Video Chat with friends
Image Credit: Yousra Zaki, Features Editor Web

Dubai: It has officially become against the law for people to meet up in person and host gatherings, dinner parties or anything in between. In fact if you host a gathering at your home, you could be fined Dh10,000 while your invitees will end up paying Dh5,000 each.

So UAE residents have turned to virtual video hangouts.

During this time, our prayers (and occasional frustrated tweets) have been answered and VoIP was granted (Temporarily? For now?), so we could communicate with our colleagues, friends and family.

Many UAE residents have taken their virtual hangouts to a whole new level. Some people hosting actual pub quizzes or “Quarantini” ladies nights, online movie nights, virtual workouts and more.

Shower caps and bathrobes instead of 'Cap n Gown' day

One UAE school, the Universal American School (UAS), encouraged their senior class of 2020 who missed their ‘Cap n Gown’ picture day, to celebrate from afar together.

March 25 was supposed to be the day the UAS seniors were waiting for. It was their Cap n Gown day, a day, which I personally also celebrated at UAS when I was a student there.

"On this day, students can wear their graduation attire, including a dark blue graduation cap and gown, and parade around the grounds of their school, cheered on by their parents, fellow students, teachers, directors and coaches. Just a few weeks away from their finals, this is the day they get to celebrate the end of their school years, proud of their achievements and surrounded by family, teachers and the school community," Joseph DeGuzman, Social Media Coordinator at the school told Gulf News.

Unfortunately for everyone, that day had to be canceled. However, the class of 2020 didn’t let that dampen their spirits. They chose to go ahead and celebrate this event in their own way and in the comfort of their own homes. Without having the official 'Caps and Gowns', they used shower caps and bath robes instead and celebrated with their nearest and dearest virtually over E-learning. Some even baked cakes for the occasion.

Virtual Pub Quizzes

Pub Quiz
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Have you ever been to a pub quiz? They are quite a lot of fun. You sit with your group of friends at a table and battle against the other tables, answering trivia questions. The table that answered the most correct questions, usually wins a prize.

This had to be adapted slightly for the virtual version. Steven John Bond, a Dubai resident speaks with Gulf News about how he hosted his first virtual Pub Quiz.

“I saw someone reference a 'Zoom Pub Quiz' on Twitter. Then I saw a friend in the UK had done it, but there isn't a template so I decided to just set it up my own way with some friends. It’s good to have a rulebook or template, in case anything went wrong. It turned out great!

I wrote three rounds of questions all themed around our current predicament: I called them “That Went Viral” (guess the year of this viral internet moment), “Going Solo”, I sent a WhatsApp picture around to everyone, where people had to name the isolation-themed movie), and “Cancel The Apocalypse”, questions about the end of the world, for example Norse mythology or the Four Horsemen.

I kept the scores public on Google Sheets, so everyone could have access. And made people use pen and paper so their hands were away from the keyboard. They had to send me a photo of their answer sheet.

I also made everyone introduce themselves and share the highlight of their week to keep spirits high.”

Was there a prize for the winner?

For the first one there was no prize. It was a trial run, but I am hosting another one this week and we will order a delivery meal for the winner.

“Quarantini” girl’s night in

Zoom girls night
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If reading and cooking to keep busy isn’t your thing, why not schedule a ladies’ night (or even a boy’s night) with your friends after “work”. Grab something to drink, whether it’s a cup of tea, a milkshake or a glass of grape, it’ll be just like you’re meeting after work, but it’s in your living room wearing some seriously comfy clothes.

“For me personally, seeing the faces of people I love does improve my mood - it’s good to see them all doing well,” Menna Fahmy, a Dubai resident, told Gulf News. “Just hanging out with your girls and being able to talk and see each other’s faces has been keeping my mood up. Video chats have been a saving grace. We usually schedule it on the day. We decide what time we should all sign on and everyone takes it very seriously. We make sure we are there, snacks in tow.”

What are the topics of discussion during girl’s nights?

“It is literally a copy paste of what we talk about when we are in person. We talk about work, boys, life. We give each other workout tips, we compliment each other, which is very important during this time.

Sometimes we play Pictionary, show each other baby pictures, but honestly, we mostly just talk and catch up. Plus I mean it’s not like our schedules are so busy that we can’t video call for a bit - which is exactly what I love about this.”

Virtual group workouts

Virtual workout
Image Credit: Supplied

This isn’t just you working out alone in your room in front of a screen. You get together with friends over video and one person leads the workout.

In this case, a Dubai based agency, House of Comms, hosted their first Zoom workout on a Sunday morning at 7.30am with their employees. Abby Wilks, a Managing Partner there, told Gulf News, “Self-isolation is not only challenging for our physical health but our mental health too. Having everyone at home gives us a unique opportunity to use this time to come together as a team and sweat out any fear and anxiety leaving us ready to focus on the day ahead. We are lucky to have Daniel Andrews, the founder of Instabody Gym to train us remotely over video conferencing. It’s literally like having a one-on-one PT as he and Ian, an ex-Marine and one of his top coaches, give us feedback during each set to make sure we are all giving it everything we have got.”

The team signed in at 7.30am in their gym clothes and a mat, switched their cameras on and worked out over the video conference call.

Daniel also spoke to Gulf News and said about virtual training, “I have found that all of my clients want to keep up their workouts to ensure they aren’t taking a step backwards, but more importantly to give them time each day which is dedicated purely to something other than work, their families or scrolling through social media. With many people home alone, bringing them together to release their stress, laugh and smile together and to get their endorphins pumping has been fantastic and I like to make my coaching accessible to anyone who needs it right now.”

Movie nights with Netflix Party

Netflix Party
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Netflix recently introduced a special feature called Netflix Party. It’s a Google Chrome extension that you need to download that will give you a new way to watch Netflix with your friends online. “We can chat on a bar next to the screen and discuss things that are going on in the movie, as questions and just feel like we are in this together,” Hiba Hani told Gulf News. Netflix Party synchronizes video playback and adds group chat to your favorite Netflix shows. So if someone needs to use the bathroom, the video pauses for everyone, so you can stay in sync and have a movie night together without actually being together.

“So far, my friends and I have done it like four times this past week, each of us gets a turn to pick a movie, and we just have to share the link on our WhatsApp group beforehand,” she said. “It's honestly not the same as when we're all physically together, you can't gauge reactions, there's no laughing together, or making fun of a scene or phrase as we would in real life. In fact, it's a bit odd in the beginning to have to type "hahahahaha" when something funny happens, or to actually type out what you think while the movie is playing, but it's definitely better than nothing. You still get to watch a movie with your friends instead of alone, and there's less interruption since no one wants to be the person to pause the movie for everyone. We will probably still do it quite often, but I definitely also can't wait until we can have our next real movie night.”