Motorcycle taxi drivers play chess in central Jakarta while waiting for passengers.
Motorcycle taxi drivers play chess in central Jakarta while waiting for passengers.

Jakarta: full of flavour

Never judge a book by its cover (or a metropolis by its appearance). Criss-crossed by expressways, choked by traffic and with a horizon scarred with random concrete high-rises, Jakarta is never going to win a beauty contest. And yet it's a city I've grown to enjoy while updating Lonely Planet Indonesia, for Jakarta certainly has charm. Its citizens are courteous, cheerful and helpful, the restaurants are superb, the club scene is incendiary and there are some intriguing sights. But most of all Jakarta is fantastic value for money. Taxi rides rarely cost more than US$5 (Dh18) in the central area and it's very possible to live like a sultan on little more than a backpackers' budget.

There's a glut of rooms in the luxury bracket, which means that most five-star hotels periodically offer very special rates, as low as $60 (Dh220). My favourite address in Jakarta is the sleek and contemporary Kemang Icon (; 00 62 21 719 7879) in a happening district in the south of the city. Here the colossal suites cost from $180 (Dh661) - all are individually styled with modish furniture, iPod sound systems and designer bathrooms. There's a terrific roof terrace with sweeping city views and a lovely lap pool.

The Icon's sister hotel, Alila Jakarta (; 00 62 21 231 6008), where rooms on weekdays start at $86 (Dh316), is another good choice if you're looking for a more conventional hotel in the heart of the city. The same in-the-know design flourishes are adopted but you'll also find full business and leisure facilities. For a very inexpensive bed for the night, you can't beat the simplicity and comfort on offer at Formule 1 Cikini (; 00 62 21 319 08188) which offers no-frills but very clean, modern rooms (US$35; Dh128) with satellite TV and a great location in the Cikini district (very close to where Barack Obama spent four years of his childhood).

Jakarta does not have an obvious centre, or a metro, but its Transjakarta Busway system is reasonably efficient. Koridor 1 covers many of the main sites, beginning in Kota, the historic heart of the Dutch East Indies, surrounded by grand colonial buildings. Close by the Kota terminal are the Maritime, Puppet and Jakarta History museums. South of here Koridor 1 passes the landmark Monas monument (take its lift for unparalleled views of the city) and the National Museum (the nation's finest) and continues past Plaza Indonesia, one of the slickest malls in town. In the south of the city, Jakarta's liveliest neighbourhood is Kemang. Replete with cosmopolitan restaurants, lounge bars and food markets, it's your best bet for a night out.

On Jalan Kemang Raya, Casa is a cafe-cum-restaurant-cum-bar that's a key hangout for the capital's creative professionals: TV producers, actors, film directors and fashion industry moguls. There's Wi-Fi for workers, modernist tables for diners, Eames chairs for loungers and even Murano ashtrays for smokers. It's a great spot for lunch with floor-to-ceiling windows flooding the space with light and a menu that takes in Italian, Indonesian, grilled meats and gourmet sandwiches. Nasi campur bali (US$5, Dh18) comprises several little sweet, spicy dishes and coconut rice, while the grilled salmon with chilli relish and mash (US$8, Dh29) is sublime. Casa is located above Ak'Sara, one of Jakarta's elite stores, which has a great range of books devoted to design, art and architecture, as well as magazines, CDs and hip homewear.

Plenty of Jakartan restaurants serve great food but lack atmosphere, an accusation that could never be levelled at Samarra on Jalan Kebon Sirih Raya. A lot of thought has gone into the design, which combines oriental cushioned seating, Asian artefacts, antique textiles and subtle lighting to great effect. The large dining room is cleverly divided into sections with tables set around niches, fostering intimacy and conversation. The cuisine - Middle Eastern and Indonesian - is outstanding. Treat yourself to Lebanese classics such as crispy kibbeh (US$5; Dh18) or try ikan kare hijau, a signature Javanese fish curry flavoured with lime leaves, baby eggplants, mint and green tomatoes (US$7; Dh26). On weekends the restaurant's Waldirum rooftop terrace, which has a fine outlook over the city's neon, comes into its own, as a hip crowd enjoy al fresco cocktails and DJs play funk and house until late. It's more geared to casual dining and has an inexpensive tapas menu.

Jakarta sits just south of the equator and the climate is humid and sticky, the punishing heat alleviated only by intense rainy season downpours. Unsurprisingly, air-conditioned malls are wildly popular, with more than 50 scattered around the city. Plaza Indonesia is centrally located and very classy, with a great selection of stores including Camper for quirky Spanish footwear, Cartier, Lacroix and Gucci for designer treats and Marks & Spencer for virtually everything else. In the basement there's an excellent, inexpensive food mall, where stalls knock out everything from sticks of satay to filling martabak. Cork & Screw, one of Jakarta's best wine bars, is located here and also serves great European cuisine.

Jakarta's morning and evening rush-hour macet (traffic jams) are horrific, so if you're in a hurry avoid taxis, private cars and public buses completely at these times of day. Hop aboard the air-conditioned Transjakarta Busway, which runs on special lanes, cutting through the gridlocked streets like a hot knife through butter.

Barack Obama spent four years of his childhood in Jakarta (between 1967 and 1971) when he lived in the exclusive Menteng district. His mother's second husband was from Java, and the US president still speaks Bahasa Indonesia, the national language. There's a bronze statue of Obama, depicted as a 10-year-old with a butterfly perched on his thumb, at his old school (Menteng 1, on Jalan Besuki). The school welcomes visitors who want a closer look, though the statue is visible from the entrance gate.


Friday Sassuolo v Torino (Kick-off 10.45pm UAE)

Saturday Atalanta v Sampdoria (5pm),

Genoa v Inter Milan (8pm),

Lazio v Bologna (10.45pm)

Sunday Cagliari v Crotone (3.30pm) 

Benevento v Napoli (6pm) 

Parma v Spezia (6pm)

 Fiorentina v Udinese (9pm)

Juventus v Hellas Verona (11.45pm)

Monday AC Milan v AS Roma (11.45pm)



The Details

Kabir Singh

Produced by: Cinestaan Studios, T-Series

Directed by: Sandeep Reddy Vanga

Starring: Shahid Kapoor, Kiara Advani, Suresh Oberoi, Soham Majumdar, Arjun Pahwa

Rating: 2.5/5 

The Case For Trump

By Victor Davis Hanson

If you go

Flight connections to Ulaanbaatar are available through a variety of hubs, including Seoul and Beijing, with airlines including Mongolian Airlines and Korean Air. While some nationalities, such as Americans, don’t need a tourist visa for Mongolia, others, including UAE citizens, can obtain a visa on arrival, while others including UK citizens, need to obtain a visa in advance. Contact the Mongolian Embassy in the UAE for more information.

Nomadic Road offers expedition-style trips to Mongolia in January and August, and other destinations during most other months. Its nine-day August 2020 Mongolia trip will cost from $5,250 per person based on two sharing, including airport transfers, two nights’ hotel accommodation in Ulaanbaatar, vehicle rental, fuel, third party vehicle liability insurance, the services of a guide and support team, accommodation, food and entrance fees;

A fully guided three-day, two-night itinerary at Three Camel Lodge costs from $2,420 per person based on two sharing, including airport transfers, accommodation, meals and excursions including the Yol Valley and Flaming Cliffs. A return internal flight from Ulaanbaatar to Dalanzadgad costs $300 per person and the flight takes 90 minutes each way;

Company Profile

Name: HyveGeo
Started: 2023
Founders: Abdulaziz bin Redha, Dr Samsurin Welch, Eva Morales and Dr Harjit Singh
Based: Cambridge and Dubai
Number of employees: 8
Industry: Sustainability & Environment
Funding: $200,000 plus undisclosed grant
Investors: Venture capital and government


Company: Eco Way
Started: December 2023
Founder: Ivan Kroshnyi
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: Electric vehicles
Investors: Bootstrapped with undisclosed funding. Looking to raise funds from outside

'Unrivaled: Why America Will Remain the World’s Sole Superpower'
Michael Beckley, Cornell Press

The nine articles of the 50-Year Charter

1. Dubai silk road

2.  A geo-economic map for Dubai

3. First virtual commercial city

4. A central education file for every citizen

5. A doctor to every citizen

6. Free economic and creative zones in universities

7. Self-sufficiency in Dubai homes

8. Co-operative companies in various sectors

­9: Annual growth in philanthropy

Company profile

Date started: 2015

Founder: John Tsioris and Ioanna Angelidaki

Based: Dubai

Sector: Online grocery delivery

Staff: 200

Funding: Undisclosed, but investors include the Jabbar Internet Group and Venture Friends

Traits of Chinese zodiac animals

Tiger:independent, successful, volatile
Rat:witty, creative, charming
Ox:diligent, perseverent, conservative
Rabbit:gracious, considerate, sensitive
Dragon:prosperous, brave, rash
Snake:calm, thoughtful, stubborn
Horse:faithful, energetic, carefree
Sheep:easy-going, peacemaker, curious
Monkey:family-orientated, clever, playful
Rooster:honest, confident, pompous
Dog:loyal, kind, perfectionist
Boar:loving, tolerant, indulgent  

The biog

Favourite hobby: I love to sing but I don’t get to sing as much nowadays sadly.

Favourite book: Anything by Sidney Sheldon.

Favourite movie: The Exorcist 2. It is a big thing in our family to sit around together and watch horror movies, I love watching them.

Favourite holiday destination: The favourite place I have been to is Florence, it is a beautiful city. My dream though has always been to visit Cyprus, I really want to go there.

The burning issue

The internal combustion engine is facing a watershed moment – major manufacturer Volvo is to stop producing petroleum-powered vehicles by 2021 and countries in Europe, including the UK, have vowed to ban their sale before 2040. The National takes a look at the story of one of the most successful technologies of the last 100 years and how it has impacted life in the UAE. 

Read part four: an affection for classic cars lives on

Read part three: the age of the electric vehicle begins

Read part two: how climate change drove the race for an alternative 

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Company profile

Company name: Fasset
Started: 2019
Founders: Mohammad Raafi Hossain, Daniel Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech
Initial investment: $2.45 million
Current number of staff: 86
Investment stage: Pre-series B
Investors: Investcorp, Liberty City Ventures, Fatima Gobi Ventures, Primal Capital, Wealthwell Ventures, FHS Capital, VN2 Capital, local family offices

The five pillars of Islam

1. Fasting

2. Prayer

3. Hajj

4. Shahada

5. Zakat 


Centre Court

Starting at 10am:

Lucrezia Stefanini v Elena Rybakina (6)

Aryna Sabalenka (4) v Polona Hercog

Sofia Kenin (1) v Zhaoxuan Yan

Kristina Mladenovic v Garbine Muguruza (5)

Sorana Cirstea v Karolina Pliskova (3)

Jessica Pegula v Elina Svitolina (2)

Court 1

Starting at 10am:

Sara Sorribes Tormo v Nadia Podoroska

Marketa Vondrousova v Su-Wei Hsieh

Elise Mertens (7) v Alize Cornet

Tamara Zidansek v Jennifer Brady (11)

Heather Watson v Jodie Burrage

Vera Zvonareva v Amandine Hesse

Court 2

Starting at 10am:

Arantxa Rus v Xiyu Wang

Maria Kostyuk v Lucie Hradecka

Karolina Muchova v Danka Kovinic

Cori Gauff v Ulrikke Eikeri

Mona Barthel v Anastasia Gasanova

Court 3

Starting at 10am:

Kateryna Bondarenko v Yafan Wang

Aliaksandra Sasnovich v Anna Bondar

Bianca Turati v Yaroslava Shvedova


Director: Siddharth Anand

Cast: Hrithik Roshan, Tiger Shroff, Ashutosh Rana, Vaani Kapoor

Rating: Two out of five stars 

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets

Engine: 80 kWh four-wheel-drive

Transmission: eight-speed automatic

Power: 402bhp

Torque: 760Nm

Price: From Dh280,000


First Test: New Zealand 30 British & Irish Lions 15

Second Test: New Zealand 21 British & Irish Lions 24

Third Test: New Zealand 15 British & Irish Lions 15

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