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Things we love about UAE

  • Arabic language
  • All female beaches
  • Family friendly
  • Home comforts readily available
  • Hearing the adhaan
  • Halal food!
  • Sun, sun and sun!
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Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Chamas, Grand Designs and Abayah Sweats!

Haha! We finally did it! We got in to Chamas. Y'know, that cute Brazilian restaurant we so shamefully left last time because Camel Man wasn't wearing black trousers... Yeah. That place! I plan on doing an in depth review of the restaurant in another post, and so I'll just give you a titchy snippet!

Well, yesterday was my b-bi-birth... yeah, that day. I'm now officially a year older. As upsetting as it is, it at least ensures that I am still alive, and so that is one good thing about birthdays I guess! Camel Man took baby-Zanga and I to Chamas. It was awesome! As I ate each piece of delicious, well barbecued meat, all I was thinking was how I wish my family were here to join in with all the deliciousness! But lo! It was not meant to be.

So, yes, the day of my birth was spent waiting on Ikea to bring the rest of the things we ordered. They were right on time. They built the wardrobes, and put together the TV unit. And they look brilliant. I even took the time to stick the vases I bought from Home Centre on to the book shelf to make it look a little more homely, and a little less hospitaly. I love them.

The wardrobes are pretty decent too. Because we decided not to have our room in the master-bedroom, it meant that we did not have as much space in the smaller room. So we decided for sliding doors for the wardrobe rather than hinged doors. It means that a lot less space is needed!

Last night we also decided to go buy a telly. After a week of walking around wistfully looking at these mahoosive TV's, we decided to go for a 40" LED Samsung telly, plus a Samsung Home Entertainment System. So, slowly but surely, this house is becoming a home! haha! (I've already set up the Wii and waiting for my sister to visit so we can FINALLY finish off Super Mario Bros)

Today, well, the sofas arrived... and I think, maybe... we didn't take our measurements down too well. Sucks for us BUT it doesn't look awful. Just slightly cosier than we had initially planned!

We also welcomed our new dinner table and chairs to our humble home. Oh goodness. I never believed I would love a piece of furniture like I love this dining table. It's a square, 8 seater, with white upholstery... probably not the best choice with baby-Zanga about, but live and let live right?

We took a trip to Abu Dhabi mall a little later that evening as I had read on Under Your Abayah that Arabesque had their new collection out. Well, I made it to Abu Dhabi Mall and was distracted by a shop called Abu Haleeqa Stores, it sold a variety of things, but the abayah section was up to date, brilliant and held such a variety of abayahs I was thrilled. So thrilled that I committed to an abayah without having checked how much that was in pounds... lets just say, I was so shocked I suddenly felt all hot, and started getting what I call... 'abayah sweats'. You know, that moment when you realise you've spent FAR TOO MUCH on a piece of clothing, food, car, technology? Yes, one of those feverish moments when you think 'holy moley, what was I thinking!?' So as I walked around for half-an-hour as the tailor adjusted the length of the abayah I kept swinging between excitement and nervousness! Of course the customer service was brilliant, which made the idea of going back and saying 'no, no, please, please don't cut that fabric' (all slow-motion of course)impossible.

But at the end of it I walked out with a gorgeous abayah and matching shayla! The funny thing was... that in all my excitement I completely forgot to check out Arabesque. So hopefully, God willing, I'll be taking another trip this week especially to check out their abayahs!

Friday, 21 October 2011

Babies in saloons, Swedish Meatballs and a riot in Home Centre...

We are very much looking forward to the up and coming couple of years of quietness. The last few weeks have been exhausting, in that we have been decking the house out to make it hospitable for our little family.

In the last couple of days we managed to:

  • Buy a three seater sofa... one of those seats being a chaise longue, plus a matching two seater.

  • Buy an eight seater dining table. It is dark wood, and very high with some comfy white upholstered seats (plus dark wood) which are also high too.

  • Buy a TV unit which includes two book shelves (A MUST in our home)

  • Buy crockery

  • Buy glasses

  • Buy two vases to go on to the TV unit

So all in all, it has been productive. Now the sofas, well, they're brown... and leathery. I mean, really? Did I really go for a leather sofa? In a word I am ... surprised! I've never been a big fan of leather sofas and suddenly, 'whoomp there it is'. The sofas were from 'Home Centre'.

The 8 seater, square dining table - really is like, one of my favourite buys. It's just, bootiful. I will have to remember to post a photograph of it once it comes. That was from 'Homes R Us', and to be honest, their sofas are rubbish, but the selection of dining tables are brilliant. That is located next to the Madinat Zayed Shopping Centre and Gold Market.

I also surprised myself again - as the TV unit came from Ikea and is white! I know! Anybody who knows me would say I'm a 'dark wood' kinda girl, but suddenly I just had a penchant for white, and so yes, now we have a white unit to go with brown leather sofas (argh, what was I thinking? The whole combination sounds frightful!)

We went to Home Centre last night and there so happened to be a 25% off Sale. Oh my goodness me, it was a nightmare in there. It reminded me of the riots in England a few months ago, people all looting the place, running around confused, trolleys banging in to old ladies, men and women carrying four or five of the same thing! It was on par with those crazy Next sales in the UK. Or do you remember when Cabbage Patch Kids were all the rage? On the news we would watch crazy parents all drop-kicking each other to get the last ugly Cabbage Patch kid... yes, well, maybe it wasn't that bad, but it certainly could have been! I warn you against going at the weekends...

To buy the TV unit - we had to take a trip to Ikea. But it was past lunch time, and we hadn't eaten and so we thought we would stop and eat in Ikea. What a MASSIVE mistake. First of all, just passing the fridges had my stomach clenching with terror. Everything is as over-processed as their furniture in the Ikea food court. I ordered the Swedish Meatballs, with Rice and some beef gravy. Lets just say... after a few mouthfuls I just could not force my poor stomach to digest anymore. It was wasted - but then again, dog food would have tasted better. I'm sorry Swedish people, I'm sure that homemade Swedish Meatballs must be delish, but Ikea is giving your great nation a baaaaaad culinary reputation.

Today really was an awesome day. We took Baby-Zanga to a saloon (after all that shopping). Now don't panic. I promise there was no alcohol, no pistol loading cowboys, corsetted can-can dancers, or a sheriff ejecting balls of tabacco in to a spittoon. Saloons, incidently, is what they call salons out here. In all the malls I have visited so far there have been Kid's Saloons. I tell you, it always gives me a laugh and a giggle when I come across it. How very ethnocentric of me! So we took Baby-Zanga to one in Al-Mushrif Mall, and she HATED IT. It's a funky little shop, and you know what the best thing about it is? In front of each child's seat is a monitor (in front of the mirror) showing SpongeBob SquarePants... I mean, how indulgent is that? We adults have to sit and watch our own reflections while attempting to flick through a magazine (and getting told off by the hairdresser for continuously looking down), and the kiddies get to watch cartoons?

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Osteoporosis, the golden arches and the Blackberry outage...

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On the way back from Ikea this evening, I caught a tiny piece of a news report from a radio station in Dubai. It was talking about how 40% of Emirati women will develop Osteoporosis as they grow older. In fact, the reporter said (paraphrased of course) 'That although we live in the middle of the desert, a vast minority of Emirati women will be affected by Osteoporosis' which I thought was just... amazing. I mean, seriously? I realise that probably the majority of that 40% will be women who cover their faces when out in public (which is a normal sight in these parts) but while I was thinking this all through, I considered what I had been up to over the past week. It dawned on me that I had barely, barely been out in the sun. Preferring to leave the house as the sun is setting I can understand where these figures come from. If anybody is out during the day (unless they are builders, or are unable to use transport) they are indoors. My time so far has been spent in vast malls, shopping centres, office buildings or in a car... I just cannot bare the sun! Now, I do not cover my face, so I am having some sort of sun experience while in the car, but imagine if I did cover my face? I would barely have any sun-time AT ALL!

Speaking of sun... I'm due for a long afternoon at the beach methinks!!

When I was flying in to Doha (Qatar) last week I was shocked that one of the first things I saw was the 'Golden Arches' of McDonald's. The Arab world seems to have an interesting love affair with McDonald's and it is the norm to find one of their establishments just a few blocks from each other.

I have an aunt who lives in Rabat and every Saturday she would take her children to McDonald's for a treat. I found this quite odd. Not because I am a food snob but it highlighted that McDonald's has a much better reputation within the Arab world than it does in Britain. In Britain, McDonald's is just quick food. We do not rate the staff, we do not rate the restaurant, we do not rate the nutritional value and we certainly do not rate the taste. And even after all that, we still go to it, usually as a last option. It is cheap and cheerful and if we need to eat fast, we opt for McDonald's. In the Arab world, a meal from McDonald's is not cheap. In fact - it is something that families save up money to go to on special occasions. In Abu Dhabi, I've not passed a MaccyD's that isn't heaving. It is not just McDonald's that has such a special presence but most American food chains. Getting in to Fuddruckers in Marina Mall requires an hour waiting time, KFC is always busy, it sometime seems that it would be easier to meet the real King than to get in to Burger King. For expats, it is a little piece of home, but for the locals here it is something quite special. Hopefully I'll be watching and learning more during my time here. Maybe I'll really be able to dissect the Arab love affair with MaccyD's by the end of the two years.

As for the Blackberry outage. Blackberry seems to be Abu Dhabi's favourite phone (which of course I am quite bitter about as I'm a HTC-kinda-girl) and so after the three day outage some stats have been thrown out by the Director of Abu Dhabi Police Traffic Department. I kid you not; this is what has been said 'Accidents were reduced by 40% and the fact that Blackberry services were down definitely contributed to that,' he told the National, a government-owned English language paper 'People are slowly starting to realise the dangers of using their phone while driving. The roads became much safer when Blackberry stopped working.' 40%, holy moly, that is a significant statistic right there. Quite scary really as it is quite tempting to just pick up your phone and see what's going on while driving. Especially with crazy driving plus the fog and sandstorms... well, you'd think you'd know better hay! To read the full story, click here!

Oh - and here is a photograph of the fog this morning. Don't ask why I'm so obsessed ... (I just didn't realise that there would be fog here! Haha! So now, I'm obsessed!)

Monday, 17 October 2011

Fog, Baskin Robbins and a fabulous bed!

Baby-Zanga has decided that she likes to wake up at 6 in the morning for some milk. I, of course, am not impressed, but get up anyway and go and make her some 'num-na' before she screams the whole apartment block down! She sips at it and then falls back asleep... I lay awake feeling grumpy!

This morning though, I woke up to find a thick blanket (more like a quilt cover) of fog outside my window. It was eerie! Apparently it is quite normal to experience fog a few times a month. In fact, Camel Man was telling me that over here they have such thing as 'fog days'. Kinda like how we have 'snow days' in the UK, where children do not have to go to school, or are able to go in late. It seems that the school does not want to risk any sort of horrendous, fog-related accident by a parent or their children.

Last night we decided to take a trip over to Baskin Robbins - which is about 20 minutes walk away (though nobody walks here in Abu Dhabi it seems. Far too hot!) I have to say, I have no idea how I lived my life without know Baskin Robbins. Baskin Robbins - I salute you. This is controversial, I know, but Ben & Jerry's... you are like the most over-rated ice cream I have ever eaten! In fact, I remember one day (as a teen) that it was the coolest thing ever to eat 'Ben & Jerry's' and then I tried it - and was very disappointed. I was not disappointed by Baskin Robbins. So there.

On a lighter note, Ikea has actually reached my 'Wall of Awesomeness'. Not only did they deliver our bed, head board and kitchen top table on time, but also sent two very efficient workers to fix it all together. Congrats and a huzzah for you! We are thrilled with the results and even more thrilled to actually be sleeping in a bed tonight (we had been sleeping on a matress parked on the floor). So, little by little our house is becoming a home. The best part about the bed isn't actually the bed itself, but rather the head board which we bought seperately. Inside the headboard are two side table things on wheels, with glass tops that you can wheel out when you want them out, or put away when you need the space. You can pull them out a little... or pull them out a lot! I heart them very much.

I also went to the right mall for abayah shopping. We didn't get much time in there unfortunately, but definately plan on going there again to hopefully find something that makes me go 'woooow.' The cuts that I tried on today were not to my liking - but then again, I rushed it all. So we shall see if I am able to find anything that calls to me (for anybody interested, the mall was the Madinat Zayed Shopping & Gold Centre).

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Abayah fail.

Well silly me. After walking and walking and walking around Al Mushrif Mall this afternoon, I was told by a helpful lady at 'BHS Kids' that there isn't a shop in the store yet that sells abayahs and that I should take to the streets.

Thank you helpful 'BHS Kids' lady!

Friday, 14 October 2011

Home Centre, an x-ray and lots and lots of meat...

The last three days have been exhausting!

What with the apartment not furnished yet, we have been trudging and trudging from shop to shop to get an idea of prices, styles and sizes! So far it has not proved particularly fruitful, and although this sounds quite frustrating - I'm actually quite enjoying myself. It all feels so creative, matching colours and patterns to make sure I create a space that I enjoy being in. It is great fun! I've not decided how exactly I want everything to be - I am the word 'indecisive' incarnate. I can't quite decide if I'd like a dark brown wood and teal living room, or to have a dark brown wood and orange dining room, or this and this and that! There is just tooo many possibilities!

To reside in the UAE one must take a series of medical tests to make sure you're fit and healthy. They're particularly interested in making sure that you do not carry the HIV/AIDS virus (but they also [sometimes] check for leprosy, hepatitus B, Tubercolosis, pregnancy and certain STD's). If one fails all or any of the tests then ones visa is denied and the person is deported. So yesterday I had one of those medical tests. I had blood stolen and an x-ray taken of my chest. I find out tomorrow if I'm being deported or not (i.e. I get the test results back).

Today we went for our first food shop. We went to a mahooooosive Tesco like store with absolutely everything in it.... and I do mean everything. Clothes, DSLRs, childrens car seats, salmon, lemon grass, mahoosive flat screen TVs, fresh curry and pizza stands - I mean... everything! I felt quite emotional as I walked through the aisles. There were pieces of home EVERYWHERE. Even something as simple as 'Hovis Bread Flour' brought a tear to my eye. I just couldn't believe it. I even took a special photograph for my sister, to prove that we really do have EVERYTHING out here.

The weather has been quite warm. Well, warm is a bit of an understatement. 37C's is boiling! And the humidity! Well, what can I say? It's like having a blow drier blow hot air right in to your face! It is the most amazing and all-consuming heat I have ever felt. Ever (..and I've experienced 52C heat before)! It is 1.57am right now - and it is 28C. It is quite amazing.

Well tonight we suffered the most embarassing epic fail of our time here so far (I've not even been here for a week yet, so I imagine there will be many more fails in the future).

We decided we would be adventurous and go and try this Brazillian restaurant with a huge obsession with meat. Apparently, you go, sit down, and are given this board with green and red on it. There is no menu. Oh no. You just turn your card to green and staff come out with these spits of all sorts of meat and offal and just come over - and cut it on to your plate. When you've eaten that and want some more, you turn your card to green again - and when you're pale after experiencing a variety of meats... you turn it red! Everything is barbecued. Anyone who knows Mr. Camel Man and I will know that we LURVE our meat and so we were super excited to be going.

The restaurant (Chamas) is located inside the Intercontinental Hotel - we pulled up, handed our keys to the valet and had baby-Zanga in tow. We were looking happy, hungry and sure of ourselves.

We passed through the entrance of the restaurant. We were greeted by a healthy buzz and by a live Brazilian band all singing away in Portuguese. We made our merry way downstairs and we were all smiles... until the Hostess came to greet us. She smiled and told us that we really should have made a reservation and that we simply could not dine until Mr. Camel Man put some trousers on! We gasped and then errupted in to laughter. He had decided to wear below the knee shorts to dinner, oh, and flip flops. What added to our shame was that the Hostess offered Mr. Camel Man some black trousers - hahaha! Which he firmly declined and so we swallowed the embarassment of walking back up the stairs (in front of the whole dining hall), pass the funky band, and through the bar which hosted all the fashionable people. We, evidently, were not worthy of said dining establishment! We failed miserably. LOL. All in all though it was an experience we do not plan to repeat - and if we again try to visit this restaurant or any of its bretheren we will certainly make sure that Mr. Camel Man is wearing trousers!

We were hungry and so we took a trip to Marina Mall to get some grub. Holy moly - that is one humungous mall! We decided on Fuddruckers for our dinner - which we didn't eat until past ten o'clock! And yeah, it wasn't too bad. Hopefully though, God willing, I'll be spending a good few hours in the Marina Mall or in Al-Mushrif tomorrow. I really need to get myself some new abayahs!

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Qatar Airways, a trip to Ikea and a sandstorm!

So it seems that I am officially an expat. Mr. Camel Man has been an expat for 2 months, but baby-Zanga and I began day one... today!

It was awful leaving the family. With baby-Zanga being so little it felt like a betrayal taking her away from her grandparents, uncles and aunts. We try not to think about it too much and try and focus upon the reasons why we decided to make such a huge jump in to the unknown.

It is becoming increasingly hard for couples with children to actually spend time with their kids. Both parents have to work for a family to be financially comfortable. If we stayed in England (especially with the economic downturn every news channel has been bleating about for the last few weeks) it would be a daily struggle to make ends meet. We don't want to have to depend on our family, we want to be independent and feel accomplished. We just could not do that in England. And although it is our home, we love it, we were born and bred on that delicate island - we just could not continue living there for the time being. We felt that when something more stable is being handed to you on a plate, you'd have to be a fool to say no to the opportunity; and so instead of being fools we grabbed that opportunity with both our hands and our feet and flew away!

After a brief stop-over in Doha (Qatar), we eventually flew in to Abu Dhabi at around 11 at night local time. It was excellent! I could see the Yas Hotel and also Ferrari World and it just looked so beautiful. The service on Qatar Airways was not bad at all to be honest. With a 10 month old, excitable, hyper little girl on my lap it was not always going to be the easiest of journeys, but the staff were very friendly and did their best to be helpful which really did relieve some of the strain I was feeling trying to get the little madame to sleep! She did eventually get to sleep - in... what looks like a very strange looking coffin (eerie indeed).

When I came out of the air conditioned airport and in to the United Arab Emirates I honestly felt like a blanket of heat had just been wrapped around me! It was a real shock to the system. The humidity was and still is overpowering! I used to say 'England's humidity blah blahdy blah' but I take that back my Dear England - I'm very sorry I ever said a bad word!

The apartment is pretty much empty. We have a mattress, a changing mat, cot, a few hangers, a fridge - and a cooker (PROBABLY THE BEST OVEN I HAVE EVER SEEN IN MY SHORT EXISTENCE), oh, and of course a TV. After a day of trying to catch up on sleep we decided that it would be fitting to try and find a few things for the apartment. Ikea was on the top of our list as I just LOVE their wardrobes with all their fixtures and storage fabulousness. As we left the building it was beautiful, all blue skies, boiling (I'm lying - it was like 28C) weather (air con car though), a hot breeze.... and then quite suddenly, the sky went dark, the trees started blowing about, and we couldn't see very far in front of the car bonnet (and yes, cross my heart and hope to die, it was as dramatic as it sounds!). Bless our little cotton socks - our very British minds said 'Oh, well, we're on an island after all, a fog must have come in!' but no, we were wrong - very wrong indeed. It was a sandstorm, my very first! It comes in at like super speed, you don't know what's hit you. One minute everything is clear - and the next ... it kinda looks like this >> Abu Dhabi Sandstorm (I didn't film the vid, and no you do not have to watch the whole four minutes!)

Oh and after all of that, typically... we did not buy a wardrobe. We did buy storage for the living room, a small table for the kitchen, and a bed frame and head board - Team Zanga is obviously not in it for the win.

I am so looking forward to exploring this part of the world!