Dubai: Saud Rizvi smiled appreciatively as the gravy turned a rich golden brown. He let it simmer, whisking occasionally before reaching for the camera to shoot yet another episode for his newly-launched YouTube Channel called Saud’s Kitchen.
The Dubai-based banker is among many UAE residents who have picked up new hobbies or rekindled old ones to keep themselves gainfully preoccupied while being sequestered at home because of COVID-19 restrictions.
British life coach Melanie Blackwell, for instance, has taken to painting. Crisis communication specialist Eve Hester-Wyne from Ireland has started meditation. Indian marketing manager Evarist Rego is learning how to play the guitar, while business owner Zaid Shakman from Jordan is discovering the health benefits of yoga.
The hobbyists said their newfound passions have not only given them a respite from the grim reality of the coronavirus but also bolstered self-esteem.
“I always wanted to spread the word about the gastronomical delights of my hometown Lucknow,” said Rizvi. “The overabundance of time has allowed me do that by sharing their secret family recipes passed down through generations through my own YouTube channel. I am loving every bit of it and gaining more confidence with each show,” he said.
Blackwell, whose paintings have won her rave reviews from friends and relatives, said she picked up a paint brush after several decades. “The last time I painted anything before this was when I was the age of my nine-year-old son Jack,” said Melanie who lives in Dubai with her Aussie husband David.
“We started with hard-boiled Easter eggs as a family friendly activity but kept going. I have painted quite a few pieces over the past few weeks and found the experience very therapeutic. Most of my works are about nature - something we are all appreciating during the restrictions,” she said.
Evarist Rego, head of marketing at Ajmal Perfumes said he is using the spare time learn how to play the guitar from YouTube.
“Being an avid music buff, I always cherished a dream to learn playing the guitar but as the harsh realities of life took over, this dream faded into oblivion. But life has its own ways. Who would have thought that a pandemic would result in something positive,” said the 48-year-old, who is currently taking online tutorials to play The Scientist, a popular song by British rock band Coldplay.
Another Dubai resident, Eve Hester-Wyne said she is using the overabundance of time to indulge in her newest hobby - meditation. “I never thought I was the meditation type. I am more Zumba than yoga! But the lockdown left me looking for a calming hobby,” said Wyne. “I have started to see a difference already - after just 10 days. Meditation has helped me feel more calm and centered in these tricky times,” she said.
Zaid Shakman, founder of Aretha Natural Beauty, said he had been doing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for the past 13 years but has now switched to yoga and body movement workouts. “It’s fascinating and I find myself hooked,” he said.