Downtown Dining

One of my closest friends out here lives in Downtown.  She recently had a trip home to see her boyfriend and it wasn’t quite the success she had hoped for, naturally I offered to come over to lend a supportive shoulder.  She offered to cook about which I was VERY excited because I have heard that she is an excellent chef.

I arrived bang on time and so was able to help out a bit with the cooking.  I was pleased to help because I actually picked up a couple of tips.  Who knew that celeriac would taste so good in a bolognaise – certainly not me!? This was a brilliant revelation because I love celeriac!!  The food was delicious and I was most impressed with all my friends gadgets – clearly she loves a gizmo and I have major envy of her onion chopping device.  I really need to improve my kitchen supplies so I may have to make a shopping trip soon.

She laid a beautiful table with her stunning Rosenthal China – honestly I realised I am officially a grown up when I found myself gushing about her plates…

It was a fun evening where we dished on boys and their foibles and on what the future may hold for us both.  It’s been brilliant to find someone I can be really open with who is like-minded.  I just hope that her boyfriend sorts himself out because she’s awesome and he would be a fool to lose her!

Our conversation led me to a question – why is it that some men decide what women want without actually asking them?  Apparently my friend wants a high-powered career and will do anything to get it…in reality, she would like to get married and have children and put her career on the back burner for a bit.  Her boyfriend decided their relationship would never work based on his total misunderstanding of her actual wants and needs. Had he just asked her they could have avoided a big fight and lots of hurt feelings…I am sure women are guilty of the same thing too – certainly I expect Bond to be psychic and I don’t always articulate what I want thus leading him to make assumptions. I wonder if this is a British malady because we loathe confrontation and discussing feelings or if it just a gender divide? I would be interested in other opinions…!

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Chaotic Cirkapolis

On Wednesday Bond and I met up with our favourite Dubai Couple to celebrate their 10 year anniversary!!  They really are a great pair and we were very happy to celebrate their happiness.  In order to do so we headed to see Cirkapolis at the World Trade Centre.

Cirkapolis was touted as similar to Cirque du Soleil which Bond and I have never seen and have always been keen to.  Our friends siad that Cirque du Soleil was EPIC and so we were very excited to see what this show had to offer.

Cirkapolis is a show done by Cirque Eloize who are a Canadian troupe and the blurb on the site says ‘With Cirkopolis, Cirque Éloize presents a show that combines the worlds of circus, dance and theatre. In the heart of a stern and imposing city in appearance, giant gears and dark portals symbolize a mechanism that crushes individuality. Performing within an inventive stage design and accompanied by an original musical score and video projections, ten acrobats and multidisciplinary artists rebel against monotony, reinvent themselves and challenge the limits of the factory-city. In a world where fantasy provokes reality, the veil of anonymity and solitude is lifted and replaced by bursts of colour.’ and you can read more of what they say the show is about here and you can even watch the trailer.  I would urge you to do so because I saw the show and I can’t even begin to tell you what it was about…

To say that we were disappointed would be an understatement.  There wasn’t the sense of awe and amazement that I had expected.  In fact at times some of the performers seemed surprised that they had managed the moves.  I was impressed because of course I can’t do any of these things but I think attempting to have the plot to go with it actually ruined the effect.  I spent so long trying to work out what was meant to be happening I couldn’t really lose myself and enjoy it.

On a positive note one of the performers was wonderful and did an enchanting dance routine where he danced with the girl of his dreams who was in fact a hanger with a coat and scarf.  There was something rather beautiful and innocent about this performance and I found myself wishing there had been more of this sort of thing.

After the show we all agreed it hadn’t been quite what we were hoping for but that certain elements were impressive.  The evening was saved by heading to our friends house for dinner where I was promptly loaned sweats so I could be comfy with my girlfriend who had rapidly changed as well!

Arafat Day and Eid Al Adha

Drawing of Mount Arafat with the pillar – 1853 – by Richard Birton (known as a British spy)

A few of you have mentioned that you find insights into local life out here interesting so I thought I would post about the latest religious festival we are celebrating. This week we have Arafat Day and Eid Al Adha.

Arafat Day marks the second day of Haj (pilgrimage) this is the day when a verse of the Quran revealed that Islam was perfected and when Allah’s blessings were completed. It is named after Mount Arafat where the Prophet Mohammad spoke his farewell sermon. On Arafat day Muslims travel to Mount Arafat and pray.  If a Muslim completes Haj then they have their sins expiated.  If anyone can’t make Haj then they can fast instead.

Eid Al Adha is a religious festival which is observed annually for three days.  It translates to ‘Feast of the Sacrifice’ and marks the willingness of Ebrahim to sacrifice his son at the command of Allah.  Ebrahim was willing to do this in spite of Satan trying to dissuade him.  At the moment of sacrifice his son was replaced by a Ram.  The story is probably familiar to a lot of you as it’s also a Bible story.

In order to prepare for this holiday all Muslims must have a morning ablution and then say Salat Al Fajar prayers.  Then they must wear their best clothing to pay their respects to Allah.  It is also customary to sacrifice an animal (usually a goat or a sheep) and then the meat is divided between family, friends and then the needy.   This is an important time for charity and people who can afford it make an effort to help those less fortunate.

The impact for those non Muslims living out here is that we get two days off work. Tonight is also a dry night – no alcohol will be served in any bars/hotels/restaurants throughout the UAE.

I actually knew very little about these holidays before I wrote this in rather a rush so do read the links if you want a lot more detail!!

To those Muslims reading I am sorry for any inaccuracies and I wish you a happy and blessed time ‘Eid Mubarak’.

Scaling Everest

We had a quiet weekend and the peak of it was definitely going to watch Everest…(feel free to all groan at that terrible pun!)  Initially I was reluctant to go and see it but Bond sold me on the fact it was a true story.  I always enjoy a good true story film and so decided I would give Everest a go.  Naturally it’s not movie night without a trip to the counter who as ever provided yummy food speedily.  Bond is obsessed with their milkshakes and has decreed they are the best in Dubai – this is after quite a lot of extensive research, which he of course did selflessly to help any of you who are on the hunt for a milkshake in Dubai!

On arriving at the cinema I was THRILLED to see that Dubai had decided to add some real authenticity to my viewing experience by making the room ICE COLD – I was literally shivering along with the cast…and that was in spite of my wearing my slipper socks.  I was forced to put on my slipper socks and jumper, much to the amusement of the girls next to me – I had the last laugh though!  The cinema was so cold that when the 3D snow started I believed it was real…Why they make cinema’s so cold here I don’t know but this one time it did at least add to my experience.

The film itself is really brilliant, I was gripped from start to finish and I really cared about all the characters.  I so badly wanted them to make the summit and to succeed in their mission.  I knew that climbing Everest was hard but I had no idea just how challenging it truly is.  This movie is really about humans tackling nature and trying to defeat everything the mountain throws at them.  It shows you the strength of human spirit and love as well as how sometimes the simple desire to succeed is not enough.  I won’t ruin the film by telling you the story, because part of my enjoyment came from the suspense of not knowing what happens.

Truly it’s an incredible story from start to finish with great performances by the all star cast.  I definitely encourage you to see it.  If you’re really lucky your local cinema will also make you have the true authentic experience…but if not I am sure you’ll enjoy if even if you don’t feel frozen by the end!

Inside Out

On the plane back from Corsica I watched ‘Inside out’ the new animation film by Disney Pixar.  I had seen the ad and been intrigued and then everyone I knew who had seen it raved about it.  I love a good animation film and I’ve even managed to make Bond and my Dad see the light…believe me there is nothing funnier than watching those two pretend they aren’t enjoying a kids movie whilst laughing out loud in an embarrassed manner!  I would say that Arthur Christmas was the one that won them over, the intro scene where the gifts are delivered like a military campaign appealed to both of them and they were able to agree that actually these films aren’t just for kids and can be quite clever!  Somehow though we managed to miss Inside out at the cinema so I was thrilled to see that Air France were offering it – clearly they were trying to make amends for the outbound flight!

The film is the story of a little girl called Riley as told by the feelings inside her head; Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Fear and Anger.  The characters are all brilliantly drawn and really capture the feeling they are supposed to emote.  Disgust is especially good – she’s a teenager and we all know how they can be disgusted by just about anything. You also get to see the same emotions in her parents and it’s really interesting to see the different depth of their emotions because they are older.  I love the scene where the two parents are trying to communicate and the feelings in both of them are going nuts at each other. I think we’ve all been there where you feel you’re making yourself clear and a man is looking at you blankly!

The premise of the film is that after the family move cities Riley feels sad and this overwhelms joy…in fact sadness becomes strong enough to change joyful memories to sad ones.  Eventually this sets of a chain of events leads to Riley losing her capacity to feel anything.  Naturally Joy has to fix this and sets off on an adventure with sadness, along the way you see all the parts of the brains that control memory and feelings.  Honestly the detail is incredible – she even has an invisible friend that they run into. You really find yourself rooting for them to succeed and save the day!

It’s really a lovely movie with a great message of how we need both joy and sadness to be fully formed people.  I will warn you I cried like a baby at parts of it so bring your kleenex…

Kerastase locks…

I think we can all see I was at a loss for a title here…my apologies!  I hope we can all gloss over it and move on…

For anyone living in Dubai or indeed the U.A.E there are a lot of benefits, but one downside is that the water wrecks hair.  It’s surprisingly good for skin but my hair HATES it.  I seem to be losing hair faster than ever and the stuff I have left isn’t as shiny or bouncy as it used to be.  I may have mentioned this one time too many because my lovely friend gave me Kerastase shampoo and conditioner to see if it could help.

Chlorella is the plant that I take vitamins of

Believe me when I say I have tried everything under the sun (see what I did there?) from vitamin supplements to products.  The vitamins do seem to work but they are not cheap!  As for the products some have worked but all of them seem to leave my hair greasy. Plus they all seem to want you to leave them in for ages and don’t seem to realise that some of us don’t have that kind of time.  That said if you have scalp problems than the Vaseline hair tonic was my surprise win – it’s cheap as chips and not at all glamorous but it really works.  Do only apply it on a day you don’t have to leave the house (it rather looks like you’ve dipped your head in grease!) then leave for an hour or so and then shampoo out (thoroughly!!!) and it’s fantastic!  If you can bear sitting in the heat that seems to help it absorb too…

So now enters the Kerastase.  I have heard many good things about it but have hesitated to buy it because it is really expensive.  While I want great hair that price tag has put me off.  So you can imagine my delight when my friend gave me the shampoo and conditioner, so generous!  Now imagine just how thrilled I am that it works!!!!!! Honestly I have used it twice and I see a difference and people keep mentioning how great my hair looks.  It’s the same as using any other shampoo and conditioner which is great – no more fiddling around with complex products.  You don’t even have to use much for it to have a good effect so I hope it will last a while.

Who knows maybe one day I can look like her!?

The specific one I am using is Bain Satin shampoo and conditioner.  I have however looked through the product ranges and there are a few I want to try out…there is even a range that deals specifically with hair loss and thinning.  They even have salons where you can have treatments done, one is dangerously close to my place so I may have to check it out…all in the name of research I am sure you’ll agree!

It feels like a miracle product, now all I have to do is persuade my friend to give me some more when I run out!

Caudalie Clan

I have always loved Caudalie oil but I haven’t ever tried more of their products…however a recent blog by Rachel W persuaded me to try out some other things.  Let it not be said that I do anything half heartedly and what started as just the beauty elixir turned into a fair few more things…

First I decided I needed a new oil, which comes in a handy spray bottle meaning you don’t waste it!  It smells heavenly and works for face, body and hair.  I love a multi-tasker, especially one that does all it’s jobs well.  Out here my hair has become really dry due to the awful water and this manages to make it shine and feel softer with just a few spritzes.  Better still it works on dry or wet hair.  For the body it helps my tan to glow a bit more and makes my skin feel silky all day.  For my face I use it at night for some extra moisture when I need it, the smell is also quite relaxing and helps me drift off.  It’s not even terribly expensive and as a little goes a long way it should last well too.

Then of course I had to get the beauty elixir which I now love, it’s great for morning before you put on your make up and through out the day for a pick me up. Caudalie claim ‘this powerful plant based anti-dull complexion treatment smooths away fine lines, tightens pores and gives the complexion an instant boost of radiance’ and they aren’t lying!  The only problem I have is that it stings if you spray with your eyes open so do bear that in mind.  Other than that it’s truly a great product that again has a wonderful scent.

Then I had to get the Grape Water spray which is meant to tone and moisturise throughout the day.  Now I bought the big bottle so I have yet to take it with me throughout the day but it’s fantastic for a weekend where you aren’t wearing make up and you just want to keep the skin looking fresh.  I have yet to test this theory but I bet by a pool or beach this would be perfect for keeping you feeling and looking cool!

I have also treated myself to the ‘Divine Scrub’ but I am a bit worried it will rub off my tan…so as yet it’s unused.  I can say it smells terrific and the packaging is very chic so it looks great in a bathroom.

Now I just need to finish my other products for cleansing etc and I think I will become a Caudalie girl.  The products are good quality and not too expensive and it’s really the first time I have found a brand that I can’t fault a single product of!

Claw Craziness

On Friday night my best bud managed to get the evening and the following day off so of course we arranged a dinner out!  A few of my favourite people gathered at Claw to celebrate that she’s officially a resident.  The plan was to have a quiet but fun evening but that all went to pot when they brought over a Martini glass the size of my face…apparently LARGE really means it there…I ended up sharing the massive martini with the other girls it was so big!

The food at Claw is typical American diner fare, and it’s really very good!  I had a sloppy Joe which was delicious, though I could have eaten a lot more of it…the portion was surprisingly small.  The guys ate a huge tonne of ribs though and were very happy with them!  For those of you who are missing pork they serve it here too so if you’re in a need of a pork fix then here is the place for you!  Last time I went I had the pulled pork which was really yummy and filling.

After claw we headed over to Karma Cafe for one last cocktail and some more chat before heading home.  The vibe there is quite nice and chilled though we all agreed the music is too loud…that said we all managed to chat away happily!

The next morning (once we had recovered) we went for lunch at Leopold’s which was lovely as always – honestly the food is excellent and the staff are beyond friendly.  I also ran into a colleague which was fun and always makes me feel like a local.  She told us all about Aerial Hoops which is some mad sounding work out that my friend now desperately wants to do…we shall see how that goes, I am not very agile after all!

After our meal we headed to Mall of the Emirates so we could do a Sephora run as I needed moisturiser and my friend wanted new foundation.  I left her for two minutes and came back to find her sat in a chair having a full Benefit make over.  All the products she tried looked fantastic especially the BB Cream which evened out her skin and she said it felt light and really smooth.  It’s gone on my ‘wish list’!  She also taught me how to use the ‘Watts up’ highlighter I have from them and I used it today and all my colleagues have said how great I look – obviously her lesson paid off!

Later she had to leave and Bond and I went to make my ‘BIG’ purchase.  A few days ago my laptop totally packed in and I decided it was time to get a new one…they were running a promotion and so I purchased a MacBook Air and it’s the new love of my life! I have named it Magnus the Mac because it’s Magnificent (yes I was up nights thinking that up…) It’s so speedy and so sleek looking, I couldn’t be happier with it.  I am also told they last for years which makes me very happy as it’s not a cheap investment though I did get a great deal here thanks to a ‘back to school’ offer – they thought I was a student and when I said I wasn’t they said there were ways around that and tada it was mine!

All in all it was a fun (if somewhat pricey!) weekend!  I am definitely loving having my buddy up the road and it’s great to see how well she gets on with my other friends out here!

Woman in Gold

On the flight back to Dubai I watched Woman in Gold – my mother recommended it and she was so right!  Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds both put in Stirling performances during their portrayal of a fascinating and amazingly true story.

Helen Mirren plays Maria Altmann, a Vienniese Jewess who fled Vienna with her husband during WW2.  During flashbacks you realise that she came from a very wealthy family and that her uncle had commissioned art works by Klimt, the most famous being the painting ‘Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I’.   It transpires this and various other artworks were stolen by the Nazi’s and Maria decides the time has come to get them back.

So enters Ryan Reynolds the young lawyer she hires to help her.  He is rather out of his  depth but totally determined to win.  The case eventually means they have to go back to Vienna.  Maria had vowed never to go back and when you see her there you realise how the survivors of the Holocaust lost not just their family, things and homes but also their country and their nationhood.   This feels especially poignant at a time when everyone has an opinion on Migrants and refugees.

I don’t want to give too much away because I definitely think it’s worth a watch.  My grandmother had a close friend who was from Vienna and who also fled the Nazi’s and oddly Helen Mirren reminded me of her – she has managed to capture the accent perfectly.

Maria Altmann with the portrait of her aunt Adele.