Wherever I’ve been in the world, I’m blessed to have sipped some ridiculously good coffee.
Happy International Coffee Day!!
Travel bloggers come together monthly for the Travel Link Up, a fantastic way for bloggers to come together to write and share posts of a particular theme. Even though I’ve been behind, I try to join whenever I can. This month’s theme is “favorite staycations” and I just had to take the opportunity to brag a bit about my hometown region and a far away favorite.
Staycations are like adding a fun boost to the weekend that’s usually set aside for family, laundry, errands and TV binge. When you are in need of a vacation but can’t go so far or for so long, it’s good to hop in a car, a train, or even a short flight to enjoy a quick break from the mundane.
Here, I’m going to focus on two of my favorite staycation spots since I’ve lived in two different parts of the world. One being in my hometown of the Bay Area and the other being from my expat life in Qatar.
Let’s go far then bring it back home.
During the five years of my expat life in Qatar, I was lucky to be able to go on weekend trips to near by countries like the UAE and Kuwait. Many of which literally meant time with family and friends or at a hotel spa getting a well deserved pampering session. I got to do a little bit of both with some adventure when friends and I headed to Muscat in 2016 for a long birthday weekend.
Barely an hour flight away (think SF to LA), once I landed, I went straight to the hotel where I indulged in a mani-pedi pampering session before chilling on the warm private beach with a good book. Yes, Muscat in December is like a sweet summer day in San Francisco. It’s seriously perfect beach weather, warm but not too humid, light breeze and clear skies for the most part.
As an IHG member, I got a sweet deal at the Crowne Plaza Muscat. It’s very much a chill out hotel that I’d go back to again. Great spots to eat, excellent services and did I mention they had a private beach?
Once my friends caught up though, we went exploring! Headed to Bimmah’s infamous sinkhole and clear beaches before driving out the city to the canyons of Wadi ElSham. This is a trek everyone should do once in their lives, absolutely beautiful and breathtaking.
Canyons are no joke and as an out of shape person, it wasn’t too hard to trek through some of the rocky narrow parts. And if you’re a swimmer, you’ll love the varying spots where you can take safe dive, come back up and trek some more. I went as far as I could before the path was too narrow for me and alas, I’m no swimmer but I still enjoyed exploring and watching the waters ripple below.
Nature truly beckons here in Muscat, where you can lose yourself in awe of your colorful surroundings.
I’ve been a tourist in my hometown since repatriating back home over a year ago. There is still so much for me to rediscover as I eat my way through town and see the changes that have happened over the course of my absence. I did get to rediscover an old favorite for a few staycations, including a birthday weekend late last year (I know, I’ve developed a pattern! =P ). On a good day, it’s a short hour and a half drive to this small historical beach town.
Once a mainstay for sardine fishing and canning, Monterey has become a hub for marine preservation and exploration. My brother got his scuba diving license there before we took my nephew to his first aquarium adventure. He got to see all the different kinds of jelly fishes up close before finally seeing his favorite, the hammer head shark, swim by.
Just a half hour away, one can head to Moss Landing for an afternoon of dolphin and whale watching. It’s an absolutely glorious experience, highly recommended!
Make it a true girls trip and head to the Monterey Plaza Hotel for a beautiful room, a day at the spa and dinner by the sea. The hotel even offers perks and packages, especially if they know you’re there for a special occasion. They were sweet enough to offer us freebies from my favorite coffee spot there, Tidal Cafe -home of the best chocolate scones, EVER!- as a birthday gift.
So tell me, where are your favorite staycation spot(s)?
It’s the first selfie I took a few days after arriving home from Qatar last summer. I was still jet lagged, silly excited yet overcome with emotions.
Delicious Ramadan Eats from Around the World
By: Ms. Hala for Blasting News
Originally Published May 26, 2018
Publication Source: BlastingNews.com
Journey around the globe to discover some of the delicious dishes served up during the holy month of Ramadan!
Ramadan is once again upon us, and Muslims are as excited as ever for the festive, holiday season! During the ninth month of the Hijri calendar, several dishes are cooked up around the world in time to break one’s fast. So let’s see what’s cooking!
The land where many traditions are still practiced and new ones inspired by its diverse residents. Harees dates back to the 10th century with historical references to Prophet Mohammed’s (PBUH) dining habits.
Harees can be described as a wheat porridge. After simmering pre-soaked wheat in water, straining any excess water and mixing it into a thick consistency. Make it savory by adding meat and salting to taste. Make it sweet by adding cinnamon and sugar to the mix. It’s so versatile; it’s the perfect dish to start or end your iftar.
Traditions as old as time is what makes Ramadan in the Maldives all the more unique and artistic.
The local flair is seafood, and tuna fish reigns supreme. The top local tuna dishes to be had during iftar would be gulha and kulhi boakibaa. Gulha are tuna fish balls, made with coconut, onions, garlic, and ginger. Mixed and rolled into a ball, then stuffed into a light flour dough and deep fried. Kulhi boakibaa are tuna fish cakes, with coconut, rice, ginger, curry leaves, chilies, lemon juice, and turmeric powder, and turned into a thick paste mixture. It spread into a pan and baked until lightly brown, cut into squares for all to enjoy. Fried and baked, the best of both worlds!
Whats the best thing to be served when breaking one’s fast? How about sipping on some sweet aseer or juice during iftar! Iraqis will at times stock up on bottles of juices depending on the season as well as any long-lasting fruits to make fresh drinks at home. Some popular juice shops, such as Mishmish in Baghdad, have been open for over 50 years with Ramadan being their busiest season. What juices shine brightly during the holy month?
Pomegranate, grape, lemon, apricot and of course date juice top the list. These specific fruits all have great health benefits and of course, taste great!
Being a festive season, Comoros serves it up! Anything from grilled manioc, fishes to fried bananas and couscouma. This simple savory treat is a thyme and butter chapati like crepe, extremely thin and light. After kneading the dough, it’s immediately divided into small pieces, rolled thin and pan fried to golden perfection. Crispy yet warm and soft, this savory treat is served with sweet tea. If there are any leftovers (ha!), it’s served as part of the suhour meal.
From the festivities that take place, the popular TV shows and the variations of foods make Ramadan in Egypt unlike any other. The sweet served in almost every home after iftar is a platter of qatayef. Think of qatayef as sweet dumplings, starting off as a small pancake of sorts, stuffed with either sweet cheese or mixed nuts or both! It’s folded into crescents then fried until golden brown, topped with a light syrup and gobbled up!
During the feast to end Ramadan and welcome Eid El Fitr, the dish to be had is opor ayam. Opor ayam is a curry chicken dish originating from the central Java islands, with side dishes such as chili fried potatoes. To make this dish perfect, it’s all in the fresh spices and how they are grounded down and slightly roasted in a saucepan before they are cooked with the marinated chicken to serve up the perfect bowl of opor ayam.
It’s understood that Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) taught Muslims to break their fast with dates and milk which has its health benefits. Dates and milk have just the right amount of natural sugars and vitamins to give your body a good energy boost. Those in dates travel to your liver and digestive tract faster than most other similar fruits which help to restart the digestive process. This is truly a delicious treat that Muslims all over the world indulge in during Ramadan.
What are your Ramadan traditions? Did we entice you to try any of these worldly Ramadan dishes?Publication Source: BlastingNews.com
Throwback to My Dinner at Fouj Cafe
A Snapchat Story
By Ms. Hala
Here’s a throwback to my last few weeks in Qatar when I got to dine at Fouj Cafe on Grand Hamad Street (aka Bank Street), in Doha. My favorite, of course, was their take on the Qatari dish, chicken majboos.
I appreciate their gourmet take on the local cuisine without sacrificing on flavor. The chicken was fall off the bone tender and I was surprised I had a picture of it as it seems to have not made it to the video above. Oops! It’s seriously one of those dishes you almost can’t get enough of and can smell it whenever you crave it and right now, I’m having massive cravings!
They are well known for their deserts, with a wide selection as well as custom-made cakes, including tiered wedding cakes. I thought the one they had on display then was quite impressive. Their take on tiramisu that I had was so filling, I ate it slowly for three days, literally! I had to share the goodie bag with friends as it was much and I was moving out of the apartment. I can say though that nothing was left after about 20 minutes.
Shout out to the Fouj Cafe team for making my last few weeks in Qatar a delicious one!