After my session with Randy on Sunday morning, my parents and I went to Wafi Gourmet for lunch. My cousin from New York had arrived the day before and was staying with us. Wafi Gourmet is usually the first place most people in my family want to go when they get to Dubai! We had all our favourites – hummus, baba ganoush, kibbeh, shish taouk, tabbouleh, and more. That night we had dinner at Hoi An at the Shangri-La with more family members. I’d only eaten there once before but the food is great. There are just too many restaurants to choose from in Dubai!
I had yoga on Monday and was home the rest of the day until the evening. I’d found out about a series of talks on the history of Islamic art at Art Sawa in DIFC and was keen to go. I thought it would be different and I’d learn something. The talks took place over 5 weeks:
- Week 1 – The origins of Islamic art
- Week 2 – The art of Islamic Spain (I was going to be away for this session and it was the one I was most interested in!)
- Week 3 – Ornament and calligraphy in the Islamic tradition
- Week 4 – Tradition of Persian miniature painting
- Week 5 – Modern and contemporary art
What I liked was that you could pay per session (AED 100) rather than for the entire course. I even found a friend to go with me.
The talk was held at DIFC, but not at Art Sawa itself. It was in one of the offices. The speaker was Marta Ameri, an assistant professor at Zayed University in Abu Dhabi. The first session was fascinating and I learnt so much – it was a combined talk on the history, geography, religion and art of the Middle East from the beginning of Islam (thought to be 622 AD):
- The only art forms in the Middle East before Islam were textiles and jewellery – very little art was created, there wasn’t much in the way of natural resources, there was no real tradition of sculpture, the population was nomadic;
- The aversion to figures in Islamic art (only God can create life);
- Agra and Cordoba both contain Islamic architecture but this is so different in each place as these buildings depended on the materials available in the area;
- Jerusalem – important to the three monotheistic religions (Temple of Solomon in Judaism, Jesus’ crucifixion in Christianity, and Abraham’s sacrifice of his son Isaac in Islam). The Dome of the Rock is built on the same site as Solomon’s Temple (Temple Mount) and is very similar to the Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy (although the dome of San Vitale is hidden) – this is because Byzantine craftsmen were used to build the Dome of the Rock.
Did you know that in the early years of Islam, Muslims prayed towards Jerusalem? I went to Jerusalem in 1998 and it was one of the most fascinating places I’ve ever been to. I would love to go again. There is so much history there.
I had a piano lesson on Tuesday afternoon (no earthquakes this time!). I definitely don’t practise enough and need to sort that out. After my lesson I went to meet an ex-colleague who was in Abu Dhabi for a few days. I hadn’t seen him since I’d moved to Dubai and wa looking forward to catching up.
On my way out of Dubai I thought I’d stop and get my eGate card sorted out. I’d been meaning to do it for a while but hadn’t got round to it, only to kick myself every time I was travelling because the queues at the airport can get so long. I went to the first floor of the DNATA building on Sheikh Zayed Road – I took my passport and a passport photo. The whole process took about 5 minutes. I had my thumb prints scanned and while my card was being processed I paid at the cashier (AED 225 – cash only). By the time I went back to the office my card was ready and I was on my way. No more long queues at security or immigration – hurrah!
It didn’t take long to get to the Fairmont at Abu Dhabi. I told my friend I’d be there by 6.30 and it took about an hour. We had a couple of cucumber mojitos at their outdoor bar and then moved to one of the restaurants where they had an international buffet. There was so much food to choose from (I had mostly sushi and some Lebanese food). We were sitting outdoors until it started raining! Luckily we’d finished eating by then so the waitress brought our bottle of wine indoors and we carried on there. Dessert was excellent – fresh crepes and cheesecake – and again, so many things to choose from. I left Abu Dhabi at about 9.30 and was home before 11pm.
Wednesday was busy. I had to finish off some work before travelling the next day. I also had to pack, get my hair and nails done, and go to my meditation class in the evening. I had also been invited to a big ladies’ lunch but had to decline as I just had too much going on. I managed to do everything and went to my meditation class that evening.
We talked about how our respective meditation practice had gone during the week, whether we had any issues, whether it was what we expected. We then learned some new techniques. The first one was a full yogic breath which was done seven times: inhale for 7 counts – the first 4 counts are abdominal breathing, the next 2 counts are chest breathing and the last count is collarbone breathing; exhale for 7 counts, reversing the process (1 count relaxing the collarbone, 2 counts relaxing the chest and 4 counts relaxing the abdomen). The next exercise we did was a 4x4x4x4 breath: sitting in a comfortable position, imagine an empty picture frame; begin at the bottom left hand corner of the frame and as you breathe in for 4 counts imagine your focus is moving up the left hand side of the square; hold your breath for 4 counts as you imagine moving across the top of the square; exhale for 4 counts as you imagine moving down the right hand side of the square; hold your breath for 4 counts as you imagine moving along the bottom of the square back to the bottom left hand corner; repeat seven times.
I did not enjoy the 4x4x4x4 breath at all. The last 4 counts reminded me of learning how to dive last summer in Bali when Made closed off my oxygen tank. As soon as I’ve exhaled, I want to inhale immediately (which is normal), not hold my breath for 4 counts!
I stayed home that night, finishing off my packing (I hate packing) and I finished reading The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari too…
The next morning, I left for Saigon.
I love my life.
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