Monthly Archives: November 2013

Happy (early) Thanksgiving!

Apologies for the radio silence these past few days – my sister has been in town, and our days (and nights) have been fun and full 🙂 I am definitely thankful she is in town for Thanksgiving – and that Barr returns tonight, just in time to celebrate as well! Hopefully, we will have one more reason to celebrate as the Expo 2020 city will be announced tonight! Go Dubai and go Thanksgiving – enjoy your celebrations, wherever you may be. Until next time…

Day of desert fun

Day of desert fun

Photoshoot in the desert

Photoshoot in the desert

Flying high!!!

Flying high!!!

Burj Khalifa on a beautiful fall day

Burj Khalifa on a beautiful fall day

1 more day! The Burj al Arab all lit up last night ahead of tonight's announcement #dubai2020, yall!

1 more day! The Burj al Arab all lit up last night ahead of tonight’s announcement #dubai2020, yall!

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Dubai Storm 2K13

Stop the presses: it has rained in Dubai over the past two days. I myself was thrilled as we hadn’t seen a cloud, let alone rain, since we moved here in September, but the rain certainly wreaked havoc on this fine city. The reactions to the rain here reminded me of when we would have “snow” or “ice” (or just the threat of the aforementioned weather events) in North Carolina, and the whole city would shut down as a result. In the same vein, schools were closed early throughout Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

The storm rolling into Dubai on Friday morning

The storm rolling into Dubai on Friday morning

Barr and I took advantage of the cooler weather and took the water ferry from the marina to the creek (Old Dubai). The ferry starts right in front of our apartment….

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…taking you through the marina…

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…in front of the Palm…

(Marina from afar)

(Marina from afar)

(One of Sheikh Mohammed's yachts)

(One of Sheikh Mohammed’s yachts)

…past the Burj Al Arab…

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(Interestingly, this looks like a cross to me)

(Interestingly, this looks like a cross to me)

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…in front of downtown Dubai…

(I inherited my father's ears, clearly) :)

(I inherited my father’s ears, clearly) 🙂

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…ending at the creek.

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After enjoying a great cup of tea to warm up at the Arabian Tea House, we quickly hit the gold souk and then headed home, but not before viewing the post-rain clean up efforts in the tight streets of Bastakiya. Have great weekends! We’ll be preparing for Anna’s imminent arrival! Until next time…

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Only in DXB

Are yall familiar with those hilarious Tumblrs with iconic GIFs and pictures from movies and TV shows that describe daily life for a twenty-something, a Wake Forest undergrad, or even a nurse? Well, I came across one for Dubai the other day – it hasn’t been updated in a few months, but some of the posts are absolutely hysterical not to mention spot on; I give you #onlyinDXB!

I feel like this is the story of our lives right now, actually…Until next time…

No Woman; No Drive

On the heels of yesterday’s post, I felt the need to share a video…okay, two videos – both in relation to Saudi Arabia. Don’t act like you’re not amped! 😉

The first is regarding the very controversial situation regarding a woman’s right to drive in Saudi Arabia. Currently, it’s illegal for a woman to drive in the country! True story – if there was an emergency requiring a car ride, if there wasn’t an official family driver/father at home at the time, it would be preferable for a young boy (without a driver’s license) to drive in lieu of his mother. Whoa. Now I give you a song, to a tune which many of you may recognize, regarding this law in Saudi…

In keeping with this theme of cars and Saudi Arabia (and since I have been told by my husband that my blog needs more cars), check out these Saudi gentlemen changing a tire while their car is balancing on two wheels!

Crazy-town, no?? Barr says he hasn’t seen this happen in Riyadh…yet. I’m still crossing my fingers. And while Riyadh may not be a tourist destination, Barr is currently holed up here:

Palatial digs for Barr & Co in Riyadh

Nice, huh? Something tells me he won’t be taking advantage of the bowling alley, however 😉 Until next time….

The Closest I Will Come to Riyadh

I feel like reading as a hobby is polarizing: you either love it or hate it, rarely is there much in between. Personally, I fall in the love, adore, can’t live a day without it camp – lucky for yall because that means that from time to time I like to talk/write about the books I read 🙂 So I just finished four books on “insider” looks into Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Let’s start at the very beginning (a very good place to start)! Where is Riyadh, you ask? Welcome to my amazing Photoshop skills…

The Gulf States with Barr and I over in the UAE and the red dot on the capital of Saudi

The Gulf States with Barr and I over in the UAE and the red dot on the capital of Saudi (I should put a floating Barr head over Riyadh given that he is currently staffed there – stay tuned for more posts on Riyadh a la Barr!)

As a bit of background, Riyadh is the capital of Saudi Arabia, and is known as one of the more strict Islamic nations, keeping the laws of the Qur’ran and enforced by the police (Mutaween – a religious law enforcement team). While Riyadh can boast the world’s largest all female university (which is impressive!), it is due to the fact that women are truly separated from men in Saudi – this is strictly enforced.

Enter the books for review: Girls of Riyadh by Rajaa Alsanea, Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia, Princess Sultana’s Daughters, and Princess Sultana’s Circle – a trilogy by Jean Sasson.

Four glimpses into a woman's life in Riyadh

Four glimpses into a woman’s life in Riyadh

Girls of Riyadh is told in the form of weekly emails that a twenty-something woman from Riyadh anonymous sends out to local Saudi friends, that have been translated from the original Arabic and catalogued into this page turner. It tells the stories of four girls from Riyadh (duh) – their romances, trials and tribulations with parents, schools, and friends – and while some of their stories mirror those that I myself experienced (hello emotional roller coaster of teenage female years), their experiences are tinged with the completely different angle of growing up in this Islamic society. Fun tidbit: when this book was first published, it was banned across Saudi Arabia due to much of its controversial content – you gotta read it to find out what that content entails…

That brings me to the Princess Trilogy – yall, I’ve got to say, I read these three novels in a week – I was that engrossed. These books are based on the true stories of one of the many (ahem, upwards of hundreds) Al Saud princesses, Sultana (name has been changed to protect the princess).  Jean Sasson really weaves Sultana’s tales together artfully to both give the books a cohesive tangent as well as explain the hardships that Sultana and her nine sisters underwent to balance tradition with breaking free from what they see as an oppressive lifestyle for women. There was story after story that will make you cringe/cry and cheer – Sultana is a firecracker! I also learned a bit about the founding of modern day Saudi Arabia and the Al Saud family (the Royal family of Saudi Arabia). I swear, you will not be able to put this book down.

For any of these books, I urge you to read them, but take each with a grain of salt. All are a few years old and so much changes in the Middle East have occurred – skylines and customs alike! Just because something was discussed in the book as having happened ten years ago, doesnt mean that its practiced in Saudi today. Furthermore, these are stories from a very specific sect of women in Riyadh – not everyone’s story is the same. All the same, dont skip these books – just take ’em with a grain of salt!

Alrighty, enough book club for now (though probably not forever!) Happy Hump Day, and until next time…(PS – the title of this post “The Closet I Will Ever Get to Riyadh” is in reference to the fact that its very challenging for females to obtain a visa to go to Saudi Arabia slash I dont think many would describe Riyadh as a tourist capital!)

DP World Tour Championship

Another fun weekend down in the books! Barr and I headed off to the European Golf – DP World Tour Championship here in Dubai at Jumeirah Golf Estates (I also went Thursday with some friends :))

The ladies enjoying day 1 of the tournament

The ladies enjoying day 1 of the tournament

Thursday held another special surprise: some storm clouds and a few drops of rain – something I havent seen in Dubai since we moved here two and half months ago…

Hold up...is that...could it be...a RAIN cloud?!? In Dubai!? Lo and behold: it WAS!

Hold up…is that…could it be…a RAIN cloud?!? In Dubai!? Lo and behold: it WAS!

Friday, it was a Barr/Abby day. Now we’ve been to a number PGA and eGolf Tour events in the states over the past few years (our first date was actually the Wyndam Championship in Greensboro, NC back in 2005), but this was the first time attending a European Tour event for both of us. Verdict: a blast! The galleries were smaller, so you could get a lot closer to the action, and my personal favorite: beer wasnt the predominant alcoholic beverage served on the course: wine and Prosecco stands aplenty for the win! But all (semi) joking aside, the best part of the day in our opinions was hearing Ivor Robson announce the players on the first tee. Yall, I love watching the British Open each year pretty much solely to hear Ivor Robson announce each of the tour professionals’ names at the first tee – his voice is one of a kind! Tiiiiiger Wooooods! 

Bucket list item, completed: the one, the only Ivor Robson

Bucket list item, completed: the one, the only Ivor Robson

So after that excitement died down a bit (clearly I’m easily entertained), we enjoyed the cooler Dubai temps (only the mid 80s, but MUCH less humidity than we’ve experienced in the past few weeks) and the beautiful course. Barr actually made a very interesting comment when I said I wanted to capture the picture below: after he played Jumeirah Golf Estates on his first weekend in Dubai, he saw that view and remembered thinking, “This is such a desolate sight – look at all that sand and power lines!” Funny what two months will do to one’s perspective, as both he and I were quite taken with the juxtaposition of the desert against this golf oasis – I can’t fully describe what a sight Dubai is: this almost other worldly concrete jungle/beach haven/sometimes green oasis aside the desert, sprinkled with power lines; and to think, most of it didnt exist 20 years ago.

The lush Earth course, bumping up against the desert

The lush Earth course, bumping up against the desert

But I digress…back to the golf!

We watched Rory, Henrik, Martin (sigh), Ian, Justin, Lee (man booty!), G-Mac…totally on a first name basis with all of them, obviously. And of course, the American in the field: Peter Uihlein.

Such a great day with this guy

Such a great day with this guy

You read it here: the UAE loves Jimenez!

You read it here: the UAE loves Jimenez!

Henrik Stenson dominated the field with 64’s on the second and final days, winning the European Tour Championship, on the heels of his FedEx Cup victory in the states…pretty good year, I’d say 🙂

On that note, wish me luck tomorrow; I’m joining a local ladies golf group here, playing my first round since this past summer in Charlotte – FORE! Until next time…

Such a geedy shot, courtesy 7DaysUAE

Such a geedy shot, courtesy 7DaysUAE

Visitor #1

I mentioned my little sister a few posts ago – she is currently living in Manila, Philippines and is heading to the Middle East for American Thanksgiving a week from today!! I. Can’t. Wait.

Then: circa January 1989

Annabella and I (photo by Angela Stott Photography)

And now: September 2011 (photo by Angela Stott Photography)

Being my mother’s daughter, I have been planning this since little Lou booked her flight 6 weeks ago. Of course there are the standard tourist destinations on our itinerary (Burj Khalifa, Dubai Mall, Burj al Arab, the beach/gulf swimming, desert trek, Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, creek/abra ride, the souks/Bur Dubai), but I am gearing this post to anyone from Dubai (or has visited the area, too!): are there any restaurants, locations, neighborhoods, etc that are a big hit with your visitors? Anything off the beaten path? Favorite places to eat? I want to make this a special week of fun and different experiences for her (and me too!) I would appreciate it!!

Until next time…

4 of our travel adventures: Perth, Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam (& Anna's ever changing hairstyles :))

4 of our travel adventures: Perth, Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam (& Anna’s ever changing hairstyles :))

Local Flavor – Aina Lifestyle & Accessories

Thank you for your outpouring of support and kind words regarding aid in the Philippines as well as for the safety of my little sister – she’s a good egg! 🙂

Switching gears as we (Barr & I anyway) head into the weekend, I wanted to write a quick post and review on some pillows I recently purchased from Aina – a local/regional lifestyle and accessories brand. I mentioned these pillows a few weeks ago as the potentially perfect accompaniment to our previously bare sofa and living room, and I took the plunge and purchased two fabulous Dalla/Combining Cultures pillows!

The Combining Cultures pillow (it's two of the same pillow, with different patterns per side)

The Combining Cultures pillow (it’s two of the same pillow, with different patterns per side)

Aina

Aina

Aina, on their Facebook page (where you can view more of the amazing textiles, accessories and home goods), describes this pillow as such: Aina uses the “Ajrak” – a unique form of block printing from Pakistan, and combines it with the “Dalla” – the dirham symbol of the UAE, to create a fusion with the use of embroidery. This cushion illustrates character, culture and  “منشأ”.

Ajrak Inspiration

Dalla inspiration – the 1 Dirham coin of the UAE

A traditional Dalla pot

The fabric is soft and the pillows are well constructed – they’re something that we would never be able to find in the states and comes with it, a really special backstory. We’re really pleased with them! The pillows aside, Sidrah (founder and director of the brand), was a delight to work with…and so personable! Customer service was top notch!

The Dalla side of the pillow

The Dalla side of the pillow

The Ajrak side of the pillow

The Ajrak side of the pillow

If you’re interested in checking out the lovely work by Aina, head on over to the Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook pages – you can contact the fabulous Sidrah at aina.dxb@gmail.com for more information on pricing and ordering information. Until next time…

A great addition to our living room!

A great addition to our living room!

Typhoon Haiyan

I wanted to take some time this hump day to talk about Typhoon Haiyan – below is a note from my amazing and indescribably strong sister, Anna, who recently moved to the Manila. This past week she traveled to Iloilo, which is to the southwest of the capital of Philippines. I know that we have all heard about the devstation this storm caused, but I’ll leave you with some words and shots from my sister on her experience in Iloilo and Manila during this terrible time, the resiliency of the Filipino community, as well as some information on how you can help.

Iloilo, Philippines as taken by Anna

Iloilo, Philippines as taken by Anna

Thank you to everyone for your prayers and concerns over the past week – I am doing well in the Philippines.  When I first came out to Manila for my three month adventure, a good friend of mine put me in contact with some family here.  In a message from one of her aunt’s she said that at times the amount of poverty can be difficult to see and accept, but not to let that dishearten me because “many are happier than even we are on a daily basis”.  In the aftermath of this disaster I see how true this really is.  When I read about the typhoon or see pictures on the news, I am reminded of the physical damage that has ravaged this country.  What this storm hasn’t taken is the incredible spirit of the people.  The Filipino people have been devastated beyond my realm of possibility and yet they try their best to stay positive, because as someone told me tonight it’s all they have left. 

As I’m sure you have seen, resources here are depleted and many people are still without food, water and medicine, all while coping without their families, friends and are displaced from their homes.  Below is a link to just a few organizations that you can contribute to.  This is a dire situation where literally every dollar could helps immensely.

Iloilo, Philippines as taken by Anna

Iloilo, Philippines as taken by Anna

Iloilo, Philippines as taken by Anna

Iloilo, Philippines as taken by Anna

Ever since I got to the Philippines, all of the locals have tried to make me feel at home and their kindness is apparent in everything they do.  I feel so privileged to live amongst the Filipinos and am grateful to be on the ground to volunteer my time to repay the kindness they have given to me.

My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.  Psalm 119:50

http://www.msnbc.com/the-last-word/how-help-typhoon-haiyan-survivors

Lastly, if you are local to Dubai, there is an amazing way in which you can help as well: FIESTA FOR A CAUSE, #YOLANDAPH BENEFIT LUNCH/DINNER ON November 22, organized by fellow Dubai blogger, Pinay Flying High. This event will be a food-filled Friday for the benefit of YOLANDA (Haiyan) typhoon victims in the Philippines. Filipino-style buffet lunch and dinner will be served with unlimited drinks (water, softdrinks, tea) priced at AED60 per person. AED30 will be donated directly to World Vision and their efforts in the Philippines. Food stubs will be sold starting Friday (15NOV), please contact me or Rosso Amore Restaurant at 044564363/0552891931/0552586041 to purchase your tickets in advance.  Check our her blog for more information on this event, and other ways you can help locally here in Dubai!

Count your blessings and say a prayer for those effected by this natural disaster. Until next time…<3

The World’s Most Expensive License Plates

Of course. Like I’ve mentioned before, Dubai is notorious for the phrase “World’s Biggest/Most Expensive/Best/Tallest/etc [insert any noun here]”. License plates are no exception. Obtaining a license plate in the states is probably considered more of a hassle, whereas in Dubai, it’s one of the most important things you can do as a car owner.

In Dubai, the license plates use a maximum of 5 numbers, with #1 reserved for Sheikh Mohammed’s Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG Sport.

The most desirable license plate in the country is probably worth ten times more than the G63 itself

The fewer digits on your plate, the more important (ahem, wealthy) you are – after about 1000, I don’t think it matters overmuch, but a one, two or even three digit plate is a huge coup! Even the police here have some of the revered plates (photographed at the Dubai Motor Show last weekend):

Two police vehicles from the Dubai Motor Show

Two police vehicles from the Dubai Motor Show

Batman car! (Barr says the blog needs more cars to appeal to male readers - hi Dad & David!)

Batman car! (Barr says the blog needs more cars to appeal to male readers – hi Dad & David!)

These hugely desired plates are auctioned off to the highest bidders every few years, hence the “World’s Most Expense License Plate” title. This auction and desire for a small numbered license plate reminded me of an episode of Seinfeld: a car had a vanity plate saying “ASSMAN.”  🙂 The ASSMAN was immediately recognizable on the streets of of NYC, just as these single and double digit plates are here in Dubai. That being said, even if the U.S., an auction for that plate (a piece of television history!) would not come close to the amount of cash folks shell out for single and double digit plates; the status symbol of your pricey car really means very little if you don’t have the plate to match it. It’s actually quite a good investment as well (if you’re into that kind of thing): the plates have more than a 20% annual return in value – bizarre to consider that while the value of your car will decrease the second you drive it off the lot, the value of the piece of metal attached to it will increase!

So, to give you a little perspective, the plate emblazoned with the number “7” on it, sold in 2008 for $3.12M! Crazy in my mind, but in the words of my mother, “Everyone spends their money differently.” I always keep my eyes peeled on the road for someone important (or just wildly wealthy). Until next time…

Talal Ali Mohammad Khouri shelled out $3.12M for the “7” plate and $6.91M for the “5” plate – both worth more than his two Rolls Royces