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I Pinched Myself To Check I Was Really There



Maldives Promotion House – How many jobs have you ever held which allowed you to walk to work barefoot, snorkel with exotic fish on your lunch break, then lie on a jetty under a twinkling blanket of stars when the day was over?  It sounds like the stuff of fantasy, but this was the reality of my life when I worked in the Maldives as a teacher for Soneva Fushi in Baa Atoll, teaching English and grammar to resort staff.  It wasn’t all idyllic skipping along the beach with the sun on my face though, other then the glorious bits I’ve just tantalisingly described it was very hard work.

I worked six days a week, teaching a wide array of classes and three of those days involved finishing at eleven o’clock at night as this was the only time my boat crew students were free to learn.  But I didn’t resent it for a second because everyone who worked around me worked very hard.  It was truly a team effort.  The days were always long.  Many waiters did three shifts a day and whiled away the few hours in-between: resting, watching TV, ringing their families or playing football and volleyball.  Maldivians love their football and every boy I ever met had a team in the UK or Italy they fervently supported.  TV champas in the staff village would be packed to capacity with staff all gripped by a match happening somewhere.  It was impossible not to get caught up in the excitement. And if they weren’t watching it, they’d be playing it and encouraging guests to join in. The atmosphere was always great.

English teachers being employed in resorts are more common in the Maldives now.  But in 2002, I was still a bit of an experiment.  Six Senses has since then continued to employ English teachers throughout its properties to support the staff and help improve the guest experience.  Being a teacher in such stunning islands was one of the most unique experiences of my life.  And despite the dramas, the highs, the lows and the office politics that inevitably impinge on any job be it in London, Timbuktu, Papua New Guinea…or the Maldives – I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

Maldivians are fantastic, unique, proud, generous people and as a teacher I visited local islands, other resorts and ate roshi and mas huni (thin chapattis and seasoned flaked tuna) and short eats (savoury snacks) with my students, went to parties, danced to the bodu beru (big drum) and said ‘dhani! (bye) at the end of the day when it was time to go to bed.

A few years ago, I went back to the Maldives as a tourist.  I went to Biyadhoo which has an amazing house reef where you can swim with turtles, manta rays and a million different fish; a veritable diver’s paradise.  It wasn’t uncommon to see guests putting on their snorkels at 6am.  I had a wonderful two weeks.  It all came back to me, the love of the food and my knowledge of the language.  I remember asking my waiter to please, pretty please, smuggle across some roshi and mas huni from the staff canteen.  I’d really missed it.  When the roomboys discovered I spoke a little Dhivehi, they were thrilled and would call out ‘ hala kin-eh?’ ( how are you?) when I passed by and linger for a little chat as they swept the sand out of my room.

I recently asked my friend Hassan Saeed from Fuvahmulah for the recipe for roshi as I want to try and make it at home.  I also miss the hot, sweet black tea, the fresh jelly coconuts, crushed watermelon juice and the tuna and yellow daal curry you could have as an islander’s breakfast.  Once you’ve lived and breathed in the Maldives it has seduced you for life and will never quite leave you.  Nor would I want it to.  Why on earth would I?  The night air of jasmine and frangipani has to be inhaled to be believed.  When you’re a city dweller used to nervously looking over your shoulder in the dark, it’s a huge relief to be in a place where you feel utterly safe with only the nightsounds of the jungle to accompany you.

I experienced many firsts in my time out there: showering outdoors, canoeing, sailing and I also learned to swim properly.  Above all else, snorkelling was my favourite new activity.  Kris Pereira, the patient and kind Sri Lankan watersports instructor, held my extremely shaky hand and took me out my first time.  And I learned to trust, to truly learn the meaning of trust, when we swam over a massive canyon which revealed a visible drop of some thirty feet below.  It terrified me as I have vertigo.  I held on tightly, convinced my life was in the palm of his hand.  The water immediately became much cooler and  opened out to shoals of colourful, exotic fish streaming beneath us, luminescent corals glowed and paddling serenely by, a giant sea turtle and there I was, a girl from London,  trying to contain her adrenaline-fuelled panic and mind-blown excitement on witnessing it all. It was an unforgettable moment for me. There is no ocean like the Indian Ocean.  It is a whole other world.  I fell in love that hour.

I spent a lot of my free time snorkelling and swimming when I wasn’t teaching or spending time with my fellow islanders.  I have swum in Thailand, Dubai, the Seychelles, the Algarve and Sri Lanka but I’ve been utterly spoilt by the Maldives.  Coming back to London and swimming in a chlorinated, pungent swimming pool was a bit depressing after enjoying the front crawl in azure blue waters!

Sometimes at the end of the day at Soneva, I would sit on the end of the jetty, gossiping with the boat-crew as they chewed betelnut and guests would join us and they’d ask how long I was staying.  ‘Oh I’m a teacher, I live here,’ I’d explain.  There would inevitably be a bit of a stunned silence and they’d comment on how lucky I was.  I would agree, I was very, very lucky indeed.  Believe me I never took it for granted.  Only a fool would do that.  For a girl with a love of the big blue ocean, the stars, the open clean air and perfumed waxy flowers; I knew when I answered the advertisement on and beat over five hundred other applicants to the role of a lifetime, I knew I was being very blessed.  And I did my best to remember it all as vividly as possible.  I wrote diaries and took many photos.

Sometimes life turned into the biggest soap opera imaginable, as is inevitable when your colleagues live and eat with you seven days a week.  But all it took was an amazing sunset, seeing the moon turn the ocean silver, a waft of the most exquisite perfume and I would honestly pinch myself to check I was really there.  I’d lie on a lounger and look up at the night sky and say, ‘don’t forget this moment.’  I was lucky enough to live in the most romantic place on earth.  If you ever get the opportunity to go to the Maldives, seize it with both hands.  You will never experience anything like it.  My memories will last forever and if you go there, I hope yours do too.

An Insider

Abdulla Wisam: A journey of excellence and growth in the Maldivian hospitality industry



In the heart of the stunning Maldives, where luxury resorts and crystal-clear waters come together to create a paradise on Earth, there are individuals who work tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure that every guest’s experience is nothing short of exceptional. One such individual is Abdulla Wisam, whose remarkable journey in the hospitality industry is a testament to his dedication, passion, and unwavering commitment to providing the best possible service to guests.

Abdulla Wisam’s journey in the hospitality industry began right after completing his schooling. In 2003, he embarked on his professional career by joining Dhoveli Beach Resort & Spa, where he gained his first taste of the world of hospitality. It was here that he discovered his passion for creating memorable guest experiences and building relationships with visitors from around the world.

After his initial foray into the industry, Wisam’s career path continued to evolve. His dedication and hard work caught the attention of industry leaders, leading him to take on roles of increasing responsibility. His time at Meeru Island Resort saw him as an Outlet Cashier and Night Auditor, roles that allowed him to develop a deep understanding of the operational aspects of a resort.

Wisam’s determination and eagerness to learn led him to the iconic Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru, where he started as a Recreation Attendant. Over time, he showcased his exceptional skills in guest relations and management, and he was promoted to the position of Front Office Supervisor. His journey with Four Seasons served as a stepping stone for what was to come next.

In 2014, Wisam joined the W Maldives, a resort known for its luxurious offerings and unparalleled guest experiences. Starting as a Welcome Team Leader, he quickly rose through the ranks due to his impeccable guest service skills and innate leadership abilities. His promotion to Guest Experience Manager was a testament to his ability to not only meet but exceed guest expectations. He was then transferred to The St. Regis Maldives as the Assistant Front Office Manager with the pre-opening team.

As his career trajectory continued its upward trajectory, Wisam took on the role of Front Office Manager at prestigious resorts such as Milaidhoo Island, Raffles Maldives, and The Standard Maldives. These roles allowed him to refine his management style, hone his problem-solving skills, and contribute to the overall success of each resort.

Wisam’s journey eventually led him to COMO Cocoa Island, a resort renowned for its unparalleled luxury and exquisite attention to detail. Joining as the Front Office Manager, he embraced the challenges and responsibilities that came with the position. His dedication, combined with his innate ability to create genuine connections with guests, led to his promotion as the Director of Rooms.

Wisam’s journey in the Maldivian hospitality industry is a remarkable tale of perseverance, growth, and a genuine passion for creating exceptional guest experiences. His diverse roles, spanning from recreation to guest experience management, have equipped him with a holistic understanding of the industry. His commitment to continuous improvement and dedication to delivering top-tier service have not only benefited the resorts he’s been a part of but have also contributed to elevating the reputation of Maldives as a premier luxury travel destination.

As Wisam continues to shape the guest experience landscape at COMO Cocoa Island, one can only imagine the heights he will reach and the impact he will make on the ever-evolving hospitality industry of the Maldives. His journey stands as an inspiration to aspiring hoteliers and a testament to the boundless opportunities that await those who are truly passionate about their craft.

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An Insider

Hamzath Ameen: Elevating human resources



In the fast-paced and thriving hospitality industry of the Maldives, where exceptional service and guest satisfaction are paramount, there are individuals who stand out for their dedication, expertise, and leadership qualities. Hamzath Ameen is making his mark as a proficient human resources professional in island resorts of the Maldives. With an impressive career trajectory and a passion for excellence, Hamzath has become a respected figure in the industry.

Hamzath Ameen was born and raised in Addu Atoll, a region known for its stunning natural beauty and vibrant culture. Following his schooling, he pursued his higher education at Cyryx College in Male’, where he successfully completed an Advanced Diploma in Business Management. This academic foundation laid the groundwork for his future career in the dynamic world of hospitality.

Hamzath embarked on his professional journey at Dhonveli Beach Resort, where he assumed the role of Accounts Officer. This initial foray into the hospitality industry allowed him to gain valuable insights into the financial aspects of resort operations and the importance of maintaining accurate records and efficient systems.

Eager to expand his horizons and broaden his skill set, Hamzath sought opportunities at various reputable companies and resorts throughout the Maldives. His determination and exceptional work ethic caught the attention of industry professionals, leading to his appointment as the Human Resources Officer at Furaveri Island Resort. Recognizing his potential, Ameen quickly rose through the ranks and was promoted to the position of Assistant Manager, and subsequently, Human Resources Manager.

During his tenure at Furaveri Island Resort, Hamzath made significant contributions to the establishment’s human resources department. He spearheaded various initiatives to enhance employee engagement, streamline recruitment processes, and foster a positive work culture. Under his leadership, the resort witnessed an increase in employee satisfaction and a notable reduction in turnover rates, solidifying Hamzath’s reputation as a skilled people manager.

In 2022, Hamzath accepted an exciting new opportunity and joined Rihiveli Maldives Resort as the Human Resources Manager. With his wealth of experience and proven track record, he assumed a pivotal role in overseeing the resort’s human resources functions, including recruitment, training and development, performance management, and employee relations. Hamzath’s strategic approach and ability to build strong relationships with staff and management alike have made him an invaluable asset to the resort.

Hamzath Ameen’s journey from an Accounts Officer to a respected Human Resources Manager exemplifies his commitment to personal growth and professional excellence. Through his hard work, dedication, and leadership abilities, he has successfully carved a niche for himself in the competitive Maldivian hospitality industry. Hamzath’s passion for nurturing talent, fostering positive work environments, and delivering exceptional guest experiences continues to make a lasting impact on the resorts he has served.

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An Insider

Chef Mohamed Niyaz on celebrating authentic Maldivian flavours



Introducing the culinary genius who brings alive Kaagé specialty restaurant at VARU By Atmosphere

Chef Mohamed Niyaz is the Maldivian Chef who has breathed life into VARU By Atmosphere’s signature restaurant – Kaagé. In this interview, he speaks about his love for local cuisine and his inspiration. He also shares words of wisdom for budding chefs in the Maldives.

Where are you from? I was born and raised in the beautiful island of Ha. Dhihdhoo, in the Haa Alif Atoll, Maldives.

When did you first fall in love with cooking? Even when I was a kid, I used to spend a lot of time in the kitchen with my mom. I was so intrigued by her amazing cooking skills and how she would prepare all sorts of delicious dishes. I would eagerly watch and learn from her every time she cooked. That’s what inspired me to become a chef myself.

What motivates you? Ever since I was a child, I’ve had a deep passion for both art and cooking. My mother, who is incredibly creative, would whip up imaginative meals. I would often tell her that one day, when I grew up, I would become a chef and cook a special meal just for her. I’m proud to say that I’ve fulfilled that dream.

Tell us a little bit about your journey in the hospitality industry. In 2002, I had the chance to embark on my journey in the tourism industry when I began working as a Commis at Hulhule Island Hotel. Over 16 years, I climbed the ranks and eventually held the position of Chef De Partie at the same hotel. Then, in 2019, an exciting opportunity came my way as I joined VARU by Atmosphere as a Sous Chef. Currently, I am honoured to be working as a Maldivian Chef at the renowned Kaagé restaurant, which is the first of its kind in Atmosphere Core.

What are some of your achievements and awards? Throughout my 20-year career, I have had the privilege of receiving nominations and winning various awards in different competitions and ceremonies. The most recent and special achievement was when I was honoured with the CGM Chefs Award for Outstanding Achievement in 2022. The year 2016 proved to be another successful year, I achieved remarkable accomplishments in international competitions. Securing second place in the Team Challenge and first place in the Foreign Team Challenge at the Chinese Foreign Hotel’s cooking competition, CCTV ‘The Greatest Chefs.’ In addition, I have been participating in the Hotel Asia Culinary Challenge from 2012 to 2022 and have received 12 gold, silver, and bronze awards over the years.

Can you describe Kaagé restaurant for us? Kaagé is the signature Maldivian restaurant at VARU By Atmosphere.  The restaurant is designed as a traditional Maldivian house adorned by heritage photographs and video storytelling. Guests can relish local flavours presented with a progressive twist. We use traditional home cooking methods to ensure the food is fresh, aromatic, and flavourful.

As a chef, what are your preferred local ingredients? Coconut, pandan leaves, Maldivian chilli, and curry leaves hold a special place in my culinary repertoire.

Which dish would you highly recommend to all guests at Kaage? There are a variety of local dishes on our menu. I would recommend guests try Gulha, a deep-fried pastry ball filled with smoked tuna or vegetables and flavoured with finely chopped onion, grated coconut, and chilli. And Kandu Kukhulu, our renowned Maldivian tuna curry, stands out as the most exceptional and beloved dish. It is one of our signature specialties and the rich flavours are sure to leave a lasting impression on our valued guests.

What are your plans for the future? At present, Maldivian cuisine is exclusively available in restaurants within our nation. My aspiration is to present Maldivian specialty cuisine on a global scale.

What guidance would you offer aspiring Maldivian chefs? To the younger generation, I would like to emphasize that Maldivian Cuisine is truly distinctive, and with unwavering dedication and perseverance, you can achieve remarkable heights. In line with a Maldivian saying, “Fass enburi nubala abadhuves hih varaa eku kuriyah dhaan masahkaeh kuraashey, ehves masahkathaky hadi masahkatheh nooney” (loosely translated as, always strive to move forward with courage, without dwelling on the past, as no task is ever considered insignificant).

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