Web link to classes of distinction in Dubai

A new website, www.thecurve-me.com, has been set up to help the community to discover the scope of what is on offer.
Rone Auret, left, an educator for Brother sewing machines, gives Maya Itani some tips at Craftland. Mrs Itani has set up a new website to raise awareness of the wide range of classes offered in the UAE. Razan Alzayani / The National
Rone Auret, left, an educator for Brother sewing machines, gives Maya Itani some tips at Craftland. Mrs Itani has set up a new website to raise awareness of the wide range of classes offered in the UAE. Razan Alzayani / The National

DUBAI // Dubai is a hive of activity, with adult classes popping up all over the place offering everything from knitting to photography to dance, but the trouble is trying to let people know just which classes are available.

A new website, www.thecurve-me.com, has been set up to help the community to discover the scope of what is on offer.

"So many people say there's nothing to do here," said Maya Itani, co-founder of the project. "We want to show people there are all kinds of classes and maybe classes they once thought about taking but never got round to doing."

Mrs Itani said it is not unusual for people to come to Dubai and focus solely on their careers, missing out on any kind of meaningful social activity.

"I had a career I loved but felt I'd stopped learning," she said of her job as brand manager for Nivea. "Everyone expects this place to be transient so nobody really makes time for a hobby or developing themselves. So much energy just gets poured into work or social activities like brunches."

The company also aims to give exposure to smaller businesses that may not have money to spend on marketing or those offering only one or two classes. Every company on the site, however, must be a registered business to ensure it complies with local laws and to maintain the site's credibility for the end user.

About a year ago, Mrs Itani and her partner surveyed 100 adults to see what their needs were. Of those, 91 per cent said they would like to learn something new but only 28 per cent were doing anything about it.

"What it showed is that not only are people not nourishing their minds, but they are also not keeping fit," she said.

Although some information is listed in magazines, Mrs Itani believes online is the way forward in a society so hooked on "instant gratification".

"Over 70 per cent of our survey said they go online to find classes," she said.

The free website will charge only providers, not users, to be on the site. There are currently 20 organisations offering about 250 classes that can be booked online. This, too, saves smaller providers the high cost of online booking portals.

Salma El-Shurafa, 31, was looking for meditation classes and was referred to The Curve by friends.

"It's really hard to find classes in Dubai online," she said.

A career coach who has lived in Dubai for seven years, Ms El-Shurafa said she was surprised by how much there was to do.

"There are things I didn't even think existed. I didn't even think there would be meditation classes here."

The online market has been spotted by others as the best way to reach the community.

Enisa Glavovich is the co-founder of Noviplus.ae, which launched last year. The site offers subscribers discounts to healthy lifestyle options from healthy cafes to gym classes and sports brands and now has just over 1,700 active members.

"Most of our members are generally looking at ways to make better choices for themselves and their families when it comes to leading a healthier lifestyle in the UAE," she said. "We recognised that living a healthy lifestyle in the Emirates is not affordable for everyone and our aim is to change that step by step, allowing more people the ability to enjoy healthier living. It's a basic right that we should all have access to."

Simona Sotirovska is a co-founder of FitnessLink.ae, also set up last year.

"What we found in the UAE is that there is so much happening in the world of fitness here, but people didn't know about half of the great events going on or didn't know where to turn to find a particular class, apart from asking friends."

FitnessLink is free to access and now has about 16,000 unique visitors a month online, mainly from the UAE.

"We are seeing that the providers' directory and articles are the most popular parts of the site," she said.

Mrs Itani says FitnessLink is building a sense of community that The Curve also hopes to do.

"In the UAE it's hard to meet people outside your job; doing something new you meet a lot of people. Networking has always tended to be based around your profession or nationality, which is sad. That's why meetups.com has been so successful. What's the point of being in this great multicultural place if you don't meet that variety of people?"

mswan@thenational.ae

Published: August 14, 2013 04:00 AM

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