Dubai, did buy and a quinoa salad


I spent the last few days of 2013 at Dubai, the land of superlatives- the city that houses the tallest building in the world, the largest shopping malls and the most luxurious hotel.

The view from the plane window was a precursor to the land that lay below- as if a giant hand had carelessly draped meters of gold chains all over the ground, interspersed with huge diamonds that glinted on the dark earth. As the plane dropped onto the tarmac, those gold chains turned out to be the lights of the runway. Quite spectacular.

My sister in law was packing up to leave Dubai, she had warned me that her kitchen was non functional. Which suited me fine as I was eager to try out the local delights. But breakfast the next morning was a delicious quinoa salad, along with the recipe. She had also drawn up quite an itinerary for my 5 day stay, and had hired the services of Mr. Ali, an affable Pakistani driver cum guide who had been living in Dubai for the last 10 years. Luckily for us, Mr. Ali had just bought himself a Land Cruiser so the journey around the city was very comfortable.

Mr. Ali and his Land Cruiser, the walkway at Jumeirah beach 

Our first stop was Jumeirah beach. Bleached sands and the beautiful blue of the Persian Gulf had drawn hordes of picnickers and sun bathers to its shoreline. Driving along, we could see the iconic and distinctive Burj al Arab, the beautiful sail shaped hotel. There were lots of people posing for photographs in front of the driveway but our enterprising driver took us a little further to a construction yard from where we had an unfettered view of the building.

A view of  the Burj al Arab from the monorail station 

Mr. Ali, who also takes guests on desert safaris, decided to give us a taste of it by driving helter skelter on the dunes of a nearby beach. Thank goodness we turned down his invitation to take us on a proper safari!! He dropped us off at the monorail station from where we boarded for a trip to Atlantis.

The gateway to Atlantis; the end of the monorail, the Gulf beyond

Not the mythical island of Atlantis that sank without a trace somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean, but a resort at the end of Dubai's Palm Island. We entered the crowded shopping arcade of the hotel, it looked as if most of Dubai was also there. Wandering around, we found ourselves in front a shop where a sand artist was filling bottles with coloured sand. It was fascinating to watch his deft hands twist and turn the bottles around, filling corners with sand of varied hues, poke, prod and pull them into designs with his tools.

Sand art in a bottle

Mr. Ali was waiting for us when we came out. He drove us around Palm Island, a strip of reclaimed land that is now a major tourist hub comprising of hotels, a water park and signature restaurants.

It was now time for some retail therapy and we got dropped off at the Mall of the Emirates, fondly referred to as MOE by the locals.


On the recommendation of a friend back in India to not miss cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory, we decided to skip lunch and go straight for cheesecake. We ordered a slice each of red velvet and dulce de leche. Served with a massive blob of cream, both slices were dense, tangy and heavenly. And so filling. And that took care of dinner as well.  More shopping at Deira's City Centre Mall, a ride on the metro was also on the cards so we hopped onto it to get to the bus terminus and from there, back to Sharjah by bus. Quite a day!

In exchange for helping him select furniture for his new apartment, my nephew agreed to drive us to Dubai the next day for more shopping. The attraction that evening was the musical fountain in front of the Burj Khalifa. But before that, more retail therapy at the Dubai Mall, the largest mall in the world and for a bit of respite, watching fish swim in the Dubai Mall Aquarium, of course, the world's largest aquarium.


Burj Khalifa and The Address

Flanked by the Burj Khalifa, the tallest tower in the world and The Address, a 63 storeyed hotel, the Burj Khalifa lake was the cynosure of many eyes that cold December evening. And the musical fountain playing on the lake's placid surface was simply magical. Go there early if you want a vantage spot to watch the show from. There are shows every 30 minutes and each show is crowded.

The last day of this dream vacation saw us at Miracle Gardens. I was a bit sceptical about spending a day under the hot desert sun to look at a bunch of flowers but this is a sight not to be missed. Potted plants are arranged onto frames to create the displays. And by the end of the day, when the flowers have wilted, they are replaced by a fresh set. What a way to green the desert!!



The emblem of Dubai, the falcon. These potted plants are fixed onto structures to create the displays

All good things must come to an end, so did my dream holiday. But here's the recipe for the quinoa salad, good to have any time of the day, or night.

Quinoa salad

Ingredients
1/2 cup quinoa

1 cucumber, peeled and diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 capsicum, diced
1 stalk celery, diced

Dressing
1 tablespoon vinegar(or lime juice)
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon or any mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon sugar



Method
Place quinoa in a colander, run water through.
Fill a saucepan with 1 cup water, add quinoa to it and bring to the boil.
Turn down the flame to low, cover the pot and allow the contents of the pan to simmer for 15 minutes. Switch off the flame.
Fluff up quinoa with a fork and allow to cool.

Measure ingredients for the dressing in a jar with a fitting lid, shake well to combine.
Place quinoa, vegetables and the dressing in a salad bowl, mix well to combine.


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