Saturday, April 16, 2005

Dubai or Not to Buy

I am in Abu Dhabi, on a free day after a truly hectic teaching
stretch. I taught for five days in Kuwait, then travelled to Dubai.
Then five days of teaching in Dubai followed by an after-class drive
to Abu Dhabi - about an hour and a half between the two Emirates. The
two days here, and I have a day off. I am terribly weary - but
couldn't sleep last night! I also have another cold which seems
terribly unfair when I had such a bad on in Egypt! I teach tomorrow,
Monday and Tuesday, then on Wednesday I fly back to Cairo and straight
into a ministerial visit and Anzac Day preparations.

I have not yet found things like Bicarbonate of Soda in Cairo so I
bought some in Kuwait ready for ten batches of Anzacs. For non-Australians reading this, these are crunchy biscuits made from rolled oats, coconut, butter and golden syrup - and quantities of sugar which used to be sent to soldiers during the war as they last a long time. Well, they are supposed to - they don't in my household.

Dubai was wonderful. I often feel it is like a shopping theme park for
grown ups. While they have all the designer things I saw in Kuwait
there are lots of other sources too - and half the world seems to use
it as a stopping off point. It must be the world's biggest duty-free shopping centre.

My teaching in Kuwait was sponsored by Bernina and they had put me up in a beautiful hotel. I have bought myself a new machine - the Aurora has a stitch regulator - so that even when free machine quilting you can set a stitch length and just purr away, and if you move slowly the machine slows down, if you move the fabric faster it speeds up - to keep the stitch length perfect. It feels so much like magic that I kept expecting to wake up when using it.

I was happy to be billeted when working with the guilds in Dubai and Abu Dhabi as it saves them a lot of money, and allows me to meet a lot of lovely people.

I stayed with a really delightful Australian friend who I had met in Canberra. She has an apartment in the residence block of the Dubai Grand Hyatt so her 'house' was spectacular, and luxurious. We had the hotel restaurants at our feet, or her well-equiped kitchen if we preferred. It was an interesting combination of all the comforts of home and al the best things about a hotel - beds changed frequently, floors cleaned - and yet you can pile up the 'stuff' on the dining room table without guilt.

She took me out one night to a really superb restaurant . Houses in older areas of Dubai have wind towers. These are large square towers in the centre of the house with strange bits of timber sticking out of them for no reason I could see. They are distinctive and picturesque, and hollow with a top which is open to any breeze. Their purpose was to direct breezes from the outside into the house to help cool it. As a cooling function, air conditioning has it all over this - but they are beautiful and interesting structures.

The restaurant was in among wind towers and mosques in an area called Ruler's Court. It is an old stone house with two foot walls, a central courtyard, and small high rooms all round it. There are more rooms on the roof, and coffee is served up there if you wish to shift after dinner.

You walk in to the welcoming scent of baking bread. There is an Iranian style oven, in an open bakery so you can watch your bread being cooked. It was thin and crisp and covered with sesame seeds.

A beautiful girl in a long swinging coat covered in dark crimson and purple and gold embroidered paisly led us to a private dining room. the table was dark wood, and our menus were in large silver message sticks. They had used the best of all the region, including India and Iran, in the decorations. It seemed entirely appropriate, as Dubai is such a crossroad. Some of the rooms they had shown us had deep blue and turquoise pottery and glass displayed in their alcoves, ours had red and orange and it glowed as if it was burning.

The set menu we had was mostly Lebanese, but with interesting Iranian additions - especially the saffron rice with barberries which I really like, and an really interesting rice with dill and broad beans which I haven't had before. We had a seven dish (hot and cold) mezze with changing bread as they would take it away as it cooled and give us fresh loaves. This was followed by a mixed grill platter of the kind loved by the Middle East when eating out - shish tawouk, with chicken rolled in garlic and aromatic spices and lemon, chunks of lamb interspersed with peppers, a ground beef dish which is always moist and delicious, and a lamb marinated in youghurt and mild spices which is probably a new favourite.

Dessert was cream caramel (almost a given in the Middle East) and a quite unecessary towering tiered platter of fresh dates, walnuts, fresh fruit, and lots of Iranian sweets. This came with cinnamon scented tea and Arabic coffee.

Try boiling a stick of cinnamon in a saucepan with water and using it to make your tea. Have it black and sweetened - it is delicious.

I wanted to write so much more, but there are other things I need to do. If I don't get my washing dry I won't have time to iron it today - so will write more about Dubai, and about Abu Dhabi later.

Let me leave you with a teaser. There is a slight chance that we will go on my host's boat to one of the islands around Abu Dhabi this afternoon. It has been so hot here that the idea of an afternoon on the water sounds like heaven. I am not counting on it, but it will be lovely if it happens.....


Anonymous Sandy Gray said...

It's hard to imagine how some of the places you visit, seem to have mountains of food - and I mean mountains!! and virtually next door you purchase strawberries from a little boy who has to sell them before he can go home at almost midnight. What contrasts!
I do love your descriptions of the meals though! Sandy Gray

9:08 pm  
Anonymous Tena said...

Hi Jenny

Am so enjoying your blog and your writing makes it all the more interesting. Am most interested to hear that you have a new machine! Sounds great! You're obviously having a fabulous though busy time and the food sounds marvellous!

Love to you both..... Tena & himself!

8:38 am  
Blogger Helen from Canberra said...

Oh Jenny!!
I just LOVE the sound of that new machine. The food sounds so gorgeous, I wonder will you ever be able to eat fish and chips again?
The Canberra weather is still beautiful, much too beautiful!!
Regards Helen

9:18 am  
Anonymous Wendy said...

I am about to have breakfast, you have made me very hungry now.
The food sounds deliceous and the rooms and houses wonderful.

9:37 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Jenny

I do enjoy your writing. You make Egypt come alive for us. The stitch regulator on the new machine sounds great. Do you actually have time to do much quilting?

Cat in grey & dreary Tassie

5:01 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Jenny,
Thank you for such wonderful descriptions of your life and food. Your description of the young strawberry seller really made me think. Our children have such easy lives by comparission. Best wishes Barb at the edge of the Dandenong Ranges National Park Vic

5:16 pm  
Anonymous Cassandra said...

Hello Jenny,

I am enjoying your journal and my daughter is most insistent that we want to travel your way very soon. My best pal, on the way back from Africa a few weeks ago, shook hands with the Ambassador who coolly mentioned his wife was a quilter... which she of course knows very well. I made her the Japanese north wind quilt.

Keep us salivating for the lovely spicy food - my favourite type, tender, tasty lamb, rice, fruit... Trouble is, a whole new set of clothes every few months would be required if I lived there! Look forward to seeing you in Queanbeyan in June - maybe our pal from the USA will still be here. She leaves on the 16th.

Affectionately, from all of us plus the cats.

11:30 pm  
Blogger Liz Needle said...

Hi Jenny,

I've been catching up on your blogs, having spent some hectic time escorting 30 twelve year olds to Tassie. Holidays now, so can read all about your adventures. And what adventures!! The descriptions of the food make my mouth water. I think we need some recipes - in one of your spare moments!
Aren't we governed by our senses of taste, sight, smell?

The new machine sounds like the answer to my prayers- no more variable stitches. I like the sound of that.

We are having a very mild autumn here and our leaves haven't begun to turn - perfect weather for the gardening. Keep writing. We love it.

Liz Needle

10:21 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Jenny,
Have just caught with your latest accounts as we have been tripping around Tasmania. Your descriptions of the food are very mouth watering and after a bowl of soup for lunch (on a diet) I am feeling like something exotic.
Helen Stewart

1:47 pm  

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