Singular attractions for lonely hearts

An Abu Dhabi hotel holds an anti-Valentine's night where friends spend the day together instead of staying in feeling sorry for themselves.

ABU DHABI // Finding love and living in a city with a transient expatriate population is not always the perfect match. And for those without a sweetheart of their own, being surrounded by blissful couples today - Valentine's Day - can be an unwelcome reminder of their single status. The aptly named Martina Venus wants to change all that.

Ms Venus, who shares her surname with the Roman goddess of love and beauty, is on a mission to make the unattached of Abu Dhabi feel a little more loved today. In her job as director of public relations at the Sheraton Abu Dhabi Hotel & Resort, she has instigated an Anti-Valentine's Friends Night Out. "We were sitting in a meeting discussing what to do for Valentine's and I asked why we weren't doing anything for the singles," said Ms Venus.

"There are a lot more singles around because people come here for work only." Under the "no tables for two" motto, friends are invited to spend the day together at the hotel's Bravo restaurant instead of staying in feeling sorry for themselves. "With all these couples' things going on in the city, you don't have to feel left out," said Ms Venus. "You don't have to stay at home because you are not in a couple."

There had been plenty of bookings, she said. Other establishments are also focusing on those who might feel left out of the hearts and flowers celebrations. PJ O'Reilly's, in Le Royal Meridian hotel, is appealing to singles with its "Escape Valentine's, Come join the party!" evening of promotions and live music. The Crowne Plaza Abu Dhabi Yas Island has already got in on the action with a Valentine's-themed night, Still(s) Single, at its Stills Bar & Brasserie on Thursday.

Getting out and about is exactly what Rachael Samra intends to do. The 27-year-old graphic designer from Brazil is single and only arrived in the city a few months ago. "A colleague has organised a Valentine's night party. People are supposed to bring their single friends and I might go along. It's a good way to meet people," she said. "At home, I have girlfriends and we can commiserate over a bottle of wine, but here there is no one I know that well. I don't really want to go and talk to people I don't know."

Mark Hamner, a 33-year-old American who works in corporate finance, said the search for a soulmate could be harder for an expatriate. "It's the transient nature of the place, it affects everything. No one really wants to commit, there is no room for longer relationships here," he said. But not everyone without a companion in Abu Dhabi is feeling forlorn. "It's a great place to be young and single," said Claire McKinnon, 34, who moved to the capital from Ireland three years ago.

"This is a place to enjoy the benefits of being single. Don't sit at home and cry about being alone. Go out and talk to people and have a good laugh."