Saturday, July 30, 2011

Spanish Edition: Al Hambra - Paradise Lost

A few centuries ago, majority of people in southern Spain were not called Xose, Paco or Lupe. They were called Abdullah, Mohammed or Fatima.
The thing is, some parts of southern Spain were ruled by Arabs from Middle East and Berbers from what now is Morroco & Tunis.

They were sophisticated, cultured people, who introduced many great things to Spain, Moorish architecture included. One of the crown jewels of Emirate of Al Andalus (see, they were Emarati too :)) was gorgeous complex of Al Hambra in charming city of Granada.

Al Hambra includes Emir's main palace, teeny-tiny summer palace, grounds, beautiful Generalife gardens and a fortress.

Eventually Arabs were driven out of Spain by Catholic kings. There's a story that gooes something like that: the last Emir of al Andalus was in tears when he and his people were living Al Hambra. His mother, seeing him in such a state, turned and said "That's right, cry like a girl for something that you could not defend like a man".

Her name was Fatima and, apparently she was one helluva woman.

Al Hambra from San Nicolas Mirador

Cipress Alley leading to the grounds

Generalife Garden

One of many charming courtyards

If these walls could talk...Walls of Al Hambra

Friday, July 22, 2011

i love eclairs: Andalusian Food

One of the many ways to enjoy your vacation is to eat well.  You can eat fabulously and andventurously in Spain, which has one of the most mouthwatering cuisines in Western Europe.

First things first - Spanish eat a lot of ham.  It's called jamon and it's everywhere: sliced, cured, cubed and added to stews, eaten on open-faced sandwiches, mixed in spanish omelet tortilla, in empanadas and often times i saw Madrillenos eating thin slices of it right out of the deli paper wrapper.

Secondly - tapas.  I love sheer variety, fun and lightness of tapas.  Idea of tapas is exactly the same as arabic mezze: lots of little (1 to 2 serving dishes) to give you a taste but not weigh you down.

And then there's andalusian cuisine: cold tomato soup gazpacho, which often times is not eaten with the spoon, but is drunk out of the glass, paella, ox tail stew, grilled eggplants and really delicioso fried seafood, sometimes marinated beforehand in lemony adobo marinate.

And finally, dessert.  I have a bone to pick with dessert in Spain - it's excruciatingly sweet!  It's either covered in obscene amount of powdered sugar, or drenched in sugar sirup or just baked by some kind of sugar-crazed baker.  It's much more sweeter than any arabic sweets.  And that's saying a lot!

One of the most famous Spanish desserts is churros - long sticks of deep fried sweet dough, which either comes powedered with sugar or you can dip them in hot sweet chocolatel.   Or both!

Allow me to take you on my personal gastronomic adventure in Spain:

Spanish ham "jamon".  The lard drips into small white plastic cups on the bottom.

Cheese selection @ "Il Corte Ingles" (Spanish Supermarket)

Typical Tapas Bar in Madrid. Lunch hour.

Pallela Marisco.  Seafood Pallela

Lubina a la plancha. Grilled sea bass.  Eyes and all!

The Hoof!  Server would slice the jamon right on that board.


Caracoles/Escargot.  I didn't eat them. I couldn't!

Churros con Chocolate and also My Husband's Arm

Arabic Pastries and Yammas (top left).  Yammas tasted like egg yolk mixed with copius amount of , yes you guessed it! SUGAR!

Friday, July 15, 2011

I love eclairs: Spanish Edition

My wonderful husband took me to Spain for much deserved vacation (much deserved by him, not me).
While there are many unbelievably wondrous sites in Spain, I'd like to share with you things that are so undeniably girly and pretty that it will make any signorita's heart swoon - flamenco dresses, fans and shoes.

Check them out :

580 Euro!!!

Flamenco Shoe Store

Flamenco Shoes for Little Girls

I loved the little polka-dotty ones

Not sure what this is, but embroidery is quite exquisite.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Martha Does Dubai

 Yet another ex-convict visits Dubai. 

Martha Stewart visited the UAE last week.  She did all the prerequisite Dubai things - rode a camel, took a pic with falcon, went shopping for things in old Dubai, etc.

She is here because - hooray! - she's planning to start publishing her Martha Stewart Living mag in the region. 

I have to say that English-language magazines here are pretty dumb - there's a major lack of any sort of depth or intelligence to their articles.  Most of them consist of look-books of things to buy in the local stores and some month-old celebrity gossips.  In order to appear "hip" and "with it" these glossies consistently use such mind boggling words as "lippy", "sunnies", "puds" and other lobotomised version of proper grammar.

I get brain damaged every time after reading an issue of OK!/Viva/Hello!/Ahlan!
Also, what's up with all the exclamation signs in the name of the magazines?

So I say "Bravo!" to Martha for bringing excellent quality publication to this region.
"That's a good thing!"

P.S. Did you know that Martha used to be a model?  And even a face of Chanel for one season?

Riding an Abra on Dubai Creek

@ the Spice Souk

Signing Books @ Tavola MOE

@ the Center for Cultural Understanding in Dubai

Check out the hotties in the background

Haggling @ the Textile Souk


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