Sunday, December 7, 2014

In mourning

Last week, an American teacher was brutally murdered inside the bathroom of an upscale mall in Reem Island, Abu Dhabi.

My first reaction when the news came out? Shock. After all, this kind of thing hardly ever happens around here – especially not in high-end places such as this one.

But I must be honest here. The first thing that crossed my mind was that the crime was some kind of personal vengeance or that the victim had simply been in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

However, after learning that the same person who had stabbed that American teacher to death also managed to plant a bomb at the door of an Egyptian-American Doctor’s apartment (which was actually only a couple of streets away from my building), I am not so sure anymore. It seems more of an elaborated plot.

For the first time in the seven years I’ve been in the UAE, I felt uncertain and afraid.

It is amazing how things can change from one moment to the next. Just the other day, I was talking to some friends and mentioned how relieved I was to no longer live in Brazil. Here, I could finally let my guard down, instead of having to constantly keep looking over my shoulders for potential threats.

I had completely forgotten how awful and strenuous it is to feel this way.

Over the weekend I caught myself overthinking my every move. I was suspicious of people and behaviors. For a moment there, I even considered avoiding certain places, for they might be a target to whatever else might be in store to disrupt and terrorize people around here. Ironic that my last post talks about generalizations and how stupid they are - and here I was generalizing away.

The police has been amazing so far. They actually managed to identify and arrest the suspect (which, by the way, I thought would be impossible to do since the person was wearing an abaya, gloves and niqab) within 48 hours of the crime. So this gives me some kind of reassurance.

But, unfortunately, something was broken. I just hope it can be restored. Soon.

Meanwhile, my heart goes out to the family of Ibolya Ryan, especially her three children, Adam, Aidan and Timea, who are also victims of this violent and incomprehensible act.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Generalizations are not only stupid, but very dangerous

When I was eight years old my parents decided to enroll me in one of the American schools in Rio de Janeiro. Not really sure why since we don't have any ties to the US, except for some very close friends in California, whom we consider family. I guess they thought learning English would make a difference in my future. And it did. Immensely. But what my parents gave me right then and there was much more than the simple opportunity to learn a second language. By inserting me in a multicultural environment, they helped me realize, from a very early age, that no two people are alike, despite their shared gender, citizenship, political or religious views - and that generalizations are not only stupid, but very dangerous.

During my Elementary, Middle and High School years I worked on group projects and shared a table in the cafeteria with people from all parts of the world: Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Suriname, US, Canada, Hungary, Korea, Japan, Syria, Iraq, to name a few. Some were Catholic, others Jewish, Muslims, Buddhists and even Atheists. But this was a mere detail, just one more thing about each of us and not who we were or what ultimately defined us. 

We were good, bad, nice, naughty, violent, peaceful, boring, nerds, popular or unpopular because of our daily actions and not because we came from this or that place or believed in this or that God or whatever else may be out there to believe or not believe in.  

Not all Brazilians look like Gisele Bundchen, play soccer or do the samba. Not all Argentines like meat or know how to tango. Not all Colombians are drug dealers or cocaine addicts. Not all Germans are Nazis. Not all Jews hate Muslims. Not all Muslims belong to Al Qaeda. 

That is why when I saw this video from CNN earlier today, I couldn't help but agree with Reza Aslan. People should be more responsible, read, learn and get their facts right before they say things or paint everyone with a single brush, especially when these people are media and influence the mass.

Monday, November 24, 2014

And so it is Christmas...

The UAE is a Muslim country, but although Christmas is not a priority for many around here or even an official holiday, the festive season has officially arrived in Abu Dhabi. 

Malls, supermarkets and hotels are carefully decorated and filled with Christmas motives from head-to-toe. 

And you won’t believe the number of activities planned for the month of December!

Here are a few for you to try!

Swiss Christmas Market
December 4-7

The Swiss Business Council is hosting the 10th Swiss Christmas Market Abu Dhabi. This time around, the Beach Rotana courtyard will be transformed into a Swiss alpine village, filled with chalets selling seasonal gifts and entertainment for the entire family. 

There will be snow showers, chocolate treats at the Lindt live chocolate kitchen, choir singing, storytelling, live music by Swiss folklore band ‘Original Appenzeller Streichmusik Alder’ and an appearance by Santa Claus. 

For more information visit SWISS CHRISTMAS MARKET

Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony
December 11, 6 pm 

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal has partnered with Make-A-Wish Foundation® UAE for the second year to reveal a Make-A-Wish Tree during the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony in the grand lobby. 

Mince pies, hot chocolate and traditional treats freshly baked by the pastry team, a choir performance in the grand lobby and Santa will all be waiting for you. 

And the best part is while you participate in festive activities, you can also make donations to support local charities.


Desert caroling
December 12, 3pm

Hit the road and join hundreds of people for some caroling in the desert. That’s right - the desert. 

Carols by Candlelight is a free community event, which means you’re responsible for bringing your food, drinks, chair, blankets and whatever else you might possibly need to spend a comfortable afternoon in the company of family and friends.

For more information call +971 50 827 1604 or visit CAROLS BY CANDLELIGHT

The Santa Chase
December 13, 4 pm 

The Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort & Spa will host its popular annual Santa Chase event on the outdoor grass lawn. Children will have a blast!

For more information email 

The Nutcracker 
December 15 & 16

What a better way to introduce your little ones to classical ballet then with The Nutcracker, the story of Clara and the special gift she gets from her Godfather on Christmas Eve - a beautiful, hand-carved nutcracker with magical powers?

The Nutcracker will be performed by the Moscow City Ballet, one of the world’s most loved touring ballet companies, at the Emirates Palace.

Tickets are on sale at TICKETMASTER 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The powerful rumble of a prayer

Beautiful night outside, with absolutely no chance of rain. My two year old daughter is having dinner. Suddenly she stops and places her hands close to her ears to signal she hears something. What’s the matter baby? I ask. Thunder Mommy. She replies.
This same weird conversation happened a few times over the past week until I finally realized what the so-called-thunder actually was: the Muslim call to prayer.
With the windows closed and the AC on most of the time because of the heat, I guess she hadn’t noticed it before. Which is weird because it happens five times a day, every single day. Or perhaps she did notice it, but only now was able to actually put it into words.  
I was surprised at first, but after a while I kind of understood where she was coming from. If you think about it, the call to prayer (or any other unrecognizable sound for that matter) recited in Arabic (a language she does not recognize – yet), from a microphone and broadcast to speakers simultaneously from several mosques nearby may very well seem like thunder to a two year old.   
Right? Or am I just being a Mom that tries to find a pretty explanation for everything her child does?

Saturday, November 15, 2014

First class soul trapped in the body of a coach traveler - that's me!

I used to fly Economy everywhere, all the time. Sure, it wasn't great, but it was the only reality I knew and I had absolutely nothing to compare it with, so I could handle it. Then, I married a pilot, which means lots of amazing benefits, and I got to experience Business and First class luxury travel. 

Dream come true? More like a nightmare! 

I have crossed a very dangerous line, one with very serious consequences. Now  that I have slept in those fully-flat beds, that I have tried the five-star gourmet meals, that I have been spoiled and pampered to the max, how can I ever go back to basic, standard coach? 

To make matters worse, Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, has gone ahead and raised the bar even further. Guests traveling in 'The Residence', will have their own double bedroom, living room and en-suite shower room, all wi-fi enabled, a Savoy Academy-trained personal butler to attend to their every single need and an in-flight chef to create custom menus. Plus, a super VIP service from the moment of reservation until the end of their stay with Etihad, including chauffeur, private check-in and lounge. 

When I first heard about this I thought people wouldn't be interested. Or perhaps it was just me trying to convince myself to stay as far away from it as possible - I might be tempted to try it out and get addicted (although, realistically speaking, this ticket is so expensive that staff discounts probably won't be enough to make this happen for me). 

But I guess people did like the idea and, most importantly, do have the money to pay for it. The first ten flights of 'The Residence', between Abu Dhabi and London, in Etihad's new Airbus A380, are already sold out. And that's USD 20,000 each.

Well, it's late. I'd better stop dreaming about my apartment in the sky and get back to reality. I will have to eventually. After all, if it wasn't for all the perks of being married to a pilot, there was no way I could afford any of this. And the perks won't last forever...

Want a tour of 'The Residence'? Click HERE and Dannii Minogue, Etihad Airways' Guest Ambassador, will show you around.

Picture credit: Etihad Airways

Friday, November 14, 2014

Morning findings

I hate mornings. Always have. But ever since I had a baby, there is not much I can do about it, so I just try to make the most out of them. 

Weekdays are busy. I am either at work or busy running errands. So, the weekends (Fridays and Saturdays in this part of the world) are pretty much when I get to go around and see what is going on in the city. 

Today, during my morning outing, I stumbled across many new and interesting things I thought I'd share with you. 

Make note!

The latest coffee variations from Nespresso are here: Apple Crumble, Chocolate Mint and Hazelnut Dessert. Simply delicious! I already got myself a few boxes!!!

Since we are speaking of coffee, local shops like Starbucks and Cafe Nero are already in Christmas mode. New coffee flavors, gingerbread cookies and decorations are everywhere!

Organic foods & cafe is now open at Nation Towers Galleria, Abu Dhabi. And the best part is they have lots of promotions going on where you can have 15% and 20% off your groceries. 

Great store with the cutest and very useful baby products in Abu Dhabi Mall. Loved many items and was ready to do some serious damage with my credit card. Unfortunately, or fortunately, for my husband's sake, the clothing items only go up to 24 months (my daughter is 27 months old). I'll certainly go back for other products like games, furniture and decorative items. Suggest you check it out! 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Yas Mall set to open its doors later this month

There is no doubt about it: Yas Mall, set to open its doors later this month, prior to the 2014 Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, will be Abu Dhabi's ultimate retail experience. 

The numbers are quite impressive...
  • 235,000 sqm
  • 400 international brands
  • 10,000 parking spaces
  • 2,000 jobs generated
  • 20 million visitors expect the first year alone
With a direct link to Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, the world's largest indoor theme park, Yas Mall will be the home to many firsts in Abu Dhabi, including Victoria's Secret, Pottery Barn Teen and a Lego Concept Store.

Want a sneak peak? Take a look at the two videos below and get ready for some serious shopping!

Note: Picture taken from the official Yas Mall Gallery

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

I am or am I?

Driving to work earlier today I saw this note at the back of a bus:

Are these now supposed to be a statement instead of a question? And what about the number to call? No need for one? I guess the company is overconfident on its drivers' abilities. I for one wish I still had a number to call...

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Take a walk on the wild side

Did you know there is a zoo in Abu Dhabi - the Emirates Park Zoo? Well, I for one only recently found out about it. Actually, that is not entirely true. I had heard about it and never got myself to go there. But, after you have children, priorities change, right? So, finally, after seven years in Abu Dhabi, I made it to the zoo. 

The verdict? Big surprise. I honestly did not expect such a great space and so many animals. Sure, some areas could do with a little more TLC, but overall it is an excellent place to go with the kids. My little one loved seeing and interacting with all animals, from the very small to the really big ones. 

We started off at the petting area. Amazing. There are rabbits, cows, donkeys, llamas, ponies... Buy some grass for AED 10 and let your kids have a blast feeding them. For another AED 10 you can get a small bottle of milk to feed the baby goats. So cute!

After a while we moved on to explore the zoo. We saw a little bit of everything. Birds, monkeys, reptiles, lions, tigers (including the rare white ones), leopards, cheetahs, zebras and much more. The best part for me was the super up-close encounter with the giraffes. Unbelievable! 

Sadly, we missed the elephant feeding experience. So do remember to check the timings of shows and educational activities once you first get to the zoo!

If you want to make this an even more memorable experience, book a room at the Emirates Park Resort where you will be able to feed the giraffes from your own private balcony. I've never done this, so if you go ahead and try it out, do let me know your thoughts!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Ready, rolling, action and CUT

Many years ago, when I first moved to the UAE, I found it very odd that some of the films I watched at the movies here did not make any sense. I remember getting up from my seat extremely frustrated, with many questions unanswered. Either I was clearly too dumb to grasp the ingenious plot presented before me or the Director was utterly incompetent, right? Well, not exactly... 

I soon learned that the National Media Council (NMC) is tasked with approving every single film for release. They hardly ever really ban a film from the big screens, but they do make cuts if they find some of the scenes conflict with local values. 

In the UAE version of Bruce Almighty, for example, Morgan Freeman does not exist. Why? Because censors cut all depictions of God. So, how exactly is one supposed to understand that the reason why Bruce is almighty has to do with a certain scene where he meets God and gets all his powers?

Sex and the City was also not banned here, but after cutting all scenes of sexual nature, there was only about 30 minutes of film left to screen, so cinemas decided not to do it. 

Jokes aside, I guess the UAE is very liberal, especially when compared to other countries in the GCC, some of which don't even have movie theaters. And I must admit that I've noticed a great deal of improvement on what was screened seven years ago and what is screened now. 

I do, however, still try to make wise choices when I go to the movies. I mean, why bother watching some of them when so much will be cut out? 

I am dying to check-out Gone Girl, but after reading some reviews and learning many of the important scenes involve nudity, I am just not sure. Plus, if rumors are true and there actually is a, let's say, very 'informal' scene starring Ben Affleck, perhaps I should just wait and see it in 3D somewhere else in the world.

If you are also in doubt, perhaps this review from The National might help:

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A breast is, well, a breast

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and publications are overflowing with information on campaigns  taking place throughout the country. Among all the great initiatives, the below brochure I got with my copy of Abu Dhabi Week caught my attention:

Maybe it's just me - I might not have been paying attention before - but this is the first time in seven years that I've seen something so 'literal' out there in the open.

Yes. I am talking about the nude woman examinig her breast. It is not often (more like never) that we see images like this stamped on magazines, newspapers or flyers in this part of the world.  

Sure, I know women must be covered at all times around here (even on paper), but how else can one talk about breast cancer or try to promote self-examination without showing a breast?

Finally it seems that a breast is, well, a breast, an organ in the human body that has to be looked after and taken care of just like hands and mouths, throats and heads.

I have to say I am extremely proud of the local health authority for addressing the matter so openly. I sincerely hope this is a trend and that others will follow in their footsteps.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Al Maha among Top 25 Hotels for Romance in the World

Al Maha, a Luxury Collection Desert Resort & Spa, situated deep within Dubai's exotic dune and desert landscape, was appointed by the 2014 Travelers' Choice Trip Advisor as one of the Top 25 Hotels for Romance in the World. 

Just a 50 minute car ride from Dubai (one hour and a half from Abu Dhabi), Al Maha showcases the heritage and architecture of the Bedouins, especially in its spacious, elegant and luxurious suites - all with private pools and spectacular views. 

Might be a good plan for Valentine's Day...



Monday, February 3, 2014

Avenida Brasil in the United Arab Emirates

It seems like Carminha, Tufão, Rita/Nina, Jorginho, Max, Lucinda, and Nilo have made it all the way from Brazil to the United Arab Emirates.

Avenida Brasil, the primetime soap opera that became a national obsession, tells the dramatic story of a young woman who confronts her past in search of revenge against all who contributed to the miserable early years of her life.

In Brazil, the soap opera had a daily average audience of 46 million viewers and approximately 80 million people stopped to watch the final episode back in 2012.

It will certainly be interesting to watch the response of locals to the extremely sadist, sexual, evil and subversive characters of Avenida Brasil. Let's wait and see...


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Shawarma Time – a new, modern, healthy way of enjoying shawarma

The world of shawarma will never be the same - at least not here in the UAE where Brazilian Lilian Joumah has decided to explore other ways of making the traditional lamb, goat, chicken, turkey or beef roasted on a vertical rotating spit, shaved and usually served as a sandwich. 
Married to an Arab who is totally addicted to shawarma, Lilian spent the last 13 years walking in and out of restaurants tasting many variations of this delicacy. With time, she started to observe that shawarma was very well-received among different cultures and age groups.
So, Lilian put her businesswoman hat on, quit her job at a local bank and rolled-up her sleeves to pursue her new dream: Shawarma Time, a place where people can find a shawarma that is modern and healthy, with more meat and less fat. 
“With so many shawarma places in the region, we wanted to offer our clients something truly special. We use only high-quality meat, with very little fat. Our breads, all produced in-house, are made with a mix of white and brown flour, which means they are healthier. The portions are also very generous, almost three times what is offered by most restaurants out there. And to top it all off, people can enjoy their food in a very hip and comfortable setting, while being helped by a young, fun and diversified team.” said Lilian
And there is more! Lilian decided to add a little Brazilian twist to some of the dishes. How would you like your shawarma served inside a delicious ‘pão de queijo’ (cheese bread – a favorite among 10 out of 10 Brazilians) made from a unique dough prepared with potatoes and fresh cheese? And how about a cold Guaraná (Brazilian soft drink made from a fruit originated from the Amazon) to go with that? 
“We have also created a series of snacks inspired by the popular Brazilian ‘coxinha de galinha’ and ‘bolinho de carne’. My Mom, who has over 25 years experience in this market, spent three weeks here training our staff. She helped us create something exceptional, with a very interesting balance of Brazilian and Arabic seasoning.” added Lilian
Shawarma Time is located at Najda Street in Abu Dhabi (close to Mitsubishi). Delivery is still very limited. Since it is done with Segways, it has to stay within a reasonable distance. But there are plans to expand. So, hopefully, Shawarma Time will soon be freshly delivered to those – such as myself – who live further down the road…

Until then, go online for more information, like them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter and go down to Shawarma Time for a sensational shawarma experience!

For those of you who have absolutely no idea what shawarma is: