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.


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.


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.

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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.

Where we stayed: Traders Hotel Qaryat Al Beri

lobby 1

We spent a wonderful weekend at Traders Qaryat Al Beri in Abu Dhabi and couldn’t be happier.We’ve never been to the Qaryat Al Beri area before but within minutes of arriving, we’re already pretty sure we would like to be back soon. Just a little over an hour drive from The Dubai Mall on Sheikh Zayed Road, Qaryat Al Beri is a little piece of paradise very close to Dubai.

sunset under maqta bridge

TIP: When you go to the hotel around sunset time, don’t miss to stop when you drive beneath Al Maqta Bridge.

We were lucky to be at the right place and at the right time to witness this beautiful sunset with the silhouette of Sheikh Zayed Grand mosque against the crimson sky.

When I first heard of Traders Hotel, all that was in my mind was that this must be strictly for business hotel. However, internet research showed it is not just for business but for leisure and families as well. The lobby is huge and welcoming and the vibrant, funky colors are proof that this hotel is upbeat and modern – certainly not just for the modest business traveller!

lobby 3

View outside the hotel – you can easily tell this is a resort type hotel.

traders front 1

Traders is managed by Shangri-la and follows all the protocols, service and food quality standards of the Shangri-la brand.


Traders Hotel is located within the Qaryat Al Beri complex and is a 10-minute drive from Abu Dhabi International Airport, five minutes from Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre and 15 minutes from the city centre. It overlooks its own private beach and is directly across the water from the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque (covered by another property but visible as you walk towards the neighbouring property Shangri-la).

Christmas tree on the beach

The beach area out at the back side of the hotel is well kept and the sand is clean. There are lots of sunbeds and other comfortable seating available .

beach side morning


We stayed at interconnecting rooms (perfect for families staying with children) at the Traders Club floor. The Traders Club Superior rooms on the 7th, 8th and 9th floors are sleek and modern, affording guests access to the dedicated Traders Club Lounge and full Traders Club benefits.

room 1

room 2

The rooms are very spacious, with king sized beds which were very comfortable.

The bathroom is large with a monsoon type shower, amenities and a separate bathtub. A hotel with a separate bathtub is always a winner in our book!


We had a sea view room on a top floor with magnificent views from the balcony. One of the first things I check after entering a hotel room is the view outside. I couldn’t complain…

view from balcony 1

TIP: Booking a club floor is such a great value. Guests who stay at any rooms in the club floor get access to the Club Lounge with breakfast, all day tea/coffee, soft drinks and alcohol and nibbles between 6pm and 8pm, and of course, free WiFi and a place to work, overlooking the private beach.


The property was very family friendly, starting with the staff who never fail to make us feel at home, especially our kids. There’s plenty of space to run around and a playground to boot!

playground 2

playground 1

If swimming on the beach is not your bet while staying here, there’s also a pool, which unfortunately small for the size of the hotel. We did not have a problem with the crowd though as not many were keen to swim at the time we went there (around 10am).


But how many would prefer to be in the pool if the beach is so close by?


The hotel is serviced by the all-day dining restaurant Afya that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. The breakfast buffet was good and staff were alert and attentive to everyone’s needs. You can also opt to sit outside for al fresco breakfast while enjoying the lovely sea breeze.


afya 2


Every Friday is barbecue night at the beach with wide spread international buffet, mixed grills of meat and seafood. Shisha also available.

bbq night 2

bbq night 4

What’s great about it, other than the food? There’s a play setup for kids which means quiet dining time for the parents!

bbq night 3

It was quite chilly when we were there so we’re glad there were heaters placed all around the dining area to keep us warm. Strange things happen when you live far too long in desert land – you become sissy with the cold once the temps drop below 20C!

bbq night 5

We enjoyed the lovely dinner under the stars (that sounds so romantic, I know and it was) while the children played in the bouncy castle and in the sand. It is really the loveliest time of the year to be outside.

bbq night 1


great weather

Our stay at Traders Qaryat Al Beri was faultless. Everything from the rooms to the service was ace. Add to that, the property was really a nice getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city – the green surroundings, the soft sound of the lapping waves…it is a breath of fresh air, literally.

walkway to Shangrila

We really liked our early morning walks in the promenade to the Souk/Shangri-la Hotel and back.

walkway to Shangrila 2

water across mosque

Souk Qaryat Al Beri (the souk between Traders Hotel, Shangri-la Residences and Shangri-la Hotel), is a contemporary adaptation of a typical Arabian market, with abras (water taxis) ferrying visitors round the waterside complex via meandering man-made canals.

abra 2

abra 3

The children are thrilled to be in the small motorized boat. We passed through the narrow canal to Traders from the Souk and back again to Shangri-la. Hotel guests can enjoy this service free of charge.

abra 4


If my photos don’t do this place justice, you simply have to go and see for yourself (you won’t regret it). I would have no hesitation recommending this hotel to anyone, whether travelling on business or leisure and highly recommend for families. We had a great time and would love to celebrate family milestones in this hotel or simply a long weekend staycation in the future.

santa surprise

If you’re looking for a high quality class of a hotel and not at 5 star prices, then give this hotel a look. 

sunset from the balcony 2

To learn more about Traders Hotel Qaryat Al Beri and their special offers, check out their main website as well as connect with them on Facebook and Twitter.

We were guests at Traders Hotel Qaryat Al Beri but all opinions are my own.

Khor Fakkan roadside beach, Fujairah

We saw the coast of Khor Fakkan at the top of the hill at Al Bidyah Mosque and the children have spoken: beach next!! Our very kind driver from Novotel Hotel Fujairah, where we stayed during our trip to Fujairah happily obliged.

“Are you married?”, I asked him.

“Do you have kids?”

“No, madame I don’t have kids but I know kids. Let’s go to the beach before we go back to the hotel.”

Awww. So sweet.

So we made a quick turn and stopped at a roadside beach. Our driver parked the car and immediately the kids got down and ran.

I chased them, the husband chased me and took a photo of me chasing the kids. I finally caught up with them.

kids at Khor Fakkan beach

You can see the Port of Khor Fakkan ahead. Khor Fakkan is a town located along the Gulf of Oman on the east coast of the United Arab Emirates. The town, the second largest on the east coast after Fujairah, is set on the picturesque bay of Khor Fakkan, which means “Creek of Two Jaws”. Khor Fakkan belongs to the emirate of Sharjah but is geographically surrounded by the emirate of Fujairah. Source.

Once near the water, they immediately took their slippers off and attempted dip their little feet in the water. During the month of February when the desert sun just starts to pierce through our skin on mid-day, the waters off the beaches are still cold to the touch. I couldn’t imagine swimming in it.

We did not bring any swimming costumes as I already assumed the water would still be cold. Benjamin started with the rolled pants style but eventually, we went back to the hotel with only his underwear!

We were approached by some men who offered boat rides to nearby islands. It was difficult to say no but we had to go back to the hotel for lunch. I hear a collected sigh. Getting on a boat had been an adventure the day before when we went out to explore the coast of Fujairah on a small motorboat from the Fujairah International Marine Club.

beach fujairah khor fakkan

“Island trip and back. 150 dirhams madame, for all, including the little people.” Definitely next time!

beach fujairah khor fakkan

It was a lovely side trip and wish we could have stayed longer, lay down a mat, open the picnic basket and have lunch under one of those trees looking up at the cloudless blue skies above and the blue sea ahead, feeling the cool sea air on our face, you know, just forget about the passing of time even just for a while.

mountains in Fujairah

A trip to Al Bidyah Mosque, oldest mosque in the UAE

mountains in Fujairah

When you live in Dubai, it’s easy to miss things as natural as rain or trees (other than date palm) or the sight of mountains. It was our second day in Fujairah and after exploring the coast by boat courtesy of Fujairah International Marine Club, we wanted to look around and show the kids some things they won’t see in Dubai (mountains!) and visit the Al Bidyah Mosque, (sometimes written as Al Bidiyah or Al Badiyah) reputed to be the oldest mosque in the country.

Novotel Hotel, the budget and family friendly hotel in Fujairah where we spent our short out of the city getaway offers tours to the city and nearby historic spots.

Our driver and guide picked us up after breakfast and we went straight to Al Bidyah Mosque. It was a longer ride from Fujairah city proper where Novotel is located but the sights along the way has something we do not see everyday. There were no bored souls inside the car.

al bidiyah mosque poster

Al Bidyah mosque is located 8 km north of Khor Fakkan in the mountainous coastal region of the emirate of Fujairah. The mosque is a charming earth-coloured structure of stone, mud brick and gypsum built between 1446 and 1668. The mosque is unique to the UAE but not the region. It was built about the same time as similar mosques in Yemen, Oman and Qatar.

Al Bidiyah Mosque

I have been to this mosque before but that was way back in 2007 with my mother and if I remember, we weren’t allowed to go inside. Now, visitors can take a peek inside as it now functions mainly as a tourist attraction. Non-Muslims may enter if they are appropriately dressed and have taken off their shoes, but women must cover their heads.

abaya in mosque

Its structure has been kept true to its past. Apart from the welcome introduction of two air-conditioning units and four fluorescent lights, and some restoration work a decade ago, the mosque of mud and bricks remains much as it did in the mid-15th century.

inside al bidyah mosque benjamin

Here, my 3 year old son is looking at a wall that existed centuries and centuries before him. It’s heartbreaking though to see all the vandalized walls on this old, small building near the mosque.

inside mosque

al bidiya mosque

Locals says that they don’t know who built this mosque. There were no books or historical studies on who built it. There’s some sort of fort at the top of the hill behind the mosque. And there’s a pathway to it.

Al Bidya Mosque Fujairah

Way back in 2007 when we first visited, we did not have much time to explore around the area. Now that we didn’t have to rush back to Dubai and the weather was really great, we asked the kids if they wanted to go up.

Fujairah mosque fort

I guess you know what they said next. The older one was too excited to show the place to her little brother as if she owns it, as if she has been there a hundred times. Those mountain silhouettes in the horizon, aren’t they beautiful?

fort 2

The climb to the top wasn’t too much of a struggle but I guess for the little one, it was quite an effort. He loved it though and looked forward to reaching the top.

p and b to the fort 1

“Those mountains…where do they start and where do they end, mama?” I get overwhelmed by the questions Pristine asks during our travels because sometimes, the answers to those questions I can’t find in Google.

at fort looking out

fort 1

I am proud of my (little) young travellers. We’ve taken them everywhere we wanted to them to see and not once they complained or threw a tantrum (no jinx!). If at all, they are so eager to see more and always the reason why we need to linger more at a certain spot.

at the fort

From the watch tower above the mosque you can view more of the magnificent scenery of the coast. If you’re thinking of doing something different on a weekend, you can drive to Fujairah from Dubai via the new road, stay a couple of nights at a city hotel (there are a lot of affordable hotel options!)  and experience this piece of history and natural beauty in a country so focused on moving forward, with most buildings not older than cheese. Sorry for the mention of cheese, I am getting hungry.


Seriously, Fujairah is a must visit and you’d be more enticed to do so in my next post. We had a short stop at the beach on our way back to our hotel!

coast of Fujairah

Touring Fujairah: Day 1, from the sea

coast of Fujairah

The color of the water off Fujairah is different. And it makes sense. The coast of Fujairah, unlike the other Emirates is in the Gulf of Oman (the others are in Arabian Gulf).

After a restful night at Novotel Fujairah Hotel, our wonderful budget and family friendly accommodation in Fujairah, we woke up early for breakfast and headed to the Fujairah International Marine Club. Though lately it has become a bit warm in desert land, the weather is still very nice to spend time outdoors and today, we will be doing something different: explore the coast of Fujairah by boat!

The children were ecstatic!


Photo credit: Fujairah in Focus

The Fujairah International Marine Club is a non profit organization that was established in 1999 to host and organize some of the world’s best maritime sports such as the Class One, The Formula One, Formula 2, and X-Cat World Powerboat Series. It also organizes national and local events such as UAE Jet Ski Championship, rowing races, and fishing competitions.

The first race for the 2015 X-Cat World Powerboat Series will be held at the Fujairah Internatioanal Marine Club on 25-27 February 2015.

Fujairah International Marine Club

There is a Biker’s Cafe at the Marine Club which serves light snacks and refreshments. Other dining outlets include licensed Harbour Club and a Chinese restaurant.

bikers cafe

The Harbour Club is a trendy, relaxed bar restaurant, offering five star international cuisine and an extensive range of beverages. Both indoor and outdoor seating is available, with a shisha terrace and outdoor bar overlooking the marina. There’s also the  Zhonghua Huiguan restaurant serving authentic Chinese and International dishes. The dining facilities are open to all, not just members of the marine club.

The Harbour Club

We did not get to try any of the dining outlets so I can’t say anything about the food or service but would love to try them out once we’re back to Fujairah, soon.

It was time to head out to sea. The weather was perfect, not too cold and very moderate wind. I’ve always loved sailing but never get to do it as often as I like. There’s something about the sea and the quote: “The cure to everything is salt water: tears, sweat and the sea” is so true. Just being near the sea, looking at it and smelling the salt water air is very therapeutic, at least for me.

salt water therapy

The other members of the family loved the experience too, except for the littlest one who became very quiet. He is usually very bubbly and tend to move around, now he is stuck in his father’s lap!

in boat

We move away from the coast and here we see the some buildings in the city and the Hajjar mountains in the background. Living in Dubai does funny things to you – you’d be actually happy to see mounds of earth!

fujairah from a distance

Fujairah trip

Fujairah port and Khor Fakkan port are nearby so there were many ships stopped in the middle of the sea. So, so big ships!

big ship in coast of Fujairah

We got closer.

big ship in coast of Fujairah

And closer.

big ship in coast of Fujairah

Then we turned around to see another ship alongside this big one.

big ship in coast of Fujairah

I’ve been asked by the little humans, “how do these things float, mama?” These boats have tons of weight and they float. WHY? I cannot tell them to Google that time so I used big words like law of bouyancy, etc. They looked at me like I’m crazy. They’re not convinced with my answers.


These boats can accommodate people for fishing trips as well, in fact, there are fishing rods in it. Pristine was waiting for any fish to bite the bait but unfortunately, the fishes were on a weekend break, maybe went on a trip to Dubai. LOL.

fujairah from a distance 2

family on board 2

family on board

A trip to Fujairah is worth it because it gives you one of the most scenic natural environment in the UAE.The Hajjar mountains and the Gulf of Oman make for a wonderful combination and offer plenty of year-round options for recreational activities.

pristine in boat

The Fujairah International Marine Club organizes to hire a small boat for the family or a traditional dhow for a group of friends.There are plenty of activities for families; a nice relaxing trip on the dhow, take a fishing or diving trip on one of our boats or enjoy lunch or dinner at one of the restaurants inside the club.

We loved our day trip out to sea in Fujairah. It’s so easy to say, this won’t ever be the last.

Novotel Hotel Fujairah

Where we stayed: Novotel Hotel Fujairah

Novotel Hotel Fujairah

We spent a lovely two days at Fujairah over the weekend to relax and unwind from the busy and hectic (and sometimes exhausting) life in Dubai. Fujairah is the only emirate among the seven emirates of the UAE that do not lie in the Arabian Gulf. Its coast line is at the Gulf of Oman. The last time we visited Fujairah was already five long years ago so this trip was long overdue.

There are so many hotels in Fujairah, from beach hotels to city hotels. We stayed for two nights at Novotel Hotel Fujairah. And here’s my review of this hotel.

Novotel Hotel Fujairah is located at Hamad Bin Abdullah Road, Fujairah, very close to the city center, just off the new E84 road.

We heard of this new road linking Dubai to Fujairah that promises shorter time and smoother travel. The last time we’ve been to Fujairah, all I remember was long travel and a pretty dangerous one because there’s a highway strip that has no barrier in the center – it can be scary if only a thin white line separates opposite traffic.

Now with the new E84 road known as Sheikh Khalifah Bin Zayed Road, it only took us an hour and 15 minutes from our house in Al Qusais to the hotel. The new road linking Dubai to Fujairah has motorists living the dream. Imagine there are people commuting from Dubai to Fujairah on a daily basis because of this road!

It’s impossible to miss Novotel Fujairah when you enter the city center of the Emirate. It’s that tall building with neon blue lights (if you’re arriving at night).

Being a new hotel (just a year old!), I am impressed by the warm and welcoming service we received from the time we got off our car when we arrived until the moment we left. The staff at the hotel and the restaurants were attentive to our needs and always went out of their way to serve us and the other customers in the best way they can.

The staff were so sweet to remember our names too, including the children! I know they instantly felt like superstars on the time we checked out.

I must admit, when I hear Novotel or Ibis (of the Accor group of hotels), I used to think – ah, business hotel. I seriously thought we would be the only family staying there and Benjamin could disturb the tired business men sleeping in the rooms (Benjamin has a habit of singing loudly in the hallways!). However, when we arrived, we were surprised with the number of families with children staying in the hotel, too!

We stayed in a suite room because it is caters more to our family size. And yep, we loved the space!

suite room bedroom

The suite room was perfect for us (2 adults and 2 children) as it had a separate receiving room and bedroom, that meant more space to move around. The hotel also provided an extra bed for our 11 year old daughter and even then, the room did not feel cramped. Also, I must mention that the bed was so nice and comfortable (which honestly I did not expect).

This is when you first enter the hotel room.

Novotel Fujairah suite room

I can’t get a proper shot without a little human getting in the way. There is a mini bar and a small receiving area with sofa.

The room had the basic amenities; the suite room had a separate shower and bathtub which we really like, especially with a toddler who loves to take long baths in the tub. One of my favorite amenities is the WiFi (is WiFi called an amenity? It is now.). All the rooms have fast and free wireless internet (YAY!) which makes it easier for guests on business or pleasure to what they needed to do. Mine would be to update my social media platforms of what we’ve been up to!

If you have not brought your laptop and need to work on something with a bigger screen than your smart phone, you can always go to the lobby.

Hotel Novotel Fujairah

Another thing to be happy about when staying as a family was the pool. Another unexpected treat – it was big! There were many children in the pool even if the weather was a bit chilly when we got there. The water is temperature controlled but the wind was strong during our stay so we didn’t get to swim at all. Hopefully, next time, we can!

Novotel Hotel Fujairah pool

Breakfast is served at Flavours restaurant, the all dining restaurant at the ground floor. Ample selection, we couldn’t complain of anything. Thursday night dinner was at Il Centro at adjacent Ibis Hotel for Mexican night. Staple Mexican food (guacamole however was missing). Live cooking station also available.

Friday night was Indian night at Flavours when the restaurant turns to a bustling place of Indian food lovers. The scent of the spices will let you know Indian night is full on and it’s time to forget about diet.

Indian nights

There are lots of Indian food available on the buffet but I just chose a few for my first plate.

indian food

My favorite Indian sweets on parade: kaju katli, burfi, etc.

indian sweets

Friday was international brunch at Il Centro with DJ spinning some good music. Live cooking station also available.

il centro

We loved the food at Il Centro and wish it was closer. It’s definitely cheaper in Fujairah (or should I say, the prices in Dubai is just too inflated!). If you’re driving to Fujairah and get hungry, a stop over at Il Centro is worth the time and money.

Overall we had a very good stay. We had a very peaceful short family getaway away from the big city. The kids thoroughly loved the space of the suite room (highly recommended for families) and because this is not Dubai, you don’t have to be intimidated by the word “suite”. The location is near to everything from supermarkets to pharmacies. The beach is near too. We visited the Fujairah International Marine Club which is a short drive from the hotel and explored the coast of Fujairah (more about it in the next post!).


We unexpectedly loved our stay in Fujairah and highly recommend to anyone looking to get away from the fast paced life of Dubai and would love a change of scenery. Novotel Hotel Fujairah comes with my high recommendation for being a budget and family friendly hotel that delivers – nice, clean rooms with a comfy bed and WiFi connection, great location and customer oriented service staff.

To learn more about Novotel Hotel Fujairah and their special offers, check out their main website as well as connect with them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

We were guests at Novotel Hotel Fujairah but all opinions are my own, as always. You can see more photos of our Fujairah trip on my Instagram (@sandierpastures) with hashtag #GraceInFujairah.

Fujairah: a sneak peek


This was taken aboard a speed boat along the coast of Fujairah, the only Emirate among the seven with a coast line facing the Gulf of Oman and not in the Arabian Gulf.

I’m going to write about our two-day weekend getaway to this charming emirate including where we stayed, our trip to one of Fujairah’s historic spots and what my little travelers were up to. But first, real world work.

It’s Sunday and back to work again here in Dubai. I have a full inbox to tackle and lots of papers on my table. Hopefully, I can take a breather later on and write about our wonderful weekend. I can’t wait to share them with you. You can check my Instagram though for little snippets of the trip. 

Dubai Miracle Garden

Dubai Miracle Garden

Dubai Miracle Garden

Where did you go during the 3 days new year holidays? As for my family, we were just home most of the time until we got bored and decided to see the sun outside. We finally went to Dubai Miracle Garden. I must admit, I cringed at the name the first time I heard it. Miracle? Miracle is such a big word but when you come to think of it, these scene, these flowers? It’s a miracle to see this in the desert.

Dubai Miracle Garden

There was a mock choo choo train near the entrance that caught our toddler’s attention. He didn’t want to leave this part of the garden.

train at dubai miracle garden

garden 6

Going to the Dubai Miracle Garden had been a long overdue plan and after seeing so many beautiful photos of my friends and my sister who went there, I knew we need to check it out and the long weekend was perfect for it. However, we made the big mistake of going there at the wrong time. It’s the golden “winter” season in Dubai when everything seems to fantastic outdoor wise. It’s that limited time when we can go out and enjoy the sun without becoming a burned toast.

The sky was cloudless and blue and the flowers looked even more beautiful against it.

Dubai Miracle Garden

Since it was a holiday for most, there was a huge crowd. It’s impossible to claim one spot without any stranger in the background.

us at miracle garden 2

You could always see somehow, somewhere near, someone’s taking a selfie! (Look at the left!)

us at miracle garden

I know it’s winter and the weather was really great but it was hot when we got there. We left the house at around 10 am and arrived there before 11 am.

VERY IMPORTANT TIP: Don’t go there around noon time!

The garden is wide and vast and mostly open spaces with very limited areas that has shade. Winter? Who are we kidding? There’s no “winter” during midday in Dubai! 

Dubai Miracle Garden

garden 3

The best time to visit would be very early in the morning as soon as it opens or maybe around 5 pm to sunset. Otherwise, you might want to bring umbrellas. And speaking of umbrellas…

Dubai Miracle Garden

It’s truly a “miracle” these flowers are actually real and thriving in extreme weather conditions. I am not sure if they are open in summer or if anyone would brave going there in the summer months! The website do not say anything about the garden being closed on summer.

Maintaining to keep the flowers alive at Dubai Miracle Garden is one tough (and expensive) task – but that could be the main reason of the AED30 (US$8) per person entrance fee! Entrance for children 3 years old and below is free.

Weekdays: 9am to 9pm
Weekends (Fri-Sat): 9am to 11pm

Dubai Miracle Garden is around the vicinity of Dubai Motor City and Arabian Ranches, but since I am not good with directions, I’ll let Google Maps do the talking.

It was a great (but very short) day trip. I would have loved to stay longer (to maximize the worth of the entrance fee) but it was really too hot, especially for Benjamin. If you are in Dubai and haven’t visited, I still think it’s worth the trip, just pick the best time. And take a lot of photos!

Team SCA in the Volvo Ocean Race in Abu Dhabi

abu dhabi foggy

Have you heard of the Volvo Ocean Race? I know I’ve heard of it before but never took notice – I am not into sailing, although very much love the water (beach, ocean, seas, whatever as long as it is not rough..). The UAE, having coastal cities is hosting one of the stops for this prestigious race in the capital city of Abu Dhabi.

The route of this race: started in Alicante, Spain to Cape Town, South Africa on to Abu Dhabi, UAE, to Sanya, China to Itajai, Brazil next to Newport, USA to Lisbon, Portugal to Lorient, France then to The Hague, The Netherlands and finishes at Gothenburg in Sweden.


What makes the Volvo Ocean Race unique this time that has caught my attention?

This time, there is an all female team to compete in a sailing race around the world – a first, since 2002!Team SCA with 11 crew members and 1 on board reporter is participating in this very tough and challenging race to sail around the world!

team sca boat 2

SCA, a leading global hygience and forest products company based in Sweden is supporting an all female team in the 2014-2015 Volvo Ocean Race to build greater awareness of the company and its leading global brands TENA and Tork, and regional brands, such as Libero, Libresse, Lotus, Nosotras, Saba, Tempo and Vinda.

SCA is supporting a female team since globally more than 80 percent of SCA’s consumers are women.

Furthermore SCA supports women’s freedom to participate fully in society – socially, educationally and professionally – across the world by giving them access to and education about hygiene products and solutions. Through its participation, SCA also makes it possible for women to participate in an arena normally reserved for men.

team sca boat 1

At the Abu Dhabi Racing Village, I got to know what’s life (and challenges) on board: sleepless nights, surviving on freeze dried food, no flowing water for shower for weeks, not seeing land for a long time and sometimes (maybe most of the time?) the rough and unforgiving seas.

I can only imagine.

We get to try what the crew eat on board. Freeze dried food is quite a challenge to eat all the time – someone on board said, the minute they dock, all they could think of was food. And after tasting what they eat on board, I could understand why! Also, I get to try out their waterproof gear as well. Someone helped me putting this on but on board, everyone gets on their business by themselves and as fast as possible.

waterproof gear

I may be smiling here but it was a real struggle to put this on, especially in the neck and wrist area where it’s made of really hard rubber that’s made to be snug fit so water can’t get in your body.


Head on to the Abu Dhabi Racing Village near the Marina break water to check out the participating teams as well as lots of entertainment for the whole family. Each participating team has a pavilion that provides information and entertainment to guests. There’s this cool “Take your selfie with the team” at the Team SCA Pavilion and I did take a selfie…of course you can recognize me in this pic?

sca selfie

I am not sure what’s my role here, it looks like I am just sitting and doing nothing but I am sure in real life, this is a very important crew on board! You can also see that the boat is tilted to one side which the crew said, is the case most of the time!


~ Me and other bloggers and photographers (from left to right: @ialbeshari, Travel Junkie Diary, Eugenia Applebum and her husband, @kripty) ~

Photo credit: Jessica Pepper Peterson

Team SCA invited a me and other bloggers from Dubai to see check out the racing village in Abu Dhabi and meet the amazing women sailors. We went out to sea in a small motorboat to find the Team SCA boat who set out to train. I was excited we’d have a chance to get on the boat while it’s out at sea but unfortunately, we were not able to see them as it was foggy and we were pretty far from the shore already. We were only able to get on the boat and see what’s inside and talk to the crew when they came back to dock in the afternoon.

The Racing Village in Abu Dhabi is only open until 3rd January 2015. After then, the whole venue packs up as the boats leave for Sanyang, China for the next leg of the race. Many thanks to Team SCA for hosting us in Abu Dhabi!

You can learn more and be inspired by Team SCA by checking out the following social media platforms:

When people gather and talk about their autobiographies


I was at a function a few nights ago – a party to celebrate the Japanese Emperor Akihito’s birthday hosted by the consulate of Japan in the UAE. (If you’re a new reader, it may be worth a mention that my husband is Japanese that’s why we got this invitation.) It is a yearly event celebrated and hosted by the Japanese consulates all over the world. The Japanese community is not big here in Dubai so most of the people know each other. And like any other functions in a mostly expat community like Dubai/UAE, the most common question never fail to come up: “How long have you been living here?”

“It’s been a crazy six months.”

“Ten years in January!”

“Just over a year and loving it so much!”

“I just arrived last month.”

“35 years.”

We arrived in Dubai one desert winter day in January 2007. In a month, it will be eight years for us. How has Dubai change in 8/10/35 years? Let’s see, things change in Dubai every 5 minutes (we’re sort of living in a big construction site) so you can imagine the different stories you’ll hear from people who’s been living here for the past 35 years. The kind of stories that make you want to stop whatever you’re doing and sit with them as they narrate experiences and the things they’ve seen, how there was only one building standing in Sheikh Zayed Road or when there were still camels roaming on the main roads.

Listening to these stories of old Dubai is like playing a movie in black and white film.


It is in these functions where I tell people about our Dubai story. As expats, we think we lead an fairly interesting life, and we do, we are like vagabonds scattered in different parts of the world, captured by the pulsating heart of our new ‘home‘. But when you gather a group of expats with with different stories to tell, you’d be looking at a potpourri of many lives – some came here for money, some to taste the curiosity of their sun-drenched romantic dreams while others were propelled by mere sense of adventure, to live a life without what-if’s (that would be us!).

I’m proud of how we’ve come so far – humbled by the challenges we faced and feel awesome for the things we’ve overcome.

Sometimes all the lavish, sinful food and alcohol (and socializing…I am an INFJ) make me hesitate to go to such functions but the chance to hear different stories from new acquaintances and strangers who could become possible friends – that is always a pleasure. It makes me smile when I think back of our time when we first started here and hopeful and excited of what’s yet to come.