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All-Time Greats Cristiano Ronaldo and Pelé for Emirates Airlines

Emirates Airlines Newest Global Ambassador

Thursday BBQ Nights at Gozo Garden Millennium Airport Hotel Dubai

Begin your weekend with a sumptuous BBQ dinner at The Terrace only at Millennium Airport Hotel Dubai

Al Tamimi Stables, Sharjah

Your family friendly farm and activity center

Arabian Tea House

One of the best places to sit for breakfast, it is by the Bastakiya Al Fahidi Fort

Caprese Salad

Cravin for some authentic Italian salad, try this caprese salad, only 10 minutes to prepare

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Easter Egg Hunt and a Rare Farm Visit at Al Tamimi Stables

 Happy Easter everyone, how did you celebrate your Easter?

Ours was celebrated at Al Tamimi Stables with an Easter egg hunt and a farm tour. It is a rare occasion to visit a farm here in the UAE as most farms are private properties so the experience felt a few inches more special. :p

We arrived almost 11 am at the farm, we didn't find our way too quickly though, without navigation maps, it is a tini-tiny bit challenging to get here. Although we are from Sharjah, we have never been in this area of Sharjah.

Al Tamimi Stables thought genuinely about the welfare of its community and opened its doors to the public in 2013 and from then on, this family-friendly farm and activity center has become a popular destination among schools, companies and even for families who seek outdoor and edutainment for their children away from the husle and bustle of the city

The farm is situated in Al Zubair, Sharjah just opposite Al Zubair Municipality. From the gate, you get to walk in a long dramatic entrance covered with tall trees, the kids couldn't contain their excitement, already running towards the a flock of ducks resting under one tree.

The mercury is rising ever so quickly so off we go for the Easter egg hunt and farm tour with our beautiful tour guide Aefa who has wealth of information for us about the farm.

The vast property is 30 acres of greenery and about 500 exotic and domestic animals are housed here, has also a number fruit bearing trees, a banana and dates plantation, and vegetable patches all over the farm.

Al Tamimi Stables has a state of the art stable and has a number of horses, each one has a different background and different breeds from countries around the world. These beautiful creatures are royalties here at the farm and they are well taken care of.

I remember Aefa telling us that the Arabian horse might be small in size but it has a big heart which makes it good for racing while a horse in the other corral is big in size but has a small heart. You cannot really judge our equine friends by the way it looks.

As we continue with our tour, we are in for more and more surprises each and every step.

There are so many activities available both indoor and outdoor here at Al Tamimi Stables. There is a football field, a basketball court, a horse racetrack, a petting farm (indoor and outdoor), studios for dance, cooking and arts and craft lessons, giant chess board and maze and if you are feeling hungry after all these activities, they have a cafe too and if you fancy a party here at the farm it can be tailor made for you.

After the farm tour and the egg hunt, we went back to the welcome center to freshen up, the kids got their sweet treat for aq job well done. After recovering from the heat outside (boy it was really getting hotter each day), the kids got busy with the arts and craft and petting turtles and rabbits at the indoor petting zoo.

Our almost four hour stay at the farm was well spent. We had a great time and learned a lot especially the kids. I am sure their young minds pick up and absorb almost everything that they have seen, encountered and experienced at the stable. It is an unforgettable experience for the whole family.

Thank you to Al Tamimi Stables, the staff (Aefa, Paula, Glenda) and to the General Manager Mr. Brian Galligan for making our visit so memorable.

Kudos to Al Tamimi Stables for allowing the people in the community to experience the more natural UAE.

Entrance fee to Al Tamimi Stables is AED 60 for adult and AED 35 for children above 3 years
Family package is AED 180 for 2 adults and 3 children above 3 years. See full pricelist here

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A Photo Walk - Bastakiya Part 2

My breakfast at the Arabian Tea House Restaurant and Cafe was followed by a short photo walk inside Bastakiya quarter-a tiny but most engaging neighbourhood in old Dubai. The labyrinth alleys are lined with restored merchant houses with tall wind towers, restaurants and cafes, art galleries, souvenir and herb shop, mosque, and a soon to open coffee museum. Bastakiya is a charming step into Dubai's past.

What caught my attention the most was the Wall of  Old Dubai. The Bur Dubai wall was constructed in 1800 AD from gypsum and coral and serves as a defense wall of the old city.

The Calligraphy House

Visiting Bastakiya will will give you a complete different perspective of what Dubai was like far from the glittering tall buildings and highly commercialised areas that we have now.

Sikka art fair is also being held in Bastakiya every year, it is designed to feature UAE contemporary art practices and initiatives. Sikka draws its names from the alleyways between the historic houses of Dubai aka Bastakiya, thats serves as a metaphor for budding artists to develop their creativity and seek for their professional paths by participating in the art fair.

These wind towers or wind catchers are cultural icon of the city of Dubai. The old houses are equipped with wind towers to funnel air inside the house especially during summer, they are renovated and preserved and to this day, even some of the new buildings are designed to have wind towers for cultural display.

If you are in for some shopping while on the walking tour, there is a spice store, textile, and souvenirs store, just don't break the bank, save some for your entrance fee to Dubai Museum and Abra ride in the creek.

Arabian Tea House Restaurant and Cafe - Bastakiya Part 1

Last Saturday at around 8:30 am just after I drop my daughter at St. Mary's church for her second retreat and confession, I went to visit the nearby tourist magnet in Al Fahidi District in Bur Dubai - the Bastakiya.
I have three hours of me-time as the retreat finishes at twelve, just enough time to get on this solo tour.

Bastakiya is established in the 19th Century by textile and pearl traders from  Bastak, Iran. To this day, the neighbourhood houses cafes, restaurants, art galleries, a mosque, a library, spice shop, and a coffee museum is opening soon.

From Oud Metha, I took the C7 bus with a friend, we alighted opposite the building where she lives and Bastakiya is just a stone-throw away :p before I knew it I was already in one of the oldest and most historical part of the city of Dubai.

The weather was perfect for a photo walk but I heard my tummy rumbling and breakfast is necessary, a friend was frequenting a tea house in this area and following his recommendation, I entered the Arabian Tea House previously called as Basta Art Cafe, an expansive cozy courtyard restaurant lined with flowering petunias and shaded by two huge trees, I seat myself in a table of two and Mirasol, a cheerful and pretty Filipino wait staff handed me the menu.

While I was giving my order, two small fruit drops from the tree above me, I pay attention to the tree that is something similar to what I have seen outside, on that tree was Dubai Government signage chained on it saying it is a historical tree, to my surprise the tree was called Christ Thorn, it is the same tree specie where Jesus crown of thorns were taken at the time of his crucifixion. It is also the only tree that  Muslims considered holy as it is mentioned on the Quran. The fruit of Zizyphus Espina is edible and used to make bread and also medicinal.

This huge tree has been standing here since 1960.

I look up again and instead I noticed how clear and blue the sky was, I inhaled deeply and thank God for all his blessings, for the life that I have, for this beautiful place and for the peace in my heart that the tranquility of this place brings to one soul. You probably have to come here to understand, next time you are in this area, take a peek at this quaint dining place.

I ordered myself an omelet with cheese and cherry tomatoes, it comes with a fresh side salad, Arabic bread, grainy mustard dressing for the salad, and 1001 Nights tea with a small plate of balalit to complement my fruity tea.

This is a super healthy breakfast and really filling, I wasn't hungry until 3 pm

Balalit is a traditional Emarati noodle breakfast dish made from vermicelli spiced with cardamom, saffron, rosewater, sugar and butter.

1001 Nights tea is a black tea with fruity flavour and has a sweet smell. Arabian Tea House has 100 selection of loose teas from Australia, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Sri Lanka and India.

Having this breakfast al fresco in this splendid courtyard makes it so memorable and it is so mesmerizing, I am surely coming back again

The photo frames of old Dubai on the wall are for sale as well as the tea ware and so are the teas. I bought a box of loose tea and what else could it be but the 1001 Nights tea although I am surely going to try the milk oolong which is highly recommended by the girls when I come back next time.

I am now ready for the photo walk but that's going to be on the second part as this is already quite a longish post so stay tuned.

Have you been to Bastakiya or Arabian Tea House, please share us your experience on the comment box.

Arabian Tea House Restaurant and Cafe
Al Fahidi Street, Bur Dubai, UAE

Arabian Tea House Cafe
Shop No 6, Thuraya Telecommunications Tower, Dubai, UAE

Monday, April 14, 2014

Caprese Salad with Fresh Home Grown Tomatoes

Would you believe that the tomatoes and basil in this Caprese Salad recipe are home grown in our apartment balcony garden in Sharjah? For the second time around, I decided to go ahead with my balcony gardening and it was successful this time.

The tomatoes are super fresh I tell you, if only I can grow tomatoes all year round in my balcony here in the desert, I will do it.

With my first tomato harvest, I made some Caprese salad, it is an easy no cook recipe.

I used 4 tomatoes, few basil leaves, mozzarella cheese, olive oil, salt and black pepper and a very little amount of apple cider vinegar.

I cut the tomatoes in wedges, and halve the mozzarella, I use latbri mozzarelline, their small balls of mozzarella cheese

I toss them in a bowl, add some basil leaf, drizzle with olive oil and less than 1/4 tsp of apple cider vinegar as alternative to balsamic vinegar, add a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper, mix and you are done.

Serve it with some fresh bread and enjoy.

Balcony Gardening Project Update

My plants did not die on me this time instead they grew healthily and yielded fruits. I planted tomatoes and chili pepper, the easiest to grow and good for beginners. I sowed the seeds sometime in December and you can see here how small and delicate they are. This is how they look like after a few months

I also have a herb planter that contains mint, basil, thyme and rosemary. They all smell divine and I have been snipping off a few leaves and twigs for my cooking.

Here is a good looking proud chili pepper (while typing this, I imagined it wearing a mexican hat and dancing)

A plump red tomato waiting to be picked.

Just after a few more weeks, here is a good tomato harvest, their juicy, crunchy, tasted better than store bought and smells so good too. I am excited to make something out of these homegrown babies.

I have another favorite, my basil plant had lots of leaves and I have used them in salads, pasta recipes and even in fried rice. The basil is the one on the right and the herb planter is on the left. I started the basil from seeds even the ones on the planter, the mint and thyme was from a plant nursery (total cost was 25 dirhams) and the rosemary was from the supermarket which I got for 10 dirhams, the good things is until their alive I am never buying fresh herbs again, I'll just go out in my balcony and snipped off some leaves. Talk about savings here :)

The only thing that I have to take down was the pumpkin plant, it kept on flowering but no success in growing any pumpkin at all, I knew that it needed a bigger planter and more soil which I cannot accommodate in my small balcony.

It is getting hotter by the day and the plant leaves are drying out. The sun in my balcony is only until noon time but still too hot for them. I must start to acclimate them indoors soon.

I am a very happy balcony gardener even I have only a few variety and it is a good start.

Here are a few things I've learned from balcony gardening.

1. Never give up and be patient
2. Learn about your plant type and its needs
3. It is not impossible to grow vegetables in a limited space like in container in the balcony and most especially it is not impossible to grow vegetables in the desert
4. Use natural fertilizer like coffee grounds and pesticides made from chili pepper, garlic, water and a small drop of dish washing liquid
5. Water them regularly and keep the soil moist to avoid fruit end rot.
6. Enjoy, it is a good hobby