Maison de Juliette in Dubai

The continuously growing La Mer neighbourhood now has its own casual dining French restaurant and bakery, Maison de Juliette. Decorated in a delightful high tea party theme with spacious outdoor terrace, blue hues, colourful furniture, light reflecting tables and bright giant lamps, this place creates a charming morning vibe that slowly transforms into the romanticism of Provence after dark.

Intended to attract foodies craving simple but absolutely delicious Gastronomy Francaise, and families to share big heart-warming dinners, Maison de Juliette focuses on warm and inviting dishes from the South Eastern region of France bordering the Mediterranean, the Provence. P1265432.JPG

Provence is loved for sunshine, warm climate and rich soil, and is considered by many as the garden of the country. No wonder Provencal cuisine is known for bright dishes powered with locally produced vegetables including aubergine, ripe tomatoes, bell peppers, olives, asparagus and my all times favourite artichokes. The menu at the Maison de Juliette in Dubai is not an exception. P1265438.JPG

Interestingly the restaurant is run by the Parisian Chef Aris, who willingly decided to move away from the stereotypes of high dining in the capital towards the deliciousness of a few ingredients focused cuisine. He seems to enjoy delivering rich, colourful and thoughtfully styled dishes, pleasing both the eye and taste buds. His seared tuna rolled in pistachios, accompanied by a generous portion of a green salad, is my all time favourite. Try goat cheese glazed in honey, creamy burrata on toast, and the warm seafood platter with intense sauce and a bit of foam (they are French after all).

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Be surprised by your server suggesting the right beverage to accompany your starter, main or a desert, or offering a mocktail to try based on your current mood. The pastry and desserts are so good, please do not leave without a little taste or two.

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Mighty Masti, with a License to Pour (update: I’m not happy with the new menu)

La Mer, a beautiful “Arabian coastal chic” neighbourhood spread across the beginning of Jumeirah beach is turning into everyone’s favourite hangout. Delightfully diverse in every aspect, it’s a place to witness cultures of the world mixing together and carrying their own identity. Cheerful crowds in colourful swimwear coexist with locals dressed in traditional outfits sipping tea on Persian carpets. With free parking, Wi-Fi, outdoor showers, street art at every corner, plenty of attractions open and a few more on the way, every visit to La Mer is an exciting discovery. For me things got super exciting when I’ve discovered Masti, where sunset cocktails are no longer a dream.

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The first time I heard of Masti was from one of the restaurateurs. “How intriguing,” I thought. It is not common for competitors to speak highly of another business, or insist with a little glimpse of naughtiness that I must check it out immediately (in fairness the conversation took place as I typed my pin code). “Are they open now?” I wondered. The response startled me: “Be there after five”. Obviously overwhelming curiosity won, bringing me there at 5 o’clock sharp, thirsty for a new experience.

Masti translates as “fun and mischief”, a concept that appeals to all sort of cool folks: millennials, hipsters, Instagram stars, desperate housewives, startuppers and “seen it all” DIFC girlz and boyz (these are the categories that popped up first in my head). The restaurant’s approach of blurring limits applies to everything you see, hear, touch or taste. Being the first (and only at the moment) licensed restaurant at La Mer, they are obliged to experiment and amaze.

Extraordinary, but fact: the restaurant with a “license to pour” is not a part of a hotel, but a completely independent establishment at the South side of La Mer. The existence of Masti is a fantastic occurrence on its own, inaugurating a new era in UAE food and beverage business, and paired with some pretty awesome cocktails is an offer one cannot simply miss. The the restaurant consists of two levels, with drinks served after 5pm on the first floor and their fantastic upper terrace overlooking the beach and the Downtown.
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While many may stop to sip the night away, Masti is definitely not just a pretty lounge with epic cocktails. The majority of dishes on the menu represent the change in dining happening all over the globe. Set as Indian Fusion cuisine, the restaurant breaks all obvious stereotypes and expectations by offering food that exists nowhere else. Have you ever tried any of the following: naan pizza with burrata and butter chicken, tuna tartar mixed with crunchy puffed rice, caved in a shell of unsweetened sugar, smoky lamb croquettes with a side of chopped sweet onions, lotus cookie tiramisu in a pool of saffron or a mysterious sounding dessert called “raspberry rose”?

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The Avant Garde of Japanese cuisine

Weird but true: the exercise of observing art always has an intense appetizing effect on me, stronger than any existing aperitif. Just two hours under the “rain of light” dome of Louvre Abu Dhabi, all I could think of was food. All was lost to the most human feeling ever, hanger. A quick look at Google Maps disappointed with only a few exceptionally bland nearby options. Then, a peculiar name popped-up on the screen and a 10 minute countdown to Sushi 99 at the Four Seasons commenced. Grrrrrr…

The drive to Maryah Island, a fancy financial district overlooking downtown Abu Dhabi, from the cultural district of Saadiyat was pleasant with barely any traffic and complimentary valet on arrival. One floor down from the lobby and we were standing right in front of a bronze waterfall, casually serving as a door frame. “Wow,” I thought. “This will be an entrance to remember!”

Other eye-candy placed at the entrance was a giant fish statue with charismatic looks and an ironic eye: “You guys think you’ve seen it all?” This artwork was repeatedly re-printed on beautifully crafted rectangular plates all around the restaurant.

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Sushi 99 starts with a spacious lounge, a golden bar on one side and a glass window opening on expensive looking bottles thoughtfully arranged behind it. The interior décor includes expressive saturated tones and was highly elusive and slightly deceiving, as in my view it didn’t communicate Japanese. Comfy sofas and dark grey ottomans contrasted with vividly red murals and rugs and balanced the warmth of the light. A similar concept continued across the restaurant, and when my eyes adapted to the dimmed light, I started to realize how carefully the Japanese theme was crafted into the otherwise very chic Mediterranean surroundings. Bonsai trees, for example, did the trick for me.

The table was minimalist, with shiny wine glasses, custom-made cutlery and crockery, a piece of art soya sauce jar and an adorable white cookie that, with water, turned into a hot towel. Greatly impressed and stunned, I mumbled to myself something about sincerity, peacefulness, elegance and passion, however a clear voice interrupted my chaotic sentence: “Japanese with Spanish influence. Not vice versa.” The first Sushi 99 opened in Madrid and quickly turned into five locations including Barcelona. The Abu Dhabi bar and restaurant was the first and only establishment abroad. Alrighty!

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A big fan of chic cocktails involving advanced bartending and mixology, I couldn’t resist the temptation to order off the list. So I walked directly to the golden bar and requested to be impressed. Sergey, who immediately accepted the challenge, served me a tall glass filled with a refreshing, punchy mix with everything Dubai girl dreams of (fresh raspberries for example). My second drink, an exotic Mojito put together by Yuli, featured passion fruit as the main ingredient. Yumm!

The repeated theme of passion (think interiors, art and fruit) came up while ordering. Once the menu was open, our hostess started a conversation describing dishes, ingredients and cooking secrets to us. They source the world’s best and freshest ingredients. Their Spanish tuna was so incredible that some parts resembled a marbled Wagyu steak. Don’t believe me?

I placed myself in the hands of the very competent team to feed us with no regrets. Salted edamame, a complimentary starter, got me into sampling mood and the dinner began. It took the first dish, a juicy crab served in its shell, to announce my verdict: absolutely amazing. The best I’ve had in life, and a little spoon on the side made scooping easy.

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A few other masterpieces tasted that night included: spicy tuna tartar with a secret Japanese sauce, foie gras rolls topped with sweet raspberries, a selection of salmon sushi flambé with slices of browned lime a top, and slices of tuna soaked in a trio of sauces – coriander, passionate fruit and soya. This was the moment the chef stopped by our table to grate fresh wasabi right in front of us, melting my heart completely.

While we were savouring these luxuries to our senses, the breeze occasionally blew through the open panoramic windows adding a touch of wildness to the experience. We selected a pot of green tea with mochi ice-cream as a final touch to the dinner and sipped the night away. I can’t wait to go back!

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P.S. The charismatic looking person casually lounging at the bar is Cris, a fellow blogger and social media influencer. You can find more about him here.

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Cafe Bateel 10 years

Starting of as a producer of gourmet dates and chocolates in 2007, Bateel has rapidly transformed into a well-known brand, loved for traditional Arabic coffee, French pastry, Mediterranean cuisine and luxury gift boxes packed with tempting goodies.

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To celebrate its 10th anniversary, Bateel chefs designed a seasonal menu available at all branches including their flagship store in JBR. That’s where I went for lunch after spending the morning at the beach.

Being right at the beginning of this popular neighborhood, Bateel JBR is quicker to reach than the rest of the development due to less traffic. Customers get two hours free parking at Murjan Tower 1 and there is indoor and outdoor seating with free WiFi.

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The menu introduces several signature dishes designed for the occasion, seasonal variations of all-time favorites and a few call backs from previous editions.

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The 10th anniversary menu consists of locally sourced ingredients with a focus on regional flavors rather than traditional Mediterranean cuisine. This trend is continued, adding mildly spiced curry, saffron and tabbouleh to otherwise conservative dishes.

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Superfood tuna salad pleasantly surprised me with a dash of roasted garlic that wasn’t listed in the description but was hidden among the fresh lettuce, house-cured olives, avocados, pine nuts, cherry tomatoes and slices of beautifully pink tuna. Seasoned with light apple vinegar, it was an ideal choice for a starter as it triggered an appetite for more. Apparently it was available on the menu in the past, and if you are looking to try a completely new creation, the Bateel Palm salad is a great alternative.

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Lobster rigatoni made of slowly cooked Canadian lobster in light creamy curry sauce was delightfully fragrant. Fresh coriander leaves added lovely drops of green colour and perfectly balanced the zestiness of the lemon.

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Sea bass served on a bed of saffron risotto was tender and tasty. Large asparagus cooked in a pan added crispness and tartness to the dish.

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My dessert, paired with dark coffee, was made of premium beans and as delightful as the whole lunch. A Tarte Azelia greatly benefited from bits and pieces of roasted hazelnuts and the Emoji Tartelette and Passionfruit Strawberry Tart had a lovely contrast of sweetness and sourness that were just excellent.

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Wake up in Paris and brunch @La Cantine du Faubourg, Dubai

Run every Saturday from 12pm-4pm, the cost of brunch with soft drinks starts at AED 250, which I found rather irresistible. A big fan of Dubai’s brunch culture, I had extremely high expectations for La Cantine du Faubourg. They managed to surprise right at the entrance, looking casually chic in silk pyjamas and perfect hair.

“It’s wake up in Paris and celebrate”, explained my hostess while walking me to Room 3, a cheeky name for every in the house. A real queen size bed with luxurious cotton sheets and big fluffy pillows was set in the middle of La Cantine looking irresistible.

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In the best traditions of Parisian breakfast, a basket of freshly baked pastry was brought paired with a strong cup of coffee, butter and jams. While I enjoyed sipping coffee and studying the menu, the DJ at the bar started playing tunes. The place filled up steadily and by 1pm was filled with the air with cheers, giggles and happy conversations.

When selecting dishes I focused on slightly complicated creations with ingredients hard to find in Dubai: tuna ceviche, cured meat, grilled octopus and salmon carpaccio. I had no doubt that the greatest culinary experience awaited me. Everything I tried was absolutely delightful with my favourite dish being an aubergine gratin with dark tomato sauce and a generous amount of parmesan.

Around 3pm the music got a little louder, moving crowds closer to the bar and on to the beautiful terrace expected to be officially open soon.

Freely flowing mocktails and cocktails kept the party going. I spotted a server in a kimono and dark sunglasses; I realized that the ambiance resembled the vibe from James Bond’s adventures with a mix of spontaneous adventure in the air. Happy to the tiptoes, I savoured my desserts and tried to memorize every second of that beautiful day.

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Break the sky @At.mosphere Dubai

In many ways Dubai is the most eccentric city in the world. Home to driverless subways, the largest malls, warmest sea, safest environment, the most expensive coffee and the tallest building, it always keeps visitors on their toes, overwhelmed with experiences all year (even when thermometer jumps to +50C). The one truly unmissable attraction is the Burj Khalifa, a tower that holds to the world’s record of 828m since 2010. Dubaians believe if you haven’t been to Burj Khalifa you haven’t really seen Dubai. Many opt to book a tour to the top but there is a better and tastier way to experience it, – At.mosphere.

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Located on the 122nd floor, a minute ride on a rapid elevator, Atmosphere is divided into two establishments: a lounge for high-tea, pre- and post-party drinks, and a luxurious restaurant with private dining. Needless to say the view is fantastic from every window.

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Depending on time, weather and position of sun and moon, the view around Atmosphere changes dramatically making it the most exciting destination to explore the ever-expanding Dubai.

Being a frequent guest of Atmosphere’s lounge for high-tea and pre-dinner cocktails, this time I stopped in to experience the newest breakfast menu created by chef Christopher Graham, formerly of Jumeirah Group hotels.

Atmosphere states the dress code as casual, but I prefer to wear a slightly ridiculous outfit because my photo memories are expected to be spectacular!

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The interior resembles the vibe of London decor with polished wooden panels, reflective aluminum columns, shiny glass, panoramic windows and patches of warm red light here and there.

The new breakfast menu consisted of pre-set dishes paired with eggs as well as tasty delights like organic greek yogurt parfait, waffles, crepes, jams and vanilla butter (with real crushed vanilla).

In terms of cost, it’s quite flexible. The minimum spend is AED 200 per person (window tables are subject to availability upon reservation). A special 35% discount is offered on Decadence Menu (yumm) for guests with a valid Emirates ID card.

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Day & Time: Daily, from 7am to 11am (last arrival time is 10am)

Price: Decadence Menu – AED 325 per person (UAE residents can enjoy 35% discount with their Emirates ID), Prestige Menu – AED 525 per person and À la carte – Dishes start from AED 60. Children below 5 years can dine for free (ID required with date of birth). Children aged 6-10 years are entitled to 50% on Decadence Menu only (ID required with date of birth).

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Mosaico lounge @Palazzo Versace Dubai

Set in a spacious main lobby, the Mosaico lounge is the heart of the Palazzo Versace. With overall tones of gold and red, it’s fashionable in every design detail from textiles to crystal chandeliers.

The first impression is one of being transported to the galleries of the ancient Rome. Panoramic floor to ceiling windows allow for lots of light and an open view of the central pool and Dubai Creek.  Elegance is literally in the air!

I opted to hide at the lounge during the hottest time of the day as Mosaico is a perfect location for a cup of morning coffee or 5 o’clock tea.

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Spice it up, Farzi Cafe in Dubai

After two months in Toronto I was homesick for Dubai. There is one characteristic to expat life in the UAE found nowhere else: Dubai people create a fantastic ambience of “the show must go on”. And I missed it bitterly. Unsurprisingly, after conquering my ghastly jet leg it was time to hit up the local social life.

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A big fan of everything party and spicy, I decided to revisit Farzi Cafe at City Walk for lunch, as my breakfast there back in April was unbelievable. As they say, “eat here, or we will both starve”.

Farzi Cafe represents a modern take on the art of cosmopolitan cooking. It’s a mix of colours, flavours, cultures and spices with a dominant Indian theme. Committed to bringing Indian food back “en vogue”, they add a touch of a lovely ridiculousness to the art of serving, as drinks and dishes usually have an unexpected twist. The Farzi Team creates the illusion of spontaneity, but believe me everything they offer is a result of hard work and design.

By 1pm on Saturday afternoon Farzi Cafe was packed, contrasting with the hot empty streets of City Walk. Life does move indoors from May to October in Dubai! Fortunately I had a reservation, otherwise my name would appear on the long wait list. The cooling waves of air-conditioning installed at the entrance chilled a hot head like me and I noticed the cheerful buzz of happily fed crowds enjoying themselves.

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To spice things up, I ignored the menu and asked my server Aditya to just feed me. Well, I did clarify how little a model eats plus we discussed potential food risks and allergies. So the magic began! After a complimentary appetizer made of chilled mango burst into a drop of yogurt in my mouth, cotton candy was transformed into a watermelon cocktail revealing a little green leaf at the bottom. I’m guessing it was basil.

Savory shrimps in creamy chili sauce with foam was my next dish, followed by incredibly fragrant mushroom ragout served in an apothecary bowl with an overwhelming aroma of truffle oil pouring out of a long bovine nose. What can I say except they were absolutely amazing! Very tender at first bite, but wait for the heat of freshly crashed black peppers to tease your taste buds. It will happen!

As a further surprise, a model vintage truck arrived carrying my butter chicken burger. However my favorite dish came next. Set in a crescent plate, on a layer of mashed potatoes, rested pieces of roasted lamb and golden potatoes seared with crunchy beetroot chips. Watercress herbs added bright green colour to the dish.

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My main course consisted of cheese naan, mutton biryani and chicken tikka. Exceptional through every bite, it was the presentation that got my complete attention. If only I could eat for two!

My dessert, a traditional yet contemporary gulab jamun, arrived in a cloud of fog. Right in front of my eyes, in a bowl of dry ice, a serving of vanilla ice cream was created and placed around warm gulab jamun. Frozen rose petals, crushed pistachios, berries and strawberry syrup made it the most irresistible dish.

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So good to be back in Dubai!

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Click here to learn more about Farzi Cafe.

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Coya, a bite of Incan Heritage

On July 12, Coya, a contemporary Peruvian restaurant and landmark of the Four Seasons resort on Jumeriah Road, was the hottest place in Dubai. In preparation for the annual La Noche Blanca, a magical event that combines Latin music, food, drinks and entertainment, Coya transformed into the Garden of Eden.

Being a big fan of the city after-dark, I could’t resist the temptation of partying the night away. Luckily the “white” dress code was easy to follow in July, limiting my “getting ready” time to a matter of minutes. Let’s see: voluminous hair, high heels, a touch of highlighter on cheekbones and shoulders, bright red lipstick, goldfish purse and my “fancy Dubai girl” look was complete. Well, almost. Please consider a pair of Angel wings that I borrowed at the entrance as the final touch! Yay or Nay?

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Right from the start I knew the night would be a great success (spoiler, sorry!). A long queue of the fanciest cars possible waiting for valet stretched all the way to the bottom of the hill, making it extremely hard for hotel security to keep order. But no one complained! The expectation of a magical night out had loosened the mood, and smiles were shining from every corner.

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As many, not to say all, I was completely blown away by a fantastic work of florists and the event team. The mesmerizing effect was achieved by millions of flower garlands “floating” in the air, creating the best possible canvas for light to play on. I was speechless, breathless and really anxious to discover more.

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Indoors, surrounded by vibrant Incan colours, I continued looking in amusement from one side to another being slightly pushed by the crowd in the direction of a busy bar.

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The place was a dream!

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Moving away from the crowded bar to my table, I started paying attention to the bespoke furniture paired with carefully selected pieces of art, traditional and very modern, tastefully placed throughout the space.

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It was hard not to notice a very authentic feel to Coya, intentionally or unintentionally created with decorative objects that encouraged guests to interact, explore, ask questions and feel hungry for more.

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Before I could ask any questions, a glass of Moet sparkled in my hand and the feast began!

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Meant to be shared, the Peruvian cuisine at Coya is moderately spicy and pleasantly colorful. The ceviche mixed right in front of me was a real delight with its zesty sauce and freshest ingredients. Grilled chilly peppers were so tender and sweet that I accidentally exceeded my fair share. I was told the majority of ingredients were imported from Peru and the rest locally sourced.

To stop further teasing your growing appetite, I’ll just tell you that all dishes on the menu were absolutely excellent and delightfully unique. Compliments to the chef and the entire team for serving an incredible cultural experience like no other!

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Find out more about Coya right here or on Instagram I hope you’ll get the table!

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Sunset Street Feast, #AZtory

Of all the Iftars I recently attended in Dubai, there was one that evoked a mix of emotions and a long series of photographs. It’s all started with the sound of powerful cannon operated by Dubai police in front of the tallest tower, Burj Khalifa. Legend says the tradition of firing Ramadan cannons dates to Ottoman Empire, when the sound announced the end of fasting. Today it’s only a symbolic gesture. The first cannon was fired in the UAE at the beginning of 19th century in Sharjah.

The cannon we observed in Burj Park wasn’t simple or shy.  Made in the UK in 1945 it looked as good as new but sounded a lot louder. I was 20 meters away however faced all the consequences of the sudden explosion. Prior to the demonstration I took photos with a charming UAE military officer in a smart uniform that resembled my outfit. When the ceremony was over, packaged Iftar meals were distributed among the spectators.

Amused by my astonishment, Zainab (you remember that brilliant girl, do you?) suggested we must go back to the Old Dubai to immerse in the true spirit of Iftar, witnessing people breaking fast right on the streets. So I charged my camera’s batteries, cleared the memory card and was ready to snap.

Wearing beautiful scarf “Distant Lands” by Wyilda 

From Baniyas square we crossed the street towards Deira, moving away from heavy traffic and into little alleys. The rule in the UAE says no drinking, eating, smoking or chewing is permitted during day time in month of Ramadan. Zainab’s last meal was around 3am and my discreet sip of water was right before I met Zainab however I was literally dying of thirst.

Zainab didn’t seem to mind the weather. She bravely led our expedition further and further between buildings and random pedestrians.

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Our first stop was in the front of a local mosque. I was surprised how many people were gathered for Iftar. They were busy helping with improvised tables, distributing meals and arranging seats for themselves and friends.

I wondered where all the women were. So Zainab took me around to a little hidden space.

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It took me a while to find Zainab.

After all the recent fancy dinners I’ve attended, it was very interesting to see the simpler side of dining at the sunset. Strangers offered me a bottle of water, dates and an opportunity to share their meal. I held tight to Zainab. She was my everything (again) in the middle of the old Dubai.

The prayer started and the feast began. I finally got to my bottle of water and believe me it was the sweetest sip ever!

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Only debris served to remind of the great feast that just happened in front of us. We  rushed to a nearby restaurant using the great Dubai metro of course 🙂

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P.S. I’m wearing a beautiful silk scarf by Wyilda, “Distant Lands”. Get yours here 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#AZtory: Gold, spices and textiles, part 3

Like Alice in Wonderland, who ran after the White Rabbit to escape the boredom of her world, I followed the lady in the black abaya, worrying how easy it would be to loose her in a crowd of other ladies… Read Part 1 #AZtory and Part 2 Old Dubai 

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Despite hostile summer weather conditions, noisy traffic and a nagging companion (me), Zainab never looked back pushing us towards the wilderness of the old souks. “Keep up with me, Anna. The “City of Gold” lies on the other side of this bridge. I bet you’ve never seen anything like it.”

Zainab’s alluring voice triggered my ever conscious curiosity. Following Zainab was a challenge. One moment she walked right in front, the next – she vanished from my radar caught in a circle of similarly dressed people. Plus it took me a while to realize Zainab valued a good photo opportunity higher than a chitchat (even with a super famous blogger like me).

Third stop: Gold market

For half a century Dubai was referred to as the “City of Gold” by those who praised its fantastic development from a little peaceful harbour to a busy futuristic hub where everything unimaginable turned possible.  Zainab intended to amaze me with the materialization of the literal meaning, showing me streets and corners shining with the precious metal.

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“Watch out,” a deep voice suddenly interrupted my random philosophical thoughts mixed with walking and texting. “Young generation!” added the same voice annoyingly, but to me it sounded like a wonderful compliment. I happily rushed away leaving my Generation X status in the air.

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When we successfully crossed the street, gold was everywhere! It happily rested in the rays of the midday sun, smiled with a million rainbows through the panoramic windows of miniature stores, winked at me reflected in street mirrors, and sweetly whispered from every corner: “Take me home, Anna. I’m your precious.” Swirled with temptations I backed away, allowing Asian tourists and Zainab to produce quality photo memories.

When Zainab found me hiding from my inner spontaneous shopper, I was ready to leave. Empty-handed fortunately for my budget. A big fan of glamorous jewellery, Zainab looked a wee bit disappointed with my sudden meltdown, but my promise to be a lot more engaging at the textiles market seemed to reassure her and we continued (spoiler, I lied).

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Forth stop: Textiles and garments

Obsessed with online shopping and luxury retail, my feelings towards fashion from the streets of Deira were rather skeptical and in full contrast with Zainab’s excitement. I noticed a dominancy of natural fabrics made of cotton, silk and cashmere topped with a generous choice of bright attractive colours. Pretending to be interested I looked for the first opportunity to escape. The weather however made me reconsider. Surprisingly, all the tiny stores on all sides of the souk turned out to be air-conditioned and blasting a desirable chilled air in all directions. To Zainab’s delight, I happily followed her inside (however for a different reason) and practiced the competitive art of bargaining. With a bit of experience I’ve discovered that a simple Arabic phrase “Mafi fulus” (I’m broken) would gain me a so desired space in the busiest market even in peak hours. So I didn’t hesitate to use it again and again to Zainab’s amusement.

When we were leaving, Zainab’s hands were no longer empty. With numerous little gifts for family and friends she portrayed a very kind social person, especially when compared to me, who believed that my IG posts were the best presents imaginable. I told her so and she laughed. “Anna, let’s catch a boat to the other shore of the Creek. I want to see if the fragrant smell of Iranian saffron inspires you to cook for friends tonight.” It was my turn to laugh, but the word “Iranian” caught my attention.

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Prior to embarking we stopped to admire the courage of traditional dhows crews (cargo ships) traveling around the Gulf and further. The legend says they sail all the way to Iran carrying the wonders of Persia aboard, but perhaps it was just a modern take of “One Thousand and One Nights” tales 🙂

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We walked to the docks, joined a group of people waiting to cross, and comfortably nested on wide the benches of the traditional wooden boats, abras. The cost of our trip sounded surreal as there was practically nothing one could purchase with 1 Dirham in the UAE (soft ice-cream at McDonald’s was raised to 2 Dirhams). Thoughts of the fresh sea breeze, an adventurous ride and beautiful aqua blue waters occupied our happy minds. For the first time I no longer wanted to run away.

Fifth stop: Spice souk

The Spice Souk greeted us with a variety of colours, textures, smells and shoppers: locals, expats, tourists and residents rushing from one side of the market to another.

“Careful, Anna,” Zainab warned me when I stopped to stare at a curiously looking thing. “Not all you see are spices. The blue balls are dye used to magically turn your casual white pants into jeans”. I was speechless!

I demanded a further explanation and we stopped at Nasser Ali’s for a deep insight in the world of spice, dye and everything fragrant.

When the time came to say good-bye I didn’t want to. Instead I tricked Zainab into promising to see me again to continue our endeavors discovering the secrets of Zainab’s motherland.

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P.S. I am wearing a beautiful silk scarf by Wyilda, “Spring Roar”. Get yours here

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The New Address Hotel, Boulevard Dubai

Last night, on the way to Iftar dinner with a friend who makes this world a better place, we had an opportunity to explore the new Address Hotel and Residences at the Boulevard Downtown.

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With its central location a few minutes away from major landmarks, and views on the tallest tower Burj Khalifa, the Address Boulevard is already a sought after place to stay in the city. Not to mention New Year’s Eve!

Through the glass door we went with expectations of a hearty dinner, and unexpectedly stood still looking around at the little details. The interiors opened up in a beautiful bright space filled with comfort and lots of fresh air. High white ceilings, elegantly decorated walls, and crystal lamps paired with patterned marble floors created an illusion of a private residence lost in the era of Art Deco.

The dinner was served in a spacious Ballroom at a long communal table surrounded by mouthwatering desserts, chilled refreshments and aromatic Arabic coffee.

The feast began after the sunset, and from the first minute we completely lost count of the endless array of irresistible dishes placed in front of our eyes.

Accompanied by the sounds of Oud, the dessert tasted sweeter than ever.

By the end of the evening I really envied the guests who were so well looked after at this beautiful new hotel and residences.

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