Why You Should Visit Costa Rica

Zohra Bandali and Pedro Beirute

I was lucky enough to grab a coffee with Pedro Beirute, the head of the Chamber of Commerce in Costa Rica. He was recently in Dubai for Gulfood and I was astounded to learn how eco-forward Costa Rica is! In fact, it is set to be the first Carbon Neutral country in the world and being such a tiny country which holds 6% of the worlds biodiversity, has certainly boosted it higher on my bucket list!

What are the main reasons that would draw someone to visit Costa Rica?

Costa Rica is a very safe place, it is also a role model to the world in terms of sustainability. We have a strategy to have sustainability as part of our core values. 100% of our electricity comes from renewable sources, half of our land is protected and we aim to become the first carbon neutral country in the world. We have 6% of the earths biodiversity so it’s a unique experience for anyone going to Costa Rica. It is a safe place as well as a place that is thinking about the future in terms of protecting the environment. We have beaches, rivers, volcanoes and a lot of attractive nature related attractions. Costa Rica is positioned as an eco-tourism destination and people from Costa Rica are highly educated which adds to tourists experience. Costa Rica rank number one in the Happy Planet Index meaning that we are the happiest country on earth and also we have people that are friendly and happy to host people from abroad

You were here for Gulfood, what was your involvement in the exhibition?

We came for Gulfood with some Costa Rican companies offering heart palms, pineapple, juices, coffee, cocoa, chocolates, dried food, cocktail mixes. These are an example of our offerings, Costa Rica is in the Tropics with Volcnic soil so it facilitates the production of fresh foods and vegetables. There is a large variety of things that our soil gives us in combination with our tropical weather which is 25 degrees all year round.

When I travel I love to eat! Especially trying new cuisines and foods that locals eat, what is a typical dish in Costa Rica?

Our typical food consists of fresh foods grown there, typically includes root vegetables such as yuca which can be fried, mashed, pureed, boiled or served with ceviche. Lately there has been a large production of organic products which also fits pretty well with our sustainability values. One way of protecting the environment is not Using chemicals, we have a limited use of fertilizers and chemicals, so everything is linked. The products we export are limited as we are a small country but they are top quality and therefore not cheap. Costa Rica accounts for 2% of the global coffee, we have won many awards but quantities are limited and quality is high therefore the cost is more as well.

Some countries that have such limited production ends up exporting all the good stuff and nothing is left for locals, how do you control this?

We have a lot of small businesses and they simply don’t have the money or know-how to export to Dubai for example so all their products are sold locally. We have suppliers we work with which are farmed for export and locals get produce from smaller farms. We have a mantra to do business with purpose which we call the three p’s – people, profit and  planet. The way we support companies is by conveying that they need to focus on a business with purpose. We are a middle income company so there is demand for good quality products so we retain these. Tourists are  also an incentive for producers to keep their products in Costa Rica.

Where can we buy Costa Rican products in the UAE?

We were present at Gulfood because we want to bring more products to the UAE market, most of our products go to the US and Europe, this region has a very small volume. We are in the niche industry with high quality, boutique, premium products therefore we don’t have the volume to fulfil global demand. Our strategy has been to fulfil the orders in the US and Europe, we want to now enter the UAE market. You can find coffee, bananas and heart palms here but we want to provide more products and export them directly rather than going through Europe. This will make it cheaper and faster to get products here.

Find out in my video how Costa Ricans stay the happiest country in the world and what you should do when visiting Costa Rica!

Oyl’e London


Oyl’e London is an innovative brand in the market of aromatherapy jewellery. They have a range of luxury bracelets and necklaces which contain open lockets where you can put a wool diffusing bead containing drops of essential oils. Oyl’e also has a range of seven top grade essential oils which each hold different properties.

Aromatherapy is a holistic healing treatment that uses natural plant extracts to promote health and well-being. Sometimes it’s called essential oil therapy. It uses aromatic essential oils medicinally to improve the health of the mind, body and spirit. It enhances both physical and emotional health. Each essential oil has a host of benefits that have been lost in translation over time. Oyl’e aims to bring to surface the therapeutic and uplifting benefits of this therapy which is much needed in our daily lives. The great thing about Oyl’e is that this beautiful jewellery is functional, giving the wearer the effects of aromatherapy on the go.

I love my rose gold oyl’e bracelet. I have worn it every day since I got it and have definitely felt the effects of the oils I have tried and tested. I particularly like the dusk oil which helps you sleep better. The oils can also be used in diffusers or topically when diluted with a carrier oil such as coconut oil. The design of the jewellery is dainty while the cage pendant makes a statement. It has a easily adjustable chain so you can slip it on and off if you don’t want to fiddle with the clasp! It is a great christmas gift idea and you can purchase it via their website!

Nungwi Beach, Zanzibar


It was my fifth trip to Zanzibar and the beaches always leave me awestruck with their crystal clear turquoise waters and powder white sand. Kiwengwa which is where I stayed last time, has been my favourite beach so far but Nungwi is also beautiful.

Nungwi is less touristy and if you walk through the village you will get a sense of local life there. You will find fisherman making nets, Cows grazing, children playing football on the beach and women cooking on fires outside their houses. The beaches are stunning but just not as well maintained in areas, often you see unsightly piles of rubbish.

I stayed at the Kajibange Bar and Guesthouse and highly recommend it if you want a chilled vibe. It is not a plush or pretentious resort, but instead a super relaxed environment. It captured my beach vibe perfectly, it had hammocks and casual dining options on the beach and the rooms were thatched huts constructed amongst wild palm trees. The rooms were really spacious however I did not get hot water despite them saying its hot 24/7. A cold shower is a great way to end a hot beach day though so I wasn’t complaining.

Food in Zanzibar is divine! Octopus and Calamari are the most popular dishes, I enjoyed them as well as the fresh fish. If your not a seafood lover you will have quite limited options however there are options nonetheless! The resort I stayed at had good food and if you walk down Nungwi beach there are plenty of resorts where you can stop to dine. Gerry’s beach bar just opened next door to Kajibange and if you keep walking that way then you will eventually come to A beach bar called Cholo’s which is nice for a night out.

Coastal Zanzibar is definitely worth exploring if you love beaches, the Blue Safari was a real highlight for me and I highly recommend going if you get the chance. You get the chance to see whales and dolphins and go snorkling in crystal clear waters teeming with sealife! I also recommend tearing yourself away from the beach for a day to go and explore the melting pot that is Stone Town.

Stone Town, Zanzibar

Once you have feasted your eyes on the white sandy beaches of Zanzibar, it is difficult to pull yourself away to explore Stone Town. Without a tour of Stone Town however, your trip to Zanzibar will be incomplete. The town captures the history of the city and the unique fusion of cultures that cannot be found anywhere else. The culture is an amalgamation of African, Arab and Indian which you will notice in the food, clothes, handicrafts and even the people.

Stone Town will either fill you with intrigue or it will make you want to run away. The colonial architecture is beautiful but tainted by the poorly maintained exteriors of the buildings. Make sure you get a tour-guide or research as you wont have a clue otherwise.

I learnt so many interesting facts about Zanzibar on the tour however the former slave market overshadowed everything. Everything the tour guide said pulled at my heartstrings and it made me realize how much we had failed as Humanity. Of course I was aware of the slave trade well before this trip, however learning the details and facts made me feel sick to my stomach. As we stood in a room where the ceiling was so low I had to bend down, he explained that this is where slaves were held for weeks and months on end until somebody bought them. They were starved and chained together as a means to test them. They had no toilets no amenities, they were crammed in like sardines into a space that wasn’t even big enough for me to stand in.

The energy in the room made me feel sick, I shuddered at the thought of what these four walls had witnessed, how much suffering this tiny room had endured, how humankind had inflicted this on their own, how people were treated worse then animals. They were given very little food and it was survival of the fittest. They were whipped and tortured as a test to see who was strongest and those who screamed were sold for less or simply just left to die.

It was heartbreaking to listen to and part of me was relieved to move on to the markets. Although there are many tourists, Stone Town is full of locals. You will find them at the many markets doing the daily shopping. There is a market full of artisanal handcrafts, meat, fish and vegetable markets and also Foradhani gardens. Foradhani was my favourite! A streetfood market on the waterfront that comes alive after 5pm. There is a delicious selection of local favourites such as zanzibar pizza, zanzibar mix, grilled skewers of various meats and seafood and plenty of other dishes. I tried all of the above and recommend them all!

Stone Town definitely has an eerie feel to it for me, I loved exploring it but wouldn’t stay there too long. I am definitely a beachbum and those beaches are too good to miss! You will see them in my next post.
Ciao for now x

Win Mothers Day Shoot at The Studio Dubai!

IMG_20170321_190431_844Get glammed up and win a photo-shoot with your mum for mothers day! Some of you are celebrating today and others will be celebrating on Sunday, I will be picking 3 lucky winners on Saturday 25th March. To enter, simply follow Zizzleblog (top right corner of this page). You can exchange the shoot for a full family shoot if you would prefer!

Good Luck!! x

Stormzy Gang Signs & Prayer Review

Stormzy real name Michael Omari Jr releases his eagerly awaiting debut album Gang Signs & Prayer #GSAP. Having already shown his pedigree on the grime scene with anthems like Know Me From & Shut Up, this album shows what he is all about. It’s not your typical Grime album. Oh yeah he has some bangers on here but it’s more UK Hip Hop to me. Grime is UK Hip Hop in its purest form but sadly it’s associated with angry/violent lyrics and behaviour.  Saying that, with Stormzy coming under the genre of Grime, he is most certainly bringing it to the forefront.

He is absolutely killing it on all fronts of the music industry. Rapping about his humble beginnings to the real hardships that exist in the music industry. It is amazing to see artists now doing it without the backing of major record labels. This allows a more organic form of music to be produced and reach the masses. Stormzy has also been doing surprise pop up shows around London to spread the word and engage with the fans!

Big For Your Boots Is the first single to be released off Gang Signs & Prayer. It’s been on my playlist for a while now and it’s turned into a instant floor filler in the clubs. “You’re never to big for Adele” wow, what a line! Shows the respect he has for great artist and music.

Lay Me Bare is one of my favourite tracks that displays Stormzy’s storytelling rap flow. Talking about his life and his dad. You can really hear the emotion and energy -it’s true insight to his soul. Cigarettes & Cush is featuring RnB singer Kehlani. Bringing a different vibe to Gang Signs & Prayer.

Blind By Your Grace, Pt 1 and Pt 2 even has Stormzy singing further adding a different dimension to his album. I could talk about all the tracks on this album but honestly go have a listen. If you like pure music, you will enjoy every aspect of it. You don’t have to be a Grime or Hip Hop fan to appreciate the talent.

As a DJ I’ve always listened to Grime from the early 2000s but back then you would only hear it in Specialist Clubs and club nights but now it’s finally got its own Platform and Genre. Great British sound which is being Championed throughout the UK music scene. You might not know Grime but you will definitely know Stormzy.

23 year old Stormzy has been going from strength to strength, he won Best Grime Act 2014 & 2015 Mobo Awards. He was also named BBCs influential Sound of 2015 list.
Day Dreamers EP was released independently in 2014 and was noticed by everyone on the grime scene. Now Gang Signs & Prayers is set to take the game to another level!

Sampha – Process Album Review

You’ve probably heard Sampha playing somewhere. Maybe on the radio in the car, background music in a shop or simply someone talking about him. You may have mentioned it to a friend “oh have you heard that guy? You know that voice, smoking, gives you goosebumps?” Well its his time to shine in his own right.

Having released two EPs first 2010 Sundanza Second 2013 Dual, this is his debut album Process. This singer, songwriter and producer is doing some brilliant stuff for the Electronic & Soul genres.

The first time I heard of Sampha was on Drakes Too much, it kept me wanting more. He has definitely delivered with this album. No one knows me is a beautiful example of his raw talent. You can hear and feel just what he means word for word. The piano riffs are so soothing and then the incredible vocal on top. This is likely to be the best song you’ll hear this year. Simply wow!

Blood On Me was the first song off this album being played on the radio which I loved straight away. It displays the versatility in the vocal chords. Powerful and engaging along with the silky smooth style which he absolutely owns. Even without the vocals, the melodies and instruments can almost put you in a meditative state. Especially on What Shouldn’t I Be, he gets you thinking deeply and reflecting on yourself.

Sampha Sisay has worked with the likes of Drake, Solange and Jessie Ware. He is a superstar in the making. Been waiting for him to drop an album and this doesn’t disappoint. Hailing from Morden South London, the 27 year old seems to put so much raw emotion into his vocals.

I can only describe his amazing voice as husky and fragile but this guy makes it so individual, unique and captivating. I would go as far as saying ‘Sexy’. You get swallowed up by the sound into another dimension. If your looking to lose yourself in an album, this is the one. Showcasing what the UK sound is bringing to the world stage. Magical and gorgeous!

Coppa Club Igloo’s


Photo Credit: Coppa Club

Coppa Club by Tower Bridge has 8 beautiful pop-up Igloos outside their restaurant along the Thames which are super cosy on a cold Winter night.

London is always an exciting city, I am not just being biased because its home but I really think you are spoilt for choice. Not only is there so much to do, but then you have exclusive pop-ups that appear for a short time.

A friend mentioned the Igloo’s but said they are fully booked and sure enough if you go to the website they state that they are no longer taking bookings. They do however save a few walk-in slots and our party of 7 got lucky as a group cancelled so we got an igloo all to ourselves.

The igloo’s are really cosy inside with sheepskin blankets and warm lighting. You get gorgeous river-side views of the shard you are sheltered from the wind and get heaters inside to make it extra cosy. Their is also a speaker so you can listen to music while sipping on a cocktail.

I had a great time, I know they are closing soon but I can’t seem to find dates anywhere for how long they are there till. If you are in the area, they are definitely worth checking out. You get a 2 hour limit although they are so comfy you won’t wanna leave!


Talents List

A new platform for entertainers has landed in Dubai and we love it! Talents List is a directory which anyone can sign up to. If you are a singer, dancer, musician, photographer, model, MUA, hairstylist etc, then you can create your profile. Your profile has links to samples of your work, be it songs or your modelling portfolio. It gives creatives a space where their talents can be discovered by event organisers in the region who are looking for talent. You can input your hourly rate or simply negotiate this once you are approached by a potential client.

Even if you are looking for a little promo work over the holidays to get a bit of extra cash, Talents List is your answer. With most temporary jobs here, the big issue is getting paid on time but Talents List ensures your payment is released on completion of the job! You can also earn commission by suggesting the platform to people, every time they go with your recommendation, you will receive a payment!

It is also a wonderful tool for clients who are booking talent, PR agencies, events agencies and talent agents. Rather then the hassle of meeting with and briefing agencies, they can search directly for the talent they are looking for. They can go through artist portfolios and see work samples and book them at the click of a button. The platform is very easy to use and allows you to search with various filters such as talent and location. Talents List holds cash in escrow until the work is completed to a satisfactory level. We love it and will definitely be using it to talent scout.

What are you waiting for? If you are a performer or creative or need to book talent for events then you can sign up here!