Category Archives: Opinions

I’ve been away….

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A trip back to the United States to visit family has sort of slapped me with the realization about how long I’d been away and how easily I’d forgotten little things about life here.    Just a few things of note…..

It rains here.   Often.

People drive with a lot of caution here.  You will be among the majority if you leave a carlength between you and the car ahead.

Jetlag traveling east-to-west is a lot less than the same travel west-to-east.  I’m sure there’s some explanation for that….

People here eat supper really early… like 5 – 6 pm.

Ice cream does not have to be mushy by the time you get it home from the grocery store – even without those little insulated bag dealies.

No matter how long you sit at the speaker behind the Chik-fil-a, if it’s Sunday, they ain’t taking your order.  *shrug*

It’ll be good to get back home!

Arabian Ranches Golf and Nails

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Since TBG was gonna go to the Arabian Ranches Golf Club driving range and hit some balls, I decided to tag along and get my nails done, and enjoy the lovely weather.  Luckily, TheNailSpa salon in the Arabian Ranches Clubhouse had an opening, and I was able to get in to get my raggedy-looking nails done.

The interior was pretty and calm and fairly quiet… my nail technician was quick and efficient and did a nice job.  The chairs were comfy, and futuristic looking.  The pedicure chairs looked particularly inviting.

Furniture here tends to be a bit... um..... extreme.

Furniture here tends to be a bit… um….. extreme.

Don't the pedicure chairs look comfy?

Don’t the pedicure chairs look comfy?

It was odd that the salon supervisor and another woman stood together with a clipboard watching her the entire time she was doing my nails.  Prices here are at a premium, they seem to be between 10 – 15% higher than other places I’ve frequented in Dubai.  And, like most, pressure to purchase additional product was consistent and heavy.  But it is convenient and the quality was good.  Beware of providing your phone number, you’ll be receiving many many many phone calls from them!  If you schedule an appointment, they’ll call back to confirm your appointment.  Then, they’ll call the day before the reconfirm your appointment.  Then, you’ll be called on your appointment day a bit before your appointment time to confirm that you’re coming.  And if you don’t schedule an appointment, you’ll be called to ask why and to ask you to schedule one.  If you’re like me, and on a pre-paid phone system, it’s annoying, to say the least!

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After the bit of pampering, I wandered out to the driving range to watch TBG hit balls for a bit.  Not my norm, but I was “car-less” and he was my chauffeur!  Found some comfy chairs to lie back in and wait for him to tire.  The view was lovely and relaxing, so I never made it to the range, just waited for him on the patio.  This is a bit of what I saw as I relaxed…….

Lovely course.

Lovely course.

Some of the villas are right *on* the golf course.

Some of the villas are right *on* the golf course.

Calm pretty view.  In the desert.

Calm pretty view. In the desert.

comfy place to stash my pocketbook and mickey mouse hat

comfy place to stash my pocketbook and mickey mouse hat

Great place to prop up my fee, huh?  The bottom of the trees appear to have all been trimmed.... wouldn't want to brush up against them, ya know......

Great place to prop up my fee, huh? The bottom of the trees appear to have all been trimmed…. wouldn’t want to brush up against them, ya know……

Not long after I arrived, he came up toting his clubs…. And we headed back to the truck.

And yes, TBG, hauling his clubs.   Says something about good exercise..... I think he's too cheap to tip a caddy!

And yes, TBG, hauling his clubs. Says something about good exercise….. I think he’s too cheap to tip a caddy!

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Now, just take a look at the amazing brickwork here, and the landscaping.  It’s such a beautiful, well-tended place.  Hardly looks like the desert now, does it??  It’s a lovely compound, a gorgeous place to live in Dubai.

Truly Grand

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The Grand Mosque, that is.  Its official name is the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.  We were invited to a reception recently in the nearby UAE capital city of Abu Dhabi, and that’s where the Grand Mosque is located.  It’d been on my “must do” list since I read about it, and this was an excellent opportunity to visit.

Muslim mosques are not generally open to the public, there are only two in the area available to visitors, this one and the Grand Jumeirah Mosque in Dubai.  Tours are at no cost, but only available at certain times and days, I was thrilled that this time would work out for us to visit.

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I was definitely impressed as I approached this mosque.

TBG as we approached the Mosque.  I think even *he* was a bit impressed!

TBG as we approached the Mosque. I think even *he* was a bit impressed!

Upon entering, there are signs describing appropriate clothing.  There are people that will let you know if your attire is not appropriate, and will either direct you to the exit or to borrow appropriate clothing.

This sign was outside the main entrance - pretty clear depictions of what is and is not considered appropriate.

This sign was outside the main entrance – pretty clear depictions of what is and is not considered appropriate.

My clothing was modest and passed the inspection, and my pashmina shawl was perfectly acceptable as a shayla (headscarf), but I feared with the wind that it would blow it away, and that would have been disrespectful, so I opted for a loaner abaya (traditional black robe) which provided the appropriate coverage without worry of the wind rearranging it.

We noticed a man in a white kandura close to the entrance and there was a large group of people forming around him.  I assumed that he was one of the tour guides, and he was – you just find a group and join in.  He started telling us about the outer areas of the Grand Mosque, the walkways, the spires and minarets and domes,  the columns, floors, it’s all pretty elaborate.  And the floors of the exterior area are made of white marble which helps keep them cool in the summer’s scorching heat.

It was not until a month or so later that I discovered that the gent who was our guide was actually a local celebrity, Ali Al Saloom, aka “Ask Ali”.  This gent provides a local outlook on Arabic heritage, culture, customs and the history of the United Arab Emirates.  He’s not only informative, but manages to pass on a ton of information in a short period of time, and intersperses the delivery with humor.  A winning combination!  He also writes a regular feature column in the local newspaper, The National.  We were very fortunate to land in his tour group.

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The columns are inlaid with semi-precious stones, and they are so well-made that you can barely feel seams where the materials join together.   And there are over a thousand of them!

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Inside the minarets, there are scriptures inscribed from the Holy Quran, each in a different calligraphy style. Some styles are so very elaborate that they’re an art form on their own, and extremely difficult to read.

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The floors in the courtyard area are all inlaid white marble.  White because it reflects the sun and stays cooler to walk (or kneel) on.  But look at the elaborate inset bits that are formed into amazing flowers!  And look at the sheer SIZE of the courtyard area!  It houses worshippers in the event that the prayer room or reception room is full….

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Then, just before you go through these arched doorways with their beautiful glass-work, you’ll remove your shoes, and place them in the shelves provided.  Everyone that enters the mosque must remove their shoes.

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Inside, there’s a large reception area, with one of the most lovely chandeliers I’ve ever seen.  They’re actually gilded in 24 karat gold!

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The entire room was bright and felt welcoming.  The vining flowers on the walls are a work in relief, and they’re pretty amazing.  Everywhere I went, I was so impressed by the amount of work and planning (10 years!) that went into this facility, and couldn’t stop touching the work that had been done.  The hall off to the right side was generally used for the women’s prayers.  They separate men and women here during prayer times because the Holy Quran bids worshippers to pray “shoulder to shoulder and feet to feet” – this connection confirms their solidarity as well as causes them to focus more on their prayers.  If women and men prayed together, it would be seen as a distraction.  This information came from our guide.  Interesting.

A short walk further and we were in the main worship room of this mosque, and please understand when I say that it was truly *magnificent* – that is such a small word to describe this space!  Ornate beyond belief, quiet, with a feeling of reverence enveloping us as soon as we all walked, barefoot, inside.  And the only photo I snapped of TBG and I inside…. sorry it’s so blurry!

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There is the most amazing carpet in the main prayer room – it is the largest single hand-knotted carpet in the world.  Look at how vivid the colors are!

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It took a group of over 1300 Iranian craftspersons to make it, and it was brought in pieces to the mosque and re-assembled.   This wool and cotton carpet has lines shaved into it, you can see them here….

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The purpose of these lines is to help  “line up” up the worshippers.  You see, this mosque can accommodate over 40,000 worshippers at once, and having them line up provides the highest number to be inside at once.

The ceilings, the chandeliers, they’re all so incredible – photos simply don’t do them justice once you’ve actually seen them in person.  The colors, the shimmer, the amazing effort put into the design and construction was simply breathtaking.  Here are some additional photos of the inside of the mosque……

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Our visit managed to overlap both late afternoon and early evening lighting here – it was a truly spectacular view.

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As we left, there was another, less-obvious entrance we passed.  And, as we approached a police car came out, followed by a large SUV with dark windows, and four dark sedans following it at a high rate of speed….. and the SUV had no number on its plate, simply a crown!

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We are assuming that we saw a royal motorcade.  Pretty cool cap to our amazing visit to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi.

2013 Taste of Dubai Festival

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Held downtown in media city, just behind the CNN building, Taste of Dubai was held in the same location as the Dubai Christmas Festival had been.  We went on Friday, the second day, and arrived about an hour after it opened.  There was the oddest fog that was rolling in and out, I took some photos of it as we drove in.  Frankly, I didn’t know *what* it was –  clouds, fog, smoke, sandstorm, or what.  Crazy looking to watch the Burj Al Arab simply disappear!  But as we got closer to the coast, we realized it was fog rolling in.  Pretty amazing looking.

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Now, before the event, parking information wasn’t listed on their website, and I’d heard it was a big challenge.  I think had we waited much later to arrive, it would have been a big problem, but we found a spot in the lot at the end of the festival area, opposite the single entrance.  Which meant we had to walk all the way around the event to get inside.  The good news is that parking’s free on Friday!

As a huge fan of Disney’s Food and Wine Festival, I was quite eager to attend this event.  TBG got us tickets online at a discount, and bought us the VIP ticket package.  Now, what the VIP ticket package got us extra was 4x drinks and 3x signature dishes from our choice of chefs.  Oh, and entry into the British Airways VIP lounge area.  That last turned out to be the truly valuable aspect of this package, because seating was hard to come by!  Especially shaded seating.

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There were tons and tons and tons of food and drink samples.  I ate things that I wasn’t quite certain what they were, even after I’d asked!  One thing that was truly tasty was the fried prawns with sweet chili sauce from Royal Orchid restaurant.  And an incredibly wonderful staff was manning their booth – one of the women there noticed that my hands were quite full, and she actually placed it on my plate and then proceeded to add the sweet chili sauce too!  Such a level of service rarely exists here – I was grateful.  And, it was some killer stuff, too!

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DJs were playing music in some areas, some places had drummers, some had live music, there was quite a variety of things to listen to – and, save for the big stage, none of it was annoyingly loud.  Sadly, the VIP seating area was RIGHT NEXT to the big stage.  And it was loud.  Word to the wise, don’t sit too close if you’re looking for any conversation.

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There were fun things, a couple of folks in the Maggi booth were cooking up a storm, and one of the local radio stations was there doing a live remote with them.  It had drawn quite a crowd, as the pair were playing well off one another, and the crowd was enjoying their energy immensely.

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Shortly, along came one of the TOD celebrity chefs,  Gary Rhodes from the Grosvenor House’s Rhodes Mezzanine restaurant.  He brought some beverages for the Maggi booth folks, and things really started rocking from there – it was a good time.

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The individual restaurant booths were arranged in a semi-circle, all in the same area.  Consequently, the people traffic in that area was thick, and lots of people spilling food and drinks because they had to step up onto a platform to get into the booth, then step back down into the moving sea of people after negotiating all the other people trying to order, pay for, or see the tiny menus.  Word to the organizers, make the menus visible from the walkways, and put them all in the same general area, so folks know where to look.  And make clearly-marked queues!

But the food?  Oh my goodness…. It was exquisite…..  The Noodle House’s signature dish of chicken and prawns was pretty good, too spicy for my tender palate, but TBG enjoyed it.  Fogo Vivo’s Churrasco Selection of a beef cube, filet mignon wrapped In bacon, and a chicken drumstick left us both hungry – left most of it on the plate as well, I suppose we’re not fans of the particular spices used.  ThipTara’s Thai Ped Nam Ma Kam (BBQ Duck breast in tamarind sauce on top with crispy fried onion) got mixed reviews from us… we both loved the flavor of the duck, but the texture left us reminiscent of overcooked calamari.  We’re not fans of the layer of fat left on the duck, apparently.  But that onion ring?  It was one of the VERYVERYVERY best we’ve ever eaten.

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The Dynamite Shrimp at PF Chang’s was exactly what we wanted – perfect.

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We were both looking forward to Gaucho’s  Churrasco de Chorizo, spiral cut sirloin – we’re both fans of red meat.  Sadly, it was far too tough to cut with the plastic utensils given but the flavor was good.  My favorite?  No. 5 Lounge and Bar’s Mini Waygu burgers.  Oh my.  Perfectly done, perfect condiments, perfect flavor, easy to eat, yummy all the way around!  Lots of cold beverages served with a smile, great music, and grateful for the shady spots that the VIP Lounge provided!  As well as the cold beverages available….

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Lovely location, and a wonderful day!

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And there were goodies there, too…. see what I ended up bringing home?

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Followup to Camelicious – taste test video inside

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OK, so here’s a video of me tasting camel’s milk for the first time…… it’s our first attempt.  I think we need better lighting….. <Smile>

Note to self – speak slower.  Even though you’re a Yankee, it’s easier for people to understand you if you speak more slowly.  And mercy, get better lighting!!!

Edited to add this nutrition label for the chocolate milk!

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