Friday, July 30, 2010

Shedding feathers

My "Rolls Royce"
I love my car! I hate driving , but my "Rolls" is one of the very few possessions I now value, together with an old-fashioned Nokia (I'm sure it doesn't even have a number), my digital camera and my Dell Inspirion mini. And, apart from the car (!!), they all fit into my bag and I'm ready to go.

Traveling a lot, first with my family and then on my own, I realized how much stuff we had accumulated and how much there was to give away each time the packers were called in. And with each move you shed some feathers and grow some new ones. We love hanging on to souvenirs, mementos, clothes, shoes, things... that we hang, display, don't wear anymore and generally exhibit, hide and stuff here and there around our homes.

A few years ago, on embarking on yet another move from one flat to another -- and planning to relocate to Dubai -- I decided not to unpack. I would camp! And when you shed feathers, there are some you realize you should have kept... but Oxfam was certainly pleased. I ran back to the charity shop once searching for my favorite leather jeans that I thought would be too hot for Dubai. No chance! They were gone!

There is, of course, some stuff I couldn't part with -- like my dad's collection of pipes; my mother's Limoges and Opaline vases, boxes and plates; a camphor chest which takes you back in time with its sweet smell whenever opened, containing a gold-threaded black abaya, about 10 meters long, that a Saudi princess once gave my mum; my Barbie dolls, in their original pink case with all the little shoes, bags, accessories and outfits; the picture albums... enough for a Mich Antiques Shop, sometime!

With all that in storage, or rather in a friend's garden at the moment, it's quite liberating to have just the essentials. You realize how little you actually need, and that apart from family and friends, their welfare and good health, not much is really important. It's lucky if they are close, but once their photos are spread around, even a tent becomes home.

And so, my car takes me from A to B -- and when I feel very courageous to C. With my mobile I can always hear the voice of loved ones, no matter how far. My digital camera lets me record events and share them. And my Dell, well... something that small has opened up the world to me, changed my life in so many ways and here I am talking to you!!

So until I get to that place where I can at last hang my hat and take my flip flops off, these feathers are fine and camping is fun too.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Flaming Mimosas

The Mimosas on Al Wasl Road
I drive by these eight flaming trees every day. One is on Jumeirah Beach Road (in front of the Enoc petrol station) and the seven others are on Al Wasl Road (just before Park and Shop). They look so lonely and out of place in Dubai's desert heat that I have adopted them as my own --  if that's allowed!

I say lonely, because I haven't spotted any others like them yet; out of place because they are Mimosa trees, and very characteristic of the Mediterranean and the French Riviera (where they were imported from Australia by non other than Captain James Cook in the 18th century).

You can take me away from the Mediterranean, but you can't take the Mediterranean away from me. There is something magical about the Med -- its people, food, fauna, flora... And Mimosa trees are part of that luminous magic. They spring at you with their golden blossoms, evoking a thousand suns. And if there's a breeze, you can only fall under the spell of the Mimosa's sweet and delicate scent.

If you spot "my" Mimosas next time you're driving down Beach Road or Al Wasel, give them a little honk and let me know what you think.

This week's Haiku is dedicated to:

My Mimosas

Lonely in the heat

Fluffy golden blossoms flame...

A Mimosa route.

Friday, July 23, 2010

A love affair... with watermelons

Boris Kustodiev's Merchant's Wife (Wikipedia)
The first I remember about watermelons is when I was no higher than the boot of my dad's battered, racing green Jaguar. Back from market, we were helping him unload the shopping and I decided to carry a watermelon into the house. Yes, you guessed, I dropped it and it cracked on the pavement in all its red, juicy glory.

Far from being put off, my love affair with this magnificent fruit began then and there!

We were living in Tunisia, and when watermelons began appearing in markets, grocery stores or with street vendors, we knew it was summer. We had them daily after lunch or in the evening, sitting out on the front porch with salty Nabulsi cheese as a light dinner.

Every part of the melon is edible, including the seeds and the rind. There is an Arabic saying about watermelons: bit shabe3 al jou3an, btirw2 al 3atshan ou bit ta3mi al hmar -- it satisfies the hungy, soothes the thirsty and feeds the donkey. So the rind went to the goat, lamb or tortoise we invariably had in the garden (although never a donkey!) and the seeds were washed, dried and roasted with salt to enjoy with drinks.

A watermelon was the first thing we packed on picnics or days out on the beach. There was always a stream, river or waterfall to immerse it in to cool it off. And at the beach, we would bury the melon close to shore and collect it nice and cold when needed. Why anyone would come up with a portable cooler is beyond me!


When I moved to London, it was more difficult to satisfy my love for watermelons. The ones in the supermarkets tasted like unripe cucumbers or had no taste at all. The edible ones came from the Iraqi, Lebanese or Cypriot stores -- imported and very expensive. But I would treat myself whenever possible  by going to Moscow Road and carrying my watermelon on the tube from Queensway to Sloane Street and then walking home up the Kings Road.

When visiting my sister in Cannes, she always had one ready for me in the fridge and to her great regret I would want watermelon for breakfast, lunch and dinner, despite all the delicious things on offer in the south of France.

Watermelons are very healthy as they don't contain any fat or cholesterol and they are high in fiber content and vitamins A+C, in addition to potassium.

Now in Dubai, I have watermelons to my heart's content... except it isn't that easy. Although they are sold all year round, they are never from the same country and I haven't seen any local ones. I buy mine from the Union Co-Op, which has the best I think. The first ones to arrive in "winter" are from Iran -- usually elongated and a very pale green. Then come the Omanis, round, light green and delicious. The more widely imported are the Egyptian varieties but they also come from Sudan, Tanzania, Malaysia and there were the square ones from Japan once at Mercato Mall. The Lebanese watermelons are mostly sold at Lifco supermarket, but as I don't drive on Sheikh Zayed Road, I miss out on them.

Most recently, I came full circle when the Co-Op brought in Tunisian melons. They were striped -- light and dark green -- big and expensive (dhs9 the kilo versus the dhs2-dhs5 for the Iranian or Egyptian ones). But boy, was it worth it. They were the most succulent I have tasted in a long, long time! But, it was just one shipment. They have since disappeared.

I have watermelon after lunch most days; or rather I have lunch to have watermelon! It is one of the many pleasures of my day. What are yours?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Shining Moon...

We often say and think that we “spend too much time on Twitter.” In fact, Eric (@dobror) always starts his daily tweets by writing that. It’s true of course, but then again…  I find Twitter, more often than not, educational and interesting as well as fun and entertaining.

It is on Twitter that I came across a form of Japanese poetry called Haiku thanks to Samer Chehab (@meetsamer) and Dany Awad (@DanyAwad) and Pascal Assaf (@PascalAssaf). I was totally fascinated by their writings and started looking into this form of light verse. Thanks to Google, you can do the searches as I did into Haiku. For a closer look at Haiku, you can read "The Haiku Handbook 123"  by @HaikuLebanon

Not being at all poetic, I would need another lifetime to read about, discover and master this magical form of words. But I find myself often thinking in syllables, or on, to form the three phrases of 17 on – 5, 7 and 5. I especially do this on my evening runs. It passes the time and my fellow runners must wonder why I am always gesturing with my fingers.

I’d like, at Mich Café, to try my hand at this beautiful art form and would welcome any guests who would like to contribute and participate.

Shining moon…

Sweating, I look up

And wonder, who else sees you

Shining moon so bright...