Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Happy 1427!

It's the Islamic New Year! So for the 3rd time, Happy New Year!

Doesn't look like there's much celebrating done to mark this date, but instead it is more a time for reflecting or contemplating [on what, I'm still unsure] and a 24 hour alcohol ban is in place at restaurants/bars.

We do get a holiday though! This is also a little odd, in that the actual day this year fell on Monday 30th Jan, and Tuesday was meant to be the holiday. However, this was shifted and announced a few days ago to be on the 01 Feb for the public sector and 02 Feb for the private sector. Oh well, we're just happy that it's going to be another long weekend. Yipee!

Eyebags and all

After dinner with some friends last weekend, we decided to visit Global Village. Although we've been once before [see previous post], it's huge and we've still yet to cover all the 'countries'.

We came across a man from India who was doing portraits of people, and we were egging each other on to get a sketch of ourselves done. He was very quick and his work showed a true likeness to their subjects, so much so there was always a large crowd gathering to have a look!

...a crowd gathers...

So, what do you think? Leave a comment below!

Monday, January 30, 2006

Shopping Spreeeee

Due to the death of the Sheikh and the resulting 40 day mourning period, the Dubai Shopping Festival this year is very low key. In fact, after much um-ing and ah-ing the authorities decided to put it off till the end of 06 [combined with the 2007 DSF]. So, now the sale's still on but just not in full party mode - the fireworks and night souks have been cancelled, and there was no live entertainment or music for 7 days.

Nevertheless, Dubai's been on sale for almost a month. With even further reductions and up to 75% off, we just couldn't help ourselves.

Zara, Kenneth Cole, FCUK, MNG... they're all here! I love the range of shops, and I love even more that they stay open till midnight everyday. With it's beautiful malls, traditional and new souqs, and the next largest mall in the world under construction, Dubai is set to remain a true shopping paradise.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Gong Xi Fa Cai & Happy Anniversary AKL!

Happy Chinese New Year! May the year of the Dog be a happy and prosperous one for all!

Today is also Auckland Anniversary Day, which means it's a public holiday in Auckland tomorrow. What a bonus for those celebrating CNY in AKL!

Wow, the local DVD lady (who is Chinese), called to wish Gypsy Boy and I a Happy CNY?! Now, that's going the extra mile.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

We got gas

Finally got round to chasing up on getting gas installed yesterday. Cooking with gas is cheap, quick, and gives you so much more control! I love it! Ahhh, the things that get me excited...

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Spring cleaning

Spring Festival [aka the Lunar or Chinese New Year] is coming. It is traditional to have a spotlessly clean home filled with lots of delicious fruit and foods to welcome in the New Year.

Guess I'd better get cleaning! Ooh, and shopping!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Letters of no objection

Without a residency visa, a letter of no objection [usually from your employer] is needed to get anything set up. We had fun and games going in circles when we first arrived, and it's not over yet as we're still waiting on the visas to come through.

We've now got letters of no objection for the following:
1. Renting our flat
2. Setting up an account for water and electricity
3. Setting up a phone line
4. Setting up a broadband account

Then there are some things that a letter of no objection [no matter who signs it!] will not help. To open a cheque account or buy a car, you need a residency visa. Go figure!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Residency visa

Due to a hiccup on HR's part at Gypsy Boy's company we are still waiting for our residency visa. This was supposed to come through weeks ago. The following is the conversation between Gypsy Boy and the Public Relations Officer 10 days ago:

Gypsy Boy: When do you think I'll be able to get my residency visa?
PRO: Very soon, inshallah.
Gypsy Boy: So, like how long do you think it's going to take?
PRO: Inshallah, very soon.

Yep, so we're still waiting...

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Old Dubai

Bur Dubai is where we stayed when we first arrived. It definitely created a little bit of culture shock for us both at first but now its sights, sounds and smells just make it a fascinating place to visit.

This is a bustling old town full of interesting shops and eateries. Heavily populated with expats from the subcontinent, it sometimes feels like we are somewhere in India.

After a big lunch of kebabs and fresh juices at one of the lovely creekside cafes, we strolled through the textile and clothing souq. Only a handful of the shops in the souq were open as it was only 2pm (everyday, many shops close between 12-4 for lunch and a siesta).

...Clothing & Textile souq...

Nevertheless, it was nice to walk around the creek and under the beautiful architecture of the souq. Also a good opportunity to people watch!

...Dubai Creek, Bur Dubai...

The Dubai Creek separates Bur Dubai and Deira. There are bridges connecting both areas of the city, or another popular way to get to the other side is by abra. Abras are water taxis that are quick, convenient and only cost 50 fils (about 20 NZ cents)!

...view of a dhow from an abra...
...aboard an abra heading for Deira...

Friday, January 20, 2006

I found dashi!

I've been looking for this everywhere! Supermarkets, hypermarkets and even went all the way to Dragonmart - a Chinese trading centre shaped like a dragon spanning 1.2 km long.

In the end I found it in Daiso. Daiso is basically a $2 shop only stocked with Japanese imported goods. I've searched in Daiso three times before with no luck, so was very pleased to see it this time.

Dashi is stock that can be used to make that delicious Japanese clear soup base for udon or other noodle types and chawanmushi. Yum!

Thursday, January 19, 2006


No really, it's Friday! Ok, ok so it's Thursday today, but Thursday is the new Friday. The weekend here for the public sector and schools is Thursday & Friday, and for the private sector it's usually Friday & Saturday.

Friday, being the common day off for everyone, is the holy day. Most small businesses and shops remain closed till the afternoon as this is the time Muslims will go to the mosque. Churches also have 'Sunday mass' on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays as well as Sundays. Restaurants, cafes and eateries will be open for the popular 'Friday brunch'!

So, Friday is actually the new Sunday but for us, it's Saturday. Confused already?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Sharjah Souqs

A souq (or souk), is like a market place housing a variety of shops often selling the same thing. For example in Dubai, there's the famous Gold Souq and the neighbouring Spice Souq.

Sometime during the Eid holidays last week, we visited some of the souqs in Sharjah. Sharjah, neighbouring Dubai, is 1 of the 7 emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates. It's a dry state meaning no alcohol whatsoever may enter the region and it also has a decency law - so no traipsing around town in your bikini here!

...Central Park in Sharjah...
We walked through a lovely park to get to the Central Souq. The park was full of people basking in the mid-winter afternoon sun. Walking on the grass under the trees felt really good.

...looking out from a window in the Central Souq...

...Outside of the Central Souq, Sharjah...

The architecture like many other buildings in Dubai and the UAE, is amazing. The Central Souq is huge - it is the largest in Sharjah and comprises of 2 buildings joint by undercover pedestrian bridges (also housing more shops). Here, you will find sections selling carpets, antiques, art, clothes, souvenirs and of course, gold!

...Gold shops inside the Central Souq, Sharjah...

...View of Sharjah city over the Khaled lagoon outside the Central Souq...

...The Central Souq lit up at night...

We took a short walk near the Central Souq by the Khaled lagoon and stumbled across the Fish Souq. I'd never seen a fish market open at night let alone bustling with people! The fish were so fresh they were still alive.

...Fish Souq, Sharjah...

Next to the Fish Souq, is a Fruit and Vegetable Souq and next to that is a Meat Souq. We walked through the Fruit and Veg Souq but gave the Meat Souq a miss! On the way back to the car, we saw a sign for the Animal Souq which I wanted to see.

We walked down a whole street of shops selling hay, cages, aquariums and the like before we got to the actual animal souq. You can actually smell it before you get to it, and inside are more birds and chickens than you can imagine. Not exactly the place I wanted to be in the height of bird flu, but I had to take a quick look.

There was quite a wide variety of animals such as peacocks, deer, dogs, cats, lizards, squirrels, roosters, rabbits, guinea pigs and other exotic birds and fish. As I'd expected, it's a little sad to see these creatures couped up in tiny cages but I guess it's all part of the experience.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

How many wives have you got?

"Some residents are reluctant to reveal information about the number of their wives and their ages for the ongoing census...".

This is a quote from an article published in the local paper yesterday. I'm happy to say that we didn't have this problem with the enumerator who called around about 10 days ago. Instead, we encountered communication issues I never thought we'd have in this city populated with 80% of expats.

We had an entertaining 10 minutes or so trying to understand the questions being asked and giving our answers to the official who only spoke fluent Arabic and not a single word of English.

Let's just say we were all relieved when the official closed his file. As he prepared to leave he shook our hands, said 'Shukran' (Thank You in Arabic), then gave Gypsy Boy a kiss on the forehead!

Yes, another all around amusing Dubai experience.

Monday, January 16, 2006

How nerdy are you?

I am nerdier than 45% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Saudi honey & Thai lime

Mixed with hot water, this is a little concoction I'm taking right now to shake off a cold and sore throat I think I'm coming down with.

The Saudi Arabian honey tastes quite different to New Zealand Manuka honey which I'm used to having with lemon, but all the same I think it's working! I hate being sick, so fingers crossed...

Saturday, January 14, 2006


We experienced our first sandstorm today! Caused by strong winds of about 20knots, sand gets whipped up into the air and the city is blanketed with a fog-like appearance. In conditions like these, it's best not to go out into the desert and to try and stay indoors...

Sand sand everywhere! Driving on Sheikh Zayed Road
View of the skyscrapers on Sheikh Zayed Road during the sandstorm

...so, we spent the day with friends having brunch then browsing the shops in the Souq at the Madinat Jumeirah - an amazing resort.

Beautiful architecture inside the Souq Madinat

One of the shops inside the Souq Madinat
selling Arabian treasures
Persian carpets for sale

There is also a 1000 seat outdoor ampitheatre that overlooks a man-made creek that runs through the Madinat Jumeirah where you can catch an abra, or water taxi. This is very different to riding in a traditional abra across the Dubai Creek to Deira.

The ampitheatre at the Madinat Jumeirah

Set around the waterways in this beautiful resort, are bars, restaurants and cafes. Some even offering a view of the neighbouring Burj al Arab, the only 7 star hotel in the world.

Madinat Jumeirah

It was also amazing to see 4 or 5 turtles swimming in the waterway. If you look near the bottom of the picture below, you'll be able to see them! (Click on the picture for a larger view).

Looking towards the hotel resort's private beach

Friday, January 13, 2006

My magic carpet

A few days ago, we drove up to Hatta which is a lovely mountainous area bordering Oman. The scenery driving towards the old fort town reminded me a little of the drive from Queenstown to Milford Sound in New Zealand, but at the same time it couldn't be more different.

Driving through the desert on the Dubai-Hatta Road

Approaching the mountainous region of Hatta

Approaching the little township of Hatta, vendors selling plants, ceramic and terracotta pots, candle holders, as well as persian carpets line the streets at the foot of the mountains.

We stopped for lunch at the locally acclaimed Hatta Fort Hotel. A lovely spot with views of the mountains, offering guests camel and pony rides, archery, henna painting, and desert tours. This is a popular stop for those travelling on to Muscat, Oman or an ideal getaway for the weekend.

Having itchy feet we decided to go through the border of Oman. Muscat is supposed to be a real treat, but being another 3-4 hours away we weren't prepared to stay the night. So, we explored the area just by the border and found it to be a real sleepy town. There were lots of goats and camels grazing by the roadside, and children just wandering the streets.

A castle in Oman

By the beach in Oman

On the way back to Dubai, we decided to stop by one of the road-side stalls to look for a flower pot for my Gardenia and ended up with a carpet! It is a silk wool blend made in Kashmir. The best ones are supposed to be from Iran - the true Persian rug, but because we like the thicker wool blend feel, we got this one instead.

Okay so it doesn't fly, but we love it!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Eid Mubarak

Or in other words, Happy Eid. We spent the 3 day long 'Festival of Sacrifice' taking short day trips in and around Dubai.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Desperate housewife in the house

Congratulations! You are Lynette Scavo, the
ex-career woman who traded the boardroom for
boredom, mixed with moments of sheer panic as
the mother of four unmanageable kids.

Minus the kids, this is true!

Which Desperate Housewife are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Har gow! Siew mai!

Our first taste of yum char in DXB yesterday was a far cry from the yum char we savoured in Hong Kong and even in Auckland and Melbourne. It was, to say the least, disappointing. There was no atmosphere, not much choice and certainly no pork.

You won't find any ladies pushing carts shouting out their wares here. All dim sum dishes are pre-ordered on a slip from a grand total of 10 to choose from, none of which include pork. There are restaurants that do serve pork here, including Chinese restaurants serving yum char but obviously this was not one of them!

For all you can eat dim sum (from the small choice of dishes on the menu), we paid 78dhs per person. Certified: the most expensive yum char we have had to date. Apparently, if we dine and leave before 1230pm we would've got the discounted rate of 58dhs per person. To be honest though, at this rate there won't be a next time!

Desert comprised of Mango sago with grapefruit and mango cheesecake and a red-bean with cheese crepe. Interesting and different to the usual egg tarts.

Needless to say, our search continues as a good Chinese restaurant in DXB remains elusive.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

A&W in disguise?

Truth is I'm still not sure, but I know I've found a place that does coney dogs and curly fries just like A&W in Malaysia does! How fantastic is that!!

Note: the can of A&W rootbeer in the photo was picked up in the supermarket. Total cost of the meal 15dhs.

Friday, January 06, 2006

You snooze you lose

Yep, we snoozed. All flights to Istanbul and Sharm El Sheikh are fully booked. Anyway, don't think I fancy being in Turkey with that nasty strain of bird flu hanging around in that area.

So, plan B: Hatta & Oman, here we come!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Oman, Turkey or Egypt?

Eid Al-Adha is next week, which means a 5 day weekend! Now we just have to decide what we want to do...

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Sad news for Dubai and UAE

His Highness Shaikh Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai passed away this morning.

The United Arab Emirates today lost a historical leader who devoted his life to establishing the United Arab Emirates and enhancing its structure and the welfare of its people.

To mourn his death, most businesses will be closed between 3-7 days and all events (including Fat Boy Slim's concert and the Dubai Shopping Festival) postponed until further notice.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

One for the Catholics

Attending our first mass in Dubai was truly overwhelming. We arrived at St Mary's church 15 minutes before mass started and it was already packed with people saying the rosary. The pews were full and people were also standing at the back and the sides of the church.

As rosary finished, a few got up to leave their seats and so we rushed and pushed our way 'Dubai style' and managed to cram ourselves into a pew! Just when we thought the church was well and truly full, a few more people squeezed themselves into our pew and so we sat for the rest of the mass wedged between parishoners watching absolutely gob-smacked as the church continued to fill up with people standing in the aisles.

The church is by no means small in size, it would be comparable to St. Ben's (where we got married). Not ever having attended mass celebrated by the Pope, it is difficult to describe what it felt like being in a church so full of people. I have to admit it was a little scary being there for the first time, in a church situated directly next to a mosque, packed to the brim in the Middle East!

Upon discovering that there are actually 2 churches in Dubai, we found that St. Francis of Assisi Church is much closer to where we live. It is a little newer than St. Mary's but other than that, the building itself is very similar.

Mass itself appears to be shorter here than in NZ. I'd say approx. 45 minutes on average and it's great because all the readings etc are typed out onto a handout so you kinda tend to pay more attention and follow the mass better (especially since the priests and readers here can be a little hard to understand at times with thick accents!).

After mass, there's a canteen where we can buy snacks and drinks. Nothing like 'nasi lemak' and once again, Dubai style, the queue is non-existent so you just have to push your way to the front. Yet another thing we have to get used to!

My eyes ARE brown!

Your Eyes Should Be Brown

Your eyes reflect: Depth and wisdom

What's hidden behind your eyes: A tender heart

"Leather" Anniversary

Today is our 3 year Wedding Anniversary. It's only been 3 years and guess what, Gypsy Boy completely forgot... Can't imagine what it's going to be like when it's 30 years!

Top ten things not to say on your anniversary:

10. I stopped caring about anniversaries when you stopped caring about cooking.

9. Today is our what?

8. Okay, let's celebrate, but do we have to celebrate together?

7. I thought we only celebrated important events?

6. You can celebrate anniversaries with your next husband.

5. You don't like what I pick out, so I thought why bother.

4. I've got you a present worth a dollar for every time you were nice to me this year. Here's a $5 gift certificate for McDonald's.

3. If you want me to pretend I care about our anniversary, I will.

2. You want to go out to dinner? Okay, I'll take you to Pizza Hut if it'll shut you up.

1. I thought you only had to celebrate anniversaries while you were still in love.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Happy 2006!

Here's wishing everyone a healthy, wealthy, prosperous and HAPPY New Year!

Celebrating New Year's in the desert was surreal. It took us 2 hours of hellish traffic to travel 30kms where the coaches were departing but it was worth it. After another hour on the coach we turned off the main road and went as far as the road would take us. There, a line of white Landcruisers and local Arab men in white dishdashas were waiting.

After 5 minutes of dunebashing through the desert, we pulled up by a bonfire and a row of camels.


Riding a camel is not like riding a horse. For starters you're a lot higher up and they're not as soft and fluffy as they look. It's also a bit hard on the bum so I can't imagine doing it for long periods. Nevertheless the ride was 'bumpy' and fun, and they are lovable and intelligent creatures!

New Year's Eve Party

The food was excellent - an international buffet with shawarmas, roast lamb, beef, salmon, salads, breads... in a Bedouin style setting. The live band was fantastic, the dancefloor was packed and people were dancing in the aisles and on the tables.

The set up also had 2 shisha bars. Smoking shishas, aka hubbly bubbly is a fun and popular way to relax. There are many shisha joints in DXB where you can find your favourite fruity flavour. Mine is strawberry!


I also paid a visit to the henna tent and got a small henna design on my hand. Henna tatoos are also very popular here and most beauty salons will do a small design for around 30dhs. The designs last about 7 days before they wear off.


Time sure flies when you're having fun. Before we knew it, we were counting down to 2006 and singing Auld Lang Syne.