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Obofili: a name synonymous with Maldives beauty

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Talent comes in many forms. For some, it comes naturally, while others turn one of their passions into a sought after talent. Ahmed ‘Obofili’ Shuau is a fine example of the latter; he has made a name for himself as one of the leading photographers in the Maldives through hard work and dedication. From a passion that began as a young man to a career that now earns him recognition both locally and globally, Shuau has indeed come a long way.

“A friend lent me one of those [Nikon] film cameras,” Shuau says, recalling his first experience with a camera as a teenage boy. “I was just an 18-year-old kid. I knew nothing about photography or even to properly operate a camera.”

That was in 2004 and he was working as an architectural technician cum graphic designer at an architectural design firm based in capital Male. In his free time from work, Shuau borrowed his friend’s camera and another one, which used CDs as storage, from his office, and just roamed around the city, capturing the architectural landscape of the congested city and daily lives of the people. The processed images — he was lucky enough to get unlimited number of images processed through his friend — evoked his creativity like nothing else did.

What better way to show the world the natural beauty we are blessed with than through photographs?

Shuau’s experimentation with the camera came right around the time Maldivians started getting into the habit of blogging. Flickr, the image and video hosting service run by Yahoo!, came to his aid. And thus, his trademark name, Obofili, which is the sound of ‘O’ in local Dhivehi language, was born. Shuau’s photos showcasing the natural beauty of the Maldives, its diverse culture and the lifestyle of its people came to signify the Maldives’ identity on the internet. Soon enough, Obofili, a subtle way of creating an ‘X’-shaped icon, became a household name, recognised by professional photographers and the public alike.

“It was a whole new dimension to showcase my work. The feedback I received from home and from abroad was very positive. That inspired me to explore further,” Shuau says.

An aerial photo of the southern Meemu Atoll taken by Shuau.

With the exposure being received on the internet, Shuau was also getting offers to put his photography skills to use. In 2006, he was chosen as the official photographer of popular local rock band, FasyLive. It was another great opportunity for the budding photographer, who also had a keen interest in music and played music with friends. In designing the band’s album covers and posters, Shuau combined his photography and designing skills with his taste in music, creating artworks that signified the best of creativity.

Despite his early struggles mostly because he did not have his own equipment, Shuau never looked back. For every project that he got, he borrowed a camera and other equipment either from a friend or from a fellow photographer.

One such project that still reminds him of his roots happens to be the beginning of his career as it is now known. It was a time when his career as a photographer exclusively catering to weddings in resorts came to an abrupt end due to a management shift at his main client in mid 2015. With his one and only source of income cut off, he was on the look out for a reboot in his career when he was offered to do architectural and commercial photography for Filitheyo Island Resort and Medhufushi Island Resort, managed by AAA Resorts & Hotels, in late 2015

“I got that opportunity from my friend Moosa Shiyam, who happens to be a director at AAA company. I had just got back home from Sri Lanka after doing architectural photography of No.26 Colombo, a private luxury holiday villa built by a Maldivian family,” Shuau explains the beginning of his new career.

A photo taken by Shuau shows a tourist couple holidaying in Filitheyo resort.

He is backed by several local and international awards and recognitions. From having had the honour to do branding work for big names such as the Maldives’ flagship carrier, Maldivian and the state-owned Waste Management Corporation Limited (WAMCO) to have received the Ten Outstanding Young Persons Award in Cultural Achievements conferred by the local branch of Junior Chamber International (JCI), he has also won the third place from the Amateur Category in CEDAW photography contest held in Asia-Pacific by UNIIFEM in 2009, and Best Logo Design award by Maldives Film Association and Sonee Hardware in 2006.

Shuau’s digital marketing skills have won him international recognition too. His Facebook page and Instagram account, followed by more than 19,000 people, are affiliated with the renowned Luxury World Traveler, whereas his work has been featured by DJI’s official account, F**ck It All and Go Travelling, and celebrities like Lionel Richie and Kenny Rogers.

The self-taught photographer now specialises in architectural and commercial photography for the Maldives’ luxury tourism and hospitality industry. His growing portfolio of clients include renowned names in the industry, including AAA hotels & Resorts, Reveries Diving Village, Bandos Island Resort & Spa, Lily Beach Resort & Spa and Crown & Champa Resorts. And less than just three months into the year, Shuau is in high demand for several existing and upcoming properties in the Maldives.

“I couldn’t have reached where I’m today without the extraordinary support of my family and friends, and several others. Behind every photo that you see, there’s so much that you don’t see. For instance, dozens of resort staff make time from their already packed schedules to help me in my shoots,” he says.

A photo taken by Shuau shows water villas in Lily Beach resort during sunset.

Shuau is no ordinary photographer from the Maldives. He has a much broader vision from which he derives the idea for each and every photo that he shoots. That vision stems from his deep rooted love for nature, especially the natural beauty of the paradise islands of the Maldives. It is with this vision that he also hopes to one day showcase his work at local and international exhibitions, and achieve his grand plan of creating his very own product line that promotes the Maldives as the perfect holiday destination in the world.

White sandy beaches. Crystal clear waters. Lush green vegetation. These are all characteristics that are unique to the Maldives, and so are the defining features of Shuau’s photography. By perfecting his photography skills over the past 10 years, Shuau, through his work, has established himself as a true ambassador of the Maldives. As he puts it, “What better way to show the world the natural beauty we are blessed with than through photographs?”

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JOALI Appoints Özgür Cengiz as Global Wellness Development Director

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JOALI, the luxury hospitality and lifestyle brand, has announced the appointment of Özgür Cengiz as its Tourism Group Global Wellness Development Director, effective February 15th, 2024.

Cengiz brings over 20 years of experience in the hospitality and wellness industry. His career began with the opening team of Turkey’s first wellness resort, Richmond Nua Wellness, followed by leadership roles at Jumeirah in Azerbaijan and One&Only Reethi Rah in the Maldives.

In 2016, Cengiz joined JOALI as the Resort Manager for JOALI Maldives, the brand’s first art-immersive resort. He then played a pivotal role in establishing JOALI BEING, the Maldives’ first wellbeing island, as its General Manager.

Under Cengiz’s leadership, JOALI BEING garnered global recognition as a leading wellness destination. He is credited with creating the unique concept, curating a team of specialists, and introducing a diverse range of treatments – solidifying JOALI’s position as a wellness powerhouse.

Cengiz’s dedication extends beyond JOALI. He served as the Maldivian ambassador for Global Wellness Day for seven years, is a respected speaker in international wellness forums, and judges the Global Spa & Wellness Awards. His innovative approach and solution-oriented mindset have earned him widespread respect within the industry.

Hakan Öztürk, Tourism Group Managing Director of Gürok Group (JOALI’s parent company), commented on the appointment, stating that Cengiz’s “extensive knowledge and passion will truly redefine the wellness offerings for the brand from a broader perspective” as JOALI expands its portfolio.

In his new role, Cengiz will oversee the wellness strategy for the entire Gürok Tourism Group, encompassing innovative activations, expansion plans, and strategic development for both JOALI BEING and JOALI BEING Cure.

Cengiz’s appointment strengthens JOALI’s commitment to providing exceptional wellness experiences and signifies their continued dedication to pushing boundaries within the industry.

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Sun Siyam Resorts Boosts PR & Communications Team with Appointment of Erika Magora for Sun Siyam Iru Veli & Sun Siyam Vilu Reef

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Sun Siyam Resorts has announced a dynamic addition to its PR and Communications team with the appointment of Erika Magora as Cluster Assistant PR & Communications Manager for Sun Siyam Iru Veli and Sun Siyam Vilu Reef. With an impressive background in law from the UK, coupled with a diverse upbringing in the Philippines and Malaysia, Erika brings a unique blend of skills and experiences to our renowned luxury resorts.

Prior to joining Sun Siyam Resorts, Erika served as the key figure in managing Marketing Communications at the prestigious 5-star luxury resort, The Datai Langkawi in Malaysia. Her collaboration with international media, partners, and agencies has significantly contributed to the resort’s global presence. She has worked with top journalists, production crews and PR partners from the UK, Europe, Australia, America and Asian regions. Erika also has experience in sales and marketing when she played a pivotal role in the Asia Pacific region’s sales and marketing for Foodpanda, a leading delivery brand in Asia. 

I cherish the cultural diversity and distinctions of both properties that I work for. Sun Siyam Iru Veli fascinates me as it revels in its private luxury tranquility, attracting a premium market. In Sun Siyam Vilu Reef, the naturally playful environment and genuine warmth of the people that create an inviting haven for repeater guests, captivate me. Both are beautiful, each in its unique way. Embracing diverse media and markets adds excitement to my work. The pristine beach and sea in both places energize me, fueling my passion for what I do.” expressed, Erika.

Claudia Klingbeil, Group Director of PR & Communications at Sun Siyam Resorts said: “Erika’s appointment underscores our dedication to assembling a team of talented individuals who not only possess exceptional professional capabilities but also embody the diverse cultural tapestry that defines our global clientele. We are confident that Erika’s passion for communication, coupled with her international perspective, will elevate our PR and Communications efforts to new heights of success.”

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Harshal Kumar Appointed as Cluster Executive Chef for Hurawalhi Island Resort &  Kudadoo Maldives Private Island

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Crown and Champa Resorts has announced the appointment of Harshal Kumar as  the Executive Chef for Hurawalhi Island Resort and Kudadoo Maldives Private Island.  With an illustrious culinary journey, spanning years of dedication and expertise, Harshal  brings a wealth of experience and innovation to his new role.Harshal’s journey began  with a graduation from the School of Hotel Management, HTMI Switzerland New Delhi,  laying the foundation for a remarkable career. He enhanced his skills at prestigious  establishments such as The Claridges Hotels New Delhi and V Qutab Hotels & Resort, 

Mahindra resorts, where he showcased his culinary proficiency and commitment to  excellence. 

Throughout his distinguished career, Harshal has garnered numerous accolades,  including being a gold medalist in the South American Chef Competition and  representing the Chef’s Culinary Forum of WACS. His talents have earned him global  recognition, with collaborations alongside renowned chefs such as Australian celebrity  chef Luke Mangan and Michelin-starred chef Dominik Kappelar. Notable highlights of  Harshal’s journey include his tenure with Gordon Ramsay for his pop-up restaurant,  Bread Street Kitchen, at Amilla Fushi Maldives, where he elevated culinary experiences  to new heights. His exceptional leadership and culinary vision led to his promotion to  Cluster Executive Chef for Kudadoo and Hurawalhi Island Resort in 2023. 

In his own words, Harshal reflects on his culinary journey: “I stand in the heart of the  kitchen, surrounded by the symphony of sizzling pans and the aromatic dance of herbs  and spices. It all began with a love for food – the magic of transforming simple  ingredients into extraordinary creations that tantalize taste buds and evoke emotions.” 

As Executive Chef, Harshal is poised to craft exceptional menus for the most  breathtaking undersea restaurant in the Maldives and to oversee culinary operations  at both Kudadoo and Hurawalhi. His passion for culinary excellence and dedication to  creating unforgettable dining experiences will undoubtedly elevate the guest  experience to new heights. 

Nestled amidst the pristine beauty of the Maldives, Hurawalhi Island Resort and  Kudadoo Maldives Private Island offer unparalleled luxury and tranquility. With pristine  lagoons and powdery white sandy beaches, these resorts provide the perfect backdrop  for unforgettable holiday experiences. 

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