Ramadan Do's & Dont's
If you plan to have a grand shopping tour in Dubai, try not to schedule your trip anywhere near Ramadan. But the tricky part here is that you wouldn’t know the exact date of Ramadan UNTIL the eve of Ramadan. It all depends on the moon sighting. Each year, it occurs around 11 days earlier than the previous year. However, if you catch yourself in Dubai (or any Muslim country, for that matter) -- smack dab in the middle of Ramadan, here are a few reminders:
* Never EVER eat or smoke in front of any Muslim -- not even a chewing gum nor a candy nor a single puff of cigarette. Or else, you’d get dagger looks. Worse, be caught by the police (Am serious, am not exaggerating here). In case you forget, you still have the option to swallow the gum when the Muslims give you that "look". To respect their practice of fasting from sun up to sun down, it is but fair not to remind them, let alone, tease them about food.
* Thus, restaurants are all closed until Iftar (which means breaking the fast at sun down). Hotel restaurants are open but enclosed with nicely improvised drapes. Malls are open but most local shops inside the malls are closed too.
* At Iftar, you can buy Arab delicacies such as baklava balls on the streets for only 1 DH.
* Road rage is very common at around 3 to 6 pm as almost everybody is rushing home from work – practically tummy-empty. So it is understandable to be cranky and dizzy by this time of the day.
* Most cab drivers are also observing Ramadan so it’s difficult to hail a cab especially at around 6 pm when all they can think about is go home to get some FOOD FOOD.
* Bars & clubs are usually closed too. So it's practically a dry season (alcoholly-speaking). One main reason why tourists do not abound during this "dry season" (literally & figuratively).
* Ramadan ends with Eid (similar to Christmas for Christians & Diwali for Hindus).
As a non-Muslim, it is remarkable to witness the Muslims' dedication to their religious practices. I think Respect is the key word here.
Camel Racing at Nad Al Sheba
If you are lucky enough to be in Dubai when the camel racing is happening, don't miss it. Races are held Thursday Friday and Sunday November to April, one race at 7:30am and one at 4pm. If you are not so lucky turn up at the track any early morning (7am is best) or late afternoon and watch these magnificent racing camels being put through their paces in preparation for the big races. Strictly speaking photography is not permitted so wait until the escorting pick up trucks have passed and grab your camera for a quick couple of snaps. If you are caught apologise profusely and move on. The camels now race with robots on their back instead of the previous child jockeys, who could have been as young as six years old.
Although I have trained in cutting a pattern for and constructing made to measure ladies’ clothes, I still like to have things made for me by other tailors, partly out of curiosity and sometimes to avoid a boring or complex task. In the U.A.E. there seems to be no shortage of tailors and I always have found the cost there to be less than buying a comparable ready made garment in London and of course the fit is much better too. All of the tailors I have met there have been from India or its neighbouring countries and the techniques they use vary slightly from those used in the West, although they were very accommodating if I asked for any variation to be made.
Firstly Asian tailors take an armhole circumference measurement to fit the sleeve hole accurately, where a western dressmaker may use a standard depth measurement related to the bust measurement. I found this gave a much closer and better fit, which I found comfortable and less likely to strain the cloth when reaching upwards but some people may not like such a close fit, if they are unused to it.
Secondly, they seem, as standard, to make the clothes adjustable by finishing the hems and stitching the linings to the main fabric before stitching the side and underarm seams. This might be handy if your weight fluctuates but I didn’t feel the finished result looks as professional. CHOOSING A STYLE: you can either ask for a garment you have with you to be copied or for a design you have chosen from a magazine to be made up. Also, it is worth asking to look at some of the items they have made that are awaiting collection.
CHOOSING A TAILOR: at the tailoring shop, ask to see something similar your tailor has made recently. Inspect the straightness of the seams and security of the buttons in addition to the overall finish.
THE FITTING: stand up straight but relax; look straight ahead, not at what the tailor is doing; keep your arms loosely at your side, never outstretched like aeroplane wings and wear the bra you intend to wear with the garment.
THE COLLECTION: when fixing a date to collect the garment, allow enough time to leave it with them one more day, in case they need to make any further adjustments. Often this is not necessary but it is better to be safe. Check the garment, laid out flat, for any unevenness and make sure all seams are secure. Then try it on. Test the garment whilst sitting, standing, and waving your arms. Lean forward and twist from the waist before letting the tailor know if the garment restricts any movements or looks ill-fitting after moving. The tailor should check the straightness of the hems when you are wearing the garment.
"G'day, G'night..." Great Aussie hang-out
It can sometimes be very difficult to draw the line between "restaurant" & "night spot" in Dubai... most night spots are simply eateries that are taken over by a cocktail & beer-induced crowd, louder music and lots of fun & laughter later in the evening.
Aussie Legends is actually a restaurant, but it has been adopted by the social-scene of Dubai as a pub/night spot that serves food & shows sports when the live-bands are not playing... a concoction that works very well for the venue! The clientele consists not only of homesick Aussies, but expatriates from all over the world, especially during coverage of major sporting events.
I usually head-down (from Cactus Cantina on the 8th floor of the same hotel!) with my friends on a Thursday afternoon/evening to take advantage of the free cocktails for girls from 02:00pm - 07:00pm while the boys enjoy a couple of rounds on the pool table.
It's a lively sports pub with a collection of flags suspended from the roof, old tennis rackets on the wall, and chalkboard drawings of wombats, emus & kangaroos. Entertainment is provided by 3 guitarists playing rock & oldie favourites. Of course there's also a pool table, a miniature football-table and large TV screens showing all the action of Cricket, Aussie Rules, Formula One, Football, etc.
The menu adds a Down Under twist to all of your usual pub-grub favourites, and you'll always find something to fit your craving and appetite on their menu; every single dish is a real mouth-watering treat! Their Fish 'n' Chip come with breaded mussels... delish!
The ambience is always relaxed and laid back (typically Australian!).
A great place to go for a game of pool and a few pints, or just for a snack and the chance to chill out at a great, unpretencious place that does not aspire to the usual "Dubai high-class chic" that can usually start wrecking your nerves (and your wallet!) Casual, Casual, Casual...
Fri - Weds 03:00pm - 03:00am.
Thursdays: 12 midday - 03:00am.
Every Monday, join their BrainTeaser QUIZ NIGHT and win free drinks & various prizes. Would you know what the largest island in the Mediterranean is? Or which Star Wars movie received an Academy Award nomination?
UPDATE April 2008: Aussie Legends is the only restaurant in this hotel that still allows smoking inside.
Indian Vegetarian Food
This small restaurant seems very popular with British Asians out shopping for clothes and gold. It's not a terribly smart place, almost more of a cafe, although its look has been improved since I first went there. I've always enjoyed whatever I have had to eat here and the service has also been good. The food comes quickly once you've ordered and always tastes fresh. In addition to the menu, they do a lunch buffet which my friends tried and enjoyed. I like the methi paratha, a flat bread stuffed with fenugreek greens. The sweet lime soda is the best I've tasted and since I ate their freshly cooked jalebis, I haven't been able to eat them anywhere else! The samosas are nice and are accompanied by a tamarind chutney.