17

musandam omanWe did not give up on Oman. After that disappointing experience where one of us was denied entry into the country, we tried again and succeeded at crossing the UAE-Oman border. Like most of our trips, this was also unplanned. This is just how it works in my family. If we do plan something, it almost always does not work out.

It was late in the afternoon when we reached Musandam. So when tried to book for a dhow cruise, the travel agent suggested we stay overnight and take the morning trip. “A trip takes four hours and it’s already 2 pm,” he said. “Also, the dolphins usually show up in the morning.”

Also, noting that we were a group of eight adults, he suggested we rent a villa instead of separate hotel rooms. It turned out to be a good idea!

villa in musandam

This was the house. Part of it is still under construction but it has two bedrooms, two living rooms (as is the custom in most homes in this part of the world, where male guests sit separately from the women), two bathrooms, and a huge kitchen.

This is the red living room, the place we occupied the most:

red living room musandam villa

rent a villa in musandamIt took sometime for us to find the channels and, when we did, discovered that most of them were either in Arabic or Farsi. Eventually, we found a channel that was playing the movie Thor.

Masood and I spent some quiet time alone on the rooftop, marveling at the star-studded sky. The looming shadows of the huge mountains surrounded us in the dark of the night. Somewhere down the dusty road, in this sparsely populated community, we briefly heard some men talking.

Soon everyone joined us on the rooftop, after which I was certain our voices and laughter rang till the farthest house in the village. I think I had to drag everyone downstairs immediately least someone calls the police and have us arrested for wrecking havoc to world peace.

This is the second living room:

blue living room

This room gave us a headache so we stayed away from this. Besides the weird curtains and sofa covers (too much matching going on!), I felt uncomfortable in this dark and stuffy room as if it’s filled with negative energy. And the attached bathroom stank too. Yes, I think that was the negative energy that assaulted our senses whenever someone opened the door to this room.

blue living room

Bedroom # 1:

bedroom in musandam

Bedroom # 2:

bedroom in oman

The huge kitchen, my favorite place in this house:

kitchen in musandam

I love how the sunlight pours in so gloriously in the morning and the fresh air circulates nicely when the back door and windows are opened. Unfortunately, we did not get to cook in this kitchen as we weren’t prepared to spend the night in a furnished house. I would have loved to cook some breakfast here.

sunrise in musandam

The mountains behind the house, where the sun was slowly rising to herald a beautiful day.

 

musandam neighborhood

Our temporary neighborhood.

I was actually quite impressed by how clean the house was, save for the bathroom in the blue room, and how the sheets were freshly laundered and spotless.

If we ever get the chance to rent a villa again, I will remember to bring my BBQ paraphernalia and lots of food!

 

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32

“Thursday could be the coldest sunny day in the UAE this winter,” says The National Centre of Meteorology and Seismology, “A strong current of Shamal is expected to hit the Arabian Gulf, making the sea rough and forcing the mercury to fall across the country on Wednesday evening. We advise fishermen and small vessels to stay on shore. Motorists must exercise caution as the horizontal visibility will drop.”

Then someone leaves this comment below that article, “Dear GN (Gulf News, our local paper)! It is not “unstable weather”. It is called PLEASANT weather. We are blessed to have this weather pattern. Instead of stating this news in a complaining way, try to present it in a thankful way.”

Al Mamzar Dubai

View from my bedroom as well as the kitchen.

You see, we have a very long summer here in the desert each year so whenever the temperature drops to 18ºC and the wind gets cold enough to make us wear our spring jackets and sweaters, we welcome the chilly breeze with open windows and doors. Hence the reason for that slightly irritated comment from a resident. The weather might be unstable for fishermen, but the rest of us are enjoying every single moment.

living room curtains

A portion of the living room curtains.

The wind was the strongest today, however. I would normally throw all the windows and the sliding door to the balcony open the moment I get out of bed each morning, but I couldn’t stand the wind today; it was just too strong and cold. I had to close the kitchen window whilst doing the dishes because the wind has blown my hair all over my face.

shoe rack

Fruit basket from Home Centre and Red Bus from Daiso (love this store!)

Masood and I moved to a new apartment in January. We now live on the 18th floor of a newly constructed building that faces the Persian Gulf. It was one of my requirements that we should be the first tenants of the building. But I couldn’t blog until today because we did not get the internet connection until two weeks ago. It would drizzle whenever our service provider would schedule to come, and then he’d call to say he couldn’t make it due to bad weather.

MacBook Pro

Masood working on the dining table.

Except for my favorite dark brown leather sofa, we did not bring any furniture from the previous apartment. We didn’t have a gas range when we moved here and had to eat takeout for two weeks. That’s the thing here in the U.A.E., you will rarely find a furnished apartment. A handful of those that are furnished (which means you’ll get a fridge, gas range, a washing machine, and built-in wardrobes) are way above our budget. So yeah, we moved into a completely bare apartment.

colorful cushions

toy train

That’s the wooden toy train we bought at Mount Washington. It now rests on my white dressing table, or vanity, whatever you call it. Speaking of which, I finally have the white bedroom set that I had longed for since forever.

We also had Sophia’s paintings framed in white, and it looks so much prettier now!

Before:

sophia's paintings

After:

burj al arab painting

Awkward photograph, but you get the point. It would have looked much better had I taken the photograph from the front, but then the bed would come into the frame, and I didn’t want that because the sheets are crumpled, haha. Anyway, these pretty white frames are from IKEA and that is my bedroom wall painted in a color called duck egg. The rest of the walls are still bare and sad. We need to hang something in the living room but Sophia is too busy to paint these days.

books on the dressing table

That is my version of the Burj Khalifa. I have no proper place to store these books yet so on they go, piled up high and tall on the dressing table. Most of these books were bought from this awesome used-books store in Hyderabad that I make sure to visit each time I am in India. I should probably feature that bookstore during my next trip to Hyderabad.

peace lily

Spath or Peace Lily. Or Spathiphyllum cochlearispathum, if you’re interested in scientific names.

I bought this Peace Lily from IKEA as well. I love this plant because it’s known to purify the air by breaking down and neutralizing toxic gases like formaldehyde and carbon monoxide inside its pores.

Another reason why I absolutely love this plant is because it requires minimum care and attention. One of the great advantages in caring for the Peace Lily is the fact that it sags a bit when it needs water. So it actually lets you know when it’s thirsty!

masjid

Masood only had three requirements when we were searching for a new apartment: masjid should be close by, good security, and covered car parking. We now hear the call to prayers from three different masjids and we can not be any happier. Masood now gets to join the Fajr congregation each morning, and I am so proud of him!

I think this post has gotten somewhat personal, something which I haven’t done in a very long time. But after writing about travel, food, and reviews for so long, it feels good to share a little bit about my private life.

Also, I hope to get back to posting recipes soon! I’ve been receiving so many requests from you (love your emails! thank you so much!). In the meantime, I need to go grocery shopping for I’m hosting dinner at home for our friends tomorrow.

Al Mamzar Dubai

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29

traffic in dubai

The prospect of being stuck in traffic or waiting by the open beach in the cold did not deter most of the residents and visitors of Dubai. We were all excited to see the fireworks that would break the Guinness World Record. I mean, how often do you get to see a world record being broken live?

My family and I viewed the spectacle from our fifteenth floor apartment (which, technically is the 20th floor if you count the parking levels as well). We sat in the balcony, wrapped in warm shawls, sipping delicious hot tea made by Sophia.

dubai traffic at night

We could hear the people downstairs having a party. When the clock was about to struck 12, they began their countdown – 5…4…3…2…1…nothing. No fireworks. We laughed.

They tried the countdown again – still no fireworks at the Palm, although we could see fireworks behind the Marina buildings. On their third attempt at the countdown, Burj al Arab began its fireworks; the Palm remained dark and quiet. We began assuming there might have been some technical issues. Turned out that they didn’t get the clearance (security reasons) to start well until 12:20 am.

dubai breaking world guinness record

The traffic has finally cleared, but since it’s a few minutes past midnight, some people decided to stop and watch from the bridge.

dubai fireworks 2014

dubai fireworks 2014

That was when the fireworks finally began. I was able to take only one picture, during the first few seconds when it all started, because I was too mesmerized by the beauty of it that I didn’t want to waste a second more behind the lens.

“Dubai saw 2014 in unforgettable style last night, with a successful attempt at the world record for the largest ever fireworks display.

Ten months in planning, over 500,000 fireworks were used during the display which lasted around six minutes, with Guinness World Records adjudicators on hand to confirm that a new record had been set.

Covering a distance of over 94km (61.6 miles) of the city’s seafront, the display incorporated some of Dubai’s top landmarks, including Palm Jumeirah, World Islands, the Burj Khalifa and Burj Al Arab.

The spectacle’s final salvo of fireworks created an artificial “sunrise” along the seafront, with the highest fireworks reaching more than one kilometre in height.” (Source: Guinness World Record)

I’ve seen several pictures and watched Youtube videos of the fireworks the next morning, but really, none of them come close to the amazing sight of watching it live. It was truly breathtaking!

I have also been expecting all the negative feedback from other people (majority of them either do not even live here or have never even step foot in this city). Whenever the city goes and does something grand and extravagant, these people immediately turn into human rights activists and environmentalists, reminding the city of modern slavery, the poverty in several countries, and world hunger. Oh, and the fact that Abu Dhabi bailed Dubai out of debt during the recession. Yep, nobody forgets that.

Remember, Dubai runs completely on trade and tourism. And while I do not agree with some of its strategies, like allowing night clubs and alcohol in an Islamic city or the salary discrimination based on a person’s nationality, both the public and private sectors are working tirelessly to make the city as appealing to foreign investors and tourists as possible. The UAE is a very small country (you can travel from one corner to the other in one day) that is working hard to make a name in the world.

And you guys, Dubai (and the UAE as a whole) is extremely generous in terms of providing financial and medical help to countries that need it. I did not know the extent of it until I made an Emirati friend whose husband works with the armed forces. This army officer regularly gets deployed to provide medical assistance to war-torn places. Several of these charity work and financial aid are kept low profile and not broadcasted in the media. I had a long chat with my friend, and since then, I have this renewed sense of respect for this country and its people.

Source: Khaleej Times

So when a city, as young as Dubai, decides to spend some of its own money on fireworks as a marketing tool to grab the world’s attention and boost tourism, we should sit back and enjoy the spectacle.

 

 

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