15
Apr
14

DESERT SAFARI : DEFINITELY DUBAI!

A visit to Dubai is never complete without experiencing desert adventures. Dune bashing, sand skiing, dune buggy, barbecue dinners, camel rides, and for the more financially equipped, hot air ballooning during sunrise. These activities may be so touristy but heck, they’re almost synonymous with this future-forward city. Desert Safari’s one of the must-do when you’re in this part of UAE!

It was a blessing that my former students and I met for a dinner where I was treated to a Korean-Japanese gastronomic feast, and a spontaneous and no-brainer decision on my part to join them in Desert Safari was done in a blink. They arranged the tour and next thing I knew, I was with Karen and Joel seated comfortably inside Toyota Land Cruiser one Friday afternoon; what a perfect way to spend my day off at work! The same badass vehicle brought us to the sand dunes of Dubai within a couple of hour-trip.

After a quick mandatory stop over at a souvenir shop where necessary bladder breaks, removal of air from the wheels to make it more sand-appropriate, and ghutra-panic-buying on my part, we found ourselves ready and thrilled for the dune bashing!

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Mr. Azeem Rafaqat, our careful yet daredevil driver who picked us up in front of a hotel in Al Ghurair in Deira, Dubai, did very well on his job! It was an incredible and one-of-a-kind experience! There’s nothing like a sensation of  falling down from a steep mound of sand, followed by zigzag driving that made me feel we’re about to roll, scream and breathe my last! It was intense yet so fun!

About forty minutes after, we arrived at the camp. I was told by Karen who experienced Desert Safari 4 times already, that there are various camp sites where different tours operate. Upon the sight of ours, my Sympathetic Nervous System automatically slowed down as I savored an almost sunset-all-desert-view! Ahhhh, this is Dubai! :D

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I took photos of the friendly Emiratis at the camp site.
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Meet my Dubai Desert Safari travel-adventure buddies, lovebirds -Joel and Karen (both wearing sunnies).
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Did I give justice to that ghutra?  Say,YES! Hahahaha!
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And because dune buggy driving costs 100 dirhams for 15 minutes only, we were content with just photo-ops!
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Although I skipped the 30-dirham-camel riding, I felt like the happiest kid on the planet with a falcon on my head!  Here, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, is my most recent brag-worthy portrait to date! *kidding*
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Barbecue dinner buffet, unlimited distilled water and soda, belly dancing watching, henna tattooing, wearing of  traditional Arabic attires, were all inclusive of the 100-dirham-package per pax we availed.
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Open-VIP rooms that are surprisingly installed with air-conditioning units and come with priority food service (you don’t need to queue on the buffet spread as food is served to your table), alcoholic beverages are all available on extra charges.

Moving on, do I look like an Arab here?
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Joel had his arm tattooed with a scorpion henna. The beautiful henna artist drew it in few strokes in less than 20 sec! Amazing!
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As the sun over Emirati desert finally sets to make way to the moon, the fun continued within the camp.

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Appetizer was nothing less than Chicken Shawarma, that has been my favorite!
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One of the highlights of Dubai Desert Safari is watching belly dancing! My eyes and camera were glued to two dancers who did fantastic shows!

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A faux sword on her belly. Belly Dancing, literally!

Audience participation made it more engaging!
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Then buffet dinner spread was served! Despite the queues were long as there were approximately more than a hundred guests that weekend, everything was kept systematic and in order. I got my food quickly on my plate and made sure I had everything I want to sample. Arabic food’s delicious!

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Grilled Chicken was well-marinated! It was simple yet so tasteful! Kebab was OK too, the same with Biryani, Potato and Veggie Salads. The Spaghetti was infused with real stewed tomatoes that appealed to my palates as somewhat authentic (as I’ve been to Italy! Hehehe!) as compared to my Filipino-Spaghetti-preference (that’s often sweet and rich). Over all, I liked everything on my plate! There’s no reason to complain.

While everyone was still feasting, a man in a traditional attire (of unknown Arabic origin) came out and went on stage. Karen was telling us, that this is the man she calls, the human BEYBLADE!

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And why not Beyblade? That man did nothing but turned and rotated and twisted non-stop!  I repeat, non-stop turning for more than 4 minutes! Not to forget he had props on his hands while dancing, err, turning, and his multi-layered skirt lit up like, uhm…beyblade!

I was worried he’d have nystagmus (oh, you know, the involuntary movement of the eyes after spinning like a ballerina, or worse, loss of equilibrium or ataxia) but No. He maintained his great stance and stood like he didn’t dance like a beyblade! Bravo!!!

 

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From 3PM-9PM that Friday (11/04/2014), I forgot all my worries, stress and problems.  Amazing what a few hours in Dubai Desert Safari could do to my being! I went home to our flat with satisfied wanderlust!

*This is NOT a sponsored post.

Azeem Rafaqat of Arabian Eagle Tourism | 055 2711018 | azeemrafaqat63@yahoo.com

>><<

05
Apr
14

BASTAKIYA, AL FAHIDI | MY FAVORITE PLACE IN DUBAI TO DATE

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In my first few weeks in Dubai, I was fortunate to discover what I reckon as my favorite place to date.  A totally different space from the sight of stunning skyscrapers along the Sheikh Zayed Road.  An incredibly pleasant respite from the busy, cosmopolitan and future-forward city. A very quaint heritage site that made me more interested in the region where I am now.

Al Bastakiya in Al Fahidi Street, Bur Dubai.

The Old Dubai district.

It took me only less than half an hour to reach Dubai Metro Al Fahidi Station from my current flat in Muraqqabat, in Deira. After alighting the train that runs along the Dubai Metro Green Line, I asked the Information Officer of the specific exit point that took me to the Al Musalla Road down to the Al Fahidi roundabout, and I engaged myself  in approximately 700 meters of leisurely stroll.

 

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The roundabout at the junction of Al Fahidi Street and Al Musalla Road.

Akin to a step back in time, this charming and enigmatic quarter in Bur Dubai fronting Dubai Creek, features classic Arabian architecture of traditional houses, with amazingly vast courtyards, narrow alleys  and tall wind catchers. Typical in arabesque abodes, wind catchers or more commonly called, wind towers, had been greatly used to make ventilation cooler and climate more bearable particularly during the early years of Dubai prior to the invention of air-conditioning units. At present, even the most modern dining places and notable souks have kept wind catchers as part of the structure of their establishments, giving their patrons an atmosphere of Dubai’s historic past.

 

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Bastakiya neighborhood is named after the place where migrants from Iranian region, Bastak, resided. Glad it was preserved, restored and maintained for every tourist, foreigner or otherwise.

Bastakiya is conveniently located just across the roundabout at the junction of Al Fahidi Street and Al Musalla Road in Bur Dubai. It’s a stone’s throw away from Dubai Museum, another must-visit-attraction in this side of UAE.

Before my first Do-It-Yourself-Dubai art and heritage appreciation, I was effortlessly seduced by Arabian Tea House Cafe. I never thought I’d fall in love with the place in an instant.
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The entrance is so modest yet very welcoming.
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Beautiful, isn’t it?

Tucked within a traditional Arabian house, an expansive courtyard was transformed into a relaxing and attractive tea house and restaurant that was previously called, Basta Art Cafe. Arabian Tea House Cafe offered me not only a taste of having Arabic afternoon tea but an entirely priceless sensory feast!

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This is where I sat with my old reliable black backpack and spent more than a couple of hours savoring time and absorbing everything in. All negativity that’s clouding my head evaporated in a blink. I must go here frequently.  

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And why not. Al Fahidi (despite I’d walk a couple of yards to Arabian Tea House from Dubai Metro Station), is only a station away from Oud Metha, where St. Mary’s Catholic Church, the place where I find peace, blessings, forgiveness, solace is. It has been a month and a week in Dubai and never a Wednesday evening that I missed going to church. I’m not that religious but if you don’t have anyone else, or at least you only have only a few people to depend on, in a place so foreign to you, it’s only faith, plus good food and great place that assure me. 

I was happy to see that most staff in Arabian Tea House Cafe are Kabayan. The friendliest and the most efficient workers in the Gulf and perhaps all over the globe are of course, Filipinos, bar none (I know, it’s a different topic! I digress). So when Kabayan staff, Vanessa handed me the menu with a smile, I asked of their house specialty drinks. She mentioned Mint and Lime and as for the tea, it’s 1001 Nights from Sri Lanka.

1001 Arabian Nights tea served with dates for only 18 dirhams per pot. I’m sold! Bring it on! :)
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One Thousand and One Nights Tea served with dates. Fruity, tasteful, an instant favorite!

They have Green Tea and Jasmine, White Tea Jasmine and Marigold, English Breakfast, Early Grey, Fairytale, Turkish Delight, Ceylon Sencha, Exotic Paradise, Milk Oolong, Raspberry and Mint, Mysterious Passion and a whole lot more teas!

Then from the menu, I opted to have freshest salad without knowing their servings are huge! I chose Exotic Chicken Salad.  Mixed lettuce, mango, avocado, tomato, cucumber and chicken marinated in lemon and BBQ dressing. YUMMY!

 

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Exotic Chicken Salad. Hallelujah!
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Served with complimentary Arabic bread, the salad is the most delicious and freshest I’ve had! The fusion of textures and flavors of ripe mango and avocado, cucumber and lettuce was simply sublime! The BBQ-flavored chicken also doesn’t disappoint. I can have this simple all-in-one-meal plus that 1001 Nights tea as my last meal when I die. I kid you not.
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Apparently, my worries and stress were melted by the entire dining experience!
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Arabian House Tea Cafe, I’ll see you more frequently, I promise!

Following my 2-hour-afternoon-tea-time, I stepped outside its walls and went to Bastakiya proper. Al Bastakiya houses Sikka, the annual art fair conducted by Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, supporting Emirati and Dubai-based artists. Who would not be drawn and enticed to stroll around Sikka at Bastakiya for FREE?
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Arabic Calligraphy House.

Art Galleries…

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Art galleries, Coin Museum, Arabic Calligraphy House, a mosque, and a lot more are all within Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood or Bastakiya where they highlight Sikka. The most lovely quarters in Dubai are parted by narrowest lanes and alleys.
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Describing it as narrow is no longer necessary.
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Handsome arabesque architecture.
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Camel ride, anyone?

On the other side of Bastakiya is Dubai Creek where abra, or traditional wooden water taxis that transport people for 2 dirhams each and big dhow cruise vessels lord the waters. The multiple Dhow Cruise vessels operate at night, providing local entertainment and sumptuous dinner buffets while cruising Dubai Creek, and are remarkably adorned with colorful lights.
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Abra or traditional wooden water taxi.

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Dubai Dhow Cruise.
Back within Bastakiya, another fascinating attraction are the local shops. Textures, colors, aroma, variety and everything magnetic to the senses pulled me to stay a little longer.
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As I write this, I only went to Bastakiya twice and I’m already thrilled to find a chance in between my new work to revisit Arabian Tea House and the entire Bastakiya. I cannot wait to sip another dose of 1001 Nights!

>><<

*This is NOT a sponsored post.

Arabian Tea House Restaurant & Cafe | Al Fahidi Street, Bur Dubai, Dubai, UAE | Tel # +971 43535071+971 43535071 | website : www.arabianteahouse.co

31
Mar
14

JUMEIRAH BEACH, DUBAI | CAMELS AND SANDCASTLES

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30 March 2014, Sunday, Dubai, UAE.  Upon knowing that the sandcastles are still installed in Jumeirah Beach, a public beach right in front of the upscale shopping and dining center, The Walk-at-JBR, and right across the Jumeirah Beach Residences, I decided to go for my second visit (I missed them when I went there a month ago). Excitement ran through my spine like a boy who first receives his first toy. I hurriedly left our flat in Deira at around 8:30AM, hopped on the Dubai Metro to Dubai Marina Station. The train ride took almost an hour along the stretch of Sheikh Zayed Road. And because I was eager to capture what I’d fancy, I walked my way instead of taking a 5-minute-10-dirham-taxi-cab-ride from the train station to the beach. I didn’t regret it.

As I reached the Jumeirah Beach, I made sure to stroll its almost 2 kilometer stretch (or is it longer?) just to make sure that I wouldn’t missed those sandcastles this time. Before I laid my eyes on them, I had my fortune of having my camera flirted with two camels! I took a few shots on a whim.
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Infectious smile, isn’t it?

Although I’m not a beach boy myself, we Filipinos who come from 7,107 islands have absolute high standards when it comes to beaches. The world knows the Philippine archipelago has tremendous beautiful beaches and pristine coastlines but Jumeirah Beach doesn’t disappoint. Fine and powdery sand, crystal clear waters; it reminds me of Boracay island less the towering skyline at this side of Dubai.
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I came prepared this time with my slippers in my bag; I changed my footwear into flip-flops at the beach itself.  After I soaked my feet in the water and walked barefooted at the shores, I came back to the two men in charge of the camels and asked of the rates. With no intention to ride it yet (I reserve camel riding when I try Dubai Safari in coming months), I was told it’s 50 dirhams per pax per camel ride and 25 dirhams per pax per photo with the camel. Ouch! Too steep for me! I simply enjoyed taking snapshots with permission. The best things in life are still free! :D
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Walking with the two camels brought me to this part of Jumeirah Beach. A water park for kiddos!
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Safety comes first. The water park for kids is properly built with enclosure. Very good!

A few more steps, I saw something the older ones would be interested in.

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Crazy ramps for anything with wheels? Hehehe! :)

Alas! The most architecturally impressive shower rooms I’ve ever seen…
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Then I continued following the camels…

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They led me to the reason of my visit to Jumeirah Beach.

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Incredibly stunning sandcastles! Like a kid, I was in awe! Nevermind the scorching heat of the noon-time sun.
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Correct me if I’m wrong, but I heard these sandcastles were installed at Jumeirah Beach as early as February this year. I came to Dubai last February 23rd and visited Jumeirah Beach on my first week. However, I didn’t wander as far as I did on my second visit; I didn’t go to the areas in between Hilton and Sofitel Jumeirah Hotels before, where these whimsical work of arts are!
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And to celebrate the Dubai’s triumph of winning the bid for Expo 2020, they created a sand sculpture that represents the iconic skyscrapers of Dubai, with the tallest man-made structure in the world, the Burj Khalifa at the center, including the most efficient railway system I’ve ever experienced, the Dubai Metro. Ahhhhmazing! Fantastic!!!
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These sandcastles are a work of genius! Brilliant works of art!
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I only wished I went there with my son, Gabby who’s in the Philippines. Gabby, this post is for you, anak! I love you!

>><<

 

30
Mar
14

GOZO GARDEN RESTAURANT AT MILLENIUM AIRPORT HOTEL, DUBAI

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When you’re in Dubai either for a brief stopover or a longer stay, you may want to drop by at one of the interesting and delicious hotel food and beverage outlets around – the Gozo Garden located at Millenium Airport Hotel.  I was lucky enough to be invited to experience their BBQ Themed Dinner Buffet followed by a Phil Collins Tribute Show that made one of my first few weekend nights in UAE less ordinary.

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Lobby of Millenium Airport Hotel, Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Upon the thoughtful recommendation of a fellow Filipino UAE-based blogger, Carla of  My Yellow Bells @ www.myyellowbells.blogspot.ae, whose blog I follow long before I came to Dubai, and with the generous invitation of Mr. Ben Hipolito, the hotel’s  Food and Beverage Administrator,  Gozo Garden  Restaurant and Millenium Airport Hotel, I’m grateful to be there that Thursday night, savored the food and music, and finally got a chance to meet Carla and another Filipino blogger based in Dubai, Rosell of  Kero’s Celebration @ www.mrspinkihan.com. It was nothing but fun evening that ushered our weekend in UAE!

For someone like me who’s so new to Dubai, finding the location of  Millenium Airport Hotel and getting there were not an issue.  I left my flat in Deira at around half an hour past 6 in the evening ; walked my way to take the ever reliable, Dubai Metro from Abu Bakar Al Siddique Station. After swiftly transferring to Red Line at Union Station, I alighted at GGICO Station and strolled to the venue. It only took me less than 20 minutes to reach the Millenium Airport Hotel from Deira via the Dubai Metro. Of course, getting there through private cars, taxi cabs and buses are also an option. It’s that accessible.

Thankfully, the sky and the stars were cooperative that evening; the seemingly odd downpour in Dubai for two consecutive days prior to that night halted on our favor.
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The view from where we sat.

The simple outdoor set up for that Thursday evening highlighted the impressive space of the hotel. The buffet spread was truly enticing!
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The delicious Gozo Garden BBQ themed dinner buffet outdoor.

Assorted slices of cheese, cold cuts and biscuits, a variety of salads, sushi, seafood, baked goodies and soups, plus a few more hors d’ oeuvres, main entrees that include Salmon wrapped in Banana Leaves, Stir Fried Seafoods, Pan Roasted Vegetables in Pesto, Roasted Rack of Lamb with Moroccan Spices, Grilled Hamour with Citrus Sauce and Basil, Roasted Beef and a lot more!  Desserts spread wasn’t overwhelming but a satisfying selection of sweets and fresh fruit slices.  A choice of beverages from wines and beers to fruit juices, coffee and tea were available too to complement everything that evening.

Let my few captures give you a glimpse of how modest but tasteful the spread was.
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Desserts…

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My plates…

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There were a couple of cover artists who were playing good music during the dinner. Their songs from late 80s to early 90s while we’re indulging were so apt to introduce the main show that night.  A Phil Collins Tribute by Andrew James.

His voice did justice to Phil Collins’ hits and I must state, I caught myself clapping frequently. However, it could’ve been better if his repertoire included the classics,  “Against All Odds” and “Separate Lives.” You know how Filipinos can get so sentimental at any given place and time! ;)
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Upcoming shows at Gozo Garden include, Tom Jones Tribute Show on May 1st, and another Tribute Show featuring hits of Lionel Richie on May 29th. You better mark those dates and troop to Gozo Garden if you’re in Dubai!

As for the gastronomic feasts nightly, Gozo Garden offers Latino Samba on Sundays, Mediterranean on Mondays, Oriental on Tuesdays, Out of Africa-themed night on Wednesdays, BBQ every Thursdays, Seafood Galore on Fridays and Arabian Night on Saturdays.  At AED 195 per person with selected house beverages, and AED 250 every Thursday with Tribute Shows, you’re definitely in for something fun and a delightful night!

It was a pleasure finally meeting my fellow bloggers at UAE, Carla and Rosell! Here’s hoping for more meet ups soon! Until next time!

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Happy to meet fellow Filipino UAE-based bloggers, Carla (middle) and Rosell (seated).

Many thanks to Gozo Garden Restaurant and Millenium Airport Hotel for inviting us!

Gozo Garden | Millenium Airport Road Dubai, Airport Road, Casablanca Street, Al Garhoud, PO Box 13018
Dubai, 13018, United Arab Emirates | Telephone : +971 4 702 8888+971 4 702 8888 Fax : +971 4 282 0627 |
website : www.millenniumhotels.ae/millenniumdubai/dining/gozo-garden

>><<

24
Mar
14

AL RAS, DUBAI | SPICE, HERB & GOLD SOUKS, & HERITAGE HOUSE

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Going to public markets is one of the best ways to know and learn about a place. It’s always an engaging experience to look and stroll around, see what shopkeepers offer in their stalls that more often than not, reflects their culture, lifestyle, history apart from daily necessities. The experience usually gets better when travelers and tourists begin to interact with locals tending to their goods.

12 March 2014, Wednesday. Around mid-morning, I left my current flat in Deira with no aim but to wander and learn more about Dubai through its souks. Under the sunshiny weather with its oddly cool breeze in March according to some, I walked my way towards the Dubai Metro Station and took the Green Line from Abu Baker Al Siddique Station in Deira. After brief stops at  Salah Aldin, Union, Baniyas Square, and Palm Deira, I alighted at Al Ras Metro Station.

Without googling the web prior to my day in Al Ras, I only asked about the sites of Gold Souk, Spice and Herb Souk from the Information Counter  Officer at the train station. The passenger-friendly staff of RTA-Dubai told me to hop off the train when it arrives in Al Ras station. From there, I relied on asking local people for direction and trusted my sense of adventure, haha! :D

It was only after I went there that I learned the alternative routes. One could also take RTA-Dubai bus or ride an abra (a water taxi at 2 dirhams per pax.) when crossing Dubai Creek to Herb and Spice Souks.

After exiting the Dubai Metro Al Ras Station, I crossed the street and walked towards left, passed by an alley and inquired the location of Gold Souk. I was told I must continue heading left and turn right at the street’s end.; et voila! I saw people swarming around the facade of one of Dubai’s must-visit-places, the Gold Souk!

GOLD SOUK

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Tourists flocking and taking turns in taking photos of the biggest gold ring I’ve ever laid my eyes on!

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The Najmat Taiba (Star of Taiba), created by Taiba for Gold and Jewelry Co. Ltd. of Saudi Arabia is Guiness Book of World Records certified as the world’s heaviest gold ring! The certificate states, “The ring is mounted with 5.17 kg of precious  stones from Signity Middle East and set on 58.686 kg in 21 carat gold ring, supported by the World Gold Council, UAE6, with total weight of 63. 856 kg.”

Following my turn in taking a shot at that humongous golden ring, I continued walking and exploring Gold Souk.
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Cue Beyonce Knowles’ “All The Single Ladies” :)

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Bejeweled!

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Gold neck pieces, anyone?
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How about some arm candies?

With all the gold around me, I didn’t wait long to ask a local shop attendant about the rate of gold per gram.  In an instant, I was referred with a pointing index finger to those several ATM-like-machines that show the present selling rate of gold per gram and per carat.
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You may do the Math. One Emirati Dirham is equivalent to 0.27 US Dollars.

My eyes popped out at the sight of gold, gold and gold! :D

Then there were other stalls, particularly at the narrow laterals that sell assorted commodities from souvenir shirts, shawls, shoes and a lot more. Some would even approach you with bottled water and drinks that they’re selling.
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Alibaba shoes.  Carrie Bradshaw & Madame Imelda Marcos will be pleased.   :)

My stomach’s borborygmi (growling sounds) physiologically called for lunch meal! I walked my way out and exited Gold Souk at its other end and spotted a Shawarma eatery right at the sidewalk.
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Shawarma for 5 dirhams per wrap, plus canned soda at 2 dirhams by the sidewalk stall, FTW!

After a hearty Shawarma lunch and people watching, I went back inside Gold Souk and exited near the shop with the biggest gold ring. I asked another local about the location of Spice and Herb Souks, and was directed towards left.

HERB  &  SPICE SOUKS

It’s not that difficult to find Herb Souk that’s so adjacent with Spice Souk. The distinctively aromatic scents and colorful sights of herbs and spices guided my nose and eyes going there.

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The abundant sight of herbs and spices, tea leaves, frankincense, myrrh and dried whatever was overwhelming! The colors, the scents, the textures. The only sense that I wasn’t able to use was gustatory, other than that, everything’s a sensory feast!

Here are my photos of frankincense used in incense and perfumes, lavander and rose hips for tea.
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“Chinese or Malaysian?” asked by one of the shop attendants.

“Filipino, from Manila the Philippines!” I replied quickly.

I wonder why few people consider me as Chinese with my dark skin.

Then in a blink, he followed, “Pare, Kamusta ka? Tuloy ka dito. Ano hanap mo?” trying his best to speak in Tagalog.

“Impressive! Where did you learn your Tagalog?” I asked; as if I didn’t know Filipinos occupy the largest part of the expat-pie graph in Dubai.

I took the opportunity to ask the names of his goods.

“Most of our herbs and spices come from Sri Lanka, India, China and many more. That one is sunflower, then ginger, garlic, chilies, frankincense, myrrh, lavander, rose hips, cinnamon, lemon or lemonito, tea leaves…”

It was fun talking to him, informative too.

Guided tourists trooped into the shops too. I started walking away. The Spice Souk is located behind the Herb Souk, almost the same trading goods, and just across the Creek where one can take an abra or water taxi to Bur Dubai, the Old Dubai district (another must-visit place!).

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Alum (white), Sulfur (yellow) and Blue balls used to dye denims.

On my way back to Al Ras Metro Station, I opted to check out the Al-Ahmadiya School and Heritage House.

Al-Ahmadiya School and Heritage House

“Sir, Is the Heritage House, Free? Without admission rates?” I asked the security guard at the reception.

“Yes, it’s free. Come inside!”
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Built in 1890, the Heritage House would give any guests an atmosphere and ambiance of how a traditional Emirati house looks like. With Al-Majlis or where guests, particularly travelers are received, that is still considered the most essential room in an Arabic house as Islam encourages generosity and hospitality, and a large courtyard or locally called, Al-Haush, that also features wind tower or wind catcher that used to catch colder breeze above the ground and direct it to the inner parts of the house of cooler ventilation, as wet textiles hanging on the the criss-cross wooden bars aid in the cooling effect. These windcatchers were very traditional in Persian houses and architectural structures in the Gulf region.
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With permission from the local staff, I took her photo as she was spinning the thread wheel at the courtyard.  I went inside accessible rooms, saw one with mannequins depicting traditional games at one of the Upper Rooms, a “Zariba” or a cattle pen at the lower ground within the vast courtyard; there’s also a room showing Arabic kitchen wares and whatnot.

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I was overwhelmed within a couple of hours of strolling around Al Ras district in Dubai. I wouldn’t mind going back.

>><<

18
Mar
14

ABU DHABI | THE MAJESTIC, EMIRATES PALACE

With its magnificent dome furnished in gold, set at a height higher than St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, expansive and immensely stunning marble floor of various colors from sunrise yellow to sunset red, the Grand Atrium alone of Emirates Palace in United Arab Emirates’ capital city, Abu Dhabi is a sight to behold!

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The gold and gorgeous dome ceiling of Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi.

“Welcome to the lifestyle of the rich and famous, Kuya!”  casually uttered by my youngest brother, JC, who’s been based in Abu Dhabi for some years now, while he’s driving and entering the impressive Emirates Palace. He drove me & Marky around the most remarkably beautiful and truly unforgettable places in Abu Dhabi. Before we trooped to the awe-inspiring, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque at sunset, the two accompanied me and shared at least the lobby of the distinctively known, second seven-star hotel in the world, next to Burj Al Arab in Dubai!

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Beneath that  golden arabesque dome is an expansive marble floor.

Together with my cousins and her family who are also living and working in Abu Dhabi, Marky treated my brother on his birthday last year in one of the Emirates Palace suites and was upgraded for FREE with cake and butlers to the high-level-suites at whopping rate fit for Emirati royalty and dignitaries.

As JC  was parking his car, my eyes were delighted at the sight of Ferrari, Rolls Royce, Benz, Audi and other vehicles that spell luxury at the hotel’s car park.

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Definitely not our ride, hahaha!

The facade of Emirates Palace and its entire exteriors highlight the majestic Arabic architecture that perfectly blends with its manicured garden and fantastic fountain. Elegant interiors features interesting traditional decors from colossal chandeliers, gold domes and lavish fixtures.

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The reception.

Run out of gold? Don’t worry! Seriously, one of the most fascinating corners of the incredibly luxurious, Emirates Palace is its Gold-To-Go-Gold-ATM machine that dispenses gold for cash.

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Gold ATM, anyone?

We went down to its basement to take a peek at the breathtaking view of the marina.
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When visiting the Emirates Palace, forget about wearing Bermuda shorts and flip-flops, reserve that ensemble for the beach.  A once-in-a-lifetime visit dictates proper attire, not necessarily formal, but casual and something appropriate to the place.

Even the washrooms (toilets in other countries or in the country where I came from, CR! Hehehe!)  in Emirates Palace were not overlooked. Sophistication and luxury at its best!

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Right across Emirates Palace, one can appreciate the wonderfully-built, Etihad Towers.

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The slick and gorgeous, Etihad Towers.

I never thought I’d set foot in UAE, much more in Emirates Palace; I’m very grateful to my relatives who invited me to Abu Dhabi. Despite the fact that at present, I’m so financially limited to afford such luxurious accomodation and probably would not consider checking in as it’s not included in my priority list (not unless Emirates Palace invites me! *wishful thinking*), witnessing the glory and grandeur of this 7-star-hotel in Abu Dhabi is certainly one of the memories I’ll cherish for as long as I live.

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Doc Gelo in the palace! :)

*This is NOT a sponsored post.

>><<

15
Mar
14

DUBAI MIRACLE GARDEN

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Twenty-eight degrees. 9th of March 2014. Sunny Sunday. While most people in UAE began their new work week (Yes, work days here starts Sunday-Thursday and UAE weekends are celebrated every Fridays & Saturdays), I made an effort to be in the middle of the desert where they grow and maintain millions of flowers in vibrant colors, before summer officially kicks in.

From my current flat in Deira, Dubai, I took the Green Line of Dubai Metro train at Abu Baker Al Siddique station. Alighted at Union to transfer to Red Line and hopped off at Mall of Emirates (MOE) station. At around 9AM, I took a roughly 10-minute-taxi ride from MOE to Dubai Miracle Garden that costs me around 23 dirhams (US $6.26).

To be in a very picturesque place with more than 45 million blooming flowers, in an amazing landscaped and manicured gardens, with longest flower wall recorded in Guiness Book of Records, amidsts the desert was something refreshing! It’s a great breather from seeing skyscrapers and impressive shopping complex and so apt to silently celebrate my fourteenth day in Dubai.
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At 30 dirhams (US $ 8.16) entrance rates per adult, inclusive of admission to Phase 1 & the newly opened, Phase 2 gardens, one can enjoy Dubai’s newest tourist attraction.

Although there were not much variety of flowers, the stunning arrangements of millions of pots of Petunias were enough for my Sunday’s visual feast!

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One of my favorites at Dubai Miracle Garden are the 3-giant-floral-peacock installations. They’re located just near one of the gates of DMG.
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It’s a very appropriate venue for prenuptial photoshoots as the place is absolutely romantic.

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Stargazers steal the show from millions of colorful Petunias.
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While most countries during winter have thick snow in flowerless and almost lifeless gardens, Petunias are grown in abundance during winter in UAE! Cultivated in pots, hanging and sprawling on the ground, Petunias of various colors proved that it can resists extreme conditions. Not only seen basically in Dubai Miracle Garden but most major roads and streets in Dubai and Abu Dhabi (two of the emirates that I have toured to date) are made colorful with Petunias. They must have installed effective and efficient water system to maintain them. It’s gorgeous to see vivid nature at the foot of the vibrant Emirati skylines.

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Apart from the umbrella-roofed pathway and peacock areas, I liked the part in DMG where they artistically installed junk BMW, Benz, Ferrari and other luxurious cars with decors in full blooms, just before a floral Valentine mansion.
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Never fret when hungry and thirsty, there are multiple food and beverage shops within DMG. Imagine savoring ice cream, or sandwiches, or nachos with soda or your favorite blend of coffee under a floral roof. It doesn’t happen on a daily basis unless you have a million-Petunia-garden too at home!
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This is where I nibbled and munched some Nachos, dunked them in cheese and salsa, washed down with orange-flavored canned soda while I enjoyed killing time.
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It’s near the 18-meter-floral replica of Burj Khalifa, world’s current tallest man-made structure.
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First time to eat under such impressive roof.
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Instead of troubled water running under the wooden bridge, they had it flowers of course!
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And like most gardens around, DMG also has a huge floral clock.
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The vast Phase 1 of Dubai Miracle Garden has so much more features and the photos above were just my favorite spots. (Click here to know more : http://www.dubaimiraclegarden.com/phase-i/)

Phase 2 that;’s located a few meters away from Phase 1 looks even bigger area to highlight winter blooms. It has souvenir shops, aromatic and edible plant gardens, and a soon-to-open-Butterfly Garden.

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The entrance to the Flower Valleys is incredibly gorgeous!
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The Flower Valley. Vast. Impressive. Beautiful!

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It’s indeed a miracle to grow such oasis in the middle of the desert!

Have you been to Dubai Miracle Garden? If not, make sure to include it on your itinerary when visiting Dubai and the rest of UAE!

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My mom would’ve love this blog post, I’m sure as she loves flowers so much! Mamy, this one’s for you! :)

*This is NOT a sponsored post.

>><<




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