Craig David, left and Robin Thicke, right, gave fans a live taste of their big hits at Blended. Satish Kumar / The National
Craig David, left and Robin Thicke, right, gave fans a live taste of their big hits at Blended. Satish Kumar / The National

Blended 2015 brings staggering array of talent to Dubai

The last big outdoor festival of the season, Blended brought a staggering array of international talent to our shores, gamely leaping between genres and eras with a mix of rock, funk, pop, soul, jazz and more. Hosted at Dubai Media City Amphitheatre on Thursday and Friday, here’s what we learnt from two days of music.

The UAE is officially on the festival circuit

So often the land of the one-off seasonal special, we can take huge encouragement that the UAE is now officially enmeshed in the global festival circuit. That's what Jessie Ware reckons, anyway, she declared that playing at Blended was "a wicked way to start the festival season". Twice. Nice. Of course it's ironic that the rest of the world is getting ready for their own outdoor gig season just as ours draws to a close, but the upshot is that we can now look forward to many more top acts stopping by on their way to grander festivals in Europe and the US. So well done, Blended, for getting us on the map. For her part, Ware impressed this festival crowd with her smart, soulful electro-pop, winning over fans with her eccentric, endearing normal-ness. She closed on a tender note with radio ballad Say You Love Me.

Robin Thicke DID play you-know-what

Robin Thicke hasn't gigged since March, when a court ruled that he and Pharrell Williams should pay US$7.3 million [Dh27m] in royalties to Marvin Gaye's estate, ruling that they had ripped off the late soul legend with 2013's biggest song, Blurred Lines. So it's probably not a tune Thicke feels as fondly about as he did a few months back.

He got little sympathy from Blended's DJs, who appeared to be rubbing salt in the wound, dropping not one, but two Gaye songs in the lead-up to his set – What's Going On and Let's Get it On (not Got to Give it Up, though – that would have been plain cruel).

So when Thicke's set time was coming to a close, and he whipped out lukewarm covers of Michael Jackson's Rock With You and Al Green's Let's Stay Together, it seemed easy to conclude that he'd drawn a line and cut the track altogether. But no, it's probably in his contract that he has to play it, and so he did, struggling through the high bits, and ending his set collapsed dramatically atop his grand piano.

Kasabian know how to start a mosh pit

When was the last time you saw a mosh pit in the UAE? A sweaty, aggressive, primal clashing of bodies in front of a stage?

I’ve seen two. The first was when Kasabian played The Sevens Stadium in February 2012. The second was when the same band played Blended on Thursday night. And I’ve seen a lot of gigs in between.

Say what you want about these boys, but their ability to provoke a reaction is undeniable. Said reaction might depend on how you feel about moshpits – or the kind of dumbed-down, testosterone-fuelled tectonic rock that induces them.

Midway through thunderous opener Bumbleee, a fan pats, or rather thumps, me on the back and yells "are you ready for this mate?" Not really, pal, but the evening's tenor has been set. Stomping stalwarts Shoot the Runner, Underdog, Days are Forgotten and Clubfoot were dispensed with early, before the set climaxed with Fire (the one from the Premier League TV spots), and rounded off with a cover of Fatboy Slim's Praise You and the swagger of battle anthem L.S.F. (Lost Souls Forever). It was big, and it wasn't clever. But by now, it was impossible not to be engaged.

In Craig David's head (and heart) it's still the early 2000s

It seems a lazy adage to say that any act who was big in the United Kingdom 10 years ago will go down a storm in the UAE, but unlike more surly artists, David was happy to play the nostalgia dance.

"I'm 33 now, there must be a lot of expats out there like me who look back on those days – remember the beanie?", he beamed, gamely whipping out stripped-back acoustic versions of the hits – Fill Me In, Rendezvous, Walking Away and 7 Days – the rap for which roused plenty of folk from their picnic blankets. David may not have released any fresh material in seven years but the hits worked surprisingly well in this unplugged format, and a humble and grateful David proved he's still got the moves and the chords. A UAE regular, when he promised to come back soon, you believed him.

Kool’s Gang can cartwheel

The long weekend ended in the best possible way with funk/soul/pop/disco legends Kool & the Gang, who vamped through an incredible setlist of 1980s pop smashes – kicking off with Fresh, Tonight, Joanna and Too Hot, and rounding off with Ladies' Night, Get Down on It and Celebration. Best of all was a mid-set workout on cherry-picked highs from their 1970s funk catalogue – Funky Stuff, Jungle Boogie and Hollywood Swinging. Sure, they were probably in better shape 20 years ago, but after celebrating 50 years as a band last year, the fact Kool & the Gang are still going strong is a sheer joy. They still count four founding members among their ranks, and a couple more who've been with them for decades. Among them is trumpet player Michael Ray, who rounded a show-stopping solo by cartwheeling across the stage. You don't catch Mick Jagger doing that.

Boulder shooting victims

• Denny Strong, 20
• Neven Stanisic, 23
• Rikki Olds, 25
• Tralona Bartkowiak, 49
• Suzanne Fountain, 59
• Teri Leiker, 51
• Eric Talley, 51
• Kevin Mahoney, 61
• Lynn Murray, 62
• Jody Waters, 65


Round 1: Beat Leolia Jeanjean 6-1, 6-2
Round 2: Beat Naomi Osaka 7-6, 1-6, 7-5
Round 3: Beat Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-2
Round 4: Beat Anastasia Potapova 6-0, 6-0
Quarter-final: Beat Marketa Vondrousova 6-0, 6-2
Semi-final: Beat Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-4
Final: Beat Jasmine Paolini 6-2, 6-2

Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus

Developer: Sucker Punch Productions
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Console: PlayStation 2 to 5
Rating: 5/5

The specs

Engine: Single front-axle electric motor
Power: 218hp
Torque: 330Nm
Transmission: Single-speed automatic
Max touring range: 402km (claimed)
Price: From Dh215,000 (estimate)
On sale: September

Company profile

Name: Homie Portal LLC

Started: End of 2021 

Founder: Abdulla Al Kamda 

Based: Dubai

Sector: FinTech 

Initial investment: Undisclosed 

Current number of staff: 14 

Investment stage: Launch 

Investors: Self-funded

Living in...

This article is part of a guide on where to live in the UAE. Our reporters will profile some of the country’s most desirable districts, provide an estimate of rental prices and introduce you to some of the residents who call each area home.


Name: Kinetic 7
Started: 2018
Founder: Rick Parish
Based: Abu Dhabi, UAE
Industry: Clean cooking
Funding: $10 million
Investors: Self-funded


Name: SupplyVan
Based: Dubai, UAE
Launch year: 2017
Number of employees: 29
Sector: MRO and e-commerce
Funding: Seed

The Beach Bum

Director: Harmony Korine

Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Isla Fisher, Snoop Dogg

Two stars

Unresolved crisis

Russia and Ukraine have been locked in a bitter conflict since 2014, when Ukraine’s Kremlin-friendly president was ousted, Moscow annexed Crimea and then backed a separatist insurgency in the east.

Fighting between the Russia-backed rebels and Ukrainian forces has killed more than 14,000 people. In 2015, France and Germany helped broker a peace deal, known as the Minsk agreements, that ended large-scale hostilities but failed to bring a political settlement of the conflict.

The Kremlin has repeatedly accused Kiev of sabotaging the deal, and Ukrainian officials in recent weeks said that implementing it in full would hurt Ukraine.

Jewel of the Expo 2020

252 projectors installed on Al Wasl dome

13.6km of steel used in the structure that makes it equal in length to 16 Burj Khalifas

550 tonnes of moulded steel were raised last year to cap the dome

724,000 cubic metres is the space it encloses

Stands taller than the leaning tower of Pisa

Steel trellis dome is one of the largest single structures on site

The size of 16 tennis courts and weighs as much as 500 elephants

Al Wasl means connection in Arabic

World’s largest 360-degree projection surface


Final: Dubai Hurricanes v Jebel Ali Dragons
Saturday, 8.15pm, Al Ain Amblers

Semi-final results
Dubai Exiles 20-26 Dubai Hurricanes
Dubai Tigers 32-43 Jebel Ali Dragons

1 Dubai Tigers, 33 points
2 Dubai Exiles, 24 points
3 Dubai Hurricanes, 18 points
4 Jebel Ali Dragons, 14 points
5 Abu Dhabi Harlequins, 14 points

Signs of heat stroke
  • The loss of sodium chloride in our sweat can lead to confusion and an altered mental status and slurred speech
  • Body temperature above 39°C
  • Hot, dry and red or damp skin can indicate heatstroke
  • A faster pulse than usual
  • Dizziness, nausea and headaches are also signs of overheating
  • In extreme cases, victims can lose consciousness and require immediate medical attention

Name: Shaffra
Started: 2023
Based: DIFC Innovation Hub
Sector: metaverse-as-a-Service (MaaS)
Investment: currently closing $1.5 million seed round
Investment stage: pre-seed
Investors: Flat6Labs Abu Dhabi and different PCs and angel investors from Saudi Arabia
Number of staff: nine


Name: Xpanceo

Started: 2018

Founders: Roman Axelrod, Valentyn Volkov

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Smart contact lenses, augmented/virtual reality

Funding: $40 million

Investor: Opportunity Venture (Asia)

Company profile

Company: Zywa
Started: 2021
Founders: Nuha Hashem and Alok Kumar
Based: UAE
Industry: FinTech
Funding size: $3m
Company valuation: $30m

Disposing of non-recycleable masks
  • Use your ‘black bag’ bin at home
  • Do not put them in a recycling bin
  • Take them home with you if there is no litter bin
  • No need to bag the mask



No Windmills in Basra

Author: Diaa Jubaili

Pages: 180

Publisher: Deep Vellum Publishing 






Started: 2023
Co-founders: Arto Bendiken and Talal Thabet
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: AI
Number of employees: 41
Funding: About $1.7 million
Investors: Self, family and friends


Main card

Robert Whittaker defeated Ikram Aliskerov via knockout (Round 1)
Alexander Volkov def Sergei Pavlovich via unanimous decision
Kelvin Gastelum def Daniel Rodriguez via unanimous decision
Shara Magomedov def Antonio Trocoli via knockout (Round 3)
Light heavyweight:
Volkan Oezdemir def Johnny Walker via knockout (Round 1)
Preliminary Card

Nasrat Haqparast def Jared Gordon via split decision
Felipe Lima def Muhammad Naimov via submission (Round 3)
Rinat Fakhretdinov defeats Nicolas Dalby via split decision
Muin Gafurov def Kang Kyung-ho via unanimous decision
Light heavyweight:
Magomed Gadzhiyasulov def Brendson Ribeiro via majority decision
Chang Ho Lee def Xiao Long via split decision


Name: Envision
Started: 2017
Founders: Karthik Mahadevan and Karthik Kannan
Based: The Netherlands
Sector: Technology/Assistive Technology
Initial investment: $1.5 million
Current number of staff: 20
Investment stage: Seed
Investors: 4impact, ABN Amro, Impact Ventures and group of angels

The Specs

Engine: 1.6-litre 4-cylinder petrol
Power: 118hp
Torque: 149Nm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Price: From Dh61,500
On sale: Now


Director: Khalid Fahad

Starring: Shaima Al Tayeb, Wafa Muhamad, Hamss Bandar

Rating: 3/5

The biog

Alwyn Stephen says much of his success is a result of taking an educated chance on business decisions.

His advice to anyone starting out in business is to have no fear as life is about taking on challenges.

“If you have the ambition and dream of something, follow that dream, be positive, determined and set goals.

"Nothing and no-one can stop you from succeeding with the right work application, and a little bit of luck along the way.”

Mr Stephen sells his luxury fragrances at selected perfumeries around the UAE, including the House of Niche Boutique in Al Seef.

He relaxes by spending time with his family at home, and enjoying his wife’s India cooking. 

Company profile

Date started: January 2022
Founders: Omar Abu Innab, Silvia Eldawi, Walid Shihabi
Based: Dubai
Sector: PropTech / investment
Employees: 40
Stage: Seed
Investors: Multiple


Uefa Champions League final:

Who: Real Madrid v Liverpool
Where: NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium, Kiev, Ukraine
When: Saturday, May 26, 10.45pm (UAE)
TV: Match on BeIN Sports

Specs: 2024 McLaren Artura Spider

Engine: 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 and electric motor
Max power: 700hp at 7,500rpm
Max torque: 720Nm at 2,250rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed dual-clutch auto
0-100km/h: 3.0sec
Top speed: 330kph
Price: From Dh1.14 million ($311,000)
On sale: Now

Herc's Adventures

Developer: Big Ape Productions
Publisher: LucasArts
Console: PlayStation 1 & 5, Sega Saturn
Rating: 4/5


Processor: Apple M3, 8-core CPU, up to 10-core CPU, 16-core Neural Engine

Display: 13.6-inch Liquid Retina, 2560 x 1664, 224ppi, 500 nits, True Tone, wide colour

Memory: 8/16/24GB

Storage: 256/512GB / 1/2TB

I/O: Thunderbolt 3/USB-4 (2), 3.5mm audio, Touch ID

Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3

Battery: 52.6Wh lithium-polymer, up to 18 hours, MagSafe charging

Camera: 1080p FaceTime HD

Video: Support for Apple ProRes, HDR with Dolby Vision, HDR10

Audio: 4-speaker system, wide stereo, support for Dolby Atmos, Spatial Audio and dynamic head tracking (with AirPods)

Colours: Midnight, silver, space grey, starlight

In the box: MacBook Air, 30W/35W dual-port/70w power adapter, USB-C-to-MagSafe cable, 2 Apple stickers

Price: From Dh4,599


Director: Ali Kalthami

Starring: Mohammed Dokhei, Sarah Taibah, Hajar Alshammari

Rating: 4/5

End of free parking

- paid-for parking will be rolled across Abu Dhabi island on August 18

- drivers will have three working weeks leeway before fines are issued

- areas that are currently free to park - around Sheikh Zayed Bridge, Maqta Bridge, Mussaffah Bridge and the Corniche - will now require a ticket

- villa residents will need a permit to park outside their home. One vehicle is Dh800 and a second is Dh1,200. 

- The penalty for failing to pay for a ticket after 10 minutes will be Dh200

- Parking on a patch of sand will incur a fine of Dh300

Company Profile

Name: Direct Debit System
Started: Sept 2017
Based: UAE with a subsidiary in the UK
Industry: FinTech
Funding: Undisclosed
Investors: Elaine Jones
Number of employees: 8

Three trading apps to try

Sharad Nair recommends three investment apps for UAE residents:

  • For beginners or people who want to start investing with limited capital, Mr Nair suggests eToro. “The low fees and low minimum balance requirements make the platform more accessible,” he says. “The user interface is straightforward to understand and operate, while its social element may help ease beginners into the idea of investing money by looking to a virtual community.”
  • If you’re an experienced investor, and have $10,000 or more to invest, consider Saxo Bank. “Saxo Bank offers a more comprehensive trading platform with advanced features and insight for more experienced users. It offers a more personalised approach to opening and operating an account on their platform,” he says.
  • Finally, StashAway could work for those who want a hands-off approach to their investing. “It removes one of the biggest challenges for novice traders: picking the securities in their portfolio,” Mr Nair says. “A goal-based approach or view towards investing can help motivate residents who may usually shy away from investment platforms.”