Travel

DESTINATION DUBAI – Souks, Malls, Fun and Food.

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DESTINATION DUBAI – Souks, Malls, Fun and Food.

Talk Dubai – and pretty much any layman would come up with The Dubai Shopping Festival. Season or not, there is tons of stuff to see – be it the lavish malls or the Arabian Nights type of Souks.

The Gold Souk and the Spice Souk are pretty much located within walking distance to each other. When you get there you are actually not prepared for the experience. Once you get past all the touts who want to sell you “original copies” of Chanel, Gucci and Prada – you get into a marketplace lined up on both sides by small stores, selling GOLD.

Shops at the Souk
Shops at the Souk Pic Courtesy : Deepika

First it doesn’t seem so impressive, but then the magnitude hits you- there are so many shops looking like  small departmental stores and their stock keeping units are Precious Gems and the Yellow metal. My friend who accompanied me informed me that during the shopping festival – the pavements would be lined with gold and gold ornaments on display. Just easily lying there ladies and gentlemen – one of the most precious metals in the world. For the ever photo savvy tourists – you can spot a golden dress , a 5 kilo gold ring that holds a record and just loads and loads of gold. Selfie anyone?

Sheets of Gold
Sheets of Gold
Outfit of Gold!
Outfit of Gold! Sorry for the glare 😦

Close on the heels of the gold Souk is the Spice Souk – just the most brilliant place to get any kind of spices be it regular or exotic. Cardamoms, Raisins, Pistachios, Almonds, Dates … and then crazy combinations. Dates stuffed with Almonds? Check. Crispy,salted Pistachios. Check. Roasted Cashews? Check. Vanilla pods? Saffron? Green tea. Chamomile buds. Check. Check. And check. This is a fantastic place to let go if spices excite you, or if you are into cooking. Being a wholesale market it is a good idea to stock up on dry fruits and nuts (as I did) since the prices are also pretty reasonable.

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You walk further down the Market and you can take the ferry for about a Dirham or two per person and get off at Meena Bazaar. A market for all Indian items. You have to stroll around , pick and choose – but when you decide to buy something it is a decent bargain.

As against the Souks, the malls at Dubai are a Sightseeing Activity by itself – in terms of architecture , activities and extravanganza. You will find a mini snow land, IFly,  fun activities for kids, sport stores that stretch for miles, and all the brands that you may read in Novels or Vogue. While I was not able to afford anything even if it were on a mighty discount – the malls are a good place for you to lounge in and spend time.

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Oh! Do not forget to stop and enjoy some dessert at Paul’s Patisserie. It is to die for!

Dessert at Paul !
Dessert at Paul !

I personally loved the Ibn Battuta mall – it has an Egyptian wing, a Persian One, a Chinese section and the like, beautifully done and maintained. I loved the mall more because it chronicled Ibn Battuta’s adventures, and it finally put a face to the man who gave me one of my favorite quotes.

My favorite quote!
My favorite quote!

So that is how my Dubai story ends. I hope you enjoyed following it.

(Trilogy ends with this post)

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DESTINATION DUBAI – Part 2

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DESTINATION DUBAI – Part 2

THE DESERT SAFARI

If you have read Part 1 of my trip at Sukanya’s Blog (https://sukanyaramanujan.wordpress.com/2015/05/28/guest-post-destination-dubai-by-mathangi-jeyabal/)

– let’s take off from where we stopped last. While locals at Dubai might not really be gung ho about the Desert Safari (they must have done it a zillion times) – as a tourist , it is something that you cannot miss. There are innumerable choices to book a desert safari – right from something that looks really affordable to the ones that make your eyes pop out (are they throwing in a camel for free or what?). Jokes apart – read the reviews and pick the one that suits your budget and maybe a bit more. We went with Orient Tours , and I was happy with the whole experience as you might infer on further reading of this post.

If you fix a slightly upscale option – you get picked up from your residence in the vehicle of your choice (we got a really smooth Land cruiser / you can even opt for a Hummer) and are driven to the outskirts of the city. You pretty much observe the well planned out city’s landscapes fading out as you enter desert territory – arid conditions, prickly bushes and miles and miles of nothingness. You get a pit stop – where you can stock up on some snacks / coffee etc and then you go further into the land of fantastic sand dunes.

You are really not prepared for the first experience of dune bashing as they call it – where your driver simply plunges vehicle et al right from the top of the sand dune till the bottom. Once you get used to it – you secretly start wishing the dunes get higher and higher and your drop gets steeper and steeper. Your driver will stop at half point to let some air out of the tires so as to get a better grip driving up slope. Its no fun when you are halfway up there and realize you are tumbling back down uncontrollably. Its useful to check on the cars that go ahead (there are many of them that stick to a particular route) – to have a fair idea of what’s coming next.

Did the car behind ya get stuck?
Did the car behind ya get stuck?
Steep fall
Tracks ahoy !
Tracks ahoy !

Your tourist and Facebook friendly driver lets you get out at the most photo friendly spots – giving you sufficient time for selfies/ groupfies and what not!

Groupfie time! Random tourists
Groupfie time! Random tourists

The sand surprisingly is not so hot to your bare feet and is almost silky smooth. There are many almost virgin sand dunes, where your footprints do leave the first imprints making you hope it stays there embedded in the sands of time ( wishful thinking eh ?) Kids and adults just go crazy here deciding to climb up and slide down – forget inhibitions and think childhood memories .

Footprints in the sands of time...
Footprints in the sands of time…

Post play time is a visit to the camel farm, a chance to see some exotic, fat lipped “Camelus dromedaries”, lazily chewing something and giving you the shifty eye. They are willing to be petted and photographed with and are absolutely friendly.

Camelus Dromedarius - yep its a camel!
Camelus Dromedarius – yep its a camel!

Your last stop is the actual camp at the desert. As the sun sets, you are under the vast skies , in small tents – you can either put your feet up and relax, or go sand dune sledding, get your hands painted with henna, hold a captive falcon, get a hookah fix,watch some sand art before dinner is served. Sadly there are not many options for the vegan or vegetarian population, but if you like your proteins (read meat) you are in for a treat. The food was good, the activities make you tired and you are ready to call it a day – when you are invited to a treat of some Arabian music, traditional dances including a voluptuous belly dance.

Henna time
Henna time
Dinner is served!
Dinner is served!
This guy did quite a number...
This guy did quite a number…
And so did she !
And so did she !
The sun sets over the desert ... time to wrap up!
The sun sets over the desert … time to wrap up!

. As you get dropped at your residence you sleep well happy in the thought that it was a day well spent.

My next post is about the extravagant gold souks and enchanting spice markets… don’t forget to watch out for this space…

Feeling like Cleopatra!

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Imagine yourself  in this beautiful hairdo, perched oh-so-elegantly on your head…

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followed by this absolutely stunning neck piece, just closely embracing your neck …

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right down to sandals made out of solid gold, complete with golden finger and toe nails!

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And I am quite sure nothing is going to stop you from feeling like royalty (irrespective of whatever outfit you are wearing)

In awe of Egyptian art and attention to detail…

 

Legend of the Hidimba Temple (Built in 1553)

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The Hidimba Temple is located in Manali, famous resort town in Himachal Pradesh. This ancient temple situated at the foot of the Himalayas, in a forest of cedar trees is said to have been built in the year 1553.

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This is probably the sight you would see as you walked through the forest flanked by huge deciduous trees. A three-tiered structure that almost looks like a house. The deity is believed to be a part of a huge rock cut out of the ground around which this structure was built.

TRIVIA

The most surprising feature of the temple or what believers could call the most reassuring feature of the temple is the fact that inside the temple the imprint of the feet of the Godess carved on a block of stone are worshipped and if you go to Google Satellite and zoom into the area where the temple is located, you can clearly see the imprint of a giant foot spanning across the valley in the area near the temple. It’s thumb starts from where Google shows the Manali Heights hotel to be located and the rest of the foot goes all the way down the slope.” – Wikipedia

WHO IS HIDIMBA DEVI?

Hidimba Devi, is a character from the great epic Mahabharatha. Who was she? The mother of Gatothkacha (The Giant Asura – son of Bhima) and devoted wife to Bhima ( one of the five Pandavas, known for his extreme strength in combat.)

WHAT WAS THE LEGEND?

The Pandavas along with their mother, Kunti Devi  and wife Draupadi were wandering through the forests during course of the exile. Having arrived at this very forest the women in the group felt very tired and decided to halt for the night. Having climbed one of the huge deodars, Bhima looked around and decided it was safe enough for them to spend the night there.

As was common – the brothers took turns at keeping vigil while the others slept. When it was Bhima’s turn to keep watch – he spotted a very attractive woman walking towards him in the middle of the night. While the gallant Pandava asked her if she required any help, the beautiful woman begged him no end to leave the place immediately, for fear of their safety.

Not being one to give in to fear – Bhima asked her to explain herself. The young woman Hidimba told him the truth ” I am a man-eating Rakshasi (demon) staying with my brother. My brother has decided to kill you all this night and devour you. Please do go away as soon as possible. I have come in guise of a mortal to warn you”.

The courageous Pandava replied ” Fair maiden, thank you for having warned us. But I assure you, it your brother who has to be warned against us and not the other way around. I refuse to disturb my tired mother and brothers as they sleep so peacefully in order to humor your brother”

By this time Hidimba’s brother had tracked her down, and was furious that she had sought to warn the humans, mere mortals. Needless to say – a huge battle ensued. Trees were uprooted, violence galore as man and demon met face to face.

Trees  of this size are believed to have been uprooted during the battle.
Trees of this size are believed to have been uprooted during the battle.

Finally Bhima overpowered the Asura and killed him. The gentle Hidimba, having fallen in love with the strong and brave Bhima asked him to marry her. Bhima agreed, on the one condition that he will stay with her until a son is born to her after which he will join his brothers to complete the 13-year exile. The son – who was born later on was the gigantic and gentle Gatothkacha. His is another story to be told later. Thus ends the legend of the Hidimba Devi temple.

THE TEMPLE UP CLOSE

Sculptures and carving show the level of intricacy in detail even as far back as the mid 1500’s.

The carvings are believed to be 400 years old!
The carvings are believed to be 400 years old!

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While some people just pray to the Godess as the “Hill Godess” a legend and a story woven into the history always makes it more memorable – I think. I leave you now, with a final view of the temple.

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Stained Beauty – yet Perfect !

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Stained glass paintings never fail to impress. They are vibrant yet not gaudy, silent and yet speak volumes…. I hope you all enjoy these beautiful works of art, snapped at the Met Museum, NY.

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Can you hear me?

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Can you hear meeee?

 

 

Flying high, feeling free

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Flying high in the bright blue sky

I took this picture at Pattaya, at the beach where one can go para-sailing. Though the parachutes looked quite dirty up close – the background of the clear skies, bright sunlight and the parachute puffed out to its full glory – made a wonderful picture.