We are currently enjoying the (not so often) long weekend in the UAE, courtesy of the 41st UAE National Day. We had an advance celebration in the office few days ago which was very festive. They served traditional Emirati food for breakfast and lunch, offered henna tattoo (you may check this post to see how intricate the designs are), had some fun contests, and more of the interesting ice breakers from work. I am relieved though that there was no related requirement to be properly dressed for the celebration, otherwise I could have had easily qualified amongst the underdressed having only a UAE bracelet and brooch as my ‘costume’. Even the flowers in the office were synched to the UAE colors.
(We met them on our way to Pahalgam, Kashmir. I think this scenario serves as a hump/ speedbreaker for the drivers.)
Interesting enough that we got mixed reactions when we went to Kashmir last month. I think that more than the timing and amongst the many whys, it is a straight to the point amazement of wanting to visit (and coming back safe and sound) a place with a reputation of unrest and intimidation in general.
Only a few people knew that we would be visiting Kashmir (i.e. the northernmost part of India). Mainly not to let those especially dear to us to incur unnecessary worries for the kind of risk appetite that we have. Kashmir has fascinated me since 2008 when I first heard about it from an expat-colleague who visited the “paradise on earth”. No photos from the colleague’s stories. But it struck me that his & wife’s visit has been ‘privileged’ and only made possible because they were accompanied by a relative who works for the military. Fast forward. The political unrest has subsided and Kashmir is now safe for tourists. Even few years back. And we thought that the long weekend in light of the Eid Al Adha celebration was the perfect time to visit Kashmir. We trusted that we tested the waters (for whatever minimal means) long enough.
(One of the culture-initiating displays in Indira Gandhi Airport, New Delhi. It is a replica of act of worshipping the sun.)
There is no direct flight from UAE to Kashmir (i.e. via Srinagar or Jammu airport). We took the 3.5 hours flight from Abu Dhabi to New Delhi and 1.5 hours flight from New Delhi to Srinagar. For most of the people, especially tourists, New Delhi rings like “go and see Taj Majal!”. However, we got a solid direction of exploring Kashmir alone for the first India experience (although some Kashmiris would argue that Kashmir is not part of India; that requires another blog entry). Although Taj Majal is magnificent, however, I always think that I can defer the visit. There is this ‘next time anyway’ notion due to its accessibility from Abu Dhabi by air. However, Kashmir visit is a once in a blue moon element to me.
We recently peeked in Jumeirah at Etihad Towers (near the Emirates Palace) to specifically try the high tea buffet at the Lobby Lounge. As we entered the main entrance of Tower 1, we were greeted by the elegance of the lobby. Further to our reservation, we were seated within that circle as shown in the photo.
Apparently, everyone would be comfortable wherever they sit. The set-up was designed to give everyone a nice view. (Apart from the fact that the beauty and intricacy of the lobby itself is a view.) However, us getting a better view may not be purely coincidental since I requested it when I called the reservation desk. While reservation is not mandatory to other guests, you may have to do it if you were visiting like us in line with the online deals (e.g. Groupon restaurant deals). I really appreciate that although I did not comply with the requirement to book at least 48 hours in advance, our request was accommodated. Although the person on the other line was understandably hesitant, she confirmed it the moment she cleared that our intended time of visit was feasible.