What a week!
After my usual session with Randy on Sunday morning I met up with a friend for lunch. We thought we’d try Fuego, the new Mexican place at Souk Al Bahar. We got there a little after 2pm and apart from one other table, we were the only people in the restaurant. We ordered the Salsa Fresca (which was made at our table) and the Fuego Sampler (mushroom quesadillas, chicken flautas, homemade guacamole, tortilla chips and sour cream). For our main course we shared the beef fajitas. I thought the food was average. I’m not a huge fan of Mexican food though, so perhaps I’m not the best judge!
On Monday I had lunch with my cousins at PF Chang and then worked until the evening. I went to the fourth History of Islamic Art session which was all about Persian painting but covered Islamic book illustration all the way to miniatures. These are some of the things we talked about:
- Calephs collected books – Islamic books, Greek texts, they had it all – and they translated everything into Arabic
- Early Islamic books – the Koran of Ibn al-Bawwab (1000-1001), a calligrapher and illuminator; The Book of Fixed Stars (1009), an astronomical text; De Materia Medica by Dioscorides (13th century); Kalila wa Dimna (12th-13th centuries), a collection of morality tales
- Ilkhanids – Rashid al-Din’s Compendium of Histories (Jami’ al-tawarikh) (14th century), an entire history of the world. It was produced in Soltaniyeh, Iran but there is no complete set in existence
- Timurids – Book production expanded during this period; Diwan of Khwaju Kermani (1396), paintings by Junayd (you can see the Chinese influences here); Anthology of Poetry, Music and Chess by Baysunghur, a prince from the house of Timurids
- Safavids – There were two centres of book production: Tabriz (bright and colourful) and Herat (more traditional); Rustam sleeps while Rakhsh fights the lion (1515-1522), attributed to Sultan Muhammad; Allegory of Worldly and Otherworldly Drunkenness (1531-1533) from the Divan of Hafiz, attributed to Sultan Muhammad
- The Shahnameh (The Book of Kings) (1525-1535) – until 1959 a complete copy of this volume existed. It belonged to Edmond de Rothschild who had so carefully preserved the work that the miniatures had not even been exposed to light and had remained intact in the same way that they had been made centuries ago. It was sold to Richard Houghton who dissected the book into sheets – he displayed several miniatures at the New York Metropolitan Museum and donated 88 miniatures to the museum to avoid paying the tax he owed to the US government. Some of it was auctioned at Christie’s. After Houghton’s death in 1990, the Houghton Foundation exchanged the remaining Shahnameh with De Kooning’s Lady No. 3 which had been rejected by Iranian officials for public display as they considered it anti-Islamic (but the Iranian government still owned it). Fascinating story!
I was home all day on Tuesday but Wednesday was busy!
My mum left for India that morning, I had a session with Randy, and I also had my first Arabic class that afternoon. I’d been meaning to take some lessons ever since I moved to Dubai but of course had done nothing about it for ages. I finally sprung into action and found out about classes. I eventually decided to go to the Arabic Language Centre in the World Trade Centre Tower. They had six sessions to choose from – ideally the afternoon class would have been great but it clashed with my piano lesson. I settled for the lunchtime class on Mondays and Wednesdays. There are 10 of us in the class (nine women and one man) and we are from everywhere: UK, India, Czech Republic, Spain, Portugal, Uruguay, USA, Korea, Australia, Russia. Amazing. Some have been here a few months, some have been here for years and finally decided to learn Arabic.
In my first class we learned how to say:
- My name is…
- What’s your name?
- How are you? Fine, great
- Nice to meet you
- Thank you / you’re welcome
- I want tea / coffee / water with / without milk / sugar
- Other random vocabulary – left, right
We also learned four letters and practised reading and writing them. I love languages so I’m really going to enjoy this!
That evening I had my meditation class. It was a 2-hour class instead of the usual 1 hour. We did a meditation practice to begin with. It was called ‘Closing the curtains on the day’ where you take your mind back in 2-hour chunks (e.g. if you start your meditation practice at 7pm, you think back to what you were doing between 5 and 7pm, then you think back to what you were doing between 3 and 5pm, then you think back to what you were doing between 1 and 3pm, and so on. Once you’ve gone back to the time you woke up, you start moving forward. So, think ahead to what you’ll be doing between 7 and 9pm, and then between 9 and 11pm, and so on). It wasn’t my favourite meditation practice, I have to admit. Once the day is over, I usually don’t want to relive it!
In the second half of the class, our teacher had brought sandwiches and other snacks for us, and we listened to a selection of music we could listen to while meditating. The music was varied:
- Classical (Concierto de Aranjuez by Rodrigo, has always been one of my favourites)
- Western devotional songs (Sarah Brightman singing Lloyd Webber’s ‘Pie Jesu’)
- Eastern devotional chanting (Krishna Das)
- ‘Spa’ music
- Subliminal music
- Synthesized music that imitates brain wave patterns coming into harmony (Meditation by Eberhard Schoener) – this actually made me feel like I was in an episode of ‘Lost’
After my class I went home and got ready for dinner (I told you it was a busy day!). I had dinner at Zuma with my dad and some of his friends. The food was fabulous as always and I’d have loved to have had a tuna tataki all to myself!
I had a piano lesson on Thursday afternoon and then had wine club that night.
I always look forward to wine club – it’s one of the best nights out each month – but this time it was awful. The venue chosen was the Media One Hotel in Media City:
- The room was so dark, you couldn’t see who was on the next table
- It was an L-shaped room so even if the lighting had been better, you wouldn’t have been able to find people you knew
- The portions of food were ridiculously small – each table of 10 was given a platter containing 3-4 sliders, 3-4 pieces of sushi and 3-4 pieces of chicken
The wines we had were:
- Folonari Soave, 2010 (Italy): pale straw colour; light citrus aromas; crisp citrus and mild almond flavours; crisp dry finish. Excellent as an aperitif, with light finger foods and seafood
- Antares Sauvignon Blanc, 2012 (Chile): from the warm Central Valley, south of Santiago. This is a refreshing and floral wine, with tropical fruit flavours and mouth-watering crisp acidity. Pair with fish, shellfish, green salad, asparagus and artichokes
- Italia Pinot Grigio Rose, 2011 (Italy, obviously): a delicious Pinot Grigio Rose showing delicate red fruit flavours. A true rose made from Pinot Grigio is a rarity, as it can only be made in years when the hot autumn sun turns the grape skins a copper colour. When pressed, the grapes give the wine a pale pink tinge, floral aromas and soft red fruit flavours. Perfect with fish-based pasta dishes
- Chemin des Sables Rose, 2011 (French): still one of the Loire Valley’s most popular wines. Flavours of peach, strawberry and cherry in a light, easy drinking style. A blend of Cabernet Franc, Gamay, Pineau d’Aunis and Grolleau
- Gabbiano Chianti Classico, 2009 (Italy): this matures in oak for 18 months to soften the tannins giving a complex wine that’s bold and spicy on the palate, and attractive berry aromas. Food pairing is best with pasta or red meat
- Folonari Valpolicella, 2011 (Italy): sister to Bardolino but slightly further East. The spicy, cherry accents are much the same, with slightly more weight. A blend of Molinara and Corvina grapes. Pair with dark poultry, red meat, pasta and mature cheeses
We usually all catch up at the bar afterwards and go elsewhere but I just couldn’t wait to get out of there. Three of us went to the the poolside bar for a drink (The Dek on Eight – don’t even get me started about the spelling of ‘deck’). The crowd was quite young, but the music was great – lots of 80s and 90s music. We had a drink there and then went to Calabar to meet up with another friend and some of her friends. That was much better!
I was home all day on Friday, catching up on work. On Saturday I decided to have a massage at Spa Zen at the Radisson Royal. I went early, had lunch by the pool, read my book and then had a hot stone massage. Amazing afternoon.
That evening Dad and I went to see The Big Wedding. It had a good cast, but what a pile of shit. Still, I suppose it wasn’t as bad as Oblivion. We had Iranian kebabs for dinner and then headed home.
I love my life.
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