Friday, 29 December 2017

Dubai: A (Christmas Day) Sunset Desert Horse Ride

dubai desert horse ride

Riding through the Dubai desert at sunset has to be one of my most surreal and magical experience since I moved to Dubai. Oh, and this just happened to be on December 25 so it made for a rather good answer to the "what did you do for Christmas?" question...

The AlAli Stable is just a twenty minute drive from Downtown Dubai but twenty minutes is enough to already feel like you've left the city behind. The stables are quiet and peaceful; they smell like the countryside, the ground is muddy - such novelty for this City Girl.

The sunrise and sunset rides are run every day - no previous horse-riding experience is needed and the rides cater to all levels. I used to horse ride at university but that was years ago and I've developed a lot more fear than I had in my early twenties. I'm not sure if watching YouTube videos on "how to ride a horse" made me more or less apprehensive as to whether this would turn out to be a good Christmas story or not...

Once I was seated on "Chips" I felt less apprehensive. Maybe this horse riding lark is like riding a bike after all (although I can't remember the last time I did that, either). The stables loan out riding hats and the dress code specifically mentioned "yoga pants" so I dressed as if off to a yoga class and thanked my past self for buying a pair of Vans in the sale thinking they would be "useful" one day.

Setting out into the dessert, our guide, Mudasser (red cap, Puma t-shirt), expertly kept our horses in line while providing instruction on technique, taking photos and casually smoking a cigarette on horseback. I felt proud of myself for just managing to take a couple of shaky one-handed photos without falling off or losing my phone to the desert sands...

As the sun dipped below the horizon, I remembered why I liked riding at university - it is almost impossible to think of anything else in the world while fully concentrating on just not falling off. There's something about being on horseback that makes you feel really cool and capable, even if my horse didn't really listen to my commands and didn't really seem too keen on running (/trotting).

Maybe it was because it was Christmas Day, or that I hadn't fallen off, or that I'd just spent ninety minutes feeling as far away from my worries as I could possibly hope for, but the sunset on the way back to the stables might just have been the most beautiful sight I've ever seen. My phone stayed safely in the waistband of my leggings because some moments don't need to be captured anywhere other than in memory.

Back at the stables, we thanked our horses with carrots and apples (the apples more gratefully received) and sat down to tea and dates. On the drive home, when the city lights came back into view it all felt like a dream but thankfully my trainers are still caked in mud and goodness knows what else so I know that it wasn't - Christmas Day really was spent riding horses through the desert in my adopted city.

  • The Dubai Desert Horse Ride Experience are here.
  • The sunset and sunrise desert rides are AED150 (approx. £30) per person for 90 minutes of riding.


Friday, 22 December 2017

2 0 1 7

#DubaiLife, finding a key to brunch, avocado on toast and American Psycho, Dubai Marina, a very cold Canary Wharf, Brighton, Obama on my coffee,  a beach day (I've literally been to the beach four times this isn't representative at all...), my beloved Barbican. 
I'm typing this on my phone. Having found one of those moments between other moments - the last month has been ridiculously busy and, despite it being 25 degrees in Dubai and it feeling entirely un-December-like, the feeling that another year will soon be over is creeping up on me, adding more things to my ever-increasing to-do list. I'm finally ticking off "2017 blog post".

This blog has been quite of late, but life offline has been loud and busy and full. Time is skipping by - a whole year since I wrote my 2016 post (20152014 and 2013 here - wowee), an entire ten months since I moved to Dubai, five months since I nervously met a boy in a bar on a Saturday night, three months since I turned thirty.

I'm living in a new city, a new country, coming home to a different apartment, still feeling "new" but also asking a friend how the weather is in "London" rather than at "home" and not knowing how I feel about that. My old life sometimes feels small and far away, like I am listening to someone else regaling their twenties while nodding along. My current life is different, in some small ways and some huge ways - like wearing new shoes which haven't quite found the grooves of my own feet, that make me take smaller, slower steps until they have. And they will.

Things that I always thought would be hard have proved to be the easiest, things I thought would come easily have been hard - I don't entirely mind being proved wrong. I think the current "me" is one of the better versions but I know I can do better still, that I've made things happen and can make bigger, better things happen - that good things are coming, that I'm not undeserving of them.

The highlights (not according to Instagram's "best nine") - shivering on the rooftop of the Queen of Hoxton in February saying a "see you soon" to my favourite city, the serene quiet of Ranthanbore National Park at 7am, my parents sprinting through Dehli airport to see me onto my flight, every birthday wish and gift from afar, snorkelling in the sea after a not small amount of encouragement, seeing Conor Oberst perform for the 8th time, finally being a bridesmaid aged 29, getting an impulsive (tiny) tattoo, one 5am bedtime and too many G&Ts to count (not that one ever should).

Thanks for the memories, 2017.


Friday, 15 December 2017

Food: Cabin Dubai

cabin dubai

A relatively new opening and a new discovery for me - Cabin Dubai might just be one of the nicest spots I've whiled away a Friday afternoon in lately. 

Outdoor seating and sunshine aside, the relaxed atmosphere and decor here felt far more like an old favourite east London haunt than Dubai's usual offerings. The restaurant scene here means that despite (or maybe because of) being spoilt for choice, it's hard to find spots that feel like the sort of neighbour hang-outs that other cities take for granted.

cabin dubai

We were shown around the interior of Cabin after arriving  - the walls are decorated with art works and there's a mini store selling art supplies, candles and jewellery. My attention was somewhat distracted by the coffee table tome in the lunch date thankfully has better conversation skills than me or just didn't spot it... We grabbed an outside table because it's winter and being outside is finally pleasant again. 

cabin dubai

After a quick browse of the menu (which changes seasonally) I obviously had to have the avocado on toast. It came beautifully presented - the portion was not the largest but it was just right for a late-ish lunch in the sunshine. 

The location is a little out of the way, in Al Barsha South behind Maisan Towers. The apartments are home to the Emirates Cabin Crew (belated wondering from me if this inspired the name of the restaurant) who I think comprised our fellow-diners and the drive out made it feel like a getaway from the city, more than making up for our longer than usual journey for food. Cabin is open from 7.30am - 7.30pm so is catered towards the breakfast / brunch / lunch crowd. For avocado fans, the breakfast menu is served all day. 

cabin dubai

Cabin Dubai, Al Barsha South

Cabin Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, 1 December 2017

Life: November Round-Up

I spent the middle part of November in India so my round-up this month can't really be about anything else.

1 - Humayun's Tomb, New Dehli; 2 - Jama Masjid Mosque, New Dehli; 3 - India Gate, New Dehli; 4 - Tomb of I'timad-ud-Daulah, Agra; 5 - Fatepur Sikri Fort; 6 - City Palace, Jaipur;  7 - City Palace, Jaipur; 8 - Taj Mahal, Agra; 9 - City Palace, Jaipur
India isn't the easiest of holiday destinations - beyond visa applications and trying to figure out how to fit a huge and varied country into ten days of annual leave, it's one which can make you feel every emotion in the same day. Extremes of poverty and wealth, centuries worth of history and the more recent scourge of plastic co-exist, sometimes uneasily and sometimes wonderfully incongruously. A five minute journey can take in more sights and sounds and smells than I witness in an entire day in my current home city.

The streets are packed, there is no concept of personal space and everyone (and everything - water buffalo, cows, goats, skinny stray dogs) is on the move, at any hour of the day or night - often all at once in six different directions. There's little regard for the highway code and a scooter, a tuk-tuk and a (for now) unscratched new car have the same status. Everything is moving, literally and figuratively in a country of 1.2 billion people.

We did the Golden Triangle (New Dehli, Agra and Jaipur) with a few relaxing days in Ranthambore National Park before flying up to Amritsar. I saw the Taj Mahal at sunrise, heard the almost silence of a national park as the day unfolded and intrepidly tasted (for this rather unadventurous eater) the most colourful and spiciest vegetarian food.

But, sights and sounds and tastes aside, the overriding memory of this country is of the people: our brilliant guide who made us learn and laugh in equal measure; the matriarch of a colonial-era bungalow in Agra who served us sweet chai; the teenagers who politely asked for selfies in perfect English and our travel companions with whom we shared laughter and life lessons over ice-free G&Ts.

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