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Pillows on bed with bright red color heart shape pillow

Turn Up The Romance At Home This Valentine’s Day

11 decor pieces to set the scene for romance.

Valentine’s Day is almost here, and romance is in the air! Or, at least it should be. If you’ve recently overlooked your living space and it hasn’t received the proper care and attention it deserves, now might be the time to spruce it up. And what better excuse than the day of love?

As sensual beings, to ensure your home inspires romance, you’ll need to cover all your bases, which in this case, will be your senses – sight, sound, touch, smell and taste. We’ll leave the cooking to one side for now, and focus on everything else to make sure each one of those senses is tantalized this Valentine’s.

First is sight. While we’re not talking about redecorating your space, you may want to think about decluttering. You certainly don’t want any distractions from a night of romance so get rid of those piles of laundry and clear tables and shelves of clutter. Replace with fresh flowers or plants, a new picture or other wall hanging and add some low-mood lighting, preferably with candles.

Next, you’ll want to get the space smelling good. If you want to get in the spirit of romance, the right essential oils will work as an aphrodisiac. Try ylang-ylang, jasmine, rose, sage or neroli for the sweet spot.

For something soft to the touch, you can have lots of fun here. From soft rugs for under the feet to silk pillowcases or sheets, these subtle touches are sure to be appreciated when snuggling up for the night.

And finally, you’ll need a romantic soundtrack. Make your own or for a retro touch, grab a CD of old classics.

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Welcome to Sober October

Hangovers and brain fog be gone.


NoLo is a secret worth sharing. Hidden behind a set of heavy doors on the 24th floor of Dusit Thani Dubai hotel, Dubai’s first dry bar is anchored not in alcohol, but creative zero-proof cocktails served in a dimly lit setting where lounge music and city views set the tone for conversation. But more on that in a minute. With the arrival of October, social drinkers across the UK are taking on the Sober October challenge, giving up alcohol in order to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support – an altruistic Dry January, if you will. And although the movement originated in the UK, anyone can sign up and participate, inevitably reaping a whole host of health benefits in the process. 

In fact, lower blood pressure, a regeneration of damaged liver cells, a reduction in insulin resistance, a healthier body weight, and a lowered risk of cancer with each year of sobriety are just some of the health benefits of quitting, according to American Addiction Centers. It’s no wonder that non-alcoholic concoctions have soared in popularity across the globe in recent years, but arguably, they’re most favoured in the Middle East owing to cultural and religious factors. Add to that the region’s well-documented obsession with social media, and the days of sodas and saccharine mocktails appearing on the last page of a drinks menu are gradually on the way out. Now, they’re Instagrammable, well thought out, and boast complex flavours suited to the adult palate.

“We have this word in Italian, sfigato, which comes to mind when one goes into a bar and asks for a non-alcoholic drink. It translates to ‘an unlucky person’. But we live in the Middle East, of course,” says Giovanni Depergola, the instructor of Dry Mixology and Bartending courses at the International Centre for Culinary Arts. “We are bartenders at the end of day, but we like to be called mixologists so we can charge more,” he says with a chuckle. “I’m also an educator, so for me, training is a very serious matter. My passion for dry mixology stems from the passion that I have for cocktails – all that showmanship, all that theatricality deserves a spot in the non-alcoholic category.” 

As an F&B industry insider, Depergola noticed a gap in the market that had to be addressed. “All I saw was carbonated drinks and canned juices and, with time, I said, ‘Come on, we’re good at making cocktails, so why not use the same flavours, the same glassware, the same shaking techniques to serve something that we are proud of?’ Because I wasn’t proud to serve something in a can with ice and a slice of lemon.” Elsewhere, British entrepreneur Erika Doyle also noticed the lack of non-alcoholic drinks on offer, leading to the launch of Drink Dry, a one-stop shop for options that are not only premium, but also high in taste and low in sugar. 

“One of the misconceptions that people in the West have about the Middle East is that it’s such a huge market for non-alcoholic drinks because there are so many non-drinkers who want to drink, but can’t,” she says. “If you’ve always been told that drinking is bad for you, then our products aren’t the answer to all your prayers. Unlike ex-drinkers and the sober curious, I’m not giving non-drinkers a solution because they don’t have a problem to begin with.” Instead, Drink Dry is exploring how to introduce new ways of drinking to non-drinkers. “It’s likely that they’ve only been drinking very sugary drinks, so what we’re doing is introducing healthier ways of drinking without necessarily referencing their alcoholic counterparts.” NoLo, meanwhile, has added a social aspect to this rising trend, catering to mindful drinkers and health-conscious individuals ready for a night out. 

Incidentally, the name of this new drinking den is a portmanteau of ‘no alcohol’ and ‘low worries’, a carefree mindset reflected in its brightly coloured seating and anthropomorphic art. Over on the menu, of course, is where its star attraction – both classic and experimental cocktails – awaits. Created in conjunction with Lyre’s, widely considered the leading independent non-alcoholic spirits brand, they span the likes of Immune Highball, Thai Basil Smash, and Spice Date Espresso Martini. Those in search of the familiar, meanwhile, will appreciate Lyre’s zero-proof take on the G&T, the mojito, the martini, the Amalfi spritz, and the amaretto sour – all created to imitate the taste and mouthfeel of the originals. And in the meantime, the team at NoLo shares three alcohol-free recipes in honour of Sober October.

1. Lyre’s Mediterranean G&T

Ingredients:

  • 45ml Lyre’s Dry London Spirit
  • 120ml Fever Tree Mediterranean Tonic
  • 1 orange slice
  • 1 sprig rosemary (for garnish)

Directions:

  1. Fill a tall glass ¾ full of ice.
  2. Pour in the ingredients and gently stir to combine.
  3. Garnish with a sprig of rosemary.

2. Date Old Fashioned

Ingredients:

  • 60ml Lyre’s American Malt
  • 15ml date syrup
  • 4 dashes chocolate/walnut bitters
  • 4 dashes orange bitters
  • 1 date (for garnish)

Directions:

  1. Stir all the ingredients in a mixing glass.
  2. Pour into a short tumbler over block ice.
  3. Garnish with a skewered date.

3. Bedtime Story

Ingredients:

  • 30ml Lyre’s Amaretti
  • 45ml strong chai
  • 15ml coconut milk
  • 7.5ml maple syrup
  • pink salt and star anise (for garnish)

Directions:

  1. Prepare the strong chai by steeping two chai teabags in 125ml near-boiling water for five minutes.
  2. Remove the teabags and let cool.
  3. Dry shake (without ice), then wet shake (with ice added) the ingredients.
  4. Strain into a cocktail or coupette glass.
  5. Garnish with star anise and a sprinkle of pink salt.
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You, But Better: The Gaggler Agenda for October

Mark your calendars.


October 1: Laugh Aloud

If laughter really is the best medicine, then consider Riaad Moosa the cure. The South African doctor-turned-comedian famed for his observational humour returns to Dubai for one night of stand-up comedy at The Theatre in Mall of the Emirates. Audiences will also get a chance to attend a screening of the award-winning actor’s latest release, New Material, the sequel to his hit movie Material.

Learn more here.

October 3: Recognise the Signs

With the pandemic resulting in a rise of eating disorders worldwide, the Getting to Grips with Eating Disorders and Body Image webinar hosted by The LightHouse Arabia is a great tool to help university students, university educators, and young adults gain a better understanding of what an eating disorder is and how they develop. The session will help recognise the warning signs, learn about treatment, and learn practical tips for supporting young people with such issues.

Learn more here.

October 5: Lose Your Blues

A collision of singing, dancing, and plenty of laughs awaits as Footloose The Musical makes its way to Dubai Opera for four days of performances. Whether you’re loyal to the 1984 original starring Kevin Bacon or only familiar with Craig Brewer’s 2011 remake for a new generation, this is a stage adaptation you don’t want to miss.

Learn more here.

October 7: Broaden Your Perspective

At the intersection of art, science, and technology is Festival X, a one-of-a-kind event that hopes to attract and create a community of open-minded artists, scientists, and tech experts coming together and sharing knowledge. Taking place at Alserkal Avenue from October 7 to 9, it will feature exhibitions and talks (free to attend) alongside shows (priced AED 150) and workshops (priced AED 1,200).

Learn more here.

October 11: Go Green

Vegan or not, foodies across the city ought to experience the culinary prowess of French chef Vincent Caudet. We recommend booking the Fusion Vegan 5 Course Secret Menu, which encourages diners to keep an open mind and surf the vegan trend, returning to nature through a selection of 100% plant-based products.

Learn more here.

October 16: Embrace Imperfections

Take a cue from the Japanese and give a new lease of life to something broken during the guided kintsugi art workshop taking place at the upcoming UnleashYou Retreat. Held at Dubai Polo & Equestrian Club, this daylong event will also feature a coaching session using the art of mandalas and another that delves into the correlation between music and interpersonal relationships.

Learn more here.

October 25: Think Global

Impulse purchases, cultural performances, street food, extreme rides, and family-friendly attractions – if you want to pair the return of cooler weather with a little old-fashioned fun for all ages, Global Village is where it’s at. Season 27 is set to begin on October 25, bringing with it 80 different cultures across 26 pavilions as well as plenty of new entertainment offerings.

Learn more here.

October 27: Watch This Space

Advocating tolerance and unity through film, META Film Fest marks the first film festival to take place in the country in five years – and it promises to be a big one. Spanning three days, this brand new film festival will be held at Vox Cinemas at Nakheel Mall and feature movie premieres, international blockbusters, and regional feature films. Cast members and celebrities from the Arab world, Hollywood, Bollywood, and even Nollywood are expected to make an appearance on the red carpet.

Learn more here.

October 30: Catch a Classic

It’s never too early for young ones to develop a taste for ballet, especially if it’s a production that the whole family can enjoy. Enter: The Sleeping Beauty: A Bite Size Ballet at The Theatre in Mall of the Emirates. A unique spin on a classic, this 60-minute show is the perfect blend of classical elegance and immersive fun, capturing children’s attention and telling the story adapted specifically for younger audiences.

Learn more here.

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Places To Visit in Al Ain

6 Must-See Attractions in the Garden City

There’s more to Al Ain than palm trees.

Between its natural springs and palm groves, Al Ain offers endless appeal to those deprived of nature and desperate to escape city life for a few hours – especially with the return of cooler temperatures. But a closer look reveals that the capital’s garden city also boasts hidden gems, historical forts, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, an impressive showcase of wildlife, and plenty more. Here, we delve into six attractions worth visiting and who they’re best suited to.

Al Ain Oasis

for the nature enthusiast

Al Ain Oasis
Courtesy: Visit Abu Dhabi

We’d be remiss not to start with Al Ain Oasis, arguably known as garden city’s ultimate attraction owing to its tranquillity. Spread across 1,200 hectares and the first UNESCO World Heritage Site certified in the UAE, this oasis is famed for offering insights into the ancient ‘falaj’ irrigation system that brings water from the mountains via a complex system of underground and surface channels, and continues to nourish it today. It’s also our favourite place to immerse in nature; the many pathways within Al Ain Oasis are shaded by towering fruit trees (mango, orange, and fig among others) and more than 147,000 date palms. Bonus: you can explore the premises on foot, on horseback, or by bicycle.

Al Ain Camel Market

for the UAE newbie

Al Ain Camel Market

While it’s not entirely kind to the senses – dust, noise, and funky smells are admittedly a given – a trip to Al Ain Camel Market is the perfect way for new expats to immerse in the country’s true culture – camels have always been at the centre of life in the GCC, after all. The sheer spectacle of haggling and trading (these hoofed mammals are either suited to racing or purchased for breeding purposes) takes place early in the morning and is a sight worth catching, especially if a complete departure from life in Dubai is what you’re after.

Al Qattara Arts Centre

for the artsy type

Al Qattara Arts Centre

Housed within a traditional mudbrick residence and home to permanent exhibitions, archaeological findings, and classes (everything from painting and drawing to handicrafts and music sessions are on offer), Al Qattara Arts Centre has single-handedly elevated the arts scene of Al Ain. It’s also one of Al Ain’s leading events venues – this cultural landmark often marks milestones by showcasing the works of local artists or screening films by Emirati talent. The programming changes according to season, but regardless of what’s on the agenda, there’s plenty to while away a couple of hours.

Jebel Hafeet Beehive Tombs

for the adventurer

Jebel Hafeet Beehive Tombs
Courtesy: Alexander McNabb

Own a four-wheel drive and up for a little off-roading? The tombs at the base of Jebel Hafeet beckon. Believed to be 5,000 years old, these remnants of an ancient cemetery still contain the skeletal remains of Al Ain’s earliest inhabitants. Hundreds of dome-shaped tombs have been found in this area, with artefacts suggesting trade links with Iran, the Indus Valley (modern-day Pakistan and India), and ancient Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq). Getting here is half the adventure – a bumpy ride and a complete absence of facilities follows soon after you exit the roundabout when following Google Maps towards Jebel Hafeet National Park near the Mezyad Border Post.

Hili Archaeological Park

for the history buff 

Hili Archaeological Park
Courtesy: Sunil Kumar Nair

For a slice of history that’s more easily accessible – and recognised by UNESCO – Hili Archaeological Park is both family-friendly and furnished with extras like go-karts and tennis courts that accent the earliest known evidence of an agricultural village dating back to 3000 BCE. Elsewhere, the likes of tombs, strongholds, old dwellings, and irrigation systems also offer a glimpse into Al Ain’s Bronze Age and Iron Age past. Incidentally, the circular Hili Grand Tomb is considered the crown jewel of this sprawling park as it’s over 4,000 years old and the largest monument of its kind in terms of the size of stones used. Tip: be sure to linger by the two entrances until you spot the engravings depicting human and animal figures.

Al Ain Safari

for the animal lover

Al Ain Safari
Courtesy: Visit Abu Dhabi

While Al Ain Zoo needs no introduction (the beloved attraction has been operating since 1968), this 217-hectare park is yet to be discovered by many. Home to one of the world’s largest man-made safaris, it houses a range of African animals and closes to 2,500 plants. Adding a sense of place to the overall safari experience, meanwhile, are the Emirati guides who steer the SUVs – they have extensive knowledge of the vicinity’s flora and fauna (white rhinos and African lions included). And while activities like feeding the giraffes and dining at the edge of the park’s lion territory make for a memorable outing with the kids, it’s the conservation efforts that animal lovers will value most; critically endangered or locally extinct species such as the addax and scimitar oryx roam free in the wild here.

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Countries to Visit from Dubai

Wandermust: 6 Travel Experiences Easily Accessible from Dubai

Add to bucket list – stat.

Today marks World Tourism Day, highlighting the shift towards tourism being recognised as a crucial pillar of development, especially as the global tourism sector slowly recovers from the impact of Covid-19. Luckily for us, we reside in an air travel hub, giving us easy access to some of the world’s most popular destinations. In fact, there are six travel experiences that not only belong on any bucket list, but are also easily accessible from Dubai – each is only five hours or less from the UAE, eliminating the additional stress that comes with layovers and stopovers. Let the planning begin!

Cruise Down the Nile

Egypt 

Cruise Down the Nile

Just as a visit to the pyramids is practically obligatory, a cruise along the Nile River is, too. But don’t just book a trip with any cruise ship because the Steam Ship Sudan – or SS Sudan – is truly special. Built in 1885 as a gift for King Fouad and launched as a cruise vessel in 1921, this historic paddle steamer retains the Belle Époque grace that inspired Agatha Christie to write her famous 1937 novel, Death on the Nile. Today, the ship regularly traverses the Nile on five-night cruises that launch from either Luxor or Aswan, chugging along at a relaxed eight kilometres an hour.

Float in the Dead Sea

Jordan

Float in the Dead Sea

The ancient city of Petra is what attracts hordes of tourists to Jordan, but a dip in the Dead Sea is seriously underrated. Formed three million years ago, this super-salty lake is the lowest point on land (423 metres below sea level) and the world’s oldest natural health resort – its mineral-rich waters are loaded with healing properties for several skin conditions, making it a prized ingredient in the world of beauty. Besides, effortlessly floating in the Dead Sea is just plain fun! But the time to visit this natural wonder is now; the Dead Sea is shrinking at an alarming rate, with experts estimating that its surface level is falling by more than a metre each year.

Sleep in a Yurt

Kyrgyzstan

Sleep in a Yurt

A longstanding symbol of nomadic culture, yurts have been around for thousands of years. This circular dwelling is not only portable, but also steeped in tradition as it is made of animal skin or felt and serves as the primary style of home across Central Asian countries such as Mongolia, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan. In Kyrgyzstan, the concept has been taken up a notch, pairing glamping with yurt life at Supara Chunkurchak ethnoresort. Located just 37 kilometres south of the capital Bishkek, it’s immersed in untouched rural beauty, yet offers creature comforts, cultural activities aplenty, and even an onsite spa – because why not?

Fly Through the Mountains

Nepal

A visit to Nepal from Dubai

The average adventurer will tell you that Everest Base Camp deserves a spot in your bucket list, but let’s face it – this once-in-a-lifetime trek isn’t exactly accessible to all. Yes, it requires no mountaineering skills nor technical expertise, but altitude sickness can strike as Everest Base Camp sits at 5,364 metres above sea level. Now factor in that you’ll be walking for somewhere between 12 and 15 days, and you’re looking at a bucket list experience that’s not for everyone. Enter: the mountain flight. This shortcut to Mount Everest by domestic airlines such as Yeti Airlines offers passengers a front-row seat to the breathtaking, snow-capped mountains of the Himalayas, bringing them back to Kathmandu in an hour.

Take a Scenic Train Ride

Sri Lanka

A visit to Sri Lanka from Dubai

Considering its bounty of natural beauty, Sri Lanka boasts some of the most scenic train rides in the world – at a bargain price, too. Arguably the most spectacular route is the seven-hour ride from the centrally located city of Kandy to the small town of Ella. In fact, it’s even been dubbed “Sri Lanka’s most popular tourist attraction” as the vistas comprise everything from rolling rice fields and lush forests to towering mountains, sweeping tea plantations, waterfalls, and more. A word to the wise: avoid taking this train ride midday or on a weekend as it’s extremely popular with locals and tourists alike (read: uncomfortably crowded). 

See the Whirling Dervishes

Turkey

A visit to Turkey from Dubai

The phrase ‘an embarrassment of riches’ comes to mind when it comes to bucket list musts in Istanbul – taking a ferry across the Bosphorus, getting scrubbed at a traditional hammam, gorging on a kumpir with countless toppings in Ortaköy. But if a truly cultural experience is what you’re after, head straight to Hodjapasha Culture Centre, home of the famous whirling dervishes. Declared a UNESCO Heritage of Humanity, the mystical Mevlevi Sema ceremony depicts a journey of man’s spiritual ascent to “perfection” through mind and love, making it an unmissable blend of music and moves. For the uninitiated, the Mevleviye is an ascetic Sufi order founded in 1273 and renowned for their whirling dances.

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Places to Celebrate Diwali in Dubai

5 Places to Celebrate Diwali in Dubai

Let the festivities begin!

One of the world’s grandest festive occasions is right around the corner. Diwali, meaning “row of light”, marks five days of joyous cheer celebrated by friends and family. It is during this period that Hindus adorn their homes with blossoming marigolds and a wide variety of candles to commemorate the return of the Hindu god Rama to his kingdom after being exiled for 14 years. Dubai, being home to nationalities and religions from far and wide, offers a wide range of dining and entertainment options suitable for all cultural and traditional celebrations. Want to make Diwali a little extra special this year? Here are our picks of the best dining destinations for the occasion.  

Bombay Brasserie

In addition to its spirited murals and unobstructed views of the Burj Khalifa, Bombay Brasserie at Taj Dubai offers a lavish blend of traditional and contemporary Indian cuisine. Enjoy the breathtaking fireworks display this festive season while you indulge in rich, aromatic flavours. Each dish promises to deliver an authentic Indian experience that’s well-suited for this joyous occasion.

Bombay Brasserie, Taj Dubai, Burj Khalifa Street, Business Bay, 04 438 3222, eatapp.co

Basanti & Co.

Celebrate Diwali in style at Basanti & Co. at Bluewaters Island. It’s the prime location to enjoy the astonishing fireworks display and the magnificent Bluewaters Street Festival while feasting on classic Indian fare. Top off your evening with a craft cocktail from the in-house lounge or a delightful gulab jamun from the dessert menu.

Basanti & Co., Bluewaters Island, 04 557 6947, [email protected]

Farzi Café

Located at City Walk in Al Safa, this beloved spot offers an elevated gourmet experience that will take your culinary journey to new heights. The gastronomic array of traditional classics fused with global delights at Farzi Café reinterprets Indian cuisine in the most unexpected ways. Additionally, the restaurant shines with the glow of diyas and fairy lights during Diwali to truly pay tribute to this major holiday.  

Farzi Café, Dubai City Walk II, Al Safa St., 04 394 2556, [email protected]

farzi cafe

Source: @khyberdubai

Khyber

This award-winning restaurant situated in the heart of Palm Jumeirah stays true to its Indian identity through awe-inspiring murals, vibrant décor, and unmatched North Indian food and beverages. Share the festive spirit with company at Khyber by treating yourselves to scrumptious vegetarian delights such as the paneer tikka and makai ki tikki.

Khyber, Dukes The Palm, Palm Jumeirah, 04 455 1101, [email protected]

Patiala

No matter which special occasion calls for a splurge, this elegant spot at Souk Al Bahar has you covered. Patiala’s sophisticated setting and relaxed ambiance is just the right choice if you prefer a more laidback celebration. Sit back and take pleasure in well-loved Punjabi classics accompanied by service that reflects exuberant Indian hospitality. Take your taste buds on a sensory experience this festive season with the signature vegetarian delicacies such as the dum ke khumb and garbar falooda.

Patiala, Souk Al Bahar, Downtown Dubai, 04 451 9151, [email protected]

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Gaggler Kyrgyztan Travel Guide

The Definitive Guide to Kyrgyzstan

This first-timer’s itinerary has it all.

Landlocked in Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan is a magnet for trekkers owing to its alpine wilderness. Bordering Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and China, it remains untouched by mass tourism (for now), making it the ideal destination if a little adventure is in order. September is widely considered the best month to visit Kyrgyzstan as the crowds start to dissipate, and the weather is still warm enough for hiking and horse riding. But Kyrgyzstan doesn’t just cater to outdoorsy types – it’s also a land where Silk Road sites, a crumbling Soviet legacy, and a rich nomadic culture coexist. Here’s how to take in a bit of everything.

Bishkek

You’ll likely fly into Kyrgyzstan via Manas International Airport, and soon see why a jaunt in this often-overlooked capital is mandatory. For starters, Bishkek is set in the foothills of Tien Shan, so it won’t be long until your first sighting of this majestic mountain range. Moments of beauty also await at its public parks and wide, tree-lined avenues – a legacy of the Soviet era. Russophile or not, you’ll also appreciate its architectural oddities and their equally curious backstories, many of which are clustered together.

Built-in 1976, the UFO-like Kyrgyz State Circus welcomed performers from around the world and functions to this day. It’s a testimony to the role played by the circus in the Soviet Union – the first stationary circus of Russia opened back in 1877, adapting street entertainment to the aristocracy’s tastes. Nearby, the Wedding Palace stands as a reminder of the days when religion (“the opium of the masses”) was banned. Pointy and pompous, this glass-and-marble venue was designed as a compromise between communist authorities and those furious about not being able to wed in religious establishments like mosques and cathedrals. Victory Square, tame in comparison and dedicated to the victory over Nazi Germany, is also in the vicinity.

Travel Guide To Kyrgyzstan

Prefer to join a guided walk? With themes spanning the likes of ‘Mosaics of Bishkek’, ‘Soviet Architecture of Bishkek’, and ‘The Making of Industrial Bishkek’, opt for those led by Bishkek Walks. All that walking will inevitably work up an appetite, and a meal at Navat or Faiza makes for a great introduction to Kyrgyz cuisine – think: fist-sized dumplings stuffed with mutton (manti), homemade noodles with a meaty stew (laghman), and fermented mare’s milk (kumis). Admittedly, the latter – foamy and uniquely sour – is an acquired taste. And if you’re looking to sample Kyrgyz snacks like kurut and samsa while immersed in local life, Osh Bazaar is the one to beat.

Incidentally, Bishkek is also ideally placed to explore a few of Kyrgyzstan’s most popular spots. Less than an hour away, Ala Archa National Park contains trails that accommodate varying fitness levels and is beloved for its striking gorge and array of juniper trees. Burana Tower and Konorchek Canyon, meanwhile, are commonly paired by tour operators, accenting a trip to the ancient city of Balasagun’s remains with a landscape of red rock formations. As for those with a penchant for the unusual? Catch a marshrutka to Issyk-Ata, where the 131-year-old Issyk-Ata Sanatorium feels like a time capsule, but is still very much operational – strange therapies and all. On the menu is everything from radon baths to full-body massages and even mud electrocution, but visitors can simply walk around the premises to get off the beaten track, Soviet-style.

Issyk-Kul

A complete contrast to the odd, angular, brutalist architecture of Bishkek are the felt-and-wool yurts anchored with the help of birch wood poles. They’re a vital part of nomadic culture, so a trip to Kyrgyzstan without at least a night of yurt camping would be incomplete. The southern shore of Issyk-Kul lake – the world’s second largest saline lake – offers plenty in terms of natural wonders, many of which are easily accessed following a stay at Bel-Tam Yurt Camp.

Here, you can sunbathe by the lake, catch a folklore show around the nightly bonfire, or take a horseback ride – with creature comforts like hot showers and eco-friendly toilets to boot. The definitive experience, however, has to be the Salbuurun demonstration. Recalling the days when golden eagles, taigan dogs, and bows and arrows were utilised to capture animals for food, it depicts authentic hunting traditions (so be warned that a sacrificial rabbit is involved).

A beginner's guide to Kyrgyzstan

The city of Karakol is under three hours away from the camp, so you can cross off a couple of key attractions in only a matter of hours, starting with the dramatic Fairy Tale Canyon. A mere 30 minutes away is the small settlement of Barskoon, where both a towering waterfall and a giant boulder carved into the head of cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin make for great photography subjects. From here, it’s just over an hour until you reach the unique Seven Bulls rock formation – and inevitably hear the related legend about a man’s infatuation gone awry – before calling it a night in Karakol.

Karakol

Is Karakol the most underrated city of Kyrgyzstan? Hint: yes. Most travellers merely view it as a gateway to conquer the mountains or take a rest from them, hightailing it out of the city as fast as possible – much to their detriment. Easily explored on foot and full of unexpected discoveries, Karakol boasts an unmissable dining experience: the Dungan Village Visit & Family Dinner. The ancestors of the Dungan (Chinese-Muslim) community fled persecution in China back in the 1800s, escaping to Kyrgyzstan via the Tien Shan mountains in brutal conditions. 

Karakol

Today, a visit to the home of a local family entails a veritable feast (including ashlan-fu, a spicy noodle dish that’s served cold and absolutely delicious) alongside insights into their way of life in modern-day Kyrgyzstan. While you’re around, make the time to visit the architecturally ambiguous Dungan Mosque, too. Built by Chinese artisans between 1907 and 1910 for the local Dungan community, it is entirely constructed without any nails and reflects their Buddhist roots – a pagoda in place of a minaret, for example. And while the exhibits within Karakol History Museum aren’t quite as interesting, it’s worth a visit as it houses a permanent photography exhibition of Swiss adventurer Ella Maillart’s work. 

As Europe’s first documented solo female traveller in Central Asia, her black-and-white photos depict the minutiae of everyday life during her 1932 expedition, back before the region fell under the Soviet Union’s reign. Elsewhere, the past is also alive and well at the aptly named Antique Shop, the definitive pit stop for anyone looking to secure a piece of communist kitsch. A word to the wise: owner-collector Alexandr Korablev knows the story behind every item, so linger and get a better sense of your finds. More conventional souvenirs can be purchased at EthnoMir (embroidered slippers and locally made chocolate) and One Village One Product (felt toys, organic soaps, and a wide selection of jam and honey).

TRAVEL to KYRGYZSTAN

Arguably, the country’s most fascinating day trip originates in Karakol, taking visitors through the mountainous Chon-Ashuu pass (3,822m) to the eerie ghost town of Engilchek. This once-thriving mining town was home to 5,000 inhabitants, but quickly forgotten with the Soviet Union’s collapse. A handful of residents remain, living amongst debris and decay. You’ll need a permit to visit Engilchek as it’s in a buffer zone close to the border with China, but don’t let that deter you – the team at Visit Karakol can facilitate your journey to this truly remote corner of Kyrgyzstan.

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New Openings in Dubai Summer

9 New Openings You (Likely) Missed Over Summer

Your Dubai bucket list, updated.


If there’s one thing we all have in common, it’s referring to summers in Dubai as “slow and sleepy”. Whether it’s the green season of Salalah, the vibrant cultural scene of London, or the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Baku, residents hightail it out of the city as soon as the mercury rises, travelling far and wide in search of respite. This summer, however, was surprisingly eventful, bringing with it a whole host of new openings across dining, fitness, hospitality, entertainment, and more. Let’s catch you up.

1. Margaux

Dubai got a little sweeter over the summer, courtesy of Margaux’s arrival. The intimate new pastry boutique at Jumeirah Mina A’Salam offers a decadent selection of tarts, millefeuille, and more – all of which can all be ordered online and delivered to your home. It’s located just off the hotel’s main lobby, and accented with the likes of feminine detailing, ornate mirrors, and soft lighting. As for its elegant shopfront? Adorned with delicate pastries and desserts collectively transporting guests to the heart of Paris, where the cobblestone streets are paved with chic bakeries and chocolatiers. Expect to indulge in the likes of tiramisu, pistachio flan, button cake, and chocolate eclairs.

Margaux

2. Horror Cinema

While we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to cinematic experiences (Cinema Akil for leading foreign films, Theatre by Rhodes for films with a side of fine dining), there was never a space dedicated to those with an appetite for horror movies – until now. Aptly named Horror Cinema, this new opening in Indigo Sky building screens cult favourites from the genre (IT, Rings, Insidious, and Insidious: Chapter 2) in an intimate environment. But you’ll have to brace yourself as the experience is designed to immerse visitors in a world of scares at every turn, starting with a scary check-in and a seating area reminiscent of a haunted house. Expect a series of flashes, splashes, and high-tech special effects for an evening like no other in Dubai.

3. Blended Wellness

Our growing quest for wellness brings with it the launch of Blended Wellness. Located at Dukes The Palm, a Royal Hideaway Hotel, it is an innovative, all-encompassing collective of purpose-built health, fitness, and beauty experiences, pioneering a new way of thinking that challenges the ideology of perfection. The lifestyle concept not only caters to both mental and physical health, but also introduces the country’s first traditional Russian banya. An innovative interpretation of a traditional Russian bathhouse, Dubanya brings the tradition to today, blending ancient cleansing and detoxifying practices with new-age health and wellness rituals. Elsewhere, a spa, a salon, an aesthetic clinic, a fitness centre, and a space dedicated to mental wellness collectively ensure a picture of holistic health.

4. Bedrock

Located at Pier 7, Bedrock is a new sports bar that’s here to redefine the face of sports bars in Dubai. A change of pace from the typical dark and dingy options, it pairs a fresh and stylish interior with a warm and friendly atmosphere, incredible food, high-tech indoor sports, and the perfect view of every unmissable sporting moment. Bedrock features 20 TV screens, the latest technology in darts, and the region’s best indoor golf simulator for the ultimate competitive socialising. Bedrock is also home to five state-of-the-art darts boards with digital scoring and game options, challenging traditional notions and bringing darts to a new generation.

Bedrock

5. Studio 14

While several gyms made their debut in recent months, Studio 14 in Umm Al Sheif stands out for its eco-friendly space inspired by nature. Catering to both children and adults, it houses high-tech machines that are not only effective, but also powered by the users themselves – thereby using zero electricity. As for the good news if you prefer to join workout classes? Each is limited to only six people in order to provide a more personalised experience. Studio 14’s eco-friendly outlook, meanwhile, is reflected in details such as green walls, recycled woods, and a retail selection that includes sustainable items like recyclable bags.

6. Roxy Xtreme

Not a fan of catching horror flicks in indie cinemas? Meet Roxy Xtreme, home to the biggest screen in the MENA region. Spanning 423 square metres, its screen is a whopping 60% bigger than a tennis court. Combine that with state-of-the-art laser projection, DOLBY ATMOS surround sound technology, and absurdly comfortable seats, and you’re looking at every cinephile’s dream destination. Not only will Roxy Xtreme screen an array of blockbusters, but also unmissable sporting events like the FIFA World Cup. Incidentally, the auditorium features 382 premium reclining seats in total, but those in the Director’s Boxes tier promise pure luxury; they’re fitted with heated seats, wireless phone chargers, shopping bag storage, and a personal swivel table.

7. Eva Beach House

In a case of culinary déjà vu, the line-up of restaurants at Palm West Beach continues to grow, catering to just about every occasion and palate possible. Case in point: Eva Beach House, a beachside destination celebrating the bliss of Tulum-style seaside dining. The aesthetics of this new venue feature airy and draped elements in shades of clotted cream and earthy brown, complemented by wooden accents and all manner of cacti, creating a spot of escape from the city’s frenzy. Bathed in natural light with floor-to-ceiling windows, it also allows the breathtaking skyline views to steal the spotlight. Meanwhile, a rich selection of the day’s catch, dry-aged meat, and a menu rooted in diversity promise a treat for the taste buds.

Eva Beach House

8. 53

Between the likes of Dream, Papillon, and The Theater, the city’s nocturnal landscape now offers more than simply bars and nightclubs. 53 joined the line-up over the summer, and it’s officially the highest dinner show in the region. Pairing a refined culinary approach with world-class nightlife and entertainment, it promises to redefine the experiential dining experience in Dubai as it’s the brainchild of a team of innovators and experts in event production. With its stunning interiors with views over the skyline from its floor-to-ceiling glass windows, patrons are invited to enjoy sundowners from an early evening that will evolve into a night to remember. Incidentally, the dinner shows take place across a multitude of elevated stages, giving the opportunity to all guests to immerse in all the elements of the venue without taking focus away from the dining experience.

9. Salmon Guru

It hails from Madrid and boasts the #24 spot on the World’s Best Bars list – and there isn’t a hint of salmon on the menu. Meet Salmon Guru, a quirky new concept located at The Opus by OMNIYAT. Named to express the ability of going upstream and against the flow, it was brought to the region thanks to legendary bar industry figurehead, Diego Cabrera. His vision? To recreate the intimate-yet-casual European experience of the original outpost in Dubai. To that end, he has personally designed this venue, infusing all his creativity into his first project outside of Spain. Here, guests can immerse themselves in the unique drinks execution by sitting in or behind the detailed open bar stations. The venue itself, while intimate, combines three distinct vibes: a ’60s Tropical Speakeasy section, an Asian Night Market, and a Comic Book themed area. In short, an evening riddled with escapism is promised.

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Steps to Declutter Home

5 Steps to Calm Your Home

From home to haven through decluttering.

As Dubai residents bid farewell to summer, returning to work and re-establishing routines, let’s talk about our homes and what they mean to us. Do you want your home to be a calm, peaceful sanctuary as you settle in? Do you ever feel like there is just stuff everywhere? Does the lack of space cause you anxiety? Do you feel frustrated when you can’t find that thing you need right now? Does the clutter drain your energy?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you can relate to how much our environment has an impact on us, physically and mentally. It is so important that weregularly address these areas of clutter regularly – otherwise, the daily stress and frustration will cause us to not fully love our homes. Our homes are our sanctuaries and thus need nurturing. Here, we describe some simple steps on how to create the desired calmness. Give it a go and feel the difference!

As a professional home organiser, I have the expertise to create calmness from chaos. It’s not always an easy process, but it is life-changing when you get it right. Having a home that works for you, meets your needs, and brings you joy is what we strive for. Having a vision for your personal space will help you make a powerful change. As for getting started? Follow my five-step S.P.A.C.E method to declutter, organise, and calm your home. 

WATCH THE VIDEO: The S.P.A.C.E Method

1. See it all.

You need to see all the items that are in a space, and you need to see the area clear of all things. Starting with a good stocktake of all the things you own will help you process what is actually in the space. Take each item out of the cupboards, drawers, baskets, and closets. Find a large open area – like the bed, the floor, or a table – where you can put all the items so that you can see them.

Once you have emptied the identified space, look at it with fresh eyes. How can you maximise the use of the area? What spaces were not used before? What storage works well? What useful things do you not have? Keep the answers to these questions in your mind as you go through the process.

2. Put the items into categories.

This can be the challenging part for some people as it is natural to resist change and not want to let things go. When decluttering, you need to be brave and make quick decisions. You need to seriously ask yourself how much you need each item in your life, and whether it make a difference to your happiness if you didn’t have it. Keep those things that bring you joy and that you cherish. Once you have gone through all your items, you should have them grouped in the following categories: Keep, Donate, Dispose, or Sell.

Keep – These items are those you use regularly and need to have in your home. They should add value to your life and be a part of the vision you have for your home. ‘Keep’ items can be put into two subcategories: regular use and storage. You may not use some items right now, but you definitely need to keep them. Some examples of this category are seasonal clothing, travel items, seasonal decorations, and outdoor equipment. 

Donate – These items are of good quality and can be used by others. Giving away an item can help you let go as it is easier when you know someone else will benefit from it more than you do. Be mindful about what you donate and make sure it is in a condition that you would like to receive it in – clean and well-presented. There are many local charities that will take donations.

Dispose – These items should be those that no longer serve any purpose and cannot be used by anybody else. Recycle as much of this as possible. Safely dispose of glass, electronics, and medical items. 

Sell – Successfully selling items is not always an easy feat. You will need to list it, be patient, and be prepared for various offers. Local community groups are often the easiest way to advertise goods, as are online platforms. These products need to be in a good condition and have a market value to attract buyers. 

Ways to Create a Calm and Peaceful Home

3. Allocate storage areas.

Once you have gone through all your belongings and put them into the above four categories, you have completed the most difficult step. Now we focus on the items you have chosen to keep and how to store them. Firstly, group similar items together to get a better understanding of what storage areas you require. Categories may include frequently used items, extra stock, and items that need to be stored in the long term.

Next, look at the room and analyse it. Which is the most functional and practical place to put an item? Go through all the spaces and make sure you have allocated a location for all the items that are meant to be in this space. During this process, you may find that some objects don’t actually belong in that room, and it would make more sense to store them elsewhere. Remove them from the spaceimmediately so that you remain focused on the area at hand. 

4. Contain your belongings.

Containing your belongings is the fun part! Think about what style you like and choose container colours that will match the existing colours in the space. The safest shades are white, black, grey, or natural tones as they can be used elsewhere if needed. You may have an accent colour in the room, which you could use for your storage containers to unify the look. 

There are endless types of containers you can use from simple baskets to custom cabinetry. I recommend looking at what you already have in your home. Some containers might be moved around from different rooms. You can also repurpose furniture items to suit your new storage needs. For example, a bookshelf in the bedroom might now be better suited to the living room. You will be surprised at what you might find when having a good look around your entire home, checking how well each furniture item is being used. Baskets, drawers with dividers, plastic bags, hooks, hangers, and boxes are all examples of things we can use to streamline the storage of items and keep things in their place. The main goal with containing items is that they are easy to identify, easy to access, and easy to put back in their place after use.

5. Evaluate and enjoy! 

This is the most rewarding part of the process. Once you have organised all the items into purposeful storage, use the space for a few days and tweak the area if you feel some things need moving around. Staying organised and maintaining your space is a constant task. You need to put things back where they belong in order to keep the space tidy and neat. 

To create a stylish look that you love, choose some of your favourite items to display in the space. Examples could be photos, sentimental pieces, and artwork. Add plants to bring nature indoors and scented candles to appease the senses. These additional accents will complete the feeling of a calm and organised area that is clutter-free. Finally, it is time to enjoy your peaceful new space!

If you would like to know more about how to calm that clutter, visitFern McGahey’s website or follow her on Instagram and Facebook.

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Best Brunch Spots in Dubai

5 Brunch Spots Boasting City Views in Dubai

Weekends just got better.

Getting out of bed on weekends is always a challenge, but there’s nothing like brunch to get anyone up and running! It’s one of the best ways to spend quality time with friends, family, or a special someone. Now, take your brunch game to the next level by sipping your mimosas while you feast your eyes on stunning city views. Here are five brunch spots in Dubai that win our vote.

Marina Social by Jason Atherton

Founded by Michelin-star chef Jason Atherton, Marina Social is more than just your typical restaurant. It redefines social dining through its open gallery concept and dessert bars that offers guests a peek into the magic that happens in the kitchen. This glamorous destination at InterContinental also features an exclusive ‘Social Table’ where its patrons can enjoy a unique dining experience that consists of only the best selection of champagne, teas, cigars, and more. Enjoy a delicious meal with panoramic views of the city with your inner circle in this elegant joint – and don’t forget to share a side or two! 

Marina Social by Jason Atherton, InterContinental Dubai Marina, King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud St., Dubai Marina, 04 446 6664, [email protected]

CÉ LA VI Dubai

A classic stop among brunch lovers, Cé La Vi owns the spot for being one of the city’s best destinations for contemporary Asian cuisine. Its famous Brunch on 54 on Saturdays offers guests an elevated brunch experience that combines a gastronomic set menu, incomparable views of the Burj Khalifa, and groovy music to make the dining affair like no other. With the restaurant name taking its roots from the famous French saying c’est la vie – that’s life – this spot truly paints a picture of Dubai’s best.

CÉ LA VI, Level 54, Address Sky View Hotel Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Boulevard, 04 582 6111, [email protected]

CÉ LA VI Dubai

Source: @celavidubai

Hola Rooftop

This chic Dubai restaurant puts a twist on your usual brunch experience. Hola Rooftop transports its guests to the islands of Ibiza, Formentera, and Mallorca without ever leaving its premium spot atop The Meydan Hotel. The Mediterranean-inspired rooftop lounge offers delectable Spanish dishes paired with refreshing drinks and live entertainment with a remarkable golf course view in the backdrop.

Hola Rooftop, The Meydan Hotel, Nad Al Sheba 1, 056 358 3333, rsrvit.com

Bubbalicious 

Located at The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina, Bubbalicious showcases over 10 live cooking stations in three restaurants within the resort: Baba, Sui Mui, and Mina’s Kitchen. With such a diverse selection, guests will be treated to a wide array of menu items that includes Indian and Asian dishes, seafood delicacies, mouth-watering roasts, and more. Don’t miss the roaming acrobats and live band sure to make this feast one to remember.

Bubbalicious, The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina, Dubai Marina, 04 399 4141, www.marriott.com

MOOD Rooftop Lounge

Perched atop The Meydan Hotel, this lavish rooftop dining spot is a go-to for local and international flavours and a laid-back atmosphere that lets guests unwind and socialise with their companions. Each dish is proudly made with top-quality ingredients and prepared with utmost care from the kitchen to the table. Crowd favourites include the charred king prawn, veggie sushi, and the truffle chicken & mushroom pizza.

MOOD Rooftop Lounge, The Meydan Hotel, Nad Al Sheba, 054 440 0227, www.moodrooftop.com

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A woman smilling

Exploring Dubai on a Budget – Here’s How

Frugal fun in the city of gold? Yes, really.

Something Fishy 

If you’re into cooking, exploring, or just enjoy a fish-out-of-water adventure(pun intended), Waterfront Market is a great place to spend an early morning. While away the hours checking out the different types of locally caught fish and meeting the melting pot of people who catch your fish in Dubai.

Cost: Free (fish not included)

Waterfront Market, Al Khaleej Road, 800 627 538

Street Eats

O’Pao is the definitive hidden gem in Karama, known for serving wallet-friendly sliders from the streets of Mumbai – a.k.a. O’ Vada Pao – at a bargain price of only AED 7 each! A literal treat for your taste buds, this vegetarian delight is made of a spiced potato dumpling, garnished with chutney, and sandwiched in a homemade bun. 

Cost: AED 7 

O’Pao, ground floor, behind Park Regis Kris Kin Hotel, Karama, 04 349 6726

Old-School Cruising

Hop on board a traditional abra and explore Dubai’s original downtown through the creek that cuts right through it. Did we mention that it only costs AED 1? Head out at sunset for the perfect Instagram picture, or take the time to reflect on Dubai’s evolution as you pass by the historic buildings of Al Fahidi and Al Seef. And if you rather cruise through the creek, you can even book an abra as a private charter for AED 120 per hour. 

Cost: AED 1

Various abra stations across the creek

Make a Splash

With access to some hotel pools in Dubai costing up to a whopping AED 250, Barasti Beach pool is a perfect frugal hack. And trust us when we say the early bird definitely gets the worm – or a sun lounger in this case. Ladies, make sure to also look out for their ladies days to get an extra (sometimes, even free) bang for the  buck!

Cost: Free

Barasti Beach, Le Méridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina, 04 318 1313

But First, Coffee

Take a trip down memory lane in Old Dubai, courtesy of The Coffee Museum. What better way to celebrate the city than learning all about coffee and the rich history it has in Arabic culture? 

Cost: Free entry

The Coffee Museum, Al Fahidi Historic Neighbourhood, 04 353 8777

The Cool Factor

If you’re looking for the perfect place to people-watch (we have spied the major artists, designers, and all-round cool kids of Dubai) then Dubai Design District is the place to see – and be seen. Stroll through this concrete and glass jungle, passing stunning art installations, homegrown designer boutiques, a skate park, and some of the best homegrown restaurants and bars along the way. Our favourites? The beloved One Life Kitchen and contemporary Indian eatery Mohalla.

Cost: Free

Dubai Design District, adjacent to Business Bay 

Blast from the Past

Located by the banks of Dubai Creek, Al Shindagha Museum offers fascinating insights into the UAE’s rich past. Step inside and discover various facets of Emirati culture and heritage from traditional remedies and food to the history of trade in the Dubai Creek. Bring friends or family along and avail the group ticket price of just AED 10 per person!

Cost: AED 5 for children, AED 15 for adults, AED 10 for a group of five

Al Shindagha Museum, near House of Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum, 04 515 5336

Free as a Bird

Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary is a haven for birdwatchers, nature enthusiasts, or those just looking for an epic photography site! This wetland reserve is home to several species like the grey heron, flamingo, and cormorant. A visit to the sanctuary also features the famous salt flats, mangroves, and lagoons. Our tip? Pack water, snacks, and sunscreen as this really is the perfect all-day adventure.

Cost: Free 

Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary, Ras Al Khor Road, 800 900

Social Media Star

You’ll never look at Starbucks the same way after visiting the iconic branch in Al Seef. Located in the heart of the city, this one-of-a kind outpost has become one of the most talked about Starbucks locations thanks to TikTok and Instagram. Trust us, seeing is believing. 

Cost: Free/Your Starbucks order

Starbucks, Al Seef, 04 419 0014

Another Woman’s Trash 

If shopping is a sport, then a trip to Dubai Flea Market is an all-out war! Arm yourself with small notes (store holders love change) and make sure you get to the markets as soon as they open. We’ve picked up designer shoes for as little as AED 10 – true story!

Cost: Free entry 

Dubai Flea Market, various locations across Dubai, click here for schedule of upcoming events

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