Sorry for the long hiatus. An update.

I’ve lost track.

I’ve been on a blogging hiatus for the longest time in my ten years of blogging. Not writing anything for a month has been tougher than not eating chocolates for a month. ¬†I expected it. I didn’t fully wanted it – semi-quitting blogging and all but it happened. I still couldn’t believe I did it, shrugging it off with thoughts like, “who’s reading anyway?”

Do people still read blogs? If you have been a visitor to mine before, are you still there?

I tend to blame the loss of my blogging mojo to social media – myself posting updates on Instagram, Twitter or my blog’s Facebook page that I lose the spirit to really sit down in front of my PC and write like a true blogger does. Like my old blogger self.

Then I thought I’d still want to write again so here I am. I still would like to read blog posts I wrote from x years ago, I am writing a part of my life’s story here so I will continue.

Moving on,

The holy month of Ramadan has started last month; we’re already halfway through it actually. I’m not a Muslim so I don’t fast but irrespective of religion, employees and workers in the UAE do get shorter work times. I only work from 8 am to 2 pm. I do extra hour of work every day to avoid the rush on the metro and the blaring hot sun at 2 pm (it’s still hot at 3 pm though) so I arrive home just before 4 pm. It appears that I *do* actually have ample time to blog and I didn’t because I was focusing on other things: exercising, playing with the kids as this month is bliss for working moms like me. I love Ramadan mainly for this opportunity to be with my kids longer.

And speaking of Ramadan, I just realized this is our 11th Ramadan in Dubai. ELEVENTH, people!

I admit, lately I’ve secretly wished every Ramadan is the last. More than 10 years in the UAE and I honestly feel our time is up and I am ready to move on, somewhere. But I just don’t know where. YET. I hope we come around to that. SOON.

And in between staying here longer and wishing to go away, the much awaited vacation time comes again. This year, I managed to plan to include JAPAN. The last time was four years ago!

Four years ago means Benjamin was still in a stroller, only less than 2 years old, still breastfeeding!

benjamin at subway

It was during that time I really felt Tokyo is a city not meant for traveling families with small kids. I lived just outside Tokyo for almost five years and never really realized that…because I was single that time. For one, there are so many train stations without escalators or elevators. There were times I had to carry the child in one arm and a folder stroller on the other (the husband wasn’t with us that time).

subway scene

It’s hot in Japan in the summer so we took breaks from the concrete jungle of Tokyo to parks. If you’re around Shinjuku, don’t miss to check out Shinjuku Gyoen when you’re tired from all the walking and want to lie down on green grass.

benjamin at park

P and B in Tokyo 2

P and B in Tokyo 3

We’ll be in Japan for just 9 nights. It is not enough but I’ll take it. The weather in Japan in June is unpredictable but I plan to make the most of it, especially now that the children are older and they actually know what they want to do while in Japan: from simple things as wanting to eat as much ramen, gyoza or curry rice to shopping at convenient stores for different onigiris to exciting visits to the Ghibli Museum (even this excites me – Pristine was only 5 when we last visited Totoro’s abode!) and probably, I may sneak in a surprise visit to Tokyo Disneyland, weather and health permitting!

We’re visiting their grandparents north of Tokyo. They’ll be getting to know Japan’s Shinkansen (bullet train) for the first time!

niigata

The last time we’ve seen them was in 2009 and since they’re the kind of folks who doesn’t have an email address or WhatsApp, Facebook or anything online, they will be shocked how big the kids have become. (They have not seen Benjamin yet since he was born and now he’s almost 6!)

matsumoto

After Japan, we will be flying to where my parents live where the children will be spending their summer vacation. I hate to be away from them for about 7 weeks but they’re better off there than spend the whole day indoors in Dubai. If only I could stay with them for the whole duration of their summer vacation but alas, work awaits. I’ll fly out again to pick them up at the end of August.

I will be active on social media, mainly on Instagram and hopefully, I could have enough material to write blog posts about our travel to Japan this time. Benjamin is bigger this time so I suppose I could take lots of better photos too. I am excited. Meanwhile, I need to get back on my feet really soon – I am so sick with bronchitis that fully transformed into asthma. Very bad timing as I need to pack, plan, work and actually fly out in a few days!

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque 1

We had a long weekend last week for the Islamic holiday, Isra wal miraj and we chose to spend it in more laid back Abu Dhabi.

What is a visit to Abu Dhabi without checking out the grand mosque? We’ve visited so many times, taking friends and family visiting us in the UAE. I wrote 13 facts about the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque after we first visited it in 2008. We visited a few times years and years after but what makes it different this time? It will be Benjamin’s first time! I want to see his reaction.

LOCATION

The grand mosque, one of the few in the world open to non-Muslims is about an hour drive from Dubai.

So many things has changed since we last visited a couple of years back when a friend from Japan visited and we played tourist guides, and included Abu Dhabi and of course the never to be missed grand mosque in the itinerary (see that post for pics!). First – there’s already a cafe and an Etihad Modern Art Gallery souvenir shop. We loved hanging out at the cafe, with lots of natural light coming in and great view outside.

But one thing never changed and never will – that if you go visit this religious site with arms and legs exposed (we were in shorts and shirts), you will have to wear the abaya for women and khandura for men. Before it was just a black robe though but now, there’s brown and blue abayas for ladies with attached covering for the head, like a hood. I prefer it this way than the separate cloth for head scarf as it keeps falling off.

abaya
khandura

Some other change is that people can’t freely roam anywhere they want now. The main square is off limits to visitors when it wasn’t restricted area way back in 2008, 2010.

Processed with VSCO with s2 preset
Processed with VSCO with s2 preset

There’s security guy who sits at the square and wards off people trying to enter the area. Since so many people want to take pics of the beautiful view behind him, he must be in thousands of photos! He is so chill and would just do some sign language to tell people not to proceed further.

gm 1
gm 2

There’s a specific cordoned route for visitors to follow. The place is more crowded on, unsurprisingly, weekends, especially on Fridays that it’s impossible to take photos without someone’s uncle or auntie in the background. Hold your children and never leave them out of your sight, it’s going to be tough finding them through the crowd!

b happy
p and b

So what was Benjamin’s reaction after visiting the grand structure? He said, it’s beautiful and can’t take his eyes off the massive chandeliers inside the mosque. And then? He asked why we were in robes and he wasn’t!

Have you visited the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi? If not, maybe plan it in the near future. It’s definitely a very popular tourist spot with what else but throngs of tourists you can’t avoid but I still believe your trip will be worth it.

When the fear of travel creeps in

Peace-of-mind-5-ways-to-clear-your-mind

Stockholm and Alexandria were on my mind and in my travel plans this year.

By now, you must already know what happened lately to these two cities: a truck being driven into a crowded shopping street in Stockholm and there was a church bombing in Alexandria during a Palm Sunday mass at a Coptic Christian Church just a few days ago.

Stockholm was an easy choice for my first visit to the Scandinavian region – and not just because I am a huge ABBA or IKEA fan. It is one of the world’s most beautiful cities, where lakes meets the sea, where beautiful island towns stitched together by bridges and ferries creates an irresistible allure.

IMG_9797 wm

Alexandria on the other hand is home to my daughter Pristine’s best friend, Laila. Laila and Pristine had been friends since kindergarten. They love each other like crazy that summer vacations became agonizing and unlike most kids who enjoy no school days, they count days till they meet again. It’s very difficult to peel them off from each other on the first day they’re back to school.

Laila’s family migrated to Canada five years ago and at the tender age of 9, my daughter felt the hardest part of being an expat – losing¬†a friend through relocation.

Laila transferred to a school in Canada while maintaining contact with her best friend in Dubai, however, due to the huge time difference, the girls rarely sync their time for Skype but when they do, they are both grinning from ear to ear.

Now, after five years, Laila’s family with their resident status in Canada all settled, they are going back to their home in Alexandria for vacation! Isn’t it just a 3 hour flight from Dubai? Laila’s mom buzzed me last week to share the good news and asked if we could surprise the girls to meet and spend a few days with them in their Alexandria home. I’ve made arrangements for the kids to spend summer at my parent’s home in the Philippines for the entire months of July-August BUT I couldn’t pass up on this opportunity to go to Egypt and for my daughter to see her bosom friend again so a¬†couple of days ago, I called up the travel agent and asked to reschedule our flights out of Manila so we can come back to Dubai earlier and fly to Alexandria for the remainder of summer.

Cue my mother’s voice: “Wait, what? You’re going to Alexandria where there was a bombing incident? And you’re taking the kids, too?!”

I will not lie. I am anxious.

And you ask, well, if you are that anxious, then why go? Why not just stay at the comfort and safety of home?

I guess that the problem with me is that, even if I sometimes get scared of travel, that doesn’t stop me. I always have this¬†familiar mix of excitement and apprehension that comes before every excursion, especially to places I would visit for the first time.

Especially, if I am travelling with the kids.

Especially travelling to vulnerable areas this time (Egypt).

Then I do extensive research and preparation, be brave and walk out the door proudly but then, as I sit on the plane looking out the window as the carrier pulls away from the tarmac, I ask, “what am I doing? Am I making a right decision?” It’s a crazy mind game inside my head.

It’s unfortunate that there is so much hate and violence in this world right now that makes travelling to some places difficult, scary or even impossible. I feel lucky to have visited Istanbul and Jordan¬†(I was shaken though as only 2 days after we left Jordan, there had been a terrorist attack at one of the popular tourist spots) during more stable times.

I wish I had seen Damascus (Syria), one of the oldest cities in the Middle East before the war.

It’s sad to know that many people might never see these places for a while due to fear of safety. ¬†(And those are very legit fears.) However,¬†I found some tips how to stay safe while travelling to risky countries¬†which was informative and logical.

Over to you – are there any places you’d wish to visit but can’t or won’t due to fear of safety?

How I got my Japanese family name

wisteria in japan

I was doing the car registration renewal process a few days back when the Emirati guy behind the counter at Tasjeel chit chatted me while he holds my car registration card, “So you are Japanese? You have a Japanese family name and nationality but you look Filipino!” If I attempt to count this kind of query every time someone gets hold of my personal documents like passport, driver’s license, etc, the count would be the same as the number of hair strands I have. It’s a question I get all the time since I changed my nationality¬†more than a decade ago.

“Oh so you are married to a Japanese that’s why you have his family name!”

Uhm, actually no. But more often than not, I just say yes and move on.

Today, I am going to share something about Japanese family names and how I got mine because –¬†today is the anniversary since I became a Japanese citizen. I just realized that when I saw the above photo on a travel website. So here goes,

Japanese family names, in most cases are derived from nature. The family names usually consists of two kanjis (Japanese characters), a combination between the “geographic feature” group and the “adjective” group.

Here are 30 most common geographic feature used in surnames, plants and villages included:

japanese family names 1

As for adjectives, the most common are probably these ones (note that the 2 first are not adjectives, but act as such as they do not mean anything by themselves) :

japanese family names 2

The order can be both, geographic feature/nature first then adjective next or adjective first then followed by geographic feature/nature. For example, there’s Murakami (mura (village) + kami (above))¬†and then there’s Uemura (Ue (above) + mura (village)), both using the same two kanji’s though the other kanji is read differently when it comes first.

HOW I GOT MY CURRENT FAMILY NAME

I’ve been living in Japan for 6 years when I decided to apply for naturalization. Applying for naturalization (citizenship) requires applicants to choose a Japanese name according to their wish. Basically, I could choose a Japanese first name and family name, ANYTHING that¬†I like. I was in a relationship with my then boyfriend now husband for three years that time and we brainstormed what name I should use¬†– honestly, it was kind of weird to rename myself. What if someone calls me by my Japanese name, how many times would they have to shout, for me to recognize it is actually my name they are calling out?

We learned that for the first name, we can use a foreign name to be written in katakana (katakana is most often used for transcription of words from foreign languages). I decided to retain my original name Grace as not to complicate my life too much but then what family name would I use? Or create for myself? I had only a week to decide.

Since we were contemplating on getting married anyway and I actually liked his family name, I asked him if I could use it. And he said yes.

The first kanji is FUJI, which is this.

wisteria-flower-drawing-wallpaper-3

Fuji means the wisteria plant in Japanese. Isn’t it lovely? I even like the word. WISTERIA.

(You might associate the word “fuji” from Mt. Fuji, Japan’s highest peak and most popular mountain. However, the Japanese character or kanji for fuji in Mt. Fuji and fuji in my name is different, though their reading is the same in English. The Japanese language is complicated like that.)

fuji

Years before I met my husband, I’ve read a feature of the oldest wisteria plant Japan in the pages of an old National Geographic from the school library when I was in high school. I thought it was BEAUTIFUL and wished I could see it with my own eyes. Whenever I’m asked what’s my favorite flower, I’d say wisteria and people back home look at me with blank stares.

I’ve never seen a wisteria plant till my first spring in Japan in 1997. I chanced upon an old wisteria tree in a park near my school!

oldest-wisteria-tree-ashikaga-japan-1

The next kanji in the family name I chose is MAKI, which means to wind, to turn or wraparound. The visual description of FUJIMAKI would be wisteria flowers wound up in a wreath of sorts.

So that’s the story of how my current family name came to be – although my husband and I have the same family name, I did not get this from him through marriage. I was already a Fujimaki before we got married and in Japan, one is able to retain her maiden name even after marriage so we’re technically two separate entities of Fujimaki’s.

(That even if we did not end up together, I would still bear the name “Grace Fujimaki”.)

oldest-wisteria-tree-ashikaga-japan-8

Photo credit

It’s been 1o years¬†since the last time I saw a beautiful wisteria. I miss it but every time I see or write my family name, I can’t help but have this vision of walking through a canopy¬†of wisteria flowers over my head on a beautiful day in spring.

Tuesday’s surprise: rain, in late March!

rain 2

Photo credit The National. You can find more photos of the rain here.

After days of grey skies and wind and dust, we woke up to rain this morning. I know I heard some pitter patter at the break of dawn but didn’t realize it had been raining heavily outside. I mean, c’mon, it’s already March – though I am not complaining at all. I love the rain!

tue rain 2 umb

But I’ve lived in the UAE 11 years and never experience rain in late March. This kind of rain should’ve come in November like in 2012 where we had heavy tropical type rains sending people (including us) outside to literally dance in the rain. That’s what living in the desert do to people, it makes every drop of rain precious and a five minute rain, a carnival.

There was flooding everywhere this morning and this has to happen when my car is still at the service center. I had to wade in some floodwaters from home to the Metro station this morning and I realized, while looking around and seeing people running that really, not many people own an umbrella in Dubai. Some were just winging it with hoodies, shawls, some plastic material and for some, even toy umbrella, probably borrowed from their little daughters.

flood

According to local newspaper, Gulf News,

After two days of unstable weather, UAE’s skies will stabilise on Wednesday giving way to partly cloudy to cloudy weather but only for a day. Forecasters expect another round of weather instability beginning Thursday.

I think I won’t mind a rainy weekend. Now to find a good book to read.

International Women’s Day and other updates

IWD_GC4W_Womens-Day

Hello, beautiful people. If you are a woman reading this blog, hope you had a great day so far today. And at least got offered a seat on a busy train, even just for today.

8 March is International Women’s Day, an event held around the world to commemorate the struggle for women’s rights. There are several rallies and demonstrations all over the world but I hope one day, women won’t have to march in the streets demanding for equality.¬†According to the UN, March 8 is ‚Äúa day when women are recognized for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political. It is an occasion for looking back on past struggles and accomplishments, and more importantly, for looking ahead to the untapped potential and opportunities that await future generations of women.‚ÄĚ

I wish everyone gets that message into their hearts and live by it, everyday.

The people at my workplace made this day extra special by devoting an hour long program devoted to the female staffs. We even got a box of my favorite Patchi chocolates in the end!

Other updates –

IMG_8906

I’ve not been blogging for a while, long enough to make me temporarily forget my WordPress admin password. It’s been really difficult – I’ve been busy at work from morning till evening with no chance to sneak in a paragraph or two like before and after that, being a single parent right now, it’s hard for me to blog at home. Benjamin is always wanting my attention (naturally) and when he’s asleep I have zero energy left. I love spending time with the kids because they’re a fun bunch and never fail to make me smile or laugh but I admit, I miss my alone time where I can write.

Spring break is around the corner and the kids will have two weeks off. I wish I had too so I can take them somewhere. I’ve planned it and did a lot of research and study for it because I’m that crazy type of person who creates imaginary itineraries and takes pleasure in grasping information and familiarity about the place even before I’ve been there. I map streets in my mind; I print and study the train routes – my idea of chill time is studying how to transfer from one place to another, imagining things as if I’m already there.

Even before I even bought tickets to that destination.

Sometimes I feel that I’m wasting so much time (and ask myself – is this even normal?). Just a couple of months in to 2017, I already fixed itineraries for Japan, Amsterdam, Bucharest, Milan and Como area in Lombardia region and lately, Sofia, Bulgaria. I even studied how to read Cyrillic so I can read signs in Russian (it’s not hard + it’s fun).

But the painful truth is, only one of those itineraries will be materialized. And not on spring break.Who am I kidding? With a full time job, I can’t really leave for vacations often. And my vacation days have been already allotted in summer.

I hate that after a long time without blogging I’m coming back just to whine.

Also, I was under the weather the past two weeks, first with a very painful, debilitating period then the kids got sick and then I got sick. I wasn’t able to exercise for 2 weeks now and I get so heartbroken not being able to cross out my schedule pasted in the refrigerator door. I miss being in the zone. I always feel better if I exercise first thing in the morning before going to work.

I did my routine religiously for 7 weeks and then on the 8th, I feel like a complete failure. If you look at me, maybe you couldn’t tell that I’m that person who exercises. But at this point in time, I’m not really after the much coveted “bikini body”, I’m after being fit, mobile and not dying while running up the stairs when the escalator at the train station breaks down. And I am in need of a dose of happy hormones.

It’s almost the weekend and I’m going to take the kids to the beach. Not because they needed it, but because I need it. Hopefully, next week is a better week! I wish you all a great weekend ahead.

Even when I can’t blog, you can see updates on my Instagram (I frequent there than here) and Twitter or my blog’s Facebook page.

#DaycationBrunch at Lapita Hotel

lapita hotel lobby

Have you been to Dubai Parks and Resorts, the new leisure and theme park constituting 25 million square feet of land that houses ¬†Legoland Park, Legoland Water park, Motiongate Dubai and Bollywood Parks? I’ve been invited to witness the opening a couple of months back but didn’t get a chance to go since it was a weekday/work day for me.

Last week, we went to Lapita Hotel, a hotel inside Dubai Parks and Resorts that’s part of Marriott International’s portfolio to experience their new brunch offerings called #DaycationBrunch. It’s a long drive from where we live, nearly an hour away but it wasn’t hard to locate plus, a Polynesian-themed resort right in the middle of the desert? That got me curious.

lapita
kida at lapita

Lapita definitely offers something new and unique. It’s really worth checking out. I can’t wait to stay here. But first, brunch! I’ve been to brunches in Dubai with one trying to outdo the other but Lapita Hotel’s #DaycationBrunch? It was insane. The buffet spread was so rich it’s hard to decide what to eat first because apart from the usual international favorites like cheeses, Japanese section, yummy desserts and seafood, there were live cooking sections for grilled meats, Sunday Roast with all the trimmings and Fijian food!

fijian food collage

outdoor

And of course, booze.

alcohol

The #DaycationBrunch includes pool time in the package so even if we had overcast skies and scattered rains in Dubai last week, we couldn’t help but take a dip, it’s temperature controlled at 38C!

pool at lapita 2

pool at lapita
pool at lapita 3

Lapita Hotel is a unique hotel – no, it’s a destination in itself. It’s basically aiming to make you feel like you’re on a tropical island. And you bet we really did feel it!

How family friendly is the brunch at Lapita Hotel?

There’s a special section with so many staff supervising the kids and making sure they have a great time. They played a lot of games. I highly appreciate brunches that don’t leave children’s needs (and adult’s need of alone time with vodka LOL) and Lapita really does a great job at entertaining the kids. However one flaw – I wish there’s a designated area for parents near the kids’ corner so parents can watch the kids and know they are just there. I get worried whenever Benjamin scoots off from our table, though assuming he would be heading for the kids’ corner but who knows if he’d wander somewhere else. Just a little anxious so I or his older sister have to accompany him to make sure he goes there.

Now, now for the best bit: I know the weekend is only two days away but if you hurry, you could experience Lapita Hotel’s #DaycationBrunch where adults eat for FREE* this coming Friday, March 3rd! Please check out their Facebook page for details and terms and conditions or email them at lapita.restaurantreservations [at] autographhotels [dot] com or Tel +971 4 810 9999.

We were guests at Lapita Hotel but all opinions are my own and I am not paid to write good things about them, however, if you want to experience something new, they’re worth the drive and penny.

Ski Dubai snow penguins turns 5!

ski dubai 1

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you must know by now that there’s a ski resort inside a mall in Dubai. Ski Dubai is the Middle East’s first indoor ski resort which opened in 2005. This massive facility has¬†22,500 square meters of indoor ski area where you can ski (of course) and do lots of fun in the snow. It is a part of the Mall of the Emirates, one of the largest shopping malls in the world.

I must admit, I dread the idea of going inside Ski Dubai. After having experienced 10 winters in Japan complete with sub zero temperatures and snow while living in the mountainous region of Nagano prefecture, I am done with the cold.

However, snow will always be something that gets the kids happy and excited.

snow bunnies 1
ski dubai 2

So, did you also know that aside from snow inside Ski Dubai, there are also…PENGUINS? Like, real ones?¬† Snow + PENGUINS, oh yay!! That got me excited as well.

Ski Dubai offers Penguin Encounters with the Ski Dubai penguins – currently there are 28 resident penguins. At the start there were only 20 of them. The King and Gentoo Penguins at Ski Dubai reside in the most sophisticated habitat in the UAE. The enclosure consists of several areas including a private pool, a top deck area with rocks, and a private holding area.

My daughter Pristine visited the penguins at Ski Dubai five years ago when they were new so she’s so delighted to be able to see them again, and this time, with her little brother Benjamin! Our tour started ¬†as we made our way through a dark tunnel, complete with ice on the wall and snow under our feet. Ah, that familiar crunchy sound of fresh snow!

We were told that Ski Dubai is the only place in the world where the public are allowed to touch penguins and were given instructions on how to hug them (always from behind, to prevent a scratch from a sharp beak). Benjamin was hesitant at first but that’s understandable, if I were a five year old, I would probably freak out too seeing Happy Feet characters alive and moving right in front of my eyes!

Then we were led into the second enclosure to meet a King Penguin; the second largest breed of penguin in the world and pretty impressive with his bright yellow feathers. This was the bird we would be allowed to touch.

penguin encounter 1

penguins 1
penguins 3

penguin encounter 2

Normally, private photography is not allowed on penguin encounter sessions but for this event, they let us in with our phones and a staff helped take our photos.

snow bunnies 2 We learned a lot on this penguin encounter session. The guide/trainer provided simple explanation and wonderful lessons for all age groups to help understand these birds, their habits, behavior, etc.

While I am not a fan of animals in captivity, I am a bit relieved to learn that there are strict rules in place for the penguin’s welfare and they are rotated so as not to be overwhelmed. Also, Ski Dubai regularly directs funds back into penguin conservation and research projects through the non-profit charity Hubbs SeaWorld Research Institute.

After the penguin encounter, the kids played a bit in the snow. It was Benjamin’s first time to see a snow, however unreal. We’ll take it, for now. We had lots of fun at the snow park but after an hour or so, it was time to head outside. We can’t feel our fingers anymore!

P.S.

Please bring your own insulated gloves, hat and warm underwear as you cannot rent them there, only ski suits for the kids and long down jacket for adults. I had to sacrifice looking ridiculous with a kiddie beanie with a red braid just to warm my frozen ears!

We were guests at Ski Dubai for the penguin’s 5th birthday bash. As usual, all opinions are my own.

Dubai Creek Harbour

Dubai creek harbour header image 2

Last weekend, the kids and I went to “Rise”, a new outdoor entertainment on the Dubai Creek Promenade and could well be the coolest place to be in Dubai. Rise is open from now and every weekend from 2pm.

Think of a place with lots of bean bags and sofas to just sit back, lounge and while the time away gazing at the unbeatable views of the creek and the beautiful Dubai skyline against the afternoon sunset.

Rise DCH

Salt Food Truck and Vida Hotel food trucks were among the foodie providers, as well as demonstrations from scientific cooking bods The Inventing Room. A roaming robot, virtual reality installations, arty water and building projections, audio-visual performances and some neat little Lego-style electronic toys for kids and not to mention, there are play areas for the little ones to enjoy made our visit so worth it. Dubai creek harbour sunset 1

Dubai Creek Harbour is a new community to be developed by Emaar, the same company that developed Downtown Dubai, the world’s tallest building Burj Khalifa, the world’s biggest mall Dubai Mall and world’s largest fountain, the Dubai Fountain.

I remember when we arrived in 2007 and Burj Khalifa was just half complete and the whole area of the Dubai Mall and Downtown Dubai was still so dusty from all the construction. We visited the Emaar sales center at Downtown, saw the diorama and model houses of the future residential buildings and thought…it looks so ambitious, will these ever become a reality?

But alas, Dubai is a city that knows not the word impossible and the ambitious project of Downtown Dubai, Dubai Mall, Dubai Fountain and Burj Khalifa came to be.

And now, when I was standing at the promenade near the Dubai Creek Harbour Sales Center, I could see trucks and cranes working 24/7. Each roaring sound of the trucks is a sign towards all of these becoming a reality.

The promenade – I’m not sure if this is just temporary, is made just to give visitors¬†a taste of what it will be like to be here, to see the sweeping views of Dubai’s iconic skyline at the distance and to marvel at the warm glow of the sunset amidst the tranquility of the creek.

sunset collage

Dubai Creek Harbour as a project will stretch around 6km – twice the size of Downtown Dubai – and will be a city unto itself.

The development include nine different districts, such as The Island District, Creekside 18, Harbour Views, The Canal District and The Sanctuary District. Situated adjacent to the Ras Al Khor Natural Wildlife Sanctuary, it will boast a world class yacht club, marina and harbour, 22 hotels, 6.79 million square metres of residential space and almost twice that in retail.

A very prestigious project is in the works too, a structure ‘just a notch’ taller than Burj Khalifa – Santiago Calatrava’s lily-bud inspired The Tower is an iconic monument that will be the centerpiece of the entire development, setting a new benchmark for engineering around the world.

When completed, Dubai Creek Harbour area is supposed to look like this:

dch completed

More photos of The Tower here.

The Dubai Creek Harbour promenade is open from now and every weekends only Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Entry and parking is free. For more information about the upcoming events, please check out www.risedch.com.

In search of sea glass on the shores of the Red Sea

red-sea-beach-6

We were done with our floating in the Dead Sea and walking through the historic site of Petra in Jordan. We arrived in Aqaba, wanting to have a little rest before we venture out to breathtaking Wadi Rum.

(I highly recommend staying at the Movenpick Resort & Spa Tala Bay hotel when you’re in Aqaba – it’s a beautiful resort, a little outside the city and Aqaba is a great base if you intend to visit Wadi Rum as it’s less than an hour away by car.)

red-sea-beach-7
red-sea-beach-8

One of the activities my daughter and I really enjoyed while we were in Aqaba¬†was spending time walking along the shores of the Red Sea, in the private beach resort of the hotel we stayed. It was winter when we were in Jordan in December 2016 and though Aqaba is relatively ‘warmer’ than say, Amman or Petra, it was quite chilly in the mornings (and evenings).

This was where I introduced my daughter Pristine to sea glas because I am fascinated by them.

red-sea-beach-3

Every now and then, walking on the beach, Pristine stops, reaches down and plucks a piece of smooth glass out of the sand. We would spend at least an hour just looking down.¬†Who knew collecting sea glass can be an incredibly relaxing activity! Walking down the beach will clear your mind and finding a sea glass is such a delight, like finding a little treasure – I mean, it’s not everyday you get to pick up one from the Red Sea, right?

What is sea glass?

Sea glass is weathered glass, actually fragments of broken glass tossed/ended up in the ocean where wave action and salt water are the forces that give it its frosted look and a satiny feel.

sea-glass

sea glass 2
sea glass 3

I’ve read somewhere that it is also called beach glass and even mermaid’s tears. I don’t know about mermaid’s tears but it sure sounds fairy tale like. I like it.

Sea glasses are man-made, nature-perfected Рpieces of glass from broken bottles, broken tableware, or even shipwrecks that are rolled and tumbled in the ocean for years until all of their edges are rounded off, and the slickness of the glass has been worn to a frosted appearance. So cool, no?

We collected a lot and kept it. It felt good in our pockets, like worry beads.

Ever since I spotted a piece of sea glass on the sand, I have been in love with it. The thought of a broken shard of glass tumbling in the waves for all those years and transforming into jewel like pieces with bits of history as each piece came from someone whose story will remain unknown is intriguing, mysterious and I think, precious.

red sea beach 9

Now, here’s to collecting more sea glass from different parts of the world!