There’s enough confidence in me now, not to worry about pleasing the customers — the customers will please themselves. As long as I’m happy with the dish there’s a good chance the customer will also be happy with it.” “Life is short, do all of it as quickly as you can.” But naturally, his customers are a happy lot, but what about his family? Shannon has two beautiful children — daughter Phoenix (born in December 2005) and son Hendrix (born in April 2008 and named after Jimi Hendrix, one of the most important and influential musicians from the 60s) — with his actor wife, Madeleine West. “I met my wife through Jamie Oliver, who was in Australia at the time conducting the first ‘Good Food’ show. At our first meeting, I criticised Vegans without knowing she was one. She ate quail without saying a word and it was only six months later that she told me about it. She actually thought I was pretty intimidating,” he laughs. He is supportive of his wife Madeleine’s growing career as an actor and wants

to be with her every step of the way. “She stood by me when the going was tough and I owe a lot to her.” A surfer at heart like any true Down Under man, Shannon also believes in the work-life balance. “I have worked very hard. My working hours are around 80 hours a week. I’m working on getting that down to 60 hours and a four-day week and spending more time with my family, especially the children who are growing up pretty fast.” So is he training his children in the culinary arts as well? “Naturally… my daughter loves helping me out in the kitchen. She is also quite a critic (the toughest one he may have encountered yet!). She is getting very fussy now… ‘Blah’ is her favourite word. I am waiting to see how her tastes evolve.” Grounded firmly in his role as a family man, with goals to re-invent the ‘Vue de Monde’ and put it on the world gastronomy map, Shannon says, “Life is short, do all of it as quickly as you can.” In 10 years from now, Shannon sees himself, “Hopefully still enjoying cooking, having my own farm and winery for my hotel.”

At one glance, it might be easy to peg Shannon as your regular ‘Celebrity Chef’ with an attitude to match, but this Irish-Australian Chef with surfer-good looks is anything but that. All you need to do is sit at his table, get him to serve up his signature dish/meal along with his dishy smile and your ‘vue’ about food is changed for life!

His books:

Are a product of his passion for travelling. He calls it, “a good little hobby”. His ‘My Vue: Modern French Cookery’, and ‘My French Vue: Bistro Cooking at Home’ are inspired by his love for French cuisine. His latest is a foodies’ guide to Paris (‘Shannon Bennett’s Paris’), a city that continues to inspire him every time he visits it. So much so that he picks a restaurant and works there for free and anonymously.

Favourite dish of his creation: His now famous Five-Minute Bouillabaisse.

Favourite cuisine: Indian and Japanese

Three people he’d like to cook for:

“Barrack Obama, Marco Pierre White, and my wife, of course.”

Three places to eat:

La Maurice and the Bistro at Hotel Bristol, Paris; a huge fan of Thomas Keller; and loves the fresh fish served at Hanabishi, Melbourne.


PREVIEW

Superyachts, Megayachts and More! The Abu Dhabi Yacht Show being held next month promises to be the one of the biggest events in the Middle East in 2010.

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Get ready and set sail for Abu Dhabi. A three-day event, from February 25-27, will see the Capital of the U.A.E. play host to some of the biggest names in the global yachting industry and this is where the most spectacular super- and mega-yachts plying the seas, will be berthing. We’re talking about the second edition of the Abu Dhabi Yacht Show (ADYS) which is one of the most exclusive and eagerlyawaited annual events on the international yachting, and the region’s, social calendar. The event, being held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Bin Al Nayhan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces,

will further reinforce Abu Dhabi’s growing reputation as a world-class yachting destination. More than 25 of the world’s most outstanding and spectacular yachts, ranging in size from 30m to over 100m will be at the show. From ‘Silver Zwei’, the world’s longest all-aluminium yacht at 73m, the slick 48m Walter Franchini-designed ‘Ellix Too’ or the elegant ‘Trident’ — a 65m testament to the marriage of form and function, to the impressive beach house inspired 58m ‘M/Y Outback’, there’s a toy for everyone at the ADYS being held at the Yas Marina. Located on Yas Island, home to the spectacular Formula One Etihad Airways Abu


Dhabi Grand Prix circuit, the Marina’s dedicated superyacht dock, as well as its sporting and leisure marine facilities, make it an unparalleled setting for the second edition of ADYS. This is where the world’s leading yachting companies and luxury lifestyle brands will parade their latest products against the backdrop of the stunning vessels and around the show’s firstclass restaurant and lounge facilities. And that’s not all... Also attend the Gulf Superyacht Forum — a two-day exclusive and interactive meeting of superyacht business leaders, who seek to expand their understanding of the Gulf

region, specifically its clients, culture and the developing maritime infrastructure. Or, you can simply head down to the Quayside, and take a look at the moored superyachts at the Abu Dhabi Yacht Show receptions in the evenings of both February 25 and 26. The social highlight of the yachting extravaganza is the Abu Dhabi Yacht Show Gala Dinner on February 24. The black-tie/national dress gala dinner will feature a number of activities that will guarantee a memorable evening, with all event proceeds going to charity.

world captains of the industry, Middle Eastern royalty and the Gulf’s most famous faces all on the same platform.

Where else would you rather be in February? (Signature is a media partner of the event)

The Abu Dhabi Yacht Show promises to be one of the biggest events in the Middle East with world class vessels,

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FOOD COURT

Sheesha Special 48


The TCHETCHE Café is the latest addition to Oman’s ever increasing dining options. This über cool café cum restaurant has its own unique style and is set to change Oman’s café culture completely says Sushmita Sarkel.

The TCHETCHE Café, already a popular name in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, Jeddah and Sharm El-Sheik, finally set up shop in Oman in November and has seen an overwhelming response since Day One. And we have to say this — TCHETCHE adds even more spice to the already zesty roster of restaurants at the Shari‘ Al Hub (a.k.a. the ‘Love Street’)! Ever since winter arrived in Oman, the whole area has been humming with a newfound energy. As the Sun sets, the beach and streets begin buzzing with life, making TCHETCHE the ideal place to unwind with friends and family in comfortable yet stimulating surroundings. To offer you some details…The TCHETCHE Café chain was established in the mid-1990s in Amman, giving rise to a unique café culture where people could enjoy their Sheesha as well as a selection of international cuisine. Despite being in the business for more than a decade, TCHETCHE preserves its panache and its international repute for casual yet trendy dining. Heading back to the TCHETCHE Café at the Shari‘ Al Hub; it’s a chic yet unpretentious place with a soothing ambience and great food. With a wide range of delightful dishes and beverages on the menu, you are sort of spoilt for choice. The Café is open from 9.00 am right until

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FOOD COURT

midnight, seven days a week, 365 days a year. If you’re looking for a quick bite in the morning you’ll find lots to choose from. From omelettes (cheese, classic, Mexican, Spanish), pancakes, French toast, waffles and crepes to the more traditional Zatar and Cheese Focaccia, there’s something for everyone. As for the rest of the day, you can enjoy equally delicious fare. From light bites like Chicken Crunch, Buffalo Tenders and Chicken Quesadillas to regular favourites like the Hot Dog, Tuna Sandwich and Swiss & Mushroom Burger, TCHETCHE serves up a list of culinary hits. Entrées like Beef Escalope Al Funghi, Fish & Chips, Grilled Salmon, Shrimp Fettuccine, Spaghetti Bolognese and Mozzarella Alla Forno are other delectable options. You could also choose healthy salads, which include Greek Salad, Rucola Salad, Tuna Salad, Halloumi Salad and Chef Salad among others. The Café also serves 12 inch pizzas that are baked in wood-fire ovens like they are meant to be. Choose from well known ones like Margherita, Salami and Barbeque as well as TCHETCHE’s ever popular

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House Pizza that’s topped with grilled chicken, beef fillet, fresh tomatoes, rucola leaves and parmesan. TCHETCHE does some very good desserts as well. The luxurious indulgences include Chocolate Mousse, Apple Pie, Blueberry Cheesecake and the TCHE Special. The Ice Cream Soda, Honey Scoop, Ice Cream Sundae, Chocolate Land and Hawaiian Mix are ice creambased desserts that are also great on taste. TCHETCHE’s signature pre-packaged, flavoured Sheesha (also known as mu’assil) is one of its main attractions. The Café offers a variety of Sheesha flavours like Apple Mint, Cherry, Lemon Mint, Grape, Strawberry, Apple Apple, Tche Tche and Liquorice. Couple your Sheesha with some speciality coffee, tea, smoothies or fruit drinks and you have yourself the perfect accompaniments for a fun evening. The Café has something of a retro chic feel and is the ideal place to host casual business lunches. The trademark red and brown interiors and faux stone walls paint a pretty, welcoming

picture. The patio is also a nice way to enjoy the wonderful weather Muscat’s been experiencing lately. However, one of the best features of this restaurant is undoubtedly, the view across the street — of the sea. One can spend many a blissful hour simply taking in the sight and sound of the waves over a cup of coffee or tea. Come nightfall and the view, although completely different is just as entertaining what with families and youngsters flocking to the beach with their guitars and Arabic drums. Most Sheesha cafés cater to adults; however, TCHETCHE has created a menu and an ambience that even children enjoy. And that’s what makes it a hot spot for families as well. So if you’ve not dropped by, what we’re saying is, expect breathtaking views and a terrific vibe generated by chic clientele who are looking at spending a fun, laidback evening, enjoying some Sheesha, good food and beverages. Be it an intimate dinner for two or an evening out with friends and/ or colleagues, TCHETCHE satisfies your appetite as well as your senses.


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EVENT

Set Sail

Fun, thrills and some serious sailing! That is what the Muscat Khasab Bank of Beirut Chairman’s Cup 2009 was all about…

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T

he Sultanate’s connection with the sea stretches back many centuries when Omani sailors using mast and sail, pioneered sea routes to the cities of the ancient world. With her pivotal position at the crossroads of shipping routes that linked the Arabian Gulf to India, the Red Sea and East Africa and her knowledge of shipbuilding, Oman became the first non-European country to extend its influence to Africa where it remained for hundreds of years, due mainly to her ships/dhows. From the legendary ‘Fatah Al-Khyr’ (triumph of the good) to the Omani warship ‘The Sultanah’ that anchored in the New York harbour in 1840, Oman has been known for its rich seafaring tradition. So it is but natural that present-day Oman becomes a major hub of sailing activities courtesy the first-ever sailing regatta held at Marina Bandar Al Rowdha. The event, which only confirmed the Sultanate’s firm standing on the international maritime map, began with a two-day event that saw Muscat’s water sports enthusiasts put their sailing skills to the test, in 21 short, professionally-organised races around buoys near the marina. Twenty teams competed in Dinghy and Hobie Cat races with the winners enjoying some fantastic prizes and of course the prestige of being the first winners in this annual event . But the biggest race of them all was for the Bank of Beirut Chairman’s Cup, which involved eight crews from Oman and Dubai, setting off from Muscat and sailing their way to Khasab in Musandam. After three days at sea, the crews of Al Uqab, Susan Margaret and Musandam won the IRC, Rally and Multihull Classes. And, the lucky winners shared a generous cash prize of US $55,000, donated by the Bank of Beirut. Team Uqab, from the Royal Navy of Oman, was the overall winner and lifted the Chairman’s Cup for 2009. The success of the event only goes to prove that the coast of Oman is a great playground for enthusiastic sailors from across the world. According to Saleem Q. Al Zawawi, Chairman of Marina Bandar Al Rowdha, “Sailing has been a major hobby for both Omanis and expatriates and the Regatta’s aim has been to put some of that enthusiasm and excitement back into the sport and who knows, encourage a new generation of national sailing champions!” Signature looks forward to greeting champion sailors and more at the Muscat Khasab Bank of Beirut Chairman’s Cup 2010!

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TRAVEL

Tradition + Evolutionary = Revolutionary!

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O With over 16 signature restaurants, a theatre, pools, room for more than 6,000 guests and activities that appeal to a wide variety of cruisers, the Oasis of the Seas is more a city than an ocean liner.

Over the years, cruising has emerged as the fastest-growing segment of the travel industry, which has seen several innovations and trends. But nothing comes close to the next big thing, which literally dwarfs all other offerings —- right from the size of the ship to the flawless security checks, the Oasis of the Seas does things in true style. The majestic size and scale of the ship is truly overwhelming; 16 decks loom above and dominate the skyline like a giant skyscraper, visible from afar as you approach its home port of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Tipping the scales at over 225, 300 tonnes, the Oasis is more than 35 per cent larger than anything cruising the oceans today and can carry 6, 296 passengers at its maximum capacity. This makes you wonder how these many people will be ushered on and off the ship in a timely manner. And the solution is: the world’s largest cruise terminal. The new US $75 million Port Everglades terminal in Fort Lauderdale; expanded to more than three times its original size, it has 90 counters designed to check-in guests in 15 minutes or less. During the smooth and swift check-in, guests are handed their set sail pass — a photo identity card which is a virtual pass to all exciting activities and eateries onboard. That not only makes the entire voyage cashless but it also tracks the guests aboard. Once on the liner, the sense of scale quickly shrinks, because of the warm and intimate décor, carefully organised and distinct onboard ‘neighbourhood’, areas with well-appointed offerings and a distinctive ambience to boot.

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TRAVEL

Central Park: Innovation at its best Among the ‘neighbourhoods’, Central Park is certainly the most innovative and imaginative, bursting with trees and subtropical wonders. This 107-mtr-long garden is the first living park on a cruise ship. It is a wholly inviting area with open space that is dotted with lush, tropical ground, pathways and dining and retail options as well, which includes the first branded leatherwear shop at sea.

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The other attraction here is the restaurant — 150 Central Park, managed by Keriann Von Raesfeld. Chef Keriann is trained in both culinary arts and in baking and pastrymaking. Not only is she the first American to win several competitions, she has also been the first woman to win some very prestigious titles. Alongside is Boardwalk, an area inspired by Coney Island. This is a lively, entertainment area for the

family with a carousel, an AquaTheater, novelty shops, a candy store, a Johnny Rockets for burgers, a 1950sstyle ice cream parlour, a donut shop and the Seafood Shack, all overlooked by rooms with balconies. Rooms with a view The rooms do offer you the ultimate in luxury. The redesigned cabins, fine-tuned after extensive consumer research, offer more space, functionality and storage areas and an expanded

bathroom space as well. But what the Oasis offers the best is perhaps a revolution in cruise ship design — rooms that open on to fresh air and sunlight and greenery! Overlooking the rooms is the Royal Promenade that holds the Rising Tide Bar, and spans the three decks to Central Park, above. This is the activity zone, which includes the pub, a pizzeria, two cafés, Boleros (for Latin dancing), a karaoke bar and seven retail outlets.


Among the ‘neighbourhoods’, Central Park is certainly the most innovative and imaginative, bursting with trees and subtropical wonders. winning Broadway musical, ‘Hairspray’. Retail therapy and multiple shopping experiences are provided at the Royal Promenade which has an iceshow, a wave rider machine for some surfing experience, a rock wall and much more.

Yet another neighbourhood, Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Centre, houses a thermal suite, three couples massage suites, individual treatment rooms, a dedicated spa for teens and kids, a café, plus ample fitness facilities. The nightlife neighbourhood, Entertainment Place, includes a jazz club, a comedy club, the dance club Blaze, Casino Royale, a gaming museum and the elegant Opal Theatre. This 1,300-seat venue stages the Tony Award-

The Oasis has also cleverly created ‘youth-only’ zones allowing parents to enjoy their time. It sprawls across more than 28,700 sq.ft. and is home to the Adventure Ocean programme, featuring the Royal Caribbean’s first nursery for infants and toddlers (six months and older), new common play areas, including a family workshop for pursuits like scrapbooking, a science lab, a children’s theatre and more. The teen spaces are here, adjacent to a large outdoor deck.

Fine dining: Minus skyhigh prices Multiple dining options ensure that you never eat in the same place twice. Some of Oasis’ eateries either have a la carte pricing or a cover charge, ranging anywhere from 2-3 Rials a head at burger-andshake emporium Johnny Rockets to about 14-15 Rials for an elegant eight-course tasting menu at 150 Central Park. But there are enough complimentary options available throughout. Interactive touch screens in the hallways help you find where you’re going — a task that’s surprisingly intuitive thanks to the neighbourhood layout. You also get real time head counts in the 20-plus restaurants, letting you know which ones have the shortest waiting periods.

says Richard Fain, Chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, about the Oasis concept. “We planned one-third revolutionary, one-third evolutionary and one-third traditional. The combination of all these seems revolutionary.” And it’s true; the Oasis does carry over some concepts from the Freedom- and Voyager-class ships, such as the Royal Promenade. Here though, it’s twice as wide, and the skylights let in sunshine from the Central Park overhead, giving a whole new sense of spaciousness. It is these specialties and a wise mix of revolutionary, evolutionary and traditional cruising comforts that leave one with a profound desire to re-experience the Oasis one more time.

“We didn’t say we wanted it to be all new and different,”

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CARS

A Legend Reborn Way back in 1954 Mercedes unveiled a car — the 300SL or the ‘Gullwing’ as it was called — that would soon become a legend and one of the most sought-after cars today. Now, 56 years down the line, Malcolm X Crasta feasts his eyes upon its spiritual successor — the SLS AMG…

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A Historical Masterpiece The 300SL’s story started with the New York Mercedes distributor Max Hoffman, who suggested to the DBAG (Daimler-Benz AG) management in Stuttgart that a street version of the 300SL would be a commercial success, especially in America. The racing W194 300SL was built around a tubular chassis to offset its relatively underpowered carburetted engine. Internally numbered W198, the fuelinjected road version was loosely based on the company’s highly successful competition-only sports car of 1952, the somewhat less powerful carburetted Mercedes-Benz 300SL, and was designed by DBAG’s Chief Developing Engineer, Rudolf Uhlenhaut. The 300SL’s body was mainly steel, except for the aluminium hood, doors and trunk lid. It could also be ordered with an all-aluminium outer skin at tremendous added cost, saving 80 kg. The metal skeleton saved weight while still providing a high level of strength. Its unique architecture gave birth to the model’s distinctive gullwing doors (hence the name Gullwing), as part of the chassis passed through what would be the lower half of a standard door. Even with the upward opening doors, the 300SL had an unusually high sill, making entry and exit from the car’s cockpit quite

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CARS

problematic. To combat this, a steering wheel with a tiltaway column was added to improve driver access. Though the Gullwing was fitted with Mercedes’ then existing 3.0l 6-cylinder, it now included a Bosch mechanical direct fuel injection system that gave it almost double the power of the original 115 hp carburetted version. While not the first fuel-injected car, it was the first to inject fuel directly into the cylinders. This innovation allowed a top speed of up to 260 km/h (161 mph) depending on gear ratio and drag, making the 300SL the fastest production car of its time. More than 80 per cent of the vehicle’s total production of approximately 1400 units was sold in the US, making the ‘Gullwing’ the first MercedesBenz which sold in bulk outside its home market and confirming the validity of Hoffman’s suggestion. It is also credited for changing the company’s image in America

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from a manufacturer of solid, but staid, automobiles to that of a producer of sporty cars. Today, the 300SL is considered one of the most collectible Mercedes-Benz models of all time, with prices reaching well past the US $700,000 mark. In fact a pair of 300SLs for sale in 2009 was offered at over US $1.3M from the Foxwood Collection.

The Spiritual Successor Developed as a replacement for the McLaren Mercedes SLR and the first car to be designed in-house by AMG themselves, the all new SLS is claimed to be the spiritual successor to the now iconic ‘Gullwing’. One look and it is easy to see why. The distinctive styling of the SLS AMG reinterprets the breathtaking lines of the 300 SL. With the bonnet which measures just under two metres, the low greenhouse positioned well to the rear and the short rear end with an extendable aerofoil are

just as powerful a reminder of the superlative performance as is the long wheelbase, the wide track and the large wheels. If any doubts still remain about its design roots, the gull-wing doors should soon erase them. The doors are not alone in rekindling memories of the MercedesBenz 300 SL; the hallmark wide radiator grille with the large Mercedes star and the wing-shaped cross fins are a throwback to the front-end of the sports car legend.

Totally State-of-theArt

While its design may be a throwback to the old legend, there is nothing old about the technology under the skin of the SLS. The newly developed body shell comprises an aluminium spaceframe. This exclusive design combines intelligent lightweight design with outstanding strength — thus delivering superlative driving dynamics. The space frame is 45 per cent

aluminium profiles, 31 per cent aluminium panelling, 20 per cent cast aluminium and four per cent steel and weighs just 241 kilograms. While, unlike the 300SL, it cannot stake its claim to the title of the fastest production car, it is definitely no slouch. At its heart sits a powerful naturally aspirated eightcylinder engine with dry sump lubrication. The AMG 6.3-litre V8 produces 571 hp at 6,800 rpm and develops a maximum torque of 650 Nm at 4,750 rpm. Combined with a DIN kerb weight of 1620 kilograms, the SLS accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in 3.8 seconds and has an electronically limited top speed of 317 km/h. The AMG 6.3-litre V8 engine delivers its power to the rear axle via a dual-clutch transmission permanently connected to the engine housing via a torque tube. A carbon shaft rotates at engine speed inside the torque tube. Power transfer is via the new AMG SPEEDSHIFT


INTERVIEW

DCT seven-speed sports transmission. This dual-clutch transmission boasts fast gear changes with no interruption of tractive force and offers four driving modes while the mechanical differential lock guarantees optimum traction.

Aviation Derived Interior

When the gull-wing doors of the SLS gently pivot upwards, the eye is drawn to a wide, wing-shaped dashboard — a clear reference to the aviation-based design. The four prominent air vents resemble the engines of a jet aircraft, while the centre console is in the style of a jet’s operating console and the shape of the E-SELECT shift lever recalls the thrust control of a jet. These are perfectly complemented by the concave interior panels of the swing-wing doors, whose high waistlines make for an authentic cockpit feeling. Finished in galvanised Silver Shadow, the

instrument cluster has two dial instruments with white backlighting and an upshift indicator using seven LEDs. The silver dials have red needles and a 360 km/h speedometer scale. As a central feature of the cockpit, the multimedia system COMAND APS with its 7-inch screen is integrated between the two centre air vents. The modern short-stroke control keys require an operating force of only four newtons. All keys and switches are coated in Softtouch paint, which creates a silky sheen and a pleasant feel. To add to the authentic racing car touch, the performance steering wheel has a diameter of only 365 millimetres. Furthermore it has a flattened lower section and an oval crosssection for outstanding vehicle control. The shift paddles and lower insert are of metal.

Performance at a Price Such performance and

exclusivity will not come cheap. In Europe the SLS will sell at Euros 149,000 with the retail launch expected in Spring 2010. Thanks to a diverse range of optional extras, the ‘Gullwing’ model can be enhanced to suit any personal taste albeit at a price. Some of these options are the AMG ceramic composite high-performance braking system: Euros 9500 net, AMG performance suspension: Euros 1200 net, AMG sports bucket seats: Euros 3300 net, AMG carbonfibre engine compartment cover: Euros 4000 net, ‘AMG alubeam silver’ paint finish: Euros 10,000 net, Bang & Olufsen BeoSound AMG surround sound system: Euros 5,900 net and a lot more. All the prices mentioned are net values so it is expected that prospective buyers are bound to pay quite a bit more. But for those willing to pay for quality, they will be purchasing, what could possibly be, one of the best cars of 2010!

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TECHNOLOGY

Of Things to Come…

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At this year’s Computer-Human Interaction (CHI) conference in Boston, the Fluid Interfaces Group at MIT’s Media Lab unveiled the latest prototype of ‘Sixth Sense’, a wearable, gesture-driven computing platform that can continually augment the physical world with digital information. Presenting ‘Sixth Sense’ and the genius of Pranav Mistry… In as little as a year from now, you may be able to turn any physical surface — wall, table-top, paper or even your palm — into a touchscreen and surf the Net, check your mail, shoot pictures, play music, stream video and so on, simply by making some signs in the air with your fingers. No, this is not a grab from ‘Minority Report’, but a technological reality ready for a release that could finally free us from the confines of gadgetry and turn every object around us into a computer. ‘Sixth Sense’, a technology created at the Media Lab of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), principally by Pranav Mistry, holds the promise of turning our lives around like few other innovations in human history. At 28, the Palanpur-born (India) Mistry, is by no means a Silicon Valley stereotype — an academically rebellious college dropout designing life- changing ideas out of a rundown garage. He is, quite to the contrary, a regular scholar: erudite-looking, hard-working, brilliant, but very much part of a system — the world’s most rigorous system, if one might add, for intellectual adventurism. Mistry is a Research Assistant and a PhD candidate at the MIT Media Lab and he holds

a Master of Media Arts and Sciences (MIT) and Master of Design (IIT, Mumbai, India) other than a degree in Computer Engineering. But regular or not, his brainchild is poised to fundamentally change the way our brains interact with electronic intelligence and thereby fire an additional and thus far largely fictional human faculty — the ‘Sixth Sense’. It is like Tom Cruise in ‘Minority Report’ pulling information out of a wall with his fingers —only now it is all real! In its prototype form, demonstrated recently by Mistry’s PhD guide, Pattie Maes, ‘Sixth Sense’ is a garland of basic tools — a camera, a projector and a mirror — to be slung around your neck, backed by a smartphone in your pocket. Put simply, this is how it works. The camera around your neck tracks and films your physical gestures and transmits this information to a smartphone, loaded with a software developed by Mistry that processes the video information and triggers appropriate actions, which can then be displayed by the projector on any surface. For example, if you want to check your mail then simply draw an @ in the air. The camera captures this action and transmits the information

to the smartphone which deciphers the data and logs into your email account. The projector can now display your email pages on any surface you choose. Similarly, if you want to shoot someone’s picture then simply frame his face with your fingers. Or, if you want to check the time then draw a circle in the air to view a digital clock on your palm, wrist or even a friend’s back! The idea is that ‘Sixth Sense’ tries to determine not only what someone is interacting with but also how he is interacting with it. The software searches the Internet for information relevant to the situation and then the projector takes over. Says Mistry, “You can turn any surface around you into an interactive surface. Let’s say I’m in a bookstore, and I’m holding a book. ‘Sixth Sense’ will recognise that, and will go up to Amazon. Then, it will display online reviews of that book, and prices, right on the cover of the book I’m holding.” Amazing stuff! Mistry notes that the system is customisable as well: if you don’t want Amazon reviews, you could choose instead to find out what the New York Times thinks of it. He also says that brick and mortar bookstores might decide to provide their own information to the device,

which would mean that a customer would not have to necessarily go online to find more information. Dr Maes sums it all up: “The system constantly tries figuring out what’s around you, and what you’re trying to do. It has to recognise the images you see, track your gestures, and then relate it all to relevant information at the same time.” The possibilities of such a system are obviously limitless. You could for example, watch a video version of a news story you are reading in a newspaper right there on the paper! The basic point is that to access and enjoy the world of information and entertainment you will no longer have to pull out a battery of gadgets. ‘Sixth Sense’ turns the whole world around you into a digital device popping with operating system interfaces, web browsers, digital cameras, music players, book readers, game stations, word processors...and so on. In more than the figurative sense, this indeed is then the sign of things to come. A future when touchscreen gadgets like iPhones and iPods (currently the golden standard for user experience) will become extinct. The question is are you ready for the new sensation?

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sports

The Perfect Line of Play

With total prize money of approximately US $720,000, the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters is the fourth richest tournament on the Ladies European Tour.

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Golf has been in the news for all the wrong reasons lately. But, trust Omega and a few talented ladies to put that right! The Omega Dubai Ladies Masters, one of the leading international women’s golfing events, saw the world’s top female golf pros compete for the championship title and for the total prize money of Euros 500,000 (approx US $ 720,000). The Dubai Ladies Masters, now known as the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters, is a professional golf tournament on the Ladies European Tour (LET) that was played for the first time in October 2006. Its total prize money makes it the fourth richest on the LET, after the Evian Masters. It is played on the Majlis Course at the Emirates Golf Club, which also hosts the Dubai Desert Classic on the men’s European Tour. The tournament has showcased players of the calibre and reputation of Annika Sorenstam (who won the title consecutively in 2006 and 2007), Laura Davies,


Michelle Wie, In-Kyung Kim, Karrie Webb, Catriona Matthew, Christina Kim and Natalie Gulbis, making it the most popular ladies golf event on Dubai’s sporting calendar. And the 2009 edition of the event was ever better! It featured one of the strongest fields outside a major with a whopping 12 Solheim Cup players, including 10 from Europe, who played in the biennial clash between the top women professionals from the US and Europe in 2009, joining a slew of other leading golfers in what turned out to be a tough battle for honours at the Majlis Course. Promoted and organised by Golf in DUBAi, the tournament had players from 25 countries represented in the 108-player field. Sweden had the largest contingent with 16 players, followed closely by England who had 15 entries. But, it was 21-year-old South Korean In-Kyung Kim who claimed the victory by three strokes. The champion also got to keep an Omega

Constellation made in 18K gold and engraved with 28 diamonds. It was a fight fought to the finish with American Michelle Wie challenging In-Kyung stroke for stroke. A strong finish to a round of 68 saw Kim win with a four-round total of 18-underpar 270 at the season-ending tournament on the Ladies European Tour. Wie, who was playing in her first Dubai Ladies Masters, has enjoyed her year as a professional golfer in 2009. She has been an Omega Brand Ambassador since 2005 and Omega has been golf’s ambassador for as long as the brand’s history itself. It is one of the few watch brands in the world with a tradition that can compete with that of golf. Founded in 1848, 12 years before the first-ever British Open took place at the Prestwick Golf Club near Glasgow, Omega’s involvement in international golf has included tour and tournament sponsorship as well as official timekeeping.

In 2007, the brand became the title sponsor of the World Cup of Golf. Founded in 1953, the World Cup is the oldest and most prestigious global golf team event, which invites twoman teams from 28 leading golfing nations to compete for the title. Under Omega’s sponsorship, the World Cup will be played at Mission Hills in China, the world’s largest golf complex, through 2018. The brand also serves as title sponsor for some of the world’s leading tournaments including the European Masters, and the Dubai Desert Classic. In 2009, the Omega European Masters tournament in Crans-Montana, Switzerland was the first event ever to be co-sanctioned by the European and Asian Tours. And, now Omega is associated with the Dubai Ladies Masters; one can say that the world’s most prestigious watch brand has hit a hole in one, yet again!

Lush Green

It is said to be the first grass golf course in the Middle East. The 36-hole Majlis Course is today considered a favourite among world’s top golfers. Carved from the desert, the Majlis Course — with its lush fairways and large quick greens — uses the natural terrain of the land to provide a formidable test of golf. And like all great courses, the Majlis Course boasts of a great finishing hole in its 18th hole. At just under 550 yards, this hole is a 90-degree dog-leg left, leaving big hitters to imagine a drive that cuts off the corner, setting up the chance to go for the green in two. The final hole’s double green is bordered by a lake, in which have drowned hopes of many a victory. And among the many famous victims, is the now infamous world no.1 Tiger Woods. Seemingly on his way to a victory in the 2001 Dubai Desert Classic, Woods punched his third shot into the lake allowing a grateful Thomas Bjorn — his playing partner — to see out the hole and win the magnificent Desert Classic trophy.

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Play Time! Torchlight — There’s more to this game than meets the eye… Uncharted 2: Among Thieves — One of the bestlooking games on the PS3! Reviews by Malcolm X. Crasta.

Torchlight The Diablo series is now a certified classic and it is a legend among dungeon crawlers that is yet to be beaten. A number of Diablo creators have now joined hands once again to bring you a game worthy of your expectations with ‘Torchlight’.

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Firstly, we have to warn you that if you are going to indulge yourself in the world of Torchlight be prepared to have a huge chunk of your time wasted playing this game and even more so if you are a fan of the genre. This is because the game is simply that addictive and you will find it hard to put down. At its core, it uses a tried-and-true formula — you point and click your way through sprawling dungeons, kill monsters and collect loot and save the world

from destruction along the way. The gameplay itself is very similar to that of Diablo right down to the inventory set-up, character interaction and even sound effects and music. While this may make it seem like a Diablo clone with very pleasing graphics, and even we would be hard-pressed to say it isn’t, there certainly is more to the game than meets the eye. The developers have made some very simple yet innovative changes that make this game hold its own ground. Firstly, there are only three characters to choose from and each with its own set of three differing branches of disciplines, a.k.a. skill trees. Impressively, every skill seems perfectly balanced and none are interconnected giving you, the player, free reign when it comes to customising your character, so long as your character level allows it. Then there is your pet, your faithful


GAMING

companion that is always by your side. Not only does your pet help you in combat and provide you with additional inventory space but it is also capable of going back to town and selling useless loot for you, saving you unnecessary backtracking and in turn keeps the game moving forward. About the only significant flaw that we

can think of is the total absence of the multiplayer option which would have been a great addition to such a well thought out game. But while human company would have been welcome you are never truly alone in the game. You always have your pet with you and you fight alongside other companions along the way. And looking on the bright side, you don’t have to worry

about sharing your loot if you are alone. On its own, Torchlight is already a highly recommended title but you could factor in the 35 beautifully randomised floors to hack through (not including the additional floors you access through various portals throughout the game), the recently made available game editor and

creator and the rather large online community of modders, and you end up with a game that has tremendous replay value. Available for download at a budget price of just US $20, Torchlight is tremendous value for money. And at the very least, it will keep you busy till Diablo 3 hits store shelves sometime next year.


GAMING

Uncharted 2 Pop ‘Uncharted 2: Among Thieves’ into your PS3 and get ready for the most cinematic gameplay experiences you have ever witnessed on any console‌ ever!. When Uncharted: Drakes Fortune was first released on the PS3 it was by far one of the best-looking games on the console and had some amazing gameplay to boot but at the

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same time it faced a number of criticisms. And it seems that the guys at Naughty Dog have been listening and Uncharted 2: Among Thieves manages to trump its predecessor in every conceivable way. One of the biggest criticisms that the first game faced was its short, eight-hour campaign, primarily because the game was so good that people just wanted more. This has been addressed in the sequel in more ways than one. Firstly, like the first


game, the main story is divided into 26 chapters with numerous checkpoints but this time around it is several hours longer and to add to its replayability, it even has several multiplayer modes to mess around with, once you are done with the main campaign. And this isn’t any tacked on multiplayer component either, it is by far, one of the best and most addictive multiplayer games

available on the PS3 to date. The main campaign story itself isn’t really original but it is so beautifully directed and features such amazing acting that you just won’t care. The characters themselves banter back and forth so realistically, throughout the course of the game, that you will uncover a majority of the backstory and their backgrounds through these ‘chats’ alone. The remainder of the story is told through wonderfully directed cutscenes scattered throughout the game. And the characters themselves feel so realistic that it is hard not to get immersed into the experience. The story also features some of the best pacing we have ever seen, with the game pushing you from one incredible set piece sequence to the next, with barely any downtime in between. Unfortunately, this comes at

the cost of freedom. To keep the game moving forward and the pacing intact, the game forces you down a linear path with barely any room to explore, but on the bright side there is barely any backtracking to be done and the game itself is so engaging that you never really miss the freedom. As we mentioned before, when Uncharted was first launched on the PS3, it was one of the best-looking games on the PS3. What we didn’t mention is that at the time the game only utilised about 30 per cent of the PS3’s power. The developers have long since mastered the illusive hardware of the console and the game now utilises the entire 100 per cent of the console’s computing power, and it shows. And Uncharted 2 is by a long way the best-looking game

we have ever seen on any console! The character models, the animation quality and the attention to detail are simply astounding! The way the snow moves around his feet, the quality of textures used, the incredible shadow and lighting effects, the way in which Drake interacts with the environment such as shielding himself from a heat source, the way he stumbles realistically as he pulls off a daring jump; the list just goes on and don’t even get us started on the incredible set piece moments that you play through in the game. Factor in the incredible surround sound and spoton camera controls and you are in for one heck of a cinematic experience. Simply put, if you have a PS3 it will be a crime if you miss out on the ‘Uncharted 2’ experience!

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INDEX

Books you must read, music you must tune in to and movies you must see…

Books • • • • • • • • • •

Committed — Elizabeth Gilbert The Swan Thieves — Elizabeth Kostova I Am Ozzy — Ozzy Osbourne Sweet Little Lies — Lauren Conrad Big Girl: A Novel — Danielle Steel House Rules: A Novel — Jodi Picoult Freedom — Daniel Suarez Impact — Douglas Preston Iron River — T. Jefferson Parker Noah’s Compass — Anne Tyler

Movies • • • • • • • • • •

Gamer [Blu-ray] Nights in Rodanthe [Blu-ray] No Reservations [Blu-ray] P.S. I Love You [Blu-ray] Departures [DVD] Whip It [DVD] This Is It [DVD] Little Ashes [DVD] You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown [DVD] King Lear [DVD]

Music • • • • • • • • • •

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Long Way from Home — Katharine McPhee [CD] Chopin Complete Edition — Various Artists [CD – Box set] Josh Groban — Josh Groban [CD-Special Edition] One Hit Wonders [CD-Box set] Raymond v. Raymond — Usher [CD] Hits of Bond...James Bond [CD-Karaoke] Real Sound of Chicago — Various Artists [Vinyl] Rolling Stones (Ogv) — Rolling Stones [Vinyl] All for You (Ogv) — Diana Krall [Vinyl] Chasing Pirates Remix EP — Norah Jones [Vinyl-EP]



Signature - Jan 2010