x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Ask Ali: On how to find athletics facilities in Abu Dhabi

The National's culture columnist offers advice on finding athletics facilities in Abu Dhabi, getting started with a desert garden and opening a tourism firm.

Dear Ali: I am looking for an athletics club where my son, who is 13, can practise sprints, long jump and high jump. Can you help? CP, Abu Dhabi

Dear CP: There are only a few public places that offer track and field facilities for youngsters in Abu Dhabi. Mostly, it is schools that offer these, with teams competing against other schools. I know that the American International School offers athletics.

One outside school programme you might like to check out is Haddins Fitness Center at Zayed Sports City, which also offers athletics training. Visit www.haddins.com.

After my search for such places I realised that we really don't have many sports facilities in the country, either for nationals or expats. It's no wonder that we don't have champions at the elite levels of international athletics.

But, hey, we are going to represent the Arab region at football when the UAE national team competes in the London Olympics this summer. They made us proud by qualifying.


Dear Ali: Do you know of a garden centre in Abu Dhabi (preferably Mussaffah)? I need some reed fencing to stop the wind and sand from blowing into my house. AB, Abu Dhabi

Dear AB: Mussaffah, of course, is the place to find everything. It might be a bit of an adventure as you will need to explore more than one shop to get the best prices. Also, I am not sure if you would feel too comfortable there as a woman on your own.

I would recommend the Iranian market in the Mina area for any gardening needs. You will find a big Ace hardware shop there that carries a wide selection of gardening tools and equipment.

Another good option would be the Desert Garden Centre inside Khalifa Park. You will easily find it when you enter through the park's gates next to the Rotana Hotel and the twofour54 building.


Dear Ali: I work for an international tourism company that wishes to launch an office in the UAE or the Gulf region. What would you advise? HA, Malaysia

Dear HA: Tourism in our region is a booming sector with some terrific possibilities for growth. Currently, tourism makes up about 10 per cent of the gross domestic product of the UAE, and arrivals at our airports are growing annually by 10 to 12 per cent. At Dubai International Airport, nearly 50 million passengers arrived in 2011. At Abu Dhabi International Airport, arrivals are expected to exceed 10 million for the first time in 2012.

If you are looking to establish an inbound-tourism operation in the region, the most crucial decision will be with whom you partner - and you need a local partner to set up a company.

Much focus is put on sustainability and authenticity in tourism, and know-how in this area partnered with local experience could be a promising combination.

An outbound-travel agency that would offer trips abroad and utilise your operation back home would hold promise.

In any case, the industry is growing, as I say, but there are also a lot of players in the field so service standards and uniqueness will make a significant difference to your business.

I suggest you undertake a really good market study to find and define your niche.


Language lesson

Arabic: Bawab

English: Doorman

Bawab is the word for a doorman, but if you say "bawabah", that means "gateway". So you may say to the bawab: "Eftah elbawabah law samaht", which means "Open the gateway, please".