I started my Beginners II Arabic course on Sunday morning. It was an intensive Ramadan term – 30 hours in 4 weeks. I didn’t want to wait until September as I thought I would forget what I’d learned, especially the alphabet! I also knew I’d be travelling in October and would miss about 3 weeks of classes – which seemed pointless. So I thought I’d continue while it was still fresh in my mind. I had originally signed up for the 12-2pm class which would take place four times a week from Sunday to Wednesday. About a week before the course was due to start I was told that there hadn’t been enough demand for that time slot and the only other one available was from 9-11am. Jesus, I thought. It would probably kill me, but I decided to go for it anyway.
Luckily I had the same teacher as my Beginners I course – and I think she’s a great teacher. It was a full a class – 12 people from all over – India, Pakistan, Venezuela, Brazil, the UK, Poland, Spain, Turkey. Our first session consisted of revision of what we had learned in Beginners I – it had only been 10 days since my last class but it’s shocking how quickly I had forgotten a few things. As it was Ramadan, we weren’t allowed to eat or drink in the classroom. I was used to making a cup of tea in the break and sipping it throughout the second half of the lesson but I couldn’t do that any more.
After Arabic I had a session with Randy and then worked the rest of the day.
In Monday’s Arabic class we did some more revision and learned a few new things:
- Directions – what area you live in, what building, next to/opposite, road/street, turn
Our teacher told us that after the first week of Beginners II she would no longer write in phonetics and all her writing on the overhead projector would be in Arabic. Uh-oh.
Tuesday was a busy day. We learned more new things in Arabic:
- More directions – close to/far from, roundabout, airport, traffic, flat/apartment, giving directions to your home
I had a piano lesson that afternoon. I had paid for the whole month (five lessons) but my piano teacher told me he’d be travelling the following week and wanted to cram three lessons into the same week. I didn’t mind having two lessons that week, but three seemed a bit much!
That evening I went to an Iftar at Mizaan at the H Hotel. I can see why people don’t lose weight over Ramadan. The selection of food is astonishing. And the desserts were incredible – not just Arabic dessert either – cheesecake, wheat-free chocolate cake, regular chocolate cake, it was all there. After dinner we decided to have a drink at the bar just off the lobby – One on One. It was freezing in there. I had a glass of wine and went home. I was tired and had to be up early the next day.
More Arabic on Wednesday! We learned:
- More directions – first, second, third, floor, ground floor, in front/behind, straight
- Verb conjugations
- More random vocabulary – hotel, tax, trade centre, language(s), to know, to travel
That afternoon I met up with my cousin and his wife and kids who were visiting Dubai for a few days.
That night I met another cousin for dinner. We went to PF Chang and had our usual favourites – hot and sour soup, dynamite shrimp, Mongolian lamb, brown rice. The menu never changes.
We ended up at The Cheesecake Factory for dessert. I had the Red Velvet Cheesecake and felt quite sick afterwards.
I had my second piano lesson of the week on Thursday – it would be my last one for a month. I’d felt like I’d been making some progress over the last couple of months and thought a month of no lessons wouldn’t be good for me!
That evening I went to wine club. We’d been told that because of summer and Ramadan there wouldn’t be another wine club until September but demand was so high that the organisers arranged for wine club to take place without them! It was held at Vintage at Wafi Pyramids. The format was a little different – instead of having people sitting at tables of 10 as usual, we were given six tokens (labelled A to F) and had to go to the bar to collect our drinks when we were ready. I think many people (myself included) weren’t happy with the quantity of wine being served – at a table you get one-tenth of a bottle but here we were lucky if we got one-tenth of a glass! And I didn’t really enjoy any of the wines we had:
- Rosemount ‘O’ Moscato (Australia) – spicy, grapefruit aromas. Palate delicately sparkling this wine displays luscious, sweet fruit flavours with beautifully balanced acidity – like biting into a cool, crisp grape. A light, fresh and zesty style with fruit sweetness ensuring flavour, balance and intensity are retained when served over ice.
- Boukenhoutskloof Porcupine Ridge Viognier Grenache Blanc (Coastal Region, South Africa) – an unusual blend of white grapes, reminiscent of a Rhone blend, partially fermented in French oak. The aromas of ripe apricots and spicy floral aromas dominate the nose, while the palate is made more crisp by the Grenache Blanc, with a streak of minerality.
- Yalumba Viognier (Barossa Valley, Australia) – this is a full-bodied dry white, with a gorgeously perfumed floral scent and a ripe, peach and apricot fruit, with a silky palate-feel.
- Nicolas Rossignol Bourgogne Rouge (France) – 100% Pinot Noir. The fruits are soft and silky in the mouth with a touch of raspberry with fine tannins. The finish is firm but fresh. Excellent pairing with game, red meats, roasted vegetables and risotto.
- Dourthe La Terrase de la Garde (AOC, Pessac Leognac, France) – intense ruby red in colour. The typical Pessac-Leognan bouquet offers abundant fruit-laden character, revealing black cherries, plum and a trace of smoke, lifted with a hint of spice. Generous and dense on the palate, with a noticeable tannic structure, with no hint of aggressive character, evolving towards a powerful, savoury finish.
- Marques de Caceres Reserva (DOC Rioja, Spain) – a dense bouquet of toasted aromas, red and black berries, luscious fruits and spices with a rich, layered body of spicy black fruits and succulent red fruits with integrated tannins, fresh acidity.
We stayed on for a while, ordering a couple of bottles of wine for a few of us, and some food. I met the manager, a lovely Spanish lady and we had a long conversation in Spanish. I always speak better Spanish after a few drinks – I think it unlocks a part of my brain and I suddenly start remembering random vocabulary! After we left Vintage, four of us ended up at McGettigan’s. It was a really fun evening.
Friday morning was not so fun. I felt like hell. A friend and I had booked massages at the Palace Hotel for later that afternoon. We met at 4.15pm and went to the spa.
My 80-minute massage was amazing. When I was finished I was lying down in the relaxation room when a woman walked in. I was a bit bleary-eyed from my massage and thought it was my friend when she lay on the bed next to mine. I looked closer and realised that it wasn’t her at all. We started talking – she asked me if I was staying at the hotel (she was), I asked her where she was from (Kenya), when I told her I grew up in Nigeria she mentioned someone else she knew who grew up in Nigeria but who now lives in Hong Kong. It turned out that she knew a very good friend of mine who I’ve known since we were babies! This is the same friend who stayed with me in June… What a small world! We swapped numbers – my friend and I invited her to join us for dinner later but she was jetlagged.
My friend and I decided to get ready. I saw this notice in the changing room:
We walked to Souk Al Bahar and ended up at Left Bank. We got there just as the cannon went off and she started sipping her water. We both ordered the fish and chips (a huge portion which I couldn’t finish). I was surprised when my friend asked the waitress what time they started serving alcohol because she was fasting! I guess everyone interprets the rules differently. I asked her how she could drink and then fast the following day – wouldn’t she be hydrated? She said that she would go home, have 2 litres of water and be fine the next day. One of my friends joined us for a drink and we ended up ordering a bottle of the rose. Another friend also joined us after a little while.
After dinner we walked over to Karma Kafe but decided we wouldn’t stay there. We ended up having cocktails at Sake No Hana. I’d heard mixed things about the food, and sure enough the restaurant area was quite empty, but the bar is lovely! I’d definitely go back again. It wasn’t a heavy night and I was home by 12.30.
I spent all of Saturday at home, catching up on work. My Mum arrived from India that evening so we spent the evening catching up.
I love my life.
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