Monthly Archives: June 2012

Sharjah and Ajman

UAE is made up of seven emirates:  Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm al-Quwain.. When we decided to go to Dubai, we didn’t plan to go to any of the other emirates but thanks to my friend SS and his friend Mr. R, we were able to visit Sharjah and Ajman.

It was our last day in Dubai so SS and Mr. R decided to take us to Sharjah for dinner and then take a tour of Sharjah and Ajman by night. For dinner, we were also joined by Tash (From Life through a kaleidoscope) and her sister N.

Blog world is just wonderful as I would have never been able to meet Tash in a million years if we were not blogging. I got to know this nice, lovely, confident, enigmatic, mature, independent girl through her blogs. After interacting with her for some time, I felt like I knew her forever. It is just weird that we can have this connection with people and click so easily when both think in a similar way. I just love the fact that she can speak Nepali too and is so open and understanding.

Tash and me enjoying our dinner…

Anyway while I was planning for my stopover in Dubai, she suggested lots of stuff to do there and things to avoid. This made my holiday even better, so thank you so much gal. It was my pleasure to meet you and know you.

Please read her blog and her post on meeting meet me here .

I so agree with her here. “Normally we meet a person and then get to know about each other’s lives. In the blogosphere, the opposite happens. You know their lives and then put a face on it, and these kind of relationships, I believe, are so pure without any ulterior motive, simple and genuine”

Anyway, from our hotel we drove to Sharjah, and found this nice Iranian restaurant. We asked the waiter to give us typical Arabic food and we were given so much food! We had rice, chicken, bread,  lentils, salads and side dishes such as hummus, falafel, ful, tabouleh, labaneh, and baba ghanoush. The fresh bed kept coming nonstop and finally we had Arabic coffee to finish the meal. I had my heart full and tummy full with the amazing food. It was a great time with lots of laugh.

From there we went to a nearby mosque and a beach. The mosque was looked beautiful in the light. It was a pleasant evening driving around. We saw more mosques and forts and drove past the Blue Souk. Then we went to Khalid Lagoon and relaxed for a while. All the lights made the building and Ferris wheel really beautiful. It was so calm and quite. Khalid Lagoon has a water fountain that reaches heights of 100 meters making it the third highest fountain in the world. The fountain is surrounded with many different family attractions.

While driving around, for the first time in my life I saw a hypermarket, Spar Hypermarket. I knew only of supermarkets but now I know a hypermarket as well 🙂

From there, we went to Ajman, which is the smallest among the emirates. We drove through the beautiful city. Most of the shops were closed and there wes not much traffic on the road. We went through Dhow Yard and Ajman Museum which is situated at a fortress from the 18th century. It was an awesome day. Around 1pm, they drop us back to our  hotel and that concluded our UAE trip.

Please click here for more photos.

Dubai city, Souks , Marina, Dubai land & Deira City Centre

One of the days we were in Dubai, we decide to do our own city discovery so early in the morning. We caught a cab and asked to be dropped in one of the souks. Souk means market in Arabic. The cab dropped us in a gold souk.

Gold, Spice and Utensils souk

One of the reason I wanted to go to the gold souk is because it was recommended by everyone on the internet. Even though I am not into gold, I was thought, if the place was reasonably cheap, we could buy a piece for my mom and mother in law but once I was there I was just overwhelmed.

The souk is located in the heart of Dubai’s commercial business district in Deira, in the locality of Al Dhagaya. The souk consists of over 300 retailers that trade almost exclusively in jewellery.

As soon as I got out of the cab, even at 9am in the morning it was humid and hot. Lucky we had some water with us. Once we paid the cab, an Indian looking man came over and asked if we want some bags, watches or t-shirt. From what I read from reviews, I knew he was trying to sell us fake stuffs so we declined and entered the Gold Souk.

OMG I was going crazy seeing so much gold on display in the windows. Seriously, the amount of money that costs to buy those jewelleries must be in the millions. Every shop display was filled in gold with big and chucky gold items. There were a few which had silver and diamonds but most of them were of just gold. I have seen gold shops in Nepal and India but they were nothing close to the ones in the souk. Also I realised that most of the bangles, jewel laden necklaces, rings were in Indian style.

After doing some window shopping for a while and being hassled by many more men to buy their fake product, we finally decided to go inside one of the shops. We had a rough idea on how much the gold was in the international market so I asked to see a 5gm gold coin. I realised that it was not as cheap as we expected. The price of the gold pieces is based on the price of gold by gram, plus the price of the workmanship. So AS and I decided that it was not worth buying anything from there for our mothers and left. In Nepal, they prefer ornaments made of 22carat gold but most of the ready-made items there were 18 carat gold.

For me, even if I didn’t buy anything, we were happy with my visit to the place and a few photos. After that we decided to find the spice markets. It was not very far from the gold market and surprisingly we also found a Utensils markets.

The Spice Souk, situated on Sikkat Al Khail Road, is in the locality of Al Ras. The souk comprises several narrow lanes which are lined with open and closed-roof stores that sell a variety of fragrances and spices from frankincense and shisha to the many herbs used in Arabic and South Asian food. In addition, several textiles, incense, rugs and artefacts are also sold in the Spice Souk. The air around the souk was very aromatic.

As we were walking away from the Spice Souk, without buying anything as Australia has strict quarantine rules and we didn’t want to get into the hassle of explaining every product, we stumbled onto a Utensil Souk.

I think we spent well over 2 hours in these souks and both of us were getting very tired and hot. For the first time, I could feel the heat of Dubai. Our initial plan was to go to Deira creek but we changed our mind and went to Deira City Centre. Yap more shopping. Just took a cab and went to the cool and air-conditioned shopping mall.

Deira City Centre

Deira City Centre is one of many malls in Dubai which has retail outlets, restaurants, entertainment facilities and a hotel. We went to a coffee shop and had a cake and coffee, rested for some time and then went shopping. In the end, we had our lunch there as well. It was an Arabic restaurant and the food was really good. In that restaurant for the first time, AS had a non- alcoholic beer. He was telling me that it tasted exactly like a normal beer but just didn’t have any alcohol in it.

Dubai Land

When we did a tour of Dubai, one of the places they took us to was Dubai Land. They are planning to make this big and amazing theme park and as it is going to be in Dubai, it is going to be the world’s biggest theme park when it is finished in 2020. It is estimated to cost 64.3 billion.

The project will feature cultural facilities with structures based on famous sites and the architectural marvels of the world, such as the Pyramids, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Eiffel Tower, the Taj Mahal and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Spread over an area of 4 million square metres, it is shaped to represent the falcon, emblematic of the UAE’s heritage. In addition to that the project will consist of a full function Pharaohs Theme Park with multiple white-knuckle rides and roller coasters, Islamic Culture & Science World.

So basically after 2020, if you are thinking of going on a  holiday and can’t afford to go to Paris to see Eiffel tower, China to see great wall of China, Peru to see Machu Picchu and India to see Taj Mahal or any other wonder of the world, just go to Dubai land and you will be able to see the exact replica of everything in their original size. I really think Dubai is planning to take over the world’s tourism after 2020.

When I went to the room where there was the display of the model of Dubai Land, I was really impressed. –

Dubai Marina

We went to the Dubai Marina as a part of our tour as well. It is an artificial canal city, carved along a two-mile (3 km) stretch of Persian Gulf shoreline. It is the largest man-made marina in the world. It has a number of five-star hotels, commercial properties and residential area. There are so many outdoor cafes and restaurants and has a lively vibe that it’s remarkably pleasant to stroll down the pedestrian strip. The area has a stunning water feature that opens out in the widest part of the marina where you can eat al fresco capturing the excellent views and soak up the ambience.

I also noticed that in the marina there were lots of yachts docked. Definitely a place for the rich and famous.

More on Dubai :

Let’s start with Amazing Dubai

Hello from the world’s tallest building: Burj Khalifa

Desert safari in Dubai

The Dubai Mall, aquarium and underwater zoo

The Dubai Mall, aquarium and underwater zoo

Dubai Mall as you have already heard is one of the biggest shopping centres in Dubai. While we were in Dubai, we went there almost every day. As I mentioned in my previous post, it was one of the coolest places in Dubai so we went back again to see the mall by day even though we had seen it the first night we were there.

For me it was like being in heaven. There was an array of shops everywhere I looked. There were high end shops like LV, Dior, Channel, Burberry, Versace , Armani and how can I forget the towering shoes in Jimmy Choo. Also there were shops like Zara , Forever 21 as well. There are over 1200 stores and one can only dream how long it would take to go to every shop there. The mall itself is split into 5 unique themed areas, circling the gold souk located in the centre which is intuitive to navigate.

We went to some of the shops and did some shopping. The mall seems so big and once you start walking you surely feel it in your legs. I was really excited that I was in a place which is considered as the shopping Mecca of the world. I hurried from one shop to another buying a few shoes and jewelleries. But after walking for a few hours , I was so tired that  for the first time in my life I was sick of shopping and told my husband I was ready to stop shopping and do something else. My husband was so surprised that I got tired of shopping. He thought he would never hear that in his life time. 🙂 So we decided to stop in one of the coffee shops to have a cake and coffee and rest our legs. As I was seriously over shopping by that time we decided to go to see the aquarium again. On the way to the aquarium we stopped at the gold souk. It has an Arabian market theme selling everything gold. It has a nice relaxing environment.

Once we were in the aquarium, we took some more photos. It was similar to Sydney’s Aquarium and literally just a huge rectangular fish tank and an underwater tunnel similar to the one in Sydney. The tunnel goes under the aquarium and you can see reef sharks, large schools of fish and even a whale shark. The tank is themed to a shipwreck with several man-made barnacle ridden structures seen around the tank, giving it a rather weathered look.

At the exit of the tunnel there is a rainforest café. It looked cool but we didn’t go inside. From there we went to second part of the zoo which is in the third floor.

As soon as we enter the underwater zoo, it follows a rather linear route winding through the exhibits and passing through many tanks of fishes before moving onto the next. There are many kinds of fishes like piranhas and even playful otters. There were also some fishes native to the Amazon as well as south east Asia. There was a shark tank comprising of small reef sharks, jellyfishes which glow under synthetic florescent lighting as well as a few relatively exotic crustaceans such as Alaskan crabs. The deep sea areas of the zoo are nicely themed with waterfalls and fiberglass cave walls, giving it a subterranean atmosphere.

Following the route, we eventually came to the bug section called creepy crawly where we could see scorpions and tarantulas and in the reptile section of the zoo where there were display of some lizards and snakes. There was also a mini suspension bridge made of rope up there which forms the rainforest “canopy walk” part of the park, allowing you to have an overview of the rainforest portions of the park. One of the best parts of the zoo was watching the penguins exhibit. After the tour of the underwater zoo we went to another part of the mall.

There is a large multipurpose ice rink called the Dubai Ice Rink in one atrium of the mall. It is used for ice hockey matches as well as a skating or public ice-skating rink. The ice is very smooth and resurfaced daily. There was some practice session going on while we were there so we didn’t get a chance to go inside the rink.

I am sure people can easily spend a whole day shopping or going through different things at the Dubai Mall. It’s a good thing that despite the entire lush luxuriousness  which surrounds the theme of the Dubai Mall, most of the stores there still cater to the masses and a wide range of consumer budget. I will definitely go back to the mall when I visit Dubai again.

Please click here for more photos.

More on Dubai

Let’s start with Amazing Dubai

Hello from the world’s tallest building: Burj Khalifa

Desert safari in Dubai

Dubai city, Souks , Marina, Dubai land & Deira City Centre

Desert safari in Dubai

This was one of the best things we did in Dubai and I highly recommend it to anyone going to Dubai. We booked our’s through Arabian Adventures but there are other companies as well who do the similar tours.

It consists of safari drive with dune-bashing, camel ride, eagle show, belly dancing, henna tattoo, barbecue and much, much more.

As it was Sundowner Desert Safari Tour, we were picked up from the hotel around 4 pm in a four wheel drive, then we picked up 3 more people from different hotels and were driven to somewhere deep into the desert. There we were met by rows upon rows of four-wheel drive SUVs full of excited tourists like us for the safari.

All the four-wheel drives then followed each other to the first stop where we sat down for an eagle show. The place was still very hot and humid as the sun was still up but I didn’t mind much as the cold desert breeze was making sure we didn’t get too hot. We were given a cold bottle of water to drink which helped us cool down as well. The guy doing the eagle show was an Aussie and he explained his eagles and showed us how the birds do the show for food. Overall, a nice stop over.

Then we were back in the vehicle to go to the next stop. The safari takes place in a conservation area. Each company has their own spot and the range of service differs from each other. The driver explained that we will have one more stop in the middle to see the sunset before the dinner stop.

While driving, we saw lots of wild animals. After 5 minutes drive, the driver asked us to fasten our seat belts as the ride get bumpy from that point forward. He assured us we would be safe. He then raced into the steep dune, swung around and slid down the slopes. It was like being in a rollercoaster as it is coming down. I was amazed at his driving skills as the car didn’t fall over. We could see the cars in front jumping up and down and knew that is exactly what ours was doing as well. Once we realised we would be safe we enjoyed it. Over the course of the next hour or so, we were tossed about in every possible direction, things were moving in different directions, heads banged together and I could hear screams of “aahh’ and “ wow”. Definitely, the highlight of the tour was the dune bashing. If you enjoy the thrills of safari rally driving, this is the best attraction.

Then we stopped to watch the sunset. It was one of the beautiful sites to see such an amazing view with your loved one by your side. Watching the sunset in the desert was very romantic. We took some nice photos and some silly ones too  🙂 .

Then we were back in the car for our final stop at the desert camp where we were to spend the rest of the evening. Camel rides and henna tattoos were available at no extra charge so we joined the queue to ride the camel. It was really fun. I had done a camel ride before in India but this was a bigger camel than that. We took photos perched atop the camel.

After that we stopped over to take photos with an eagle. I was a bit scared at the first but once it was in my hand, I felt better. It was so amazing to have the bird so close knowing how powerful it can be.

Finally we went to a desert camp for dinner and a display of traditional and belly dancing. The food was good and plentiful. There were wines and lots of soft drinks. While we were having dinner a belly dancer entertained us. I was a bit disappointed with the belly dancer as she was nothing close to the ones I have seen on TV but that might be just me.

After we finished dinner we went and got henna tattoos. AS got a tattoo of snake on his upper arm and I got flowers on my hand. The lady who did the henna was nice enough to do both my hands.  It was almost 10pm at night and they announced that we were going to leave soon so we gathered our things and went to the parking lot to meet our driver. It was almost a one and a half our drive back to the hotel so I rested until we got off and ran to the comfy bed.

It was a great desert safari that gave us the opportunity to experience the local traditional culture, enjoy the fascinating sights, have an adventurous drive, a camel ride and above all enjoying the delicious barbecue with ceremonious belly dancers dancing to the feel of Arabian music. It was a unique experience for a lifetime.

Please click here are some more photos.

More on Dubai

Let’s start with Amazing Dubai

Hello from the world’s tallest building: Burj Khalifa

The Dubai Mall, aquarium and underwater zoo

Dubai city, Souks , Marina, Dubai land & Deira City Centre

Kumari – The living Goddess

I had this post sitting in my draft box for a while but the article I read in the dailymail online inspired me to finish and post it. Please click here if you want to read it too.

The word kumari literally means virgin in Nepali. Kumari is the only living Goddess in the world worshipped by Hindus and Buddhists in Nepal. The Living Goddesses are young pre-pubescent girls that are considered to be incarnations of the Hindu goddess of power, Kali and Goddess Taleju.

History behind Kumari

For over 300 years now, it is believed that the spirit of the goddess Taleju has been residing in a succession of pre-pubescent virgin girls in this way, and the future of the country has balanced precariously on their pleasure. With a frown they have held back the rains; a single tear from their eye has resulted in floods. An ancient ruler ofNepalis even said to have died after the reigning Kumari fell asleep during an audience with him.

There are 10 Kumaris in Nepal but I have seen the ones from Kathmadu and Patan only. The Kumari from Kathmandu is considered the Royal Kumari and follows a bit different rules than the rest of the Kumaris. The Royal Kumari resides in Kumari Ghar in Kathmadu Durbar Square while the rest of the Kumaries live at home with their parents and family, and go to school as any other normal girl. They have certain ritual duties that they have to perform regularly, but otherwise live a pretty normal life.

Kumari Ghar

How Kumari is chosen?

Young Buddhist girls from, Kathmandu’s Newar community, Shakya or Bajracharya are chosen as “living goddesses”.  Normally it is a privilege to have your daughter contest in this selection process.

These are some features a young girl should have to consider to be chosen as Kumari .

  • Virgin with an unblemished body
  • Body of the Banyan tree
  • Eyebrows like the cow
  • Black straight hair
  • White teeth without any gaps
  • Dark eyes
  • Mona Lisa like smile
  • Sonorous crystal clear voice
  • Long slender arms
  • Delicate and soft hands and feet
  • Thighs like those of a deer
  • Neck like a conch-shell
  • Tongue – small and moist
  • Sexual organs small and well-recessed.

Above all, she should possess 32 lachchins (characteristics). She must have a sense of courage and should not fear a masked man or an animal sacrifice and she must never have lost a drop of blood. Her horoscope must match that of the king (it was so in the past, may be the President’s horoscope is considered now).

During the eighth day of Dashain, called Kal-ratri, the selection process of Kumari begins. The would be Kumari is left in a room with 108 decapitated buffalos laid out in a sea of blood with men wearing horrid masks dancing among them. This is to test the fearlessness of the girl. If the child gets scared and cries, she will be disqualified and the next girl has to go though the process until they find a girl who can smile in that surrounding and enjoy the dance of the masks men.

The Kumari Festival

Every September, during the Indra Jatra festival, the living goddess in all her bejewelled splendor is borne in a palanquin in a religious procession through parts of Kathmandu. It is a grand festivel attended by people in the thousands, who come to see the living goddess and seek her blessings. In keeping with an old tradition, the Kumari also used to bless the King but now she bless the president and prime minister of the country.

Controversy regarding Kumari

Critics say that the tradition violates the child’s human rights and leaves her unprepared for life after retirement.

Here is a documentary by ABC Australia on Kumari.

I’ll let you decide what you want to believe in but for people of Nepal, Kumari is still a Goddess who they respect and bow to. Kumari is the faith of Nepal and they still believe that she is an incarnations of the Hindu goddess of power.

Today, in the name of modernity, some members of the human rights groups along with the government are proposing that the Kumari tradition be abolished for good. Personally, I think Nepal should learn how to make its culture rich and safe instead of abolishing it, because it is centuries long tradition and this need to be kept alive for the future generation so they can learn and know more about it. Seeing the European countries spending millions to preserve their history and culture, it will be sad to see this tradition stopped.