A Dubai resident has won the prize of a lifetime, bagging an entire private island along the Atlantic coast of Canada, despite never having set foot in the country.
Brendan Lopez, 27, a Portuguese-Indian DJ brought up in Dubai, became the owner of a 2.42-hectare island in Nova Scotia this week.
"I still can't believe it…people like Richard Branson own islands, not me," he told The National.
On Monday, Mr Lopez was named the winner of the "Win a Private Island" competition, launched in April by Liv, an online bank run by Emirates NBD.
Along with his own island estate, the former newspaper photographer also scooped a Dh100,000 cash prize.
"The competition was actually launched on April 1, so I just thought it was a cracking April fools day prank.
"I mean, who gives away an island...apparently Liv Bank do, and to me of all people," he said.
Sharing a small two-bed flat in Karama, Dubai with his family, Mr Lopez lost his job three years ago after the company he was working for shut down.
“I’ve been freelancing ever since.
“Some months I earn zero money and other months I can earn up to Dh10,000.
"It would take me 10 years, if not more, to save this kind of money or afford my own piece of land…now I own an island, it’s crazy,” he said.
Hollpoint Island – also known as Hurricane Island – is the size of five football fields. Located in Guysborough County it is surrounded by an array of coves and natural beaches. At low-tide, the island is connected to a nearby mainland, but when the tide is high a short boat ride will get you on and off the island.
"When they announced I won, I actually jokingly asked them where I could buy a boat," Mr Lopez said.
While its exact price tag is unknown, figures online show private islands in the area can be bought for as little as $60,000 (Dh220,400) or as much as $2 million.
Still digesting the news, Mr Lopez said he does not know what he is going to do with the island, but toyed with the idea of turning it into a quirky holiday rental spot.
“My family have already been joking with me about using it for family weddings.
“Indian weddings are always so big, so where better to host it than your own island,” he said. He even joked about what he would call it.
“I have no idea about the legalities around renaming an island but I’d probably put ‘Dubai’ in the title…or maybe Karak Chai Island.”
Once the "dust settles" he is planning to make a trip to the island, which in all would include a 14 hour flight from Dubai to Toronto, a two-hour flight from Toronto to Halifax, followed by a two-and-a-half-hour drive to the island.
Mr Lopez was among 20 finalists who were whittled down from hundreds in the running for the prize.
Qualifying for the top 20 spot by earning a number of loyalty points using the Liv mobile banking app, which he downloaded just 10 months ago, Mr Lopez then participated in a “human version of snakes and ladders” before being crowned the winner.
“It was literally as easy as that…we were given some dice and the person who moved six steps forward first, won.”
Since the win, friends have left suggestions on social media as to how Mr Lopez can make the most of his "slice of heaven", with many calling for it to be turned into a party island.