Thursday, June 15, 2017

Al Ain Oasis

In April we visited the Al Ain Oasis. Al Ain is developing at a rapid rate and there is more and more to see every time we visit. So far we have been to the Qasr Al Muwaiji - birthplace of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan, the camel market, the mountain and this time we added the Oasis.

The Oasis is in the middle of Al Ain and it has not always been open tot he public. I am glad they have decided to make it open as I really liked it.

Sights at the Al Ain Oasis

The day we were there it was really hot. Not just hot, but really hot. So we first had lunch (overpriced and no selection) at the cafe near the entrance. After that we got a buggy ride through the oasis. In the middle we got off - grabbed a drink and started walking back towards the exit. We took some photos and luckily got on a buggy again that took us back.

Even though we did not walk completely through it, we enjoyed the view of the palm trees and the greenery a lot. And we visited the Eco Centre - which from ads seems very large but actually is rather small. But nice nonetheless.

Walkway through the oasis. If you've got kids then I recommend taking a scooter or bike with you.

UNESCO World Heritage Site

Wednesdays at the Warehouse

The Warehouse421 is undoubtedly one of my favourite spaces in Abu Dhabi (up there with Etihad Modern Art Gallery, Art Cafe, Third Place Cafe, NYUart spaces and more...)

The Warehouse421 opened in 2015 and we were there at the launch when the entire area near Mina port (it cracks me up as Mina means port in arabic so this just says "port port") was filled with exhibition containers, performers, food trucks, etc.

Ever since, the space has hosted amazing exhibitions focusing on the local art scene and history. I go to almost all exhibitions and I especially love their Wednesdays at the Warehouse programme.

In their words " a curated programme of activities and events designed to create new opportunities for community participation in the arts and culture. The programme features a range of activities including workshops, film screenings, performances, panel discussions..."

I usually go to the film screenings. Their workshops get booked up immediately and I have managed to score a spot in only one. (printing on fabric)

What I love about the film screenings is that the films focus on contemporary Arab Cinema. The films are shown in partnership with Cinema Akil. There is always a short film followed by a full feature film. The films are shown outdoors so the season runs during cooler months. (Feb-May)

Performace by emirati-japanese drumming band. Kharsha drums. Founder: Yotaro Matsutani

Some of the screenings in spring 2017 included:

Central Market / Bahrain
El Clasico / Iraq, UAE, Norway
We are just fine like this / Tunisia
A present from the past / Egypt
L'e Chappee / Algeria
Lights of Rome / UAE, Brazil

PS. so far they have always offered amazing food also (for free) at the film screenings. delish!

The first time they had Wednesdays at the Warehouse there were about 20-25 people there. Everyone seemed to know each other and I was the odd one out. Now, the event is very popular and registering in advance is a must. It can be done via their website:

Bait al Luban - Muscat, Oman

- The House of Omani Hospitality -

We went to Oman this spring for a quick stint in Muscat and LOVED it. We stayed at the Shangri-La resort which is quite a way outside Muscat and had most of our meals there. However, one evening we ventured to the centre and ate at Bait Al Luban.

The restaurant is walking distance from the souk and it is nice to combine a visit to the souk with a dinner at this restaurant.

It seemed like a tourist trap but then there were quite a few Omani families dining there and the food was very very good so we quickly reassessed. When you go there you can choose from traditional floor seating, private sitting rooms (more suitable for groups) or modern style dining area (tables and chairs). As we were travelling with my parents we chose the latter.

The food selection was wide, the service impeccable and the food tasted very good.

a very happy customer

I planned to take photos of the food and menu but as it often happens when the food is very good (and when you travel with young kids) - I completely forgot. 

Nonetheless. I would definitely recommend a visit to this restaurant when in Muscat.

Opening times: 12pm - 11pm daily
phone numbers: 2471 1842 or 9457 9457

And finally a photo of my son with a traditional Omani hat 

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Abu Dhabi Art

the graffiti installations all across Abu Dhabi. This one was at Yas Marina

For art lovers the best time to visit Abu Dhabi is in November during Abu Dhabi Art. This has been a 4-day event filled with exhibitions, performances, lectures, discussions, music, book launches and workshops. The main event is an art fair at the Manarat Museum on Saadiyat Island, bringing to Abu Dhabi world's top galleries and also focusing on galleries in the local region. Galleries that were from the UAE were Ayyam Gallery, Cuadro Fine Art Gallery, Custot Gallery, Elmarsa, Hunar Gallery, Lawrie Shabibi, Leila Heller Gallery, Salwa Zeidan Gallery, The Third Line Gallery. The event has grown every year and this year especially, I felt it branched out and more locations in the city were involved. Also, there were events taking place several days leading up to the opening of Abu Dhabi Art.

If you have some serious cash to burn, get there early as the best stuff goes already before the event opens to the public. I was fortunate enough to go to the opening in 2016 and overheard many deals being negotiated.

For people not interested in buying, there is still plenty to do. First, and foremost, admire the art. There are gallery tours for adults and for kids. The kids ones are more fun :). You can also tour the galleries on your own. Note that kids below a certain age (I think it was 10?) are not allowed in the gallery areas outside the kids' tours.

For all the years I have visited Abu Dhabi art, the event has been complimentary. That includes also all performances and everything else that goes on during the event. Here are a few photos of the 2016 galleries:

Gu Dexin 'bananas'

This I would have wanted to take home

Other events: One other event I went to see, well, more accurately, experience, was ' Five Attempts to Speak with an Alien', which was a boat trip performance by Anna Rispoli. This was fantastic! I was initially put off by the name of the performance but I am so glad I decided to sign up. This was a wierd, eye opening experience which captured and awoke all the senses. I started to see Abu Dhabi differently - to see the buildings, the lights, the structures and feel and hear the sounds. I am keeping my eyes open for anything else by Anna Rispoli anywhere in the world.

I am trying to soak up any opportunity to understand more about the local culture here in the region and also went to listen to 'GCC Museums in Conversation' where museum representatives from the GCC (Gulf Coast Countries) shared their experiences about establishing and running museums in the region.

I also went to listen to 'A curatorial vision' - a panel discussion with Alexandra Munroe, Fabrice Bousteau, Reem Fadda, Tarek Abou El Fetouh and it was fabulous to hear more about the thinking behind the gallery exhibits. 

My kids loved staying in the kids area and participating in the dedicated workshops. For the younger ones they were free to paint, sculpt and play and the older ones got to explore the themes of the Abu Dhabi Art and create their own masterpieces. 

 At NYU Abu Dhabi, whose campus is also on Saadiyat Island, there was a performance-installation by Lars Jan "Holoscenes". This was mesmerising. Learn more about it here.

As a photography lover, I also went to a photowalk organised in the galleries. This basically meant that we were able to enter the galleries in the morning and take pictures. Loved it! Check out dubai Instagrammers for more info and their photo walks. 

Wang Dongling, a calligarphy artist, did a live performance the night before and the art piece is here being prepped for display.

This is a fantastic event and I highly recommend to visit Abu Dhabi during Abu Dhabi Art! Just beware that you might want to spend more time at Abu Dhabi Art than seeing the sights or on the beach. And...register ahead for the workshops, lectures and performances. They were complimentary but spaces fill up quickly. 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Warner Bros studio london

A note to myself to visit Warner Bros studio in London next time we are there. A just saw an Instagram photo of it and I think my kids would love it!