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Showing posts from March, 2010

The Turkish bath experience, admittedly, might not be for everyone

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Istanbul, Turkey

I saw it - hundreds of years old - and of course I wanted to do it. And I did it without thinking. Once inside, I have to say, was just about the most nude experience I have ever had. All the woman – clients, and the staff – were, um, dressed down as it were.

All the woman were instructed to lay on a round marble slab in the middle of the room, and called over when the turkish bath ladies were ready for them.

As I lay there, fretting quietly, three funny British women, also new to the experience, did the same thing out loud. What is going on? said one of them, giggling.

Finally a woman called me over and began sloughing me with a loofah-like object as I lay on a towel. Then buckets of warm water and a soap down, before she washed my hair, and I left, dazed and confused, not sure what I thought. When I look back on it, it seems pleasant enough. I just can't imagine sitting in my apartment though, looking at my diary, wondering when I might be able to fit in another o…

Thanks, I think I'll pass

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Yep, it's as awesome in person as it looks in this picture

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Basicila Cistern, Istanbul

Turkish delight

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...it sure looks gorgeous but fortunately, most of the sweets outside the West cannot tempt me.

The language of love

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Presented without comment

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Beyoğlu, Instabul

Istanbul is one great city

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I encourage you to visit if you haven't already... I think it might be one of my favourites so far. This picture is from a restaurant that we went to that we didn't quite understand. It was very tiny, and there was no kitchen, bar to speak of, or toilets. The waiter went next door to get our drinks and he went next door to fetch our food.

We loved the funky decor though.

The Hagia Sofia in Istanbul was beautiful and amazing...

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...but in the middle of all that history and beauty I found myself fascinated by these cats, sunning themselves and loving the attention they got in two spotlights on the massive pulpit.

Snap caption: You say potato

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İstiklal Avenue in the Beyoğlu, Istanbul

Living in Abu Dhabi tip #2

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I was feeling stressed out recently and couldn't sleep. Whenever that happens I pay a couple of visits to the Jessie, the amazing acupuncturist at Gulf Chinese Medical Centre. Not only did she give me an painful acupressure massage, she raked my neck with a plastic device and attached hot cups to my back. Then acupuncture. This is no luxury spa treatment and as you might expect, I left disfigured.

You might ask why I would bother going through all this. Because it takes all the stress away: I left feeling lighter and as though I did not have a care in the world. A consultation with the doctor at the centre is Dh100, and treatments are Dh150. The centre is open mornings and evenings.

Another ill-advised vacation purchase

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Does this happen to you? I do it all the time: go away somewhere, and once there, unburdened by the practicalities of daily life, envision that I have an entirely different existence back home. One that can accommodate clothes that I will not even consider wearing upon my return, such as very high heels, small bikinis, one-piece jumpsuits, small, short dresses and these. You see when I asked myself the question - why don't I have a pair of harem pants? – I should have just answered the obvious. Because they look ridiculous.

Thanks Time Out Abu Dhabi

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Random afternoon tea shot

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Arty iPhone photo by Mark Asquith

Yogalosophy brings you beach yoga

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Saturday morning, 9 to 10.30am, on the Corniche by Gate 2, (that's the one by the Chevrolet dealership, before all the food kiosks kick in). You get 90 minutes of gorgeous flow under guaranteed sunlight with an excellent teacher. Dh60 includes the class and access to the beach.

Go before it's too hot. You will not be sorry.

Presented without comment

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Find an Irish bar...

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...anywhere in the world, and chances are there will be a group of Irishmen drinking in it. This is the U2 cafe – about the size of my living room – in the Beyoğlu, Istanbul.

It closes at 7am, by the way. That's right, 7am. Happy St Patrick's Day.

Snap caption: Tall man in a small sarcophagus

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Giza, Egypt

His and hers, Middle East style

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Who is going to say no?

A woman just knocked on my door: she was holding a very tiny baby, and talking quietly in Arabic. The one thing I did understand was "money", so I gave her some. I can hear the baby gurgling and her ringing the doorbells of my neighbours as I type.

Anyone had this happen to them? Begging of any form, by the way, is illegal in Abu Dhabi. This marks the second time someone has asked me for cash, aside from children during Eid.

Important petition: U-turns in RAK

This comes from Hash, who lost his sister in a crash at the U-turn at the E-11 in Ras al Khaimah and wants it closed. For more information on his sister and his cause, visit here. To sign the petition, go here.

Please, please, please - I beg! - figure out EXACTLY where you live, and do it now

I had a scary experience last night when a very sick colleague who lives across the hall pounded on my door in the middle of the night. Whether it was food poisoning or an allergic reaction – she has before gone into anaphylaxic shock and felt she was again – she'd called an ambulance via 999 and wanted me to wait with her until they arrived.

Until they arrived! I can only be thankful that her condition did not worsen, as I spent the next 30 or so minutes on the phone with the ambulance driver, finally running blocks away because it is pretty hard to convey a set of directions that involve four major cross streets, a bunch of left and right turns, one university, a place called "White Cat Laundry" and a series of other minor landmarks I was too tired and confused to remember.

There is no street addressing system in Abu Dhabi - the city is due one by the end of the year - and I have heard tales before of people who try to get ambulances and cop cars to them, seeing the li…

Burj Khalifa, lovingly rendered in first Oreos and now 160,000 (I assume) used phone cards

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Don't pretend you didn't want to check out the 4-metre replica at the Al Barsha Lulu's just before the world's tallest building was unveiled and renamed in one fell swoop in January. But you didn't, and now it's too late to take a gander at all that chocolatey goodness (and to dream of a giant mug of milk and upending the thing into it). At least I hope it's too late; that thing would be getting seriously gnarly right about now.

Several weeks later, and I don't know how I missed this little gem, someone made a Burj out of toothpicks. Fittingly, considering it is Dubai, the American who did this believes he constructed the world's smallest replica of the landmark. As Steven J. Backman, a San Francisco native who has also crafted the Empire State Building and a Golden Gate Bridge, put it: "The miniature replica I created of Burj Khalifa took me seven hours to create and a bucket of patience."

But as the Gulf News again reports, all is not los…

Only if you are going my way, lady

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The taxi situation in Abu Dhabi is much, much improved from when I arrived almost two years ago. I rarely have to wait for a taxi for longer than five minutes, and when they stop, there is no longer a lot of arguing about the destination or a bunch of whining about it on the way there, or an attempt to squeeze me for twice or three times the fare.

This is mostly because of a Municipal plan to replace the aging little Toyotas, with their gold and white exteriors and hand-painted green signs in Arabic on the doors, with shiny silver taxis. I had a kind of romantic view of the old taxis when I first arrived, mostly because a lot of them were decorated with fancy tassles and sequins and their drivers wore variations on the Shalwar Qameez (Pakistani men wear these, they look sort of like pyjamas) and were from places so foreign to me - Yemen and Afghanistan a lot of the time.

It quickly wore off, though. I mean how many times can you be boiling in the hot sun, empty taxi after empty taxi p…