Parks of Dubai: Safa and Zabeel

Last weekend in Dubai, I found myself lounging on the grass two mornings in a row. The fact that I traveled over 2000 km just to be lazy under the sun listening to podcasts was a tad frustrating. I was in what is commonly referred to as a desert, and yet, it seemed like they had better public green spaces than our own “lush” Lebanon. In a country like ours, with weather like ours…why don’t we have parks EVERYWHERE? The last time I hung out on the grass like that, I was still an AUB student sprawled out on the Green Oval.

Safa Park, Wasl Road Gate

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Although partially closed off due to the construction of a water canal, Safa Park is very charming and chill. With a spectacular view of Downtown Dubai and plenty of mini playgrounds surrounding a little lake, there are shady spots scattered around where you can just set up camp and hang out. I was there on a workday so it was pretty vacant. Schoolchildren were there on a field trip; their teacher was teaching them about greenery and plant life. “This is a BROWN leaf. What’s that mean?”, she asks the little people. “IT’S DEAD!” they all shout. And then she told them to cross it off their checklist-clipboards. It was all very amusing to see kids that enchanted with the natural world.

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Zabeel Park, Gate 1 (Friday Mornings)

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Home to Ripe Market, the organic farmer’s market of the UAE, Zabeel was pretty impressive. Not only were there people from all over and of every age group, there was also a big variety when it came to the actual stands present. Mini pancakes, Lebanese street food, Raw Coffee, crafts, and products. And when you’re done perusing through the market, you can go find a spot under a tree. Although Dubai is nicknamed “the city of Malls,” I found it ironic that they have their farmer’s market in a park and we have ours in a shopping district (Beirut Souks).

Entrance was 5 dhs (~$1.37)
BONUS: Both parks have jogging tracks that run around their perimeter (padded asphalt, stretching stations, distance marks, the works).

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Lebanon: Would You Miss Me?

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I was in Dubai for another weekend and, this time, it wasn’t the same as last February. When I came back a few months ago, my love for you was revitalized and I was happy to be home. This trip was different. For the first time, home didn’t feel like it cared if I was even there. For the first time, I didn’t want to come back.

A year has passed since I stopped to ask myself, “why do you stay?”. A war, a string of explosions, and daily struggles did not scare me and yet, now, I can’t justify my current life choice. The reasons that kept my feet firmly buried in the sand don’t feel comforting anymore, they feel like excuses. I have dear memories but murky thoughts; you’re not what you used to be to me and I don’t know what happened. I am here wondering if I’m limiting myself from the growth that every young adult needs- the kind that is not satiated by rooftop bars, private beaches, and manouche. Growth that comes from being self-sufficient in a functioning forward-thinking society. Have I settled for less than what I deserve? Maybe I woke up, maybe I’m exhausted, maybe I outgrew you. Maybe you don’t want to be who I know you are. Maybe I don’t want to wait until you get your act together, if you ever do. Maybe I need to get my act together first.

Only a few days after returning, I am reminded that danger lurks while the people are concerned with foiled summer plans and football matches. Even I started to wonder how this would affect my social life rather than how it could affect my overall tomorrow or just my drive home from work – that’s when I knew there was a problem. Threats to your safety are not supposed to be seen as an “inconvenience.” I will still defend you to the vacationing foreigner in the hot tub who claims that we’re an aimless doomed country but something has changed. I still love you but something has changed. That future I saw with you is blurry after being in a place with 2020 vision – a place that has a common goal that they’re all working toward, all attempting to make into a reality.

A city can only claim superiority that springs from culture & authenticity for so long before it drowns in its own delusions and inflated pride. While we bask in our rich heritage, destroy what is left of it, and become our own worst enemy, some of our neighbors surpass us in ambition and development leaving us in their towering shadows. We need to work as one, with humility, toward the Lebanon that we dream of while being fully aware that it could slip through our fingers if we lose sight of what really matters.

I’m confident that I’ll find my way back to you. Perhaps then, I’ll be strong enough for the both of us but I feel like I can’t save you at the moment. I need to put the oxygen mask on myself before I try to help you – unfortunately, all the masks here give an inadequate supply leaving me gasping for air.

I have another vacation coming up. Being away for more than just a few days may give us the break we need. However, if I were to leave for good at some point, my greatest fear is that you wouldn’t even notice, you wouldn’t even miss me if I was gone.

But I know I’d miss you.

5 Tidbits from Foreigners in Dubai

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First week of Feb marked the 2-year-anniversary of Bambi’s Soapbox. Yay! In the midst of a hectic week at work and traveling to Dubai, it totally slipped my mind but that was the reason behind the NEW LOOK FOR 2014. Here’s another round-up of some funny little things I learned from foreigners I met in a city that is a 70/30 split between expats & nationals.

1 – I was having lunch on Valentine’s Day with Pavel & Teddy, a Bulgarian couple who used to live in Spain. They told us that V-Day isn’t celebrated in Bulgaria but St. George’s Day is a Catalonian holiday in Spain falling on April 23rd every year. Couples exchange single roses and books. They also said that wedding engagements require the exchange of gifts from both parties (the guy gets a watch).

2 – An Indian vendor at Madinat Jumeirah, upon hearing I was Lebanese, gave me a deal on a ring because he likes hummus. He also said that Indian barbers are cheaper than all Arab barbers in the Emirates – you can get everything done for under 50aed (~14USD). “Oh hello! It’s an upscale souk!” said a British man as he walked into the place. He thought I was the welcoming hostess because I happened to be a smiling Arab standing by the entrance. What kind of authentic souk has a Starbucks?

3 – A Pakistani cab driver, after being asked to slow down, explained that driving in Pakistan was even crazier than Dubai. He insisted that it was okay because the speed limit was high enough and he wasn’t going THAT fast. He said, “it’s putting life in hand” of the driver. Yeah, lots of prayer during that ride. If you ever visit Pakistan, walk.

4 – A group of Colombian designers recommended going to Barasti Beach Club, a bar that is “iconic” in terms of where to go when visiting Dubai. Based on what they said, it’s full of drunk Irish & British folk, which is why it’s a must to see! Needless to say, I did not go there.

5 – The “Dubai milestone” is what they call the weight you gain when you move to the city. It’s an average of 8kgs. Why yes, I’ll have the fried mac & cheese. With a Coke Zero.

MY TIDBIT: If you eat at Jones the Grocer, try not to sit next to the cheese room. And order the Wagyu burger. Then go to Magnolia Bakery in Bloomingdales of Dubai Mall for some banana pudding. Then go to the hospital or the gym for 6 hours because your arteries are choking on halal lard.

Jones Wagyu Burger (can be ordered with foie gras too)

Jones Wagyu Burger
(can be ordered with foie gras too)