Friday, December 12, 2008

Learning and Sharing Music

If you had happened to be at Wafi City mall this evening, you will have soon been tapping your feet. Popular Music Institute, one of the best know n music schools in Dubai was presenting its students at the annual winter recital. It was an evening to remember.

The young students of PMI put up a stellar performance establishing once again the quality of the musicians it produces. From F
unk to Jazz, the students presented a complete repertoire of skills.
My favorite of the evening were of course, the Blues Jammers who ended the show on a high. The star of the day (or rockstar?) was clearly the little bass guitarist Fernando Alarcon. Standing a few inches taller than his bass guitar, the rockstar jammed up beautifully along with Christoph, Trevayne and Tony to belt out a unique v ersion of Lucille.

My other favourite of the evening was Ms Jessica Williamson,
a rather inconspicuous little drummer who lets the snare do the talking.

Trevayne Fernandes did a wonderful job as the M.C. for the even ing.

The other performers include andrew Gerdak, Dylon Tong, Valentine Ortega, Seena Akbari, George Davies, Michael Coates Evans, Tyler Henrie, Abhik Sampat, Lewis Tanoyo, Farbod Shavarebi, Jordan Henrie, Neema Mahmoodi, Klaus Proschold, Joel Davies, Kailash Soni, Yashavi Zaveri, Pranti Zaveri, Christoph Mahler and Tony

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Mushrif Park

The long Eid holidays provided a good opportunity to explore places I'd not been to before.

Mushrif Park is a huge facility spread across 5.25 square kilometres located on the eastern outskirts of the city. Go across the Emirates Road on the Khawaneej Road heading towards Mirdiff. Look for directions about 4 kilometres ahead and turn right to get into the park facility.

Mushrif Park was created in the late 70's and was later refurbished in 1989 into its present layout. This park is a bit different from other parks in Dubai as it combines neatly manicured lawns and flower beds with the natural desert feel and foliage.

The large size of the park gives you the feeling of space and quiet. Even though it attracts as many visitors as the other popu
lar parks in Dubai, Mushrif Park always looks peaceful and without the clutter seen in other parks during holidays.

The other unique feature of this park is the vast areas left intact with their natural desert like feel.

25°13′10″N 55°27′02″E

Monday, December 8, 2008

Eid Mubarak

Dubai Photo Story wishes its Muslim readers EID MUBARAK on the occasion of Eid Al Adha

Eid al-Adha
is a religious festival celebrated by Muslims worldwide in commemoration of the willingness of Ibrahim to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience to God. The devil tempted Ibrahim to spare his son and go against the will of God. However, Ibrahim did as God wanted and as Ibrahim was about to sacrifice his son, God intervened and instead provided a lamb as the sacrifice.

In commemoration on Eid Al Adha, Muslims sacrifice a lamb (or a goat) as a remembrance of this act by Ibrahim.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Art of making a Mushaltat

An overcast sky and light drizzles make an ideal time to dig your teeth into a Mushaltat. It was more by accident that design than we ended up stopping by at a pastry shop which infact makes 'customised' mushaltats to suit your craving for the day.

As the owner of the shop explained to me, mushaltat is originally an Egyptian snack but is very popular in Dubai. Its like a cross between the pizza and paratha, a flat bread made of refined wheat and stuffed with your choice of stuffing including cheese, sausage, chicken, za'atar or honey.

The refined wheat flour is first kneaded and rolled out into thin cakes. The skilled baker that wakes this flour cake in thin air to stretch it into a very thin sheet (see image above) which forms the base for the mushaltat. This act is performed like he is almost in a trance!.

It is then laid out across the table and is now ready for the fillings. We opted for the simple 'Kraft' cheese with a topping of honey. The paper thin sheet is that folded into a small square shape and ready to hit the oven. The owner swears by his decades old brick oven and stays clear of the new modern electronic ovens. The mushaltat is baked for about 5 minutes after which it got a fair helping of honey sprinkled over it.

So the next time you feel the urge for a quick snack, head out to the local bakery or pastry shop and try out the Mushaltat.

Monday, December 1, 2008

37th National Day of UAE

Here's wishing all citizens and residents of UAE on the occasion of 37th National Day.

In 1968, the United Kingdom decided to end the relationship with the seven Trucial Sheikhdoms which had been, together with Bahrain and Qatar, under British protection. Despite attempts by the nine territories to form a union of Arab Emirates, they were unable to agree on the terms of the union. Bahrain moved out of the proposed union in August 1971 followed by Qatar in September 1971.

On 2nd December 1971, the six emirates excluding Ras Al Khaima from among the seven agreed to enter into a union called United Arab Emirates. Ras Al Khaima later joined the union in early 1972.

Pictured above is Union House, a significant part of UAE history. The agreement to form the UAE, the Arab world's first federation of states, was signed by the President, His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the late Ruler of Dubai and Prime Minister and Vice-President of the UAE, and Rulers of other emirates at a meeting in the Union House on December 2, 1971.

On 2nd December 2001, the now famous flagpole was installed at Union House to commemorate the National Day. The 120 metres tall flagpole holds a large flag measuring 40 mtrs x 20 mtres.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Dubai Zoo

Dubai Zoo is believed to be the oldest zoo in the Arabian Gulf. Built by Otto J. Bulart and located in Jumeirah, the zoo was once considered a landmark that indicated the end of Dubai city. With the exponential growth of Dubai city over the last few years, Dubai Zoo now lies centrally located and easily accessible from all parts of Dubai.

There are about 180 species of mammals, birds, reptiles and fish within the zoo including giraffes, flamingos, gazelles, gorillas and different varieties of lizards. Located on a 2 hectare plot and built several decades ago, the zoo now appears crowded and in some places even over crowded. May be it is now time to move on and re-locate the zoo to a more spacious locaton.

The zoo continues to attract residents in huge numbers and is also a popular spot on a tourist's itenerary. The wide species of animals housed at the zoo also provide the local kids with an opportunity to translate pictures from their school books into something real and is a good learning experience.

Monday, November 24, 2008

National Identity Card

Probably the most talked about topic these days is the National Identity Card (besides the rent and traffic!!). I had been waiting eagerly to experience the entire process so that I could provide the facts.

The National Identity Card issued by Emirates Identity Authority is designed to be a single ID card that will eventually be used for all transactions across the UAE. The new card is supposed to have in-built smart features including biometrics and advanced ID features that will eventually eliminate the need to carry multiple cards.

Ever since the EIA announced the 31st December deadline for professional expats to register, there has been absolute chaos!!. Most of it driven by limited clarity and hence anxiety amongst the category. Till a few days back, it was understood that professional expats (and Emaratis) would be fined and may even have their back accounts frozen if they did not apply for the card by the deadline. The expats however heaved a sigh of relief when it was annouced on 19th November that the expats would not be fined if they did not catch the deadline.

Here are a few facts from my own experience in applying for the card.

The online application process was a drag. I probably tried about 20 times only to have my machine crawl to a stop. This was obviously on account of the thousands of expats scrambling to fill in the forms at the same time. The authorities have since made the form available at multiple points including several govt websites which makes the process easier.

I visited the main Al Barsha centre at about 5.00 am only to find about 150 people already in queue. Some of them had come in with chairs, mats and food stuff to keep themselves comfortable!!.

The centre promptly opened their doors at 7.30 am. and tokens were issued in an organised manner. The waiting areas are extremely comfortable and even had a vending machine inside. I was informed that my turn would come up later in the afternoon. From the moment I was called in to the time I stepped out, the experience was outstanding. The staff is extrmely courteous and efficient and the entire work flows was very smooth.

Hats off to the staff of EIDA for a job well done. While I agree that the website had some big issues with applying online and getting appointments, the entire process at the centre was very efficient.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Deira Clock Tower

It's probably the opportune time to write about the Deira Clock Tower (mostly referred to as Clock Tower)

Just about a week back, the famous Clock Tower got all its 4 clocks replaced with a new set of brand new Omega clocks. The clock tower is probably one of the most famous landmarks in the city. Its an iconic structure situated at the northern end of the Al Maktoum bridge towards Deira.

Here is a short note on the origins of the monument from Dubai As It Used To Be

"Sheikh Ahmed of Qatar was Sheikh Rashid's Son-in-Law. In the early 1960s Sheikh Ahmed gave Sheikh Rashid a Clock as a Gift. It was a very large Clock. Sheikh Rashid did not know what to do with such a large Clock! My predecessor Mr Bulard had just completed building Zabeel Palace for Sheikh Rashid so he made a sketch of his idea for a Clock Tower. Mr Bulard gave the sketch to his Engineer to make the structural calculations and produce a design. The shape and design of the Clock Tower was from Mr Bulard's own ideas and did not represent an Oil Drilling Bit or any other object. In the early 1960s the area where the Clock Tower is located today had become an important road intersection so Mr Bulard suggested this as a suitable location for the Clock Tower. He also suggested the Clock Tower be placed on a traffic roundabout to protect the Tower. This was one of the first roundabouts in Dubai. "

Since its construction in the early sixties, the structure has gone through various changes including a major refurbishment in 1972. But this is probably the most important as this is the first time that all four clocks have been replaced at the same time.
The new Omega clocks are fitted with the latest GPS technology to ensure the highest degree of accuracy.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Dubai's seat of justice

"Implementation of justice in the society, through precision and promptness in adjudicating lawsuits, execution of judgments, decisions, judicial orders, contract and document authentication, by relying on qualified national cadres and regulations, procedures, and new developed technology."

This is the mission statement of Dubai Courts.

The judicial system in Dubai into 3 stages i.e.

1 The Court of First Instance: It is the first stage of litigation.

2 The Court of Appeal: It is the second stage of litigation.

3 The Court of Cassation: It is the supreme and ultimate stage of litigation

Monday, October 20, 2008

Dubai's Eco Warrior?

When I visited the Dubai Flea Market early October, one of the stalls certainly caught my special attention. Amidst all the colors and clutter of a typical flea market, this one stood out. So I had made a note of the seller's details with an intention to catch up and find out more.

Raina Chandra is probably not someone who would catch your attention at first sight. But behind that quiet and soft spoken personality is a remarkable home grown eco warrior. Raina's concept, aptly called Rainassance makes magic and absolutely stunning jewelery out of waste paper. Paper that most of use find useless is quietly transformed into beautiful colorful trinkets by Raina's creative imagination.

"It is about rethinking design to be able to replace traditional materials with alternate ones, hence reducing resource consumption" she wrote to me.

The products are entirely handcrafted by her which means that every bead is unique. And every time you buy a Rainassance product, you will be contributing to a conservation of our scares resources and a greener environment.

While this may appear to be a commercial venture to some, one needs to experience the sheer passion she exhibits in promoting this absolutely brilliant venture. May be a drop in the ocean of eco-ventures, but a very big one certainly.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Winter is coming....!!!!!!!

Winter is just around the bend... if today's foggy conditions are anything to go by. These pictures were clicked at about 6.00 am this morning on Al Khail Road and the visibility was probably just about 5 - 6 mts. While such thick fog can pose a dangerous situation and one needs to focus of driving safely, I made the most of it. I rolled down my windows and let in the fog. It was a fantastic experience to feel the fog brush against the face. It was awesome till the visibility dropped to such low levels that I had to finally pull over and wait till the fog had cleared.
So bye bye summer..... winter is almost here!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Dubai's new flea market

I've been eagerly waiting to get a first hand experience of the new Dubai Flea Market and I finally made it today!!

It was a carnival of colors with the exhibitors displaying a whole wide range of products. And at great prices too. From clothes to shoes and DVDs to oil paintings. It was absolute fun to walk around the market and bargain for deals. I enjoyed every minute of it. One thing is for sure, I will be there again the next time Dubai Flea Market sets up shop.

The market starts at 9.00 in the morning and winds up by late afternoon. Even if you do not plan to buy anything, I suggest you try out the place. You can laze around on the bean bags (see pic) or listen to the Dubai Lime musicians. If only the place had more F&B facilities :-(

The Dubai Flea Market comes alive every 1st Saturday of the month. It is held at gate no. 5 at Safa Park. For more details click here

Heard that the next one will be held on 1st November so see you there at gate no. 5!!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The pleasure of flying Emirates

Emirates is probably one of the most recognizable airline brands today. The brand finds itself splashed across a wide spectrum of media across the world and is probably a force to reckon with in the global airline business.

I always found it exciting and remember eagerly anticipating a flight on Emirates. The in-flight entertainment was the best in the world (at least among the airlines I had flown) and the experience itself was always special.

Emirates has made us all proud at the way the brand has made its way up the ladder. The brand also exemplifies the spirit of Dubai.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Dubai World Trade Centre

The Dubai World Trace Centre (DWTC) building is probably the most iconic building in the city, a blend of the charm of old Dubai and the vibrant and modern new Dubai.

Built in 1979, DWTC stands tall at the start of Sheikh Zayed Road (SZR) and is part of an entire complex including the Dubai International Convention Centre, Novatel and Ibis hotels and the recently constructed Dubai International Hotel Apartments.

But the Trade Centre building itself is what makes this a landmark. Many people use the building as a reference point to describe their location. It is also one of the highest security buildings in Dubai. The building houses the Dubai Financial Markets besides 7 other consulates/embassies. The more prominent of them being the consulate of USA.

I have fond memories of this building. Our office used to be located at this building till moving to a more spacious building 2 years back. But DWTC will still be a special experience of my work life in Dubai. The building carries a certain amount of charm and pride. I remember having my bag scanned every morning besides being searched every time we went to work. It was almost like getting into a high security area with so many Dubai Police walking all over the place.

I make it a point to drop by sometimes just to experience the feeling of being there.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The fine art of parking a la Dubai

I don't claim to have traveled all cities across the world but of the 8 - 10 cities that I've had the privilege to visit, none have stooped down to such depths as Dubai. I make this statement in context of the ways residents park their cars out here.

Look at the pic above as an example. This gentleman (???) has chosen to park right over the footpath with scant respect for the pedestrians or the laws. I am at times infuriated just looking at the carelessness of these drivers. And these kind of incidents are becoming more and more common every other day.

Have you also experienced such nonsense?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Dubai's Mall Culture

An important motivation for this post is a recent conversation with a colleague from office. She was eagerly awaiting the arrival of her family for a short holiday in Dubai. When I asked her how she planned to entertain them, her plans included visits to 4 malls around the place.

How much time do residents of Dubai spend in the malls? While I haven't seen any specific data, my guess is that on an average many people spend about 6 - 8 hours each week hopping across at least 2 malls.

Shopping malls in Dubai have been virtually converted into entertainment venues. In fact of late I've noticed that most malls have live entertainment every weekend. This includes various kind of performances by visiting artists like dancers, magicians, cultural artists etc.

Dubai has witnessed an unprecedented growth in the retail sector in recent years. This has prompted investors into putting up extravagant malls aimed at inspiring potential visitors. My friends abroad still cannot believe that, 'Mall of the Emirates' one of the recent developments, has in fact an artificial ski slope!!

The new malls to look forward to include Dubai Mall which has recently opened a part of the mall and Mall of Arabia, a new mall located at Dubailand. 

Monday, September 1, 2008

Ramadan Kareem to all!!!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Dubai International Airport

Every time I pass through Dubai Airport, I get remembered of some of the horror experiences I have gone through at some of the other 'international' airports around the world (about 27 if remember right) and then sit back and relish the experience of Dubai!!

Dubai International Airport is probably one of the best airports in the world (the new Hong Kong Airport is another fav). I think its very efficient (though some friends of mine disagree) in terms of processing though the sheer size makes one walk around too much. It has the most comprehensive duty free area and great deals too. Last year I believe the airport handled 37 million passengers (which stood at 18 million at the end of 2003)

Even though the airport will soon be bursting at its seems, I still think the flow from end to end is still very good. The floor guides are also very good at their job.

This airport may soon be overtaken by the new airport being constructed at Jebel Ali on the outskirts of Dubai. The Al Maktoum International Airport will have 6 parallel runways and up to 4 aircraft will be able to land simultaneously.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Dubai's rising inflation....

Nothing highlights Dubai's inflations woes more than this simple parking rental ticket. Imagine my surprise at being charged AED 10/- just to park my car for a few minutes!! Look closer and you will note that the monthly rental is AED1200/-. Thats almost the same as the rent I paid for my small studio apartment only a few years ago!!

Official figures put the inflation figure at about 12% but the real figure could be as high as 18%. This of course depends on the cost components under the Consumer Price Index and the relative weightage to each component.

One thing is for sure. Cost of parking is certainly not part of the CPI.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Dubai Rising

Dubai Marina is probably one of the most luxurious residential areas of Dubai. This man made marina area is also considered the most desirable and sought after lifestyle area.

I love to walk along the beautiful waterfront areas dotted with coffee shops and shining white yatchs. Its a very relaxing experience after a busy day and a walk around the place is very soothing. A lot of the construction still continues in the area and the noise can sometimes by a bit of a problem.

A small single bedroom area will make you poorer by as much as $42,000/- per annum

Monday, August 11, 2008

"Oh that the desert were my dwelling place,
With only one fair spirit for my minster.
That I might forget the human race,
And hating no one, love her only."
- Lord Byron
These views of the desert are what you will see on the regular 'desert safari' in Dubai

Thursday, August 7, 2008

UAE at the Olympics

On the eve of the 2008 Olympics, its only apt that we discuss the hopes and aspirations of UAE at Beijing.
UAE is a relatively recent entrant into the Olympic arena having participated for the first time at the 1984 Summer Olympics at Los Angeles. But since than it's athletes have made their mark with the first gold medal claimed within 20 years at the Athens Olympics.
When Shaikh Ahmad Al Maktoum won the gold medal in the Men's Double Trap event, it was a turning point in the history of sports in the country.
As UAE's sporting warriors embark upon yet another journey at Beijing, the residents wait in hope of a scintillating performance (and at least another medal)
Here is a list of UAE's medal hopefuls:
Shaikha Maitha Bint Mohammad Bin Rashid
Shaikha Maitha Bint Mohammad Bin Rashid will be leading the team as the flag bearer at the opening ceremony. The captain of UAE's national ladies team in martial arts will compete for victory in the 67 kgs taekwondo category. A versatile exponent of martial arts, she won the silver medal in karate in the 2006 Asian Games
Shaikh Ahmed Al Maktoum
Shaikh Ahmed will be back at the Olympics to defend the gold medal he won 4 years back. “Any time I have gone out, I have felt it is my duty and responsibility to add something new to my life and bring glory and honour to my country,” said Shaikh Ahmad in Gulf News (
Sheikh Saeed bin Maktoum Al-Maktoum
Sheikh Saeed bin Maktoum Al-Maktoum will be participating in the Olympics for the third time after making his debut at the Sydney in 2000. He won the gold at the 2006 Asian shooting Championships in 2003 and silver at the Doha Asian Games in 2006
A bounty of 1 million dirhams awaits a gold medalist at the Beijing Olympics.... and pride and glory for all of UAE
This will probably the only post without photos!!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

He then took the remaining material and shaped it into a date palm

Legend has it that after God had created man from the earth, he took the remaining material and shaped it into a date palm and placed it in the Garden of Paradise.

The Date Palm (Phoenix dactylifera) is a palm that is cultivated all over the gulf for its fruit. These trees are believed to have originated in the Persian Gulf and have been cultivated ever since ancient times, from Mesopotamia to prehistoric Egypt.

The date palm tree is extremely popular for its fruit and is known to have several hundred other uses including lumber, mattresses, rope and baskets.

The date palm trees are popular across the city of Dubai and also seen extensively across the desert areas on the outskirts.

The local emaratis are very passionate about their date heritage. One local, Mohammad Atiq Al Hamili recently purchased 810 baskets of dates for $273,000 at the recently concluded Fourth Liwa Dates Festival.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Eden in the Arabian Desert?

Desert Flower
by James F. Harrington

You are like a garden oasis, blooming in the dry desert. Your heart is warmer than the center of the sun. Your soul glitters like moonlight!

I want to take you into my arms, rush to my white Arabian charger, and together we will ride into the dark blue indigo night!

We would gallop past golden minarets, through all of time, past all memories, untill we reach the peaceful, quiet serenity of Jannat.

There we would settle down, under the soothing, cool shade of jade colored olive trees. I would sing to thee my songs of love.
We would lay on a carpet that possessed magical qualities. Ripe fruit would be in abundance. We would be forever in paradise.

Copyright 1997 James F. Harrington

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Al Shindaga Tunnel

The Al Shindaga tunnel is a tunnel that goes under the Dubai creek and connects the two neighbourhoods of Deira and Bur Dubai. Built in 1975, the tunnel was probably an engineering marvel of its time. It is still the only under water tunnel in UAE.


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