Notes by Nectar

Your destiny lies in your own hands

Dubai 2016: Week 11

I had another busy week and a whole lot of work to do. I managed to fit in a few gym and yoga sessions too…

I met a friend for coffee on Sunday afternoon. We went to The Brass at the new Citywalk extension. We sat outdoors – but we didn’t find the chairs particularly comfortable and we also had to keep swatting the flies away! I guess the weather is starting to get warmer, which brings the flies.

I had a busy Monday – with a session with Pete, a piano lesson and Arabic in the evening. I often get no real work done on a Monday (just emails and other random bits and pieces) as I’m in and out of the flat all day. I’d wanted to go to Art Night at DIFC but by the time I was done with Arabic it was late and I was knackered.

I did make it to Art Dubai on Tuesday evening though. I’d been invited to the opening and took a friend (V) with me. We got there at around 8pm (it took us an hour to get to the Madinat because of an accident on Sheikh Zayed Road) and had a look around. It was pretty busy, considering it was the Patron’s Circle opening – and people were more interested in being seen than actually looking at any art. We decided to walk through the two halls and then get some food and drinks, before heading over to the main bar. I bumped into another friend and V and I joined him and his friends for some drinks. We left just before midnight, both of us having early starts on Wednesday.

I was tired on Wednesday, and very tempted to have a nap after my session with Pete! But I had work to do, so I didn’t. I also had to finish off my Arabic homework and go to class!

I thought I’d be able to get a lot of work done on Thursday. I went to yoga in the morning and had lunch with NP at Zuma. I hadn’t seen her in months so it was great to catch up. We both ordered the business lunch – you get a miso soup, two starters and a main course for AED 130. I ordered the beef skewers and prawn gyoza for starters and the seabass for my main course. She ordered the Zuma salad and the gyoza for her starters and had the black cod for her main course. We also ordered a portion of the tuna tataki from the a la carte menu for the table (which mostly I ate).

I got home after lunch, got into my pajamas and settled down to do some work. About 30 minutes later, the doorbell rang. Some friends of ours were in town and popped in to see us before leaving that evening. They stayed until 7pm – so I got no work done. I started working after dinner and didn’t finish until 3.30am.

I was tired on Friday but carried on working for some of the day. I met up with a friend for dinner. We went to Loca at Souk al Bahar. We got a table in the bar area and ordered some drinks while it was still happy hour. She had wine, I had margaritas. We also ordered a portion of the spinach and artichoke dip to share. I later realised that there was no artichoke in it at all, it was just spinach. We both had the jalapeno prawns for our main course.

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It’s definitely my favourite thing on their menu. When we left Souk al Bahar, we got into the cab and I suggested we go to Zuma for a drink. It wasn’t even 10pm yet, but Zuma was pretty empty when we got there. We only stayed for a drink and left. It took me almost 40 minutes to get home from Zuma – there was so much traffic at that time of night!

I took it easy on Saturday and then went for a walk on the beach. We went early and caught the sun setting.

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I was home by 7.15pm. Dad and I had dinner together and another week was over.

I love my life.

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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 2015: Week 18

I had hoped that this week would be quieter after the crazy weekend I had, but it was just as busy. In terms of working out, however, I did nothing.

I stayed in my pajamas all day on Sunday. I was supposed to have a session with Trevor (which I cancelled) and a meeting that afternoon (which I also cancelled) and I just stayed home. I hadn’t switched on my laptop in three days and had a lot of work to catch up on.

On Monday evening NP took me to La Petite Maison as a belated birthday treat. Our table was booked for 8.30pm but we decided to go earlier and have a cocktail at the bar. We both ordered tomatinis and had a good catch-up. We sat at our table shortly after 8.30 and ordered a lot of food! We were told that they didn’t have the pissaladière but everything else was available. To start with, we had: burrata (naturally), marinated salmon with pink peppercorns, salt cod croquettes and sea bass carpaccio. For our main course we shared the salt-baked sea bass and the grilled entrecote. We also ordered the dauphinois potatoes. We also had a wonderful bottle of red wine. It was a lot for two people (but we managed), and when the dessert menu came we shared the cheesecake and ordered two more cocktails. It was a lovely evening and a great birthday treat!

On Tuesday night, a friend had invited me and two others to La Serre for dinner. We met at 8.15 and had a drink at the bar. The bartender seemed very happy to see me, leaving the others wondering how often I went there (I hadn’t been in months, promise). We had a drink and then went to our table. For starters we ordered: fried calamari coated in plantain, burrata, tuna carpaccio with citrus dressing and grilled aubergine with feta and prawns. For our main course we shared a pasta dish, the whole sea bream baked in papillote and the 50-hour cooked beef short rib with sweet onion (amazing). We also ordered some sauteed spinach (too salty) and dauphinois potatoes. The restaurant was packed, just as packed as La Petite Maison the day before. We also shared a warm chocolate mousse for dessert and then went back to the bar to bring in my friend’s birthday at midnight.

I was home all day on Wednesday. That evening I met up with a friend and three of his friends at Tolosa Bodega in Souk Al Bahar. I didn’t know any of his other friends but it was an interesting evening. It was also ladies night so I was given three tokens for drinks. I left the ordering to my friend. He ordered: burrata (seriously), pequillo peppers stuffed with goat cheese, prawn croquettes, a seafood sharing platter and dauphinois potatoes. French restaurants three days in a row. Just think of all that butter.

I stayed in on Thursday catching up with work. That evening my parents went to the Dubai Mall for a movie and asked me if I wanted to join them for dinner afterwards. I agreed and met them at Vapiano. I could have (should have?) had a salad after all the heavy meals I’d had during the week but in the end opted for my favourite, penne with salsiccia pomodori (beef pepperoni, olives, pesto sauce and other fattening things). We were home by 9pm.

I got a lot of work done on Friday. That evening I went to Blended, at the Media City Amphitheatre. I went on my own but was meeting a friend who was there with a few other people. I’d bought a regular ticket but he spoke to someone and managed to get me a lounge pass for the concert. Performing that evening were Nico & Vinz, Robin Thicke and Kool & the Gang. I got there at about 7pm, Nico & Vinz were already on stage. I’d never heard of them but recognised their last song (Am I Wrong). Robin Thicke was on next – and again I didn’t know any of his music apart from ‘Blurred Lines’. He was on stage for a long time – and really seemed to love himself. And then came Kool & The Gang. They were awesome – and I knew most of their songs (some of which are as old as I am).

After the concert, I met up with a friend at Ikandy at the Shangri-La where he was staying. He was in town for just 24 hours so we caught up over a couple of drinks and ended up eating at Zaatar w Zeit next door. It was about 3am when I got home.

At noon on Saturday, some friends who were in town from Bombay came over. I was still in my pajamas when they rang the doorbell and wasn’t planning on going sightseeing with them and my mum. I eventually decided to get ready and go with them. Our first stop was Al Qasr – I wanted them to see the lobby and the view because it’s really something. After Al Qasr, we drove to the Palm Jumeirah. We didn’t get off at the Atlantis but did stop at the Anantara for a while, thinking we’d have lunch there. Unfortunately the lunch buffet didn’t look appealing at all – there wasn’t much variety to choose from. After that I insisted that we stop at the Zabeel Saray so they could see it. Honestly, one look at the pool and I just wanted to check in for a week! We went to the One & Only next – and I wanted to check in there too.

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Each hotel is more impressive than the last.

After our hotel tour, we decided to have lunch at the Mall of the Emirates. It was 4pm by this point and I was hungry. We ended up at Al Halabi, a Lebanese restaurant. The food was excellent – even better than Wafi Gourmet, I’d say. We wandered around the shops for a while and then it was time to go. We dropped them off at the Grand Hyatt and came home.

I hadn’t planned to go out that evening but my friend who was staying at the Shangri-La said he was meeting a couple of friends at La Petite Maison and asked if I wanted to join them. We got there at around 8pm. I started with a tomatini. We didn’t have a reservation but they managed to accommodate the four of us without any difficulty. Again, they didn’t have any pissaladière but we managed fine without it. For starters, we had: burrata, marinated salmon with pink peppercorns, warm prawns with olive oil, baked crab (on their new specials menu) and escargots. For our main course, we had: whole sea bream baked in papillote, grilled entrecote, grilled lamb cutlets (excellent) and rigatoni with mushrooms (but I was too full to try it). Guess what sides we ordered? Did you say dauphinois potatoes? Yes, that’s right. And French fries and green beans (I had neither). We also had a couple of bottles of wine (red, and all I can tell you is that the label has a drawing of a locust on it). Everyone wanted a different dessert so we ended up ordering three: the rhubarb and kumquat crumble, the cheesecake and the pain perdu. I had one bite of each. The cheesecake is still my favourite though.

After dinner, we walked over to Roberto’s – the guys fancied some cigars and whiskey. I hadn’t been to Roberto’s in a long time. I had a glass of Rioja while they enjoyed their cigars and Glenfiddich.

I love my life.

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Dubai 2015: Week 14

I was working all of Sunday and didn’t leave the flat other than to go to the gym.

It was my birthday on Monday so I spent most of the day with the family. I’ve had a ‘no work on my birthday’ policy for the last few years (I would even take the day off when I worked in London) and managed to stick to it this year. At about 10am, the guy from security came up and told us there was going to be a fire drill and we’d have to leave the flat. I was a bit annoyed because I’d seen the signs next to the lift the day before and specifically asked him if we’d have to leave and he said it was just to test the fire alarms. So, instead of waiting for the fire alarm to go off at 10.30 and having to walk down 23 flights of stairs with two kids, I got ready for the gym and made a cup of tea while my mum and sister put V2 in his stroller. We went down in the lift and just waited for everything to kick off. Dad decided he was going to stay in bed (no, I’m not joking). Once the alarm went off, some people came out of the building while others just watched from their balconies (again, I’m not joking). The fire engines came, the paramedics came. V1 was thrilled to see it all in real life but it was a joke. Forty-five minutes after the alarm had gone off, people were still strolling out of the building in no rush whatsoever.

Once everyone was allowed back inside, I went to the gym. Later that day as I told friends about the fire drill, they said ‘Oh, wow. You got to see some real firemen on your birthday. What a treat!’ I had to point out that these weren’t New York firemen, worthy of a calendar page – these were short, stocky men from Kerala and Tamil Nadu!

That afternoon, my sister, V1, my cousin and I went to the Meat Company for lunch. We had steaks all round – so good! V1 had eaten at home and just had some chips. Afterwards we went home and I chilled for a bit. We cut a cake that evening, with V1 helping me to blow out the candles. That night my parents, sister and Vs 1 and 2 went to Sapori di Bice for dinner. It’s very kid-friendly and V1 had brought his scooter to play around on. I also bumped into a friend of mine I hadn’t seen in about a year so that was quite nice. I thought I might go out for a drink after dinner but was feeling really tired and lazy! It was such a chilled birthday – and not even one drink…

On Tuesday afternoon, Vs 1 and 2 had been invited to a friend’s daughter’s second birthday party. The party was at G’s Cafe in JLT and V2 cried all the way there. When we got to the party all the kids were with the entertainer already and the mums were having tea and coffee and finger sandwiches and little pastries. It was really nice. I even met someone that I knew but hadn’t seen in about two years! When it was time to cut the cake, we all went into the cafe – and there were some amazing cakes on display! After having a bite to eat, we headed home. V2 had slept the entire time we were there and woke up just in time to cry all the way home in the car.

I had a gym session with Trevor on Wednesday and a piano lesson in the evening. I tried to do as much work as I could as I knew I wouldn’t get much done at the weekend.

I woke up on Thursday to the most awful sandstorm. Visibility was almost zero and the world had taken on a bizarre natural sepia filter. I couldn’t see the Shangri-La next door or even the street below.

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Someone told me there had been a weather warning and that this was going to last all weekend. I panicked as I’d booked my birthday drinks at Calabar and had reserved an outdoors space. I sent the manager of the bar a neurotic email and he called me back a few hours later to say that it looked like the sandstorm was improving (it was) and that they were opening their outdoor area that evening (phew) and that it would be fine tomorrow (it bloody better be).

I worked most of Thursday. That night I had dinner at Royal China with a friend of mine. We’d booked a table for six people but everyone gradually bailed as the day went on, so we decided to go anyway – and he bought me dinner for my birthday. The food and service were really good. We shared a hot and sour soup with chicken to start and a quarter crispy aromatic duck. For our main course we had the Szechuan prawns and black bean beef with steamed rice and a portion of pak choi. Yum! I was full after all this but we had toffee banana for dessert anyway! It was a quiet evening and I was home by 11pm.

I woke up on Friday to glorious sunshine and clear skies. Thank goodness. However, that afternoon my sister and I walked to the Shangri-La to get our hair done and it was so windy that by the time we got there we were covered in sand. It was disgusting. I could feel it down my back (how??) and up my nose and in my throat. Ugh. Luckily the walk home was nowhere near as bad, and even though there was a breeze at Calabar that night, it wasn’t a gale!

It was a nice evening. I got to Calabar with a friend at about 6pm and my first guest arrived at 6.30. I had 39 people show up, 22 people didn’t. Out of those 22, some had said they couldn’t make it, some had RSVP’d ‘yes’ but never bothered showing up (rude) and some didn’t bother to RSVP at all (also rude). But I think those that showed up had a good time – I know I did! And then when the bill came, I couldn’t find my debit card in my handbag. I knew it was there because I had checked twice before leaving home and I hadn’t opened my bag so it couldn’t have fallen out at any point. I emptied my bag but it was nowhere to be found. In the end, a friend paid the bill for me. After he’d paid, the waiter said he’d ‘found’ my card on the floor somewhere. It was all very suspicious. And for the next two days I thought I must have been going mad every time I mentioned it as people laughed it off and put it down to too much alcohol. And then I thought they might be right until… a friend told me that when she got home she noticed that her credit cards were loose in her handbag instead of in her wallet like they usually are. So, on the plus side – I wasn’t going mad. On the minus side, the only people who had access to our bags were my guests. And that is a real negative. But, if you were going to go through someone’s handbag, wouldn’t you take the cash instead of the cards? I had AED 700 in my bag and it was still there the next day. None of it made any sense.

I had asked everyone not to bring a present, but a few people did get me something. I got: a box of Godiva chocolates, a book of 5-minute crosswords, a spiralbound notebook and two Smythson notebooks – one is black and says ‘Frankly, my dear’ on the front and the other is orange and says ‘Expect the unexpected’ on the front. Lots of notebooks!

It’s probably no surprise that I spent all of Saturday at home. I got out of bed at about 1pm, barely able to move. I had lunch, got back into bed and watched an episode of ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ with my eyes closed. I showered, got into different pajamas and lazed around all day.

I love my life.

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Dubai 2013: Week 30

Again, I had Arabic every morning from Sunday to Wednesday – we covered:

  • How we find life in Dubai – easy, fun, boring, etc
  • Whether our friends are local or foreigners
  • How to say sentences such as: I see you, he sees me, she helps them, and so on
  • More verbs

After my class I had a session with Randy. I was home for the rest of the day and that night had dinner with my sister at the Dubai Mall. We went to the Outback Steakhouse for an early dinner. We were so early, in fact, that I couldn’t have a baked potato with my steak as they weren’t ready yet.

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On Monday afternoon my sister and I went to Spa Zen at the Radisson Royal for massages. We couldn’t get our appointments at the same time so had to go one after the other. I took my book with me and actually managed to read some of it (even though I wasn’t particularly enjoying it and have put it aside for now).

On Tuesday evening I met a friend for Suhoor. It’s traditionally the pre-dawn meal during Ramadan, but it seems to run on straight after Iftar until the early hours. We went to the Courtyard at the Al Manzil Hotel. I had contemplated getting my hair done but am glad I didn’t as we were sitting outdoors and it was humid. I’d have looked like Chaka Khan by the end of the evening. We met late, at 10.30pm, and got a table. We had some hummus, fatoush, shish taouk, fresh juices (they don’t serve alcohol during Iftar and Suhoor). As we started so late, I didn’t get home until 1am.

On Thursday I had a session with Randy and then went to get my hair done. That night I met up with some friends for drinks at Zuma. One of the girls brought a guy who was a banker by day, magician by night. (Yes, the obvious joke was that during the day he made money disappear.) He asked me what the time was. I told him it was 9:05. He asked me to take my watch off and hold it in my closed right hand. I did. He covered my right hand with both his hands and asked me to think of a number between 20 and 40. I chose 38. He told me to imagine that my watch now said 9:43 (9:05 + 38 minutes). He removed his hands, I opened my palm and looked at my watch. It said 9:40 (close enough)! How did he do that?? (No, he hadn’t been holding my hand for 35 minutes.) He did a few more tricks with someone else’s wedding ring, another person’s 20 dirham note, and someone else’s pair of glasses. I thought he was incredible. Do you believe in magic?

After Zuma we went on to McGettigan’s where we stayed until they closed. Again, it was packed.

On Friday my sister and I had a late lunch at Royal China. Dim sum and Coke suited me just fine! That night I had dinner with a friend at Rivington Grill in Souk Al Bahar (hurrah for Entertainer vouchers). We both had the lamb shoulder which was excellent. For dessert, I had the cheese platter. I love cheese! We joined a couple of friends at McGettigan’s after dinner and had some more wine.

I was home all day on Saturday. That night my sister and I went to PF Chang for dinner. We had the dynamite shrimp, hot and sour soup, Mongolian lamb, and brown rice. And then we noticed their new dessert menu. She ordered the hot chocolate fondant and I ordered the red velvet cheesecake.

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Neither of us finished our dessert. We were both ridiculously full after eating and had to roll ourselves to the taxi queue.

I love my life.

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Dubai 2013: Week 28

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.

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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.

The relaxation room

The relaxation room

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:

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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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Dubai 2013: Week 21

Another busy week!

After my Sunday morning session with Randy, Dad and I went to Outback Steakhouse at the Dubai Mall for lunch. I love the mall on Sundays – because it’s so empty! After lunch we went to see The Fast and the Furious 6 (Dad’s choice, of course). I thought it was an average movie but that the last 20 minutes were totally unnecessary. Anyway, these days I tend to go to the cinema just for the popcorn (salty)!

I had my Arabic class on Monday. We learned:

  • Days of the week
  • How to use numbers with nouns – one boy, two boys, and so on (it’s not as simple as you would think!)
  • More random vocabulary – tired, busy, hungry, holiday, yesterday, please (when offering something)

A friend of mine from Lagos (GRH) arrived in Dubai that morning for a few days so we had dinner at La Petite Maison in DIFC. As soon as we sat down I ordered a portion of burrata. There was no way I was going to miss out on it again! My friend is vegetarian so when we go out everything we order is vegetarian but I also choose one non-vegetarian dish (of course I would love more than one but then I either overeat or half of it goes to waste). I ordered the crab and lobster salad. He then got a phone call and told me a friend of his was going to join us (he wasn’t vegetarian – hurrah!). So his friend and I shared the turbot – and my goodness, I love their dauphinoise potatoes! After dinner we walked over to Zuma and had a few more drinks. It was a really fun evening…

I woke up a little ‘dehydrated’ on Tuesday – so when GRH suggested going to Wafi Gourmet for lunch I jumped at the chance. I think hummus has become my favourite hangover food. We ordered a few things to share and then I had to head off to my piano lesson.

That night I went to see Amjad Ali Khan at the Madinat Theatre with a friend. We met a bit earlier and had a few drinks at The Agency and then went to the concert. I’d seen Amjad Ali Khan and his two sons in concert in London many years ago. In fact, they were the first classical Indian musicians I’d seen perform live. My grandfather was so excited when I told him I’d been to the concert – until that point I could never understand why he loved classical Indian music so much. He started making CDs of his favourite musicians – I still have them. However, listening to a CD is nowhere near as exciting as seeing a live performance and I don’t really listen to them much…

We had great seats. It was just Amjad Ali Khan in the first segment.

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He explained that the sarod isn’t just played with the fingertips, it’s played with the actual edge of the nails. He even filed his nails between compositions. He explained that there is rarely a programme for classical Indian music as the musicians themselves don’t know what they’re going to be playing – it depends on their mood and sometimes they even compose pieces of music while they’re on stage.

In the second segment, it was just his two sons – Amaan Ali Khan and Ayaan Ali Khan. And then the three of them were together:

There’s a far better review here. I even spotted myself in the photo of the intermission crowd! And I’ve only just realised that Amjad Ali Khan changed while he was off-stage – perhaps he was wearing one of his son’s kurtas by mistake?

After my Wednesday session with Randy, I had another Arabic class on Wednesday afternoon. We did:

  • A new function word – to have (I have, you have, etc.)
  • More reading and writing practice with the letters we’d learned so far
  • More vocabulary – tomorrow, after, before, sorry, school, meeting

That evening GRH and I went to see Iron Man 3. I hadn’t seen the first or second movies but really enjoyed this one. After the movie we walked to Calabar at The Address Downtown for a drink and something to eat. It wasn’t a late night.

I had lunch with NP at Jones the Grocer on Thursday – I’ve resigned myself to the fact that even though I look at the entire menu I know I’m going to have the Wagyu burger and fries. That evening GRH and another friend of ours had dinner at Bice Mare in Souk al Bahar. We shared a couple of starters and then I had the baked turbot with artichokes and black truffles for my main course. After dinner GRH and I went to Zuma to meet up with some other friends. It wasn’t a late night but it was fun.

I had Friday brunch at The Ivy with some girlfriends to celebrate one of their birthdays. As I intended to get some work done after brunch I opted for brunch without alcohol (shocking, isn’t it?). There are two brunch options – you can either have the eight-course tasting brunch or the three-course a la carte brunch. The eight-course menu looked fantastic but I thought it would be far too much food, so I went for the three-course brunch. For starters I ordered the French toast with berries. It was good, but I still think the French toast at Raoul’s in Maida Vale is better! I couldn’t decide what to eat for my main course and eventually ordered the fish and chips. The portion was huge (a pleasant surprise compared to the tiny sea bass I’d had the week before).

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I ate only half of it.

For dessert I had the red velvet coupe.

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And of course I had to have some cheese too. I don’t know why I had it because I was already full but I couldn’t resist it.

Also, there was a live singer at The Ivy (I believe he’s there every Friday for the brunch crowd) – and he was amazing. I couldn’t see him from where I was sitting and when he started singing I thought they were playing a Michael Bublé CD!

I went home, did some work and then went to Siddharta Lounge at Grosvenor House for another friend’s birthday. It was a nice evening – I knew a few people there but met some new interesting people. I hadn’t been to Siddharta Lounge since last May and had never sat outside before. It was a lovely evening but quite warm!

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I ended up staying later than I expected (to the end, basically!) and my hosts gave me a ride home. It was a lovely evening.

I spent most of Saturday by the pool with a book.

I love my life.

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Dubai: Week 33

Aside from the usual gym sessions and work, it wasn’t a very exciting week.

I went to an InterNations gathering with a friend on Sunday night at the Ritz-Carlton at DIFC. As usual we were given a choice of wine or beer as our complimentary drink, but the serving was so tiny it was quite ridiculous. It was also quite warm indoors as the doors to the terrace were open – and it was much cooler outdoors. We met a few new people and some people we’d met before. It was a nice evening, and not too late – I was home by 10.30pm.

On Wednesday night I had dinner with some girl friends at Toscana at the Madinat Jumeirah. We initially had a table outside but eventually moved indoors as it was too hot outside. We ordered some starters to share – and I had a slice of pizza. It was my first slice since Bali! We also shared some main courses – some grilled chicken, risotto and pasta. I thought the food was just average. I remember it being better when I went there the first time back in January.

I went for dinner because I hadn’t left the flat (other than to go to the gym) in 3 days. Out of the six other women at dinner, I only really knew two of them, and two of the others were brand new to me. The conversation revolved around schools, Bollywood movies and a couple of other things I’ve forgotten. I had absolutely nothing in common with them. They must also think I’m pretty dull as I don’t say very much when I’m with them.

I was supposed to leave for London on Thursday morning but decided to postpone my trip. I was away for so long over the summer and was just getting back into my routine. I just didn’t feel like travelling. Not going to London meant selling my George Michael tickets – it was the sole purpose of my trip. I’d had those tickets for 18 months (due to the rescheduled shows) and had really been looking forward to it!

I stayed in on Thursday night – I didn’t really feel like doing much that evening.

On Friday night I met up with a friend – we went to Karma Kafe at Souk Al Bahar for some drinks and a bite, and then headed to Movida for more drinks and dancing. It was a really fun night – the music was good, the vodka was flowing, and I even bumped into someone that I knew (which is weird because I only know about five people in this city). We left when the club closed. I got home at around 3.30am or so.

For some reason I thought it would be a good time to watch an episode of ‘Revenge’ and chat to a friend in San Francisco on Skype. By the time I went to sleep it was 5am. I woke up at 8am – couldn’t sleep. I tried to go back to sleep at about 11.30 or so but managed to snooze for a little while only.

That afternoon I had to go to the Virgin Atlantic office to pay for the date change of my ticket. Mum and I went together, it took 5 minutes to sort out, and then we went to BurJuman. I had a coffee at Gloria Jean’s while she had a sandwich. We walked around for a while. I tried on a dress in Ted Baker but thought it looked better on the hanger.

After BurJuman Mum and I decided to go to Mirdif City Centre for a wander. By the time we got home it was 8pm and I was shattered. I couldn’t wait to get into bed and pass out. I watched a couple of episodes of ‘Revenge’ and that was the end of my weekend!

I love my life.

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Dubai: Week 31

What a busy week!

Aside from gym sessions and work, it’s been quite a social week.

On Monday I had dinner with NP at Zuma. I hadn’t seen her since before the summer and it was fun to catch up. The food at Zuma is always excellent: we had the sliced seabass with yuzu and truffle oil (amazing), tuna tataki, Zuma salad and rock shrimp. We skipped dessert although I’m going to have to go back at some point and have the green tea and banana cake!

On Tuesday evening, Mum and I went to the Dubai Mall as she wanted to send some chocolates to Bombay. In the end, she picked up a box of dates from Bateel. Every time we go there the man at the counter gives us a taster – I usually go for the dates with pecan but this time I also tried one with ginger. It was interesting, but I prefer the pecan.

2012

The Hummingbird Bakery also had its opening at the Dubai Mall on Tuesday and they were giving away free cupcakes. Yes, of course I had one. You could choose any one you wanted so I got a red velvet cupcake. The mall is becoming a dangerous place!

I went to see ‘The Imposter’ on Wednesday evening with a friend and one of her friends. I’d heard about the movie and it was the last night it was playing so I decided to go (and also because I really fancied some popcorn). ‘The Imposter’ is a documentary about a French man who manages to convince a Texan family that he’s their long lost teenage son. It’s a true story. I can understand that they must have been desperate to believe that anyone was Nicholas, but these two people looked nothing alike. Nicholas was blond with blue eyes, Frederic Bourdin had brown eyes, dyed blond hair and spoke with a French accent. Even with a shadow of a doubt, wouldn’t you insist on a DNA test? There were some funny moments in the movie, such as when Nicholas’ sister recalls receiving the phone call telling her that he was found in Spain, she says ‘Spain? Isn’t that on the other side of the country?’ Good grief.

We had a girls’ night on Thursday evening – five of us went to Loca at the Dubai Marine Beach Resort. I’d never been there, and it was a nice place. We started with wine and I moved on to vodka after that. It wasn’t a very late night, and we did eat while we were there (spinach and artichoke dip, spicy guacamole, lamb burrito – which was actually very tasty) so I didn’t feel too awful the next day.

Dad and I had lunch at Sakura on Friday with my uncle, aunt and their grandchildren. My cousin was out of town and I ended up sitting between the 12-year-old and the 4-year-old. I had a headache by the end of lunch. My mum’s aunt and her two sons came over to visit later that afternoon and stayed for a couple of hours. I’d forgotten how much my great-aunt looks like my late grandfather – they have the same eyes – and I couldn’t help but miss him.

That night I was supposed to see The Proclaimers at Irish Village with a friend and were told tickets were available at the door – but when we got there they had sold out! Who knew they had so many fans in Dubai? Or anywhere, for that matter? We decided to go for a drink instead and ended up at Carter’s at Wafi. The crowd was dire and the music was appalling. We sat at the bar and had a few drinks and I was home before midnight.

I lazed around the flat on Saturday. I did some work, watched some episodes of ‘Suits’, Dad left for Jamaica. I met up with a friend for drinks and dinner that night. We met at Karma Kafé at Souk Al Bahar with two of her friends whom I hadn’t met. We had a few drinks at the bar intending to move on to Bice Mare for dinner, but in the end we stayed there for dinner. It was a fun evening, the vodka was flowing, the conversation was stimulating and the food was great. We had salmon tataki, prawn tempura maki, new style tuna sashimi, black cod with nam pla sauce, and a chocolate fondant for dessert. We calculated at the end that we’d had 25 vodkas between the four of us by the end of the evening!

I love my life.

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Dubai: Week 22

What a busy week!

I didn’t have my usual session with Rama on Sunday. Instead I was invited out for an early(ish) lunch at Siddharta Lounge at Grosvenor House Tower 2. It’s a beautiful restaurant – it reminded me of the Sanderson Hotel in London. It was all white – white bar chairs, white sofas, floor-to-ceiling windows all the way round. It’s a gorgeous venue for lunch, but I’ve heard it’s also very popular on Thursday and Friday nights. 

After lunch, my mum, grandmother and I went to the Patchi store at Mercato. My grandmother and I both needed to buy gifts for a few people. Unfortunately the store at Mercato was being refurbished and they didn’t have a big variety of gifts on display. I picked up a few things but we decided to go to the store at the Dubai Mall as well. We were there for what seemed like forever. Between us we ordered about 20 boxes of chocolates and waited around for them to be prepared. By the time we got home it was 6.30. I rushed upstairs, changed and freshened up and was out again by 6.45.

My cousin had asked me to join her and some friends at Capital Club in DIFC for quiz night. I love quizzes so I went along. There were six of us on the team and that particular evening it turned out to be an all-music quiz. My five teammates weren’t very happy about that but I was thrilled about this as I thought my musical knowledge was pretty good. 

Which is why it pains and embarrasses me to say that we came last. LAST. Out of seven teams. There were eight rounds consisting of eight questions each. The first two rounds were fine (TV themes and Oscar winners) but it went rapidly downhill after that. We were by far the youngest team there and the rest of the quiz seemed to revolve around music from the 1960s and 1970s – and I think my musical knowledge only begins with the 1980s (unless it’s classical music). I hate losing. When I got home and told my parents, they were shocked that we lost too!

I had my usual yoga class on Monday and then worked for the rest of the day. I had a lot of work to get through and didn’t want to have to do it when I got to London. That evening we went to a restaurant called Aryaas in Bur Dubai, another vegetarian Indian restaurant. On the menu was a ‘family dosa’ which we were told was their specialty. I have never seen such a big dosa in my life. I don’t even know how they managed to make them so big. I thought the food was just OK – I still prefer the palak dosa at Sukh Sagar! 

I had a session with Rama on Tuesday and then went to Sharjah with my parents. Our work barely took 15 minutes and we were on our way back home. We decided to stop at Mirdif City Centre for lunch. I’d never been there – it was quite empty compared to the Dubai Mall and it was nice to walk around. We ended up at PF Chang’s. 

After lunch, I went to the Dubai Mall as I needed to pick up a few gifts for friends I was seeing in London. I also managed to sneak in a quick visit to Gloria Jean’s. I stayed in that night finishing off some work and thinking about packing. 

I started packing on Wednesday morning. And by that I mean I started looking at my clothes, trying things on, and deciding what to take with me. I left everything I was going to pack on my bed. That afternoon I went to get my hair cut, coloured, highlighted and blow-dried. When I got to the salon I decided to get rid of the highlights and skip the cut. For months the hairdresser kept telling me how ‘terrible’ my highlights were and the colour was all wrong. I was so sick of hearing it I just thought it would be best to get rid of them altogether. I also had a mani/pedi.

I went to have tea with my cousin after getting my hair done. She had flown in from India the day before with her husband and one-year-old daughter and was staying at the Fairmont. It was good to catch up, even though it was just for an hour. I went home, finished packing, did some work and then we went out for dinner. 

It was my grandmother’s last night in Dubai so we decided to go somewhere nice for dinner. We went to Bice Mare at Souk al Bahar. Sadly they didn’t have a table outside but we could still see the Dubai Fountain from our table. The three of them ordered some starters but I decided to have just a main course. I ordered the baked turbot with artichokes and black truffles. It was fantastic. 

2012

My parents ordered the seafood platter to share and my grandmother had a vegetarian pasta. When we had finished our meal we went out on to the terrace and watched the fountain. 

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We were home before midnight and I was in bed by 1am. 

I woke up at 6am on Thursday and my mum and I left for the airport a little after 7am… I couldn’t wait to get to London!

I love my life.

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