Things I love

  • ~Louis
  • ~Family&Friends
  • ~IceCream
  • ~MyKindle
  • ~CoffeeBreaks
  • ~Sparkles
  • ~Knitwear
  • ~Vanilla
  • ~AllThingsLUSH~
  • GossipGirlxoxo~
  • Chips&Ketchup~

07 May 2016

Harry Potter World - London

In February, we took my sister and two of her friends to Harry Potter studios here in London for her birthday treat. Not a big Harry Potter fan myself, I was happy to see her show an interest in the HP books as she rarely reads (and, you know, I'm a nerd and I just can't understand how anyone wouldn't enjoy reading...how is it possible?).

Anyway! I won't go on forever about the tour because 1 - it's not really easy to describe in writing and 2 - it was nice but not mind-blowing. In fact, I'd go as far to say that it's not worth the £37+ adult ticket fee. There were a few things that were very impressive to experience (the Great Hall being one) and the remainder of the tour was mainly spent looking at some sets, props and short videos explaining the filming, crew, sets and props. The props WERE incredible to be fair - I don't want to take anything away from that. The amount of effort, time and detail that went into each and every piece was evident and there were literally tens of thousands of pieces: chairs, tables, costumes, cups, beds, couches, rugs, wands, books, statues, jars, HOUSES...the list is endless! And it's always interesting to see how small everything looks in real life compared to the movies. For example, Harry's bedroom in Hogwarts was a tiny little corner section of the studio!

The final "part" of the tour really takes your breath away. It's a 1:24 scale model of Hogwarts that the creative team built to film the wide and sweeping shots of the school. It is truly magical, and took weeks to build and perfect. I think that was my most favourite part of the tour, plus the Great Hall and the special make-up effect "room". Oh, and also the room with Kings Cross station as it looked EXACTLY like Kings Cross which was incredibly disconcerting considering we were in the middle of Watford!

I'm in two minds on whether I'd recommend the tour. I think for children it's not that easy to enjoy because it's mainly going around looking at props and identifying things that were in the movies rather than a more interactive experience. For adults who love the HP franchise I think it's more interesting because one can appreciate the magnitude of the Harry Potter world. So, in conclusion, I am not really sure! >.<

~Sx
























 






















20 February 2016

30(ish) day challenge complete

It's true - I completed 30 days of yoga! Ok, I did do it in 32 days but I did do it. 

Have I mentioned I'm impatient? Well, I am. I want results now. So as I sit to write this I very much was wishing I'd be uploading an incredible photo of having my hands flat on the floor, looking up with a flat back. Instead, I can only really upload a photo of my feet. You're welcome.

The colours are more vibrant in real life...

Although a small part of me is gutted I'm not really that much more flexible than when I first started the challenge, I have noticed the following:

  • happy to wake up at 6am to do yoga - believe me, I would've never betted on myself in a 1000 years
  • stronger legs when doing the Warrior poses
  • longer inhalations & exhalations
  • a little bit more open to the world (something I will continue to work on)

The best part of doing yoga is those days where you really are in the zone. Because, honestly, there are some days where you're not in the mood and falling over your coffee table. On the more focussed days, I found I could set a clear intention (which isn't necessary) and I see it materialise during the day. For example, I remember one day I intended to be more "accomplished" and then throughout the day I was ticking off my to-do tasks like no body's business. It reaffirmed that I was in control of how I approached each day, which is a very freeing feeling. Adriene (the lady whose videos I follow) is also very encouraging in asking you to "create space" and "open your heart", both of which, in my opinion, are very important concepts. To understand that, no matter where you are physically, you can create some emotional and spiritual space is very liberating and a great skill to have! 

I'm really happy that I took on the challenge and stuck with it. I'm thinking of doing Adriene's 30 Day YogaCamp, which looks incredible, but some of the videos are an hour long, meaning I'd have to wake up at 5:30am to fit them in before work. I'm not sure I'll be able to handle that...plus we're staring Season 3 of Downton Abbey and we try to watch one episode each night, even if it'll kill us haha. So my alternative is to pick 5 videos to do during the week and then do the camp during the weekends. I've not decided yet, but I'll keep you posted. And I hope that maybe I'm convincing some of you to take up yoga? 

-Sx

26 January 2016

Renewed Year, Renewed Me.



Unlike some, I don't have a love or hate relationship with New Year Resolutions. I like giving myself some "to do" tasks but I don't hold myself to a time or worry that I didn't sign up to the gym on 1st January (note: instead I decided to sign up in November and pay three months' worth of membership already...oh dear). After all, we set ourselves tasks throughout the year so I figure this is the same and there's no point getting hung up about not sporting a six pack in time for Cadbury Cream Egg season.

Having said that, this year I'm setting myself 3 resolutions and one massive overhaul. It will be life changing. Not pulling a reverse Caitlin Jenner folks, no, I'm going on a journey of self-nurture and care. But first, my 3 resolutions:

  • Give blood - many years ago I read an article about resolutions and it suggested how about resolving to donate blood? Every year since then I've made this resolution but have never been able to (usually because I'd been in some "exotic" country that year). This will be the year.
  • Run 10km - I've downloaded the app so I must be serious about this, right? I'm not a natural runner. I want to be. I'm angry at my genetic make up for not being one (this is crazy, I know, it's like my "why don't I have blue eyes?" phase - there was one, it was long and ridiculous, ask my mom). Anyway, the most I've ever jogged in one go was 6km and that was after years of regular jogging. I won't let that phase me. I truly believe it is achievable in a year and so I'm giving myself 2016 to achieve this goal. Maybe at some point I'll sign up to a race to motivate myself. Not maybe. I will.
  • Crow pose in yoga - at first I thought I should set myself the goal of a head stand (the funky one where you're supported by your forearms) but then I decided crow pose instead...this had nothing to do with my lack of faith in myself! Ultimately though, I want to build it up slowly and want the result to be incorporating more yoga in my life. So, this is resolution 3.

All fairly achievable resolutions in my opinion and I'm super happy with having come up with them.

As for the overhaul.

I'm a believer in energies - negative, positive, internal, external, universal, local, mind, body, soul. For a while now I've not been taking care of myself as well as I should. Self-care is a funny concept. First of all, I shy away from dwelling on the idea too much because I recognise that I am privileged and live a wonderful life therefore, surely, I shouldn't have any "issues", right? Wrong.

Secondly, I find that some people are naturally better at balancing their thoughts, lives and priorities. They give weight to the "right" things. Where this is most apparent to me is when I see people committing fully to something and reaping the rewards. I've steered away from multi-tasking for the past few years now (and if you can, I would highly recommend it). Problem is, I don't fully commit because my mind wanders off to the silliest of places. Let me give you a couple of examples:

Attending an interesting talk

"...this talk is great, so glad I came...I hope I don't have an ugly concentrating face...the speaker is so eloquent, will I ever be that good?...oh if only I was better at [xyz]....omg he/she is only 26 and already this good at what he/she does!...am I asking the right questions?...oh no did I focus too much on myself when I was talking to [whoever I was talking to]..."

Going to a gym class:

"...well done me for signing up to this class, I am going to give it my all....ugh my legs hurt...will I get cyclist thighs?! I don't want that...look at that person at the front, they know all the sequences!..I wonder if I can justify a burger now?...love that tights & top combination, wonder where she got it from...oh dear I have no coordination..I'm failing at this class..yes, I'm officially failing at life..."

You see what I mean? Rather than allowing the positive energy to flow, I'm blocking it out with my constant talking, which includes self-doubt! Which is why I need to change it. I feel (correct me if I'm wrong) that people who commit to an action / event are more engaged, thus benefit more, both short-term and long-term. And I think this is directly related to being a more balanced person and having the confidence to enjoy what you are doing in the moment and grow from it. 

So, more balance = happier Saba.

How will I set to achieve this you ask?

1. I will schedule time in my calendar! So far this is working well - it's nice to see what's coming up and have something to look forward to. Where I can improve is by allowing myself enough time to do what I scheduled to do. Sometimes I don't want to say "no" so what ends up happening is I over schedule. I try to please everyone and end up pleasing no-one, or worse, end up with a cold at home cancelling plans and feeling rather silly for it. How many of us are guilty of over-scheduling, eh?!

2. Self-reflection, yoga and Reiki. In addition to time spent with L, family and friends and also myself, I want to use some of my free time in actively healing myself. Even though I fully believe this is what I need, while I write this I keep thinking "there are billions of people who are surviving and happy without any of this extra self-attention". It's ridiculous. To start off with, how do I know who is "happy" or not? Also, if I want to positively affect those who are less fortunate than me then surely I should get to a place where I can assist, and if I'm not yet in that place, shouldn't I pro-actively head in that direction? And so, I know I must focus on myself to finally be able to support those around me in a considerate and genuine manner. Reiki is a practice I've heard a lot about from a very close friend of mine. I've always been curious and this year I am going to get some dates in the diary to seek a Reiki therapist. Honestly, I can't wait. More on that later I'm sure!

3. Be present and lessen the over analysing. Say "yes" more often. Stop worrying if you're in fact enjoying the moment or not. 

And there they are. My resolutions for 2016. I'm proud to say that since I've started writing this post I've done 7 days of yoga (30 Day Yoga with Adriene Challenge) and I feel GOOD. And once I've gotten rid of this cough I'll be utilising my running app & jogging leggings. 

I'm hoping to be able to share some self-reflection on here (ie another self-obsessed person on the Internet talking about themselves *yawn*) if anything, to keep me on track. If you have any resolutions or thoughts, please do share as I love hearing what journey everyone else is embarking on.

With lots of love,

~Sx


06 January 2016

Hello there.

I remember the night that Louis declared….

... “the Saudis are bombing Sana’a”

I was awake due to my full bladder, having gone to bed without any sign of distress or imminent conflict in Yemen. It took all of my willpower to avoid checking my Jordanian mobile phone, knowing that if I was contacted on that, then things were bad. Instead, I chose to send a WhatsApp to my mother to see if they were ok and convinced myself to go back to sleep, thinking that whatever would happen will happen and I’ll find out in the morning.

When I woke up, I checked the news. It was true. The Saudis had decided to start bombing Sana’a overnight, while people were asleep in their beds, thinking they were going to wake up to another day of the Yemeni chaos they’d gotten used to over the past two years. I stared at the screen in disbelief. I started following the story. For the first time ever I felt angry at the world. I felt betrayed, abandoned, shocked. I managed to speak to my mother daily, but the situation was deteriorating. In a ridiculous effort to brand this ridiculous operative, the attacks were called "Operation Decisive Storm". I'm not quite sure what was so decisive about this operation, save that they could've decided to storm their libraries instead of their weapon halls.

Shortly after, I posted some thoughts on social media, feelings I still have over 9 months later: 

...I don’t know why I feel it’s so important to post my opinion, but I guess in a time where I feel so helpless, this is the only way I know how to express...These countries ["the coalition"] have sufficient problems of their own  -perhaps consider spending the millions that you are destroying my country in fixing up yours (or mine if you insist on spending money). You stand for “democracy” yet none of you are democratic...The world has disappointed me so much over the last few days. I feel so, so, so sad. I’m heartbroken...I feel no sense of justice. And I don’t want anyone to start claiming that Syria or Palestine or whoever are worse or better or whatever. This has nothing to do with them. This is about Yemen. And the World has failed us...

I read article after article, trying to understand what was going on. I think what bothers me the most about this war, well any war, is that it is all political. It sprouted out of (seemingly) nothing and there's no end in sight. I'm reminded that I can't blame the Saudi's fully, and I can accept that. I can accept that Yemen was already in a bad place, that we were most likely heading towards a civil war. But ultimately, it was our civil war. It bothers me that, in a country where the gun to man ration is 4:1, the population witnessed what was relatively a bloodless revolution. The fact is, us Yemenis are fairly laid back people. We are simple and are just about getting by with what we know. And here are these power drunk, egotistical, filthy rich neighbours who have decided to play a game with our lives.

We are all bleeding for Yemen. I can’t begin to imagine the fear that the people still living in the country are feeling. Less than a month into the war, we started discussing evacuation with my mother and siblings in Sana'a. It was not something we ever thought we'd have to discuss, assess, resort to. What made me most sad about that, however, was the fact that millions of people throughout history have been through this. They've had to abandon their homes, their lives, and sometimes, their families. And yet, this gave me a weird sense of calm - knowing that my family were going through something so many before them have had to endure, survive and ultimately, prevail over. And yet it made me so sad at the state of the world. Of course I know that I stopped to analyse my feelings towards this because my family were being affected. Of course it's selfish. But it doesn't make me any less heartbroken for those who've been through it before.

My family have now managed to leave Yemen, not without the stories that inevitably arise from any evacuation quest ever undertaken.

When I started this post back in April 2015…let that sink in…I was going to recount some events that others have shared with me and photos from family members of their houses being destroyed. But now, over 200 days since the first bomb was dropped, I’m not sure that’s sufficient. Truly, I don’t know what is. I'll read the news stories and hear family accounts. We'll all see horrendous photos being posted of the inconceivable humanitarian situation and wonder why any of it happened in the first place. And maybe one day, nowhere in the near future unfortunately, those in power will finally realise that the only way to live in a peaceful world is to stop weapons from ever being made, invested in and mostly, profited from. 

Selfishly, I had to publish this post, to move on a little bit. I’ll bury my head in the sand and focus on myself to survive another hour, day, week, month. I’ve never felt as confused as I have in 2015, when I truly grasped the concept of political games and how, logical and attainable answers are ignored because those in power have their own agendas to fulfil.

Yemen will never be forgotten, because anyone who’s spent any time there has a unique love story that will forever live on. I’m not sure how the Yemeni people will come out of this - they remained optimistic for so long but now have every reason to give up hope. The dust won’t settle anytime soon. I hope that when it does, there will still be remnants of the Yemen I once knew.

I start writing here more often again. I have an inkling that my ponderings will be more sombre, but I promise to include some random photos and musings in between so as not to push anyone over the edge!

Here’s hoping 2016 will be kind to us all.

Sx

07 April 2015

First Gear, Full Speed!


All stocked up on biscuits and water (it was a running joke, my insistence on making sure everyone hydrated regularly!), we headed towards the first destination in our Oman road trip - the Bimmah Sinkhole. 

I want to mention that, despite the roads in Oman being practically pristine, some of their sign posts are not the most reliable. I had read about the Bimmah sinkhole online but when we got closer, the signs all signaled to "Hawiyat Nijm Park". So, just for reference, that is the correct name. I wasn't sure how I'd feel about a sinkhole. I have a weird fear of depths where I do prefer to know where the bottom of whatever it is I'm in is. The sinkhole was indeed breathtaking, the water was so blue you wondered how all those other blues in your life could be labelled as such. There were tiny (and not so tiny) fish swimming around, and if you stayed still for even 10 seconds they'd come and say hello with their little mouths. I only managed to go in less than half way - as soon as I saw the colour of the water changing from the depth I decided it was enough for me. There were some incredibly brave people who decided to dive from pretty much the top of the sink hole (more than 10 metres high). But that just tells you how deep the hole is! It was truly an experience and it's basically on the highway so no excuse not to stop by and have a dip =]




We continued driving for a few hours until we reached Ras Al Hadd. Ras Al Jinz, which is only about 15 km from Ras Al Hadd, is where the green turtle reserve is located. We decided to stay at the Turtle Beach Resort at Ras Al Hadd because it was cheaper than the resort at Ras Al Jinz. The resort itself was really lovely. We were given a small straw hut with two beds and a couple of towels. The beds were so comfortable and the most impressive factor - there was an AC unit! I slept so well that night! We had shared bathrooms but they were clean and had hot water around the clock. I even managed to shower twice during our one night stay! We were given dinner and breakfast with our nightly rate and the food was nice. The setting was beautiful, along a quiet strip of beach without any noise. 




To see the green sea turtles we could either go to the 9pm or 5am "viewings". The lady at our resort said that we're more likely to see turtles at the 9pm viewing and gave us a map to Ras Al Jinz where the reserve is located. We set off around 8:20pm and reached Ras Al Jinz with plenty of time. We each had to pay 3 Omani Rials (approx 5 GBP) for the viewing and we were placed in a group. We then were driven out in a bus to the beach and told that we couldn't use any cameras (boo) or make too much noise. It always amazes me how dark the night is when there are no artificial lights. The stars were out of this world. Millions and millions of stars. It was quite difficult concentrating on walking when all you wanted to do was look up at the sky.


We were incredibly lucky with our viewing. Considering it was off-season, we watched more than one turtle lay eggs, saw a turtle covering her nest, a turtle returning to the sea, one emerging from the sea and the cherry that topped it off? A baby turtle was somehow found in all that darkness and our guide held the little guy up for us to see it.  Oh my God, I was THISCLOSE to taking that baby turtle home. Who knows if that poor little fella was able to make it to the ocean - there were crabs dotted around the sea line, waiting to pick up a baby turtle or two. And I also got a bit worried that I could potentially step on a baby turtle without knowing.  But what an experience. It did feel unusual seeing the turtles lay their eggs, because it's such an intimate event and you feel as though you're violating their privacy, but it was incredibly humbling. The guides were very knowledgeable and we learnt so many new things about these amazing creatures. I almost wished we'd also gone for the 5am viewing so that I could take some photos. Maybe some other time somewhere else in the world!

The next day we had a lie in and relaxed on the beach before heading off to Al Sahra'a Al Sharqiah (Eastern Desert), also known as Wahiba Sands. We booked to stay at Al Areesh Camp (25 Omani Rials per person, not the cheapest). We'd also spoken to the camp and arranged to have a guide give us a desert safari. Thankfully, we'd wisened up to the fact that we were no desert drivers and would probably end up dying if we attempted an independent desert drive. 


We arrived to the camp late in the afternoon. The camp is located sort of on top of a very small hill, but it means you have to drive up the sand to get to the entrance. Of course, we got stuck as soon as we hit the slope. Revving the car did nothing. Abdullah (our guide), meandered over in his white Land Cruiser V6 and just stared at us like "these foreigners, when will they learn". He gave Louis some instructions on how to reverse the car and we were back on normal ground. He then looked at Louis very seriously and said "first gear, full speed".

We were very quiet for a moment. We knew we couldn't question his recommendation, what did we know. But at the same time, it sounded like madness! Doing the polite British thing, Louis put the car in first gear and sped. And sped. And sped. And ended up on top of the sand dune! Whadya know. Abdullah proved to be an incredible guide. Crazy, but incredible. The next morning we went on our "desert safari" which was basically sand dune bashing that I had tried to avoid for the life of me. It is not for the fainthearted. Ok, I'm a wimp, seriously, but it was CRAZY. I asked Abdullah, as any confident back seat driver would, "hey Abdullah, have you ever overturned the car?" and he answers "no, it's practically impossible" and I'm like "oh so no one has ever overturned a car?" and he says (honestly, this guy is a legend) "only an idiot would".






That baby camel was 5 days old!


Time to deflate dem tyres.

Incredible Abdullah.

Abdullah was beyond skilled and I have no idea how he kept his eyes open during some of the crazy (seriously guys, not sure how else to describe it) manoeuvers. I'm really glad we did the sand dune bashing, though I'm not going to be tempted to do it anytime soon. 

video

video

After our sand dune safari we got into our own car and headed to Wadi Bani Khaled. The drive into the wadi was a bit confusing - those Omani road sign again - but once you find it, you'll be so glad you persevered. I never quite understood the term "oasis", I guess I thought such places were found in mythological books. But this was a real life oasis. Turquoise pools surrounded by palm trees. It was picturesque. We didn't have enough time to hike to see the cave, but we took a lovely dip in the cool water. It's times like this when I write about my experiences that I am thankful for the luck and privilege I have in my life. Swimming in an oasis would have never, ever crossed my mind as something I would have done ever, and yet the opportunity presented itself and I was fortunate enough to experience it. There are several amazing oases (or Wadis as they're known) in Oman but we only managed to do the one. 


Oasis.


Call NatGeo.
We then decided that we had enough supplies and energy to make the long drive from Wadi Bani Khaled to Nizwa, the next and final stop on our road trip. We booked an apartment at Nizwa Hotel Apartments. I would highly recommend staying there. The rooms are spacious and clean, there's a small kitchen and the manager is super friendly. I believe it was relatively new when we stayed there because they had some teething issues (fridge wasn't cold for the first few hours kind of thing) but it's a great place to stay. 

In the morning we made our way to Jibreen Castle, which was described as being artistic. It was a gorgeous little castle and was indeed artistic. Most ceilings had paintings and there were intricate decorations all around. The Omani hospitality was present as ever and we were given some saffron coffee before leaving. 




My Grandparents had a window like that in Sana'a.




We didn't want to spend too much time in the other castles in Nizwa but felt it necessary to drive past Bahla Fort, a UNESCO world heritage site that had recently been renovated. It was huge! To have a proper look around it would have meant losing most of our day, and we were keen to get to the top of Jebel Akhdar before sunset.

Bahla Fort.

Nizwa Fort.

The Omani authorities are very strict about the types of cars allowed to drive up Jebel Akhdar, and rightly so. Although the roads are impeccable (don't forget, I am Yemeni so have seen my share of unsafe mountain roads), they are steep and the drive down takes its toll on the gearbox / brakes. Jebel is mountain in Arabic but Jebel Akhdar is misleading, since it's actually a very large area that holds several villages.

The manager at the apartments had suggested we drive up to Sahab Hotel, park the car and do the short hike around the villages. There is a well marked trail if you have the time and we saw several hikers enjoying the magnificent scenery while we were on our walk.



Helpful markers.

On the mountain side.



We drank coffee as the sun set and then leisurely made our way down back to Nizwa.

I have very fond memories of Oman. The country is spectacular, and reminds me so much of Yemen. The Omani peoples' disposition is so calm and polite, it has an air of spirituality to it. We felt a lot more relaxed while we were in Oman, time seemed to stand still. There was always time for a coffee, for a walk along the beautiful shore line. I do wonder if one day I'll live near the sea. If you ever get a chance to visit Oman, then grab it with both hands. A beautiful country with beautiful people, you'll leave feeling refreshed and wanting to go back again.

Sx

**if you want a guide - ahem ahem Abdullah - he's details are: Abdullah Waheebi - +96892255988 - sanddriver@hotmail.com (living legend)
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