sabato 29 novembre 2014

sabato 20 settembre 2014

Nieces and Nephew Grand Tour

I did it again. I booked yet another trip. This will be the nieces and nephew grandtour. First stop: Stuttgart to meet my almost one year old niece Henrietta and her beautiful mom Bille. Then another stop in Brussels, to reunite with my sisters Fra, Ori and Cristina and my two adorable nieces Marta and Sofia. Those two  monkies make my iced heart melt. Finally, a last stop in London to see all my gals for a crazy night out but only after I get introduced to Oliver, my brand new nephew!

Yep, this will be an aunti-Tour. I am so excited. I am so happy.

domenica 14 settembre 2014

Musandam diving trip

What an absolutely ace week-end! It started with a six hour drive, which seemed endless. It took everyone else about 3.5 to 4 hours, but my group and I got...ehm.. lost and got stuck in the sand. I must have believed I was driving a 4X4 as I was choosing a short cut across the sand. Thankfully we were towed by two locals with their serious truck. They say you haven't properly experienced the deserted unless you have been here you go!

We finally reach our destination, Dibba port, and we embark on a beautiful old wooden dhow. Most divers are already there (3.5 to 4 hours remember?...argh). My new friends and I settle on the lower deck and I start dreaming about the sea life. I am mixed with excitement and fear as my risk calculating brain does not really come to terms with this new activity that I chose as the new hobby.

The next two days are all about the sea, diving, breathing, and watching in awe the under water life. Being under water brings out the spiritual side of me... there is so much silence, apart from the Darth Vader-like sound that emanates from the regulator.... We do 5 five dives in total, the night dive was particularly hard for me. Thankfully, my wonderful instructor Paola comes to my rescue (as of course I loose my buddy in panic) and holds my hand throughout the dive. This calms me down and allows me to gaze at one of the most beautiful and breathaking sceneries I have ever seen....

I think I am hooked! It has been a lovely adventure. Great fun, new people, new friends and more and more love for life...

By Tim Allen

lunedì 8 settembre 2014

Back in the desert

I just can't sleep. I guess I am still in (on?) London timezone... it is 1.47 in Abu Dhabi,  Milky Chance playing in the background. This was the soundtrack of my latest London adventure.

The floor of my flat is covered with many things: dirty laundry, shopping bags, reciepts... Maybe I am lazy or maybe I just don't want to pack away the smell of London, the memories of the last week with my friends... not just yet.

The recurring question while in London was: "When are you coming back Kami?" Only (!) 16 months ago the answer  escaped my mouth without hesitation: "Soon! A year? Max two!". Today after almost 1 and a half years (Emily, I learned- at last- how to say it properly in English!) I am not sure anymore... Abu Dhabi has been hard. No wait, that is an understatement. Abu Dhabi has been tremendously hard. Part of me is ashamed of such an expression. Afterall, I did not come to a war zone. I came to an amazing job, to a peaceful and prosperous country, to a city where, notwithstanding its strong traditional vibe and muslim character, it still allows me to be myself and enjoy a lifestyle that suits my personality and my western mentality.

Abu Dhabi has been hard because it meant taking touch decisions, leaving loved ones, saying goodbye to many people, to some for good ... making a leap of faith. It meant closing a chapter of my life. They say every end is a new beginning, so it has been... These last months passed with ups and downs but if anything it brought me closer to many people in ways I could not have hoped for.

"Loveland - by Milky Chance"

Abu Dhabi did not but confirm my belief that "Life is a journey,  not a destination", and if you haven't done so already please read the beautiful poem "Ithaka" by Cavafy...which sums up my journey (courtesy of my sister Dimi). Such journey, however, could not have been possible if I did not have the love and support of quite a few people. My mother, first and foremost, who always believes in me and in my decisions and who is the only one who will always love me unconditionally (thank you Leo for teaching me that). But as this is what you'd expect from your mother, especially one who is "awesome" as mine (and who knows me understands I do not use this word lightly), my gratitude goes to my friends out there, too many to list and who have not left me alone. Never.
They are scattered between England, Palestine (yes you sis!), Italy, Belgium, Abu Dhabi, the States, Germany, Switzerland, Dubai, Ireland, Macedonia, Greece, Qatar ...

They took planes, spent hours on skype, on whatsapp, viber... you name it, to make me feel closer. Our friendship, if anything, just became stronger and stronger over the past 16 months. They made the concept of distance a very relative one... so it is the thought of them that is keeping me awake now perhaps ...

I love you all dearly... it is 2.41 now. I kiss you all goodnight

martedì 26 agosto 2014

And we pack again! End of the Road here I come

After Thailand I did  a quick trip to Jordan. Another one of those trips down the memory lane.
Now I am packing again for the trip of the year (or one of the trips of the year!)

Destination: UK!

My holiday will start with a partial reunion with almost all super dupers. Destination End Of The Road festival (EOTR). I am so excited! It is my (and Meena's) first festival experience, but thankfully we are joined by some pro: Louise (who is back!!), Emily, Evelina, Vale, Pierre and Eoin. It will be all about tents, cider, wellies, mud, bonfire....and music of course!

Finding warm clothes fit for a festival was mission impossible. Almost! As I discovered a store called Tschibo which does not have a particular theme but sells absolutey everything including thermals!

So, I have the tent, the sleeping bag, the wellies, and above all the excitment to see my friends! I really need this break as lately I've been juggling three jobs. My professional life is undertaking serious restructuring (soon you will kow more!), but I am tired!

So, EOTR, here I come!

The best of Thailand in pictures


martedì 22 luglio 2014

Packing. Again. Destination Thailand

Oman, Jordan, Palestine, and Vietnam were the destinations of the first half of 2014. The second half will take me (inshallah as we say in this part of the world) to many more ...

Next destination: Thailand and its amazing beaches. I look forward to be reunited (for the third time this year!) with my Super Dupers and dive in the beautiful waters of Koh Tao (I am - almost-  PADI certified, yuppy!!)

Bottom line, I am packing again. My swim and gym gear are ready (yep I found a gym on Koh Tao, but we will see if the girls allow me to use it) and in two more sleeps, a quick seven hour flight, I will be in Bangkok where I meet Merge and Mariana, before we take a bus south to Hua Hin, celebrate our full reunion with Lou Lou and Emsy, celebrate Emily's birthday and hopefully without too much hangover head to Koh Tao.

Two of the Super Dupers are missing, but they will be with us in spirit!

Palestine 2014

Palestine, was another trip destination in 2014. A lovely, beautiful yet emotional trip. Lovely and beautful because I reunited with my family: my mother, sister, grandmother (85!) ad her best friend (79!) in one of my beaitiful homelands. Palestine. Emotional, because of the many stories we touched with our hands. Stories of occupation, stories of struggle, of hardship, of  hope.

They say pictures are worth thousands words, so let me narrate my Palestine trip with pictures between Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Bet Sahour, Akka, Sekhnin, Jafa, Nablus ...

Dead car on way to Seknin
Nativity Church

Football fans in Akka

Bir'3em village

Getting so bad at blogging....

Am I getting lazy? Perhaps. I am getting busier and busier? Definitely. Or maybe it is Twitter's and Whatsapp's fault.

I started blogging because I had no Facebook and I wanted to keep my family and friends, who ar all over the world, posted about my life without having to send individual emails (I have MANY friends and family is scattered all over the place!)

But now, since the advent of Whatsapp and Twitter things have changed. I am on daily contact with those I love; the super dupers, family, my wife, friends ... and I am less and less on my blog. But I need to go back to it because reading my old entries makes me smile,  laugh and cry... sometime. So many events, so many emotions that Twitter and Whatsapp can't properly document.

So, will do my best to keep it updated. It turns out I have a few readers (even in the US, hello Greg!!)

Watch this space....

mercoledì 11 giugno 2014

Vietnam Part II: The Mekong Delta and La CONCHINCHINE

Louise and I spent 1.5 days in Saigon. The first thing I had to do, was to learn how to cross the street. To say that crossing the streets is an adventure where you fear for your life - is an understatement. Louise, bless her, was a pro. She would hold my hand, tell me to keep a slow and balanced pace (no sudden changes in speed) and take me to the other side safely. Flocks of mopeds and bicycles attack you from every side. Even if the pedestrian light is green, it is not safe. To Louise's dismay, after a few hours, call me impatient, I developed a new approach called the "shield approach". I would wait for a local to cross the street, stand behind him and shadow his movement. They clearly knew what they were doing and they were faster than Louise who insisted on the "let's taking it slow Kamilah" approach. As I said, impatient.
While in Saigon we took the Tunnels' tour, which was a very interesting experience. The Vietnamese people are small and defenseless- looking. However, when it comes to designing deadly weapons, they are not so defenseless any more. Jeez!

Throughout the tour we were  entertained by a bunch of Ukrainians who believed it was a photo shoot set. They took pictures literally everywhere and in every pose. I had to retract from the tunnel walk because they established a set under ground and I could not breath! Louise was brave and finished the walk (or crawl) not without having to shout MOVE! a few times. The annoying Ukrainians were balanced out by the encounter with Matteo, a very cool 24 year old Italian travelling solo across South East Asia. He joined us for dinner with our local friends and we danced (or drank) the night away ....

On DAY 2, our bus picked us from Matteo's house (the other Matteo) to take us to the Mekong Delta. 2.5 hours and a food pit stop later (which included the  most amazing "Banh mi" ever, filled with the meat of an unidentified animal hanging from a food cart. Man, if I did not get sick there, I will not get sick "anywhere!!") we arrived at Can Tho. We board a tiny boat and we have an amazing tour of the CaiRang Floating Market. One of the most bustling floating markets in Mekong. Our guide asks us whether we would like a twin or double cabin and we opt of the former. To which he replies: "Well, we thought you were a couple so we have only a double cabin" [WTF, was it a lesbian test?!]
The boat then proceeds to transfer us to la Cochinchine, an amazing wooden boat with a surprise. It is all ours!! As it is low season, we were the only passengers, pampered and taken care of by an all male 6 member cabin crew. We were spoiled, very spoiled.

We spent the two days on the cruise, eating, laying on a sun bed, cycling across rice fields (followed by a foot massage), eating again, drinking , sleeping .... surrounded by a magnificent nature that was simply breathtaking. The difference between the Mekong and Saigon is striking. One is a bustling city, with so many people that look like non-stop working ants. The other is a green paradise, filled with exotic fruit trees and people on hammocks...
After two days and two nights on the boat with the boys immersed in nature and treated like queens, we were a bit sad to leave....we said goodbye, jumped on our bus and were ready to continue our adventure... (to be continued)

Snake WIne

giovedì 5 giugno 2014

Vietnam P I: Abu Dhabi - Saigon

What a MAGNIFICENT holiday my Vietnam trip was. I could not have wished for a better way to spend 9 days with Louise, some old friends and new ones.

My Etihad chauffeur arrived on time (yes, one of the many perks of travelling business) at 6.15. At the airport I was greeted by Etihad Staff who made my check-in as quick and smooth as possible. 10 minutes later I was having a sumptuous breakfast in the Etihad Lounge. I was so excited to meet Louise that I was smiling to the walls…

In no time it was time to board. I was escorted to my seat and greeted by many smiley Etihad attendants who rushed to take my food order for the flight, not before offering me a glass of Champagne. My business class inexperience transpired as soon as I asked when food would be served. The very professional attendant smiled and replied: “Whenever you like”. I knew I was bound to have the most relaxing and enjoyable flight ever. I could not stop giggling throughout the flight: I was going on holiday with Louise – in Vietnam (let alone the silly pampering on flight): How bloody lucky I am!!

Several glasses of Champagne later, a state-of-the-art dining experience (for god’s sake I had a steak!), a movie and a nap later I arrived at my destination: Saigon (today’s Ho Chi Minh).
My partner in crime was delayed, so I find my way to Matteo’s house (a friend from Genoa/Arenzano who migrated to Vietnam a little over 3 years ago). My timing was off, as he happened to be in Bangkok with his better half for the week-end (bad timing though given the curfew).Matteo and his lovely friends deserve the medal of best hosts of the year. ZE BEST!

Matteo took care of everything: booked our tours, sent me details of how to get to his house, including expected cost of cab. Left me cash, adapters, mosquito repellents, guides, directions for where to eat, drink and party, a basket of fruit, milk in the fridge and his entire house! If it was not for the better sense of Hoang (his adorable neighbour) I would have found flowers too. Thankfully, H. thought that was a bit too much and decided to skip that gallantry (that would have been so much pressure). He was also kind enough to come and check on me soon after I arrived and I felt at home in no time!

A quick shower and I was off to meet Diego, another of Matte’s friends who is from Genoa (yes, we are indeed gente di mare- sea travelers!). Had my first Vietnamese beer, soup, and a nice chat before I go home to meet and greet my bella.

After catching up with Louise on the last 1.5 month in which we hadn't seen each other (although thanks to Whatsapp it was more about the last two week's events) we fell asleep excited for the days ahead!

giovedì 22 maggio 2014

The holiday season... Has begun

It was about time!! I call the period better October until mid May in Abu Dhabi, the guests season. Then the next coming months are too hot for whit skin people. The weather is so nice in the winter and the fall here, that I save my holiday for when temperatures start to soar. And man if the soar. Apart from my brief long week end in Oman, I am off now to my first adventure of the year. The first of many planned actually.
Am so so excited! Am drafting this message as am comfortably sitting in a beautiful black Audi, kindly provided by Etihad for its business traveller. But don't be fooled. Despite the luxury travel I am having a proper backpacking holiday. Let's say backpacking with a twist!
Am on my way to Ho Chi Minh (or Saigon) where am tagging along one of my best friends' adventures!
Louise is on a 4 month holiday in south east Asia. She is on a longer journey though, a very brave one. While we know she is making friends every day and she will manage just fine; the super dupers decided to join her during some of her trips. 
This reminds me of something Louise's mum told her when she learned about out plan: "oh Louise, your friends will never let you be alone!"
Se meant well! But now that I think of what we planned, that could also have sound like a threat (which is now maeriosing!) 
Am almost at the airport! More posts to come!
Vietnam and Louise... Here I come!!

venerdì 11 aprile 2014

One year in Abu Dhabi

... coming soon....

Brunch in Dubai - Saffron

When you think Dubai, if you are a resident, you think Brunch. I was introduced to the concept in the London. You usually go for one on a lazy Saturday, when you wake up late and around 12ish your stomach is ready to welcome some food. You haven't had breakfast and it is lunch time, hence you go for a Brunch. I always loved the idea of a Brunch. It felt very London (my friend Bari always made fun of me when I said I was having one, simply because it was so "Londony").

When I arrived in Abu Dhabi and started flipping through the local Time Out, the pages were full of Brunch deals: bubbly Brunches, less than 100 AED, less than 200AED, less than 300 AED. Seafood Brunches, mixed Brunches....Brunches were everywhere. My first one was at the Pearl and Caviar Restaurant, for a friend's birthday. As the name suggests, it was very luxurious. The location was amazing, a table on the terrace with sea view. You start at 12.30 and you can enjoy delicacies from sushi, and oysters, to Sunday Roast, mixed grills, name it. All flushed down with grape (this the localised nomenclature for wine(!)) and bubbly for the modest (sigh) price of 360 Dirhams (60 quid!). When the ladies came down to Abu Dhabi, I took them there, because it is one of those Abu Dhabi things that you need to do at least ones. It was a lovely day, we laughed, we ate, we drank, we celebrated.

That was it for me. I was done with Brunches, at least for a while. This was true until a few week ends back when I went down to Dubai to celebrate a friend's 30th birthday. In Dubai, brunches are an institution. They have no other topic on the radio but the new Brunch that opened in the latest hotel. So, here we go. Our destination was Atlantis the Palm! I thought, now or never. It seemed like a cool place, and somewhere I would never go in the near future or at all if it was not for this event. Plus who says no to a day out in town with some crazy fun girlfriends? So, I pack my suitcase and head for 2 nights in Dubai looking forward to some extravagance. This was no regular Brunch. This was a Brunch at the Atlantis!! This was a 480 AED Brunch (yep, eighty! quid).

What happened next, is worthy of an essay on human behaviour:
I had always believed that people lose it at buffets. They lose their rational sense. At buffet, many people tend to fill their plates with amount they could not possibly eat. But food is there, available. It seems like an urge of getting more, of not being left behind, erupts in people's minds when they see big amounts of food. Most of it gets wasted, as the brain disconnects the eye from the stomach. The stomach is filled after a few bites; but the eye (or greed) wants more.

When you think Brunch in Dubai, think the above but multiply it by 100. This is not a regular buffet. this is a fancy Buffet which cost you 80 quid. So, if you can't eat for that amount, make sure you drink it. It does not matter if you will get wasted in say 20 minutes, if you will forget how food tastes like....but hey you spent 80 quid!! When you queue for a food station (and you have a choice of Sushi, Chinese, Indian, Middle Eastern, Seafood, Italian, French...the list goes on) make sure you pick a drink pouring down from a fountain. It does not matter if you started with a Sparkling wine as a welcome drink. Make sure you vary. Also, when your turn arrives at the station, don't forget to quickly dispose the half full drink on the nearest table so you have two full hands to fill your plate with  food you won't eat. On your way to the table, do not forget to pick a big water melon which has been emptied from its healthy contents and filled with vodka. The waiters will be nice enough to add 4 or 5 straws, because sharing is caring.

In case the first plate filled with foods that do not go together was not enough, off you go for another round. Not before an army of waiters swiftly take away your dirty plate, change your cutlery and leave a bowl of lemon scented water in front of you, to dip your fishy smelling fingers. And before you even ask for it, that empty flut of bubbly is not empty any more. This goes on and on until 4pm, when tables  are full of empty water mellons, half a dozen of emty shot glasses, and people dance everywhere.... ready to hit the next bar, because now love is in the air.

I possibly cannot imagine doing this on a weekly basis, as it is the case with many UAE residents. The local scene has so much to offer: beaches, music, events ... Yet, Brunches as are an addiction for many.... I guess, next time I will just have to put my "social scientist's hat" off and enjoy the ride...

sabato 22 febbraio 2014

22 February 2013

One year today, was my last day of work at Matrix. I cannot believe a year has gone by already. In less than 2 months it will be a year since I arrived to Abu Dhabi. That will be another story ...


...Capital letters have been chosen on purpose. The concert was more than I expected. It was A-W-E-S-O-M-E!
Those who know me, also know that I am strongly against the use of this word. Some people abuse it too often and shout "awesome", here and there for the silliest things. Awesome, means worthy of/isnpiring awe.... So, people please use it properly!

And last night was totally awe inspiring. To see a bunch of 70 years old jumping up and down, performing amazing music that made history (man, the Rolling Stones!) with the spirit of teenagers was just amazing. I could not believe it. I was happy, people around me were happy. Smiles were slapped on everybody's faces. Happiness was all over the place. People were so high on music. We were all watching four friends having a public party!

The concert sold out in December, so they erected an additional section to make room for hundreds of more lucky people who took part in last night's glorious event. Music was everywhere...... I was jumping in the morning before the event, jumping up and down walking to the concert, jumping at the concert, jumping on the way back. I could not stop.

My best friend Bari rightly observed that Kamilah going to the Rolling Stones concert (or any concert for that matter) is like taking Ray Charles to admire the Monnalisa.... (wtf!). The man knows me so well. I am not a connoisseur of music, or singers. I don't even have a favourite band. All the time preceding the concert I even thought that Steven Tyler was the lead singer of the Rolling Stones (Shame, shame! I know) and that the band was from the USA (I am a disgrace!)

Still. I could totally appreciate last night's magic. It was plain, impeccable, absolutely extraordinary entertainment. The time flew by. We all wanted more! In the end, there was no more appropriate finale song than their N. 1 track: I can't get no... Satisfaction!

Here are some photos (blurry I know), as a reminder of that unforgettable night!

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