Notes by Nectar

Your destiny lies in your own hands

Dubai 2015: Week 40

I woke up on Sunday feeling like hell. I eventually got out of bed at noon, but only because I’d been invited to lunch at 1pm.

I made my way to Tresind at the Radisson Royal on Sheikh Zayed Road. I don’t really go out to eat at Indian restaurants and I’d been to Mint Leaf the day before so this was really Indian overload.

But the food was so different – we had the modernist chaat trolley, the raan, mushroom kulcha (which I remembered trying at Taste of Dubai) and the deconstructed Black Forest gateau (and a few other things I can’t remember).

After lunch we went up to the bar at Tre for a coffee and to show my friend from London the view. I hadn’t been up to the bar since it had been renovated – but it’s a great space. It reminded me of a hunting lodge!

After lunch, I went home, got into my pajamas and got into bed. I was exhausted.

I had a session with my trainer on Monday and a piano lesson that afternoon. Apart from that I was at home catching up with some work.

On Tuesday night I met a friend for dinner at Tolosa in Souk Al Bahar. I hadn’t seen her since before the summer and it was really nice to catch up. We decided to share a few starters: burrata, beef carpaccio, goat cheese salad and the charcuterie platter. It was all good – but I found the platter a bit disappointing, especially as it seemed to be attracting lots of little flies! We also had a bottle of the Cabernet Sauvignon which was lovely. Nothing on the dessert menu really appealed to us so we skipped that.

Apart from my session with my trainer on Wednesday I didn’t do much else.

And then the weekend was busy! I met up with my friend who was leaving Dubai (the same one who had the leaving brunch the week before). We had a late lunch at the Western Steakhouse at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. He had some relatives in town from Mumbai so they joined us as well. We didn’t meet until 3.15pm so it was almost 5pm by the time we were done. Straight after lunch, the two of us headed to Marina Mall where we were meeting some of his other friends (some of whom I’d met at brunch) and then all going on to Abu Dhabi to see Bon Jovi in concert.

His friend had hired two seven-seater vehicles with drivers to take us to Abu Dhabi and back that evening. By the time we left Marina Mall it was close to 7pm and we got to the du Arena at about 8.30pm. The cars weren’t allowed to drop us off at the front so we had to walk for about 15 minutes from the car park to the arena entrance. It was a really humid night and by the time we got to the arena we were all sweating. But then, so was everyone else! We got some drinks and elbowed our way into the middle of the crowd. I wasn’t expecting it to be as crowded as it was but it was packed.

And then Bon Jovi came on. I have to say Jon Bon Jovi is still devastatingly good-looking at 53 years old. The others haven’t aged that well though – Tico Torres (drums) looks about 70 and David Bryan (keyboards) still has that perm left over from the 80s. They opened with a song I didn’t know (I had no idea they’d released a new album in August 2015) followed by ‘You Give Love a Bad Name’. Interspersed with songs nobody had heard of, they played some of their older songs: ‘Dead or Alive’ (my favourite one), ‘Bad Medicine’, ‘Keep the Faith’, ‘Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night’, ‘In These Arms’ and ‘It’s My Life’.

And of course they played ‘Livin’ On a Prayer’ as their final encore.

It was fantastic. Getting out of the arena wasn’t. There was chaos finding the drivers and we walked way too far down the car park, getting lost from the rest of our group. My friend’s phone was dead and his was the only number I had out of the people with us – which was quite useless. I also had a blister by this point. They eventually found us and it took us over half an hour to get out of the car park. We eventually made it and stopped at a place to get some food on the way home (I was still full from lunch!). By the time I got home it was 2am.

I woke up on Friday – my feet were aching and I was tired. I’d been invited to a housewarming party by a couple I’d met at the same brunch the week before and was so tempted to stay home and order sushi. But I’d said I’d go and didn’t want to flake. My friend picked me up a little after 6pm and we headed to the Marina where they live. It was mostly the same people from the brunch and I’m really glad I went because they’re a really fun group of people and we spent much of the night dancing to 80s music. It was 3am by the time I got home.

I met up with some friends for lunch on Saturday. We went to Tribes, an African restaurant at the Mall of the Emirates. We shared the African lamb spring roll for starters and each ordered our own main course. Three of us ordered the spicy lamb rump steaks and one ordered a rib-eye steak. The lamb steaks were excellent – they tasted like suya in Lagos – but the portion was huge and two of us could have shared one!

I came home from lunch and did a bit of work. That evening I was going to meet a friend for drinks and dinner. As I walked out of the building, I was hit by a wall of humidity. I couldn’t believe how humid it was (I checked later: 85%). Disgusting! Anyway, I met up with a friend at Jean-Georges at the Four Seasons. We met early, at 6.15pm, and got a sofa in the bar area. We had a few drinks and decided to order our dinner in the bar area so we didn’t have to move. We shared the snapper ceviche, crispy calamari (disappointingly average), salt and pepper shrimp, and the black truffle and fontina cheese pizza (heaven on a plate). We skipped dessert and had another drink instead. I got home at about 11.30, after dropping him home, and realised how shattered I was once I got into bed – I couldn’t  keep my eyes open any longer.

I love my life.

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Dubai 2013: Week 16

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.
San Vitale

San Vitale

Dome of the Rock

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.

Fascinating stuff.

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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Dubai: Week 37

It was quite a busy week and I didn’t get as much work or writing done as I would have liked.

I’d bought a voucher a while ago for a Dermalogica massage and facial at Onyx Fitness and Spa on Jumeirah Beach Road. I made my appointment for Sunday and went along with my voucher. It’s a nice place – I think it’s new. The treatment rooms were spacious and my therapist told me she’d do the massage first and then the facial (which I thought was odd, but she was the expert). Both the massage and facial were OK – what ruined it for me was that the therapist kept coughing. I know that people get coughs and it can’t be helped – but during my facial she kept coughing and I just wanted her to stop! What should she have done? Covered her mouth when she coughed and washed her hands each time before continuing with the facial? Or carried on with the facial while coughing without covering her mouth? I couldn’t wait for it to be over.

On Monday I had an appointment with Randy, my new trainer – as Rama had left Dubai.

That afternoon I had an appointment for a Brazilian keratin treatment. It was another voucher I’d bought before my trip to Bali and it was expiring soon. I went to Hair and Colors Salon at the Four Points by Sheraton on Sheikh Zayed Road. The salon was empty apart from the two Arab men who worked there. In the past, it has always taken at least two hours to do the treatment – by the time my hair was washed, and the chemicals applied followed by the blowdry and ironing, it’s at least 2 hours – depending on the length of my hair.

The younger guy washed my hair, rough dried it with a hairdryer and applied the treatment. It wasn’t the same treatment I’d used in the past – it was a spray called Brazilian 24 Hour Keratin Treatment by Rejuvenol.

Rejuvenol

The hairdresser sprayed it into my damp hair, straightened my hair with hair straighteners and I was done. In just under an hour. He told me to leave the treatment in for 24 hours and then I could wash it. Great!

I picked up a French vanilla cappuccino from Tim Horton’s on my way home and settled down to do some work.

I was home most of Tuesday. That evening I met up with someone I’d met at the last wine club. Her office is at the World Trade Centre so we decided to meet at McGettigan’s at the World Trade Centre. I was half an hour late – it took me ages to find a cab and when I got to the World Trade Centre I couldn’t find the bar! I got there eventually and we had a few drinks and some dinner. Considering there was an exhibition on at the World Trade Centre the bar was quite quiet – apart from the table next to ours who were singing along with the Irish folk band. It was a nice evening and I was home at a reasonable hour.

After my session at the gym on Wednesday I washed my hair, not knowing what it would look like after the Brazilian keratin treatment. I let it air dry and was pleasantly surprised at the results. The frizz had gone and it was slightly wavy rather than poker straight. Perfect – now let’s hope it lasts at least a couple of months!

On Wednesday afternoon I headed to Abu Dhabi (for the first time) to see one of the boys who was there for the day. It took just over 1.5 hours to get there – partly because there had been an accident and traffic was being diverted in different directions. Thank goodness for Google Maps! His meeting was done by lunchtime so I met him at the Beach Rotana where he was staying and we had lunch outdoors at Indigo. We ordered our starters from the Indigo menu but didn’t fancy a heavy Indian meal for lunch – we asked them whether we could order from the Italian restaurant next door and they didn’t have a problem with that (eventually). We ordered the spinach salad with goat’s cheese and artichokes to start, and we shared the grilled salmon and tiger prawns as our main course. The salad was good, the main course was disappointing. We also had a bottle of rosé which went down rather quickly! It was great to see him and catch up – we hadn’t met since I was in London in June. Later that afternoon another friend of his joined us so we ended up ordering another bottle of rosé – and then heading to Trader Vic’s for a drink (totally unnecessary!).

I left Abu Dhabi at about 6.30pm and was home by 8pm. I thought the traffic heading back to Dubai at that time would be worse but it wasn’t too bad.

I was home most of Thursday, apart from a trip to the supermarket and a stop at Tim Horton’s for a French Vanilla cappuccino.

It was a very lazy weekend. Friday was lazy but I managed to drag myself to Karma Kafe for a drink with a friend. I had two drinks and was home soon after midnight. Saturday was also lazy. I suppose that’s what weekends are for!

I love my life.

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