Enigma @PalazzoVersace, Dubai

At the lobby level of Palazzo Versace, with indoor and outdoor seating facing the main pool and magnificent Creek (especially at night), Enigma delivers on its namesake, “delightfully mysterious”. So did my incredible gown from Si Fashion Galerie.Si Fashion Galerie.

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It’s best to call it contemporary Turkish with warm Mediterranean influence, reflected in the ingredients, flavours, colours and distinguishable Versace prints.

The installation of branded wall mirrors result in dramatic reflections of candlelight and exteriors, creating an Ottoman palace effect. The soft fabrics used for seating arrangements including pillows, sofas and chairs create a “divan culture”.

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Signature cocktails, designed around everyone’s favourite beverages and well-known landmarks like Constantinople and Bosporus, show the bartender’s obsession with the history (of the world and drinks).

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One can never underestimate the freshly baked fluffy bread with crispy edges and sesame seeds, paired with a selection of sauces, including my favourite tomato and red peppers, sweet pear puree and sliced marinated to crisp onions.

The real magic starts when the chef appears with a long serving table and house cured meat, pastrami layered with black pepper, fenugreek, anise, bay leaf, white pepper and obviously a secret ingredient. While the chef slowly slices pastrami on white plates carved of stone, he engages in a conversation explaining the magic behind the softest and the most fragrant piece of meat one can dream of.

But the masterpiece of the night was octopus, cooked in a vacuum pot for as long as five hours, then quickly seared on a hot pan.

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I’m wearing a beautiful tight gown from Si Fashion Galerie.

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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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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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Night out at Zahira, H Hotel Dubai (it’s closed)

When the sun is shamelessly, endlessly bright, and temperatures above 40C, Dubai summer life eventually moves towards shady evenings. Fortunately most places stay open until midnight and safety on the streets is impeccable.

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During the month of Ramadan there is always something exciting going on after sunset, opportunities to give back to the community, night swimming experiences with a view on Burj al Arab, photographing the street life in the Old Dubai, watching a thoughtful movie screened as a part of DIFF 365 (Dubai International Film Festival all year round), or catching up with incredible people over a heartwarming meal.

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I love to eat. Here’s a confession: I love food more than photography and red lipstick, completely neglecting the latter when a beautiful steaming bowl of soup appears in front of me. You may not believe it, judging by looks, but it’s an absolute “veritas”. That’s why I couldn’t resist but go for an incredible Iftar offer at Zahira, a very well reviewed recent addition to local “fancy eating out”.

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I entered intense WhatsApp correspondence looking for a fellow skinny foodie available on a short notice. Likely SylviaSylvia was in town and a few texts later, mostly about fashion with a focus on “I have nothing to wear”, we set a date.

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Without prior agreement on dress code, we both showed up wearing black. Sylvia chose a long flowy maxi dress and I styled a new little black dress from Dubai-based online fashion store Trovea. What do they say about great minds? Dress alike 😉 ?

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Zahira caught my attention partly because of its location in H Hotel, famous for futuristic design with elements of Art Deco. H Hotel represents eclectic, vibrant and dynamic hospitality, and we’ve expected “nothing less but more” making our way to Zahira.

It was Dragana’s dazzling smile at the entrance that settled all non-existing doubts and put us in the right mood for a beautiful evening ahead.

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Our table was pre-set with a bottled of chilled mineral water, little plate of dried fruits, nuts, and short, easy to digest menu by chef Greg Malouf.

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Waiting for the beginning of Iftar, we spent time studying the surroundings. Our eyes were fully occupied, wondering around ceiling, walls and unconventional art radiating great taste and humour.

It was like magic when mezzas started appearing. Moroccan style Harissa with labneh, a dash of fresh red chilly, smoky moutabbal served on a stone plate, crunchy soft chicken pies, tempura made of fresh zaatar, halloumi fondue with oregano, freshly baked Arabic bread and a very interesting dish called Fatima’s fingers (I’m saying nothing, you need to discover it for yourself).

What a feast! All starters had 3 qualities in common: light, appetizing and incredibly tasty. It was a combination of Arabic food I’ve never tasted before. Zaatar tempura was served with a side of tiny fried fish with a dipping sauce to zest the flavor. Looking for a much needed break between the courses, I dragged well-mannered Sylvia to hang out at the real bar. While James was performing tricks, Mohammad and Tilak had to work twice as hard to get the taps pouring. Tilak was impressively skilled with his throwing technique and Mohammad managed to stay seriously professional under all the stress we caused.

Being nice to bartenders resulted in laughing out loud and a complimentary cocktail. Meet Tilak:

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When the main course landed on our table, I was the happiest person on Earth. In front of me was a beautiful pink salmon cooked 40 minutes using some secret techniques, and a tender lamb wrapped in Arabic bread with rice and nuts, paired with the soothing tunes of Oud.

Our night at Zahira turned out to be fun, entertaining and very very tasty. My advice, save enough space to try their incredible pavlova with marshmallowy center, fresh cream and slices of peach.

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One of the Chef, Troy posing in a distance

P.S. Zahira no longer exists in Dubai

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#AZtory: Anna and Zainab in Old Dubai, Part 1

In the pre-oil era, Dubai was a cosy settlement nested on opposite shores of a salt water Creek known as Deira and Bur Dubai. The Creek played a vital role in connecting the emirate to the region and the world, making it a peaceful harbor for fishermen, merchants, sailors and travelers.

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That’s what Google shows for “Dubai in 1950”

Today, Dubai is a city that develops rapidly with incredible acceleration but nonetheless loves its past and history. Dubaians take pride in preserving old buildings, opening museums and restoring the Sikkas, narrow streets hidden away from the cameras of tourists in busy districts. In Old Dubai, Sikkas resemble little arteries pulsing good vibes and connecting people, places and experiences.

My life in Dubai has had it ups and downs, mirroring the trends of the world’s economy. Realizing how little I had discovered on my own after living in the UAE for twelve years was surprising. Then a few weeks ago the luck smiled down on me when I randomly met inspiring Emirati photographer Zainab who talked me into joining her on a walking / shopping tour of the 5 most important Souks (markets) in Old Dubai – fish, fruit, vegetables, spices, garments and textiles and obviously, gold. I agreed without thinking twice and voila, this is the true story of what happened.

“Anna! See you tomorrow at Rashidiya metro station. 8am or earlier. Zainab,” my WhatsApp cheerfully pinged.

“Metro station? Are you sure? What if I drive?” my replies sounded as confusing as my thoughts. I’ve never used the metro since its opening in 2009 and frankly never intended to. Living in the Middle East taught me to cherish my extended personal space especially while commuting, which I did’t fancy sharing. Driving a reliable fancy car turns out to be a necessity, not a luxury. Zainab meanwhile responded in a non-negotiable manner and went silent, expressing how less she would sympathize with my chaotic emotions.

“Well, metro it is”, mumbled I to myself choosing to wear beige pants, a white tunic with long sleeves and a colorful silk head scarf by Wyilda; hoping to be unrecognizable in that camouflage. The next morning at 8am I was standing on a platform waiting for Zainab feeling extremely proud of my “mission accomplished”. I drove all the way to Rashidiya, conquered traffic, parked and used an escalator to reach the platform. Not too bad for a girl who’s car became her cave on wheels.

Tip: sort out your NOL metro card in advance to avail free parking.

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Zainab appeared on a platform with a warm confidence that only locals portray.

“Anna, where’s your gold card?” Zainab demanded greeting me. I pulled out my credit card in confusion.

“No, no. Metro gold card! Let’s get it quickly and ride in style”.

Finally, I felt relieved. Riding in style was all I wanted, so I happily scurried after Zainab. A few minutes later we were chatting tet-a-tet in a gold class cabin.

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Leaving brilliant Zainab in charge of logistics, I chose to sit back, relax and thoroughly enjoy the view paired with the complete privacy of our voyage. Half an hour later we changed a train and in another 20 minutes stepped out in Deira blinded by a bright sunny morning.

First stop: Fish market

As carrying raw fish on the metro was forbidden, our trip to the market had a more educational purpose than practical. We both shared excitement and curiosity but for opposite goals. Zainab was excited to indulge in real street photography and was curious to visit the fish market prior to its relocation to the Waterfront community. I was excited to watch Zainab, the “Queen of iPhone 7 portraits and boomerangs” in action. There was a secret goal too. Being a “crazy cat lady”, I needed to satisfy my curiosity and count all stray cats sabotaging fish businesses with their cute hungry faces. For some inexplicable reason Zainab was sure my blogging and photography intentions were towards people not cats. I did “my level best” to keep that illusion going.

A few minutes after our stylish entrance, I, avoiding any eye contact, found the most remote corner to spy on Zainab through my superzoom lens, documenting her fearless endeavor through melting ice, chopping and cracking. She didn’t seem to mind any of those, seeking only the pure joy of photography.

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Needless to say, my scheme fell apart pretty soon and my camouflage failed me too, as I ignored a fact we were the only two girls “shopping”. The whole market was able to point out my hiding spot to Zainab when she looked for me. To say she was disappointed was to say nothing! She frowned, giving me a stern studying look:

“Anna, listen. You are not a fish, you interest no one. Your options are: interact with people closely or halas, I’ll tape your zoom”.

Then she gently pulled my arm to illustrate the decision was made. That’s when I found myself in the middle of the fish cleaning area staring at heads, tails, fins and other scary attributes of that fishy business.

“Anna, yalah, I’m watching you,” Zainab’s voice insisted. Chop, chop, chop, click, click, click, we all worked in unison…

To be continued…

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Blue Lagoon, Intercontinental Dubai Marina

A few weekends ago I secretly stuffed my shiny LV suitcase, left a lot of extra water for my ever-hungry cat Freddie and ran away from my friends, work and routine. Don’t worry guys, it didn’t affect my Instagram community as they are the real family and impossible to part with, right :)?

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For the purposes of extreme privacy I selected one of the most popular hotels in one the most public-friendly Dubai areas, Intercontinental in Dubai Marina, right when a huge group of Instagrammers from Kuwait stormed the city. Can you spot me?

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The Intercontinental in Dubai Marina is a place with a view. Conveniently located between The Marina and The Beach, the hotel’s design contrasts with the gold skyscrapers on one side and fancy yachts on the other. Right from the entrance the interiors surprise visitors with high ceilings, and minimalistic simple colours that create a magnificent additional space to breathe, walk and enjoy a moment. Stunning!

At check-in I obviously pretended to be new to the city and was dully briefed on all nearby attractions (spoiler: many) and dangers (spoiler: none). Frankly over-shopping is one of the tourist traps I always fall into. However it was a look at my key that made me realize I was in for a treat. What’s your favorite number?

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The 13F didn’t disappoint. I walked into a spacious room with a view on deep blue water where busy boats left wavy trails behind and a party vibe, breaking reflections of skyscrapers and fancy towers.

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Despite high humidity, the balcony’s attraction was irresistible resulting in my room turning into a sauna.

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And what a room it was!

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Equipped with essentials including iron, complimentary mineral water and a Nespresso machine, it also featured fresh fruit, toiletries and Instagram themed macaroons. Spoiler: they didn’t last…

Satisfied with my lodging, I went on a walking tour around the premises looking for cool shots and hot snacks. I discovered’ em all strolling amongst futuristic art objects installed here and there. Don’t miss complimentary cookies and dates served with traditional Arabic coffee offered at the lobby (I wasn’t shy).

The staircase led to me up and down to irresistibly looking bars and restaurants. Ginter with retro furniture, glass displays and gin themed cocktails, Marina Social and popular night out destination Ynot.

With a few hours to spare before dinner I changed into my fanciest swimwear and hurried to the beautiful terrace with a pool overlooking the busy waters of Dubai Marina. I instantly called it the Blue Lagoon for its incredible shades of this warmest colour.

While the sun was setting the blue intensified creating an eye-candy of photography including breathtaking views on Marina.

Inspired by street lights, I adorned myself in sparkles, crystals and other shiny things. Then I headed to Ynot to eat and party, shamelessly taking an advantage of their Thirsty Thursday offer (more here). It was nice to chat with oft sought after chef Ioannis, known for his good taste in food and humor. Apparently he often makes an appearance to check how quickly guest clear their plates and glasses. Spoiler: instantly 🙂

So I turned off my phone, brewed a cuppa and soaked offline…

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Looking for more? Head to the official site of Intercontinental Dubai Marina – here. 

Good night!

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Taste of Arabian Hospitality, Ewaan

The new moon has been sighted and tonight is the start of Ramadan in the UAE. Regarded as a spiritual fasting month of giving and sharing, for many Ramadan is a time to focus on personal development, family life and wellbeing of a community. As an expat, I really enjoy observing the little changes happening in local life: extended shopping hours, the aura of concern around women rushing home with groceries, the excitement everyone shares when offices close two hours earlier, the beauty and the warmth created by colourful lanterns lit at every corner, and the happy sparkles in the eyes of local kids expecting sweet treats at dinner. I love the tradition of gathering for Iftar, a dinner at sunset shared together after a long day without food or drinks. Ewaan at Palace Downtown hotel serves Iftar buffet in the best traditions of Arabian hospitality and creates an unforgettable moment of unity people, flavors, dishes, species and tastes.

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The experience starts with a warm Marhaba (welcome) and a lovely cup of Arabic coffee or a chilled drink made of dried fruits.

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Right at the table there is an extra bottle of water and a serving of figs, prunes, apricots and dates to help conquer immediate thirst and hunger.

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My table was inside the restaurant however another option was to settle on air-conditioned Bedouin tent with a magical view of the  water and and Burj.

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Overwhelmed by a generous selection of dishes and flavors, I walked around talking to staff with  curiosity of a foodie and a journalist. Fortunately no one minded my camera and my plate got heavy in a matter of minutes.

My joy of discovering the dessert section was indescribable. It was the sighting of Moroccan tea brewing at my table that forced me to move away.

Hope you can make it to Ewaan this season and I’m so looking forward to hearing your reviews!

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“The Beach” Dubai – Sun.Tan.Fun

There is no place like The Beach. No-no-no! Being ridiculously delightful with its buzz and glory, the Beach appears suddenly, hidden between construction sites. Made to impress and to splurge on, it transports you to the era of great Austin Powers, where life is a non-stop Carnaval. You do not wanna miss it!

There is no place like The Beach. No-no-no! Being ridiculously delightful with its buzz and glory, the Beach appears suddenly, hidden between construction sites. Made to impress and to splurge on, it transports you to the era of great Austin Powers, where life is a non-stop Carnaval. You do not wanna miss it!

Believe it or not, back in 2009 The Beach looked empty. Getting ice-cream required putting on layers and walking a mile. Splashing in a shower was just a dream.

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Things change… – a movie theater, real grass, top restaurants and a super awesome guy on the left (you rock!).

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Look out for 3-D graffitis and cheeky Instagramers with selfie-sticks.

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For the “feel yourself a celebrity” experience jumping on a camel and enjoy crowds gathering around you with flashing cameras and a scene of awesome tall girl in a questionable outfit waiving at you.

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When the time comes to dive in – choose a shallow spot and use this opportunity to show off your “outfit” and some modeling skills. Folks should notice who is looking good today!

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My favorite way to attract “likes” is either James Bond’s style walk (featured) or Bay Watch run (stay tuned for that one). Warning: do not repeat without sunscreen!

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If your personal trainer follows your feed – stop by not-so-easy-to-find Almaz by Momo restaurant for the best Fruit Salad in town and really tasty Moroccan-style pancakes (only served for breakfast unfortunately).

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End your adventure with posing in front of a beautiful, but well-hidden mural and forward your look to antrestain@gmail.com. I will share the top 5 on Instagram just because “It’s Summer of Love”

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