Part 3 – sorry for the delay, it’s been a hectic few weeks!
On the third day, we had another lie before jumping on the metro and heading to the Dubai mall for lunch.
After having a long stroll, we decided to hit up Five Guys. Well, let’s be honest, if Mr Man has a say on where we eat, we invariably end up at a burger joint. Always.
I mean, while I love a good burger every so often, I
a) don’t want to be the size of a house.
b) do like a little more variety in my life…
^ Big claim.
We placed our order grabbed some complimentary monkey nuts and took a seat.
Typical Five Guys style, the burgers came wrapped in tin foil, meaning the rolls were a little misshapen…
First up, Mr Man’s cheeseburger. Two beef patties, loads of American cheese, a few fried onions, and cos he likes it hot, some jalapenos.
So was it mindbogglingly good? Was it the best burger ever? Was it everything he’d hoped and wished for?
I’m sorry to say, that no, it wasn’t…
I mean, it was good, but it certainly wasn’t the best burger he’s had the fortune of eating. The burger was largely average tasting and the jalapenos were actually too hot, meaning that the other flavours in the burger didn’t get a chance to shine.
I wanted something different so I opted for a grilled cheese sandwich to which I chose to add some mushrooms.
This is what arrived:
I wasn’t very impressed. The toasted bun worked, but I mean, what’s wrong with normal white sliced bread (it’s the best base for melty cheese sandwiches, isn’t it?) Also, I was a little frustrated at their choice of cheese. I genuinely thought I was gonna get something other than that of a bright orange processed nature. It has no place in a good grilled cheese sandwich. None. Whatsoever.
We ordered regular cajun fries to share which we struggled to finish between us. These led to a role reversal with Mr Man really enjoying them, whereas I thought there was something to be desired. Semi-chunky, skin on chips, fried in peanut oil, and with a very generous sprinkling of cajun seasoning.
For drinks, I opted for a standard diet coke and Mr Man chose a peanut butter milkshake. I had a little sample, whilst it doesn’t look amazing, I must admit is was pretty darn good. Thick, creamy and slightly salty. Yum.
From one mall to another, we hopped into a cab, next stop was The Dragon Mart Mall, AKA “China Town.”
This place sells all sorts of random, unexpected stuff and it’s really quite cheap. You can easily spend hours on end perusing the random shops and stalls. We actually came to buy a seg for a friend but those things are seriously heavy and difficult to transport so we ended up having to leave it behind. They’re also now illegal in public spaces, funny how things work out.
Traditional Chinese clothes.
Safes. For all the gold you buy from Deira, obvs.
Random toys and accessories.
Lighting and chandeliers.
After spending a few hours exploring, we decided to depart.
For dinner, we headed to a place recommended by a friend, QD’s. Bit of a walk from the station but who can complain on palm tree lined roads?
Really nice place. Great ambience and, to quote aforementioned friend, “plush” overall.
It’s quite a large place, with various seating options…
We made our way towards the back, where the views are the best and got settled in.
Check out that skyline. I need to work on my night photography…
First up, drinks… I went for something called “temptation,” described as “perfectly coupled mango and guava on a bed of roses.” It was nice but when you’re paying £7 for a drink, you expect it to be a little better. First off the drink was pretty warm, meaning the ice quickly melted and left a not-so-lovely diluted mango (guava was largely overpowered…) juice with a sweet rose syrup. Mr Man went for a 7up.
I selected the chicken shawarma wrap for dinner which came with fries, salad and garlic sauce. Unfortunately, the wrap itself wasn’t very special, unlike the ones we’d had in Deira… The chicken was quite fatty and didn’t have much flavour.
Meanwhile, Mr Man’s inner Indian surfaced again, and he chose the butter chicken, served with both rice and naan, as well as a soggy poppadom, stuffed onions and herbs. The curry was nicer than the joke of butter chicken chips we had on day one, but still wasn’t anything to write home about. Lack of fenugreek once again, and without, it’s reeeeally not a butter chicken.
After dinner, we ordered a few more drinks and a shisha, kicked back and just took in the view.
A few hours later we hopped in a cab and headed back to base.
The next day we woke up bright and early and went over to bagels and more to get some breakfast.
Bog standard, very average coffee.
Mr Man went for an onion bagel with a sausage omelette and cheese. Served up with bagel crisps.
I went for a garlic bagel with cheese and a sunny side up egg. It was a good sandwich, however, could have used some sauce, maybe some bechamel or something.
We hopped on a train and headed towards Deira bus station:
We purchased some tickets to Al Ain (approx 20/25DHS, so very cheap and cheerful). The whole thing was a little unorganised, no available timetables, no signboards and unhelpful people at the ticket office… We also discovered our mode of transport was more of a run down mini bus than a coach. The first few rows on the bus were reserved for women and couples / families with the remaining rows at the back for men. Be warned, the bus drivers will rearrange passengers according to this.
About two hours later we arrived at our destination.
After asking a random man for directions, he offered to give us a lift to our first stop, Al Ain Oasis, an inner city date palm plantation. As a Londoner, I was very, very weary about jumping into a random man’s 4×4, even with Mr Man beside me, I definitely muttered something along the lines of “are we actually gonna do this? He’s totally gonna kidnap us, kill us then dump us somewhere…” to Mr Man, who was assured that nothing of the kind would happen. T’was a mere five mins or so away so I was quickly put out of my misery. We gratefully expressed our thanks and headed in.
The place is huge, and, apparently, contains almost 150,000 trees with numerous date varieties. There’s a pathway that leads you right through so you’re never really lost.
There’s an ancient falaj irrigation system in place which taps into underground water storage.
Took a while, but we finally found some dates too!
Such a lovely walk!
Rather than backtrack all the way to the exit, we climbed out on the other end…
(I lie. There may or may not have been a loose panel that we squeezed through.)
The next stop, Al Ain Palace Museum, was conveniently located just across the road. (Free entry)
This palace is the former home of the founder of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, and was restored and transformed into a museum in 1998, showing the simple life of royalty before the oil boom. It starkly contrasts some of the places we saw on our trip including the Emirates Palace Hotel the day before.
You really get a feel for what life was like…
There are various courtyards for specific people and purposes, and whilst each of the rooms is labelled, there’s not any further information available. Each of the rooms has been purpose built for a life without aircon, positioned in the shade and with a natural breeze flowing through.
Walk in wardrobe:
Sooo many different majalis (living rooms)… These guys really knew how to chill.
The above picture doesn’t really do that pot justice. It literally came to about Mr Man’s waist. Just shows how communal it all was.
After an hour or two, we walked on over to Jahili Fort which was built in the late 1800s to defend the city and its date-palm trees.
There’s an exhibition inside, dedicated to Wilfred Thesiger, an English explorer and traveller, who had been accommodated in Al Ain by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan several times during the 1940s.
We headed out, hopped in a taxi and asked to be taken to Al Ain mall to get some late lunch.
We settled on the American chain, Applebee’s and got comfy. First up, drinks, Mr Man went for a red apple sangria while I went for a cherry one. Both were good, in a very generous serving. They were, however, a little too sweet, and needed stirring every few mins.
Mr Man went for something called the ultimate trio in which you can pick three mini starters. He opted for: buffalo wings (delicious, as expected), steak quesadilla towers (great Mexican flavours wrapped up with loads of cheese) and finally, surprise surprise,) a duo of mini cheeseburgers (pretty standard).
Overall, a lovely little mix but, nothing was aaaamazing, you know.
I, on the other hand, went for the sizzling chicken fundido. A bed of gooey, cheddar and parmesan cheeses, topped with a lime and chipotle chicken breast and served with potato cubes, red and green peppers and onions.
The flavours were really good, but, it all had an underlying “processed” taste. And whilst I ate every last bite, was a tad offputting…
On our way out we grabbed a mocha frappe to share / really for me, but I did offer him a sip!
Next stop, the livestock / camel market!
This was one of my favourite parts of the trip but be warned, it’s a bit off the beaten path and so there’s minimal (in our case, no) other foreigners / tourists around. I’d recommend dressing conservatively as a female and also being alert. The animal owners / salesmen will approach you and tell you to get in the pens with the animals for better pictures and they all claim to have a baby camel (born just yesterday!) that they want to show you. Don’t have it. Just walk around, politely decline and don’t engage too much with them. I read online that some guys tried to ask for money for photographing their animals but we didn’t encounter that problem.
Also, it is hot, there are a lot of animals, it will smell a little funky.
The guy that owned these totally wanted to sell us one, offered to slaughter the goats too! Eek.
There are various breeds available, depending on what you need your camel for, racing, milk or meat.
Unfortunately, we missed the haggling and transaction, but this guy totally walked away with a brand new camel!
Was a little difficult to find a taxi from here so we asked for directions and discovered there was a mall about 10mins walk away where we would have more success:
The final thing we had just about enough time for was Jabel Hafeet, the rocky mountain in Al Ain.
We arrived just as the sun was setting…
So serene, so peaceful.
Kinda wish we hadn’t been in such a rush because as we were heading back down all the lights started turning on and it was a really pretty sight, but capturing that from a moving vehicle is near impossible.
And with that, we headed back to the coach station.
Later that night, we headed out for some dinner. We picked somewhere authentic and close, Reem Al Bawadi. It was pretty late and we were almost the only ones but that suited us just fine. Despite having so many idle staff around, service was slow, impersonal and overall inattentive. On the plus side, it had a really nice vibe, staff were rocking traditional outfits and traditional music was being played.
We opted for a variety of Arabic mezze to share.
Lebneh with mint:
Probably my favourite of the lot, tangy with a good balance of fresh mint.
Hommos with chicken shawarma:
The chicken was a little fatty as there was a fair bit of thigh shredded into this shawarma, the humous was a little lacklustre too, the texture was dry as I think didn’t think it had enough lemon or oil.
Good with a lovely smokey flavour. The pomegranate seeds worked extremely well in balancing the flavours out.
It was good but nothing spectacular. I like the swirls of fresh bread with sumac, however, it was a bit of a salad soup… They should really have drained the excess moisture to ensure it wasn’t a soggy mess!
All served up with some fresh pitta.
Simple, fresh bread was really enjoyable. Light and perfect for dipping as it didn’t have any overpowering flavours.
For dessert, we opted for a plate of baklava to share, which for a nice change weren’t too sweet. The cashew ones were really enjoyable. They could all have used a little extra brush of syrup over the top for a better sheen / glisten and a couple more minutes in the oven for a golden top, but that’s just me being picky. It was perfectly washed down with green and mint tea, although it did take them an awfully long time to deliver the second glass…
After settling the bill, we headed back to the flat.