Be Flown Away By Etihad Airways


IT’S 3am at my present position on the world map, perched 40,000 feet somewhere above the Indian sub-continent. And I am sipping on Moroccan mint tea, replete with real mint leaves served on the side, and chewing on a sweet, sticky baklava. While the rest of the cabin still slumbers, I am dining at my own leisure, courtesy of Etihad Airways “Dine Anytime” menu. There’s about two hours left to go on this 14-hour flight from Australia, but this particular journey feels neither long, nor a haul. For I have the great fortune of flying in Etihad’s next-generation Business Studios. And yes, they are as sweet as the baklava upon which I am feasting.

I have boarded the B787 aircraft in Brisbane the previous night, bound for Abu Dhabi and am greeted with mystical Middle Eastern music. Inside, it’s part gentleman’s club, part plush Arabian tent with soft lighting and gold trimmings. The seats, said to provide 20 per cent more space than the airline’s current Business Class seat, are designed in a 1-2-1 forward and backwards “dovetail” configuration. With sliding screens between seats, it feels more private jet than commercial airline.

The Studio features its own steady, large solid table, ideal on which to work inflight, but unlike some other airlines, there is no free Wi-Fi. Depending on your point-of-view, this could be an enforced digital detox, or you can pay a nominal fee to stay connected. For those who wish to relax, there’s an 18-inch touch-screen TV. For those who wish to work, there’s power sockets and USB ports at every seat.

What sets this airline apart from many others is its superior service. At the Business Traveller Middle East Awards 2018, Etihad Airways was named “Airline with the Best Economy Class”; “Airline with the Best Frequent Flyer Programme” and “Airline with the Best First Class”, and it’s easy to see why. Hot towels are not clumsily handed to you with tongs, but served on individual silver platters, before you are presented with a glass of signature champagne – Piper-Heidsieck Cuvee Brut. International newspapers are delivered and from the “Dine Anytime” menu you can select from the likes of a steak sandwich, lamb and rosemary pie or a Gruyere cheese frittata. There is also a diverse a-la-carte menu from which to choose, boasting western and Middle Eastern starters such Arabic mezze; mains of chicken kasba and basmati rice cooked with Gulf spices; and deserts of chocolate lava cake served warm with pistachio anglaise. Sip on a New Zealand sauvignon blanc or South African chenin blanc, or for red lovers, a Barossa Valley shiraz or Chilean maipo. The beer selection includes Stella Artois and Peroni.

Sated, rummage through your Business Class amenity kit to apply your Scaramouche + Fandango facial moisturiser and lip balm, before donning a plush, large eye mask and ear plugs. The airline has collaborated on its amenity kits with luxury travel brand LUXE City Guides which are inspired by five cities on the Etihad network – Abu Dhabi, New York, Melbourne, Rome and Bangkok. There’s even a city guide in each kit, but it’s a slightly curious addition to be given a Rome city guide when you are flying to Abu Dhabi.

The seats recline to 6-foot, 8-inch fully flat-beds and the pillows are plump and a decent size, adorned in all the colours of the desert to which you are flying with browns, tans, ochres and golds. The doona has a gorgeous plush underside. All of this ensures you’ll arrive at the other end as fresh as possible. And I do. In the rare event you don’t, there’s even an Arrivals Lounge at Abu Dhabi Airport where staff will press your clothes while you shower and shave.

Leaving Abu Dhabi is even more spectacular, as this is their signature airline. At Abu Dhabi Airport, First and Business Class guests have their own private entrance and there’s even free porters to assist you with your bags, as well as private check-in. Both First and eligible Business Class guests also have access to a free chauffeur service within the UAE and upon arrival at the airport, both classes boast day spas in their lounges. While First Class guests can enjoy a complimentary spa treatment, Business Class guests pay a nominal fee for a treatment such as a Jet Lag massage, which is a welcome addition before a long flight.

2018 has been declared the Year of Zayed, celebrating 100 years since the birth of Sheikh Zayed, the Founding Father of the UAE. And Etihad is devoted to honouring Zayed’s core values of respect; wisdom; sustainability; and human development. The airline is offering complimentary cargo flights to UAE charities, bringing aid and relief to people in need around the world in a bid to spread Zayed’s humanitarian message. At the same time, 1000 selected guests from around the world are being invited to experience Abu Dhabi’s cultural attractions; and Etihad is also collaborating on the Abu Dhabi Birdathon, a race which celebrate’s Zayed’s passion for conservation. Etihad is also renaming its training buildings the Zayed Campus and launching Young Aviators in a bid to inspire the next generation in the UAE. If you can judge a country by its flagship carrier, then Abu Dhabi is in great shape indeed.

The Global Goddess flew to Abu Dhabi as a guest of Etihad Airlines in one of their world-class Business Studios http://www.etihad.com/en-au/
She stayed as a guest of Abu Dhabi Tourism https://visitabudhabi.ae/au-en/default.aspx

Why you should travel to Abu Dhabi during Ramadan


THE apricot sun is setting over a dusty desert sky and soon, the hauntingly beautiful Muslim call to prayer, which lured me outside the previous evening under a pregnant moon, will punctuate this balmy evening. It is Ramadan in the Middle East and I am on my way to an iftar, or breaking of the fast feast, at the sparkling Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi and its grand “tent”, renowned as the best in town. There are dashing Arab men dressed in their crisp, white dish dashes and exotic Emirati women, all designer clothing, glossy, black hair and kohl-rimmed eyes.

I didn’t plan to travel during Ramadan, it’s just the way things fell, and before arriving, I am intrigued about what to expect. I am told I can eat, but not in public. I can drink water, but not in public. It is 40 degrees Celsius and I am running around in the heat, chasing stories. Luckily my private driver, Majith, is empathetic and behind the blackened windows of my vehicle, pours me water and sympathy. He even offers to buy me “best biryani” should I feel hungry. But I need not have worried, as while devout Muslims observe the rules of Ramadan (no eating or drinking before sunset), non-Muslims can eat and drink in designated areas, such as hotels.

Majith collects me for my final assignment, the iftar at the Emirates Palace and tells me I look like a Syrian woman in my long black dress with attached cape. Again, what to wear as to not offend? I need not have worried as the Emiratis are both modest and modern. I do, however, make one gaffe. I am at the feast, awaiting my host, and there is water on the table. Without even thinking, with one hand I am writing up some notes of the day, and with the other, I take a sip. A waiter hurries over and in a kind voice tells me I cannot drink until 7.05pm. Ashamed, I apologise profusely and grasp for the time. It’s 6.57pm.

On my flight to Abu Dhabi with Etihad Airlines, an article inside the inflight magazine Atlas catches my eye. Food & Travel Arabia editor Anisa Al Hawaj argues that Ramadan is the best time to travel to the United Arab Emirates as long as you observe the basic rules of not eating and drinking in public during daylight hours, and dressing conservatively.
“To paraphrase an edict from the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, ‘If a non-Muslim gets it wrong and no offence to the faith was intended, let it go’,” Hawaj says.
“Come sunset, everything comes alive: the streets, restaurants, malls, night bazaars – the atmosphere is incredible. So, too, is the food. You’ll have as much fun as anywhere and at any time in this part of the world at one of the grand Ramadan tents in the UAE.
“Not just for the cooking, but the service, the people, the whole vibe. I like to say it’s Arab hospitality at its best. And it comes but once a year.”

Inside the Emirates Palace “tent” – it’s more of a grand ballroom designed to fit 800 people in one sitting (and to think I was worried there may not be air-conditioning) – I realise that Hawaj is right. Abu Dhabi has been sublimely sanguine over the past few days, the roads are quiet, the beaches are empty and there are no great crowds at many of the tourist attractions. And yes, the food is fabulous. I wander the buffet, there’s hummus and prawns and beef, salad and lamb. But it’s the dessert table with which I’m most intrigued. Apart from baklawa, I recognise nothing but wrap my tongue around the exotically-named sweets…Assafiri, Atayef, Mafrokeh, Shebiyat…they sound like destinations I should visit.

I am dining with Emirates Palace Public Relations and Communications Manager Mohammed Alaoui, who is pragmatic about Ramadan and the subject of fasting. While my plate is piled high with fabulous food, I watch as Mohammed partakes in his first meal of the day, breaking his fast with a few dates, followed by soup and salad.
“It’s a matter of conviction. It’s not about food. There’s a lot of people in this world that don’t eat. It reminds you that it is very good for the body. The fact that you fast, purifies your body over a month,” he says.
“A lot of people, when talking about Islam, go to the extremes. There is a lot of ignorance. There are political reasons and cultural reasons for this.
“The west has a total ignorance of our religion because people don’t read and the perception is that Islam is a violent religion. This just gets you afraid. We want to educate these people.”
On my flight to Abu Dhabi, I read the Gulf News and a headline catches my eye “Understanding the Right-Wing Mindset”. But they are not talking about Islam, but the United States. Author Taria A. Al Maeena is writing about the recent school shootings and an argument he had with an American who claims the war on Iraq was “necessary to protect America”.
On the Texas high school shooting, Maeena writes: “It was a tragedy that had no political or religious undertones, I told him, and there were certainly no Islamists involved to the disappointment of many Western pundits who are quick to malign an entire religion based on the dastardly actions of a few deviates.
“Making America great again is a noble thought, but it will never come through the barrel of a gun or expulsion of all non-whites.”

During my short time in Abu Dhabi I find the Emiratis courteous, contemporary, kind, entertaining and educated. Abu Dhabi is dry desert days and warm Arabian nights. It’s blue beaches, white sand, mesmerising mosques and amazing art galleries, high-end hotels and five-star spas. It’s salty black olives, smoky, smooth hummus, plump dates and fresh figs. Abu Dhabi is Arabs who roll their “r’s” when they talk in English and speak with you with an intense interest through dark and mysterious eyes. It’s full moons, full stomachs and full minds. Whether you go to Abu Dhabi during Ramadan or not, you will find a land that will challenge your perceptions of the Middle East and shift the sands of your soul.

The Global Goddess flew to Abu Dhabi as a guest of Etihad Airlines in one of their world-class Business Studios http://www.etihad.com/en-au/
She stayed as a guest of Abu Dhabi Tourism https://visitabudhabi.ae/au-en/default.aspx
This year’s Ramadan runs from May 17 to June 16 – the dates move forward by 11 days every year

The Goddess’ Briefs: Travel & Lifestyle tips for smart, strong, sexy and spiritual women (and the great men who love us!)

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LET’S DO THE TIME WARP
A confession: The Global Goddess has never seen The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Yes, when everyone else in dance clubs is taking a jump to the left, and then a step to the right, I have absolutely no idea what is going on. So, I am most excited to discover the Rocky Horror Show musical will open at Brisbane’s QPAC Lyric Theatre on January 10 as part of a national tour. And the Accor hotel brand – the official accommodation partner for the 40th anniversary party production of the show – is offering Stay and See packages which include overnight accommodation, one A reserve ticket to the show and ticket booking fee. It’s enough to make you put your hands on your hips, and bring your knees in tight. http://www.showbiz.com.au
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HOTEL MAKES A POINT WITH FREE WI-FI
One of the hottest topics among travelling circles at the moment is the subject of free Wi-Fi. Essentially, none of us can understand why hotels don’t offer it, or at least something that resembles affordable. The Global Goddess is still stunned she can get free Wi-Fi in a poor fishing village along the Mekong Delta, but not in some Australian cities. So, it’s refreshing to see The Point Brisbane offering complimentary, high-speed Wi-Fi access with unlimited downloads to all guests. This Kangaroo Point hotel has just invested $100,000 in an extensive IT upgrade to enhance performance and online security. That, in The Goddess’ books, is reason enough to stay in one of the 201 rooms or suites, hold a meeting or event, and dine at its restaurant Lamberts. http://www.bestmanagement.com.au
The Point, Brisbane_Views
I’D LIKE OMAN
Two things the Global Goddess loves: waterslides and the Middle East. Combine the two and you’re looking at Oman’s first water park due to open in 2016 at a cost of $110 million. Situated 72km north of Muscat, the water park will stretch over 25,000 square metres and will be the first of its kind in the Sultanate. Australia’s Sanderson Group, who developed Warner Bros Movie World on the Gold Coast, is behind this development. The Global Goddess has never been to Oman, but has been to nearby countries such as Jordan, which she enjoyed immensely. But don’t wait until 2016 to get to Oman, think about a trip there now for its long, white sandy beaches, dramatic mountain peaks, vivid green oasis and mystical desert camps. http://www.tourismoman.com.au
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SPA RESORT UNDERGOES A DETOX
A few years ago, The Global Goddess happily attended Absolute Sanctuary, a detox and yoga resort in Thailand’s Koh Samui. I say happily, but it was a much-needed detox for this sometimes wild child. That’s not to say I did not spend the week before with my friends, “carb loading” for what lay ahead, and I may or may not have snuck down to the beach the night before with a mate to drink as many Mai Tais as possible. I needn’t have worried. The food was plentiful and tasty, the daily spa treatments a real treat and the rooms and pool divine. The resort has just finished a six-month facelift, boasting a Moroccan theme, newly painted rooms, larger televisions and a dedicated new guest lounge. To celebrate its unveiling, the resort is launching a special end-of-year rooms promotion with 30 percent discount on its superior rooms during selected dates in November and December. http://www.absolutesanctuary.com
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DESIGN FOR LIVING
No, The Global Goddess hasn’t gone all domestic goddess on you – Design for Living is the name of the play she saw last week. This production, based on Noel Coward’s 1930s production, follows the lives of three central characters and their intertwining love lives. In Act One, you’ll find interior decorator Gilda living with painter Otto in a shabby Paris studio, but she’s spent the night with Leo. In Act Two, Gilda is now living with Leo in London and by Act Three she’s moved on to Ernest (a fourth character) in New York. It sounds complicated (what’s not when it comes to love?) but it’s a delightful and often hilarious look on life. And, it’s the final production for the Queensland Theatre Company for this year. So treat yourself to a night out. http://www.queenslandtheatre.com.au
QTC Design For Living 30, credit Rob Maccoll
WIN THE CHANCE TO LIVE A LIFE OF SUNDAYS!
The Global Goddess first met Kayleen Allen 13 years ago when they both worked together at Tourism Queensland in the best jobs in the world…promoting Australia’s leading tourism destination. Now, Kayleen has taken her passion for professional and personal development and launched a new business called Life of Sundays. Using the teachings of self-development guru Louise Hay, Kayleen offers a range of half, full-day and two-day programs and retreats where you will learn to feel valued and appreciated for you are, loved, nurtured and safe to explore your story, past beliefs and to unlock your true potential. Her next “Heal Your Life, Achieve Your Dreams” workshop will be held in Brisbane on December 7 and 8.
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One lucky Global Goddess follower has a chance to win a spot at this two-day workshop, valued at $850. Simply go to http://www.theglobalgoddess.com and, make sure you’re a follower by clicking on the FOLLOW button in the bottom right hand corner. Go to this post, and in the comments section, simply tell me what your Life of Sundays would look like. The competition closes at 5pm on Wednesday, November 13. The winner will be announced in The Goddess’ Briefs on Friday, November 15. For more information or to book the workshop, contact kayleeen@lifeofsundays.com.au
Dorothy

The Goddess has arrived

IT’S 5am at Queen Alia Airport in Amman, Jordan, shortly after the Muslim call to prayer. And all I’m feeling is the call to Muslim man. I’ve travelled some 25-plus hours from Brisbane, via Bangkok to the Middle East and have landed with hair that resembles a sucked mango and a mouth which feels like a colony of bats are seeking asylum inside my throat.  But I can’t resist. The Arabs, both male and female, are so handsome, it’s like I’ve arrived in a parallel universe. I attempt to say hello “Salam wa aleikum” but all that comes out of my mouth is a strangled sound, and a little bit of spit. Fuelled by sleepless delirium and excitement at being back in the Middle East after nearly two decades, I ask our guide to translate to the Immigration Officer the question of whether he would like a wife. “Wait one year” comes the reply. I’m so jetlagged, I’m unsure whether I should simply stand to the side of his counter for the next 365 days or actually come back after I’ve done a few more things with my life. My travelling party rolls its collective eyes:  it’s classic Goddess.

Let me be clear: a Goddess, I am not. I’m not even Bridget Jones, more like her daggy underpants themselves. I inherited this nickname last year when I was working in Singapore, sweating out my body weight each day along the Equator, while living in Little India. The Indians there seemed to adopt a curious attraction to me, so the name arrived and stuck, as nicknames tend to do. The Global bit comes from the fact I’m a travel writer, who seems to uncanningly find herself hunting for a husband while simultaneously foraging for a story. Let’s just say, I always come home with a story.

I’ve told my friends I’m “on assignment” in the Middle East. Heck, I’ve even packed my khaki pants, just in case some mystery editor calls me up to jump over the border and cover the strife in Syria. The fact the only shoes I’ve packed are thongs shows how serious I am taking the idea of being a war correspondent. And thus instead, my travelling party and I head to the Dead Sea.

Across the salty water sits Israel. Jericho to be precise. If I squint into the sunshine, my 41 year old self dissolves and I can picture my 25 year old backpacker self, with the boyfriend who would become my husband and then my heartbreak. The image is like a mirage. But sad, I am not. Resilient, foolhardy, passionate…yes. And ready to take on the world again.

I wake up each day to find three waiters battling over who will bring me my morning coffee. I end up drinking three different cups of coffee to appease all three. I suspect I shall miss this when I wake up next week in Brisbane. The next day, my guide informs me: “Tomorrow night you will see a man dance in the desert.” “A man!” I practically shout, “and what does this man do?” I ask, barely able to contain myself, expecting something erotic and exotic in equal measure. “Not a man,” comes the reply “Amman dance.” The dance is pretty good for something non-erotic. The Arabs possess charm in spades. It continues when I go to buy batteries for my camera. “Your lips are like honey,” the dapper shopkeeper says, “I can see Sydney in your eyes.” I don’t have the heart to tell him Sydney is 1000km from Brisbane, so I would have to be Wonder Woman and not just an ordinary Global Goddess, to be able to possess this special trait.

We continue on to Petra, the desert of Wadi Rum, the Red Sea and then home. I’m right, there are no handsome Arabs making my morning cup of Joe when I wake up in Brisbane. But a bloke who calls himself Ford Falcon has contacted me and wants a date…