Dubai December: A Night in Eden

One of my favorite parts about travelling is meeting cool people and having random adventures. This has not always been true. While I have always enjoyed talking to strangers, I’ve only recently learned the power of “yes” (and while I usually hate self help tag lines, this one isn’t too bad). I never read the book, I heard a story on public radio about a woman (maybe the author?) who had learned that saying yes gave rise to more adventures and a generally happier life. I like the idea. I used to be a rigid schedule kind of girl, and if unknowns entered my plans it was very hard for me to change them and be comfortable.

For a while I solved this by planning spontaneous time. I would schedule times in which anything was allowed to happen and I would be ok. Outside of these times, everything needed to go according to plan. No I haven’t been tested for Autism, thank you.

In 2012 I decided that my new life goal was to be happy. Maybe one day I’ll write more about what that means or how I found it, but today, suffice it to say that one of my many tools for happiness is learning how to seize adventures, be more spontaneous and enjoy what the universe offers.

So, at the end of my delicious champagne brunch at Al Qasr, I found myself sitting on the patio, nursing a mojito and a final flute of prosecco and watching the tipsy diners around me. I’m a complimentary person. I like making other people feel better. My mother does this thing where she finds something nice about a person no matter what, and if you can give a genuine compliment, people feel it and it makes them feel good, which is awesome. So, throughout the brunch, whenever I’d run into someone and it seemed reasonable, I would pay them a compliment.

At the table next to me was a trio of young women, and I happened to compliment one on her dress, a cute powder pink dress with a short skirt made entirely of feathers. I thought it was cute and told her so. Then her friends asked if I wanted to take a picture with them, which seemed odd, but I still haven’t quite grasped the Instagram culture, so I said “sure”, and stood up to join them for snaps.

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We used my phone, and of course I wanted to share the pictures, so we tried to co-ordinate sending, but in the Gulf all that is done on Facebook in the US is done with What’s App, which I had only just downloaded and had no real idea how to use.

So they invited me to sit while we figured it out, and between the champagne and the new app, I had to hand my phone over to one of the ladies so they could add their number and send the photos, but it was a success and in the mean time, we enjoyed chatting so much, they invited me to move my stuff over and stay at their table.

They were all quite tipsy too, which is really half the point of the Friday brunch, and we worked our way through the remaining drinks and coffee, chatting about our lives and continuously telling the staff we’d leave really soon.

It came to light that the girl in the pink feather dress was a person of some fame in India and the Gulf. I’m horrible with famous people in my own culture and have no idea who is famous elsewhere. And no, I didn’t get her full name, and I wouldn’t post it here if I had because that is not the point of the story.

At first, I actually thought they might be making it up. I have friends *ahem* who have been known on occasion when travelling to fancy places to pretend that one member of the group is famous as a kind of game. It’s fun, and really mostly harmless, especially since the advent of smart phones and google. And since these women didn’t seem to want anything beyond company, I wasn’t concerned if they were just having me on.

One girl kept saying to the wait staff whenever they would come ask us to leave, “Do you know who she is?” pointing to the girl in the pink feather dress. Most of the staff would say, yes of course, and continue politely telling us it was closing time soon. But then one waiter asked for an autograph. I don’t know if he recognized her or just wanted to get one in case, but it certainly lent to the air of fame at the table.

The ladies nicknamed me “Kimmie” fairly quickly and decided that they liked me and so invited me to join them at “Eden” after we left the restaurant.

Here is where the power of “yes” and the newfound plan changing spontaneity comes in. My plan for Friday had been to enjoy brunch which ended at 4pm, have 2-3 hours of “anything goes time” during which I’d hoped to see the Burj Arab because it was so close to the restaurant, and then go to the famous dancing fountain at the base of the Burj Kalifah which started at 6pm and went on and off for a few hours every night. My plan.

I’d already spent most of my “anything goes” time with these women, because while the food stopped at 4pm, we stayed on the balcony drinking and chatting until the sunlight started to fade. And I was fine, I was happy, I felt like interesting people and a fun conversation were more than a fair trade for a building.

The old me would have been paralyzed at the thought of changing my plan. How could I ever see the fountain? This was the only time I had plotted out during the visit it would be running! How can I go to a club with strangers? Alone and in a foreign land? The old me.

New me says, “sure”.

One of the ladies had a mildly intoxicated altercation with management somewhere around the final no-really-everyone-out time, and as we were heading towards the taxis, in order to distract her, I told her I was in Dubai celebrating my birthday. Perhaps just as improbably and often used to elicit fun times as pretending to be famous, it happened to be true for me. And made a fantastic distraction. She immediately went from melancholy anger to jubilant singing of “Go Kimmie, it’s your birthday, we’re gonna party like it’s your birthday”.

So after taking a few more random instagramable moments with some total strangers, the ladies shepherded me into their cab and we headed off into the sunset.

First stop was our pink feather dress starlet’s home for (you guessed it) more drinks and some pre-club music. If the reactions of waitstaff at the restaurant had not convinced me, the apartment might have. Beachfront. It was a beautiful apartment, quite spacious and well appointed. Her S.O. and another man were there when we arrived, having just woken up, along with a maid of some minority who did her best to simply serve drinks and stay out of the way.

We headed out to the balcony, although balcony is not the best description, it was more like an open wall third bedroom. There was a circular day-bed on one end, in a matching circular alcove in the wall, a couch, and a table and chairs. The view over the Persian Gulf was quite lovely.

20141219_175710bWe enjoyed our drinks, were silly, danced and reassured each other that we were all quite beautiful enough to be seen at the club without any additional makeup or changes of wardrobe, and then we migrated back to the taxis where I tried to take selfies of us in the dark… <3!

I had no idea what Eden was beyond a dance club. I looked it up the next day on my faithful Google and discovered it was a brand new (month old) beachfront club on one of the palm tree shaped islands. I’m not sure, but I’m guessing it might be kind of exclusive/hot-spotish. This is the calendar for the night I was there. Matthias Tanzmann & Djebali were apparently the musical guests, and I’m not cool enough to know who they are either. But the calendar advises people to be there by 1pm and that a “door policy” applies. Again, no idea.

20141220_001608I followed the ladies from the cab, one who had taken a particular shine to me made sure to keep hold of my arm so I would not be separated, and couldn’t hear what they said to the concierge, but we were wrist-banded and shown in to what was almost assuredly a VIP area. We were elevated, there was a semblance of roof (though after sunset that mattered less, some very lovely couches and a TON of space for us marked off from other similar areas with little velvet ropes. The people in front of us with no roofing were also packed much more like dance club sardines would expect to be, hence my conclusions as to our group’s status.

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We ended up with two very tall white porcelain hookahs with minty shisha (my favorite flavor), and a bottle service of grey goose, which I believe was mixed with red bull. A waitress showed up at one point with the bottle which she placed in a bucket of ice at our table, and several glasses, asking me because I was closest I suppose, what we wanted in our drinks. Wisely, I did not take charge of this choice but asked one of my hostesses, who made the red bull decision.

The music was physical. It went into the bones, and pressed on the ears, but perhaps because we were outdoors, it didn’t feel as deafening or crushing as indoor superloud dance music. The light show was also rather … sensory. I had the sense to take some video, mostly because I was so stunned at how my night turned out that I felt the need to post it on facebook. I don’t seem to be able to post them on wordpress, so here’s a linkPost by Gallivantrix.

Around 10:30, the ladies were ready to call it a night, so I graciously took my leave and a separate cab, thanking them again for the company and the experience.

I was, I must admit,  astonishingly happy. There I was celebrating my birthday in Dubai, not only with a fantastic champagne brunch, but with a jaw dropping night out on the town courtesy of some fun, kind strangers and my own openness to adventure. I could not imagine a more perfect gift than to have everything I had been working toward in myself: happiness, gratitude, confidence, inspiring others to feel good, being open, and having more adventures – all come together in one amazing day. It really is good to be alive.

Dubai December: Overview & The Miracle Gardens

December is major holiday celebrating time for me. Most westerners celebrate some version of Christmas/Yule and the New Year, and of course Americans have Thanksgiving at the tail end of November. On top of that, I’m a Sagittarius, so I get to throw a birthday celebration into the whole mix.

Saudi celebrates none of these things. Not even birthdays. Islamic New Year was in November (tho it changes on the Gregorian calendar every year) and they celebrated by fasting for three days.

I was lucky enough to have an impromptu Thanksgiving feast, and you can read about my Christmas here. New Year’s celebrations are sadly out, since it’s on a Wednesday, and we work Sunday to Thursday. But my birthday goshdarnit, I could do something about that.

I decided to treat myself to a champagne brunch in Dubai. And since I was there, to take in some other sights as well.

I started my explorations bright and early Friday morning at the Miracle Gardens. This is a huge garden filled with structures made entirely of flowers. It’s actually very affordable, merely 30 AED (about 8$ US). And like all things in Dubai, I’m sure it’s the most, biggest, -estest of it’s kind in the world.

20141219_112658I spent the better part of three hours wandering the grounds, which even in December were quite warm in the sun. Every turn brought new views of the staggering flower creations. A village of flower houses, a tunnel of flower hearts, a giant flower clock, a princess tower, a river of flowers, bowers and bells, and even a floral Burj Kalifah (the tallest building in the world also in Dubai).IMG_0731The air smelled wonderful, and all the staff were amazingly friendly and helpful, constantly offering to take pictures for me so that I could pose next to the floral architecture. There were several pagodas and gazebos where people could rest in the shade and a generous but not overbearing snack center.

This was ceilinged by a carpet of flowers providing shade, perfume and beauty while also preserving the all flower panoramic view from the central hill.  The snack center offered a wide array of snacks from countries near UAE, and several dishes I’d never heard of. Because of my brunch buffet plans I didn’t sample any of the fare, but others seemed to be enjoying it, and it was nice to see snacks that weren’t merely pizza, burgers and fries.

I was also told that they’re working on a “phase 2” which will be the world’s largest live butterfly garden if/when they can get the permits. So I’m keeping my eye out on that one because 35 thousand butterflies would be SO COOL.

It wasn’t very crowded in the morning, but became more so as it crept closer to noon. It was very difficult to take wide shots without people in them, but unlike Saudi, that’s ok. And everyone was very considerate about taking turns to pose and take photos at the best spots.

The garden is only open in the cooler months (hardly surprising given that no one wants to do anything outdoors in the summer in Dubai), so plan your visit accordingly.

I could go on about the astonishing architecture, the magnificent scents, the colors and sheer volume of flowers, but in the end, pictures do speak louder than words, so please take a look at all my photos over on my facebook page, and keep a look out for the rest of my exciting Dubai December adventures!