Archive for February, 2013

Kuwaiting

February 10, 2013

Dear Family and Friends,

Hope you are well. Today was a great day, spent entirely inside one mall. They have a new mall here called the Avenues, or rather a very new major addition to a relatively new mall and I was there for 11 hours, working mostly, but eating and shopping too. I also got my nails done. I got orange, because there was no one to dissuade me from getting that! It’s more of a salmon than orange.

For breakfast I ate at the hotel because it is included… Woohoo! I had some eggs and saj bread, toasted and some veggies. Also I tried this thing called Ful, which is made of kidney beans, olive oil, tomatoes, some green chilies. It is this ancient traditional food here, and i loved it. I thought it almost tasted like mexican food because of the beans an chilies.

Love, Annie

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Hello from Kuwait!

February 9, 2013

Dear Family and Friends,

It was a long day today, but very productive. I got up early and headed to the airport. The plane from Abu Dhabi to Kuwait was easy. I sat next to a woman and her four year old daughter from Sydney, they have family and Kuwait and are going for a wedding. The mom Fatma was so nice and the daughter, Rihanna, was hilarious. I was jealous that she spoke both Arabic and English. We played and it was really fun.

I had a bit of trouble getting from the airport to the hotel. The airport itself was a breeze. If you are from a certain set of countries (USA included) you can buy a visa in a separate line and then not have to wait in the immigration line. There was no signage so it was a good thing I read up on the procedures before hand.

I waited at the taxi stand, but there were no taxis. Then a taxi came, and the driver did not speak english and had no idea where the hotel was. Even after I got some assistance from these French and American guys also waiting for a taxi, still no luck. This happened for a quite some time. Then there was a taxi driver who did speak english, but he had already taken another guy in his cab (im not sure how that other guy got in front as I had been waiting the longest…) He offered to take me too and I went for it. I think this was all to the annoyance of the other guy (a British guy) in front who couldn’t seem to understand that he was indeed going to get dropped off first and I just needed some help from the only cab driver who knew where I was going. Kind of crotchety.

The driver was so nice, and the hotel is also nice. I got to the hotel late morning, and worked all day.

Love, Annie

Adios Abu Dhabi

February 8, 2013

Dear Family and Friends,

Hope you are having a nice day. I’m pretty sad to leave Abu Dhabi tomorrow, its been Awesome. Today I went to the beach and swam in the Persian Gulf, which was pretty cool. I paid ten dirhams (under 3 dollars) to get from the public beach to the “Family Beach,” where no single men are allowed. It was a much larger area, and much less crowded than the free public beach. I ate a Saj (awesome, very thin bread) sandwich with haloumi cheese and cucumbers and herbs on the beach. It was from a stand on the beach.

Before the beach, I got the lady from guest services to put some sun cream on my back. 🙂

In the afternoon, I showered and then headed over for an earlyish dinner at an Emirati restaurant called Mezlai back at the Emirates Palace. I wanted to see it in the day time and got some nice pictures. At the restaurant, they gave me my own gazebo outside to eat in, and I had something called Hammour ‘Mafrook’ which is a creamy fish dip that you eat with fresh pita bread. Hammour is a kind of fish here It was delicious. I also had vegetables and some turkish coffee and dates. Yum.

Now I’m back at the hotel, packed and ready to head to Kuwait nice and early tomorrow. I think I’ve eaten outside more in Abu Dhabi than any other place yet (other than maybe Mauritius.)

Love,

Annie

Happy Thursday from Abu Dhabi

February 7, 2013

Dear Family and Friends,

Today was another lovely day in Abu Dhabi. I worked in the morning and had a meeting with this French woman who grew up in Madagascar! Wow. In the afternoon, I headed to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, a must visit for anyone going to Abu Dhabi. I think it was one of the most beautiful structures I’d ever been in! So white and clean, and with pools that reflected the buildings and the light. I spent a lot of time hanging around there, more time than I expected to, and took some awesome photos. Below is a photo I was able to upload this afternoon while I was working from a different hotel with faster internet. It was taken from inside the Emirates Palace, where I had dinner two nights ago. Some sweet buildings there!

After that, I went to the gym and then went out to dinner at a place called Lebanese Flower restaurant. You can probably guess what kind of food it was. Probably my best dinner yet. I sat outside and the staff was so nice, they could see I was cold so they brought me something heavier to wear. The food was Falafel and Fattoush, which were both delicious but the highlight for consumables was what they call the “Lebanese Flower Cocktail” it’s a juice drink (okay, basically a milk shake) with all different kinds of fresh fruits. There is Bananas, Avocado (avocado juice is extremely popular here), Strawberry, Apples, Mangoes and others, and its blended together with some ice cream and has Almonds and chunks of fruits in it too. It would make an Amazing breakfast.

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During dinner, these men sat down next to me, and one spoke English and started talking to me! He is Abdul from Beirut and we had the best time, so many laughs. He was hanging out with the owner of the restaurant, which was interesting. The former owner actually. I learned that he sold the three Lebanese Flower restaurants for millions of dollars but kept a bit of the company too. They shared their carrot sticks with lemon with me. Delicious.

Abdul told me some amazing and hilarious stories. He went to university in Wyoming in the 70s and lived in Colorado for a bit. He said that one summer, he worked at the Coors factory, the graveyard shift. He would work, and then go on the first tour with the factory tourists in the morning, drink free beer, and then pass out. He said that they gave him two cases of beer each week for about $1.5o, and he couldnt drink all of it so he saved it up and gave it away at college. This, and the fact that he was (is) an electrical engineer and could fix peoples cars and made speakers, made him a pretty popular guy!

He told me how not that long ago Abu Dhabi was a fishing and pearl diving village. People would come to the city on camels, and then buy big houses and cars, and keep their camel in the garage while the fancy car sat out in the sun. HA!! We talked about how so much has changed in not so much time. He told me also that in college, he and his friends would drink Greek cognac because that keeps you warm and then go tubing on the ski trails. I told him well some things don’t change much.

It was really a special night. Tomorrow, I’m planning to finish up some work and then head to the beach! I’ll be thinking about the snowstorm in Boston. Good luck!

Love, Annie

Abu Dhabi is Great!

February 6, 2013

Dear Family and Friends,

The past few days in Abu Dhabi have been great. It’s late so this might be quick. It’s just really beautiful here, and a lot more peaceful and sane than Dubai. Yesterday, I worked and had dinner at a fantastic Chinese restaurant in the Emirates Palace, an enormous palace. It was so good that I got a little sad to not share with anyone.

Today I worked and had dinner at the Automatic restaurant again, falafel and hummos. I’m doing great but do wish some pictures would load. The hot water in the hotel room is working, so that’s also great.

Love, Annie

Hello Abu Dhabi

February 4, 2013

Dear Family and Friends,

Today I woke up, packed up in Dubai and headed to Abu Dhabi by taxi. It was great to leave that hotel. The driver was from Pakistan and really cool. We talked about a lot of things on the hour long drive.

When we arrived, I was happy to see a great hotel and when I got to my room, it was also great probably four times the size of the other one. I unpacked and went out for lunch at a nearby restaurant and cafeteria. I’ll probably go there again soon. I had fattoush and falafel plate and a bottle of water and the whole thing was 22 dirhams which comes out to about six dollars.

Then I worked, then worked out at the hotel gym. There is a small but nice hotel gym. At the gym I got asked out by Khaled from Lebanon. He told me I looked like an expert at the gym and wants to take me for a real arabic dinner. I don’t know what he was thinking, I looked really gross at the gym and definitely smelled too because I was wearing the same clothes from the gym a few days ago. They will be washed tomorrow.

After the gym I was pretty annoyed that the water in my room did not get hot. It wasn’t freezing, but not hot at all, SO uncomfortable. I called to see if they would fix it and an engineer come up to the room and “fixed” it, and there was hot water, I felt it. I went to dinner at the top of the hotel where there is a rotating restaurant. It was pretty neat. After dinner I tried to take a hot shower and no hot water.

Hopefully this gets fixed tomorrow. Sorry there are still no pictures the internet is better here but the pictures are still not uploading. Also I can’t stream Downton Abbey because it seems to not be allowed in this region. I will end on a good note, this city seems awesome. Its much more peaceful than Dubai and has some more green stuff like trees around. There is a park near my hotel. Good night!

Love, Annie

DuBirthday and Bye Dubai!

February 3, 2013

Dear Family and Friends,

I am sorry for not publishing a post yesterday, please know that it is because I had a great birthday evening, much better than expected. Yesterday morning, I slept until 9am and then worked from my room for a few hours. After that, it was time to do something fun. All I wanted to do on my birthday was have a nice sweaty workout, and luckily I was able to do just that. I’ve joined a gym in Boston, and really crave working out now. It was a little more complicated because my hotel does not have a work out facility.

One thing that was crazy about yesterday was that it was raining all day! one of the taxi drivers told me that it only rains three or four days out of the year so it’s very special. In search of a workout, I headed over to the Westin resort because I really like Westin hotels and they smell fantastic. I also assumed they would have a nice gym because they usually do. I got a golf cart ride over to the health club (it’s a big resort). They are only supposed to do that for guests but I put on my best attitude and acted very important. I always thank my bubbie for teaching me that so thanks bubbie.

The gym was phenomenal. I asked to speak with the membership consultant and gave my business card and spoke to him for a while about the different membership options for expats who might like to join for a year or so. Thats my job anyway. The guy Theo was so nice and turns out he is from Stellenbosch right next to Cape Town! I was there one year ago if you remember from my blog. It’s one of my favorite places in the world. We discussed that for a bit and it turns out he grew up on a wine farm. Ahhhh. After that conversation, I asked to try it the gym to have a workout or could I possibly buy a day pass.

“Please show ms Benjamin to the locker room!” Yes. I got my own locker to lock, and got to work out in the beautiful gym. I stayed there for a few hours and one of the trainers even helped me to use one of the cool kinetics machine. Didn’t cost me a dime!! After the workout, I took a glorious shower in the locker room, and even better, i was the only one in there. I got to use the luxurious shampoo and stuff, and they even had facial toner and moisturizer.

After that, I got the golf cart to take me back to the main hotel because it as time for lunch. The driver and I chatted and I told him it was my birthday and he asked if I was 21 or 22. yay!! Because it was a special day, he took me all over the resort and out to the marina to see all the fancy yachts.

By that time it was time for lunch. I went to a Caucasian restaurant (that’s food from the Caucasus region.) All the chefs were from Azerbaijan which was pretty cool I thought and I had a nice salad with marinated tomatoes and dill in it and then a great pilaf with dried fruits and lamb. After lunch I walked around a little and headed back to the hotel.

Now it gets totally crazy. I had a reservation a the Burj al Arab hotel for drinks and dinner. Is supposed to be the most luxurious hotel in the world. Its that building that looks like s sailboat out on the water. it kind of looks like something from men in black to be honest. I also found it pretty cheesy, but a great experience. I explored the hotel a little and then went up to the sky view bar where they wished me a very happy birthday and gave my a card and a rose from my parents and siblings. Thank you mom, dad, Eddie, and Mel! They also have me a fantastic table looking out towards the Burj Kalifa. So special.

There were two men sitting next to me and they invited me to join them. They are George and Omar and are (seemingly pretty big deal) bankers and told me they were from Lebanon and Palestine, respectively. I tell people I’m from Canada and this was no exception. We hung out for a while and they took care of my cocktail and shared their champagne, which was really amazing. They ordered another bottle, and we shared that too. One thing that was weird was that they didn’t seem to care one bit about my job or what I did. It’s just that usually people are extremely interested in the job.

They invited me to dinner with them, they were going to Nobu for sushi and come celebrate my birthday with friends. I declined because I thought that was a little weird but then their friend Victoria joined us. Victoria is from france and super nice and beautiful and a big personality and immediately we got along great. She is also more like my age while the men were a little older and we immediately started to enjoy each others company. she works in the art world, helping people to improve their private art collections. That’s how she met these guys. Because they are art collectors, of course.

So, I decided to live a little and join them for sushi! We took a private car to the palm islands and sat down at Nobu. Immediately the men ordered everything. Including a fancy bottle of sake and a fancy bottle of white wine. Pretty crazy. We started to get our food, and if we seemed to like something, they would ask the waiter to bring one more of those! It was quite a feast. We ate and drank until one in the morning. I couldn’t believe how extravagant it was! But it was totally awesome.

It seemed that one of the men might have wanted to spend a little more time with me, but I was uncomfortable with that. I thanked him so much for an amazing bday celebration, and everyone was happy because we all had fun. I shared a taxi with Victoria back to my hotel and went to sleep very soon after and that’s why I didn’t write yesterday.

I woke up this morning in … Not the best shape. I had a meeting at 930, (Sunday is a work day here, like a Monday) so I downed a red bull and a banana and had a long and very successful meeting. After the meeting, I went back to my room and slept some more, and then finished up my work here.

Now, I’m sitting at the lounge at the 122nd floor of the Burj Khalifa. It’s the highest bar in the world! So cool. It’s dark now but I got to watch the sunset from this high up. Im going to drink an “orient express martini” and in a bit, I will head downstairs for some tasty indian food.

Dubai has been totally awesome and I look forward to heading to Abu Dhabi tomorrow.

Love, Annie

happy Friday from Dubai

February 1, 2013

Dear Family and Friends,

Hope you are doing well. Even though today was a weekend, I treated it like a normal work day. The places I needed to go were open. I spent the morning in a supermarket. Lunch was a really great fattoush and mixed grill (this is becoming kind of a lunch habit). I sat outside and it was so pleasant. The servers kept bringing over tea and juices for me to try. One of them tasted SO good. I asked what flavour it was, and he said it was “arabic flavour” which was not that informative an answer.

I think there was rose in it because it tasted a little bit like the lemonade we like to get at Baraka Cafe on Pearl Street in Cambridge. It is a north African restaurant and they are known for their rose lemonade. You should go there if you have not been. This juice was a little thicker. Delicious.

After lunch I worked more, and at about 4 30 I headed to the Gold Souk. It was not as cool as I thought it would be, in part because everything was expensive. This was not like the pearl market in Manila where I could afford the things there. I did see some very impressive necklaces though that looked like they should be in a museum because they were worn in ancient times. Next to the Gold Souk, there is supposed to be a spice souk but I was told it was not open. There was also a textile market that I walked through. All through the market men were asking if I wanted copy bags and watches. Nope.

After the souk, I headed to the Marina area where I sat by the waterfront and smoked sheesha and drank tea at a cafe outside and got to do lots of good people watching. Seems like thats the thing to do on friday afternoons. For dinner I went to the restaurant on the 52nd floor of the Marina Marriott. Great views, OK food. I think it’s a better bar than it is a restaurant.

Love, Annie