The Ripe Market
One of the things about the weather getting cooler, and by cooler I mean temps of mid to upper 30s celsius, is the return of outdoor markets. This past weekend, the Ripe Market at Academy Park in Umm Suqeim started in Dubai and I ventured out of my apartment to check it out since I had not been there before.
The 5aed entrance fee was totally worth the vibe itself! Music played in the background, tons of vendors and goodies lined the path, people were laughing and chatting, food trucks were on hand...just a cool and chill place.
I was heading to my friend’s booth for her jewelry store, La Eleganica (based in Abu Dhabi but participates in pop-ups throughout Dubai) to say hi, but was first stopped by someone offering free samples. I don’t like saying no to free samples.
Ascania is a company based in the Ukraine and sells creamy flavored honey, jam, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and more. I tried some of the sun dried tomatoes and they were delish, so I went into their booth to explore what else they had to offer. That’s when I saw the honey. I’m a sucker for interesting honey. Some of the flavors they offered included: buckwheat, strawberry, and blueberry. But what intrigued me the most was the lemon and mint honey. It reminded me of my days in China; I would purchase a jar of a marmalade type substance that I could add to a cup of hot water. I swear it could cure any ailments. So needless to say, I purchased the lemon and mint honey and I’m looking forward to testing it out this week. I was even sent home with a free sample of the creamy strawberry honey to try!
Agatha The Edit was another vendor I made sure to stop by; she was selling shoes-adorable shoes. Now I know what you’re thinking: I have enough shoes (though can anyone really say they have enough shoes?). But the shoes she advertised were bedazzled and looked unique, nothing like I’ve seen in the store. PLUS! She advertised a pair of yellow sandals that had little pineapples on them! I can’t say no to a product with a good pineapple on it. I found the booth (with help from my friend who had scoped out the area earlier) and immediately spied the shoes. Luckily, I had messaged earlier to see if they had my size. She did. I tried them on, and well, I was in love. So, I bought them. In all seriousness, the shoes were very reasonably priced, much more so than I thought they would be.
As I left the market, I was satisfied with my purchases and knew that this was one I would be coming back to for sure. There were so many other vendors I wanted to check out but couldn’t due to commitments and time. If you find yourself in Dubai between now and May 2022, be sure to head to The Ripe Market!
In November, my colleague and I will be taking 26 preschoolers to a camel farm. Now, my fabulous colleague has been there before, but not since the pandemic; I had not been there before. So, we decided to take the time during our fall break to go check it out (teachers, we’re always working)...all in the name of research of course.
During the 40 minute drive, we talked, getting to know each other a little more, all the while listening to her daughter and her daughter’s friend chatter in the back. It was apparent we were far from the city as more sand surrounded us the closer we got to our destination: The Camel Farm.
As we drove up to the entrance, I realized cute sneakers were the wrong shoes...allow my fail to teach you: wear flip flops since you’ll be walking around in sand. But, I didn’t let that bother me (too much) as we walked to the small covered area where Viviane, the lovely lady who runs the farm, met us. We were given a French speaking guide and we were off!
The first stop on our walkabout was in the bird section. We saw (and heard) pigeons, quail, chickens, guinea fowl, doves, and turkeys. We were allowed to enter the pens for the pigeons and quail. The girls were allowed to even catch the baby quails. For the guinea fowl and turkeys, we were offered greens to feed them through the wires. I learned that guinea fowl are quite foul towards each other when it comes to food. They’re mean little buggers. Also in the bird section were a few rabbits.
We then meandered over to the farm yard animal area. In one pen was a very, very talkative donkey. Next to the ass (I really just wanted to say ass), were a few goats and sheep. The goats were curious about what was happening over in the other pens. There were also a couple of Indian deers.
Our walk concluded with getting near the actual namesakes of The Camel Farm: CAMELS! Various pens held camels. We took time with each, feeding them and learning more about these creatures. Each camel had its own personality. I admit, getting near the camels, I was concerned one or five may try to spit at me, but I didn’t see one glob of camel spit flung at us once. I didn’t see any try to kick us through the fencing nor kick the other camels. If you’ve never been in the presence of camels, I highly suggest you spend time with these creatures to truly appreciate them.
After our walk around the fowl, farmyard, and camel areas, we went to the majlis sitting area for water, coffee, or tea (green or karak). I selected the karak tea, which was positively delightful and now I’m going to be experimenting all this week in an attempt to replicate its deliciousness. All I was told was Indian tea, sugar, and sweetened condensed milk (side note: reminded me of the Great British Bake Off’s technical challenges).
If you find yourself in the UAE and am in need of a truly unique experience that you can really only have here in the country, go to The Camel Farm. Hang out with the camels! I, for one, can’t wait to return with my classes!
+971 50 485 7676
The Camel Farm
Riches to Rixos
A couple of months ago when the weather was perfect and not "melt-your-skin" hot, a couple of friends and I whisked ourselves away to one of the Rixos’s properties; this one is an all-inclusive resort along the pristine shoreline of Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island. Not only does this resort offer fabulous rooms and villas, it offers day passes. As much as I would have loved an overnight stay, this time we were there to enjoy the pool and food.
We arrived early in the morning. Walking into the opulent lobby, I was mesmerized by the gaudy clear and blue crystal chandelier perched above the fountain. It was FABULOUS! I wish I could have that baby installed in my apartment; it would go perfectly with The Danish (my beloved velvet couch). Walking down a marble staircase, we checked in at the Turquoise Restaurant, a buffet style restaurant offering indoor and outdoor seating. Since it was about 9am and still slightly chilly outside, we opted to dine upon some breakfast fare before making our way to the pool. The buffet offered the usual foods found in the morning: bread, pancakes, waffles, sausages (chicken, veal), hashbrowns. Though the food wasn’t necessarily impressive, the fresh squeezed orange juice definitely stole the show! After multiple glasses, my friends and I strolled along the back lawn towards my favorite part of the day: the pool area.
We grabbed a couple of loungers and spread our towels. A waiter on rollerblades came straight away to us to take beverage orders and to leave an ice bucket full of water bottles. The pool beverage menu was pretty extensive, offering wine, beer, hard liquor, cocktails and mocktails, juices, sodas, and lemonades. A wonderful way to quench your thirst while lounging poolside.
Throughout the day, we were checked on several times by the rollerblader and waitstaff. The music was loud enough to prevent other guests from eavesdropping on our conversations while soft enough to still allow us to talk to each other. The pool offered plenty of space for us to swim and cool off. The water’s temperature was nearly perfect: not freezing and not warm. Submerging myself into the water, I felt like Goldilocks when she found her “Just Right” porridge, bed, and man (oh wait, she never found a man, did she?).
For lunch, we did return to Turquoise since it was the only restaurant available for the all-inclusive deal for day goers. Again, the food was average, but did offer one stand-out star...it was a delectable marshmallow cake. The chocolate mouse cake had a creamy marshmallow layer on top that just made the whole thing...sinfully delicious. Had I eaten that first, I would have skipped all the food and focused on a plate full of the “marshmallow cake”.
Feeling gluttonous, we returned to our loungers and basked away in the warm desert sun until evening. Though the food didn’t leave a lasting impression (except for that one cake), the Rixos offered a chance for us to enjoy time in the sun and away from our computer screens.
One final note about the Rixos, I enjoyed the pool and speedy beverage service. The customer service was outstanding! But the Rixos claims to be a 5 star resort, and I’m not sure I can agree with that rating. Based on the food and the options it was offering, it is more like 3.5 or 4 stars (on a good day). I was lucky and was able to experience it for the Privilee price of 298AED (day passes can range from 350AED to 500AED). Though the app says there are a few places to grab food, one of the places was closed which left us with Turquoise as being our only option. It isn’t a bad place to stay and hang out for the day, but needs to amp that food up if it wants to be a legit 5 star resort.
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates is a country full of opulence and excess. Luxury oozes from it’s veins. Whether you find yourself in the sand dunes of the desert, or in one of the cities within the seven emirates, you will have no problem finding somewhere to stay that makes you feel like a king or queen, or in this case, a sheikh or sheikha.
One place I’ve recently stayed that wrapped me in elegance and luxury is Qasr Al Sarab, an Anatara resort located in the Liwa Desert of Abu Dhabi. Entering into the Liwa Desert, rolling sand dunes greeted me in a mixture of hues…orange, red, tan, and of course gold. I felt as if I was traveling to a whole other world, though I was only about three hours away from downtown Abu Dhabi. As I pulled up to the center courtyard to valet my Lexus for the stay, I was in awe of the grand Islamic architecture surrounding me…scalloped arches and walls, fountains, turrets, and palm trees.
I was ushered into the lobby’s sitting area and offered a small plate of dates (a traditional treat here) and date milk as we waited to be checked in. I’ve never been a fan of the texture of dates, but date milk is sweet and certainly welcomed, especially when served in colorful glasses with gold designs. Check in didn’t take too long and before we knew it, a cart was waiting to whisk me away to my Deluxe Garden Room.
As I walked down the steps of a short darkened stairway, my anticipation grew. The door opened to the room and I was not disappointed. The warm wood ceiling beams complemented the ecru-toned stucco walls, as the Arabian chandelier gave the room a soft glow. My room included a terrace with comfortable patio furniture and views of the dunes, perfect for watching the sunset from. But the piece de resistance was the bathroom. On the other side of the bathroom’s double wooden doors was a massive room with a large walk-in rain shower, double sinks, and the largest tub I’ve ever seen. I’m a sucker for tubs where you can toss in a Lush bathbomb and soak your entire body. This tub was large enough for more than one person to get a good soak in at the same time, or for any other particular activities that your imagination can conjure.
Qasr Al Sarab offers plenty of desert activities for guests to enjoy, but I’m a water person by nature, so I immediately headed off to the large pool to enjoy time amongst the palm trees and under the oasis’s sun. The lounge chairs and umbrellas offered a comfortable place to admire the pool from, but the water was too inviting, so I jumped in. In one of the shallow areas of the pool, curved lounges were ready to provide a place for me to relax in the sun while also remaining in the cool pool–the best of both worlds! Food and beverage services were offered at the pool area, so I ordered the pineapple and ginger mojito, a refreshing blend of mint, ginger, pineapple, sugar, and Captain Morgan.
For dinner, the food at the resort’s rooftop grill, Suhail, looked enticing. I asked to be seated on the terrace for my meal. The menu at Suhail offers a variety of dishes, from pasta to steak to seafood. I admit, I had a difficult time trying to choose the dishes I wanted to eat due to how wonderful it all sounded! But I finally decided on the lobster bisque for my appetizer, the butternut risotto for my main course, and followed it up with a creme brulee. The bisque was rich and creamy with chunks of lobster meat (my absolute favorite food), the risotto was warm and comforting, and the creme brulee was sweet and large enough for at least two people to enjoy.
Though the setting, accommodations, food and selection of activities of Qasr Al Sarab are all individually amazing, it is the whole experience that sets it apart from other luxury desert resorts. I truly wished I could have stayed longer. From the tiny details, such as the wooden camel door sign etched with “Do Not Disturb” to the friendly staff that went out of their way to make sure I was enjoying my stay, this resort is one that definitely stands out from the long list of hotels and places I’ve stayed during my time in the UAE. So, if you ever find yourself looking for a magical getaway in the desert, put Qasr Al Sarab at the top of your list.
Al Liwa Desert
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates