Posts Tagged ‘United Arab Emirates’

Arab-themed Quilts at Local Quilt Show

May 22nd, 2012 6 comments

Today I trekked to my neighborhood quilt shop Craft Land to see a local quilt show. Dubai quilters, many of them students, created the quilts on display. It was a small show, but amongst the traditional quilts I found, as I do at every Dubai quilt show I attend, some Arab-themed and regional themed quilts.

The quilt below is “Arabian Inspirations” by Mary Nisbet.

Below is a quilt entitled “You Don’t See this at Home” by Maureen Wilson. It features all the symbols of the UAE, made with the colors of the sand.

These are details from the quilt “Reflections” by Leslie McKinlay.










Below is a quilt entitled “Pharoah’s Tent” by Ansie Vanderwalt, based on the traditional appliqué made by Egyptian quilters in the Tentmaker Quarter in Cairo.

This piece is in the category of wearable art–a jacket with appliqué of the skyline of Dubai. Yes, that is the Burj Khalifa.

This quilt has a regional theme; it’s called “Unforgettable Sri Lanka” by Mandy Peden. I like the elephant motif and the beaded trim.

Finally, here’s a spectacular quilt made by Suzette Pont, entitled “Circle of Friends.” Not Arab-themed, but one of my favorites.

The quilt show is running through this Saturday. It’s in Town Center Mall on Jumeira Beach Road. (Details to the left)

My next goal is to see the Dubai International Quilt Show, which I missed this year.

Question: Have you been to a quilt show in Dubai?


It’s That Time Again ~ International Day!

February 29th, 2012 7 comments

Oh Boy. Tomorrow’s the day. A day that fills me with both excitement and dread. Fellow Dubai mothers know what I’m talking about. It’s International Day at school, a cultural celebration, relished by children and slaved over by mothers.

In this case, the event takes place at my youngest child’s school. It’s a day when everyone struts their patriotic stuff, whether they’re from Tunisia, Serbia, Japan, Brazil, Iran or Denmark. About thirty stalls will represent thirty different countries with food, costumes, music, cultural artifacts and educational displays.

Who am I kidding? It’s all about the food.

This year for the USA table, I’m bringing 25 trays of brownies, three apple pies, baskets of red apples, bags of popcorn, as well as lemonade. (Sort of a “county fair” theme—which no one really gets.)

In past years we’ve also served homemade chocolate chip cookies, rice krispy treats, Southwest chili, and hot dogs. No matter what we do, our handful of American moms can never compete with the other countries that offer full buffets of hot homemade dishes or fancy spreads catered by restaurants.

This year I’m manning the table alone (!) so I’m pacing myself. Because two weeks from now I will do it all over again at the high school—a wild free-for-all of teenage eating. At the high school, the food is scooped up so quickly, we can’t put it out fast enough.

But tomorrow’s event is sweet. I cherish the sight of the little kindergarteners dressed in traditional clothing, and I enjoy admiring the other stalls. I will also be handing out handmade Statue of Liberty bookmarks.

However, over the years (especially the Bush years) we at the USA table have endured occasional anti-American comments. Some people don’t comprehend that us volunteer moms don’t set the US foreign policy. So, rather than get into a political debate, I just smile like a lunatic and ask, “Would you like a piece of apple pie?”

So why do I do International Day?

Well. I used to approach it like I was some kind of Food Ambassador, spreading the good will of the US through sugary baked goods. Then last year, at my tenth such event, I got so overwhelmed and burned out that I boycotted the high school international day all together.

I wondered: why do it?

To be honest, I missed it. And my children missed having me there. Parents and students told me that they looked for my apple pie, but couldn’t find it. According to my youngest son, my brownies are “famous” (Betty Crocker, directions on the box).

So, I’ll be there tomorrow, offering the usual sweets. When there’s a lull in traffic, I’ll run over to the Lebanese table for fatayer and to the Korean table for Kim bob and to the Australian table for Lamington coconut cake. I hope the Mexicans will be serving tamales…

Finally, here are some photos from International Day last year—photos that represent a few Arabic counties.

The Lebanon stall:

Some mothers representing Egypt:

The Jordan Table:


An Emirati Coffee Lady serving up Arabic Coffee and Emirati pastries:

Of course, there’s always henna.

Question: What do you do at your International Day?

Heritage House and a Hidden Gem

January 20th, 2012 5 comments

Seven women. One SUV. Three destinations.

All members of the same book club, we were on a mission to check out Dubai’s Heritage House on the Deira side of Dubai Creek. We had just read the memoir At the Drop of a Veil, set in Saudi Arabia in the 1940s and 50s. We wondered if Dubai’s Heritage House was similar to one of the houses described in the book.

Also on our agenda was the school next door and lunch afterward.

Although most of us are familiar with the Bur Dubai side of the Creek, few of us had heard of Heritage House or the school next to it, both located on Al Ahmadiya Street.

And a surprise awaited.

Heritage House

Built around 1890, this restored house is one of the best examples of a traditional Emirati home. From 1910, it was owned by Sheikh Ahmad, the most famous pearl merchant in Dubai at the time. His name graces both Al Ahmadiya Street and Al Ahmadiya School. Like other traditional homes of the region, this one has a large courtyard.

The house changed hands over the years. In 1935, decorative motifs and other artistic elements were added. In 1994, restoration began, and Heritage House was opened as a museum in 2000. Below is one of the outdoor sitting areas off the courtyard.

As is the custom in the region, the home has carved wooden doors.

Like other UAE heritage sites, traditional Emirati scenes are re-created for visitors to imagine life before the oil boom. Below is the majlis, the most important room in the house and where guests are received.

Here is al-hijla, the bridal room.

The kitchen is a small room in the corner of the house, far from the living rooms to keep the cooking odors away. Here are the traditional cooking utensils.

This is the upper level of the house.

In the center of the house is an outdoor majlis area where we relaxed. This visit was perfectly slow-paced, and completely different from a visit to the Dubai Museum, where one must struggle against throngs of tourists. By this point we had forgotten about all about the house in the book we had read. 

As we took in the morning, we were served Arabic coffee and an unexpected snack of black-eyed peas, and finally sweet tea—all complimentary.

Before we left, we stopped by the gift shop and admired the kitschy Arabic trinkets, which always make me smile.

Just as we were leaving, a busload of Polish tourists came pouring in; fortunately, we were onto our next destination, which for me, turned out to be the highlight of the day.

Al Ahmadiya School 

Al Ahmadiya School is also located on Al Ahmadiya Street. Built in 1912, it was the first school in Dubai and was in active operation as a school from 1912 until 1965. This school was attended by Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the prime mover  behind modern Dubai.

Today the school is a historical landmark. When we walked into the school, this is what we saw.

We passed through the archway and into the courtyard. We were all surprised by the simplicity and beauty of this historic school.

Some of us wondered why we had never heard of it before.

This school was calming and peaceful. I have never seen scalloped archways like this in Dubai, nor have I seen a school like this here. In my eyes, this school is a hidden gem in the city.

Off the courtyard are many little classrooms, each with a Quranic inscription above.

Afterward, we lunched at a Yemeni restaurant overlooking the abra boats on the Creek. As we reflected on our little excursion, we ate a traditional mandi meal of rice and lamb, as well as roasted fish and large rounds of fresh Yemeni-style bread.

Heritage House and Al Ahmadiya School are open daily 8:00am to 7:30pm, and Fridays 2:30pm to 7:30pm. Entrance is free.

What is your favorite historical or cultural sight in the UAE?