Notes by Nectar

Your destiny lies in your own hands

Dubai 2015: Weeks 52/53

I got back from Bali on the 23rd morning. Similar to when I left, the passengers had to get on a bus after leaving the plane and were then taken to the terminal. I stood at the top of the stairway at 5am and was hit by a blast of cold air. I got on the bus, found a seat and sat down because I was feeling tired and lazy. Just as well, because the bus ride to the airport took forever. It felt like we were going around the airport in circles. I felt like one of the hostages in the movie Speed. We finally got to the terminal, I went through the e-Gate, collected my luggage, bought five bottles of champagne at Duty Free and went home. I was so happy to be home, and back in my own bed. I’d missed my pillows! I passed out for a few hours until lunch.

That evening, a friend had invited a few people over for mulled wine and mince pies. We got to her place in The Springs at about 7pm. It was nice to see everyone after my trip, and we sat out in the garden, sipping wine and chatting. I left at around 9.30pm – I was exhausted and a bit jet-lagged.

On Thursday, I went to the Dubai Mall – I needed a Secret Santa present for Christmas lunch the next day. Once I’d picked that up I went back home. I had a load of work to do and was starting to panic about how I was going to get it all done before the deadlines. I stayed in that night.

I spent Christmas Day with some friends at their flat in Business Bay. I got there at around 2pm and we had lunch at 4pm. It was also my fourth anniversary of being in Dubai – I can’t believe how quickly the time has gone!

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There was so much food! Prawn cocktail to start with, and then turkey, pork shoulder, roast potatoes, stuffing, brussel sprouts, pigs in blankets, and I’m sure there was more that I can’t remember. There was Christmas pudding and cheese for dessert. Not to mention the prosecco, champagne and wine that we all enjoyed. The weather was lovely too – and we spent the rest of the afternoon and evening sitting on their balcony, watching the full moon move across the sky (and watching random YouTube music videos).

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I got home at around 11pm. It was a long day, but it was really fun.

I went to the Dubai Mall on Saturday as I was meeting some friends at Vogue Cafe in the Shoe District for tea.

On Sunday, I decided to try out a new yoga studio at Village Mall. It was really nice and I ended up buying a package for 15 classes.

I had my usual piano lesson on Monday, but that was all I did that day. All I’d been doing otherwise was working. I’d hoped that as my UK clients were closed for the holidays, there’d be no more work coming in over the holidays and I could catch up properly, but I didn’t realise that their Indian offices would still be open and send me things to work on! It was good though – I kept my head down and got on with it.

I’d been invited out for lunch on Tuesday. I wasn’t keen on going but I had some friends visiting Dubai who would be at lunch so I went anyway. Lunch was at Apres in Mall of the Emirates. I got there at 1pm (which was the time on the invitation) and there was nobody there, not even the two hosts. There was also no table set up for 10-12 people so I asked the waitress at the door whether they had a booking under either of the hosts’ names. ‘For today, ma’am?’ Well, yes, I’m here, aren’t I? She looked in her diary. ‘Oh yes, 1pm for 12 people.’ So, where is the table? ‘Oh, we didn’t know if they wanted smoking or non-smoking.’ You have the number there so why didn’t you call to confirm? ‘Yes, ma’am.’ The woman was irritating. But what irritated me more was that the hosts should have been dealing with the lack of a table and not me. I got the table sorted and sat down. I asked the waiter for a bottle of water (which never arrived). At about 1.15pm one of the hosts arrived – she’d had errands to run in the mall which was why she was late. Good grief – couldn’t she have done that later? Anyway, people started arriving – we were nine girls in the end – and lunch seemed to go on forever. The service was awful. I would never go back there. At 4pm I made my excuses and left – the others seemed quite happy to sit there for longer but I had s*** to do!

I had a session with Pete on Wednesday and spent the rest of the day working.

On Thursday morning I went back to Eco Yoga Sanctuary for a Hatha Flow class. After that I decided to get my  hair done as I looked like a homeless person after the yoga class. It was also New Year’s Eve and I hadn’t decided what I wanted to do that night. My number one choice was to stay home. I’d been invited to a few places but I couldn’t face the thought of the traffic going Downtown and then getting stuck there until 4am. I could see it building up from the afternoon onwards.

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I ended up staying home. And I’m glad I did because soon after I’d had dinner, I saw a post on Facebook that said the Address Downtown was on fire. What?? I’d been hearing sirens for the last 10 minutes but assumed it was regular New Year’s Eve police controlling the traffic. I thought it was a hoax and then I checked Twitter. I couldn’t believe the pictures I was seeing.

Source: Twitter

Source: Twitter

I felt sick – there were hundreds of thousands of people in that small area – and I couldn’t imagine how many people would be injured. I kept reading that there were no injuries but I just couldn’t believe that. Eventually, it was reported that there were 14 minor injuries – a bit more realistic, but still unbelievable in a way. I hoped everyone had managed to get out of that building in time. And then I heard that they were planning to go ahead with the fireworks Downtown. Next to a burning building? It seemed ludicrous. And people were still heading Downtown. Friends called from London and other places to see if I was OK – WhatsApp had stopped working!

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At about 10 minutes before midnight I made my way to the pool area of my building to watch the fireworks. The crazy thing I’ve noticed about people on New Year’s Eve is that wherever they are on Sheikh Zayed Road, they’ll abandon their cars and run to where they can see the Burj Khalifa and watch the fireworks. It’s like watching a disaster movie, although instead of running from disaster, they’re running towards the fireworks!

23:55 on New Year's Eve

23:55 on New Year’s Eve

And then it was midnight. The Address Downtown was still on fire (but under control, they said) and the Burj Khalifa lit up.

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It was bizarre. The fireworks went on for about 5 minutes – I brought in the New Year watching the smoke from the fireworks drift off into the night like dancing skeletons, with the smoke from the Address Downtown streaming behind it.

I’m so glad I stayed in.

I love my life.

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Dubai 2015: Week 1

Let me try this again. I haven’t updated this much (or at all) over the last year but I should start doing it again!

So, the last week of 2014 and the first week of 2015 were mental. One of my friends was in town from London with three of his friends. I’d met one of them before, both in London and Barcelona, and the other two I’d met very briefly at their home in July. They were all staying at the Conrad and arrived early on Sunday evening. I met my friend at the Conrad before dinner while the others were still getting ready and we had a drink together at Cave, the wine bar on the mezzanine level. I love this place – I’d been there twice before and always enjoy going there. On Sunday evening, however, it was very empty. One by one, the others joined us and we headed to Okku where we had our dinner reservation at 10pm. The food was great – as usual. For starters we had the sashimi salad, yellowtail sashimi, spicy tuna on crispy rice, two kinds of rock shrimp – one with creamy wasabi sauce and the other with spicy sweet soya sauce. For our main course we ordered the black cod with miso, king crab legs and truffle fried rice. We also drank. A lot. We started with a bottle of cold sake, then switched to another (cheaper) one. At midnight we had two bottles of champagne as it was my friend’s birthday and then we switched to vodka after that. We left at about 1.30 – the place was packed though. We went back to the Conrad and ended up at Suga – their ‘private’ members club. It’s always empty. We had a drink at the bar and my friend insisted on dropping me home. We ended up at Zaatar w Zeit which is open 24 hours and ate a lot – again! I didn’t get home until 4am.

I woke up on Monday with a headache. No surprises there! After lunch I joined the others at Puro Beach at the Conrad poolside. It was quite overcast and looked like it might even rain. We had some red wine and some Arabic mezze and at about 6pm I headed back home to get ready for dinner.

I went back to the Conrad before dinner. My friend had two more friends who had arrived in town and I hadn’t met them before – they were staying at the Grand Hyatt. We had a drink in my friend’s hotel room and then seven of us left for dinner. Dinner was at someone’s home in Emirates Hills. I met quite a few people that I already knew which was nice. There was so much food – and the birthday cake (from Coco’s) was fantastic. We were there till about 1.30am as getting a cab in that area isn’t easy and none of us could connect to Uber!

We spent Tuesday afternoon on a yacht. We met at the Marina Yacht Club at noon and were taken to our yacht. My friend and his friends had brought loads of champagne and vodka with them so we were all set for the afternoon. It was a spacious yacht and there were only 10 of us so we had lots of room to relax. The staff on the yacht were very attentive and made sure our glasses were full at all times! There was also finger food and sandwiches, but nobody ate much. We left the Marina and sailed around the Palm. We had an incredible view of the skydivers landing – they come down a lot faster than I thought they would! We stopped in front of the Atlantis for a few minutes for those who wanted to take photos and stopped again in front of the Burj Al Arab. I really wish I’d taken my Canon camera with me! We carried on sailing towards the World Islands and stopped near a private island for a while – those who wanted to went for a swim. We were there for about an hour before we headed back. We got back to the Yacht Club at about 5.30pm and everyone went home. I was exhausted. I got into my pajamas and decided I was going to stay in that evening – regardless of what the others were doing. I was asleep before midnight.

Wednesday. New Year’s Eve. My plan was to be up early and get my hair done before there was a queue at the salon. That didn’t happen – I got there at noon and ended up waiting a long time. It was almost 3pm by the time I left there. I always take a book with me so I’m not wasting time while I’m there. At 6.30 I headed over to the Conrad. We had some champagne in the hotel room and then went to Media City where we were going to a New Year’s Eve ‘MasterJam’ concert. I have to admit I had been dreading it. I was dreading the traffic going there and back and would have rather stayed home with a bottle of vodka than venture that far away. We thought the first act came on at 9pm so we left the Conrad at 7.30 – that would hopefully give us enough time to get there. The traffic on Sheikh Zayed Road had started to build up and was moving slowly (but still moving) until we passed the Burj Khalifa. After that there was hardly any traffic and we were at the Media City Amphitheatre at 8pm. Just as well, because Gloria Gaynor was almost done with her set and finished with ‘I Will Survive’! We found our Platinum Pod area and settled in. Again, there were 10 of us in quite a large space. Unlimited champagne was included in our package and we certainly made the most of it!

After Gloria Gaynor finished, Kathy Sledge of Sister Sledge came on. I’d forgotten what great songs they’d had (‘Lost in Music’, ‘He’s the Greatest Dancer’, ‘Frankie’ and of course ‘We Are Family’) and everyone was singing along and dancing. Thirty-five years later, Kathy Sledge still has an amazing voice!

After Kathy Sledge finished her set, Chaka Khan came on. I’d been looking forward to her the most but she was disappointing. She seemed to have forgotten the words to some of her songs (my favourite ones!) so I wasn’t all that thrilled by her. She also sang her two most famous songs first (‘I Feel For You’ and ‘Ain’t Nobody’) and that didn’t make much sense to me.

After that came Nile Rodgers. I’m embarrassed to say I’d never heard of him, but he was in the band CHIC in the 1970s. I had no idea how many hits he’d written/produced – the album Diana by Diana Ross (Upside Down, I’m Coming Out), the album Let’s Dance by David Bowie, ‘The Reflex’ by Duran Duran, Like a Virgin by Madonna, and so many others – Thompson Twins, Mick Jagger, Steve Winwood; he even co-wrote Daft Punk’s ‘Get Lucky’. The man is a genius and he was on stage for a long time as he performed a lot of the songs he’d written and produced.

And then it was midnight!

As you can see, we really made the most of that champagne! After midnight, the Jacksons came on stage.

I think they were having some sound issues. I don’t remember much after that. Oops. We ended up at a party in Emirates Hills until about 4.30am and then three of us went to Zaatar w Zeit (again). I eventually got home at 5.45am.

My parents and I had lunch at home the next day – I’d hardly seen them over the last few days between hectic social schedules! After lunch I went to Puro Beach at the Conrad to sit by the pool with my friends. Our evening plans were up in the air for a while but eventually got sorted thanks to the concierge at the hotel. I went to a friend’s place in the Meadows for early evening drinks and left at about 8.30 to meet my friends from out of town at Sass Cafe. We had a lovely table outside and decided we’d share some starters and a couple of main courses. We started with lentil salad, fried calamari, baked goats cheese, sea bass carpaccio and a couple of other things. We were quite full after that and decided to share just two main courses between five of us: the lamb chops and a whole sea bream. We also ordered a side of mashed potatoes with truffles, some green beans and a portion of French fries. The ‘whole’ sea bream was the size of a sardine and the lamb chops were mostly fat – very disappointing. There were about ten French fries in the portion so that disappeared in about 5 seconds. We ordered another portion of the truffle mash and French fries and asked for the bill. We’d complained about the fish and the lamb and the manager came over to speak to us. He eventually took both main courses off the bill!

Until this point our evening had been quite relaxed. We’d been sitting outside, the music wasn’t too loud, we were all very chilled. I’d booked a table at Pacha for after dinner and we thought we’d go for one drink and then head back home. We got to Pacha at about 11.30 and were shown to our table on the rooftop. What a fun place! Of course we ended up staying until almost closing time – and this time we all ended up at Zaatar w Zeit until 4am!

By Friday, I was shattered. We’d been out almost every day and night and I was actually relieved that Friday night was a dry night! This meant that nowhere would be serving alcohol after 6pm. Our original plan for Friday was to go to Blue Marlin but as it was a dry night they weren’t open at all. We ended up at Iris for brunch. We didn’t get there until 3pm and opted for the brunch option with house wine (instead of the champagne option). We also had Bloody Marys which went down well. There was a salad and sushi bar inside the restaurant, and out on the terrace they had the barbecue – truffle burgers, sausages, steaks. They also had a pasta station where they were making pasta and truffle risotto. You could eat and drink as much as you wanted to. A couple of my friends who live in Dubai ended up joining us as well. We were there until 6pm and then left.

I went home for a couple of hours and then met my friends at Zuma for dinner. It was busier than I thought it would be and we could only get a table upstairs in the lounge area. The food was as good as ever: crispy squid, yellowtail sashimi, rock shrimp, spinach ohitashi, tuna tataki (my absolute favourite), black cod, spicy beef and of course the green tea and banana cake for dessert. It was odd being at dinner and not drinking, but that evening was definitely all about the food – and there was so much of it! It was an early night as my friends had flights in the morning – I was home by 11pm and in bed by 11.15!

I spent all of Saturday at home in my pajamas. It was bliss.

I love my life.

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Dubai: Week 44

Another hectic week!

After my training session with Randy on Sunday, my sister, Vinay and I went to The Cheesecake Factory for lunch. We didn’t get there until 3pm and were told we’d have to wait an hour for a table. We decided to finish our errands and then go back for our table. It was 4pm by the time we sat down and I was famished.

We ordered the spinach dip and I had the herb-crusted salmon (as usual). My sister had a cheeseburger and Vinay had the kid-size portion of chicken nuggets and fries. We were too full for cheesecake. I think we’ll have to go back just for cheesecake one of these days.

On Monday I went to meet some friends at the Dubai Mall who were in town from New York on their way to Bombay. We met at Fauchon Cafe and caught up over coffee – with their two kids. It was good to see them. One good thing about Dubai is that people are always passing through here! After we were finished my sister and Vinay came to the mall so we walked around for a while and I bought another dress. That makes five dresses in 1 week. I think I’m done for a while now!

It was my first anniversary in Dubai on Christmas Day! I can’t believe how quickly the time has gone by. It feels more like 3 months rather than a whole year. Christmas Day is a regular working day here in Dubai but that didn’t really affect any of us. We opened our presents before lunch (Samsung Galaxy phones all round) and then went to Shang Palace at the Shangri-La next door for lunch. It was just the six of us and one of Dad’s banker friends. The food was good – but the service was a bit slow.

After lunch Dad and I went to sort out our micro SIM cards for our new phones. We went to Du at Jumeirah Centre on Jumeirah Beach Road. In the past we’ve always been to Du at The Dubai Mall and have always had to wait in line. This store was empty and we got served immediately. We sorted out our phones – I decided to get a pay-as-you-go SIM for my BlackBerry, just for BBM, as I’m not sure I can quit that just yet! And for AED 1.5 per day I can afford to keep both lines! We stopped at Tim Horton’s for coffee and then went home. I spent the rest of the evening playing with my new phone.

On Wednesday afternoon, my sister, her husband, Vinay and I went to Jones the Grocer for lunch. My sister and I had the Wagyu beef burger, her husband had the prawn linguine (which looked very good), Vinay had some French fries, and we ordered a portion of the truffle parmesan fries as well (I know, that’s a lot of fries). Service was slow, but the food was good. After lunch we went to MoE to have a look round. I tried on a few things but didn’t buy anything. Trying on clothes after lunch isn’t a good idea!

That evening one of my cousins came over for dinner. Our parents were out so we hung out at home, opened a bottle of wine and relaxed.

The flat was very quiet on Thursday as Vinay and his parents went to the zoo at Al Ain. I would have loved to stay home but had a busy afternoon! I went to my piano lesson – we worked mainly on ‘As Time Goes By’ and chords. We also did some work on Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’ and modulation – where you change keys in the middle of a song. My piano teacher told me that if you can play a song in any key you can do anything you want. I think that if I’d had a teacher like him as a child I’d be a completely different musician now. One of the main differences I’ve noticed is that if I’m sight-reading I’ll hesitate if I can’t find the notes I’m looking for. His opinion is that you should play anything, even if it’s wrong – hesitation is one of the worst things a musician can do. I didn’t tell him that with my old piano teacher I’d be too scared to make a mistake because she would start shouting at me! I need to find my old music theory books and go through them, just to remind myself of a few things.

After my lesson, I rushed to Pastels in Jumeirah – I had an appointment for a colour and blowdry. The salon recently moved and the new one is lovely – bright and airy. The garden is full of beautiful flowers too – I might take my camera the next time I go! I sat down with my book, and was given a cup of tea and a mince pie. I’d forgotten all about mince pies and thoroughly enjoyed it!

I went home after that – it was almost 6pm by then – and stayed home that evening.

We’d been undecided about what to do for New Year’s Eve as my sister is nanny-less this holiday and wasn’t even sure they’d go out at all. We’d heard about a party on the Palm but it wasn’t my first choice at all. It would be a trek to get there and back and it just didn’t appeal to me. I tried to get a ticket for my brother-in-law as he had some friends going but the organisers were being difficult about giving a ticket to one person (rather than a couple – even though they were selling single tickets) and we decided it wasn’t worth it. I found out a few days later that the two organisers had fallen out and that the party had been divided into two. What did this mean for ticket-holders? Basically, if you bought your ticket from one organiser and your friends had bought them from another, you’d be at two separate venues. Good grief. What a disaster! I was so glad we decided against that.

I then got an email from Okku about their New Year’s programme so I spoke to them about booking a table. They had availability but I still wasn’t sure about it. And then on Thursday morning I was going through the paper and iKandy was listed as one of the places to be on New Year’s Eve. It was perfect – we’d be able to walk there and back, sit outdoors, and watch the fireworks at the Burj Khalifa at midnight.

My brother-in-law and I took Vinay to the Shangri-La that evening to find out about their deal. We ended up booking three tickets. I told a friend of mine what our plan was and she subsequently decided to join us and booked her ticket too. It would be a chilled New Year’s Eve – I don’t think any of us were up for anything too crazy.

I was home all day on Friday. That night one of my cousins and I decided to go to Zuma for some drinks and dinner. It wasn’t as crowded as it usually is on a Friday and we got a table in the bar area and started on the martinis – I had the raspberry and passion fruit. Amazing. We ordered some food and more drinks. My brother-in-law joined us. We ordered some more food and drinks. And the green tea and banana cake. Another cousin joined us. We ordered another round of drinks. It was an expensive night.

I didn’t want to wake up on Saturday but had been invited to a girls’ lunch at Royal China. I didn’t know half the people there but sat at one end of the table with my cousin and some friends from Lagos and London. It was a fun afternoon and lunch didn’t finish until almost 4.30pm. I went home to change and then headed to the Fairmont for a much-needed manicure and pedicure. I decided to get my hair done while I was there too! It’s a hard life.

On Saturday night I went to a party at a friend’s place in JBR. Their flat is on the 38th floor and the party was on the terrace. It was a really nice evening – there was a clear sky and I could see so many stars and an almost full moon. It was nice to meet friends from London and Lagos who are in town for the holidays too. At about 1am a few of us decided to go to Boudoir. Unfortunately by the time we got there our table had been given away! We waited outside for about 20 minutes but I decided I’d had enough and my bed was sounding more and more appealing. I think what killed everyone’s mood was the long drive back from JBR! My brother-in-law and I decided we’d go to McDonald’s on the way home. We sat at a table and he realised he knew the people on the next table from Lagos. A few minutes later a couple of friends who had been trying to get into Boudoir with us walked in! I suppose McDonald’s is the place to be at 2.30 on a Saturday night!

We got home at 3am and went straight to bed.

I love my life.

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Dubai: Days 7 and 8

We took it easy on Day 7 (New Year’s Eve). My mum, sister and I went to the salon at the Fairmont to get our hair done (a blow dry cost just over £14). I also had a mani/pedi (£26). It was probably one of the best pedicures I’ve ever had. I was the last to get my hair done, and my sister came up with some observations while waiting for me to finish.

We relaxed at home and had some dinner before getting ready for our New Year’s Eve party at Sho Cho. I ended up wearing a black dress – I don’t think I’d put on a dress since my brother’s wedding in August 2010! I just don’t wear them…

Anyway, some friends came over for a drink and quick tour of the new flat before we headed out.

It seemed to be one disaster after another:

  1. The celebratory bottle of champagne I opened erupted like Vesuvius all over the floor… What a waste!
  2. The driver(s) we had (don’t ask) took us in the wrong direction so we had to go right back to where we started and go in another direction. Four of us had no idea what direction we were going in anyway – thankfully the fifth was aware of it! There was a bottle of Grey Goose in the car so we opened it and started passing it around. After the third round, I couldn’t have any more – and left the other four to finish the bottle. Which they did without any trouble. 
  3. Just as we got to the road we needed to get to, all traffic was diverted away from it. The police had cordoned off the street and we had to go in a different direction. It would have taken us five minutes in the car but we decided we had no choice but to walk the rest of the way. So close and yet so far!
  4. The boys were OK in their shoes, and I was uncomfortable but managed to keep up in my heels, but my sister decided she’d rather walk barefoot down the street than struggle in her heels! It took us just over 20 minutes to walk to the party. 

We walked in at 11.30 and hit the bar. Some hit it harder than others, but those aren’t my stories to tell… 

We also had a clear view of the Burj Khalifa and the midnight fireworks – that was spectacular.

2012

It was a fun evening – definitely memorable! We had a lot of laughs dissecting the night over lunch the next day! What’s shocking is that I think I must have been the most sober out of all of us – which is a first. 

For the last few years, my best friend from Lagos and I have started our own tradition of having a dim sum lunch on New Year’s Day. In the past we’ve always gone to Phoenix Palace in London, but this year, being in Dubai, we ended up at Royal China at DIFC. It’s always a good laugh and with each year our lunch group has become bigger, depending on who’s around. This year it was just family:

2012

Happy 2012!

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