SIBF 2015

The Sharjah Book Fair 2015, held in November every year, was an event I always looked forward to. Back then I lived in Sharjah and could enjoy browsing the book stalls for hours and could attend author interactive sessions for several days. But now that am based in Dubai driving through the crazy traffic to Sharjah is the major drawback. After last year’s bitter experience of waiting in a packed room for hours and finally being unable to meet Dan Brown and Manju Warrier, I decided to take it easy this year.

I managed to go for a day. But there were no interesting author sessions on that day. Add to that the huge crowd, elbowing along at the halls, made it impossible to spend time leafing through the books with ease and at leisure. Unfortunately while the fair has grown leaps and bounds, the exhibition space remains the same. Hope the event organisers along with the aggressive promotions will also look into increasing the space for the exhibition to accommodate the burgeoning number of book lovers.

Here is a shot from the DC books, an Indian publishing house, stall. There were piles and piles of all kinds of books laid out on tables. You gotta be lucky to get standing space and manage to pull out books that you would want to buy, then brave a long queue at the cash counter to finally go home with your prized possessions.





Kathak dance in Dubai

One of India’s prominent dance forms is Kathak. Derived from the word katha meaning story this dance form is a beautiful blend of story telling and Hindustani classical music. This decades old traditional dance is kept alive in the UAE by Ketaki Hazra. Her Dubai-based dance school presents the yearly musical event — Nrityanjali. The cultural show held in October was a two part series performed by dancers of varied age groups. There were several performances in the classical style with emphasis on foot work. Students performed compositions from creators such as Rabindranath Tagore, Meera Bai, Nazrul Islam and Jayadev among others.

Here is a shot from Shiv Stuti performed by Farah Shams, Megha Rajeevan and Neelanchana Kumar. The dance is an ode to Lord Shiva, the Nataraj — ruler of all dance, celestial and earthy.

HER – an exhibition by Matilde Gattoni

Gulf Photo Plus, Al Quoz, is showcasing an exhibition of photographs titled HER by award winning photo journalist Matilde Gattoni till Oct 31. Photographer Matilde Gattoni’s career has spanned 15 years in which she has travelled to over 35 countries and four continents. She has encountered and photographed thousands of women from all over the world — from war refugees in Kenya, Lebanon, Syria to Tsunami survivors in Indonesia to women accused as witches in India. Matilde shares that even though the stories of these women are disparate they all are symbols of courage and resilience. Shunned by their countries the women are the backbone of their families.


Rabiah, a Syrian immigrant was photographed by Matilde in Lebanon in 2012. Then only aged 15 she had left school and a life of fear to escape to a new country. Syrian women at that time had lived in constant fear of being killed and kidnapped. “I wake up crying and screaming,” she had said, remembering her constant nightmares.

her 2

Forty four year old Bhudni Tudu cannot cope with what happened to her. “I don’t have any hope for the future. I want to kill myself,” she said. A resident of Birbans, Jharkhand, India, Bhudni was accused of witchcraft by her family and forced to flee the village.


Matilde captured this young lady enjoying a splash in the sea in Indonesia, where the Tsunami had made most residents fearful of venturing into the sea.


Matilde’s exhibition featuring many such women is a tribute to their bravery in times of insurmountable challenges during wars, natural calamities and prejudices.


Key to Dubai book launch


Written and illustrated by Dubai resident Liliane van der Hoeven the Key to Dubai book was launched on Saturday, September 12, 2015, at the Dubai International Writer’s Centre in Bur Dubai. The book, an illustrated encyclopedia on the emirates, is packed with fun facts and targeted at children in the age group of 6 to 14. At the launch Liliane read a few chapters from her book on the history of pearl diving, the wind tower houses in Bastakiya, Arabian horses and abaya fashion.


Dubai Butterfly Garden

I am seated on a wooden bench surrounded by bright flowers and green creepers, the chirping of birds in the backdrop is music to my ears. In this natural paradise flutters in a blue butterfly. Her wings, the colour of the sky, settle on a piece of sticky banana slice kept amidst a pot full of white chrysanthemums. All around me several colourful butterflies sit pretty on flowers and creepers. I experienced this blissful atmosphere right here in Dubai at the Butterfly Garden. Opened in March 2015 it is located adjacent to the Miracle Garden. This indoor air conditioned park is spread across four domes and is open all through the year.
Around 20,000 pupae are imported from Costa Rica, Philippines and Colombia every week. These pupae are then introduced into the garden. The life cycle of a butterfly is only for around two weeks that means the new pupae need to be introduced to keep butterflies numbers in motion.
Although you are not allowed to touch the butterflies the park authorities do not object if the bugs willing come and sit on you.
One of the butterfly garden domes also has a few varieties of caged birds.
Yet another attraction at the park is a gallery with butterflies in frames. Here is one that creates the face of Sheikh Mohammed.


Malai Ghevar

The months of July and August are monsoon months in India — Sawaan ke mahine as we say in Hindi. Besides the romantic weather that these months bring along there are a wide range of sweet and salty delicacies that one can tuck into. Various parts of India have typical rain weather food. One such monsoon dessert that I love to gorge is Ghevar. Prepared especially in this season it has its origins in Rajasthan where it is made during the Teej festival. As luck would have it we live in Karama, the desi haven for all Dubai residents. Last week this large ghevar piece from Bikanervala, Karama, was polished off in minutes by the three of us.
Bikanervala in Karama sells three varieties of ghevar — plain, malai and kesar. The base of the ghevar is made of flour and milk, then fried in ghee, topped with cream or malai and nuts. Tastes yumm especially when eaten fresh.


Meeting author Sophie Hannah


This post was long overdue as I met author Sophie Hannah at the Emirates Lit Fest in March 2015. Being a huge Agatha Christie fan it was an unmissable event as she is the only writer to have brought back the indomitable Hercule Poirot back in action since Agatha Christie’s death. In her latest book The Monogram Murders Sophie gives Christie fans yet another chance to discover the eccentricities of one of the world’s most loved detectives.

At the Lit Fest Sophie shared several interesting aspects of writing this novel. She spoke about creating a Scotland Yard detective called Edward Catchpool who assists Poirot in solving the triple murders at the Bloxham Hotel in London. Catchpool is also the narrator in the book and appears loosely based on Captain Hastings, who featured as an associate of Poirot in Christie’s books. To write this novel she read and re-read the entire Agatha Christie book collection and relied on Catchpool as the narrator because she did not want to write in the voice of Agatha.

Authors often take inspiration from their own lives while creating characters and situations. In The Monogram Murders Poirot is living in a lodge a few yards away from his own home because he wants to enjoy a month of “restful inactivity” but he does not like the idea of being far away from home. Sophie recalled that her own father detested travel and in summer holidays when the family was excitedly making plans to visit new destinations he would suggest staying at the hotel in the next lane. “We can walk across and come back whenever we want to said Dad.”

She is also the author of several other bestselling crime fictions such as  The Carrier, which won the Crime Thriller of the Year Award at the Specsavers National Book Awards. Two of her crime novels — The Point of Rescue and The Other Half Lives have been adapted for television. She started her career as a secretary and was later offered a writing fellowship at Wolfson College, Oxford. Sophie told the audience that she always has a rough plan of the book she is writing and aims at finishing at least thousand words in a day. She also puts in a lot of research and counts on a few policemen as her friends.


Beauty of clay

On our way back from a weekend trip to Oman on the Dubai Hatta road we spotted several shops selling carpets and pottery. When we stayed in Delhi we often visited local blue pottery shops but in Dubai it’s virtually impossible to find such roadside markets. Besides giving me that desi feeling of buying something from a roadside vendor it was also a great opportunity to add some unique pots to my balcony garden. These shops sell a wide range of pottery items such as jars, flower pots, incense holders, garden accessories, cups and piggy banks. The sellers are eager to show you around and ready to bargain.


This is what we bought. We have now painted two of the small jars and are hoping to paint the fish pot in bright hues. For now it holds a red flower plant I got from Ikea recently.

pot 2


Street Con 2015 at Ghurair Centre

The lanes around Al Ghurair centre, Deira, have come alive with striking wall graffiti, colourful installations and interesting stalls as part of the STREETCON (Street Art Connection). The festival showcases street artists, photographers and musicians. We enjoyed an evening listening to live music, exploring the stalls and posing for pictures along the bright walls. As the event is spread across various locations around the mall we were only able to see a portion of it. The first visuals that caught my eye were these stunning close ups of cats.  The photo series is titled, Stray and is by Jandri Angelo Aguilor. It attempts to bring out the artist’s yearning to own a cat, which he cannot because his tiny bed space does not permit him to.


Brazilian artist Eduardo Kobra uses bright colours and bold lines to create kaleidoscopic art. His installations are usually huge and spread across a building. We spotted one here.


Along the inner road of the mall there are also several stalls displaying variety of art forms. Explore vintage posters, paper art and handmade toys. We were particularly intrigued by the Dubai Moving Image Museum stall. This unique museum is located in Tecom and claims to be one of a kind in the world. The stall showcased traditional animation equipment, books, cards and optical toys.


The entire street was a visual treat with local graffiti artists spray painting the walls, musicians jamming on stage and skateboarders skilfully manoeuvring their boards mid air. We hope to see the Miracoco Luminarium, the box art exhibit, bike art and the doodle wall in the weekend. Ending the post with this beautiful image of lamps.



Cafe Ceramique

The whole idea of sipping tea while creating your own work of art is so charming that it’s easy to fall for it. At Cafe Ceramique in Town Centre, Jumeirah, you get to choose from a wall full of ceramic pieces and a menu listed with sandwiches, burgers and desserts. You also get a variety of paint brushes and assorted colours to unleash the Picasso in you. After much deliberation we picked a car shaped piggy bank among mugs, tiles and figurines displayed on the shelf.

Messy fingers and work in progress

The cafe glazes the art work and heats in a kiln. The creation is ready to be picked up in about a week’s time.
And oh yes, their desserts are delicious too, but the artwork is what everyone heads here for.


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