Friday, December 30, 2011

Let us welcome 2012!

This year was not an easy one. Lots of obstacles, losses, sadness along the way. Dreams and wishes that did not come true…

But I guess what matters is to be able to be here today, still standing, filled with hope, strength and energy, ready to start a new cycle.
And although I am more than glad to see this year come to an end, I must admit it wasn’t all that bad. I also had many blessings and I am very thankful for each one of them!
In 2011…
I made important changes to my career.

I celebrated the achievements of BurCArioca: over 26500 pageviews and more than 1300 fans on its Facebook page.
I learned that things will happen when they happen and as they happen for a specific reason and that I cannot control every single aspect of my life.
I exercised patience, tolerance and acceptance.
I rediscovered simple pleasures in life like waking up late, having a cup of coffee with a slice of cake in the middle of the afternoon, following and enjoying the lamest series and soap operas, singing in the shower, having a glass of bubbly or wine for no reason at all.
I travelled to the most wonderful places.

I made new friends.

I got to spend time with my family and very dear friends.
I became the proud aunt of Giovana and Nuno, two little creatures who gave me the most precious and happiest moments of the year and who are the proof that life is grand and beautiful and magic.
So let us open our minds and hearts and welcome 2012! May the next 365 days be filled with all that is good in this world!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

New Year's Eve in Abu Dhabi

If your plan is to be in Abu Dhabi on December 31st, it is safe to say you are in for a great last day of the year!
For starters, at 3pm, you can catch the final match of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship, which will be decided between two of the following players: Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Monfils, Ferrer and Tsonga.
Then, at 8pm, you can enjoy an amazing concert by the one and only Coldplay, who will be performing at the Volvo Ocean Race Village.
Finally, to close 2011 beautifully, a firework display at Abu Dhabi Corniche.
Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

‘Pastel’ pastry – finally!

This year I got my Christmas present a couple of days early! A dear friend of mine was finally able to find what I’ve been searching for ever since I moved to Abu Dhabi: ‘massa de pastel’ (‘pastel’ pastry)!
For those of you not familiar with this Brazilian delicacy, let me explain…
The ‘pastel’ is a thin pastry wrap deep fried in vegetable oil. It is usually filled with cheese and meat, but you can personalize it according to your taste and preference, alternating between savory and sweet options. Delish!
In Brazil, they can be found just about anywhere. You can get them ready to eat, at bars, restaurants and popular street markets, or simply buy the pastry at supermarket shelves and add your favorite fillings at home.
Since the UAE is also famous for its pastries, I thought it would be easy to satisfy my ‘pastel’ cravings, but I was never able to find that exact, perfect, wonderful ‘pastel’ pastry around here.
Thankfully, all this has changed. Yesterday, I was finally able to sink my teeth into several yummy ‘pastéis’ – soooooo good!
Thanks Carla for my mouth-watering Christmas present! Sorry I did not invite you over to try some, but Eric and I were so excited we ate everything in a matter of seconds and were left licking our fingers! See how beautiful they turned out:

In case you are wondering where to find the ‘pastel’ pastry in Abu Dhabi, just look for Egg Roll Wraps at Lulu Hypermarket (apparently they are stored in the refrigerators and not in the freezers, where I have been looking for all these years).

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

With only ten days to go, Christmas has finally arrived in the UAE.
No, you don’t get a white Christmas with snow falling outside, but then again, Christmas was never white in Brazil, so I don’t really mind…
No, you don’t get to see a glimpse of Christmas trees lighted in every single house or apartment as you pass by and look through the windows, but they are still around in hotels and malls. Nothing too extravagant this year, since the US 11 million tree put up by Emirates Palace last year seems to have caused more controversy than admiration…
No, you don’t get to see innumerous TV commercials with the popular season characters like Santa Claus, Frosty the Snowman or Rudolph the red nose reindeer, but you can always count on classic movies like Love Actually, Home Alone and White Christmas to set the mood for you…
No, you don’t get to hear Christmas songs over and over and over again everywhere you go, but this only means you get to enjoy and appreciate them even more once you randomly listen to them on the radio or when you do play your favorite Christmas CD – I just bought Michael Buble’s Christmas album and I love it…
No, you don’t get to be with your entire family and friends back home, but you do get to celebrate with a very special group of people who have become very close to you and are now part of your new life far, far away…
This may sound cheesy, but I guess Christmas will always be Christmas as long as we understand its true spirit and meaning, no matter where we are and regardless of lights, trees, presents and songs… Although I must say I do feel closer to God when I hear this super talented 11 year old girl singing – truly amazing!

Have a very Merry Christmas everyone!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Brazilians are cool!

Brazilians are cool. There is no denying that. Sure, Brazil is certainly far away from being perfect – especially for us Brazilians – but the truth of the matter is everyone is attracted to this beautiful South American country and its people. Even CNN has placed us at #1 (see video below)!

I have travelled a lot and I can tell you that every time the words ‘I am Brazilian’ came out of my mouth, they had the power to break the ice, produce big smiles and establish many friendships along the way.
I guess not even all the terrible violence, corruption and so many negative things that are currently happening in Brazil have managed to stain its natural beauties. Starting by its people, who continue to work hard and strive through all the adversities and difficulties…
Nice. Good to know. Ok. But why I am going on and on about this on a blog that should be about the UAE and not about Brazil? Well, because I often run across people or businesses that always seem to find a way to link their names to Brazil.
Sure, I guess this is a wise move, after all we are cool (sorry, I can’t stop saying this!), but then again, it does raise expectations that can’t always be met.
For example, today I went for a walk at the Corniche. Suddenly, a cute little green and yellow kiosk called ‘Cafes Brasileira’ materialized itself in front of me. Immediately, of course, I started salivating. Água de côco (coconut water), açaí, guaraná, biscoito polvilho, pão de queijo... Could it be that, finally, I would be able to enjoy some of the Brazilian delicacies I miss so much?
Apparently not… The only things Brazilian about this kiosk are its colors, its name, and the titles given to some items on the menu.
Nice touch, nice tribute, but what am I supposed to do now with all my cravings? NOT COOL!!!


Monday, December 5, 2011

Djokovic in Abu Dhabi

#1 Novak Djokovic will make his debut in the Mubadala World Tennis Championship to be held from Thursday, December 29, through Saturday, December 31, at the Abu Dhabi International Tennis Complex (Zayed Sports City).
Djokovic will face some fierce competition for the title and US 250,000 prize: Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, David Ferrer, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gael Monfils.
Tickets, as expected, are selling out fast! After all, this is one of the most anticipated events of the season…
I already bought mine! To get yours, go to www.eticketing.co.uk/thinkflash/default.aspx.
For more information: www.mubadalawtc.com/Home.aspx

Friday, December 2, 2011

40 and counting

Just a couple of days ago I was walking along the cobblestone streets of Boston, one of the oldest and most charming cities in the United States of America, founded by English Puritans back in 1630.
For an entire week I was immersed in US history. After all, in every corner there seems to be a story, linked to the many events that took place in the city and surrounding areas, especially during the American Revolution, the first successful colonial war leading to the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.
I remembered the 4th of July I spent back there in 2006. Thousands of people out on the streets dressed in red, white and blue, family barbecues, parades, fireworks, the famous Pops Orchestra playing at the Charles River Esplanade… I thought I’d never see a more patriotic celebration in my life.
And then I moved to the United Arab Emirates
I was seriously taken back when I first experienced National Day (December 2) in Abu Dhabi. I guess I simply did not expect to see so much devotion in a country so young.
But then again, if you think about it, there actually is a lot to celebrate. What this country achieved in so little time is just amazing!
Back in 1971, when this union was created, pretty much all you saw around here were sand dunes and almost no paved roads, water came from wells and people traveled on camels and donkeys.
All this in a time where Apollo 14 had already landed on the moon, the Concorde had already done its first transatlantic flight and the email, although not yet so popular, had already been created by an MIT graduate. Crazy, huh?
Now, only four decades later, the UAE is one of the most important countries in the Middle East. It has placed itself in the center of all worldwide action, has diversified its economy and, with zero taxes, has become one of the best places for people to do business.
The most luxurious and desired brands are here, the tallest building in the world is here, one of the most exquisite Mosques ever built is here, renowned educational institutions, such as Sorbonne, INSEAD and NYU are here. 
Not too shabby for a country that is only 40 years old, right? So I guess its people are more than entitled to an awesome celebration!
This year, the festivities will last not only one, but several days. When I landed, Wednesday night, the city was already filled with lights, cars were decorated with national colors (red, green, white and black) and special events were happening everywhere.
Since my building faces the Abu Dhabi Corniche, I have front row seats to all the action. In the last 24 hours I have seen amazing fireworks and waterworks displays, helicopters carrying flags, jet planes doing crazy stunts and pirouettes and thousands of happy, loyal and proud people roaming the streets, honking their horns and celebrating the enormous success of this amazing country.
Here are some images for you:




















Happy 40th Birthday UAE!!!!!!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Cruising the Dubai Creek… in an Abra

I know I ended my last post saying that an Abra trip down the Dubai Creek can be a bit ‘smelly’ and that you should go prepared with perfumes and scents to help minimize the odor, but I really hope this does not discourage you… An Abra cruise down the creek is really an amazing experience and you should not miss out on it!
If you are ever in Dubai, do take make some time to step into this nice little traditional wooden boat that, for very long, was the main mode of transport for the local population.
Before, when there were no bridges or motorized vehicles around, the Abra was used by people who needed to go from one side of Dubai to another.
Nowadays, it is mostly enjoyed by people who live and work in the area, as well as tourists who take the Abra to go from the gold and spice souk to the textile souk on the other side.
A ride in the public Abra, which works as a water taxi, will cost you AED 1 (US 0.30) each way. There are several Abra stations along the creek, the main ones located near the souks in Deira and Bur Dubai.
Another option is to hire an Abra for private cruising around the creek. For this you should be prepared to pay anywhere between AED 50 and AED 70 (US 13 and US 19) an hour, depending on the boat, season and your negotiation skills!





Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wise tips for first time visitors to the UAE

During the four and a half years I’ve been in Abu Dhabi, I’ve had the pleasure of welcoming several friends and family members and showing them around the country that has welcomed me with open arms.
Most of the time, I am a great hostess (I hope?!), getting the house ready, planning all kinds of trips and sending my guests lots of information in advance so they can come prepared.
Recently though, I’ve noticed that, somehow, I have allowed my dear and beloved guests to make some classic rookie mistakes around here… Sorry guys! My bad! I should have warned you!
But now there are no more excuses! Although I can’t really redeem myself with the people who have already come by, I did make some notes to alleviate the impact of some experiences on future first time visitors…
Coming to Abu Dhabi? Remember the very important DON’Ts below!

DO NOT…
…eat heavy and greasy food (a giant whopper from Burger King, for example) before your Desert Safari experience or else you will be ‘revisiting your lunch’ once the driver starts making the trip up and down those dunes!
…go for henna tattoos on your hands, arms or other exposed parts of your body if you have to attend a formal event or an important meeting. Henna tattoos may take a few days to disappear, even if you try to get rid of them by scrubbing your skin off!
…forget to call fancy hotels like Emirates Palace and Yas before stopping by during peak season – they might only let you in if you have a room or restaurant reservation!
…fail to remember that you are in a Muslim country and that you won’t be able to get a cold beer or glass of wine just about anytime, anywhere. If you do order this out of place, like in a mall for example, you may have to endure a weird look or speech from the waiter!
…get too close, kiss or hug for pictures inside the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque or you might be reprimanded by security and even have your camera confiscated!
…enter the Dubai souk with your favorite designer handbag or you will attract a line of tireless and persistent men harassing you to buy fake copies of bags, watches and many other items!
…overlook the importance of having a bottle of perfume or some kind of nice scent always at hand, especially when you decide to take a trip down the Dubai Creek in one of those nice little Abras (traditional boats made of wood) – great for the eye, bad for the nose!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The most expensive handbag in the world

Image from Gulf News


The most expensive handbag in the world can be found at Mouawad boutique, located at The Dubai Mall.
Made entirely of 18k gold and adorned by 4,517 diamonds, the heart-shaped handbag was carefully crafted during 8,800 hours by a team of specialized artisans.
The price? AED 13.9 million (US 3.8 million).

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Burj Khalifa – an amazing feat of engineering

A couple of days ago I went back to Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, located in Dubai, with a couple of friends visiting from Brazil. Interesting how every single time I go up there I leave in complete awe.
It’s not just the size or the height or the details of this unbelievable construction that seem to amaze me. It’s everything. Especially the truly wonderful understanding you get of how much mankind can achieve when there is enough creativity, vision, will, determination, cooperation and, well, money of course.

Here are a few impressive numbers for you:
  • 828 meters high
‘Only’ 447 more than the Empire State Building.
  • 200+ stories
With an observation deck on level 124, a hotel, a fitness club, residences, restaurants, offices…
  • 57 elevators
Which climb 10 meters per second!
  • 6 years
From beginning of excavation work to launch in January 2010.
  • 12,000 workers
From over 100 nationalities on site every single day during construction peak.

What does all of this get you? A total of seven world records:
  • Tallest building in the world
  • Tallest free-standing structure in the world
  • Highest number of stories in the world
  • Highest occupied floor in the world
  • Highest outdoor observation deck
  • Elevator with the longest travel distance
  • Tallest service elevator in the world

If you are ever around, do plan a visit to Burj Khalifa. The observation deck is open Sunday through Wednesday from 10am to 10pm and Thursday through Saturday from 10am to midnight.

But remember to buy your tickets online and in advance. Dated and timed, they will cost you AED 100 (US 28) – four times less than an immediate entry admission. For more info: http://www.burjkhalifa.ae/

                                    




 Incredible views from the observation deck:






Just for fun... a Burj Khalifa in Rio de Janeiro.
Like the idea?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Great food just a phone call away

After such a busy weekend here in Abu Dhabi, filled with F1 related activities, all most of us want right now is to enjoy the peace and quiet of our home sweet home.




If you are too tired to even consider getting up from that couch and into the kitchen to cook a simple meal, I’ve got good news: you don’t have to!
Most people don’t know this, but Room Service Deliveries (www.rsd.ae) will bring delicious food from 17 great Abu Dhabi restaurants, including Prego’s, Royal Orchid, Cho Gao, Finz, Indigo, Benihana, Spaccanapoli, Rodeo Grill, and Mawal, right to your door.
If you don’t have a menu at hand, just go online, register and place your order. You may schedule a specific time or request immediate delivery (which will take approximately one hour). They accept major credit cards or cash on delivery – whatever works best for you!
Cool, right? The only bad thing is you will eventually have to get out of that comfy couch to open the door and receive your food!
Bon appétit!

Note: Room Service also has a wide selection of restaurants for delivery in Dubai.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Busy November

November will be a very busy month, with plenty of activities for everyone… Take a look below and plan ahead so you don't miss out on anything!


The race itself will only happen on Sunday, November 13, but for all three-day ticket holders, the fun already begins this Thursday, November 10, when they will have a sneak preview of the F1 Village and Pit Lane Walk. And there is a lot more to look forward besides the thrilling race, including the shows that will definitely get everyone up on their feet: Britney Spears on the 11th, Incubus and The Cult on the 12th, and the one and only Sir Paul McCartney on the 13th.
Now, if you don’t have a ticket for the F1 race, you can still join the fun – for free! Remember that several activities and shows are scheduled all around the city. The F1 Fan Zone at Abu Dhabi Corniche is a must for sure!

Not a fan of F1, but still passionate about cars? Hit the road and go take a look at the newest designs and tech innovations at the Dubai International Motor Show – the best and biggest motor event in the Middle East which will happen from November 10 to 14. Brands like De Macross, McLaren, MG and Spyker will make their debut, alongside returning participants like Audi, Aston Martin, Bentley, Bugatti, Cadillac, Ferrari, Jaguar, Lamborghini, Maserati, Porsche and many more.


If you are more into arts, I’ve got just the thing for you: the third edition of Abu Dhabi Art, from November 16 to 19. The event will take place at the Saadiyat Cultural District, Abu Dhabi, and will bring together a series of renowned galerists, curators and artists, specialists in modern and contemporary art. All four days will be filled with exhibitions, talks, workshops, book launches… Don’t miss it!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Emirates X Etihad

 
 
Although most people have only heard of Emirates, the popular airline based in Dubai, there is yet another very important carrier in the country that has grown tremendously over the past years: Etihad Airways, the National Airline of the United Arab Emirates. 

It’s understandable that so many people are familiar with Emirates and not so much with Etihad. After all, Emirates has been around for 26 years, ever since it operated its first flight out of Dubai back on October 25, 1985. Etihad, on the other hand, is a much younger airline. The Abu Dhabi based airline commenced operations just eight years back, on November 5, 2003, exactly eight years ago (Happy Birthday Etihad!).

Despite the age difference, Etihad soon presented itself as strong competition. Emirates is irrefutably the largest airline in the Middle East, operating over 2,400 passenger flights per week, to more than 100 cities in 60 plus countries across the world. But Etihad’s numbers are also very impressive: it already owns 63 aircraft and operates 86 passenger and cargo destinations to over 40 countries to date.

Was this massive growth possible because of protectionism? Well, the airlines certainly deny this. Although Emirates belongs to the Dubai government and Etihad belongs to the Abu Dhabi government, they both state that they are treated as a wholly independent business entity, susceptible to the global economic reality and challenges.

Whatever the case, the fact is Emirates has recorded an annual profit in every year since its third in operation. This past week, it reported half year profits of AED 826 million. Etihad is still struggling to break even, but by the looks of it, the airline should be able to celebrate this achievement very soon. 

I had the opportunity to try out both airlines and I can say they are truly excellent – especially when compared to the Brazilian and American carriers I used to fly with before. Great to board and look forward to great service and food without the ridiculous additionals ($$$$$) charged by so many airlines out there today. No wonder Emirates and Etihad have won so many awards!

The one thing missing for Etihad to be number one on my list? The long awaited flight to Brazil! Emirates already flies non-stop to São Paulo and will launch a daily flight to Rio de Janeiro on January 3, 2012.

C’mon Etihad! What are you waiting for?!?!?


Friday, November 4, 2011

Learning Arabic

A few months back I wrote a post about the task of mastering the Arabic language – a difficult one I must say, considering you have to deal with an entire different alphabet, written from right to left, several dialects and various interpretations...





Since most people around here do speak English, it is easy for you to get by with just the basic stuff like marhaba (hello), shukran (thanks), afwan (you are welcome) and so forth, but I must admit I feel a bit embarrassed that after four and a half years I am still unable to form a sentence in Arabic.

If you, like me, are considering dedicating a few hours of your time every week to learn the local language, here are some tips that might help get you started:

- Online
Today it is easy to learn Arabic online. Almost every mall in the country is filled with kiosks that sell CDs with learning systems that promise to be very useful.

During my last visit to Abu Dhabi Mall I bought myself one of those, supposedly the fastest, most effective way to learn words and phrases in Arabic and never forget them. Haven’t tried it out yet. Will let you know how it goes…

- Classroom
You are the kind of person who needs an actual, live teacher in front of you? Here are some good options…

Mother Tongue
The Mother Tongue is a very popular Arabic language center established in Abu Dhabi in 2005 as a specialized center for teaching Arabic to non-native speakers – from beginners to advanced levels.

For more information: www.mothertongue.ae/en/index.aspx / +971 2 639 3838 / admin@mothertongue.ae.

Berlitz
With over 130 years of experience and 500 centers spread all around the world, Berlitz is also here in Abu Dhabi. You can choose between a series of different options, including total immersion, private, semi-private and group programs. 

For more information: www.berlitz.ae / +971 2 667 2287 / berlitz@eim.ae


Coming over for some tourism or a business trip and in a hurry to learn some basic words to break the ice? Try this website: http://www.sudairy.com/arabic/phrases.html


Bettawfeeq (good luck, or at least I was told…)!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The famous - and dreaded - Dubai stone

When I moved to the UAE I used to hear of the famous – and very much dreaded – Dubai stone: an average of 7kg of pure fat put on by many expats when they first arrive in the country.

At the time I thought this was just one of those myths that go around, but now, having put on some weight myself, I tend to think there must be some truth to it.

Actually, if you think about it, it makes total sense…

To start with, many expats living in the UAE come from places where it is possible to get a daily dose of unintentional exercise. Ride a bike to work, walk to and from places – even if only to the bus stop or the metro station. But here, we all get lazy and choose the car over our feet every chance we get.   

And then there is the heat and humidity almost all year round, which discourages us to do anything outdoors. Just the thought of it makes me feel sticky and tired.

In addition, people here have long working hours. This usually means we fall on two major traps: go for unhealthy food options available during lunch break and stay away from the gym once we get home late at night.

To top it all up, let’s be honest here, we expats love to live the good life. Every week we try out new restaurants, have drinks with friends, enjoy a very caloric brunch with a very generous free flow of bubbly…

Did we really think all this fat would transform into thin air and simply go away? Well, it isn’t. But there are ways to get rid of it:

Meals delivered to your doorstep
If you are too busy to cook or you simply do not know your way around the kitchen (which is my case), you can always try one of the several health and nutritious catering services available in the UAE.

Usually this is how they work: you make an appointment, meet with a nutritionist to evaluate your data and discuss your needs and goals, and receive balanced meals right at your doorstep.

Most of these places will offer different packages, so you can choose whatever makes more sense for your lifestyle.

Here are a couple of names so you can get started:

Counting points
Another way to lose weight is turn to the ever so popular Weight Watchers.

Although there are no physical meetings here in the UAE (at least I could never find them), today you have the option to do it online.

All you have to do is go to Weight Watchers, register, pay, and get started. You will be able to record your weight, track your points, and receive progress reports. And there are thousands of really great recipes for you to try!

Hit the gym
There is no way around it. Little or no exercise won’t help. You have to get active. Really active.

If you are not fond of weights or the basic machines you see everywhere, try fun classes like Hip Hop, Zumba, Kickboxing, Spinning, Tae Bo and many more offered by many gyms out there!

The important thing is to get moving! Even if you start with a small goal and a few set of exercises just like this...



Have fun!

Monday, October 31, 2011

The importance of a Sharia compliant will for expats in the UAE

Since it is Halloween, I’ll take this opportunity to touch on a rather morbid, but very important topic: the importance of a Sharia compliant will for expats in the UAE.



I personally hate discussing the matter. The word will comes up and my first impulse is to change the subject as fast as I can. I don’t know what happens. It suddenly makes death so tangible, so real, so near…

Unfortunately, it’s just one of those things we all have to think about somewhere down the line. And now that I am living here in the UAE, this line has just appeared before me and made me seriously consider writing up a will.

I am not sure if you are aware of this, but did you know that once we become a resident in this country, all aspects of our lives are ultimately governed by Sharia Law (local law, principles and procedures, based on Muslim concepts of family structure and responsibility)?

This means that UAE courts will adhere to Sharia Law in regards to inheritance if you or your spouse dies and there is no will in place. Your family may have to face prolonged legal battles and, in the end, your assets may be disposed of in a way that does not coincide with your wishes.

The first thing that will happen in case of death is that your assets will be frozen. Your family members won’t have access to the money in your bank accounts (even those jointly held) and they won’t be able to receive any final payments or end of service benefits from your UAE employer. How do you plan on settling your bills, debts and mortgages while waiting for this to be resolved?

And it’s not only about money. God forbid you and your spouse die. Have you thought about what will happen to your children if you don’t have a will stating specific instructions about their care here in the UAE, both in the immediate and longer term?

If you have a will back in your home country and feel like you have your back covered, think again. This will and nothing might just end up being the same thing. Even if you have this will attested here in the UAE, it might still not comply with the Sharia Law.

Your safest bet is to have a Sharia compliant will drawn up in the UAE, by a lawyer who clearly understands the Sharia principles. 

When discussing this with friends, please remember that there are a few differences in procedures between the Dubai and Abu Dhabi Courts, so you might get conflicting information.

Try asking your employer for more information on this. The HR department should be able to point you towards the direction of a good and trusted law firm, able to guide you on the best approach to accommodate your family situation and needs and ensure the Sharia Court receives and processes your will confidently and quickly, minimizing stress during such terrible times.