Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Life Lately: Ramadan went quick

Ramadan flew by in the blink of an eye; a month has passed, Eid celebrations have begun and we can drink water in public and go out for lunch again. In retrospect, the whole Ramadan situation has been easier to navigate than I originally thought it would be. You make little changes to suit the situation like not walking to the metro station midday, only going to the mall for a few hours and swimming in the evening.

We never got around to experiencing a traditional Iftar; the cities restaurants and hotels offer a million different options and as newbies in Dubai I guess we were rather overwhelmed by it all. Maybe this time next year we will get our act together and immerse ourselves in more of the cultural aspects of Ramadan. 

We feel settled in Dubai already; getting to know the city, finding our way around and adapting to the new weekend schedule with ease.  So we have decided to start a Dubai bucket list, with all the things we want to do and see and places we want to visit and more importantly, stuff we want to eat. The Fish and Fruit Market in Deira was one thing on the list that we ticked off this weekend. A huge outdoor, covered market in the older part of the city, on the water, the Fish and Fruit Market is a feast for your senses. It is loud and chaotic and crammed with fresh fish straight from the boat and a whole host of fruits and veggies, creating a rather colourful and ambient experience, but more about that later. 

This week we also ventured out onto the water, courtesy of a friend who scooped us up onto a boat and gave us a tour of Dubai Marina from the water. We have walked the 8km's or so along the Marina Promenade, taking in the skyline and the boats, but seeing this little metropolis from the water is a whole other experience. And we got a rather nice view of the Burj Al Arab. 

Eid started yesterday which made for a nice long weekend with an extra two days off, but reality returned today and normal operations resume as I head back to work. Life lately hasn't been too shabby. 

Monday, 28 July 2014

Organising: Moving to Dubai with Expatsblog.com

I think by now, most of my friends know how organised I am; whether it is my desk at work, my wardrobe or my diary, I am the sort of personality that needs at least a rough plan and a checklist. 

You would be forgiven for thinking then, that I would take an international move in my stride. Sure with Cyprus I did; moving from an EU to country to another EU country is relatively easy. Moving from an EU to country to a Middle East one is a little more tricky. The checklist got longer and longer the more research we did and my "moving to Dubai" notebook (yes, I am one of those that buys new stationary at the drop of a hat) became jam packed quite quickly, with scribbles and lists and notes. 

If I can give anyone moving to Dubai, just one piece of advice, it is organise yourself pretty early on and you're move will go a lot smoother. But more on that can be found over here, in my number-I-can't-remember article for Expatsblog.com. 

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Friday, 25 July 2014

Beauty: Garnier Oil Beauty Collection

I fell in love with the Garnier Oil Beauty collection at first smell. It's rich nutty scent, a mix of macadamia and almond oil, is softened somewhat by a touch of rose oil, which combined, exudes luxury and turns my little bathroom into an at-home spa for a few minutes every day. 

Gifted to me by a wonderful friend who raided her beauty cupboard at work, the nourishing lotion and nourishing scrub are perfect partners in crime. My skin has been battered over the last few months what with some severe climate changes, a lot of sun and a bit of stress and these two have worked wonders are reviving my moisture levels. 

The Oil-Infused nourishing scrub has a great texture; it has the perfect balance of scrubbing particles and thick creamy wash which means my skin feels like new without being irritated. I think the oil really adds that much needed moisture that other scrubs sometimes miss.

The nourishing lotion is thick and creamy and glides onto your skin effortlessly. The best bit is it soaks in rather fast and doesn't leave a heavy residue on your skin like other rich lotions do, and because of the creamy consistency, a little goes a long way. I also love that handy pump action bottle which makes application a breeze. 

I have never really been a fan of Garnier body moisturisers; I often found their consistency to be gelish and a little sticky and the smells were never that appealing to me. But this collection has won a place on my bathroom shelf. If your looking for a rich, intense moisturising lotion this is definitely worth a try. 

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

A Dogs Life: Moving to Dubai with Expatsblog.com

I always wonder what goes on inside that little head. I wonder what she is thinking, how she is feeling, what she wants to say to us when she lets out those little mumbling barks. 

Truth be told I was a little worried about relocating her to Dubai. Not because of the heat; I mean she has only ever lived in Cyprus which has a pretty similar climate to Dubai and while the heat is a struggle in a fur coat, she copes remarkably well. 

No I was worried about the actual moving process, transporting her from one country to another and being separated from her. We were each others rock for the past year and I didn't spend more than a day without her, so handing her over to a stranger at the relocation company, and trying to coax her into her travel box was rather stressful. Especially when she let out a little whimper as the car door shut. 

Relocating a dog to Dubai is a complicated process with vaccinations, paperwork and regulations to navigate, but it is possible. And worthwhile. The pooch is now living a wonderful life in the sunshine; she walks every morning and evening, she has air conditioning on tap and she has made doggie friends. They all run around together off leash, like a little furry crew. 

A dogs life in Dubai ain't bad at all. 

If you want to read about the practicalities of moving a dog to Dubai and all the things (and the list is long) that you need to think about, the next article in my "Moving to Dubai" series, Bringing your Dog to Dubai, is now live. 

Catch up with the rest of the posts in this series, here, here, here and here.

Monday, 21 July 2014

The Souk at Dubai Mall

The Souk in Dubai Mall is a little paradise of intricate architecture and independent retailers within the conformity and air conditioning of Dubai Mall. The Souk is crammed to the rafters with gorgeous jewellery stores and no joke, the windows glisten and twinkle from every angle. But that is not why I love The Souk.

For me the decor and architecture is reflective of the culture and offers a more authentic feeling as you wander the little avenues. The arches throughout make for an intimate setting compared to the vast bright expanse of the rest of the mall. And the ceilings, well it is a good job we explored one morning midweek, because my head was fixed upwards and I definitely was not looking where I was walking. The bold wood carving that clads the ceiling makes beautiful patterns and the intricately decorated light fittings in cream, gold and blue have a very "Arabic" feel. 

The Souk is definitely worth a visit, whether you're in the market for jewels or not. 

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Life Lately: cloudy mornings and a dog ban

This past week has seen the humidity race up and every time I leave the confines of an air conditioned building, my glasses cloud over, my phone screen steams up and slowly but surely, a warm layer of sweat appears on my skin. It sound's lovely right. 

The mornings, and when I say mornings i'm referring to 6am, are equally humid and dare I say it cloudy. Or is it fog. Or maybe haze. What's the difference I don't know, but the point is the mornings have an eery, haunted city feel to them as I walk the pooch on the empty streets. And then bam. Suddenly the skies clear and the sun returns, waking from its slumber. 

My morning then proceeds in a frantic haze of showering, breakfast and too many minutes spent in front of the wardrobe trying to decide what to wear to work. I have forgotten how indecisive I am in the morning and must start picking outfits the night before. Well it didn't matter if I wore my grey cotton maxi dress everyday when I was unemployed did it. 

My first week at work, aside from the wardrobe dilemmas, was wonderful. It carried the smell of fresh basil, it made me feel worthwhile and it gave a purpose to my days. To actually begin to develop a life/work routine again is making me one happy expat. 

And the other big news this week is the signs that sprung up, out of nowhere, along the Dubai Marina Walk, declaring dogs were no longer welcome. I thought something fishy was going on when the dog poop bins mysteriously disappeared a few days earlier and in my naivety, I thought maybe they were replacing them. 

Nope. Dogs are no longer allowed along the promenade which runs the length of the Marina, which is a shame because we moved to this apartment because of the areas "dog-friendly" reputation.  But I also understand why it has happened; some very irresponsible dog owners who don't clean up after their pooches have ruined it for the rest of us. Oh well, we will roll with the times and find an alternative. At least we live at the end of the marina where there's plenty of open, unused land to walk her. 

No more morning snaps of the marina in its sleepy state. You were probably getting bored of those anyway. 

sunday sound #29

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Food: upping the fish quota with a seabass

I'm foodie; I like snacks, I like vegetables, I like plates filled to the brim with delicious fresh salads and fish or grilled chicken and I like malteasers ice creams. I will eat pretty much anything except livers and eyeballs. Food brings me pleasure and I like cooking; the process of preparing an amazing meal is all part of the fun for me.

And one of the best bits of expat life is the food. Exploring a different country through its cuisine is one of the best ways to get to know a place. I probably get more excited than I should admit, when walking the aisles of the supermarket, as my eyes feast on a whole world of new products that my belly urges me to throw into shopping basket. 

While I haven't had a taste of traditional Emirati cuisine yet, I am certainly making the most of the abundance of fresh fish here in Dubai. In England, the fish quota within my diet extended to salmon and tinned tuna; I have a thing about buying fresh fish in London because I am never sure if it is just that, fresh. And I don't want to disappoint my taste-buds in a mediocre fish experience. No fear of that here though. The supermarket fish counter is packed with everything from whole fish and fillets to seafood and you only have to look at it to know it was swimming around not too long ago. 

As such, seabass has become a regular feature in our diet because it's cheap, easy to cook, versatile and really delicious! And it has loads of health benefits to boot; oodles of omega-3 essential fatty acids, a whole range of vitamins and minerals and can help improve brain function, reduce the accumulation of body fat and it is a natural anti-depressant (apparently)

The fish counter can do the messy bit and clean it out and de-scale it etc. and then all you need is some olive oil, fresh lemon, salt and garlic. Pop it in the oven for about 25 minutes and what emerges is soft, delicately flavoured fish which melts in your mouth. Pair it with a fried potatoes (because fish and chips are an English girls perfect combination) a home made tatziki and a simple salad and you have a delicious dinner in no time. I will be honest, my better half is the fish king in our house and I do the rest. I do knock up a pretty decent tatziki after my years of training in Cyprus!

Remember I was saying it is versatile? Seabass can be paired with a whole host of flavours to suit your palate; this recipe and this one are next on my radar. 

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

The quiet moments: Moving to Dubai with Expatsblog.com

I am a morning person. 

Since being unemployed and in London for two months, I slipped out of any sort of routine and the whole time I felt a little unhinged. I need some structure to my days to make me flourish and a morning routine is vital for me. 

So upon moving to Dubai I reinstated some routine and the dog has a lot to do with that. Because when you have a dog, some spontaneity is removed from life because there is a living thing, depending on your for survival. Almost like a baby but with more fur. Anyway, my mornings in London were consumed by lie ins, now my mornings are consumed by walkies. 

And it's those calm, 25 minutes, pre-7am, when it feels like no one else is awake, that makes my morning, sets me up for the day and awakens my brain. The quiet moments, where I don't have to talk to anyone and no one is talking to me and the waters of Dubai Marina seem like glass, so calm and flat are bliss. 

The sun has not begun to bake the earth yet and despite the humidity, there is something quite refreshing about an early morning walk. It is like my preparation for the day ahead. 

My preparations for moving to Dubai were not as easy as a calm morning dog walk along the marina, especially when it comes to navigating document requirements, but more about that here

Monday, 14 July 2014

Beauty: NYX Bronzer in Medium

I am a girl who loves a bronzer. A blush is fine, but those pinky shades don't do much for my complexion and I struggle to find an affordable, shimmer free, peach blush. If it is one thing I hate in my make up bag, it is a shimmer blush or bronzer. Shimmer was reserved for my teens when sparkles in eyeliner and nail varnish were used in abundance.

Now I am all grown up and less experimental with my make up (code for safe), a sparkle free bronzer is what does it for me. And even they are hard to come by. My holy grail of bronzing is Benefit Hoola box; the mere thought of that little maroon box, with it's soft bristled, turquoise handled brush warms my face. When the bank balance didn't stretch to Benefit I found Rimmel Sunshimmer Bronzing Compact in Medium Matte worked a treat. 

Now there is a newbie in my make up bag; gifted to me by a lovely friend who raided her beauty cupboard at work, the NYX Bronzer in Medium is my new best friend. It's deep tones mean a liberal swish gives the perfect golden glow. And it's strong pigment means a little goes a long way. 

Plus it is a matte bronzer, with zero shimmer and as we discovered shimmer is my enemy. It's £8 price tag puts it in the middle of Rimmel Sunshimmer and the Benefit Hoola and is definitely worth the modest cost. An item I will certainly be purchasing once mine has run out, if I could only find a stockist in Dubai!

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Sunday is officially the new Monday

Up until now I have spent my days of unemployment looking for work, exploring and enjoying the pool terrace whilst reading educational material like Women's Health and Time Out Dubai. 

Most days have felt like the weekend and my weeks have blended into one. It is surprising, when I think about it, that I have only been here for just under a month. It feels like I have well and truly got my feet under the carpet of Dubai and I have so easily settled into this sweaty city and adapted to its heat and its way of life. 

And part of that is mixing up the weekend a little. Although the Thursday feeling doesn't quite have the same ring to it as Friday feeling but oh well. With Sunday comes the first working day of the week and today, came my first working day ever, in Dubai. Surprisingly I bounced out of bed with as much enthusiasm as the dog has when she knows it is time for morning walkies. 

Did it feel weird going to work on a Sunday? No not really. It felt natural, like any other day. In fact, so quickly have I adapted that I didn't even think about everyone else not working today, until I looked on Instagram and saw sunny Sunday walks and pub lunches. 

Sunday is definitely the new Monday. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go get ready for my version of Tuesday. 

sunday sound #28

Friday, 11 July 2014

Life Lately: finding my feet and a happy dog

Last time I talked about a job interview, now I can talk about a job. Because after three weeks of slogging over my computer and sending out cover letter after cover letter, a couple of interesting opportunities and one interview later, I am no officially employed. 

The relief and excitement are mixed within my stomach and I think there are a few nerves thrown into the equation. Nerves because I have been in a new city for little under a month, have not worked in nearly three and feel like I may or may not have forgotten what a normal working week routine is like. 

Finding a job in Dubai has been quite an easy process when I come to think about it and I thank my lucky stars that such a fitting opportunity came up when it did. Luck seems to be on my side at the moment and I am sure embarking on a new working experience is going to help me feel way more settled. It is easy to forget, after days of lounging round the pool and a spot of sightseeing that I am not actually on holiday. I don't have to go home. Because this is home now. 

It all feels a little bit dreamlike and my instagram feed portrays an amazing life. But I am not taking anything for granted; I know how lucky I am to be here. I am sure I will come back down to earth with a bang, come Sunday morning when the alarm goes off at 6am, but even then, I am grateful for this city and the opportunities it keeps throwing my way. 

I spent my last free week, swimming and soaking up a little more sun and wandering round some malls, taking in their beauty. Yeh I say beauty because the malls here are quite stunning with their quirky details and culturally reflective decorations. I barely did any shopping, instead, walking around with my eyes fixed up above (because the ceilings in these places are usually insane). If you are in Dubai and haven't been to Ibn Battuta Mall, it is worth it for the stunning decor, with each section of the mall being modelled on a different theme. And check out the Souk Atrium in Dubai Mall, it is a beauty. 

Obviously while I was at the mall I had to pick up a little congratulations-I-got-a-job blouse from H&M for my first day at work. It would have been rude not to. 

We also managed to explore the rest of Dubai Marina this week, which is about an 8km walk from our apartment to the other end. We are at the quieter end of Dubai Marina and I was intrigued to see what the "more developed" end looked like. Well there are a lot more buildings, more of a buzz and some nice restaurants and bars. But I wouldn't want to live there; tall building after tall building is crammed in and it feels like a small, sweaty version of London. Plus I much prefer the peace and quiet at our end. The 8km walk back was certainly made a little easier after topping up our stomachs at Johnny Rockets, an American style diner.

And yes that is the pooch on the beach. Yeh you thought Dubai wasn't dog friendly right? Well it is amazing what a little courteous chit chat can achieve. Being nice to people gets you far and the security guard who mans the power station entry road near our house, was very obliging when we asked, super nicely, if we could take the dog down to the little bit of private beach that is adjacent to the powerstation office building. 

The excitement on her face, to be off leash, running around with sand beneath her paws was priceless. She's still a scaredy cat when it comes to waves though.