Monthly Archives: September 2013

The More You Know: Eid al-Adha

Eid al-Adha is quickly approaching. Don’t worry – I didn’t know much (okay, anything) about Eid al-Adha before like..a week ago. But the more you know…

So Eid al-Adha translates roughly into “Feast of the Sacrifice”, a most important religious holiday for worldwide Muslims.  The feast celebrates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son, Ishmael. Just as in the Old Testament tale, God intervenes at the last moment and replaces Ishmael with a lamb for sacrifice instead. Further, in the Qur’ran, when Abraham explains what must happen to his son, Ishmael replies: “Father, do what you have been commanded. You will find me, Insha’Allah, to be very patient.” Indeed, Ishmael’s willingness to sacrifice his own life for the sake of God as well as his unwavering trust, was unprecedented and demonstrates both men’s trust in God. (Side note: you will hear a lot of people here say ” Insha’Allah”, which means Allah/God willing).

nowyouknow

Anywhoo, because of this great trust and ultimate sacrifice made by Abraham, Muslims celebrate Eid al-Adha! The days (October 14 and 15) consist of prayer. And because of this holiday, it is a national holiday during that whole week here in Dubai. 🙂 Barr and I are debating where/if to take a bit of a vacay as he has some time off during that week – so if you have been/have heard about any of the following cities/countries, let me know in email or the comments section! We’re also open to any other suggestions or ideas: Istanbul Turkey, Amman Jordan, Beirut Lebanon, Delhi India, Fujairah UAE,  Bentota Sri Lanka.

I know it’s still a few weeks away, but to all my non-Muslim friends, perhaps on October 14 and 15, we too can remember that great sacrifice, and also remember that the world is smaller than we think 🙂 Until next time…

Eid Prayers; Source – Wikipedia

 

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Friday & Saturday

Did you know that the weekends here in Dubai (and in many Middle Eastern countries) is Friday and Saturday? This is because the holy day in many of these nations is Fridays, so the majority of the country’s Islamic citizens can attend mosque worship services that day. Actually, Saudi Arabia just recently changed their Thursday/Friday weekends to match Friday/Saturday ones (to keep up with economic and business practices in the region).

That being said, the Blantons just wrapped up our weekend here in Dubai! It was a whirlwind with our original apartment falling through, a new one in the same building becoming available, securing Barr’s residency visa (!), moving hotels, a belated anniversary trip to the Wild Wadi water park, a fashion show, and some relaxing afternoons at the beach. Trust me, after the headache and heartbreak that was the apartment fiasco, the latter pieces were necessary. Enjoy some shots from our weekend!

And any visitors best be prepared for a trip to Wild Wadi (or the Atlantis water park) – the Jumeirah Sceirah (fast forward to 1:50 to get the “full” experience) and Tantrum Alley will inevitably be on the visitor to do list! Until next time…

The mad packing we did as we moved hotels

The mad packing we did as we moved hotels – I wish I could tell you we aren’t as high maintenance as this situation makes it appear…

The view of the DIFC from our new hotel room

The view of the DIFC from our new hotel room

Mina A'Salam beach overlooking the Burj Al Arab

Mina A’Salam beach overlooking the Burj Al Arab

The Splash Forevermore fashion show

The Splash Forevermore fashion show

Gorgeous petal pond in the lobby at the Madinat Hotel

Gorgeous petal pond in the lobby at the Madinat Hotel

 

Gluten Free Dubai

I was diagnosed with Celiac disease almost 4 years ago. I’ll spare you all the lovely side effects and what led to the diagnosis, but all of that is immaterial at this point because do you how easy it is to be gluten free nowadays? Very is the answer. Even if you arent on a gluten free diet, you’d have to be blind not to see all of gluten free goodies available in restaurants and grocery stores! I’ll admit, I was wary about if I would be able to find the plethora of GF foods here in Dubai, but I was immediately proven wrong when I googled “gluten free Dubai”.

I just ordered for delivery a loaf of GF bread and some little shortbread/strawberry cookies from Gluten Free Supermarket , and I was SO pumped!! Both items were delicious (well, to someone who has been deprived of whole wheat anyway), and I will absolutely be going back and ordering more items once we move into our apartment!

Loaf of GF fiber bread and some shortbread cookies

Loaf of GF fiber bread and some shortbread cookies

Further to this speciality store, the larger grocery stores that I’ve been to here also have a good selection of flours, pastas, and baked goods. Not to mention, that a lot of the restaurants cite on their menus some good GF options and if not that, if you ask the waitstaff, they know what gluten free means right away and speak with the chef about it. Phew! Crisis averted 🙂 #thirdworldproblems. Until next time….

Cotton Anniversary

On September 24, 2011, I married the love of my life (aka L.O.M.L), so that would make today our cotton anniversary – woo hoo, he put up with me for 2 whole years!! I can scarcely believe it. (If we’re really being specific here, though, he’s put up with me for 6 years longer than that, but who’s counting?) Please humor me with some of the snaps by Angela Stott Photography from our amazingly special, heartbreakingly lovely and breathtakingly blissful wedding day! Until next time…

Outside the church

Outside the church

Our sweet family

Our sweet family

The beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains behind us

The beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains behind us

The wonderful bridal party at our country estate. Err, I mean the Biltmore Estate :)

The wonderful bridal party at our country estate. Err, I mean the Biltmore Estate 🙂

Do you remember?

Do you remember?

One of my favorite shots

One of my favorite shots

The epitome of a celebration

The epitome of a celebration

The More you Know: Muslim Veils

I thought I may start a post here and there about culture and/or questions I have been asked about living here in Dubai, the first of which is going to be an explanation of Muslim veils. I myself really didnt understand the various types of veils worn by Muslim women all over the world, nor the different names and meanings, so (hopefully!) my readers will find this informative. Actually, the issue of the Muslim veil has been in the news quite a bit lately (DISCLAIMER: this is NOT a political post OR blog!).

Muslim women wear a veil as a form of modesty, as instructed by the Qur’ran; which type of veil (or if they wear one at all) is typically determined by things such as where they live, their approach to the writings in the Qur’ran, in addition to others. (Wikipedia explains it well :))

The 3 most prevalent veils that I have seen in my (short) time here so far are:

  • Hajib: Arabic word for screen or curtain. It is a headscarf, covering the hair and neck. Usually I’ve seen it worn with an abaya (long, black robes), but one will also seen colored/embroidered variations with jeans, dresses, etc.

    Hajib examples – Source: Wikipedia

  • Niqab: Covers the face, in addition to the hair and neck. There is a slit open for the eyes. Per Wikipedia (I know, I know): “…the two most common forms [of a niqab] are the half niqab and the gulf-style or full niqab. The half niqab is a simple length of fabric with elastic or ties and is worn around the face. This garment typically leaves the eyes and part of the forehead visible. The gulf-style or full niqab completely covers the face. It consists of an upper band that is tied around the forehead, together with a long wide piece of fabric which covers the face, leaving an opening for the eyes…contrary to common belief, eyeveils do not generally restrict vision any more than a dark pair of sunglasses would.” 

    Niqab Veil – Source: Wikipedia

  • Burqa: Provides the most coverage to the wearer, covering the hair, face and eyes (a mesh screen is over the eyes).

    Burqa Veil – Source: Wikipedia

    Now I am far from an expert on Muslim culture, scripture, tradition and the like, so please take my limited information with a grain of salt and feel free to leave a comment should you have additional information or a question! I’m always trying to learn, and hopefully this provides some basic insight about a new topic and a different culture. Until next time…nowyouknow

(Long) Weekend Recap

Greetings! I have been a bit remiss in posting the past few days, but there is something very different about the Middle East that I have had to get used to: weekends are Friday and Saturday here in Dubai (and throughout the Middle East). Fridays are the Muslim Holy Days here, and the metro and many shops dont even open until later in the day. Given this adjusted schedule, Barr was “home” (as much as you can call the hotel home), and we took advantage of some exploring! What’s more, we found and secured an apartment for the year! Woo hoooooo! So, if you’ll indulge me, a bit of a long weekend recap:

Apartment Hunting: If you know Barr and I, we can be very different: he is indecisive to a fault, while I often (okay, always) tend to make decisions too quickly/without thinking them through – knowing ourselves, we were a bit nervous about our 1(!) day of house hunting here. BUT, if you can believe it (because I scarcely can), we found a place we both liked, within our budget, and in the area we had hoped for. The apartment will be a bit tight, but were ready for the challenge – besides, the views, tall ceilings, 2 bathrooms, and updated fixtures/appliances were too good to pass up! Here are some shaky IPhone shots (more to come once we move in and start furnishing!)

At the Top & Dubai Mall: Friday the mister and I had a little lay in, grabbed breakfast, and headed for some touristy stuff. Thanks to my wonderful father, we now have what I like to call the “big girl camera” (Barr, not so much). It’s an awesome Nikon, but it isnt as handy as an IPhone or point and shoot, though the results are MUCH better. So, as a result, you will notice my awesome camera strap and festive backpack (full of camera lenses and other photography goodies) – tourists written all over. Anyway, we took the big girl camera with us “to the top” – of the Burj Khalifa – the world’s tallest building. I’m okay with heights, but the view can be dizzying…enjoy some shots from the top as well as at the Dubai Mall!
Super tourists at the top

Super tourists at the top

The Dubai Mall/fountain from above

The Dubai Mall/fountain from above

View of the Gulf from the top of the Burj Khalifa

Contemplating the view/trying not to get dizzy

Contemplating the view/trying not to get dizzy

Super tourist shot by Barr

Super tourist shot by Barr

Dubai Mall (by Barr)

Dubai Mall (by Barr)

Saturday: Friday night, we met up with a friend that I had been “introduced” to via email through some Charlotte girlfriends – she lives here in Dubai and is from Charlotte as well. Although I didnt take any pictures, I should have! It was great to meet her – she had a ton of good insights and it was fun to realize all of our mutual friends – crazy that we hadnt met before! 🙂 The next morning, Barr insisted on a trip to the pool while I insisted on a trip to Ikea. We hit the pool first thing in the morning to avoid the oppressive afternoon heat, and at about 1PM, headed back to the hotel and then Ikea. I was actually quite proud of us as we navigated the metro system from one end of the city to the other (not that hard considering that most of the city runs along 1 major thoroughfare), to the Swedish megastore, Ikea. It’s pretty much like any Ikea you would find in the states (or globally, I would assume) – and we managed to settle on some furniture that we both liked – the most important of which will probably be a wardrobe, given the size of our closets! Check out my Instagram (ASBlanton) for some snaps of our Ikea adventure.
So, now it’s Sunday and Barr is back to work (a weird mental adjustment), and I’m off to run some errands, do some research on future trips, check out the local Crossfit gym (!), and order some home goodies/furniture! Hope everyone has a great weekend, wherever you are and whatever days that may include. Until next time…

Grocery Shopping

Yesterday was a big day of exploring, the most important and exciting of which being a local grocery store! During my previous treks abroad, going to a local grocery store has been a big highlight for me – weird I know. I ventured to a Waitrose nearby the hotel at which we are staying to get some staples (fruit, bottled water, breakfast bars, chips) – I was NOT disappointed! On the contrary, I was thrilled with the choices: a ton of brands I am accustomed to, gluten free items (woot!), yummy looking fruits/veggies/diary, and pork. While I did not indulge in all of the items pictured below, I couldnt resist taking some shots (with my big girl camera) for your viewing pleasure.

I would describe my afternoon for you, but suffice it to say that jet lag caught up with me…

Until next time!

A plethora of juice selection

Some gluten free yummies

Some gluten free yummies

Leggo my Eggo!

First things first

I always knew I wouldn’t do well until I had a fully functioning cell phone here in Dubai. What can I say? I am 100% a product of my yuppie/Generation Y ways. Given this, obviously one of my first tasks here was to secure a local number and SIM card. I made my way to the Mall of Emirates to a local phone provider. 2 hours later, I was the proud owner of a local mobile number! Little things that I never really gave much thought to in the states (such as data, SMS and minutes usage) are now of the utmost importance. Another little tidbit: for free international (and local for the matter) texting, download What’s App – it works on Blackberry, Iphone and Androids.

Despite my desire to act otherwise, I did my best to steer clear of most of the clothing and shoe shops at the mall – what I couldnt resist was a mani/pedi, however. I looked at the extensive map of the mall to find a nail salon, and can I say that it was one of the best manicures I have ever had! I was chastised for biting my cuticles, praised for picking “fun” colors, and learned that despite 8,000 miles that separate the states and Dubai, the chatter and goings on of a nail salon are ubiquitous. The one interesting thing I did note was that, at this all female salon, a woman wearing a burka that completely covered her clothes, hair and face, entered the salon and promptly removed the all black ensemble. I know that I am now a “visitor” in a predominantly Muslim country/city, so it wasnt the burka that I found of note, but it was just neat to see her remove the item and find “normal” clothes underneath. (Normal is of course a relative term – she probably thought my dress was anything but “normal” in her mind!) I just find the cultural differences fascinating.

Anywho – here are some kind of boring pictures from my Iphone yesterday – I’m getting ready to head out to a local grocery store with my “big girl camera”, so bear with me as I learn to navigate that bad boy! Until next time…

View from the hotel breakfast room

View from the hotel breakfast room

High rises overlooking part of the marina

High rises overlooking part of the marina

Lovely fleurs in the hotel lobby

Lovely fleurs in the hotel lobby

Initial Acclimation

I’ve read other blogs, books, and sites citing tips and tricks on how to create a viable blog. After this extensive research (what can I say, I’m Type A personality all the way), I did indeed reach a decision: my blog will (hopefully) be written how I talk. I don’t assume to have a high viewership/traffic to my little expat blog, but to those of you that may stumble across this (hi mom!), hopefully, it will be reminiscent of my own voice and stream of consciousness. I can be verbose, so I’ll have to tailor that a tad and will hopefully add lots of fun pictures, recipes, stories and travel tidbits 🙂 SO..without further ado….

I arrived yesterday evening in Dubai – my first sign that I wasn’t in Kansas anymore was the call to prayer that came over the loudspeakers while I was standing in the passport control line; I couldn’t help but think how neat it was to juxtapose this ancient, religious ritual against the bustling and utterly modern DXB airport. Anyway, I quickly procured all 3 (yes, 3) checked bags, swung by duty free for some bottles of vino (anyone who visits must pay the Blanton “hotel fee” of a bottle of wine – sorry I’m not sorry), and met Barr for the drive to our temporary hotel in the Dubai Marina. Yall, I am used to hot and humid (hello, Houston), but this is a slightly different league. While I was about to bust out jeans and light sweaters in Charlotte, I am cursing myself for even BRINGING jeans to Dubai. Needless to say, lots of aquas was consumed throughout the evening. We grabbed a quick bite to eat and hunkered down for a good night’s sleep.

Barr is off at work today (work week is Sunday-Thursday here), and I am left to my own devices to explore, rest, and get settled. Next on the list, a trip to the Mall of the Emirates for cell phone service. And yes, there are other cell phone outlets nearer to the hotel/not at the world’s largest shopping mall, but who can resist a good mall??

Stay tuned for my next post(s) on how that goes, as well as the lovely experiences that are getting a residency visa, finding an apartment, and general, initial acclimation. Pictures will be following as well!

Until next time…