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Hussain Shahid: Soul of Kandooma



By Shamman Zahir

Hussain Shahid, who has an abundance of experience spanning over 22 years, is the torch bearer for the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (DEI) model at Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives, ensuring a sense of belonging for every team member; that there is something for everyone.

Maldives Insider had the pleasure to take a look back on how his career has led him to this point.

As a Glion Institute graduate with his MBA, Shahid highlights the importance of having a vision. Knowing what you want and communicating your goals, even if it’s in the form of Personal Development Planning (PDP).

Apart from music and arts as his past time, a recreational runner since the pandemic, pushed on by his daughter, Shahid considers it important to value your health.

Maldives Insider: Tell us briefly how you got started in your career.

Hussain Shahid: I was a musician, a drummer. After finishing school, I was approached and was asked if I would like to go play with a band. At the time my father did not approve. So that was my first trip to a resort. After completing SEC (presently CHSE), I started working at the Ministry of Trade in the Foreign Investment Services Bureau. I was one of the first interactions with those that came to the bureau. So it’s no surprise that I was acquainted with a lot of foreign investors. I worked in the government and continued to play in resorts for a time. It became exhausting to do both; coming back late and having to go to work at 7:30 in the morning. My career took a turn with Sonu Shivdasani (founder of Soneva resorts), whom I met whilst working at the trade ministry. It was also due to the circumstances; I had my first daughter and not having the time to earn more or part time — proven by how hard it was to juggle two gigs before as well, music and my job. Even so, I still needed to earn more to provide for my family. I was told by Sonu to go see Salil in his office after hearing my interest to work in hospitality, it turned out it was to do simple tasks, similar to the ones I already do. The trade minister at the time, Abdulla Yameen, understood and valued me as well. The decision was mostly influenced by my situation at the time. Fast forward, doing admin work for Soneva was the start. From then on to being the Training Manager at Soneva Gili, a period of two years in Oman at Six Senses Zighy Bay for exposure and the experience of living as an expatriate, Assistant Director of Human Resources at Shangri-la’s Villingili Resort & Spa – Addu Atoll, Director of Human Resources at Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma, and the Executive Assistant Manager today.

Shahid at Six Senses Zighy Bay in Oman.

MI: What interested you to start working in this area?

HS: Compulsion, mostly. Not having a choice and having to find a way led me here. At the time as I’ve mentioned, I was working at the Trade Ministry. Even with a possible increment, the expenses to be made far outweighed the income. Times were very different in the ’90s. There was no Aasanda or National Social Protection Agency (NSPA). One fortunate thing led to another and I found myself working in the hotel industry.

MI: What has your experience been working with international hotel chains?

HS: One word, professionalism. From the appraisal performance management system being used in all of its aspects, proper training and investing in their staff, trust and respect to the chain of command in instances of decision making, exposure opportunity abroad to attending conferences and learning events!

Shahid at Six Senses Zighy Bay in Oman.

MI: What is a memorable moment in your career?

HS: There are a couple, one of which is the farewell from Soneva – at Six Senses Zighy Bay. After having spent a decade with them with so much passion, that one was truly special.

MI: Tell us a bit about what it’s like to be the Executive Assistant Manager (EAM)?

HS: Being the EAM, you’re the resort manager working alongside the General Manager dealing with matters of every nature. In the hospitality industry, the public holidays and Fridays aren’t the same as a 9-5 job. It’s always on the go. The scenarios for every day are different. It is also important to have an open-door policy with your staff. To be accessible and approachable. The trunk represents those at the helm, but the roots below are every member of the team. Without the roots, the tree won’t survive.

Shahid at Shangri-la’s Villingili Resort & Spa.

MI: What is your message to the youth or those entering this field?

HS: We as locals lack commitment and vision – the true passion in work! Commit yourself to the job. Career hopping is good when done in terms. As a former HR professional, I look at a term as a year at the very least, six months if the job is seasonal. A good example, an internship candidate, having completed it, there were no jobs open at the time. But having completed the internship gave him the gateway to his first job. This was back in 2016. Over six years, he is at his eighth or ninth job with little to no progress. You need to have career maturity and stick to your vision to see progress and rise through the ranks.

Shahid at Soneva Gili (now Gili Lankanfushi).

MI: What is the next step in your career?

HS: Having managed as the acting GM in the past, I would like to, at the right time, have the opportunity to prove myself and eventually manage a property in the Maldives, close to my family.

An Insider

Ikoo Photos: Capturing the essence of the Maldives through a lens



In Maldives, where pristine beaches meet crystal-clear turquoise waters, one name stands out among the plethora of talented photographers – Ahmed Ikleel, professionally known as Ikoo Photos. With over a decade of experience in the field, Ikoo has established himself as one of the top professional photographers in the Maldives. His keen eye for detail and passion for storytelling through his lens have made him a sought-after artist, capturing the natural beauty and cultural vibrancy of the Maldivian islands.

Ikoo’s journey as a photographer began more than twenty years ago, when he first picked up a camera and fell in love with the art of capturing moments frozen in time. Since then, he has dedicated himself to honing his skills and expanding his expertise across various genres of photography.

What sets Ikoo apart is his versatility in the realm of photography. He has mastered multiple disciplines, including travel photography, commercial photography, studio photography, fashion photography, and portrait photography. His ability to adapt to different settings and subjects has allowed him to excel in diverse projects, consistently delivering breathtaking visuals that leave a lasting impact.

Ikoo Photos offers a wide range of professional services, catering to the diverse needs of his clients. From commercial photography that showcases the beauty of resorts and luxury accommodations to videography and video production, his team has the expertise to bring any vision to life. Additionally, Ikoo specializes in wedding photography, immortalizing the precious moments of couples’ special days. His portrait photography captures the essence of individuals and groups, reflecting their unique personalities in every frame.

Alongside his own creative pursuits, Ikoo Photos takes great pride in nurturing young photographers. His team includes a group of talented individuals who share his passion and are committed to excellence in their craft. By offering mentorship and training programs, Ikoo Photos helps to shape the next generation of visual storytellers, ensuring the continued growth and innovation of photography in the Maldives.

Ikoo’s photographic style is characterized by a profound appreciation for nature and the ethereal beauty of the Maldives. His images often feature a harmonious interplay of light and color, capturing the essence of paradise in every frame. Whether it’s the golden hues of a sunset over the Indian Ocean or the vibrant marine life thriving beneath the surface, Ikoo’s photographs evoke a sense of awe and wonder, transporting viewers to the idyllic landscapes of the Maldives.

Ikoo Photos’ exceptional work has garnered widespread recognition and acclaim. His photographs have been featured in prestigious publications and showcased in exhibitions both nationally and internationally. Through his lens, Ikoo has not only captured the attention of his clients but has also touched the hearts of a global audience, sharing the natural splendor of the Maldives with the world.

Ahmed Ikleel, the creative force behind Ikoo Photos, has established himself as a leading professional photographer in the Maldives. With his versatility, technical expertise, and artistic vision, he continues to push the boundaries of photography, immortalizing the beauty of the Maldives and people. As he nurtures young talent and embraces new challenges, Ikoo Photos is set to leave an indelible mark on the world of photography, captivating audiences and inspiring others to explore the wonders that lie beyond the frame.

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Zaff Ali: From surfer to diver extraordinaire, unveiling the depths of Fuvahmulah



Zafar Ali, better known as Zaff, is a man of the sea. When asked how best to describe him, his answer is simple yet captivating: diver, surfer, and water sports enthusiast. Zaff’s love for the ocean and all its wonders began at a young age, when he was introduced to the traditional Maldivian style of surfing in his home island of Fuvahmulah. Little did he know then that this initial encounter would shape his entire life’s journey.

In 2003, Zaff and his friends started experimenting with boards, bringing the sport of surfing to Fuvahmulah. Their efforts laid the foundation for the island to become a popular destination among surfers today. This early exposure to the thrill of riding the waves ignited a passion within Zaff that he would carry with him throughout his life.

After completing his education, Zaff joined Athuruga Island Resort as a Receptionist, marking the beginning of his career in the hospitality industry. Over the course of six years, he gained valuable experience working at various resorts, honing his skills in guest relations and providing exceptional service. However, it was during his tenure as a Guest Relations Officer at Bandos Maldives in 2007 that Zaff’s path intersected with the world of water sports and scuba diving.

Working closely with the resort’s water sports and dive center, Zaff was introduced to a whole new realm of adventure and excitement. The vast playground of the ocean beckoned him, and he eagerly embraced activities such as diving, snorkeling, and jet skiing. The underwater world, in particular, captivated Zaff’s imagination, and he knew he had found his true calling.

Driven by his newfound passion, Zaff pursued scuba diving with unwavering dedication. In 2016, he earned the prestigious certification of Master Scuba Diver, a testament to his expertise and experience in the field. Seeking to deepen his knowledge and share his passion with others, Zaff went on to complete the Scuba Dive Instructor Course, solidifying his position as a respected professional in the diving community.

In 2017, Zaff’s journey led him to Cocoon Maldives, where he assumed the role of Manager for the Extreme Maldives Water Sports Center. This position allowed him to combine his love for water sports with his managerial skills, creating unforgettable experiences for guests and overseeing a team of dedicated professionals. Zaff’s enthusiasm and commitment to providing exceptional service made a lasting impression on visitors from around the world.

Then, the unexpected arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted the travel industry, forcing Zaff to reevaluate his career path. Instead of succumbing to the challenges, he saw an opportunity to return to his roots. Zaff moved back to his native island of Fuvahmulah during the lockdown and partnered with Extreme Maldives to establish Olige, a dive center that would showcase the island’s natural beauty and its famous inhabitants: tiger sharks.

Zaff, was among the first explorers to have extraordinary encounters with the majestic tiger sharks in Fuvahmulah, even before it gained recognition as a sought-after dive location. Reflecting on his own initial scuba diving venture in Fuvahmulah in 2011, memories resurface of a time when the island lacked adequate dive equipment and dedicated dive centers. During those days, divers relied upon the generosity of local fishing boats, graciously borrowing their scuba diving gear in order to immerse ourselves in the captivating underwater realm. Thanks to the unwavering determination and resourcefulness displayed by individuals like Zaff, Fuvahmulah’s diving industry has flourished over time, transforming it into the vibrant and coveted destination it is today.

Today, Zaff finds fulfillment in running the dive center in Fuvahmulah, which has become one of the most sought-after diving destinations globally. With its pristine waters and rich marine biodiversity, Fuvahmulah offers divers a chance to explore the depths and witness the awe-inspiring presence of tiger sharks. Zaff’s expertise, combined with his deep connection to the island and its waters, ensures that visitors have a safe and unforgettable diving experience. Zaff Ali, the diver, surfer, and water sports enthusiast, has carved out a remarkable path for himself. From his humble beginnings in Fuvahmulah to managing water sports centers at luxurious resorts, he has followed his passion and shared it with others along the way. Today, Zaff’s dedication to exploring the ocean’s depths and introducing others to its wonders continues to inspire.

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An Insider

Behind the scenes of hospitality: An interview with Ibrahim Razeen, Front Office Manager at Anantara Dhigu Maldives Resort



Ibrahim Razeen is the Front Office Manager at Anantara Dhigu Maldives Resort with a passion for the hospitality industry. He began his career in 2006, after completing a diploma in tourism and hotel operations. Since then, he has gained valuable experience at several luxury resorts in the Maldives, including Banyan Tree Maldives, Naladhu Private Island, Huvafen Fushi Maldives, and Anantara Veli Resort. In this interview, Ibrahim shares his journey in the hospitality industry and how he ended up as the Front Office Manager at Anantara Dhigu Maldives Resort. He also offers insights into his approach to providing exceptional guest service and advice for those just starting their career in the hospitality industry.

Maldives Insider: Razeen, can you tell us about your journey in the hospitality industry and how you ended up as the Front Office Manager at Anantara Dhigu Maldives Resort?

Ibrahim Razeen: Sure, my journey in the hospitality industry started with a passion for tourism and a desire to build a successful career in this field. After completing my diploma in tourism and hotel operations in 2006, I joined the food and beverage service team at Banyan Tree Maldives. I gained valuable experience working in this role and got to understand how a resort operates.

In 2007, I got the opportunity to join Anantara Hotels as a butler at Naladhu Private Island Maldives. This experience gave me an insight into the inner workings of a luxury resort and helped me to develop a deeper understanding of the hospitality industry. I worked hard and was soon promoted to the role of Assistant Villa Operations Manager.

I continued to work in the hospitality industry and gained valuable experience at other luxury resorts, including Huvafen Fushi Maldives. In 2018, I rejoined Anantara Hotels as the Assistant Front Office Manager at Anantara Veli Resort. It was a great opportunity for me to take on a new challenge and develop my skills in managing front desk operations, guest services, and overall guest experience. I was later promoted to the position of Front Office Manager at Anantara Dhigu Maldives Resort, where I currently serve.

MI: What do you think sets Anantara Dhigu Maldives Resort apart from other luxury resorts in the Maldives?

IR: At Anantara Dhigu Maldives Resort, we offer our guests a unique and authentic experience that showcases the beauty and culture of the Maldives. Our resort is situated on a private island and offers a range of activities and experiences that allow guests to immerse themselves in the local culture.

Not only is the resort easily accessible from Male, guests at Anantara Dhigu Maldives Resort are also spoilt for choices when it comes to culinary experiences. From housemade dry-aged beef and Italian favourites to South Asian, Japanese and Thai restaurants located at its sister property, Anantara Veli Maldives Resort (just a stone’s throw away), long-staying guests will not be bored when it comes to dining.

We also place a strong emphasis on sustainability and have implemented a number of eco-friendly initiatives to reduce our impact on the environment. Our guests appreciate our commitment to sustainability and often choose to stay with us because of this.

MI: As the Front Office Manager, what is your approach to providing exceptional guest service?

IR: My approach to providing exceptional guest service is to always put the guest first. I believe that every guest is unique and has different needs and preferences. I strive to understand these needs and preferences and tailor our services to meet theirs.

I also believe that attention to detail is key to providing exceptional guest service. We pay attention to the little things, such as remembering guests’ names and preferences, to make their stay more comfortable and enjoyable.

Finally, I believe that a positive and welcoming attitude is essential to providing exceptional guest service. We strive to create a warm and welcoming environment for our guests and make them feel at home.

MI: What advice would you give to someone who is just starting their career in the hospitality industry?

IR: My advice would be to work hard, be passionate, and never stop learning. The hospitality industry is constantly evolving, and it’s important to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and best practices.

I would also encourage anyone starting their career in the hospitality industry to be open to new experiences and opportunities. Don’t be afraid to take on new challenges and step outside of your comfort zone. The more experience you gain, the more valuable you become as an employee.

I would advise anyone starting their career in the hospitality industry to remember that guest service is the foundation of our industry. Always put the guest first and strive to provide exceptional service that exceeds their expectations.

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