Jumeirah is a name that is synonymous with luxury and lifestyle. I am no stranger to the Jumierah Emirates Towers, as I have previously attended a Christie’s auction launch with watches from the SIHH and private viewing of jewelry from the world’s most coveted collections. The hotel, although located on Sheikh Zayed road, feels isolated and peaceful. This is due to the grand and sweeping entrance that makes the property private and exclusive. During my stay and each time I headed out, attentive doormen would call a taxi on my behalf, making transportation easy and efficient. The lobby, other than being architecturally beautiful, is a calm place that allowed me to catch up on my daily business and correspondence.
One evening in May I cabbed my way from Sheikh Zayed Road to a building complex dubbed the World Trade Center. As the taxi dropped me off at the entrance of the private area, I walked past restaurants, a mall and a hotel until I reached a magnificent series of buildings lit up in contrast to the dark sky.
Andes is nestled in this Trade Center area, amidst the trees and beautiful modern architecture, and thus I entered.
The space is cozy in size, nothing too imposing that would leave a foodie feeling overpowered, with the exception of high ceilings and impressive decor inspired by what I can only assume is a citizen of the world. This mix of eclectic and quaint describes both the menu items and the ambiance.
I remember visiting the Dubai Outlet Mall almost a decade ago, and being a shopaholic myself, found the deals to be a dream come true. From designer items to athletic gear, one could spend an entire day rummaging through the aisles of the multi-brand mall. I recently dropped by to take a look at some new deals at the mall and was pleasantly surprised with an even more extended portfolio of brands all under one roof.
First I passed by Dynamic Sports outlet that hosts top notch athletic brands and gear where one can find a wide array of footwear, apparel and accessories. The central feature of this shop is the new addition of bicycles for those who wish to practice this sports with quality equipment at a good price.
One cannot possibly think of world class spas without Six Senses coming to mind instantly. This renowned luxury spa is located in the most exotic destinations and offers an experience that truly transports you to nirvana. I had the pleasure of disconnecting one afternoon at the Six Senses Spa Dubai located in the ultra chic and modern Renaissance Hotel Downtown. I was greeted in a gentle manner that made me forget my entire stress and work overload, and handed a form to fill out. The form was by no means generic, although some questions were standard; however they delved deeper into the needs of each massage recipient in terms of anxiety, panic, and otherwise, so that the staff would be aware of the needed outcome of each individual service.
Towers Rotana stands tall on Dubai’s prominent Sheikh Zayed Road and boasts a number of advantages due to this prime location. It is a 1 minute walk to the metro station (red line) that takes you pretty much anywhere you need to go, and if you prefer to cab the route, numerous taxis pass by the hotel every few seconds to take you to your destination. Around it and in walking distance everything you need in the city is there, grocery store, pharmacy and more essentials, including many local hotspots and cafes. This means that you are well surrounded by all that Dubai has to offer and will not have a second to spare from all this fun!
Every once in a while I share my thoughts on the online world and entourage here http://www.stylememaria.com/?cat=247 without expecting anyone to relate but it always surprises me how many of you tell me that speaking my mind offers you a voice through my platforms and for that I am appreciative. Today I am here to do it again after another round of taking a back seat to act as a spectator instead of someone immersed in the field. For it is by distance only that we get a clear vision and grasp an objective understanding of what is happening, and I make sure I never speak out of anger or irritation but take many steps back for many months before writing.
I had heard that Wings of Lebanon airline offers direct flights to Turkey, but it was amidst the media and public backlash so I had to make an informed decision. I traveled with them two weeks prior to Antalya and experienced a smooth flight to and from Beirut, with friendly Nakhal representatives keeping everyone company on the plane and bus. The days that followed my trip witnessed a major scrutiny of W.O.L., and I didn’t intend on traveling with my family on an aircraft that has been facing logistic trouble to reduce travel time, nor did I accept to jump to conclusions based on hearsay. I researched well, was in contact with employees and professionals who explained the exact situation of the recent flight that was required to head back to Beirut airport, checked the history of the aircraft that I would be boarding and was informed that the flight heading to Dalaman airport was on a new Boeing 737-700. Common sense eventually won this debate, no captain would wish to fly a less than perfect airplane neither would Nakhal, the largest and most established name in travel and tours, wish to bring shame on their renowned business by putting people’s lives at risk.
We usually search for most suitable plane tickets online, and spend quite some time reading hotel reviews before taking our decision. But since our children were going to be with us on this trip, we couldn’t risk a hotel or destination that was less than perfect, because while adults can adapt to their settings, kids need to feel comfortable in familiar surroundings, and we opted for a travel agency to handle every detail. We forewent online booking and packed our bags and were super excited to go with Nakhal and Wings of Lebanon to Letoonia Club in Fethiye Turkey.
I had packed snacks and many activity books for my children to distract them while we were flying, for my sanity and to keep the peace on board. Take off and landing were well received by my youngest, keeping in mind that this is his first flight and he is only two years old. Upon landing, we were welcomed by Nakhal representatives and each group of people headed towards them as they systematically told us which bus we should get on. We got on bus 67, spacious and air-conditioned, for a 1.5 hour ride to our destination, the famous Letoonia Club.
At the hotel reception, more Fethiye based Nakhal reps greeted us, informed us that the porters would handle our luggage as we rested in the lobby until it was time for a conference where details of the club were divulged. We would be having a few days of uninterrupted fun on a full board basis.
We went up to check our room, and to our surprise it contained a cot! I couldn’t help but think of how thoughtful the staff must be to go out of their way and provide Fares with a cozy place to sleep. A double and single bed were placed alongside one another, the room contained a TV, a fridge/mini bar that we could access free of charge, a mirrored closet with a safe, and a wooden balcony surrounded by greenery.
We started to explore the club and were amazed at how every walking trail had a continuous line of vision to the sea. We stopped by Likia restaurant, one of the club’s buffet zones, to check out what they offered and were taken aback by the chic setup despite it being busy. The cuisine was international and varies from breakfast to lunch and dinner, and the waiters and waitresses are of the utmost friendliness.
It was time to head to the Dolphin Bar and Restaurant on one of the three private beaches in Letoonia for a dinner with the Nakhal team. We took the funicular up the walking trail and again down to reach the beach, and it was setup like a movie, candlelit tables on the sand, only a few feet away from the water. We had a seafood dinner while having a lively discussion and headed towards the theater that offers nightly shows, each from a different culture. That night’s theme was a silent Western comedy that cracked up the adults and kids alike. After about an hour of laughter and fun we walked through the lively pool area where crowds were still massive although it was approaching midnight.
The next day we were set on spending the day at the Dolphin Beach, and walked the entire way to breathe in the majestic scenery. The advantage of this particular beach is the proximity of the kids club, so we enrolled Tracy in the gated space by giving the ladies in charge details of where we will be during her time at the mini club, informed the team of any allergies, and enjoyed the sun as she practiced her favorite hobby, painting. Later on she and her brother played on the slides at the kids pool and got to meet children from different countries, while parents also got to mingle.
What I love about this club is the attention to details. Did you know that there are water dispensers with plastic cups at every pool? How cool is the fact that even if you don’t want to walk across to the bar to have a drink, you can still beat dehydration. There is also a towel kiosk for convenience, ice cream stands and iced juice machines for refreshment. Along the walking trails there are wooden tables for you to dispose of any cutlery you might have used while outside the restaurant premises. There is also plastic containers to fill up your food from the buffet and enjoy it by the beach, how thoughtful is that?
There was even a proclaimed Instagram worthy spot where we tried to take a sappy romantic photo, spent more time on the beach before taking a short break at the Agora bar to head towards the pedalo. The kids enjoyed the calm ride in the between the two hills and we got to see the landscape from afar.
Walking back to the hotel room to freshen up, we decided to try to Moonlight buffet restaurant at the other side of Letoonia, it was quite the stretch to reach but we got to see all the seaside bungalows on our way as well as dine under a series of lit moons and stars hanging above the tables. We couldn’t miss out on another night of the theater, and this time they were presenting Indian, Egyptian and Arabic cultures as well as a fire show. We ended the evening by purchasing souvenirs from the convenient on site shop and enjoying rounds of drinks while the kids kept busy dancing and coloring, and headed back to the hotel via the internal shuttle train.
The next morning’s nature walk and delicious breakfast were bittersweet, having to say goodbye to this paradise nestled in a private land. We made the most of our time before we had to head back to the reception to board the bus once again heading to Dalaman airport. We were bid adieu at the check in counter by Nakhal as they assured that our wait in line was nearing an end, and to our delight the flight, which was full with not a single empty seat, boarded early on and we took off earlier than planned allowing us to return to Beirut to our daily activities sooner.
Would I fly with Wings of Lebanon again? Definitely.
Do I recommend Letoonia Club for a holiday destination? Absolutely.
With W.O.L. you get direct flights twice a day at practical times to Dalaman airport, and at Letoonia you experience fun for the whole family on an all inclusive basis in a resort that literally never sleeps, with meals and drinks operating 24/7. Lively music and ambiance, competitions and activities, nature and peace all in one destination.
It was a day just like any other in 2013, after the birth of my daughter, where I had this uncontrollable urge to put my foot down against the monstrosity of conformity. I refused to raise my child in a world endorsing individuality but in reality heading towards the exact opposite. I’ve had a fire in me since I was a child, and growing up and even at work I was nicknamed “Che” because I always felt the need to question the status quo, to revolt against the system. The system in this case being social and not political.
When I became a mom I felt that it was my duty to voice my opinion and to relate my experiences to other moms or moms to be, and even young girls who were still in school or university. Social media was on the rise, every person had their own little space online to share their hobbies and connect with one another. Those who preferred to write would start a blog and log in daily or weekly journal entries as a way to vent, in hopes of reaching out to like minded people. This meant that me and you and anyone on this planet could own a little space to voice their concerns and stand up to what traditional media was shoving down our throats.
*I had a lot of hope for a movement, and though I still do, I have a dreadful feeling that words such as “women empowerment” and “be your own kind of beautiful” have become buzzwords to generate validation in the form of likes and comments. Why you may ask? It’s because these same women who plaster these motivational words all over their profiles are the first to talk behind each other’s backs or refuse to help when help can be a mere kind word.*
I started my blog after I had an active Instagram page with a U.S. based following, and I did it as a way to maintain my journal online for my daughter to read when she grew older. I wasn’t about to sit back and witness the demise of everything that should be moving forward, and my main message was and is loud and clear. I am a young working mother, balancing work and family life while finding the time to pursue my passions and take care of myself. I offer(ed) style tips, beauty hacks, food reviews, travel experiences and even the nitty gritty of motherhood. I push myself to share the best content I can, and through that I have slowly but steadily amassed readers from all around the world. I love myself the way I am, flaws and everything and I’m constantly working on bettering myself, the same way I encourage my readers to accept their physical appearance and embrace their uniqueness.
But is that enough? How much can one woman do?
I appreciate genuine women and mothers who feel passionately about putting their lives out there for others to be inspired by, but how about the others who try too hard to show us polished images? Doesn’t that go against what we as a generation of women are trying to portray to our younger counterparts? Blogging and Instagram has made way for real people with real bodies to get a chance to shine, so how come these real individuals with talent and passion are taking a back seat to plastic? If we wanted perfection we’d still be playing with our Barbie dolls, and we’d still be flipping through airbrushed magazine photos of models while feeling horrible about ourselves. Where are the plus sized women of this region? Where are the beautiful imperfect faces? Where are the boss ladies who still manage to take care of their families? The only difference I see is that the images we used to see in print, we are now seeing on our phones. Instead of “regular” women representing clothing brands, there are models, instead of the girl next door shooting a makeup campaign; it’s the perfectly sculpted face, instead of a dedicated influencer styling outfits, it’s a “public figure” whose current pipe dream is being a social media star for the sake of fame.
Do you, said women, have any idea how horribly you’re impacting the young generation? Flaunting staged lifestyles, or maybe real lifestyles, but ones that aren’t attainable to 99% of the population? Instead of showing off your possessions, how about you give your audience tips on how to style their items together? Or do you even know how to style or communicate with them? Or is that the work of a hired stylist that brings the end product to the public? Which brings me to my next question; do you really have the influence you proclaim? This in turn brings me to another issue, when will we in this region get to the point of self acceptance, when will social climbing end, when will the real deal make a breakthrough?
Every time I think, whatever, let it be, then I think again and say: no, I won’t stand for it. Every once in a while I’ll post a series of rants on my Instagram stories or in a caption and find positive responses that make it clear to me that I am making a difference, no matter how small. Imagine if each one of us made this difference, how awesome and empowered would we really be?
Why can’t us women focus on education and work instead of ridiculous amounts of time spent at the hairdresser and makeup artist? I love hair and makeup, and it’s an art, but if all we are seeing on Instagram stories and posts is this, then tell me please, what are all those makeup tutorials for? And tell me another thing; is looking good all we are able to do? Yes ladies, take care of yourselves, this is something important, but for God’s sake, be real! I still cannot fathom why a simple evening or even a day event would require that much time and effort. I cannot believe the hours of each day some women are spending, just do your makeup at home; it’ll take you like 10 minutes. Perhaps this is just the way I think, and it’s my lifestyle, and I’m not attacking the women who choose a more relaxed and pampered kind of routine, but please if you choose to share this with your hundreds of thousands of followers, then also share your normal day to day life. We as a group of influencers are causing these young women to believe that all of life is measured in gifts and events and trips.
If I have said it once I’ve said it a thousand times, education is elementary. That is why I always share what I’m currently reading, what I’m painting, reflections, social criticisms, musicals I watched, old films I find interesting, a bit of sarcasm, gems I find while I travel and so on so forth. Believe me I endured changing cultures, from Lebanon to the U.S.A. and back to Lebanon, adapting, learning new languages, making friends, not fitting in, getting my scientific baccalaureate, and 5 grueling years with summers at the faculty of engineering, followed by 11 years of hard work to get to where I am today, and to be able to live the life I want. Not by nepotism, not by kissing a**, not by being a leech. I work hard as a blogger and ” influencer” is a title I owe to my readers and with it comes great responsibility. I don’t find the need to flaunt my possessions because they don’t define who I am, what means something in our world is kindness, generosity and values. I don’t want to be known as just another fashionista, I wasn’t like this in 2013, and I sure won’t change to fit in 5 years later.
But what I want is from you, working women, students, PRs and influencers is the following.
Dear working women, keep working towards your dreams, life is hard and it isn’t fair, don’t compare your struggle with another person’s online filtered life. We’re all fighting a battle, and no one has it easy, whether you work at an office or are self employed, neither is easy.
Dear students, education is THE most important weapon you have, get your degree first, don’t be fooled by “la vie en rose” some are portraying. But be sure that you can be what you want to be, the world is your oyster and you can be inspired by young women entrepreneurs for post graduation. Today we have an application called Instagram, don’t let that be your target. In a few years something else will pop up, you wouldn’t want to invest all your mental energy and time on something that will be gone eventually. Focus on your studies and then on your career.
Dear PRs, please open your eyes to the relevancy of the influencer you are choosing to represent your client’s brand. Do know the difference between an Instagram page and a blog. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but the written word will never die and it takes special skills to convey a message so choose wisely. The reason I refuse to work with many of you which has gotten me a reputation of having an attitude is because although I’m one of the nicest persons you will meet, I am also blessed with intuition and intelligence to see right through your intentions. I am also blessed (or perhaps cursed) with a personality that doesn’t go with the flow nor makes small talk, I won’t suck up to get anything; you appreciate my work, I’m here, you don’t, keep running after your socialites and see where it gets you.
Dear influencers, try to be raw, more real. It takes zero effort to be you, let your inner beauty shine, unleash your personal style, show us what makes you you. I’m not saying I’m the perfect blogger, because perfection doesn’t exist, and I’m not preaching just to sound superior. But ladies, how hard is it to talk to our audience with a bare face? It isn’t. If you’re afraid of judgement because you have acne or any condition that makes you feel you’re not enough, you are enough, lead and be an example.
Do I come across as angry, bitter, sad? In reality I am neither. I am numb.
Numb to the fact that some things never change, but I will forever be a fighter for truth, passion, and being a genuine person.
Access to the restaurant is from the main lobby as well as from the promenade. I chose to experience the full hustle and bustle of the hotel and upon descending to enter The Fish House, I was led by the decorative bronze fish on the wall down the ramp to reach the indoor seating area. The color scheme is a soothing blue and white, reminiscent of Provincial France with a touch of modernity. The bay windows and doors across the floor welcome light to fill the space as well as make way to the terrace facing the iconic Ferris wheel.
I had a glance at the menu, and the friendly and knowledgeable waitress explained to me that I can either have their signature dishes or personalize my own fish. I chose the latter and was lead to the display of fresh fish (catch of the day) where I chose mine, with the weight I pleased along with the mode of cooking, sauces and sides.
As I was seated outside enjoying the calm ambiance, the resident mixologist approached me to discuss my drink options. Soon I realized how skilled he was by analyzing and pairing my drink based on my choice of fish, how fatty or not it was, and its first bite and aftertaste all contributed to his recommendation of the gin based cocktail “The Botanist”. He made sure I had a taste to give him my approval, as well as another visit to check if the fruity yet citrusy drink was a success with my choice of spicy side dishes.
I opted to forego the appetizers to leave my full appetite to the main course, but I was offered this delicious plate of traditional Baba Ghannouj with fried fish while my order was being prepared.
I’m a sucker for spices and strong flavors, so both sauces I chose were very spicy, but I experimented with the sides and ordered the harissa and Spring onion potato salad. It is relatively sweet in flavor due to the marination, the eggs compliment it and the onions add a bold crunch to the mix. The result is smooth on the palate.
The “Salsa” sauce with mango, jalapeno, green onion and tomatillo is an explosion of contrasting flavors. Is it sweet? Is it tangy? Is it spicy? Each bite combines the three and the result is a delicacy whether eaten alone or with the fish.
The saffron rice with almonds and orange peel is a more sober choice for a side dish, but is nowhere near boring. The very visible orange peel add a twist to the familiar fish pairing, and due to its subdued nature, it goes very well with the sauces I chose.
The “Harra” sauce with tomato, coriander and peppers is an obvious choice for my spicy food preference, and is more consistent in its chili than the sauce with the mango, the latter being an explosion of flavors, thus rendering the former a key ingredient to the fish experience.
Hammour fish grilled to perfection, crispy on the outside and oh so tender. Never have I tasted a fish so skillfully prepared and juicy, I was at a complete loss as to whether I should eat it alone or with the side dishes. In fact I did both in rotation, I kid you not. One bite solo, one with each of the sides, that’s how delicious this expert dish was.
As much of a sweet tooth I have, I was unable to fathom having any extra bite to eat, yet I was kindly offered this Caramelized Pineapple Ravioli, a specialty of the restaurant. I couldn’t refuse and I’m glad I didn’t, because the sweet pineapple and caramel was just what I needed after a hefty meal full of rich herbs and flavors.
The Fish House is without a doubt redefining the entire seafood experience as we know it. Long gone are the days of simple and straightforward fish based meals, be prepared for a feast for the senses, indulge in their signature dishes or customize your own according to your liking. I can say with confidence, that I have never had a meal that centered around fish that was this perfected, from the stunning decor, the welcoming staff, the adept mixologist, the chef, the breathtaking view and laid back ambiance.
The Fish House Intercontinental Dubai Festival City is now on my must visit list each time I go to Dubai, and I wholeheartedly recommend you do not miss out. You can thank me later!
Visit the website for more information: The Fish House Dubai
Contact: +971 (04) 701 1127 firstname.lastname@example.org
I had heard a lot about Manzil being the home away from home, and wanted to experience first hand what that meant. Being a solo traveler in a not so far away country, I didn’t expect to miss home this much, and I hadn’t realized it until I arrived and it hit me. I crave the familiarity of my country in my surroundings, and I was in awe of how Manzil brought the Arab culture closer to the rest of the world.
The entrance of Manzil is breathtaking in its simplicity. Men in traditional costume greeted me once I arrived, as I was led to the main lobby. The vertical elements of the chandelier mirror the many single flowered vases and create continuity. All throughout the hotel, there is the recurring pattern of the arabesque floral element, straight out of the architectural window that is called a “mandaloun”.
As I was heading to the check in counter, I crossed the seated area which perfectly enhanced the welcoming experience. The decor is consistently brown and beige with a pop of orange, thus leaning towards the warm shades which automatically drew me in and made me feel at ease. This space is well lit during the evening as well, and the calm ambiance and privacy makes it a prime location to host a business meeting during your stay.
The elevator operates by using an access card to reach the designated floor, thus adding a sense of security to the experience. Continuing my journey from the elevator and into my room, I noticed a unified theme running through, which is bringing the Orient to the Occident. The screens and every single item from the menu to the bathrobe conveys an Arabic word and translates it into simple English. Words such as: Hello, Family, Welcome, and “Naiman” the after bath greeting.
My in room welcome was a delicious one, a mix of delicately made cakes, macaron and baklava. I was taken aback as I received a phone call after my shower, and soon after opened my door to this tasty treat!
My room was in tune with the hotel’s decor but a tad cooler in terms of color scheme, minimalist, white and gray, with Arabic calligraphy as wall art. As soon as I laid eyes on the interior, I knew that I would have a hard time leaving this nest. The view from the window of Burj Khalifa is as iconic as it gets, the vanity and desk area for preparing tea and coffee is roomy, and the couch is ideal for my morning planning and nightly correspondence.
The windows start from the ground up, thus giving the guest the feeling of being outside while staying in the room. It is a magical spot at sunrise as well as at night when you can see the shiny lights of the downtown area of Dubai.
The spacious bathroom has it all, including private doors for the toilet and the shower. The sleek design of the mirror and bathtub add a soothing modernity to the overall ambiance.
Every corner in the room is functional and well lit, including a large closet space, all fitting to the contemporary Arabesque style.
As I stepped outside the mezzanine floor, I found myself surrounded with architecture, the kind that balances the old and new. On one hand there is the hotel, peaking inwards to the courtyard, seeming to blend with the yellow stone buildings. In the farther plane there are the towers, reflecting the majestic city, the entire scene looking picturesque with the palm tree leaves hanging low to give shade to the area.
Crowning this environment is the pool, nestled within the busy hotel yet so peaceful. The perfect place to swim, tan, or even relax on the loungers in the shade while sipping on a cocktail from the bar. The water is tepid and relaxing, hours are guaranteed to pass by in no time.
The hotel restaurant at the ground floor is Boulevard, an all encompassing Levantine menu, categorized into specialties from each of the area’s countries. For lunch, I had the Indian inspired spicy Butter Chicken with an Aperol Spritz, and for dinner a light and tasty Quinoa Salad with an Old Fashioned. Throughout the day the courtyard is buzzing with hotel guests, chitchatting over shishas and laughing the night away, I didn’t feel the need to leave the premises, as the ambiance was lively and the service was perfection.
The breakfast is situated at the same level but spreads into the internal area as well as the dining space that faces one of the main roads. The variety ranges from continental to local and includes many brunch items guaranteed to satisfy your palate and hunger. Coffee is served in a traditional pot, with a strong taste to fuel your day.
I knew I’d have withdrawal symptoms leaving this welcoming hotel, I truly felt comfortable, relaxed, within familiar settings. The luxury wasn’t overpowering and imposing, but more nurturing and made me feel at ease.
After my first hand experience, I must say that Manzil is my home away from home. The staff from the valet to the reception is friendly and eager to explain and show guests around, the food is impeccable, the room is anything one can ask for in terms of cleanliness and comfort. The location in Downtown Dubai reduces the need to use public transport or to rent a car as long as your trips are within the area. It is a few steps from Burj Khalifa, The Dubai Mall, the Dubai Opera and the fountain to name a few. The surrounding area is alive with restaurants, and the hotel is truly central. I will definitely be heading back sometime soon, and I recommend you consider it for your next visit to Dubai!
Manzil Downtown Instagram handle is @manzildowntown and #manzildowntown for image search.
Reservations on this link: Manzil Downtown
Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard
The Old Town, Downtown Dubai
PO Box 114822, Dubai
United Arab Emirates
Tel: +971 4 428 5888
Fax: +971 4 428 5999