In Ljubljana, drinking coffee is as much activity as one needs.
In Ljubljana, drinking coffee is as much activity as one needs.

Slovenly in Slovenia - and loving it



When we walked into our room at the Hostel Celica, which used to be a prison, a guy was lying in one of the bunks wearing nothing but his underwear (Inner Soul briefs, quite comfortable-looking). I had booked a room for three people but, as the receptionist accurately noted upon my immediate checkout, I had not specified three people and no more. Details matter in Ljubljana. The little visited Slovenian capital will not amaze you with world-class museums or megalomaniac monuments. It is not about being the biggest. Its charms seduce you more subtly, in moments, so that you find yourself liking the place more each day. This is a place to be, more than a place to do.

The Ljubljabcani are amicable but steeling this friendliness is the sense of cohesion and purpose that defines the national character - hard workers whose nation enjoyed a form of democracy as far back as the 7th century, outwitted the Serbs to gain independence after a short war in 1991, and whose per capita income is 50 per cent ahead of that in neighbours Croatia and Hungary. The Slovenes are like synchronised swimmers - paddling hard beneath the surface, smiling above. But as a casual visitor, you'd be forgiven for not noticing this effort.

Such was life one summer day at the Most cafe on the north bank of the Ljubljanica River, not far from the Dragon Bridge. You sit beneath the linden and chestnut trees, enjoying a cool beverage and browsing the International Herald Tribune. You hear church bells ding-a-linging. In the distance thunder cracks; sunshowers are coming this afternoon. It's very green here, and sometimes feels as if the vegetation were about to launch an all-out assault on the city (as Urban Logar, our guide during a city tour, said: "There are very few places in Ljubljana you can stand and not see a tree").

Around the restaurant's patio you hear Slovenian and maybe some German; but no English, no French. You look up; next door to the restaurant, plaster peels from the century-old buildings that house a yarn shop and a cyber cafe. The temperature is in the mid-20s. A man bicycles by while eating a sandwich; he's in no hurry. Two young police officers, a man and a woman, amble along, chatting like a couple in an early romance. All along the riverside is a gauntlet of outdoor spots like this one, with white awnings and brown wicker furniture that looks like it came from the One store. You could sit here all day.

And why not? It's not like there's anywhere you need to be getting. But, if you must, burn off some calories and stroll over to the Triple Bridge, the city's most famous site. It was designed circa 1930 by Joze Plecnik, a formidable architect who planned much of the city centre. The bridge is underwhelming at first but redeems itself in its details: one edge points directly to the corner of a nearby church, etc. Nearby, the national library that Plecnik designed likewise has a subtle touch: the windows are framed by concrete shutters shaped like the pages of books.

OK, it's not The Da Vinci Code, but still, "A" for effort. Ljubljana works on a small scale, even as, steadily and diligently, its country is acquiring the wealth of its western neighbours. All over the capital we saw construction; not megaprojects, but people on scaffolds fixing stores and homes. Young Slovenes are smart and industrious; it is a measure of the country's growth that the capital has become a stop for many concert tours, even though its population is only around 300,000. We saw posters for shows by Madonna, Gilberto Gil and the great David Byrne. We missed Byrne by less than a week and my advice to anyone planning a trip to Ljubljana is to check out the concert schedule at www.eventim.si to avoid such squandered chances.

The greatest danger in Ljubljana is that you become so relaxed you're inert. So if you start to feel restless, explore the even-greener countryside (which for a Canadian is like going home but not having to visit relatives). About 90 minutes by bus from the capital, in the Julian Alps toward the border with Italy, juts Triglav National Park. This is a big landscape, sylvan mass rather than urban detail. You can hike, bike, kayak, canoe, rock-climb, ride horses, etc. until your arteries explode. Bohinj is a pretty town, and cheaper than Bled, which does have a cute white church on an islet at the centre of its lake.

The countryside can be rather more rustic than the capital - at the village of Studor I saw an old woman in a frock raking hay with a three-pronged pitchfork, a scene that will not be making the EU's home page anytime soon. rmckenzie@thenational.ae

A QUIET PLACE

Starring: Lupita Nyong'o, Joseph Quinn, Djimon Hounsou

Director: Michael Sarnoski

Rating: 4/5

WORLD RECORD FEES FOR GOALKEEPERS

1) Kepa Arrizabalaga, Athletic Bilbao to Chelsea (£72m)

2) Alisson, Roma to Liverpool (£67m)

3) Ederson, Benfica to Manchester City (£35m)

4) Gianluigi Buffon, Parma to Juventus (£33m)

5) Angelo Peruzzi, Inter Milan to Lazio (£15.7m

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

Gender equality in the workplace still 200 years away

It will take centuries to achieve gender parity in workplaces around the globe, according to a December report from the World Economic Forum.

The WEF study said there had been some improvements in wage equality in 2018 compared to 2017, when the global gender gap widened for the first time in a decade.

But it warned that these were offset by declining representation of women in politics, coupled with greater inequality in their access to health and education.

At current rates, the global gender gap across a range of areas will not close for another 108 years, while it is expected to take 202 years to close the workplace gap, WEF found.

The Geneva-based organisation's annual report tracked disparities between the sexes in 149 countries across four areas: education, health, economic opportunity and political empowerment.

After years of advances in education, health and political representation, women registered setbacks in all three areas this year, WEF said.

Only in the area of economic opportunity did the gender gap narrow somewhat, although there is not much to celebrate, with the global wage gap narrowing to nearly 51 per cent.

And the number of women in leadership roles has risen to 34 per cent globally, WEF said.

At the same time, the report showed there are now proportionately fewer women than men participating in the workforce, suggesting that automation is having a disproportionate impact on jobs traditionally performed by women.

And women are significantly under-represented in growing areas of employment that require science, technology, engineering and mathematics skills, WEF said.

* Agence France Presse

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Almouneer
Started: 2017
Founders: Dr Noha Khater and Rania Kadry
Based: Egypt
Number of staff: 120
Investment: Bootstrapped, with support from Insead and Egyptian government, seed round of
$3.6 million led by Global Ventures

Four motivational quotes from Alicia's Dubai talk

“The only thing we need is to know that we have faith. Faith and hope in our own dreams. The belief that, when we keep going we’re going to find our way. That’s all we got.”

“Sometimes we try so hard to keep things inside. We try so hard to pretend it’s not really bothering us. In some ways, that hurts us more. You don’t realise how dishonest you are with yourself sometimes, but I realised that if I spoke it, I could let it go.”

“One good thing is to know you’re not the only one going through it. You’re not the only one trying to find your way, trying to find yourself, trying to find amazing energy, trying to find a light. Show all of yourself. Show every nuance. All of your magic. All of your colours. Be true to that. You can be unafraid.”

“It’s time to stop holding back. It’s time to do it on your terms. It’s time to shine in the most unbelievable way. It’s time to let go of negativity and find your tribe, find those people that lift you up, because everybody else is just in your way.”

THE SPECS

BMW X7 xDrive 50i

Engine: 4.4-litre V8

Transmission: Eight-speed Steptronic transmission

Power: 462hp

Torque: 650Nm

Price: Dh600,000

Emergency phone numbers in the UAE

Estijaba – 8001717 –  number to call to request coronavirus testing

Ministry of Health and Prevention – 80011111

Dubai Health Authority – 800342 – The number to book a free video or voice consultation with a doctor or connect to a local health centre

Emirates airline – 600555555

Etihad Airways – 600555666

Ambulance – 998

Knowledge and Human Development Authority – 8005432 ext. 4 for Covid-19 queries

The Way It Was: My Life with Frank Sinatra by Eliot Weisman and Jennifer Valoppi
Hachette Books

How to join and use Abu Dhabi’s public libraries

• There are six libraries in Abu Dhabi emirate run by the Department of Culture and Tourism, including one in Al Ain and Al Dhafra.

• Libraries are free to visit and visitors can consult books, use online resources and study there. Most are open from 8am to 8pm on weekdays, closed on Fridays and have variable hours on Saturdays, except for Qasr Al Watan which is open from 10am to 8pm every day.

• In order to borrow books, visitors must join the service by providing a passport photograph, Emirates ID and a refundable deposit of Dh400. Members can borrow five books for three weeks, all of which are renewable up to two times online.

• If users do not wish to pay the fee, they can still use the library’s electronic resources for free by simply registering on the website. Once registered, a username and password is provided, allowing remote access.

• For more information visit the library network's website.

EMIRATES'S REVISED A350 DEPLOYMENT SCHEDULE

Edinburgh: November 4 (unchanged)

Bahrain: November 15 (from September 15); second daily service from January 1

Kuwait: November 15 (from September 16)

Mumbai: January 1 (from October 27)

Ahmedabad: January 1 (from October 27)

Colombo: January 2 (from January 1)

Muscat: March 1 (from December 1)

Lyon: March 1 (from December 1)

Bologna: March 1 (from December 1)

Source: Emirates

Company Profile

Company name: Hoopla
Date started: March 2023
Founder: Jacqueline Perrottet
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 10
Investment stage: Pre-seed
Investment required: $500,000

Bridgerton season three - part one

Directors: Various

Starring: Nicola Coughlan, Luke Newton, Jonathan Bailey

Rating: 3/5

Sarfira

Director: Sudha Kongara Prasad

Starring: Akshay Kumar, Radhika Madan, Paresh Rawal

Rating: 2/5

Profile box

Founders: Michele Ferrario, Nino Ulsamer and Freddy Lim
Started: established in 2016 and launched in July 2017
Based: Singapore, with offices in the UAE, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Thailand
Sector: FinTech, wealth management
Initial investment: $500,000 in seed round 1 in 2016; $2.2m in seed round 2 in 2017; $5m in series A round in 2018; $12m in series B round in 2019; $16m in series C round in 2020 and $25m in series D round in 2021
Current staff: more than 160 employees
Stage: series D 
Investors: EightRoads Ventures, Square Peg Capital, Sequoia Capital India

UAE v Gibraltar

What: International friendly

When: 7pm kick off

Where: Rugby Park, Dubai Sports City

Admission: Free

Online: The match will be broadcast live on Dubai Exiles’ Facebook page

UAE squad: Lucas Waddington (Dubai Exiles), Gio Fourie (Exiles), Craig Nutt (Abu Dhabi Harlequins), Phil Brady (Harlequins), Daniel Perry (Dubai Hurricanes), Esekaia Dranibota (Harlequins), Matt Mills (Exiles), Jaen Botes (Exiles), Kristian Stinson (Exiles), Murray Reason (Abu Dhabi Saracens), Dave Knight (Hurricanes), Ross Samson (Jebel Ali Dragons), DuRandt Gerber (Exiles), Saki Naisau (Dragons), Andrew Powell (Hurricanes), Emosi Vacanau (Harlequins), Niko Volavola (Dragons), Matt Richards (Dragons), Luke Stevenson (Harlequins), Josh Ives (Dubai Sports City Eagles), Sean Stevens (Saracens), Thinus Steyn (Exiles)

Pros and cons of BNPL

Pros

  • Easy to use and require less rigorous credit checks than traditional credit options
  • Offers the ability to spread the cost of purchases over time, often interest-free
  • Convenient and can be integrated directly into the checkout process, useful for online shopping
  • Helps facilitate cash flow planning when used wisely

Cons

  • The ease of making purchases can lead to overspending and accumulation of debt
  • Missing payments can result in hefty fees and, in some cases, high interest rates after an initial interest-free period
  • Failure to make payments can impact credit score negatively
  • Refunds can be complicated and delayed

Courtesy: Carol Glynn

Ain Dubai in numbers

126: The length in metres of the legs supporting the structure

1 football pitch: The length of each permanent spoke is longer than a professional soccer pitch

16 A380 Airbuses: The equivalent weight of the wheel rim.

9,000 tonnes: The amount of steel used to construct the project.

5 tonnes: The weight of each permanent spoke that is holding the wheel rim in place

192: The amount of cable wires used to create the wheel. They measure a distance of 2,4000km in total, the equivalent of the distance between Dubai and Cairo.

India squads

Test squad against Afghanistan: Rahane (c), Dhawan, Vijay, Rahul, Pujara, Karun, Saha, Ashwin, Jadeja, Kuldeep, Umesh, Shami, Pandya, Ishant, Thakur.

T20 squad against Ireland and England: Kohli (c), Dhawan, Rohit, Rahul, Raina, Pandey, Dhoni, Karthik, Chahal, Kuldeep, Sundar, Bhuvneshwar, Bumrah, Pandya, Kaul, Umesh.

ODI squad against England: Kohli (c), Dhawan, Rohit, Rahul, Shreyas, Rayudu, Dhoni, Karthik, Chahal, Kuldeep, Sundar, Bhuvneshwar, Bumrah, Pandya, Kaul, Umesh

Company profile

Company name: Letswork
Started: 2018
Based: Dubai
Founders: Omar Almheiri, Hamza Khan
Sector: co-working spaces
Investment stage: $2.1 million in a seed round with investors including 500 Global, The Space, DTEC Ventures and other angel investors
Number of employees: about 20