Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Holy Grail: Finding a Bikini in Dubai

Obviously I will look JUST like this in this bikini....
You might think that, living in the land of perpetual sunshine, it would be easy to find essential items such as: bikinis. You’d be wrong. Every time you go to the mall you see women in search of not just the perfect bikini, but ANY bikini. 

I’m not quite sure why they’re so sparse. You’d think that mainstream global retail giants such as Marks and Spencer, H&M and Zara would cotton onto the fact that whilst the rest of the world is shivering, here in the UAE the sun is still shining and we’d gladly welcome their summer stock of bikinis.

To solve this problem I recently turned to online retailer  Not only do they have summer stock all year round it seems, but it’s also massively reduced as the majority of their sales come from colder climes. Result! It was my first time ordering for delivery here, and despite taking two weeks to arrive, it was worth the wait.  Bikinis soon on a beach near you:
  • Blue ruffled strapless
  • Bright jade strapless
  • Black and floral strapless
  • White strapless (with giant buckles on cleavage and hip - pictured above)
As you may notice, I have decided to rule straps out of my life (tanlines). It’s still just a bit too cold for me to get involved with the beach just yet, but soon, very soon, we’ll be all over it.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Crack of Dawn

Dignity at all times...
It takes a lot to prise me out of bed in the morning, not least a Friday morning.  Lack of sleep combines with working week exhaustion and renders me senseless when the alarm goes off. Mind you, I don’t lie in like I used to in the UK though, something about knowing there’s blue sky and sunshine on the other side of the curtains entices me out at a reasonable time these days.

But last Friday really went against the grain – my alarm clock (which is never set at the weekend) rang out at a frightening 7 am. (Apologies to my friends with children, I am aware this is a long, long lie-in in your worlds!) 

Why was I up at such an ungodly hour? Well, each year Dubai Cares (oneof our biggest charities) holds a 3k walk to raise funds, and it had seemed a good idea at the time when the entire office signed up to it. What had also seemed a good idea was for us all to dress up as coloured crayons (the team) and an Arabic colouring book (me).

This all seemed a lot less of a great idea when stood on beach road at 8 am with various members of the public laughing at our fancy dress costumes (we were the ONLY ones dressed up out of 3,000 people) AND there was a giant sandstorm in full effect.

We were led out of Jumeirah Beach park by an Emirati marching band, complete with bagpipes. BAGPIPES! The excitement nearly killed us, amazing! Despite the wind, despite the humiliation, despite the early hour, we had an absolute ball. I can’t remember when I laughed so much. And the most heart-warming thing for me was the huge number of people who had turned out…all nationalities, ages, families, children..and the odd dog too. 

There are those who say Dubai has no soul, that no-one cares about each other. To those people I say: get out there, get involved…charity and kindness is everywhere here.

I’ll forgive you if you don’t want to dress up as giant crayon though…

More Buraimi Adventures!

Heaven, truly.
I blogged a few weeks ago about the joy that is to be found in Buraimi – well with joy like that just a few hours away, we just HAD to go again. Last time we explored the Qattara oasis, this time we had our sights set on the Jazira oasis instead.  

After passing through the border and heading to Jazira, it soon became clear that without a four wheel drive, we had no chance of making it through what looked like a teeny tiny mountain pass. There was a millisecond where we contemplated ditching the saloon and walking, but one look at the blazing sun and the vertical climb and we thought better of it. As I’ve since found out it’s at least a thirty minute hike from that point, I’m very glad we swerved it.

So instead we headed to a small nearby date farm, which turned out to be the best thing ever! Cool, shaded aflaj, huge pools of water…AND aflaj that clung to the side of the mountain! Yes, we rolled up our trousers and paddled all the way to the source (which looks a bit like a hole that a monster would live in.) I did not venture inside.

There’s an old abandoned village (beautiful) with some date farmers still in residence. To say they were giddy to see us is an understatement. The loveliest old man (Abdullah) welcomed us into his home and we sat on the floor with him as VIP guests. As he spoke no English, and we spoke about ten words of Arabic, conversation was hard going. 

His two assistants spoke a few more words of English and we did manage to ascertain each other’s names, jobs and original country of residence. Some things transcend words and oral communication, and the ten minutes that we spent on the floor of his extremely rustic home were just beautiful.

We left with a large bottle of spring water and a song in our hearts. Next trip is booked and in the diary.

Blend it like…

Mine look just like this. Honest.
I’ve never been a huge fruit fan. It’s definitely been easier since I moved to Dubai, as the few fruits that I do enjoy tend to be more tropical. But it’s still an effort to force them down.

In an effort to combat this, I recently bought a blender. They’re cheap as chips here– less than twenty quid, and despite fruit being more expensive than gold, you can get (some) brands of frozen strawberries for just a quid.

So the occasional morning has seen me staring blankly at the blender, pouring in random amounts of milk, fruit and yoghurt, pouring in more milk when I realize it’s as thick as cement, and then getting very giddy about the results. Let me tell you, they're not as easy to make as you might think!

Let’s be clear, I’m never going to adore bananas (the work of the devil). But they are just a little easier to stomach them when they’re going up a straw with a smidgen of honey.  I have thus resisted adding alcohol….

JUST like Mission Impossible!

Sand. Lots and lots of it. Everywhere.
Mission Impossible was undoubtedly a triumph of a film. The only bit I had small issues with was the sandstorm. It loomed on the horizon like a strange alien and took over the city to a point where visibility was down to about one inch of Tom Cruise’s stacked heels. “Ha” we scoffed. “Sandstorms are nothing like that here! What a load of Hollywood nonsense!” And then a giant sandstorm hit Dubai.

I realized something wasn’t quite right when I woke up to HOWLING winds around my apartment. I’m on the 28th floor, so this isn’t entirely unusual, even on a normal day. 

Then I opened the curtains and saw the palm trees going utterly beserk on the Boulevard. 
Then I attempted to open the balcony doors and realized I didn’t want sandcastles in the lounge. 
Then I went outside and was blown across the street to a taxi.
Then we fought our way up and down Beach Road, getting blown this way and that.
Then I washed half a kilo of sand from my hair, ears and lipgloss.
Then they cancelled the polo brunch.
Then we sought refuge inside the Rivington Grill after the terrace was proved too wet and windy (fountain spray).

You’re getting the picture, yes?! One other weird side-effect of the sand-storm was that it became freakishly hot for the time of year. At a barbeque later that night it was a balmy 28 degrees - still relatively cold in our book but much, much warmer than it would normally be. There was a bit of panic as to whether this meant Winter was over, but thankfully the storm passed and temperatures are back down in the low twenties.

Which means walking to work, shooting the breeze on the balcony and delicious sundowners at the weekends. Long may it continue…