In his book The Art of Travel, Alain de Botton writes about how our experience of a new city is often tainted with the dispositions we bring from our home cities. This is a trait I have tried to counter. So on this trip, I found a way for my home concerns( work, further travel plans,recovering from an acute respiratory infection), to be in communion with the present. Having done that, I have loved this city very much.
My story of Dubai is not one that involves towering hotels and floors paved with gold. This is because I generally describe myself as a paper bag princess(the kind of woman who is not above a meal of store bought ramen, accompanied by a flute of veuve cliquot,enjoyed whilst leaning against a countertop:) ).That’s just my vibe.I wanted my Dubai to have a soul and so I went looking for it. Upon arrival at the airport, I stopped by Dubai mall,where I headed to the Gucci boutique to pick up a pair of sunglasses from their new collection. The mall was rather overwhelming in the way it tries to be anything and everything.(While I was pleased to try some coffee from Tim Horton’s for example, I would rather have had that experience in Canada).
I went to my apartment which was just across the street from the mall,just off Sheikh Zayed road. A naturally bright dig with a rooftop pool that over the next few days, my best friend and I would spend hours contentedly swimming in and lounging around.
In the following days, I spent a fair amount exploring Old Dubai.My first visit was one in which we embraced the hustle and bustle of the strictly regulated Gold Souk in Deira. After much haggling, I left with a simple gold bracelet for 1500 dirhams ( £300) and although not pictured, it was such a fun experience. Our next venture to Old Dubai was to the Al Fahidi neighbourhood,which is traditionally beautiful, due to its twisting alley ways and old buildings made of materials like gypsum,stone and sandalwood. I was overwhelmed by the beauty of its silence at times, except for birds casually chirping.
We stumbled upon the Coffee museum, which was entirely curious,especially for a fairly new lover of coffee. After a peruse we headed to our actual destination, the XVA Art Hotel, a boutique hotel and art destination which has hosted presentations for fashion houses like Chanel,Fendi and Louis Vuitton and boasts three romantic and tranquil courtyards,one of which moonlight’s as the establishment’s vegetarian cafe.
I can confirm that the cafe’s mint lemonade is just as described,legendary. Between us we shared a veggie thali and a beetroot rosti with sweet potato chips,accompanied by a carrot hummus dip that was delectable.
When planning my trip, I had contemplated spending a full day in Abu Dhabi,because it is the emirate with the most rapidly evolving art scene. Both the Louvre and Guggenheim,currently have building projects in the works there.However, I was fairly disappointed that their opening dates have been elusive and subject to change,which meant I could not visit. I did however find something of much character at the XVA,which was the Iranian artist Morteza Zahedi’s Toy Story exhibition. An exhibit in which every piece metaphorically alludes to childhood memories.For me personally,it was reminiscent of Walt Disney’s 1940s film Fantasia,which is the most beautiful blend of dark and eerie animation,accompanied by classical music.For this reason I concluded that the exhibition was the perfect ode to the peter-pan disposition in all of us.
Le couer est belle, qu’est-ce que tu penses?
I should mention that this teddy is not a part of the exhibit, but was found at the neighbouring gallery of Make Art Cafe, Al Serkal’s Heritage House.
When I researched the best destination for coffee in Dubai, Espresso Lab was the synonymous choice, both from hearsay and online.Located on the ground floor of the serene Hundred Wellness Center in Dubai, a haven of shady trees,where sunshine sneakily kisses one’s skin, it was the ideal environment to be schooled on their coffee and the brand’s integrity. We both had an 8 ounce of Costa Rica, which translates as a latte made from Costa Rican coffee beans,which can be stirred for a softer effect on the palate.
Espresso Lab also has a policy of no milk alternatives and sugar,preferring to guide the customer through a genuine coffee experience.It was by far the best coffee I have ever had. We befriended the barista Freddie, who had such delicious tales about his passion for coffee, spanning from his home of Uganda, coffee fields in Ethiopia and currently Dubai. We were reluctant to leave. Such experience felt like inhaling precious air and holding it in…..not quite wanting to let it go.
And so there is my Dubai. Patches of serenity in the bustling desert. Many fantastic meals on the patio of Cafe Bateel( two of those instances are simultaneously pictured above). A late night at the standard hangout Reem Al-Bawadi, red wine and good music at Tribeca, a subpar lunch at Tom & Serg.
Speaking of Tom&Serg(pictured below),I found the Shakashuka delicious,although the accompanying bread was rock hard.That would have been forgivable, if the tacos weren’t also inconsistent due to their finicky assemblage and prawns nestled in a sponge of oily batter.In addition,the industrial space felt too contrived,thus failing to deliver the cool ambience I had hoped for.The addressing system in Dubai is quite a challenge, so leaving your part of town in search of good food should come with an honest word-of-mouth.
All that being said, I have much to be grateful for. I am pondering just that,as I watch the sunset from my balcony and contemplate walking over to Dubai Mall to watch the fountains (which I find beautiful and emotional in equal measure) and pick up a thing or two from a gallery I spotted. I am lucky and I cannot wait to be back in a few months, for the most beautiful wedding.