The Re-opening of Zaman Awal

Al Boom Tourist Village has opened its doors with a new extension, Zaman Awal, it captures the true heritage of Dubai boasting the first commercial dhow to ever set sail down the Creek.

The venue is simply breathtaking, positioned creek-side, the views are unbelievable and so quiet compared to the creek by heritage village. The set-up is also great and I really enjoyed the calm, ambient setting. The first ever commercial Dhow to cruise down the creek, Al Aref, now sits proudly on the land and you can dine inside or explore the museum underneath it which has a collection of authentic artifacts.

The restaurant is huge and the walls are adorned with traditional relics making the place quirky yet authentic.  The chairman explained that most restaurants in Dubai cater to the tourists palette, however Zaman Awal makes dishes the way locals enjoy them. It is one of the few places I have visited in Dubai that has an air of nostalgia and reminds you of days gone by.

Mattar bin Lahej, a local artist that contributed to design elements of the venue said, “Al Boom Tourist Village spans over 6 hectares of land, with this premiere destination sitting in close proximity to the cultural landmarks, Dubai Creek, Wonderland and Garhoud Bridge whilst overlooking the modern architectural icon – The Burj Khalifa, worlds tallest building. In addition to its signature restaurant, the venue offers many other reasons for tourists and locals to visit. Each of these elements have been designed keeping in mind the true artifacts of an Emirati lifestyle and aims to take visitors back in time to the history of our land.

The Freej Village inspired by the famous cartoons has also opened which features the characters amongst heritage sites and retail spaces.

Mohammed Saeed Harib, creator of Freej cartoon. Another interesting addition to the venue is the Dara ship, also known as the Gulfs Titanic. Very few people in the region are aware about the history behind this ship, adding it to the venue will allow people to learn more about the travel history of Dubai. The Dara ship was used for travelling purposes along the Gulf countries and it carried from about 850 to 1000 people, the ship sank in the Persian Gulf in 1961 due to an explosion. Many rescued passengers were brought back to Dubai and were treated for injuries at Al Maktoum Hospital.

Dubai Women’s Association will set up a bazaar with merchandise, further enhancing the true cultural experience for all visitors. You can also take dhow cruises for dinner and touring around the Creek. Sailing in traditional boats is also offered at the venue, offering a full recreational experience for the entire family.

Zaman Awal  Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bajrangi Bhaijaan

There was a lot of buzz around the release of this film and I saw social media statuses and all sorts of talk about it and realised its been years since I went to the cinema to watch a Bollywood Film. It was a film starring Salman Khan and Kareena Kapoor about a mute Pakistani girl played by the adorable little Harshaali Malhotra who is separated from her parents and finds an Indian stranger who makes it his mission try and get her home.

The reality of the subjects it touches pull on your heartstrings, prejudices surrounding religion and culture, politics and prostitution juxtaposed with the innocence of this child. It really takes you on a journey and opens your eyes to how we as humans focus on differences rather then similarities, how we would rather know stories of hatred then love and despite having that bollywood over the top-ness that was to be expected, I really loved it and even shed a tear.

I am sure it will stay in cinemas for a while, critics are raving about it, IMDB gave it an 8.5 and rotten tomatoes a whopping 94%, a 9/10 from me, I loved the cinematography, the story, the songs (lol at the selfie song) the only thing that could have improved it for me was to speed up some of it. Make sure you head to a cinema near you to enjoy this beautiful tale of love beyond barriers.

Born Into Brothels: Calcutta’s Red Light Kids

I just watched this fascinating documentary giving you a peek into the lives of the children of Prostitutes in India. It is so unbelievably sad that just being born into a certain family, stipulates your entire life! It makes me eternally grateful for my circumstances in life. I often think of who I would be if I was born into the same family just 3 generations back and I don’t think I would have had the chance to be me. Cultures and times dictate behaviours and create norms and often it is hard to relate to and understand those that you are unaccustomed to. Do you ever think about how different your life would be if you were born in a different place at a different time? It is hard to comprehend that these children were given an opportunity to break free of their suppression and their families couldn’t let them.

I was very touched by the Directors Ross Kauffman and Zana Briski , what an incredible woman to spend years of her life living in that red light district and fighting for those children. She is a real inspiration and I hope by watching this documentary it shows you the power of a persons will to do good. She uses an art-form to give those children hope and encouragement of a brighter future ❤

I watch a documentary almost every day, I will share my favourite ones with you more often as I believe they are so eye-opening and a lot better investment of time then watching Celebrity Big Brother :p haha

Zohra x

Medellin, A Story of Hope

DSC_0147My first two weeks in Colombia were not very culturally rich, most days consisted of chilling in hammocks, by pools or beaches and most nights were spent checking out the night-life. In fact I think the most cultural thing I had done until Medellin was to go on a party bus which played typical Colombian music and attracted a South American crowd. So far Colombia had been a pleasant surprise because in the Western world we are only fed negative stories and are painted a picture of a very unstable, unsafe country. We tend to associate Colombia with cocaine and the infamous King Of Cocaine, Pablo Escobar. We are generally told one side of his story, the one where he is portrayed as a Robin Hood character, the best way to hear the other side of the story was to go to his home-town of Medellin where he took his first steps on his criminal career ladder as an alleged grave-stone robber. Here he climbed the ladder to a thief, kidnapper, drug cartel and mass murderer.

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Pablo Escobar

My first night at the hostel, I asked some Colombians what they thought of Escobar, whether he did help his people or whether they felt he had ruined their country, one wasn’t bothered and the other completely flipped out saying not to speak about him around her as she didn’t want to hear his name. This strong reaction was the more common one, most people hated him and hated that tourists gave him such importance. They felt he had ruined them and caused years of suppression and war and hated that Colombia was associated with him.

I went on a walking tour of Medellin which I would highly recommend, you can book it HERE, this further solidified that this view was the more popular one. Our tour-guide began his introduction by saying he knew a number of us would want to ask about Pablo Escobar but to please refer to him as “the famous criminal” as it would cause problems if passers-by heard us saying his name. He explained that it was obvious that we were tourists and if he was heard telling a bunch of gringos about Escobar, they would assume he was glorifying his name and associating Colombia with him thereby giving him importance he didn’t deserve as the country had a lot more to offer.

Parque de las luces symbolising Hope

Parque de las luces symbolising Hope

We went to the Parque de las luces (Park of Lights). As we stood there, our guide explained that just 15 years ago that square was like hell on earth. He said his mother would be afraid of sending him to school as he had to walk through it and bombs would blast or people would be kidnapped or mugged. He said that Medellin was the worst city in the world, that people lived in terror and were afraid to leave their homes. As his story progressed to the present day, he beamed with pride as he described the transformation that had taken place. How the lights in this square represented hope for the people of Medellin and how a building that was previously a refuge for drug addicts had been transformed into a library as Medellin wanted to forget its tumultuous past and promote hope and education to inspire the next generation to be better. Forbes Magazine recently voted Medellin as the most innovative city in the whole world!

First Train Network in Colombia

First Train Network in Colombia

We travelled by train there, this was incredible as it was the only city to have a train network in Colombia and it was a good one. Trains were regular and simple to get and it symbolised modernisation and moving forward. I was fascinated that they had escalators in the slums, they felt people already living a hard life shouldn’t have to struggle, that after they had finished a days work, they shouldn’t have to climb up hills for hours to get to their houses and wanted to make their lives easier so they installed escalators. The poor areas were the first to be invested in as these were where people really needed to feel cared for and to realise that they mattered too. They then installed cable cars which went through the slums allowing people to get to their houses safely without having to walk for hours through dangerous areas at night. I went on these cable cars and found it so amazing that the poorest region had the slickest transport system! Our guide had told us that you will never find people eating, doing graffiti or scratching windows on public transport as it was something that they were incredibly proud of. It put London to shame as I looked around and realised despite being almost 20 years old it was immaculate.

Incredible Views

Incredible Views

The views were beautiful although we were riding over slums, the backdrop was green mountains and the cityscape. One of the routes takes you over the mountains to a beautiful national park, Parque Arvi. We did a quick walking tour and our guide showed us various species of plants as we walked through the forest.

Botero donated many sculptures to the city to add value and make Medellin even more beautiful. I was touched by the story of how one of his sculptures of a bird was blown up at a concert, killing and injuring many. The council wanted to remove the sculpture but he insisted its remains were kept on display as a reminder of lives lost and Colombia’s terrible past. He made a new sculpture of a bird standing proud with a puffed up chest which he placed next to it, this symbolised the present, a transformation that Colombians can be proud of.

Symbolising the new and old Medellin

Symbolising the new and old Medellin

Colombians are some of the friendliest people I have ever met, they want to show you around and tell you all the best places to see as tourism is something new for them. They finally have a country that isn’t hostile and they are so proud to be able to share it and will take time out of their day to ensure that you have a good experience without wanting anything in return which is something that made Colombia a rare and beautiful experience for me.

A friend of mine also blogged her experiences of Medellin, you can check that out here

Carnival in Cajamarca

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  This blog post also appears on the Academia Superior de Idiomas’ blog I spent one of the best weekends of my life celebrating the carnival in Cajamarca. I heard about it when I arrived in Peru, it takes place throughout Feb but the main celebrations take place during the first weekend of March. If you don’t mind getting completely soaked, the celebrations are not to be missed. I thought I was prepared, armed with my water pistol, but after getting hit by a water balloon I realised I was going to lose this fight as I ran away from a guy who was trying to pour an entire bucket of water over me. Locals here are intrigued by tourists and often ask to take pictures with you, this happened right after one of them threw a water balloon at us but I took the opportunity to make friends. Its always nice to have locals in your circle, firstly they are generally really nice people, secondly you get exempt from “gringo tax” and thirdly had we not met them we wouldn’t have known about a lot of the things that were going on. They were also better prepared with bags of water balloons, and as they lived nearby they kept going home to get refills. We had formed an alliance and literally had a war against the entire square. It was so much fun, it ended with a downpour of rain which I danced in, firstly I missed the rain and secondly…nothing beats dancing in the rain 🙂

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Throughout Peru every town and city has a small park in the centre and by 10am it was  full of revellers. Some people woke up in the square from the previous nights festivities. Groups of friends gather with their drums and all play the same beat and sing the same song but somehow nobody gets tired of it! You can spot Llamas dressed to the nines wondering around the square and you should constantly expect to be thrown water at. wpid-IMAG1594_1.jpgwpid-IMAG1533.jpgwpid-IMG_24387019115418.jpeg Their is a daily parade and then the final Monday is the main parade which went on for hours and included huge floats. wpid-IMAG1563.jpgwpid-IMAG1546.jpgwpid-IMAG1497.jpg Although Peruvians travel far and wide to attend the carnival, spotting tourists is rare and it’s a very authentic experience that you can really immerse yourself in. We stayed at a good hostel, Hospedaje Jesús Trabajador Manthoc, it was centrally located so we could walk everywhere. They are one of the few hostels not to triple their prices during carnival, they also let us check out of our rooms at 10pm, gave 8 of us a 16 people dorm and didn’t charge us extra. It was clean with basic facilities…I wouldn’t plan on staying their longer then a weekend but for it was perfect for a short time. It was such a beautiful city and I missed out on a lot of the highlights such as the famous hot springs so I will be going back their before I leave! Toodles for now x