Sara Hamdan, Founder of the newly-launched holidaysinheels.com, talks to TMN about her experience in media within the UAE and what has inspired her new travel and style blog…
Name: Sara Hamdan
Current Job Title: Founder of holidaysinheels.com. I am also working part time on a content project at Google and contributing to the New York Times.
When did you first arrive in Dubai?
I arrived in 2005 – pre-Atlantis, Burj Khalifa and Mall of the Emirates!
Where did you work prior?
I’ve been writing for the New York Times based in Dubai since 2010. I was Deputy Editor of VIVA magazine, a monthly columnist at Stylist Arabia and editor of Dubai Magazine (the official quarterly title of Dubai Tourism Board). I am currently working on a part time content project at Google alongside running holidaysinheels.com.
What were your first impressions of the media industry in the Middle East?
I thought it was young and superficial, but then so was I ten years ago! Dubai in particular has become a great media hub and I feel so blessed to have worked with some of the best titles in the city – from CNN and Rolling Stone tothe New York Times and VIVA.
Has your opinion changed much?
There’s nowhere else in the MENA region that offers the kind of media activity that you can find here. The best international and local media outlets have a presence here today as well.
Is blogging your full time job or a part time passion?
Currently it’s a part time passion, but at the rate it’s growing, ask me again at the end of the year and we’ll see!
Tell us about your blog…
www.holidaysinheels.com is a luxury hotel review site with a section on what to pack. You can directly click and buy the items displayed. I curate some of the outfits from online stores like net-a-porter and also get input from some amazing fashion consultants. I will also feature friends who are inspirational – hotels reviewed by them and a section on how to get their look. The Instagram account @holidaysinheels has managed to pick up 1,000 followers in just one month and already has a sponsor – the retailer Bmore Bugatti that houses Tom Ford, Roberto Cavalli and dozens of other brands in the region, so I’m really excited to see where we go next!
What’s the most rewarding part of blogging?
Holidaysinheels.com is my way of continuing to write about luxury hotels and fashion – and I get to directly connect with readers. It also means that I get to relive my best holidays by writing about them.
Which international Bloggers inspire you?
I really like theblondeabroad.com and travelfashiongirl.com – both make for unpretentious and fun reading.
What advice would you offer to someone looking to start a blog?
Don’t overthink it, just begin and ask for help where you need it. When I decided to start holidaysinheels.com, I contacted my very talented friend Tarik Kaddoumi, who built the website for me so it looked just how I had hoped.
What do you think of the quality of media publications in the region?
There is such a diverse range of titles. I’m quite partial to VIVA because I used to work there and the Editor, Anita Quade, is such an inspiration to me!
How do you find PRs in the region?
Helpful and determined! I’ve had amazing experiences with agencies such as Think Liquorice, TishTash and Toh PR, who have great relationships with brands and know how to pitch the right stories at the right time. The Think Liquorice team – Zahirah Variawa and Felicity Stokes – beautifully handled the launch of my blog at the Fashion Weekend event in Souk Madinat Jumeirah along with talented celebrity stylist Kelly Lundberg.
What’s your pet PR peeve?
Getting totally irrelevant, mass emails.
Do you accept press material from PRs?
Yes, it’s a great way to brainstorm new story ideas as well as discover new hotels and products. I particularly like those shining a light on regional designers and hotel chains.
How would you rather be contacted at work
Email please! firstname.lastname@example.org.
Describe yourself in five words…
Creative, ambitious, bookworm, beach-lover and chocoholic.
How do you see online journalism/blogging changing in the UAE in the coming years?
The internet is a big place and as this blogging/online journalism space becomes more popular, quality content should continue to stand out.
What would be the next step for you as a blogger (would you look to launching a publication, collaborating with any brands/media etc.)?
It’s only been 8 weeks and I’ve already got a celebrity stylist who will collaborate on the #WhatToPack outfits and an amazing sponsor in BMore Bugatti – it’s crazy! I’d love to have a regular column in a lifestyle publication, like the monthly column I used to write at Stylist Arabia and I would love to work with brands that are interested in the same target audience: for example, a promo code for online shopping or a car-booking app. Stay tuned!