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On this day, I’d like to show my appreciation to my mother. Since today is Mother’s Day it is the perfect way to share some highlights from her recent trip to the UAE. Having her here was one of my top 5 experiences because she had the opportunity to experience life, as I do in Abu Dhabi. I often share my observations about being an expatriate with my mother, but upon arriving she make her own observations about Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

My sisters and I surprised my mother with this trip to show appreciation for her daily sacrifices. As she updated me on her travels I could not help but feel extremely worried about her getting here safely. For a second I experienced the worry my parents do when I travel internationally. Often, I will call my parents from another country and realize that I failed to expose my travel plans beforehand. I was selfish and did not understand how they felt until she was en route.

While here I showed my mom my favorite places to eat, I took her to my school and one of my classes threw her a party. We celebrated Mother’s Day (UAE version) and took trips to Dubai and Al Ain. This was the longest uninterrupted one on one time I have had with my mom in a while and I greatly appreciated it. Below are some of our highlights!

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Mom and I at a Desert Safari
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Brunchin’
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Mom looking sporty!
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LV at the Burj Khalifa
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Inside Dubai Mall
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ATV Riding!
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Mom and I on a pier in Dubai
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Mom and Burj Al Arab
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Dancing on the beach!
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Mom in deep thought
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Kissing on a camel ❤
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Mom getting her henna done.
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Mom loves her dates
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We met SALT BAE
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Mom and I after Ladies Night!

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Dates
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Ordering Burger King for the road
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These are the snacks my students bought for my mom’s surprise party
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Mom and I at my school
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Me posing at school
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The garden at my school

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Mommy and I on the way to my school
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Kite Beach, Dubai
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Walking in Dubai, Burj Khalifa in the back
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Al Ain
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Mommy and I walking in Abu Dhabi
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At the museum in Al Ain
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Desert Safari

As funny as it sounds, sometimes I forget I live in the desert. I am surrounded by concrete buildings and faux rivers. The reminder of my geographical location comes when I either drive to Dubai or other Emirates. Another reminder is a set of activities that is commonly called, “desert safari”. You know the pictures that everyone posts on Instagram of them riding camels in Dubai? Most likely, they were on a desert safari. These safaris are a must when traveling to the United Arab Emirates. I have had the pleasure of going on two desert safaris with two companies at different times of the day. Here I will compare the two experiences so if you come to the United Arab Emirates you can choose which experience you’d like to emulate.

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The first safari I went on was when my cousin visited. We purchased a Groupon and were told to meet outside of Madinet Zayed (a mall/flea market) in Abu Dhabi. We left from Abu Dhabi around 3 p.m. and drove two hours to a location in the desert via a 40 passenger bus. When we arrived at the location all of us were separated into smaller groups and went “dune bashing” as we drove to our base camp that was further in the desert. Dune bashing is when you get in a car with an experienced driver and they take you on a ride up the sand dunes in a desert. Once we arrived at the base camp we were told we have until sundown to complete all the activities we liked until the belly dance presentation and dinner. Our options included camel riding, henna, smoking shisha, ATV riding (at an additional cost), holding a falcon, sand surfing and of course just relaxing in the desert sun. There were many groups at the base camp so my cousin and I stood in long lines waiting to participate. After about an hour of walking around, dinner was served and the belly show presentation began.  This safari held about 250-300 people.

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The second time I went on a desert safari, I was accompanied by two friends. This safari was different because it focused on traditional Emirati culture so no alcohol or shisha was served. The same amenities were included as the first in addition to an ATV ride. I enjoyed this safari experience because it was quieter and we received specialized service. Instead of the mandatory dune bashing to get to the camp, our bus drove us straight to the site and everything was an option. Instead of dune bashing, I should have sat out, because our driver was a true professional. We slipped up and down the dunes in a rollercoaster-like fashion and I got sick. At one point we had the stop the car, I was willing to walk back because the ride was too much! But once back at the base our guides made sure I had a blanket and a place to lay down. I took a twenty-minute nap and after I recuperated I resumed the rest of the activities (camel riding, falcon show, etc.). My favorite was the ATV ride, I was filled with gratitude as I rode through the sand with my little helmet on. My friends had to convince me to do it because after dune bashing I was worn out.

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Due to few people at the camp (20), we were permitted to complete all activities and were not in a rush. The food, which the same as the first desert safari consisted of barbecued chicken, beef, and lamb and included hummus, fattoush, Arabic salad, biryani and an Emirati desert (I do not remember the name, but it tasted like vanilla pudding). All in all, I enjoyed both safaris and would recommend that if you pass through the UAE, you give this experience a try. It always amazes me how as human beings we have “advanced” but forget that there is so much natural beauty around us. Going on a desert safari allows you to experience the beauty of the desert mixed with a little comfort and a snapshot of Arab culture.

 

 

UAE Living, Uncategorized

Saffron Brunch- Dubai

 

At the end of January, I had the pleasure of hosting two of my dear friends from college. Preparing for their visit was exciting, my cousin had visited a couple of weeks prior, so I had an idea of the activities that may or may not be a hit for my friends but since they had a shorter visit I had to streamline everything. After speaking with some UAE veterans (anyone who has lived in this country longer than I), I decided to take my friends to Saffron Brunch in Dubai.

Most people who live in Abu Dhabi or Dubai have heard of Saffron, even if they haven’t been to visit. It’s known for its party-like atmosphere, endless food, and free-flowing drinks. I was waiting for the perfect occasion to visit so when I briefed my friends on the place and they agreed, I was excited. Saffron Brunch operates from noon until 5 p.m. The brunch is located on the Palm Jumeirah in Dubai. Since we were advised to stay the night because of the party-like atmosphere we found an Airbnb close to the Palm. On the morning of…we woke up, had breakfast and drove the hour and a half to Dubai. Since our Airbnb check-in wasn’t until 3p.m., we found a restaurant to change into our Saffron attire in (classy, right lol).

Approaching the location was like a dream come true! There was free valet (yaaaaaas, perks!), and our welcome drink consisted of some crisp, light, champagne. After taking our entry picture we entered the brunch and were amazed. There was a plethora of food (if you enjoy Asian cuisine) and tons of drinks. The service was also wonderful. After brunch, the Palm offers free shuttle rides and entry to the rooftop bar, N’Dulge that is connected to the hotel. So, if you aren’t quite ready to go home there is a option to stay and have some classy fun instead of going home in a slumber.

I attached some photos below of our time at Saffron and some tips for those of you who come to Dubai and want to visit. Enjoy!

  1. Come early.
  2. Dress up!
  3. Stay hydrated.
  4. Have fun!
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Rain, Rain, go away.

 

I never thought I would miss the rain. It’s been eight months since I have experienced water, dropping in liquid form from the clouds. As a kid I hated the rain, it always messed up my hairstyles, made my mom drive slower, and fogged up my glasses. But now I’m sitting back and appreciating water and what it does for the living things that inhabit the Earth. The first time I experienced rain after living in Abu Dhabi was when I took a trip to Zanzibar, Tanzania. I was sitting around drinking with an Englishmen, South African man and a woman from Switzerland. When it started raining they all moved from the balcony of the restaurant to the sheltered area, but I stuck my body out over the balcony (as furthest I could without dying, lol) to feel the water. It was invigorating, freeing and just…refreshing! The streets felt cleaner after it was over. I’m sure my traveling buddies thought I was crazy for screaming and laughing because it rained…but did I care…NOPE! Cause rain is truly a blessing, plus I never saw them again anyway.

In the UAE people pray for rain. Seriously, pray for it. After one year and a half of living in an urban desert, I get it. Rain just has a way of washing off your sins and making everything feel brand new afterward. It slows us down and makes us pay attention to what we are wearing and fast we are moving.

This summer in Cambodia I stopped by a restaurant to try one of the most famous local cuisines (I forgot the name but if I find a picture I will include it in this post). I decided to sit outside so I could watch the people and observe the comings and goings of the area. A little while after I got my food a woman came by with her baby who had to be about 6 months old, they had rags for clothes and no shoes. This woman took her child and sat on a cardboard box and begged everyone in the area for money. Cambodia is the poorest country I have ever been to with very tenacious people. Initially, I was happy to go there because the meals were so cheap, but it made me cringe as I was sitting in my touristy spot, eating my upscale ($7) meal and this woman needed money to feed her baby.

After I paid for my food, I gave her the change and all of the money out of my pocket. As I walked home, I noticed that the sky was dark, cold and gloomy, Suddenly, it began to rain. I began to cry. I cried harder than I had in months. It hit me that I was in Cambodia, I was eating some the best food for the lowest prices and I just felt so blessed to have that experience. At the same time, I was walking back to my hostel (I got turned around cause I was a little lost, this happens often) I was thinking of the woman and her baby, sitting outside. That day the rain hid my pain from the world. For the first time in my life (that I can remember) I just cried walking down the street and I don’t know why. I think the rain just…let it all flow. I thought about all the struggles I have endured in my life and all the sacrifices that were made by my family members and friends…shoot even my ancestors. So many people had done things to help me get to where I was, and I could be in a million other different scenarios, but I was backpacking in Southeast Asia. So, thank God for the rain.

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The Differences Between The USA and The UAE

Surprisingly, living abroad has become more normal to me than living in the United States. I have been in the Gulf Arab States for a year and a half. When I first moved to this country all the differences were a bit overwhelming. Over time I have learned to understand and eventually embrace them. Below I will briefly describe some of the main differences…

Clothing- The most obvious difference in comparison to the United States is the way people dress. There are people from countries in all regions of the world, but the traditional dress of Emiratis is the abaya worn by women and the Kandora worn by men. The abaya is typically black and accompanied by a headdress called a hijab. The Kandora is a white garment worn by Emirati men, it is usually worn with sandals and a headdress as well.

Languages- There are many languages spoken in Abu Dhabi. The main ones are Arabic, English, Hindi and Tagalog.

Food Options- Food in this country is reflective of the many cultures that inhabit it. Food options are plentiful. On any given day I can have Chinese food, Arabic food, American food, pizza, and anything else delivered to my doorstep. Literally, everyone delivers, even McDonald’s.

Work Week- In the USA the work week spans from Monday morning to Friday afternoon. Here the week begins Sunday morning and ends Thursday afternoon. At first, I thought it would be a huge shift, but I fell into this system easily.

Weather- I live in the desert. It is hot most of the time. The hottest month is August, temperatures reach about 96 degrees. In January, the coldest month temperatures average at 64 degrees.

 

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Thoughts 11/22/17

I felt myself changing a year ago. But I couldn’t quite describe the shift. Now that I have had time to analyze it…I understand. I’ve grown. Not because I live overseas, or because I’ve traveled to more countries, but because I’ve experienced more life. More laughter, more tears, more pain, more joy. Just more. I have had the support to take large leaps in life. Leaps that seem scary to me, sometimes I don’t realize I have jumped until I’m mid-air and I have no choice but to fall…so I soar. Slowly I drift through life…but I drift with purpose. It’s weird. I have a sense of calm because I know everything will be alright. I control everything…but I also control nothing. This is my journey.

 

11/22/2017

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Start Here…

This blog will consist of reflections byway of a 20-something American expat, living in The Arab States of the Persian Gulf. This is a personal blog which will consist of stories from the perspective of the author. This blog does not represent any professional organization. The author reserves the right to change opinions and views as he/she sees fit.

Thank you for reading.