Touch of Tajiness @JivaSpa in Dubai

“Finding one’s true self begins with a calm mind and soul”, Jiva Spa’s global philosophy. I couldn’t agree more.

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My first introduction to Jiva Spa was in 2007 at the majestic Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai.  When I stepped out of my car at Taj hotel Dubai, the familiar scent of jasmine and roses brought back all the pleasant memories. I felt at home.

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A man in a Maharaji outfit walked me to the lift and all the way to the third floor where Alfa, Jiva Spa’s host greeted me with a dazzling smile. She seated me comfortably on a little sofa, handing over an ice-cold towel and a cup of hot herbal tea with honey, a combination we truly appreciate in sunny Dubai.

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While I savoured every sip of my invigorating cuppa, we chatted away my concerns and worries, deciding on the perfect treatment. This time it was a deep tissue massage for 60 minutes. I filled a one page form prior to being introduced to my masseuse, or as we Dubaians say, therapist.

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I quickly changed into Jiva Spa’s outfit, a cotton robe and slippers. Up in the treatment room bright lights were dimmed and candles lit; my massage bed warmed and soft music filled space with loveliest sounds.

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I got under the sheets, closed my eyes and completely submerged in the surroundings, letting my therapist work every sore muscle and knot. And she wasn’t shy. She started with stretching my entire body followed by gentle strokes and then powerful moves. I felt blood rushing happily from tips to toes.

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At the end of the deep pressure massage, my therapist applied hot towels to remove extra oil, helped me to dress and instructed me to use the steam room for further after-treatment benefits. I couldn’t agree more (again!). Equipped with another cup of herbal tea, I moved to the steam room and felt absolutely relaxed and in harmony with myself. The touch of Jiva’s Tajiness completely restored my spiritual wellbeing.

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Wake up in Paris and brunch @La Cantine du Faubourg, Dubai

Run every Saturday from 12pm-4pm, the cost of brunch with soft drinks starts at AED 250, which I found rather irresistible. A big fan of Dubai’s brunch culture, I had extremely high expectations for La Cantine du Faubourg. They managed to surprise right at the entrance, looking casually chic in silk pyjamas and perfect hair.

“It’s wake up in Paris and celebrate”, explained my hostess while walking me to Room 3, a cheeky name for every in the house. A real queen size bed with luxurious cotton sheets and big fluffy pillows was set in the middle of La Cantine looking irresistible.

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In the best traditions of Parisian breakfast, a basket of freshly baked pastry was brought paired with a strong cup of coffee, butter and jams. While I enjoyed sipping coffee and studying the menu, the DJ at the bar started playing tunes. The place filled up steadily and by 1pm was filled with the air with cheers, giggles and happy conversations.

When selecting dishes I focused on slightly complicated creations with ingredients hard to find in Dubai: tuna ceviche, cured meat, grilled octopus and salmon carpaccio. I had no doubt that the greatest culinary experience awaited me. Everything I tried was absolutely delightful with my favourite dish being an aubergine gratin with dark tomato sauce and a generous amount of parmesan.

Around 3pm the music got a little louder, moving crowds closer to the bar and on to the beautiful terrace expected to be officially open soon.

Freely flowing mocktails and cocktails kept the party going. I spotted a server in a kimono and dark sunglasses; I realized that the ambiance resembled the vibe from James Bond’s adventures with a mix of spontaneous adventure in the air. Happy to the tiptoes, I savoured my desserts and tried to memorize every second of that beautiful day.

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Enigma @PalazzoVersace, Dubai

At the lobby level of Palazzo Versace, with indoor and outdoor seating facing the main pool and magnificent Creek (especially at night), Enigma delivers on its namesake, “delightfully mysterious”. So did my incredible gown from Si Fashion Galerie.Si Fashion Galerie.

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It’s best to call it contemporary Turkish with warm Mediterranean influence, reflected in the ingredients, flavours, colours and distinguishable Versace prints.

The installation of branded wall mirrors result in dramatic reflections of candlelight and exteriors, creating an Ottoman palace effect. The soft fabrics used for seating arrangements including pillows, sofas and chairs create a “divan culture”.

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Signature cocktails, designed around everyone’s favourite beverages and well-known landmarks like Constantinople and Bosporus, show the bartender’s obsession with the history (of the world and drinks).

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One can never underestimate the freshly baked fluffy bread with crispy edges and sesame seeds, paired with a selection of sauces, including my favourite tomato and red peppers, sweet pear puree and sliced marinated to crisp onions.

The real magic starts when the chef appears with a long serving table and house cured meat, pastrami layered with black pepper, fenugreek, anise, bay leaf, white pepper and obviously a secret ingredient. While the chef slowly slices pastrami on white plates carved of stone, he engages in a conversation explaining the magic behind the softest and the most fragrant piece of meat one can dream of.

But the masterpiece of the night was octopus, cooked in a vacuum pot for as long as five hours, then quickly seared on a hot pan.

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I’m wearing a beautiful tight gown from Si Fashion Galerie.

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Break the sky @At.mosphere Dubai

In many ways Dubai is the most eccentric city in the world. Home to driverless subways, the largest malls, warmest sea, safest environment, the most expensive coffee and the tallest building, it always keeps visitors on their toes, overwhelmed with experiences all year (even when thermometer jumps to +50C). The one truly unmissable attraction is the Burj Khalifa, a tower that holds to the world’s record of 828m since 2010. Dubaians believe if you haven’t been to Burj Khalifa you haven’t really seen Dubai. Many opt to book a tour to the top but there is a better and tastier way to experience it, – At.mosphere.

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Located on the 122nd floor, a minute ride on a rapid elevator, Atmosphere is divided into two establishments: a lounge for high-tea, pre- and post-party drinks, and a luxurious restaurant with private dining. Needless to say the view is fantastic from every window.

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Depending on time, weather and position of sun and moon, the view around Atmosphere changes dramatically making it the most exciting destination to explore the ever-expanding Dubai.

Being a frequent guest of Atmosphere’s lounge for high-tea and pre-dinner cocktails, this time I stopped in to experience the newest breakfast menu created by chef Christopher Graham, formerly of Jumeirah Group hotels.

Atmosphere states the dress code as casual, but I prefer to wear a slightly ridiculous outfit because my photo memories are expected to be spectacular!

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The interior resembles the vibe of London decor with polished wooden panels, reflective aluminum columns, shiny glass, panoramic windows and patches of warm red light here and there.

The new breakfast menu consisted of pre-set dishes paired with eggs as well as tasty delights like organic greek yogurt parfait, waffles, crepes, jams and vanilla butter (with real crushed vanilla).

In terms of cost, it’s quite flexible. The minimum spend is AED 200 per person (window tables are subject to availability upon reservation). A special 35% discount is offered on Decadence Menu (yumm) for guests with a valid Emirates ID card.

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Day & Time: Daily, from 7am to 11am (last arrival time is 10am)

Price: Decadence Menu – AED 325 per person (UAE residents can enjoy 35% discount with their Emirates ID), Prestige Menu – AED 525 per person and À la carte – Dishes start from AED 60. Children below 5 years can dine for free (ID required with date of birth). Children aged 6-10 years are entitled to 50% on Decadence Menu only (ID required with date of birth).

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Mosaico lounge @Palazzo Versace Dubai

Set in a spacious main lobby, the Mosaico lounge is the heart of the Palazzo Versace. With overall tones of gold and red, it’s fashionable in every design detail from textiles to crystal chandeliers.

The first impression is one of being transported to the galleries of the ancient Rome. Panoramic floor to ceiling windows allow for lots of light and an open view of the central pool and Dubai Creek.  Elegance is literally in the air!

I opted to hide at the lounge during the hottest time of the day as Mosaico is a perfect location for a cup of morning coffee or 5 o’clock tea.

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Spirit of York

Once upon a time in 1860, in the lovely industrial city of York (now Toronto), there was a giant Distillery, the biggest in North America and allegedly the whole world. Founded by Gooderhem and Wort, the distillery’s location was considered ideal. Spread out on the bank of Lake Ontario and at a Canadian National Railway hub, the Distillery benefited from unlimited water supply and the best transportation imaginable at the end of 19th century. Production flourished, marking the Golden-era of the Canadian whiskey.

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Painting by Canadian illustrator Arthur Hider

The time passed by. WWI, dry laws, tax disputes and deindustrialization led to a decline in operations and an eventual shutdown. As a result, an enormous collection of Victorian-era industrial machinery and architecture was left unattended to the mercy of the Canadian climate. The extension of the shoreline further south didn’t help either.

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Current map, Google

In 2003, after a massive renovations, the Distillery Heritage District reappeared on Toronto’s social map, eager to face the soon to rise generation of millennials, hipsters, Instagrammers and other daring folk.

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Photo credit: The Distillery Historic District

While investors were keen on keeping the name and transforming the rusting equipment into museum exhibits, they favoured start-ups (OhYeah!) over established chains like Starbucks, Tim Hortons or Swiss Chalet as tenants. The subsequent transformation of the Distillery District evolved into a collection of various businesses like theatres, limited edition art, dance studios, local designers, craft beers, a sake brewery but surprisingly no distillery. The historic district of distillery featured no distillery except in the name. Right until May 2017.

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The Spirit of York opened in a former malting facility with the collective effort of 35 shareholders with a similar vision: “Make Canadian Spirits Great Again” (I’m joking, or am I?). The Spirit of York Distillery consists of a production area and spacious lounge for tasting, mixing, shopping and celebrating. The state-of-the-art distillation facility is well hidden from the eyes of general wanderers, but not from the curious visitors to the lounge area.

The realization of how incredibly sharp this place is hits you right at the entrance. The Spirit of York designers accomplished a very rustic urban look with a prevailing vibe of masculinity and Wild West type of adventure. Look at the ceiling for example:

Not a bottle wasted! The same feeling is applied across the space, making it worth spending a sunny afternoon indoors. Take your time walking around staring at the old exposed brick, fortress like windows, infinity, coded into symmetrical symbols, beautifully polished copper and shining glass. Not to mention a peculiar looking bar on the right reserved for events and parties with a large resemblance to the one in “The Shining”.

A cool heritage building feature is floors made of from an old concrete mix that is no longer used, but sadly coated in parts with a rubber-like layer to comply with modern safety standards.

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The production area is designed as an open concept space seperated from the retail area by just a glass wall. The entire production cycle from mashing to labelling is facilitated in-house. Quality was the first word that popped into my mind.

I was very lucky to spend two hours with Mark Harrop, in the production area, “entertaining” him with questions like: “How many hours at the Distillery does it take to get high on vapors?” or “During tasting do you follow the rule of sommeliers or do you feel sorry wasting a good rye?”.

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While Mark talked passionately about locally sources ingredients (rye and spring water), added botanicals and a new recipe for aquavit he was working on, I couldn’t resist the urge of tasting. So I headed to the bar to investigate if the Spirits of York were worth the hype.

Oh, yes they were! With the floral hints of lavender, citrus, spicy coriander and a warming taste of rye, the Spirit of York gin was absolutely delightful sipped alone or mixed with a tonic. The aquavit impressed me with a distinguish taste of dill and rye, a combination that many a chilly Northern person appreciates.

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Looking through the wonders of the little gift shop I realized how complicated the art of beverage making actually is. Next time I will a way more generous tipping my favorite bartenders whoes hard work and hard listening skills are often underestimated.

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More about Spirit of York or The Historic Distillery District

Sunset Street Feast, #AZtory

Of all the Iftars I recently attended in Dubai, there was one that evoked a mix of emotions and a long series of photographs. It’s all started with the sound of powerful cannon operated by Dubai police in front of the tallest tower, Burj Khalifa. Legend says the tradition of firing Ramadan cannons dates to Ottoman Empire, when the sound announced the end of fasting. Today it’s only a symbolic gesture. The first cannon was fired in the UAE at the beginning of 19th century in Sharjah.

The cannon we observed in Burj Park wasn’t simple or shy.  Made in the UK in 1945 it looked as good as new but sounded a lot louder. I was 20 meters away however faced all the consequences of the sudden explosion. Prior to the demonstration I took photos with a charming UAE military officer in a smart uniform that resembled my outfit. When the ceremony was over, packaged Iftar meals were distributed among the spectators.

Amused by my astonishment, Zainab (you remember that brilliant girl, do you?) suggested we must go back to the Old Dubai to immerse in the true spirit of Iftar, witnessing people breaking fast right on the streets. So I charged my camera’s batteries, cleared the memory card and was ready to snap.

Wearing beautiful scarf “Distant Lands” by Wyilda 

From Baniyas square we crossed the street towards Deira, moving away from heavy traffic and into little alleys. The rule in the UAE says no drinking, eating, smoking or chewing is permitted during day time in month of Ramadan. Zainab’s last meal was around 3am and my discreet sip of water was right before I met Zainab however I was literally dying of thirst.

Zainab didn’t seem to mind the weather. She bravely led our expedition further and further between buildings and random pedestrians.

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Our first stop was in the front of a local mosque. I was surprised how many people were gathered for Iftar. They were busy helping with improvised tables, distributing meals and arranging seats for themselves and friends.

I wondered where all the women were. So Zainab took me around to a little hidden space.

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It took me a while to find Zainab.

After all the recent fancy dinners I’ve attended, it was very interesting to see the simpler side of dining at the sunset. Strangers offered me a bottle of water, dates and an opportunity to share their meal. I held tight to Zainab. She was my everything (again) in the middle of the old Dubai.

The prayer started and the feast began. I finally got to my bottle of water and believe me it was the sweetest sip ever!

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Only debris served to remind of the great feast that just happened in front of us. We  rushed to a nearby restaurant using the great Dubai metro of course 🙂

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P.S. I’m wearing a beautiful silk scarf by Wyilda, “Distant Lands”. Get yours here