I write about life as an expat, an adult Third Culture Kid, mom to four TCK's and wife to a Sudanese/Egyptian. Trying to do it all in high heels while navigating sand, traffic, the joys of Multiculture as well as the quirky but fabulous fellow Dubaians.
Oh, and yes, I also write novels when they let me.
|Posted on May 27, 2012 at 12:40 AM||comments (2)|
Recently I wrote a blog post for InCulture Parent, and later it was republished in The Huffington Post.
The article created some mixed responses from the public. I was a little dismayed at the surge of passionate and misguided comments by many who seemed not to understand the point of the article or the message I had meant to share.
Raising a Hijab-Wearing Daughter in a World that Doesn't Understand
When she turned 15, my daughter announced her intention to start wearing the hijab (Muslim head scarf). At the time, we had been living in Qatar for nine years and upon our arrival in Dubai she donned her first veil.
Nothing prepared me for the deluge of feelings that followed. Her soft cheeks, her doe shaped eyes and a perfect nose used to be encircled by a halo of dark brown hair that I tended to lovingly while she was younger. I reminisced about those countless hours washing, combing and braiding it, nourishing it with regular applications of coconut and almond oils. I remembered the way the sun shone off the auburn and gold highlights when she played in the park. I thought of the road ahead of her--how hard it will be, how little she knew of what awaited in the future.
A sense of irrational fear and foreboding enveloped my days following her transformation. It was post 9/11 and the subsequent anti-Islamic sentiment was rampant. Terrible scenarios churned in my mind. What if she became the target of condemnation on our next trip to the U.S. and Europe? What if people looked at her with mistrust, suspicion or simply unkindness? I put together a list of reasons to discourage her from this life-altering decision.
First, she was too young. I wanted her to wait until she finished college at least, in order to have a greater understanding of to what she was committing. On the other hand, since many of her friends were already 'hijabis', I knew this tactic wouldn't work. Second, I felt she needed more information about the path that lay ahead, the difficulties that she might face. Previously, she was an active girl, won prizes in horseback riding, tae kwon do and gymnastics. She was on the swim team. I wondered if the billowing hijab would alter her priorities or stifle her dreams in some way.
The thing that struck me the most once she started wearing the veil was the instant profiling from strangers and those close as well. Some branded her a timid girl whose family probably forced her into this choice. That couldn't have been further from the truth. Others elevated her to almost divine status, as they saw only the virtuous, thinking highly of her every move and hanging onto her every word. Somehow, in a matter of months she had attained the respect of her peers and family that takes other teenagers years to achieve.
Her impish locks disappeared beneath the length of swirling silky cloth. Those dark eyes looked at me, at the world with an assurance, defiance and mostly conviction.
There were times when I was startled by the sight of her in front of the school, books across her chest, a heavy bag on her back, chatting animatedly with other girls, some hijab wearing, others Christian, even Druze.
Who was this girl? I would ask myself repeatedly. And what had she done with my daughter? On sweltering Dubai days, I would worry she was too hot, only to have her tell me calmly that she was fine. She never fiddled with the scarf, never complained when the air was too wet and hot even to breathe. Over time, she experimented and then molded her own version of trendy hijab, manifested by wearing rings on all her fingers, owning an electric guitar and driving my car like a possessed madwoman.
Her European side of the family politely avoided the topic. Some pretended not to notice the obvious change and a few voiced their disbelief, questioning why we would allow this transformation. Even my more liberal Muslim friends and acquaintances swiftly concealed shock when I introduced her. The hijab highlighted the obvious contrast between mother and daughter.
"Did you force her to wear it?" asked a voice shrill with the promise of delicious gossip later on. "But she doesn't have to wear it, you know?" from others intending to inform me, a clueless Westerner. In their eyes I detected a flicker, a hint of blame as if somehow I must be responsible for my daughter's "suffering".
After all, they whispered, aren't those who wear the hijab usually forced to? Aren't they all dominated by male relatives, society and overzealous imams?
Their ignorance exasperates me, because I know a Salha, a Nadia and a Zahra and many other young girls who have adorned themselves with the veil on their own volition. Many third culture kids yearn to belong. In the absence of a parents' homeland comes a sense of displacement, of questioning just as many other teenagers might question their very existence. Some find their identity in their faith.
As a Muslim convert, my path has been different from my daughter's--an amalgamation of experiences and influences resulting from my years spent as the stepdaughter of a Muslim, growing up in a Muslim country and embracing Islamic culture and later, a Muslim husband. Even though each of us practices our religion in her own unique way, the two of us make perfect sense to each other.
Mine is a moderate, spiritual view. In a religion of rules, I follow the ones that speak to me in the most sincere form. I believe in the good in each man, child and woman, I trust that God is looking out for us. I know we are all loved.
My daughter practices hers on her own free will. She fasts and prays and has an unshakeable trust in the words that rise from the Quran. Hers is a journey galaxies away from mine, the strength of her character evident by her dedication to a lifestyle that is by no means easy in today's world of skeptics. I admire her courage and wish I could have some of it too.
Wherever her life might take her, she will make her own way, her own choices as she always has. And then, she will stand by them. Her joyful certainty has me humbled. I'm in awe of her tranquil composure, her highly held head on which a delicately swirling, tenderly wound hijab rests like a crown. She carries it proudly, unflinchingly, unapologetically.
As she rushed to board her plane a couple of months ago, I followed her with my eyes. A sparkle caught my attention. I smiled at her newly bought earrings, the scarf that was coming undone in her haste.
That's when I saw it. A single tendril of dark hair caressing her neck lovingly.
She turned, blew me a kiss and was gone.
This piece first appeared on the website InCultureParent.co
|Posted on May 17, 2012 at 8:10 AM||comments (0)|
I have neglected my blog badly in the last few months. I have been a bad bad blogger
Sometimes, however much you might like or try you just can't get it ALL done. At least I can't.
The last few months flew by. Mama was here on a long visit. Kids came and went to their respective colleges. A couple of bad health scares which will hopefully and with God's blessing be resolved favorably.
Also I have been writing other things. Columns for online magazines, short stories, working on my new novel etc...
But today I wanted to share some of the things I have been thankful for recently. Introspection is good at times. Seclusion and quiet are conducive to inspiration in my case. They help with acceptance, something that I have been working on for the last four decades.
For some reason on a certain day, with no warning at all you notice that the sun is not hot but caresses your skin, you notice the lady in the mall bathroom smiling at you. And you smile back. You notice enraptured faces of tourists at the mall, taking Dubai's wonder in, appreciating it, and savoring its magic.
Today as I picked up my daughter from school and she tumbled into my arms, long hair and limbs and as I inhaled the scent from her skin…I felt thankful. When she looked up at me adoringly I felt like I was the most loved person in the world. These are the moments when in spite of a frequently harsh world, I feel blessed by so much.
|Posted on December 16, 2011 at 2:25 PM||comments (3)|
Today's post is by Anne O'Connell, the author of the newly released guide book to life in Dubai.
When I moved to Dubai, after living in Qatar for nine years, I felt I needed a helping hand around this bafflingly gorgeous yet conflicting city. I bought a book about relocating found at many bookshops and found it informative.. but I also found it cold and impersonal.
With @Home in Dubai, Anne, however introduces the expat, the newcomer and even the seasoned Dubaiian to some of the hidden gems of information to be found in this city. I loved reading it because it felt like I was with a good friend, a knowledgable friend...as she gently advised, coached and comforted over a cup of coffee while we enjoyed the sunshine at the 'Walk'.
In her usual generous manner Anne has included 'Sleepless in Dubai' among other blogs as one to follow on all things Dubai...
Look forward to many more great writings from you Anne.
Connecting with Your Angels
It’s a pleasure to be here at ‘Sleepless in Dubai’ but I have to honestly tell you that I’m
wide awake! This week’s been wonderfully energizing as I’ve launched my new book
@Home in Dubai and this visit to Zvezdana’s blog caps off a fabulous Virtual Book Tour week.I was going to blog about my own sleepless nights as I was trying to settle into living in Dubai over four years ago now, but I think I’ll switch topics and share with you an amazing discovery I made early on in my expat life that was emphasized so clearly as I’vebeen visiting Dubai and expat bloggers this week. Here’s the revelation – expats are a warm, loving, welcoming, helping, crazy, risk-taking bunch! I was reminded just how helpful when so many wonderful people jumped on the band wagon so willing to help get the word out about my new book. I thought back on my first few weeks in Dubai and the angels who swooped into my life offering to take me to get groceries, buy furniture, drink coffee or anything else they thought might help me get settled. It’s one of the biggest pieces of advice I offer in the book… welcome your angels, accept any and allassistance offered and just say Yes!
I hope you enjoy your expat life in Dubai. If you need a little extra encouragement or
advice on how to get it done, I invite you to take a look at @Home in Dubai… Getting
Connected Online and on the Ground.
It’s available now on Amazon
For a sneak peek visit the website at www.athomeindubai-gettingconnected.com.
|Posted on October 24, 2011 at 4:40 PM||comments (8)|
Who says there is no Autumn in the desert?!
Just take a walk through this fantastically decorated foyer at our school and you are transported into a magical world of scarecrows and pumpkins...a season of brown,gold and orange hued leaves and foliage.
Where pumpkins and apples jostle with eggplant and dates in a colorful display. Even the fruit baskets in the city are *multicultural*!
Friendly and cheeky scarecrows peek out of unexpected corners...
Vivid arrangements of leaves, branches and sunflowers....never mind they are not real. I can almost smell the scent of wet, falling autumn leaves..their crunch under my feet as I prance around in the rain.
Oh sweet cool rain. Umbrellas, scarves, even gloves...raincoats...I want them all.
Berries. Who wants some?
Now what would autumn be without the compulsory date offerings?
However imaginary this display might be, the sight is welcome to the senses.
Next week we will have a trip to out *pumpkin patch* at the school.
Situated creatively among the shelves in the school library this year...excited children will navigate the clever and spooky burlap mazes looking for that Perfect pumpkin.
I am almost convinced, almost there...if only because of the cooler temperatures the last few days and an occassional dark cloud. More like a greyish...no...brownish tinge on the horizon.
Anyone else wants to share their autumn experiences from around the world?
Next week : Photos of Halloween and other delights in the City
|Posted on October 13, 2011 at 2:55 AM||comments (11)|
It's Thursday again and time to be Thankful.
I have come to look forward to this weekly post. It causes me to reflect on all the blessings in my/our life.
Living in Dubai. I know, I know…we all hate it May through September, grumble about the heat, lack of rain, The Shimal storms, the runaway maids, the ever changing map of our road systems. Do not forget the traffic and the exasperating individuals who surround us on a daily basis. That nasty taxi-driver who apparently never got his license. Haughty sales women with an attitude. Shallow self-centered individuals who think they are God’s gift to all of us.
Then I compare it to this…
Diversity. Cultural experiences cooked up in a city that rises and swells like a magician’s miraculous potion. A hodgepodge of mind-boggling mixed marriages, intercultural families, religions. Children that come in all these extraordinary ethnic and cultural mixes. On any given day in the hallways of schools, classrooms , offices, at your zumba, Yoga, Pilates class…you once again discover that you have not seen it all unless you live in Dubai.
Serbian/Brazilian combination? Got it. >>> Iranian/Romanian/Chinese? Got that. >>>> Portuguese/Indian/Russian? Got those too >>>>Italian/Swedish/Egyptian/Malay and French? No problem!
The combinations are endless and true.
I grew up in a multicultural environment, lived in many countries populated with remarkable and exotic characters. Yet, every day in Dubai I come in touch with someone with an even more extraordinary, awe-inspiring background.
Opportunity. I have heard this said across town, “Dubai is the Last Frontier”. Just look at the bevy of models and designers at our fashion shows. They have fled the flashing lights of New York, London, and Milan due to lack of opportunity and tough competition. Dubai represents an uncharted scene on which many can reinvent themselves.
There is a chance with hard work and luck. The upcoming arts and music scene in Dubai and UAE is another field that is booming with boisterous fresh talent…A seemingly endless supply of talented young and old, locals and expats display their Art, Writing, Film making, Music, and Comedy skills across the country.
Such an exciting thing to witness and be part of.
Tolerance. Thankful that I live in a metropolis that embraces all of us, regardless of our color, culture, religion, and ethnic background. I hope that our children will learn from their life in such a multicultural/multifaith city and form a new, more tolerant society of culturally sensitive Global Nomads. The world needs them.
I am not trying to idealize life in Dubai. It has its challenges as all places on this planet do. Most of us are here by choice though. Most grow to love it and understand its intricate rules and quirkiness after a year or so. Most learn to embrace the many adventures offered, the many wonderful friendships they made. Some hate it and yearn to leave, only to come back. As fast as they can get their job back.
I am Thankful for all its perplexing, addictive, exasperating beauty.
If you like, share your experiences with multiculture, diversity, and tolerance across the world and from Dubai. I would love to hear them even if you disagree.
|Posted on October 10, 2011 at 8:45 AM||comments (9)|
Ocassionaly, I come across something or someplace worth sharing with the world. This time it's a gem called Zaroob.
I can't say enough good things about this Arabic restaurant on Sheikh Zayed Road. Completely and deliriously addicted to every item on their menu we have sampled their delicious offerings more times than I personally should have, due to my expanding waistline.
Eh, what's a pound or two or three when there is friend halloumi cheese to enjoy right?
The decor thrilled me the first time I saw it. Corrugated aluminum sheets reminiscent of local stalls across the Levant and North African countries line the walls. Across them, bold and colorful images of Sindbad, Captain Magid and Um Kalthoum...
For someone who grew up watching Captain Magid and listening to the iconic Egyptian songstress this was a treat. I like going to restaurants where images of Arnold and Bruce the action heros adorn the walls. But once in a while I like a surprising twist, the unexpected...and I have found it here in the form of an Arabic feisty football playing cartoon character, and the famously heroic explorer, Sindbad.
The restaurant offers Egyptian dishes as well, such as Koushari and Fateer Mushaltat. Kushari is an traditional Egyptian concoction of pasta, rice, onion, lentil, vinegar and chili. The staple of the poor man it is sold from vendors across the country as well as in specialized restaurants. The restaurant boasts an authentic Koshari cart among the other Arabic paranphelia lining the walls.
The Fateer Mushalatat is a must have. Golden flaky pastry, soaked with honey and filled with cream (you can order cheese of meat fateer as well) is served on a wooden tray. I have been dreaming about it at least once a week..it is that pleasing to the palate.
Please try their Karak shai - tea with milk flavored with cardamom...this warm beverage is popular among young and old across the Gulf. On my many trips to Qatar I have been taken out for the sole purpose of having a diminutive tea glass of Karak. It is a tradition and Zaroob serves one of the best I have had.
As if all this is not enough to have one drooling and admiring Zaroob continues to impress with rows upon towering rows lined with jars of pickled produce straight from Lebanon. The manager told us they plan to diversify by selling these in the future. Right now they are for decor purposes.
The staff are friendly and once again uniquely attired in Kefiyeh patterned headbands. In fact the red and white checkered pattern continues on the placemats, the menus and bread baskets....
I took a photo with our friendly and by now very familiar waiter but I was embarassed to post it here as my mouth was filled with either falafel or foul- can't remember which...
So there you have it, my conscience is clear...I wanted to keep Zaroob all to myself but have already taken numerous friends so I guess the secret is out anyway.
If you visit I would love to know what you thought of it.
|Posted on October 6, 2011 at 3:15 PM||comments (2)|
I am having a hard time deciding what to be thankful for this week. There are so many people, events and small blessings to note.
|Posted on September 28, 2011 at 8:00 PM||comments (8)|
It is Thursday again and time for appreciating the little or big things in our world.
It might seem easy but it is actually hard to pick my favorite this week.
I have a list and it goes like this:
This is my list this week. What is yours? Would be delighted if you shared something you are Thankful for this Thursday.
|Posted on September 22, 2011 at 7:50 AM||comments (7)|
Over the last few months, I have been thinking about how much we take our bodies for granted.
We postpone taking care of ourselves for a time more convenient, an occasion better fitting our busy schedules and lives. Seeing a loved one in the biggest battle of their life with a disease and disability jolts us into panic induced action, forcing us to come to terms with our own fears and maybe to make that long postponed visit to the doctor.
This year, a much-loved member of our family was diagnosed with cancer, leaving us all reeling from shock, angry, afraid...desperate for answers yet afraid of them. Nothing has been the same since. Family gatherings have been overshadowed by this presence, a dark cloud of uncertainty hovering over us all, even the little people who ask in whispers…
“Is aunty going to be ok?”
Our previously unbridled laughter…plans to go to the beach, dancing…all feel insignificant somehow…guilty pleasures. Bittersweet moments punctuate life as glances are cast surreptitiously to check whether she is all right, is she tired, in pain… Is she sad that she can no longer join us in our frantic yet halfhearted attempts at cheerfulness?
Therefore, this Thursday...I am thankful for and appreciate our health.
What are you thankful for?
|Posted on August 24, 2011 at 5:25 PM||comments (3)|
Bloggers and social networkers have come up with such events as Wordless Wednesday, Follow Friday, Karmic Friday; Friday reads…maybe some others I am not aware of.
I have decided to start a blog post titled Thankful Thursday.
I checked with some of my Twitter people and they liked the idea. Have not heard of anyone doing this before but in any case I love the thought of devoting a few words and photos to things I am grateful for.
I can think of many but will start with the one most on my mind and progress to the ‘wacky’
as we go on.
I am Thankful this Thursday for…My Children
• The sound of their voices as they gather in the kitchen at mealtime. Chattering, arguing, joking, and perhaps calling each other stupid at some point. Still, I am thankful.
• I am thankful by their clattering around, the often broken dishes, spilled juice on the freshly mopped floor, all in their attempt to set a table to mom's ridiculous standards, all in their hope to please me.
• I am grateful they are home with us, safe…healthy.
• I am thankful that they are kind to others, helpful and well-behaved (well, most of the time)
• I am thankful that they take out the trash, wash the dishes, and chauffeur the younger siblings to play dates and doctors’ appointments.
• I am thankful that they make me a cup of ginger tea when I am sick.
• I am thankful for their messages of support when I am feeling blue, their sweet poems,
and their spontaneous gifting of a ring I have admired in the store…
• I am thankful…for that delicious pumpkin cheesecake that they had baked for my birthday, goofy cards, cutout heart shapes, and music extravaganzas just for my eyes.
• I am thankful that they say their prayers, call their grandmother, and share with those less fortunate.
• I am thankful…for their time, trust, love and patience…
• Most of all I am thankful that I am their mom.
|Posted on August 21, 2011 at 7:00 AM||comments (6)|
I have been away from the blog for a while.
Due to summer holidays, travel and family visiting us in Dubai it has been a busy time. I have also been redesigning the website and made some improvements and changes.
August has been busy again with the advent of Ramadan, a month of fasting and spiritual growth, family and friends gatherings, delicous Iftars (a meal to break the fast) and Suhurs.(Evening meals)
In this post I will be sharing just a few of the many scenes of Ramadan in our home.
Often we just have soup, some fava beans, cheese samosas and scrambled eggs with dates paste. On this occassion we had Italian! My kids love pasta dishes so I take turns catering to everyone's palate and taste.
I like to set a nice table when time permits and more so during this Season. I add baubles and decorative pieces on impulse, it makes me happy to have the family sit down to a visually appealing table.
I also enjoy the sight of light which lanterns cast over a room at any time of the year but during Ramadan and Eid I go crazy using them in the evening before Iftar just to showcase how special this time of the day is. Fasting all day is hard,and a cozy home, a delicious meal and good family and friends make it a pleasant and looked forward to time of the year.
|Posted on April 20, 2011 at 5:35 AM||comments (4)|
When Mohamed mentioned sharks, we sputtered and flailed, trying to make our way nonchalantly back to the safety of the Dhow. Images of him fighting a shark off his thigh imbedded it in our minds. Already his notoriety had risen. He leaned against the wooden plank, narrowed his eyes, and told the story. Apparently, he had been fishing, and while releasing his catch unintentionally spilled some blood. “Sharks like blood,” he said. As if, we didn't know that. Pfft, I thought. It ended well for our captain, as he was obviously well and diving off high beams. In his usual plucky matter of fact attitude, he had wrestled the shark and emerged victorious with battle scars for “show and tell”. What intrigued us even more were his further tales about his tribe, the Kumzari. An ancient Tribe that had settled by the coast of Oman, anglers by profession, the Kumzari spoke a mix of Arabic, Farsi, and Portuguese! Arabic speaking Omanis do not understand the unique language that sounded unlike anything I have heard before. Mohamed proceeded to count for us, and surely, I heard a “Duos” among others. Only much later, back in Dubai would we realize how lucky we were to have him as our guide into Omani culture. A first hand recount of local way of life by a native and heroic Captain Hook! Hours went by as we sailed some more, visited a serene secluded beach, and with a tinge of sorrow anticipated our inevitable return to port. Tired but refreshed beyond words, we said our goodbyes to the helpful and informative captain and our guide. The drive back to Dubai was a hushed contemplative one. Each one of us relived the day in his or her own way. Some still felt the cool crisp water, some, recalled the cheerful dolphin sighting…others nursed a wounded foot wowing to be more careful next time. What I know for sure is that all of us will cherish the incredible day spent among the fjords waves, and tales of Oman.
When Mohamed mentioned sharks, we sputtered and flailed, trying to make our way nonchalantly back to the safety of the Dhow. Images of him fighting a shark off his thigh
imbedded it in our minds. Already his notoriety had risen. He leaned against the wooden plank, narrowed his eyes, and told the story. Apparently, he had been fishing, and while releasing his catch unintentionally spilled some blood.
“Sharks like blood,” he said. As if, we didn't know that. Pfft, I thought.
It ended well for our captain, as he was obviously well and diving off high beams. In his usual plucky matter of fact attitude, he had wrestled the shark and emerged victorious with battle scars for “show and tell”.
What intrigued us even more were his further tales about his tribe, the Kumzari. An ancient Tribe that had settled by the coast of Oman, anglers by profession, the Kumzari spoke a mix of Arabic, Farsi, and Portuguese! Arabic speaking Omanis do not understand the unique language that sounded unlike anything I have heard before. Mohamed proceeded to count for us, and surely, I heard a “Duos” among others. Only much later, back in Dubai would we realize how lucky we were to have him as our guide into Omani culture.
A first hand recount of local way of life by a native and heroic Captain Hook!
Hours went by as we sailed some more, visited a serene secluded beach, and with a tinge of sorrow anticipated our inevitable return to port. Tired but refreshed beyond words, we said our goodbyes to the helpful and informative captain and our guide. The drive back to Dubai was a hushed contemplative one. Each one of us relived the day in his or her own way. Some still felt the cool crisp water, some, recalled the cheerful dolphin sighting…others nursed a wounded foot wowing to be more careful next time.
What I know for sure is that all of us will cherish the incredible day spent among the fjords waves, and tales of Oman.
Share your experiences from Musandam!
|Posted on April 17, 2011 at 2:05 AM||comments (7)|
Musandam Peninsula/ Oman
Taking to the fjords and brilliant blue sea of Musandam in Oman appears to be on top of ‘things to do’ while in Dubai. On that absolutely MUST DO list are also • A desert safari, with the requisite henna application and a belly dance show • A climb or rather a ride to the top of Burj Khalifa, and of course the view • Sampling a delicious spicy Shawarma from Satwa, or other ‘ethnic’ part of town • Kayaking (yes, such an activity exists in the desert) in the mangroves • Haggling for price at least once with an Afghani carpet seller in a Souk • Taking a cool dip in the pools of Hatta among many many others We set out on our ill planned expedition to Oman, on a bright Friday morning with another similarly adventurous and multicultural family of five. Our three hour drive took us through the desert (where else?) and onwards to the magnificently haunting mountains of Oman. Dipping and winding through the mountains we admired the scenery rolling past our windows; barren but imposing mountainscape, conflicting with the shockingly cerulean of the sea below us. We arrived in the little fishing/tourist town of Khasab in time for lunch and Friday prayer. An eerily quiet, tranquil place on a Friday except for a few lethargic tourists, Omanis in white robes on their way to the mosque and a couple of tour agents hunting for clients. Undaunted by no previous lunch arrangements we proceeded to the nearest little food haunt and emerged laden with bags of Biryani rice and the most delectable finger-licking chicken in Oman. While the women triumphantly accomplished ‘Mission lunch’, the men too had been productive and after a few wrong turns landed the right vessel for our sea voyage. A battered but jolly looking Dhow boat also called al Boom awaited us at the pier. At its helm, a brooding 'Captain Hookesque' looking Omani captain, Mohamed. A ripped Omani flag billowed lazily on its stem-post. The course was set, and we sailed out into the clear afternoon. Unused to views of mountains we feasted our eyes on the majestic fjord formations and the playful school of dolphins performing a water dance next to our boat. We inhaled the scent of the ocean, mountains and open space, blissfully rocked by the old Dhow. After two hours of cruising, we arrived at Telegraph Island, an old British post that now served only as a resting point for inquisitive tourists. The children gladly donned swimsuits, snorkeling masks, and fins. We noticed with some amount of surprise our captain in his swimsuit as well. It is not common for them to join in. He confidently proceeded to dive into the sea from the roof of the boat as if it was the most natural thing in the world. Slightly jealous of his skill we climbed down the stairs into the sea clumsily, timidly at first. Some to explore marine life forms, others to inadvertently step on a sea urchin…to splash and giggle madly in the perfect, cool water. “What is that?” I heard one of the kids ask. He was pointing to Mohamed’s thigh in some kind of awe. An angry, painful looking scar stared at us. Smiling widely, Mohamed called us for a closer inspection. “A shark did it.” He announced calmly, reveling in our horror it seemed and in our Ooohs and Ahhhs, in our crazed looks skimming the water for this vicious “Jaws of Musandam”.... More on “Captain Hook” and our Musandam experience coming soon
Taking to the fjords and brilliant blue sea of Musandam in Oman appears to be on top of ‘things to do’ while in Dubai.
On that absolutely MUST DO list are also
• A desert safari, with the requisite henna application and a belly dance show
• A climb or rather a ride to the top of Burj Khalifa, and of course the view
• Sampling a delicious spicy Shawarma from Satwa, or other ‘ethnic’ part of town
• Kayaking (yes, such an activity exists in the desert) in the mangroves
• Haggling for price at least once with an Afghani carpet seller in a Souk
• Taking a cool dip in the pools of Hatta among many many others
We set out on our ill planned expedition to Oman, on a bright Friday morning with another similarly adventurous and multicultural family of five.
Our three hour drive took us through the desert (where else?) and onwards to the magnificently haunting mountains of Oman. Dipping and winding through the mountains we admired the scenery rolling past our windows; barren but imposing mountainscape, conflicting with the shockingly cerulean of the sea below us.
We arrived in the little fishing/tourist town of Khasab in time for lunch and Friday prayer. An eerily quiet, tranquil place on a Friday except for a few lethargic tourists, Omanis in white robes on their way to the mosque and a couple of tour agents hunting for clients.
Undaunted by no previous lunch arrangements we proceeded to the nearest little food haunt and emerged laden with bags of Biryani rice and the most delectable finger-licking chicken in Oman.
While the women triumphantly accomplished ‘Mission lunch’, the men too had been productive and after a few wrong turns landed the right vessel for our sea voyage.
A battered but jolly looking Dhow boat also called al Boom awaited us at the pier. At its helm, a brooding 'Captain Hookesque' looking Omani captain, Mohamed. A ripped Omani flag billowed lazily on its stem-post. The course was set, and we sailed out into the clear afternoon.
Unused to views of mountains we feasted our eyes on the majestic fjord formations and the playful school of dolphins performing a water dance next to our boat. We inhaled the scent of the ocean, mountains and open space, blissfully rocked by the old Dhow. After two hours of cruising, we arrived at Telegraph Island, an old British post that now served only as a resting point for inquisitive tourists.
The children gladly donned swimsuits, snorkeling masks, and fins.
We noticed with some amount of surprise our captain in his swimsuit as well. It is not common for them to join in. He confidently proceeded to dive into the sea from the roof of the boat as if it was the most natural thing in the world. Slightly jealous of his skill we climbed down the stairs into the sea clumsily, timidly at first. Some to explore marine life forms, others to inadvertently step on a sea urchin…to splash and giggle madly in the perfect, cool water.
“What is that?” I heard one of the kids ask.
He was pointing to Mohamed’s thigh in some kind of awe. An angry, painful looking scar stared at us. Smiling widely, Mohamed called us for a closer inspection.
“A shark did it.” He announced calmly, reveling in our horror it seemed and in our Ooohs and Ahhhs, in our crazed looks skimming the water for this vicious “Jaws of Musandam”....
More on “Captain Hook” and our Musandam experience coming soon
|Posted on April 15, 2011 at 7:50 AM||comments (3)|
I had the good fortune of being born to an adventurous, brave woman who was not afraid of…anything it seems.
My mother is the oldest of six sisters, born among the lush forests and by the banks of the Korana River in former Yugoslavia. A descendant of peasants, child of partisans…raised in a bygone era.
Mother had big dreams. She wanted to dance, travel the world, and write stories. She dreamt of living the life of a Texas cowgirl, a Russian ballerina or an Arab princess, even of being tragically in love with a handsome dark skinned Maharaja.
My mother had ingrained these dreams of travel in me. A woman who challenged conventional Balkans of the seventies by marrying an impoverished, African Moslem student, and then followed him to his far away mysterious country. Her zest for travel and thirst for learning about other cultures led her on a series of impulsive travels across Asia, Europe, and Africa with my equally free spirited stepfather…always me, and my sister in tow.
Due to them, I lived in Tripoli, Libya, among other places, a country of magnificent Roman ruins, white beaches, and stunning Mediterranean waters. We spent months in Baghdad, enjoying kebabs and kofta by the murky Tigris. We drove across Serbia, Macedonia, Bulgaria, and Turkey. In Greece, we boarded a ship to Africa, drove across Egypt, and arrived in Sudan after days on a train through the Sahara. My parent’s favorite means of transport were car, ship, and train. We only flew once, to Libya and I hated it.
Since becoming an adult, wife, and mother, I inexplicably found myself following my parent’s footsteps.
Thankfully, I am married to a man similarly undaunted by border, distance, or means of transport.
The two of us have been known to plunk our four grumbling, astonished children into the back of a minivan and proceed on ill planned adventures across the Saudi Arabian desert, the hills of Cappadocia in Turkey, the Adriatic coast of Croatia, Halab (Aleppo) in Syria…across the Sinai etc. We thought nothing of hopping onto a ferry across the Red Sea to visit grandparents in Cairo over Eid break.
In the fashion of my parent’s little thought out expeditions, we would arrive in a remote seaside town in Turkey in the middle of tourist season with no reservations or even idea where we would spend the night.
On occasion, this led to hilarious but more so frightening developments.
Nowadays, with two older children in colleges away from home, and third in line horrified at the prospect of spending any amount of time with us we have reigned in our wanderlust urge a bit.
We only travel within the seven Emirates and to Qatar by car, with the youngest still obediently following us wherever we may go. It was time, however, to finally visit our neighbor, Oman, and particularly Musandam peninsula and see for ourselves what all the fuss was about.
Coming soon: A Tale of Musandam and Captain Hook!
|Posted on March 29, 2011 at 12:30 PM||comments (4)|
A few weeks ago, the members of AWA (American Women’s Association) Philanthropy Committee visited the Al Ihsan Charity in Ajman (UAE).
Al Ihsan Charity is a nonprofit organization, dedicated to help poor and distressed women and children. The charity provides monthly and daily food rations, new and used clothes, furniture, appliances, and other items of need. It provides education to children whose fathers have abandoned them or were unable to provide due to illness or death.
The program assists women and girls in becoming self-reliant by providing sewing and design lessons. The hardworking ladies of the centre sell their beautiful embroidery, tablecloths, pillowcases, flower arrangements, key chains, necklaces and other hand crafts at Art souks across the Emirates.
Older, experienced seamstresses teach newcomers how to design, pattern and sew their own creations. A surprising gold and tulle wedding dress caught my eye among the garments on display. Children’s outfits, jackets, skirts…in vibrant colors and patterns, were displayed proudly on the walls. In one corner another stunning white and sequin wedding dress. The Egyptian seamstress said she had used recycled sequins. Her face glowed with pleasure at our sighs of admiration.
Other creations on display that particularly struck me were ingenious wall pieces made of crushed Pepsi glass bottles.
We crowded into the small laughter filled hallway, buying trinkets, snapping photos and trying on clothes. Some ladies ordered complete outfits from the startled students and teacher in the sewing class…starting their own Designer House perhaps?
An elderly Sudanese woman in the donated food and clothes section inspired me the most. In the sweltering heat, she tirelessly sorted packages of used clothes, shoes, and bags. Across the room, containers of donated bread from wealthy families or bakeries waited for her attention. Yet her energy and optimism were contagious. She smiled broadly, sincerely, gesticulating with her slim worn out hands. Her ever-present smile did not conceal the missing teeth or her wrinkled, sun burnt skin. She seemed happy, proud of the work she did.
Even though depending on the charity herself, aging and far from her home country she appeared happier than some of us who had arrived on that air-conditioned bus from Dubai, in our heels and freshly done hair.
Al Ihsan means kindness. I think we went expecting to give it, but discovered that we had received it in a way that cannot be measured in dirhams.
|Posted on March 20, 2011 at 11:18 AM||comments (2)|
Oh my Goodness.
With the approach of summer in our lovely city it seems as if collective hysteria has gripped its residents. The subconscious fear of searing heat, unbearable humidity, air so hot it hurts to breath in...has created a mad roller coaster of events of hilarious proportions.
The Goal: To enjoy the remaining days of cooler breezes and soft sunshine before they disappear not to be seen again for another eight months.
This month alone, we, the proud residents of Dubai have these options of entertainment should we GASP! feel bored for a mere second!
(((This list is by no means limited to the events listed)))
(I am not even including the Emirates Festival of Literature and Abu Dhabi Book Fair here...)
1. Picnic in the Park
2. Opera in the Park
3. Dubai Street Festival at Marina Walk
4. Dragon boat racing
5. Charity Ball (s)
6. Spring School Fairs ( I am not going to count them all here, but trust me there are many)
7. International School Day Festivities
8. Theater Plays
9. Theater productions for children
10. Ummm can't remember how many concerts...but Usher and Stevie Wonder will suffice here
11. Food Festivals
12. Dance Festivals
13. International Boat and Yacht show
14. St. Patrick's Day celebrations throughout town
15. Friday Market
17. Indian Festival of Holi Celebrations
18. Art Dubai
19. New Gallery exhibitions
20. Last but not least....*drumroll* Dubai World Cup!!! World's richest horse race!
On a more personal note we Busy Bee Dubai Moms have Birthday Parties with the kiddos, Barbeques with the hubbys, Coffees with school moms, Lunches for networking, Dinners with the BBF's, Book Clubs with the book lovers, Writing group with the writers, Philantrophy with the philantropists, dancing with the dancers...etc etc...etc to attend.
I haven't even started on the grocery shopping, cooking, taking your hamster to the vet, the car to the wash, kids to the doc, yourself to the doc...getting the dry cleaning out of the car, up 45 stairs and into the closets, phoning your mother, sister, brother, daughter, son, aunt...friends..Writing that 157th email...Reading, Oh Yes! But not just any old novel! A Literary novel of Booker Prize calibre and then updating your reading list on Goodreads, Shelfari, Virtual bookshelf AND then reviewing above mentioned books....Phew!
Now If one more person tells me they can single handedly cope with the craziness of modern City life while flashing a perpetually blissful bleached smile on their tanned face, I am going to call them a big fat Liar!
|Posted on March 2, 2011 at 4:27 AM||comments (4)|
This dark green leafy vegetable was unheard of in my native Slavonia. When I moved to Sudan my love affair with the dish started. I cook it the Egyptian/Sudanese way where the leaves are finely chopped unlike some other Middle Eastern recipes that use whole leaf mlokhiya.
My Egyptian mother in law cooks her Mlokhiya with roasted pigeons which is how they like it in Egypt. I use beef or chicken. In Sudan, my stepfamily mostly use beef or lamb, and I remember a Sudanese friend who was horiffied to find me using chicken breast in my very own variation!
I use about a kg of beef chopped into cubes. (When I use chicken it is usually whole chicken or thighs, which my kids prefer.)Then, I saute finely diced red onion and garlic to taste.
Then the meat goes in and after sauteing for a few minutes I add water, cardamom,salt and beef stock. Basically, this Mlokhiya recipe is a soup! After the meat is tender I add the either freshly chopped mlokhiya or frozen and defrosted.( Mlokhiya is bought in bundles and I would use two big ones or two packets of the frozen.)
In another pan finely chopped garlic has been fried in a little oil. I pour that on top of the finished dish. I boil white rice with whole cardamom for flavor as a side.
The best salad to go with this in my opinion is Sudanese peanut dressing salad. It is composed of diced tomato, cucumber and onions. The sauce is creamy ground peanut which is freshly pounded in a mortar and pestle in Sudan (Here we use peanut butter) salt, lemon and a little oil. Mix until smooth consistency. Fold into the vegetables. It tastes slightly gooey and delicious.
There is something about the mlokhiya, rice and peanut dressing that compliments each other. A fast and healthy dish that I am happy to feed my kids and husband.
What do you think about Middle Eastern or North African cooking? What is you favorite dish? If you have another variation to this Mlokhiya recipe I would love to hear about it!
|Posted on March 1, 2011 at 2:35 AM||comments (1)|
Driving Driving one hundred and forty miles per hour down Sheikh Zayed Road, is not a recommended venture at any time. Dubai drivers are notoriously aggressive and not very keen on abiding traffic regulations. They behave arrogantly and tend to think of themselves as superior in driving technique than drivers from other emirates, such as Sharjah or Ajman for example; actually, they seem to think that about drivers from any part of the world. They are proud of the fact that they can cope with the crazy daily changing map of Dubai, the constant construction and shifting road structure. They imagine themselves a breed of ‘road warriors’ and behave accordingly.
If you are a newcomer to Dubai, driving will petrify you.
The long-term residents will snort at you haughtily, and make no effort whatsoever to help you. If you happen to make a mistake while getting off the freeway by taking a wrong exit and attempt to do a u-turn, God help you. They will subject you to the worst humiliation in traffic history. From the enraged responses you get, you would think you had murdered somebody!
Grinning sheepishly, trying in vain to charm one of the fed-up drivers into letting you through ahead of him or her is a hopeless act of lunacy in this city.
Hot, tired, hungry, and half-delusional from sitting in traffic for the past three hours the drivers will either ignore you and never let you in, or they will shake their hand glaring at you furiously and blasting their horns.
This might take some time, as you stand there stopping traffic behind you for a mile until some poor soft hearted sod, probably new to the city like you, finally lets you in. You will be so relieved to get out of everyone’s way without getting hurt that you will feel like crying with relief.:/
What kind of experiences have you had while driving in the City? How does driving in your city compare to this?
|Posted on March 1, 2011 at 2:15 AM||comments (0)|
I want to give up on the residents of Dubai. They can be arrogant, rude and self absorbed.
It is not Dubai that is at fault. I have come across the kind everywhere, little pockets of self-indulged, short tempered, meanness across the globe.
However, we are in Dubai now. With the recession, the tide had turned for many. Those who once were carefree and secure, might be angry, frightened. The general spirit of celebration previously seen might have been dampened by the uncertainty of tomorrow for many of us.
Repeatedly, thankfully though, I am reminded of how awesome, gentle and kind these same people can be. An extra special smile from the waiter, his gentleness with your child while they order...
The helpful hospital receptionist who goes out of her way, when others do not. Another kindness towards your child, a pat on her head, a joke, while she arranges for a medical procedure.
There are those odd and rare sympathetic drivers on the roads. The ones who thank you with a wave of their hand when you let them ahead of you in a congested lane. The one who allows you in with a smile when you are half hour late to pick up your child from school. Its a welcome change from the usual sense of entitlement you see on the road.
Most often, it is a total surprise, that gentle, welcoming smile, and has the power to soothe the frazzled, overcome souls in the city. The busy friend, who still goes out of their way to help you. The carpenter who kindly, patiently fixes your door handle for the third time, to your embarrassment. The woman at the school coffee- stand who shows sympathy for your concerns and smiles warmly, even though you have just met. Many. These are just some examples throughout, which reaffirm my faith in the complex but awesome human being.
I might venture out today and battle the many scowling, unfriendly faces in the city today, but I am sure eventually I will get a reward in the form of random act of sensitivity, benevolence, and understanding. I just have to wait and believe.
Share your thoughts or feeback on this post. What sort of Kindness in the City, any city has touched you? What has angered or saddened, bewildered you?