Middle East

Dubai Water Canal

I must confess that, had I not lived in Dubai, it would never make it in my list of top must-visit places. Simply because it is a man-made city created from a desert and personally, I’d have no desire to travel somewhere to see a bunch of well-made concrete structures.  Having said that, I appreciate and am highly grateful as a resident of Dubai for all the comforts it continues to provide on a professional and personal front. And over the last couple of years, I am in awe of all that the government has done and continues to do in trying to make the city one of the most desired tourist destinations in the world.

On that note, I spent an evening strolling by the recently constructed water canal. The Dubai Water Canal was inaugurated in Oct 2016, three years after it was first announced. The changes made to Sheikh Zayed Road, the arterial road that connects the emirates, is commendable considering all that has been done in a short span of time and within the stipulated deadline.

The water canal is a 12-kilometre waterway that connects Dubai Creek with the Arabian Gulf and will eventually feature a jogging track, restaurants and cafes along the promenade and marine stations with regular ferry of passengers. As always, Dubai wants to make a noise about it –  I even noticed that they have Bose speakers installed along the walkway!! This project will also feature ‘smart’ electric poles and other tech-elements to fulfill requirements of Dubai’s aim to become the Smartest City in the world!

Here’s a first glimpse of the water canal and the bridges, view of Downtown Dubai and of course, Burj Khalifa.

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New kid on the blog

Presenting Young, new kid on the travel blog.

Young is what happened when Yin and Yang went a little overboard with their travels!

baby travel

He is 3 months old and has already travelled to one country that included 4 cities, 3 flights, one train journey and a few bumpy inter-city car rides!

So we took Young to India as there were a line of grandparents, great-grandparents, uncles and aunties queueing up to see the latest addition. This was his itinerary over a duration of 2 weeks:

While Yang became the typically paranoid mum about how son would cope with the sultry Indian summer and the hectic schedule after a pampered Dubai ‘winter’, Yin was certain he would weather it all. So except for a worrying cough that came along the way, Young responded well by just sleeping! The moment we got onto a vehicle, he’d fall asleep, only to wake up when we reached the destination. We couldn’t have asked for more (and can only hope this trend continues, fingers crossed).

Thus Young successfully completed his first trip.  Travel is never ever going to be the same again! Here’s to a whole lot adventures, madness and fun! Clink, clink!

Just in case you thought otherwise, that was the sound of baby milk bottles.

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Rainy days & Mondays with Parmesan

Rain Dubai

Rainy days like this are rare in a desert. And when it rains, everyone and everything gets alive and kicking, traffic included.

My ideal rainy day is to wake up as per routine, decide to skip work, snuggle back into bed and much later in the afternoon, go on a long drive, hunting for ‘pakoras‘ n ‘chai’.

Sigh! Back to reality. I did go to work and returned home to a fridge screaming at me to use its week old vegetables.

Result: Parmesan & Roasted Veggie Salad.

parmesan dubai

It turned out much better than I thought it would. Warm roasted pumpkins, brinjal (or eggplant or aubergine as you wish to call it), juicy red capsicum (okay, so they are called red peppers) and a local variant of zucchini in a balsamic vinegar dressing along with whole wheat pasta for company. Served on a bed of lettuce for some more colour effect. The star of the dish, however, were the Parmesan shavings – a generous, delicious and calorific contribution to an otherwise healthy dish.

No, those spicy Indian fritters cannot replace Parmesan or Pasta nevertheless, a bowl of this goodness provided a comforting end to a drab cold day.

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Fujairah and a day of indulgence

I got Dubai’ed* and booked a night for the husb & me at Fujairah Rotana Resort & Spa. Fujairah is one of the seven emirates that make the UAE and less than 2 hours from Dubai on road, made easier with the recent construction of Sheikh Khalifa highway that beautifully cuts through the jagged Hajar mountains. The landscape is arid and nothing much to rave about (unlike the arid but beautiful one of Leh) nevertheless, the drive was seamless for most part.Fujairah Rotana Resort

The resort sits snugly with the mountains on one side and Gulf of Oman on the other. Not one who’d go about booking ornate resorts or even writing about them, Fujairah Rotana deserves a special mention because of their excellent service and friendly staff. And of course, the location. We even got an upgrade despite a busy November weekend and I cannot help but mention the impressive breakfast buffet that catered to almost every palate. Our room was cozy and came with a balcony facing the pool and the sea view, one that looked particularly incredible at night. Fujairah Rotana Resort 2

Not much to do in  the emirate but for those interested, there is the Al Badiyah Mosque, one of the oldest structures built during the Ottoman Empire. We also happened to pass by an impressive looking Sheikh Zayed Mosque of Fujairah, that somewhat resembles the Hagia Sofia of Istanbul from outside. Sheikh Zayed Fujairah

In all, a brief but wonderful encounter with Fujairah and one I’d like to escape to every now and then, budget permitting.

Tip: Check Groupon or Cobone websites that offer discounts at the resort. And at Fujairah Resort, do try the absolutely delish Piña colada made by our very own Mr. Pradeep from Kerala land 🙂

*Dubai’ed: residents of the emirate who tend to or can afford to spend more than they really should/need to!  

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Camping in Oman

Tent: Check
Sleeping bags: Check
Utensils, instant noodles and tea bags: Check

And thus I had my first real camping experience!

Having got into Khasab the previous night and spent part of the next day watching dolphins from a dhow, we drove around the little town of Khasab and eventually found a camping spot right by the waters and installed our tents beside a few early other early campers. The friend, resourceful as he always is, had brought along logs of wood and soon enough, we had a warm bonfire amidst us and were contemplating life by the beach on a chilly night. After some chai, we got into our cozy li’l tents and called it a night. The next few hours were as blissful as could omanbe. I mean, how often do you sleep to the recurring sound of waves only to wake up and be reassured that this couldn’t get better?

Absolute. Heaven.

The morning after, the boys soaked in some sun (while I continued to lull to the sound of waves) and a quick breakfast later, we begun our journey back to Dubai.

Notes from this experience:

– Camping is a BIG winter past time in this region. Common to see a lot of Arabs driving many kilometers into the desert even if it is just for a night

– Discovered that there is a whole world of camping items stocked in supermarkets right from candles and logs of wood to camping diners and generators! (Yes, there are families that even instal a generator for lights at the camp area, beats the purpose if you ask me!)

– Make the most of the region and its deserts! Unfortunately, the winter has gone past and I cant wait for the next one to drive back to Oman and explore newer campsites!








Related post: The real Dolphinarium & more

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The real Dolphinarium & more

Dubai dolphinariumBeing in Dubai, I have visited the Dolphinarium a couple of times taking visiting folks to see the show. While the time spent is worth the money and quite an entertainer for adults and children alike, it made me wonder how much more wonderful it’d be to actually see dolphins at sea.

And just that happened. Quite unexpectedly.

We (me + he + Mr. Friend) did a weekend camping trip to Khasab at the northern-most tip of the Sultanate of Oman. Having reached the district of Musandam pretty late into the night, we Oman brunchhad booked a room in a little guest-house that also offered a ‘dhow-ride’ as part of the package.

Late next morning, after a delicious meal at a local pakistani chai-shop [food alert: big round sized naans hot from the oven along with a simple but delicious veggie gravy for me and kheema for the boys] we loitered for a while around the deserted area (being namaz time on a Friday) and then proceeded to the bay where the dhows were anchored.

Dhow OmanBeing one of the first to get into the dhow, I rushed in typical indo-fashion to get the best seats and prided on it briefly, before being told that the engine had a problem and we’d have to shift to another one. Needless to say, the other dhow was almost full with the upper deck occupied by a large Omani group happily squatted and lunching on their maqboos. Lets just say I got the sunniest side for the entire ride (and I have no interest in either Vitamin D or a tan, thank you very much).

Dolphin!All I knew was that we were going to a remote island, do a bit of snorkelling and return but after a brief conversation with the dhow ‘captain’ I was told that we’d pass the dolphin bay as well. Now Mr. Captain had been-there-done-that several times and before I knew it, he was whistling away when all of a sudden, there was a dolphin swimming alongside our dhow! What an incredible sight and much as I regret not getting a proper picture of it, I’m glad I actually watched the ‘beauty’ for the next couple of minutes before she(?) disappeared.

dhow omanClearly those dolphins were tired of tourists and played hide-and-seek with us but on nearing the bay, we did see a few bouncing up and down and even a baby dolphin who according to Mr. Captain was just 4 months old (cant vouch for that but hey, who cares). On our return, we stopped briefly for a snorkelling dip to watch schools of colourful little fish.

Overall a wonderful experience and a little piece of Oman that makes me want to explore more of the beautiful state that it appears to be. The 5 hours dhow cruise was a bit too long and slow (and terribly sunny, if I may say so) but I’d definitely want to see those friendly animals again. In a speedboat, perhaps?


Related post: Camping in Oman

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An evening at the beach

jumeirah beach

With the weather gradually getting better, we spent a couple of hours at the Jumeirah beach one evening. And were party to a beautiful sunset. Unfortunately, an iPhone camera couldn’t do much justice to what the eyes witnessed.

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Mountains and Mud Packs

The Treasury

The Treasury

Sequel to the earlier post!

I first saw Petra around the age of 10.

And that was when ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’ released and my dad, a film buff, took us to see the film. Only recently did I know that large parts of the film were shot in Petra and inside The Treasury.

As a brief introduction, Petra is a fabled rose city in Jordan that was once a thriving kingdom which fell into obscurity for centuries after a devastating earthquake. Having been discovered only in the 19th century, it is touted as one of the new seven wonders of the world.

And now I know why.

Obelisk Tomb

Obelisk Tomb

The morning after we landed in Amman, we drove for about an hour to reach the historical city. Instead of staying at the nearest town Wadi Musa, we checked into the pretty-in-pink ‘Petra Guest house’ that pretty much blends with the archaeological site near it.

The rest of the hot dry day was spent finding our way through the canyon and included a brief 10 min donkey-ride that I was compelled to take (and for the record, would never do again!). The mountains are imposing but impressive and the carvings along the way give a sneak peek into how important a trade route this was during its time.

Ah'mad and his postcards!

Ah’mad and his postcards!

The canyon today, has its share of souvenir sellers and a few small shops and as we walked, there was one boy selling postcards – I stopped to take a quick photo of him and moved on. After a couple of minutes someone tapped me from behind. I turned around to see our li’l fella pushing a string of postcards into my hand. Thinking he wanted me to buy it, I refused however he told me in impeccable English – “I want to give this to you free since you took my photo” – that was a first! He refused to take the cards back, shook hands with all of us introducing himself (“My name is Ah’mad, how do you do”) and happily agreed for one more group photo!

And so I returned back to the guesthouse that evening exhausted and tanned but with newly acquired historical information and a whole bunch of Petra postcards!

Mt Nebo madaba

Mount Nebo

On the last day we drove to the Dead Sea, briefly stopping at Madaba, a small town and Mount Nebo, the burial place of Moses. We also attempted to find our way to the Baptism site (of Jesus) and went down a solitary road eventually doing a U-turn for fear of ending up on the controversial Israel-Palestine land, a stone’s throw away. Reached Dead sea and had a booking at the Kempinski – I did tell ya we splurged but guess what, being off-season we got upgraded to a suite! That quite shut me up about having

View of West Bank / Jerusalem from the resort

View of West Bank / Jerusalem from the resort

exceeded our budget. 😉 Dead sea is the lowest point on earth and loaded with minerals and abundance of salt (Trivia: The salt level is a whopping 33% as compared to other seas that have a ~4% salt concentration) and a day spent here is all about floating in the sea (aquaphobes, do not fear!), smearing the therapeutic mudpack, floating, washing it away and repeating the whole cycle a couple or more times during the stay. And then hoping to look 10 years younger! That said, the whole process was a lot of fun despite the fierce sun and well, the skin did feel a lot more smooth!

And that wrapped up a short but exciting trip!

My 2 cents:

The people are warm, the food delicious and there are enough sights to see over a long weekend. However, despite the fact that we got some decent off-season deals, it might make sense to go during cooler months. At least to float a little longer in the Dead sea!

Dead sea float

The float!

Related post: A wedding in Jordan

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A wedding in Jordan

It’s been a little more than a year since I’ve been in the Middle-east and amongst the many countries I’d like to travel to, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan flagJordan have held a certain amount of interest – partly due to food (I fell for falafel!) but also because I’ve been curious to understand why these countries appear to be less conservative compared to some of their regional counterparts. While travelling to Lebanon & Syria are out of question because of the current crisis, Jordan despite its proximity to Palestine and Syria is quite safe as I write this.

This was one trip that perfectly fell into place! In between a job change, I had 4 days free before plunging into the new one and moreover, the husband’s colleague, a Jordanian, was getting married in Amman over the same weekend. I couldn’t have asked for more!

roman theatre

Drove past the Roman Theatre

And so Jordan we went. But unlike most other trips where I’ve used my financial thrift to full force (some call it ‘miserly’ but I strongly beg to differ) this time I was ordered to indulge a little (yes, by the husband – he who shall not be named). Hence, to prevent me from booking a cosy B&B or ‘couchsurf’, all hotel bookings were outsourced to another couple with whom we travelled.

It was fun, nevertheless. We spent Night 1 & 3 in Amman, the capital city. Reached Jordan late into the night, hired a car and drove from the outskirts into the heart of the city, finally reaching our hotel after getting lost a few times. The weather was surprisingly cool for this time of the year and while the traffic was much more chaotic than Dubai, Jordanian drivers are a genuinely

Main course: A plateful of cucumber!

Main course: A plateful of cucumber!

civilised lot who appear to to abide by traffic laws. Roads are dotted with innumerable coffee shops that stay very much open into wee hours of the morning.

Quickly leaving our bags in the rooms, we set out walking at 11pm exploring Jordan at night. Seeing a crowded little kebab corner, we went in expecting the food to be good. Thanks to our friend who could speak a smatter of Arabic, we managed to communicate. The server ofcourse thought I was from another planet – I got a plate filled with cucumber, lettuce & hummus all soaked in olive oil! The others got their kebabs & fries and lets just say, it wasn’t the best beginning for our tummies.

CoupleThe next morning, we were off to see the famed mountains of Petra and on Day 2 we returned to Amman for the wedding reception. I guess I was expecting a very Islamic tradition-heavy event but it was quite the contrary. The whole setting was very western but exquisitely done; they had also called in some local folks to perform traditional music and dance. The dinner spread though, was as regional as it could get – from falafels and moutabels to dessert delicacies like halawa (similar to the indian ‘halwa’) and Baklava (Ooh, how I am starting to love you!). Finally not to forget the protagonists of the evening – the bride in a splendid white off-shoulder gown and the groom looking dapper in a black suit – who danced to some foot-tapping Arabian pop music!

Souvenir-Peach preserveWhile we dint spend too much time around Amman, we occasionally asked for directions, stopped for coffee or interacted with local staff in hotels & eateries and everywhere, I found Jordanians to be exceptionally warm and hospitable. In one instance where we fueled for some Qahwa (distinctly-flavoured arabic coffee – thumbs up!) the shop-owner was so happy to see us that he refused to let us pay!

Simply put, the Levant bug has bitten me. Watch this space!

Also read about Petra & Dead Sea

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Burj Khalifa

Just as we are getting set for the long and dreadfully hot summer ahead, a welcome drizzle came unannounced. Having attended a conference near Dubai mall a few days ago, i was walking to the metro through the recently constructed metro link and there she was standing proud and tall as always. I paused to look and took this photo – an obtrusive view of the Burj Khalifa through paned glass, with the sun peeping out of the clouds on one side.


Here’s one more, taken sometime back – a more commonly viewed sight at night when the lady is dressed in a shimmering and awe-worthy evening gown!

Burj Khalifa Night

I’m not really rushing to go up the tower and see the view from above anytime soon, but if you choose to come to Dubai and do that, you can find more details here!

Categories: Middle East, Travelogue | Tags: , | 8 Comments

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