Prose by Photograpy: Memories from the Land with an Orange Sun

When I think of Orange, I think of Dubai. It might seem like a funny association, but in March, everything in Dubai is permanently painted in an orangey golden glow from the arabic sun- casting sharp shadows and reflecting off surfaces and into my lens, easily convincing anyone looking through my reel of photos that I’d photographed with a warming filter.

This was the first trip I’d taken with two of my closest friends, and orange reminds me of that as well. It’s a warm, happy colour – a colour which conveys smiles and friendship. We’d explored the souks (marketplaces)- drifting from one into another, into another, getting lost in the alleyways lined with handcrafted arabic slippers decorated with colourful threads one moment, and the next- being draped in shawls and pashimas by shopkeepers trying to make a sale. We laughed, asked questions, observed and took photographs.

City of Gold spice souk dubai bazaar marketplace travel diary blogThen there was the desert- a picturesque memory of undulating fine sand, drenched in orange as the sun began its descent, stretching like waves as far as the eye could see. Stepping out of the jeep, I was taken aback by how strong the winds were and the grains of sand rising up and about in the air, sometimes getting to the eyes or the camera lens, but I soon was so taken in by the beauty of the desert that I forgot all that.

Now, I only recall the dunes, like a smooth silk, rising, falling, rising, falling, and the feel of how my feet sank into the sand slowly and softly with each step, and looking on at the animals which have known the desert for years- and they, as if knowingly safeguarding the desert’s secrets, looked back from behind a soft woven veil.

My other stories from Dubai can also be found here.

Dubai Desert Sand Dunes Dune Bashing Camel Tour

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Orange you glad it’s photo challenge time?.”

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Prose by Photography: The Key to the Golden Gate

I stood at the entrance, staring up the structure towering over me, floral motifs written into its white face. It beamed down at me; a mere smallish figure, wearing the hood of a borrowed black abaya, dwarfed in comparison.

From here, I could not yet see clearly what lay beyond, for the view was obstructed by a second archway; a seeming reflection of the first. The gate in itself was huge, but the line of sight- narrow.

And- as if reading my mind, it said I can show you a glimpse, but you would need to journey farther to see it. And before my eyes unveiled dome on dome, in perfect symmetry- echoes of balance and harmony.

With a gentle crinkle of a smile, it gave a gentle nod- and whispered, Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth onto life, and few there be that find it.

March 2014, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi, UAE

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Symmetry.”

Prose by Photography: The Falcon sees

An unshaven Arab man approached us at the gate of the campsite after the end of our Dubai dessert tour. He was thin, had a red checkered head wrap, a thin moustache and one lazy eye. He smiled gently at us, his dark skinned wrinkling from too much time in the sun, stretched out his arm which wore an arm guard on which a falcon stood, and asked if we wanted to take a photograph with it.

The falcon is a majestic bird, and even more so, up close. I observed her as she fixed her gaze on the horizon where the sun was about to set, and I wondered what she could be thinking – did she want to soar again into the sky as she once used to? Did she resent the little chain around one of her feet which kept her from flying? Did she resent the man who had taken her freedom and yet sustained her? Or could she understand that now, as much as she relies on him, he relies on her too?

I noticed the large chip in the front of her beak and wondered how long ago that happened- and if the wound reminded her of things she wanted to forget- just like how our scars, visible or otherwise, sometimes inevitably remind us of a time of pain and suffering, no matter if we thought we’d moved on.

Yet she remained poised, her plume of chest feathers raised high, her gaze still fixed unwaveringly on the horizon, her brown eyes ignited into a shade of amber by the last light – She was chained yet undefeated, wounded yet not discouraged. And I wondered if a day might come that she might find freedom again.

March 2014, Desert, Dubai, UAE

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Depth.”

The Lime Tree Cafe, Dubai, UAE

SCRIBBLES

Category: Arabic/Western – Breakfast/Brunch

Jumeirah 1, Jumeirah Road, Dubai 

We had our best brunch in Dubai at The Lime Tree Cafe which I’d read about ahead of the trip. We got a little lost trying to find this place and the taxi driver had no idea where it was. Turns out it was along a row of little single-story buildings which can be spotted if you looked hard enough past the open carpark.

The entrance to Lime Tree Cafe was enshrouded in lush green leaves, and stepping in, I felt like I’d chanced upon Eden. Wood featured heavily in the decor which gives it a homey feel (which I personally have a soft spot for), further augmented by the many families who bring along their dogs to brunch in the little garden. The cafe seemed to be especially popular with expats.

Damage: $

I wouldn’t say it was cheap, but it is around the same cost as a typical brunch at one of the independent cafes in Singapore, which is about 25 bucks – still, I’d say there was more bang for the buck at Lime Tree.

To go: Whenever we go to Dubai 😀

I really liked the middle eastern influences in the menu, and when I walked to the counter, I was delighted to find an entire shelf of all kinds of wraps, sandwiches and the like, which featured lots of colour and greens.

I had the Halloumi cheese and pomodoro toastie (feature picture), accompanied by a middle eastern banana and fig smoothie which was so delicious, I made sure I got out every single drop. My friend ordered an Eggs Benedict which looked pretty good (and I’m told tastes pretty good) as well. The food was delicious – we got greedy and added a triple berry parfait to split between the three of us. The cafe also featured lots of juices and smoothies for the health-buffs/conscious.

Yum – I’m definitely going back if I’m in the area.
Eggs Benedict and Berry Parfait with Granola

Mashrabiya Lounge, Fairmont the Palm, Dubai, UAE

SCRIBBLES

Category: Arabic/Western – Afternoon Tea

Mashrabiya Lounge, Fairmont the Palm, Palm Jumeirah, Dubai

The Afternoon Tea at Mashrabiya Lounge was nothing short of amazing – they offered both a Western style Afternoon tea as well as a more traditional Arabic Inspired High tea for the more adventurous, which was really unique. The Fairmont hostesses were exceptional in making us feel relaxed, making sure everything was just right for a perfect Saturday afternoon.

Damage: $$

For the extensive range of cakes, tarts, scones and tea offered, and not to mention the wonderful staff and amazing view of the gulf, I would say it was well worth 135AED.

To go: Whenever we go to Dubai 😀

We sat Al fresco and the view of the gulf from the Mashrabiya Lounge was just fab. We went at a time of the year when it was relatively comfortable in the shade (none of that 40 degrees in other months like August), so we enjoyed the sun and breeze whilst sipping our tea. Our hostesses Lea and Eunny took such great care of us – their warmness really made the experience even more special. At the end of tea, we all became friends, offering to show each other around should they ever visit our hometown of Singapore, and them, us, around Kenya.

Arabic High Tea

Arabic High Tea

A lot of tea for us three!

Travel Diary: Shiekh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi, UAE (Gallery)

After a long afternoon’s journey, there it stood. The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque: A white magnificence rising out of the ground in the glowing trail of the setting sun. We got lost a few times trying to find our way from Dubai, but when we saw its minarets standing tall against the blue sky, our long walk was made well worth it.

The curves of the domes, intricacy of the workmanship, the grain of the marble and mother of pearl carefully inlaid into the columns, and the endless carpet in the main prayer hall – Truly, a sight to behold and a must-see even for the ones wary of all things touristy.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi

Travel Diary: Dubai, UAE

I made a short trip to Dubai, March 2014, with two of my closest friends. It was the first of a few things: my first visit to Dubai, my first trip into the UAE, and the first time the three of us were going travelling together.

Dubai is known for many things; from opulence (think Burj Khalifa and the massive Dubai Mall), to the beauty of the Palm Islands. Being in Dubai, you could feel the city’s pulse – skyscrapers towering on either side, a bustling CBD, and on the other hand, there is a rich culture, amazing architecture, people who have come from all over the world to both work and play, as well as delicious local cuisine.

We made a visit to the Souks which are located near the mouth of the Dubai Creek. These marketplaces are just seated right next to each other, so it’s easy to walk from one to another without actually knowing exactly where one ends and the other begins. We found ourselves walking past shopfronts laden with gold jewellery (including a gigantic gold ring possibly 20cm across, which was apparently featured in the Guinness Book of World Records), looking at handcrafted sandals in a little lane slightly off the main street the next, and then strolling along an entire street of spice shops selling sacks of spices of every variety, finding ourselves being draped over with scarves by shopkeepers trying to sell their wares every few steps or so. I stopped by a spice shop a while, and the shopkeeper was friendly enough to entertain my questions about the wide variety of spices, including Myrrh which is common to the Arabic region but a rarer sight everywhere else.

Dubai's Spice Souk

The Dubai Creek is lined with little boats that sail across for just 1 Dirham, and it was such an authentic experience riding amongst the locals, I’ll be sure to do it again when I next get the chance. The boatmen would wave people on as they readied to sail across, and everyone would just head down from the docks, hand them a Dirham when boarding and find a comfortable spot before the boat filled up. We took a quick polaroid and my friend penned in a note to capture the moment.

One dirham boat ride across Dubai Creek

We also spent half a day out in the dunes – pretty touristy stuff, but we enjoyed ourselves plenty. Dune bashing was awesome fun, and we were squealing in the backseat as the driver took us up the dunes and crashing down on the other side again and again, making sharp bends as we went over the top of the golden waves which stretched out as far as the eye could see. We spent the evening dining under the stars in the dessert, watching traditional performances and checking out the different activities from henna to traditional apparel.

Dubai Dune Bashing

Camel Gear