Addicted to Arabian love in a Frying Pan #MyDubai
Thanks to visiting photographers, Pam and Scott, I embarked on not one but two tours. Both I had done before - one of them (Arabian Tales) was as far back as January 2013. Even though I have been on most of them (I have counted 8 certificates and bottle covers), I know how personal each of them are and that she (Arva and her sister for that matter) puts in so much passion, details and information into each and one of them, that I always feel I am missing out when I see the photographs and the posts on social media. The good news is that they are both firm social media friends now - so sometimes I get the inside track on a few new places and ideas that they are exploring, always hoping that I might get picked to be guinea pig. I am (if I'm not, I should be) on their quick dial foodie list for checking out new places. The first tour on Sunday was the shorter version of the Arabian Tales - the one in Jan lasted over four hours and ended with Iranian food, this one (not that short at 3 and half hours) started with her favourite falafel store - this time we not only had the falafel but a massive bloated full sandwich (I'm going back). I was so hungry, I ate the lot. We then went next door to watch kunafa being made specially for us. A rare treat being allowed into the kitchen. We then meandered through towards the Emirati restaurant near the clock tower via a small Syrian sweet and snack place for a taste of Syrian Booza (ice cream). The ice cream was a revelation. Thank you Arva, for adding that unplanned stop. We were a bit early to see the next batch being made and a bit late for the first one - but we were given a taste of it anyway. One word: Yum.
We went into the traditional Emirati restaurant - sat on carpets in a 'tent' like room and ate some delicious lentil soup, followed by chicken Machboos (on Wikipedia it takes you to Kabsa) - a rice and chicken dish very reminiscent of a biryani though not as over spiced as biryanis can be. We also had some harees and lamb salona accompanied by some laban. By this time, we were quite full and I was struggling. It was useful that we had at least 10-15 minute slow walk between stops to help work out some of the excess. The last stop on the tour was the baklava shop - with a taster of various baklavas and refreshing gahwa - one of the few coffees I do enjoy.
I accompanied Pam and Scott the next morning for the Frying Pan Food Lovers' Morning March - my second time (for the previous encounter click here) - but this time I started with the fish market. We walked through the market with great insights into the fish that were sustainable (including a guide to local sustainable fish), how to pick the right fish, prawn, what to look for, where the best fish were, etc. We even saw the rare desert truffles, tasted some fresh dates and washed it down with fresh tender coconut water. I opted for the Omani one (less water, more soft flesh) and the others had Sri Lankan ones with almost a litre of coconut water. I love walking through the old fish and vegetable market and since we weren't worried about parking, it was quite pleasant. We then took an abra to Bur Dubai, where we strolled through the very kitch, touristy souk that was slowly coming to life, to our breakfast destination: Creekside cafe. I had the Beit Tamat last time so I opted for the Rgag this time.
After a leisurely breakfast and pit stop, we wandered through the souk, kicking off Spingo (spice + bingo). Last time we waited till we were back across the other side in the main spice souk before beginning the game but this time around, we had a headstart. I won the game last time, and did so again. And not ashamed either - a discount voucher for Balqees honey - whats not to like. We did still visit the souk and walked around but it was packed with tourists and we decided to get away after a bit of falooda. We headed straight for the coffee museum in the historic Al Fahidi area.
We finished the tour with a leisurely lunch in Arva's secret Iranian kebab place in Twar area near the Bird Park (and that is all I am saying). I agree with her - we don't want these gems to be overrun - just enough to keep them alive and in business.
Arva and Farida are passionate and organised. That comes through in the amount of information and personal investment in each tour. Its an experience that goes beyond the food and the places. The details are in the depth of details they share before, during and after the tour to make sure that you have everything at your finger tips. The details are in the things like a bag with a map and a little souvenir that you take away from each trip.
I could take you to one or two but it won't be the same. Go on treat yourself. Go with one of the Ahmed sisters and discover the heart and soul of Dubai. And I guarantee you will want to go back over and over again. Till then enjoy some of my phone photos (taken on my new HTC Desire Eye)!