How many of you have sat down to pen a letter to yourself? And if you did, what would you write to yourself?

On Wednesday evening, many UAE residents were part of this engaging experiment in the Al Seef district in Dubai Creek as part of the launch of Afaneen Collective, a creative community curated by homegrown Arabian footwear brand Tamashee.

Amidst soulful melodies and delicious cuisine, residents and tourists gathered at a pop-up store by the local production company Maan. Here, participants seized the opportunity to write letters, delving into reflections on their identities, aspirations, and current priorities.

Each missive was placed in an envelope bearing the inscription "To a year of limitless creativity," with the recipient's name elegantly written in Arabic by Palestinian calligrapher Hala Hashem. To preserve the element of surprise and anticipation, the envelopes were sealed with a stern directive: "Do not open it now! Open it in 2025."

A Lebanese expat who participated in the exercise described it as an enlightening experience. "What better way to envision where I want to see myself in the next 12 months than during Ramadan? It's a time of profound reflection, self-betterment, and strengthening our bonds with faith and community," he said.

German expat Martina Oberholzner, now known as Mariam, after embracing Islam this year, shared her experience. "I think it’s a beautiful initiative and approach to write down what you wish for yourself and reflect later on how far you’ve come. We should talk kindly to ourselves more often.”

Emirati Mohsen Allawi, co-founder of Maan, said the act of self-expression serves as a conduit to our innermost thoughts. "When we write a letter to our future self, we capture our hopes and fears in a tangible form. This self-reflection opens us up to personal growth and positive change," he said.

Mariam, a young Emirati who is part of the initiative, said writing down goals significantly boosts commitment to them. “This makes individuals more likely to take the necessary steps to turn those goals into reality,” she said while graciously offering free coffee to the visitors.

Hala Hashem said that the practice serves as motivation to keep growing and striving toward one’s dreams.

Tamashee founder Mohammed Kazim, an Emirati chemical engineer who quit a cushy government job to preserve the region’s rich culture, shared his vision for Afaneen. "At present, Alfaneen comprises 11 hometown brands, predominantly Emirati, all situated in Al Seef. We are also planning to expand to incorporate regional brands," said the man behind the luxury footwear brand that gave a contemporary twist to the traditional sandal while retaining its distinct Arab identity.

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