Saturday, November 30, 2013

Yong in Dubai : Sweihan Desert & Lahbab Desert

a trip to an arab country is incomplete without a visit to the desert. gurun. padang pasir. the vast plain of nothing but sand. one huge sandpit for the kids. this is the ONE place that I can’t wait to show my nephews and niece. as expected, they went nuts rolling down the sand and running up the dunes.

mr. khairul drove us to two different deserts in another 2 emirates in the UAE : 1) sweihan desert in abu dhabi, on our way to al-ain zoo; and the weekend after to 2) lahbab desert in sharjah along the scenic road to kalba.

 

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sweihan desert, abu dhabi

 

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one of the most amazing, priceless experiences ever : to witness the outing of hundreds of camels. this was a one-in-a-mil experience for me too – in our 5 years here, we’ve never seen this many camels at one time! it was an incredible sight. there were SO MANY camels!

 

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SO many pictures. SO little space. just yong and her kids enjoying their first experience at the desert.

 

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on the way to al-ain zoo, mr. khairul found this amazing spot – a seemingly endless road leading straight into the waves of sandy desert. gorgeous. more than words can say.

 

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of course we had our own moments haha. thanks my dear cookiedough for the road trip. I don’t need a ferrari. camel pun takpe lah as long as we’re together. hihi.

 

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lahbab desert

 

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the week after sweihan desert, we took my sis and her kiddos to another desert spot in UAE – the lahbab desert in sharjah. as you can see – the kiddos had the most fun.

 

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yep, they *buried* khaleef. the sand was cold so it was really relaxing and cooling!

 

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our designated driver just laze around with his ‘football manager’ ipad game and a picnic spread. I made egg sandwiches and yong fried some delicious cucur udang. nyam.

 

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LOVE this shot. the vastness of the desert.

 

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5 years here. in the middle east. alhamdulillah ala kulli hal!

 

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it was cool, but it was also terik. my sis yong and her kiddos squinting to a picture.

 

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they were amazed to see how easy it was to spot camels along the roads here in UAE. well, macam nampak kobau ngan lembu le kat malaysia! hihi. my nephews haiqal and haqeem braved it out to get a rare picture as close as they can alongside a camel by the roadside.

 

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sebak pulak tengok gamba ni. the memories remain and never can end. the kiddos hated taking pictures haha especially the older ones (cepat la mama! mak I hate taking pictures!) but my sis and I kept telling them, that when they’re older, they would understand. they would appreciate what we were trying to do. to bottle memories, and to capture moments.

 

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* special thanks to my mr. khairul for enduring these long drives and the good sense to find interesting spot to stop for pictures. you made my dream come true to bring my nephews and niece to the desert! *love*

Friday, November 29, 2013

My Eldest Sis Yong in Dubai!

my most awaited guest was finally here – my eldest sis yong syimee. of all my 4 sisters, she’s the only one who hasn’t been to dubai, and that’s just wrong! haha especially since I’ve been living in dubai for the past 5 years already!

it was already exciting just planning all the activities I wanna do with them, the places I wanna take them to, and of course all the awesome makan places in dubai! from the burj to the beach; from the hot desert to cold desserts; from mandi rice at tawasol to our favorite chinese muslim restaurant at international city – down to the date and time; thanks to my mr. khairul. *big hug!*

she was here with her kiddos – haiqal, haqeem, nuna and adam. khaleef was most excited to see his abg haiqal and bff abg haqeem in town – I kept their visit as a surprise till the very last minute! he literally just dropped down on the floor. really.

yong and her kids was in dubai for just 10 days – but quality is what matters, not quantity! gonna make it a fantabulous 10-day vacation for yong and her kiddos!

 

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Mandi Rice & Sweet Kunafah @ Noor Al Mandi, Al Qusais

we went a little further from our usual makan ‘playground’ to find this pretty little gem of a place that serves the usual mandi rice with chicken, meat and fish. plus this fantastic arabic delight called ‘kunafah’ – sweet, and delicious!

we found it at ‘noor al mandi’ in al-qusais.

 

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my eldest son, the mandi rice-freak. yeap, that’s my boy alright!

 

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the first thing that caught my attention (apart from the huge light-up signboard NOOR AL MANDI outside) is the beautiful interior. the other mandi rice restaurant with really beautiful interior that we’ve been to was ‘turath al-mandi’ (click here to read my review), and personally to me, ‘noor al mandi’ could be second in comparison.

however, noor al mandi could be a winner because while turath al mandi charges more for its dishes (a plate of mandi rice cost about dhs40 or so), the dishes at noor al mandi are more affordable. so you get to dine at a pretty place, without paying more!

 

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classy hallway, with wooden carved sliding doors. curtains in majlees give that authentic feel, but these sliding doors give extra privacy.

 

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beautiful!

 

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this is IN the room. gorgeous!

 

this is the main majless. gorgeous and so classy! complete with a tv. (taken from noor al mandi fb page – click here)

 

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comfy as any majlees would provide. satisfied with the comfort, and awed by its loveliness.

 

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this is the family section with tables and chairs. also with sliding door, and instead of the mosaic wall d├ęcor, there is a picture of cities in yemen with the signature building, that fills up an entire wall. I like it!

 

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there are so many types of cooking-of-the-meat to choose from – the meat muqalqal, meat burmah, meat madbee, meat zorbiyan, meah madfoon and meat mathgoot – the list seemed endless! but mr. khairul’s favorite is the madfoon and zorbiyan.

 

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we got the meat madfoon – a favorite of mr. khairul. the rice is soft, and the meat so tender and juicy. what else to say? it’s well-seasoned, cooked to perfection and delicious to taste.

 

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a must for the boys – chicken mandi. as delicious as it gets.

 

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now lemme talk about THIS dish. this surprisingly satisfying dish! this seemed to be a specialty – ‘farsh fish’, to be eaten with the mandi rice.

 

I must say I’m not much of a fan of fish mandi, and I don’t like to ratah lauk (eat fish flesh without rice). but this amazing ‘farsh fish’ dish from noor al mandi is VERY DELICIOUS! it’s well-marinated, resulting in the fantastic taste of the fish down to the core – which makes it so good to eat on its own (which I will never do when it comes to fish). the flesh is super soft and juicy too.

me, a non-fish fan, eating this ‘farsh fish’ dish at noor al mandi on its own. that says a lot about the tastiness of this dish.

 

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I’ve been searching for a mandi restaurant that serves kunafa or kanafeh, and finally found it. noor al mandi, I thank thee!

 

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in layman’s term, kunafah is simply the arabic cheesecake. haha. it’s ‘cheese pastry soaked in sweet sugar-based syrup’. the type of cheese they usually use is called ‘nabulsi cheese’, spread on the pastry before the thick sugar syrup. describing it now makes me really WANT IT! it’s THAT good. especially when served hot!

 

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I think that the person making this must be really careful not to overdo the sugar syrup. a little too much, and the dessert is spoilt; being too sweet, or soggy. the syrup must be just right, to give it the awesome sweet taste and the great crispy-chewy texture of the pastry and cheese. a sinfully delicious dessert – and I like it a little bit burnt!

 

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we ate at the family area. this is the entrance to the common dining area.

 

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mr. khairul making friends with the waiting staff. most of their staff are from yemen and are so obliging and friendly. mr. khairul had the pleasure of sharing his experience visiting their beautiful country countless times; and in turn they were so excited to know someone who has been to their country.

 

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‘noor al mandi’ is highly recommended for the good service, ‘fish farsh’ dish, and its kunafah is worth a second and third helping. remember to eat it while it’s still hot!

it’s situated at burj al noor tower, amman street, al nahda 2, in al quasis. it’s in the stretch of shoplots opposite the large madina mall.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Movie Review : Gravity, Captain Phillips, The Family & Escape Plan

I’m reviewing a couple of intense movies – sci-fi with heart-stopping scenes in ‘gravity’, tom hanks, a ship and pirates in ‘captain phillips’, a mob family under a protection program in black comedy ‘the family’, and prison-escape story with a twist in ‘escape plan’.

don’t munch the popcorn too loud. unless you’re at home. or screw it, just munch and scrunch away.

 

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‘gravity’ is tom hank’s ‘cast away’ in space. SPACE. no air. no coconut trees. no fedex boxes containing possible useful items. ‘gravity’ makes ‘cast away’ looks like a walk in disneyland. it’s not science fiction. this is a straight-up horror movie.

sandra bullock carried this movie on her own just like what tom hanks did to ‘cast away’. the problem with this kind of movie is that 1) you HAVE to like the actor playing that lone character coz he/she is the only one you will see talking and doing stuff, and 2) the story MUST be interesting. no, it cannot be OKAY, it cannot be boleh-lah. it MUST be engaging. and sandra bullock got my attention.

if you’re not a fan of sandra bullock, or space (who the heck doesn’t like space???) then move on, this movie will bore you.

the story : it’s space. sandra bullock was fixing something outside of the space station with george clooney, and boom – she’s cut off from where she’s held. she’s suddenly thrown out there in the void, completely alone, bobbing aimlessly; in one of the most terrifying scenes I’ve seen in a movie. the camera even spans from INSIDE the space helmet, to show her point of view. alone, no control of your movement. hazy. panic. breathless. we all felt it.

normal circumstances, a person could just die of fright. right there and then should this really happen. just stop breathing. out of fright.

also, in ‘gravity’, anything that could go wrong in space, went wrong for sandra bullock. if it’s not lack of oxygen, it’s flying debris. if it’s not lost contact with earth, it’s lost contact with the one other person in the movie. and when you think things couldn’t get any worse – there’s fire INSIDE the space station or the instruction is in another language she couldn’t understand. omg what?!

it’s a crazy movie. get ready to get all tense up. it proves that sandra bullock, the america’s sweetheart of comedy, is also the queen of thrill and drama. oscar-worthy performance right there.

 

 

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speaking of tom hanks, AND oscar-worthy performance, have you check out ‘captain phillips’? another intense drama with no boring scenes. each scene get you at the edge of your seat, wondering whether each action of the pirates, or captain phillips, or the rescuers will be the end of it all. and when it doesn’t, you get tense up again.

this is the true story of captain phillips and the 2009 hijacking by somali pirates of the US-flagged MV maersk alabama, said to be the first american cargo ship to be hijacked in two hundred years. no wonder it was a big deal. when I was watching with mr. khairul we were like ‘why do they bring the whole army fleet to rescue this one particular captain?

I am also very curious on the casting of the somali pirates. they were also the star of this movie. their expressions, the way they say their lines – they were convincingly good alongside the awesome tom hanks. we felt their desperation during the final hours.

and tom hanks – oh my, he deserves a third oscar for his performance; especially the final scene (SPOILER) where he just breaks down and sob like a little boy during the check-up by the paramedic. and that’s just perfection – because that’s what normal people would react after such a traumatic experience. tom hanks expressed that trauma with such conviction, with so much reality; it’s as if I’m watching a real-life documentary.

I cried with him, I felt his pain, and felt like we were with him during the whole ordeal – from the moment he directed his crew to hide, to all those intense hours in the small cramped submarine. a highly-recommended movie. just for that final scene alone.

 

 

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after two intense movies, let’s move on to comedy. but this black comedy ‘the family’ is no less intense!

‘the family’ is about a witness protection program, which sounds normal and boring enough until you realize that the family is ‘the manzoni family’, from a notorious mafia clan! all they want was to start a normal life in france, trying to fit in, while not blowing their cover.

just when you thought it’s only the DAD who is a dangerous mafia and the rest of the family is just innocent victim tagging along – the MOM blew up a store just because. the daughter can be a maniac, and the son is too street smart for his own good; negotiating shady deals and bribes.

‘the family’ is NOT any normal family.

john d’leo and dianna agron as the siblings are awesome. looking like any normal teenager on the outside, and all weird on the inside. michelle pfeiffer is deliciously wicked and funny, though looking so much aged than ever before. robert de niro is in his usual masterclass of acting – cool and calculating. love it!

the ending calls for ‘the family returns’ or ‘another family’ – and I will be waiting. it’s gonna be another fun thrill-ride.

 

 

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I’m not a fan of stallone, or schwarzenegger. that’s why I haven’t watched any of ‘the expendables’ movies. however, the storyline of ‘escape plan’ is intriguing. I’m curious. they got my attention.

stallone plays ray breslin, and his job is reminiscent of one of my fav movies ‘sneakers’ where the main characters’ job is to rob banks to prove that their security system has a flaw. here in ‘escape plan’ ray breslin’s job is to get sent to prison, and escape, to prove the flaw in the prison security system.

very interesting job; and highly risky – you could get murdered by inmates, or get shot by prison guards while trying to escape (since the guards don’t know you’re not really a prisoner) or simply die from falling down or drowning in your escape attempt. but that’s what stallone’s character does – and a new assignment seems extremely difficult from the rest – the world’s most secret and secure prison; plus the people who sent him wants him to stay there. for good.

and that’s when schwarzenegger comes in. another inmate, his help from the inside. together they try to find ways, patters, habits and routine – information to help them both escape.

oh, and I like jim caviezel. but it saddens me that he’s the bad guy in this movie, and a deliciously devilish at that! he’s one of those good actors that are often overlooked for lead roles; and I guess now he accepts bad-guy roles just to keep up. kesian. he should’ve been cast as superman’s dad instead of russel crow. he SO look the part!

overall, an interesting plot, and I enjoyed watching stallone and schwarzenegger’s performances in ‘escape plan’ which helps even more when they’ve got this good chemistry goin on. and that’s as far as I can say as a non-fan to both. ‘escape plan’ is an interesting movie. highly recommended for fans of prison-escape movies.

 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Khaleef’s First Horse-Riding Training @ Wadi Al-Amardi

bapak treated eldest son khaleef to his first horse-riding training on his birthday. we went to a humble little stable, somewhere in wadi al-amardi for khaleef to pick up a lesson or two in being a good horse-rider.

as we know, islam encourages its followers to follow the sunnah of prophet Muhammad SAW; to follow his practice and his good deeds. and one of the favorites of our beloved Rasulullah (SAW) is horse riding. horses and riding were a big part of the lifestyle of our beloved Prophet Muhammad SAW (peace be upon him); for transportation and sports. who knows khaleef might end up loving this sport and taking it up seriously?

well, for a start, it’s so wonderful that khaleef gets to ride, steer, pat and feed a horse! thanks to mr. khairul for this awesome experience, and hopefully a good start for something more!

 

“thanks bapak for this amazing birthday present!” haha. he wishes! this is ‘leader’, the horse khaleef used during his horse-ride training

 

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the stable

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arriving at the humble stable somewhere in wadi al-amardi, not as huge and spacious as I expected, but turns out to be more intimate and small.

 

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younger brothers waited on the side as big bro got the briefing before getting on the horse

 

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the instructor, uncle ali prepared khaleef with a safety helmet. uncle ali might look fierce, but he’s really just very enthusiastic with his big booming voice.

 

lesson 1 : balancing

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first lesson : balancing. you can’t ride a horse well without a good balance says uncle ali. khaleef did a lot of sitting-down and standing on the horse over and over again. gradually it became harder as khaleef must put his hand on his waist, and then on his head – while continuing to rise up and down.

 

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uncle ali had a good exercise as he walked and followed the horse! he took khaleef on ‘leader’ round and round the training ground. first, he held on to the strap as he took khaleef around. after a few rounds, he slowly walked further away from them, and finally he just let khaleef ‘leads’ leader round the training ground.

 

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restless! but they actually enjoyed watching the horses in action

 

lesson 2 : steering the horse

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after the training on balancing, uncle ali taught khaleef how to lead the horse.

 

khaleef learned :

  1. how to use the bridle and strap to steer the horse left or right
  2. how to make the horse move or stop
  3. and the sounds you can make to tell the horse to move and stop – sort of a clicking of the tongue to the teeth

khaleef definitely enjoyed this lesson more than the lesson on balancing. to balance on a horse, you need strong thigh muscle, and khaleef found it to be too tedious, tiring and sakit! yeap, he even cried because he said it was too much, too painful!

uncle ali the instructor might seem to be so garang and firm; and he does have a loud, rough booming voice; but he was really friendly, funny and kind. he talked to khaleef, pujuk and calmed him down. he immediately stopped the balancing lesson, and started on the horse-steering lesson which khaleef enjoyed more.

thanks cool uncle ali!

 

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I love these series of shots. it shows a deeper connection between man and beast, that is unspoken yet pure and sincere. khaleef got to pet a horse so up close, and also gave him some ‘motivational talk’! haha. ‘leader’ is such a gentle, sweet horse and I hope that the next time khaleef comes for more training, ‘leader’ will be there waiting.

 

feeding the horsies

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conversation with kahfi. hihi. love this shot!

 

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time for the younger brothers to have their moment at the stable. they totally enjoyed feeding fresh crunchy carrots to the obliging horses.

 

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taken from ‘muslim equestrians south africa’ website. for more hadith on horses, click here.

 

 

overall, khaleef cried during the balancing lesson, but he totally enjoyed steering the horse. I’m just glad that at the end of the day, he loved riding horses, and wouldn’t mind doing it again – minus the balancing!

happy birthday again, my little baby khaleef. hope you get to meet ‘leader’ again some day!

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