Nazreen Fazal - travel

Nazreen Fazal Post

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On the last day before flying back to Riyadh!

2019-02-07

On the last day before flying back to Riyadh from Uganda my mother and I went to Protea for lunch. Located at a beautiful spot on the shores of lake Victoria (Africa’s largest fresh water lake) it’s a picturesque hotel and restaurant with a never ending cool breeze and great food to fuel you. Green lawns punctuated by palm trees swaying in the wind, a lovely pool (which my baby Z loved splashing about in) this place is heaven on earth except for the scores of chameleons scuttling over the rocks near the sand We were just sitting about enjoying the view and relaxing there when two American ladies sat down on the table across us.

I highly recommend getting yourself a baby if you are looking for an icebreaker with strangers when you are travelling. It’s a fool proof conversation starter because in 5 minutes Z was smiling at them and they were wooed. And a lovely conversation followed.

Meet Leah and Vivienne. These two vivacious ladies flew in here all the way from Miami, USA for a ‘girl-friends only’ vacation; from Entebbe, Uganda to Victoria Falls in Zambia to Cape Town, South Africa.

Leah and Vivienne have been friends from when they were 5 years old! Their friendship has weathered decades, colleges, children, different careers, and the death of both their husbands. That’s a once in a lifetime kind of friendship right there; one where you hold on to each other through the darkest of storms and the sunniest of days. The kind of friendship we all hope to share with our girlfriends.

Leah and Vivienne have both lived full lives. Leah lived in Mexico with her husband for a good two decades and now visits to take care of her late husband’s 101 year old mother. Vivienne has two children and from what I know from the brief conversation we had, plays tennis regularly and loves sipping on her wine outside her home in Miami. They are retired now and travel the world together.

After I got home, I wrote to them asking if they would like to share any advice. Vivienne wrote back with this;

“We are both widows who have learned to make the best of the lives we have, rather than wait for the lives we want. Patience, compromise, tolerance, trust, and humor help. Leah’s 101 year old Mexican mother-in-law says ‘If you want acquaintances, sometimes you have to close one eye; if you want friends, sometimes have to close both...’

I have been mulling over the profound wisdom in this quote for some time. If you want a lasting friendship that weathers all storms that life will inevitably unleash on you, you do need a good dose of patience, compromise, tolerance, trust, and humor. And here’s the thing, most close female friendships do have these qualities. I think they come quite naturally to us. As I write this I remember another chance encounter with three equally lovely ladies, this time in the Queen’s land. I met those three ladies on a sunny yet chilly British morning at the Trafalgar square. Ann, Maisie, and Helen trotted arms interlocked in a row and sat down next to my bench. Helen was suffering from dementia and Ann and Maisie were trying to help her recollect their shared memories from the past. I can still feel the easy going warmth of that friendship now as I sit here writing this on a humid Ugandan evening. They were so patient, so kind, so gentle with each other.

As I was telling Vivienne and Leah how inspiring it is for me to see two women travelling like this, I just impulsively quipped that there’s something so nice about a girlfriends’ only trip ‘It’s so relaxing’, I exclaimed. As soon as I said that Vivienne knowingly nodded her head because she new exactly what I meant, as I am sure most women reading this do. The company of your girl friends, whether it is in the comfort of your drawing room sipping on chai, or on the shores of an exotic beach, is one of the most nurturing and uplifting things you can experience in this lifetime. If you are lucky enough to chance upon friends who get you, you will find in them not just love, but also strength to face life and solace in times of grief. With them there are no masks, there is no performance, there are no expectations. You can be the real you.

My heart is filled with joy and gratitude today. Joy to see such friendships that span decades. Gratitude to know that I am blessed with such friendships myself. From my best friends in high school to my Malay, Sri Lankan, Bangladeshi, and Sudani housemates, to my other companion (with whom I had my own girls only trip to Spain) to my current lively little circle in Riyadh, at each phase in life God has sent to me ‘my people’, my tribe. I will fiercely hold them and cherish them and lift them to the best of my capacity. I will cry when they get hurt and hug them when they succeed and love their children like my own. And I will rest knowing that just as I look out for them, they are here for me too.

You know the best part in all this? Talking to me reminded Vivienne of her Indian college roommate from 40 years ago who currently lives in London. As Vivienne and Leah are returning to the US via London, she will get to meet her on the way back! So that’s a 4 decade old friendship rekindled just by meeting another woman. Who says women aren’t awesome?

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UGANDA DIARIES

2019-01-26

One thing I look forward to during each visit to a new place is the local cuisine. It can be a bit tricky sometimes because halal options aren't always available and I don't eat most fish. Ugandan food so far hasn't been a problem. Their food is simple, both to make and on the stomach too. There's a lot of beans and plaintain and starch. Minimal spices involved (which the hard core Desi me is willing to overlook because over all it's a wholesome meal)

I'll share here two of the main dishes made by Ugandans. The first is matoke, which is a dish made out of Matoke bananas. These thick green bananas are found commonly in Uganda. A visit to the local market will show you entire sections of these bright green bananas.

Matoke is made by steaming its unripe namesake till they are mushy. It's traditionally eaten with groundnut sauce. Chef Lawrence explains more of the dish in the video.

The second dish is called Posho. Posho is like north india's "daal chawal" or a malayalees simple "kanjiyum chammandiyum". Posho is made by adding hot water to coarse corn flour and cooking till it reaches a dough like consistency. It's eaten with beans in Uganda. I'm told in Kenya it's called Ugali and is eaten with sauteed kale.

Our cook Esther made Posho and beans for us, slightly spiced up because duh indians. I loved it!

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The personalized mug

2018-02-16

I have been awfully quiet for the last few weeks. Mainly because I am travelling. Back in India after more than a year and I know I am having a good time because I don't have the time to record it on social media ????

One of the main highlights of this trip has been a two day family gathering at Wayanad with over 60 people from my mom's family. My mother belongs to a large, boisterous and vibrant family, which has people from all possible backgrounds. Just in this gathering we had doctors, engineers, scientists, lawyers, entrepreneurs, and of course yours truly.

Wayanad, a popular hill station on Kerala was the perfect venue for this event. The weather was mostly pleasant with the afternoons a little sweaty. Well that's Kerala for you. The event organizers- my aunts (who btw are my grandaunts too) and their families- had to coordinate with these 60+ people, accommodating them in 5 venues , arranging all the meals, and planning the games and sports for the two days.

The first event was an enlightening introduction where the grandchildren, great grandchildren, and in laws of Asiyamma- the family's matriarch-introduced themselves. Her progeny is now spread from North to South Kerala and a good portion of them reside outside India too.

Post introduction were more games and quizzes followed by delicious food. If you know me, you know how much of a foodie I am. And if you get to know my family you will know why I am that way. Something in our gene propels us to make a beeline for food wherever we see it.

Our events were punctuated by congregational prayers, taking time out to remember the One who blessed us with family in the first place. In the evening we moved to a beautiful resort where we had more games for adults and kids. The most fun was one where we had to speak continuously for a minute about our spouse/parents without any pauses or umms and aahs. Have you tried it? It's damn hard!

A generous family sponsored matching T-shirts for us which we were to wear for an early morning hike the next day. I wasn't expecting many people to turn up at 6.30 am but come morning every single participant, from my 7 year old cousin to my 76 year old mammimma were there rocking the red t shirts. An unknowing person might have thought some political rally was happening had they seen the procession of red through the lush green tea gardens of Wayanad.

I was truly moved by the spirit of the family then. The vigor with which the old kept up with the young, laughing and teasing each other as they huffed up the hills.

Post trek we made way to the resort again where more games awaited us. Have you heard of tambola? Look it up! We played a version of it where instead of numbers we had the names of our family members. It was absolute fun to see the faces of our family members from the south of Kerala as they tried to figure out names that sound like grunts and war cries. Beenjua, ummanjua, aachibee, aisibee, kutticha...these are actual names! Autocorrect goes to town with them.

At the end of the event the participants were gifted a personalized 'kudumbam' mug designed by our doodler-in- house, my cousin Red Riding Hijabi
Check out the quirky cup in the photos!

Those two days in the hills, Surrounded by loved ones, sharing with them what's been going on with my life, keeping up with what's going on in theirs, catching up with the years lost and mapping the changing faces as our babies morph into stubbled youngsters at the threshold of adulthood, feeling the heart sink a little as we see the handwork of age on the minds and bodies of some of our most agile family members, cracking up at the childhood pranks our parents, uncles, and aunts played on each other, listening to the same stories the hundreth time and still finding it as funny as the first time...I couldn't help but reflect on the huge blessings that are family and bonds of love. They are a mercy from God, a shield from the harshness of the world outside, and constant reminder of what's truly important in life.

Hold your family close, they might annoy the hell out of you, but they are your family and you need them as much as they need you.

My Kerala trip is coming to an end and I will be trading, yet again, the lush green for the dreary sand dunes, the familiar for the strange. My heart feels super heavy at yet another parting from my loved ones. And as always, I leave behind a little of me with them, because I know I will come back eventually.

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This is a reflection from exactly one year ago...

2017-11-29

This is a reflection from exactly one year ago...

Last weekend my husband and I took an almost 1000 km road trip by bus to Makkah. We were travelling with the intention of performing the Umrah, a non-obligaotry pilgrimage that Muslims are recommended to undertake if they are physically and financially able to do so.

I've performed Umrah multiple times and each time it feels like my soul has emerged, refreshed, from the purest of springs. Being in Makkah, specifically in the Masjid Haram is a humbling experience. It is a microcosm of our world. Here you see people of different nationalities, ethnicities, tongues all worshipping together, calling out to one God.

This time, as there wasn't much rush, we got to touch the Kaaba for a few minutes and make some prayers. It was one of the most moving experiences of my life. Beside me an old Pakistani lady clung to the black cloth on the Kaaba and wept, begging God to forgive her and make life easy for her children. On my left was a Malaysian lady and her husband, both in tears and silently mouthing prayers. Another Pakistan man was on his knees and praying desperately. Almost every prayer that my ear could understand was one for their children. Every tongue there whispered the problems weighing them down. Every eye shed at least one tear- a repentant one, a hopeful one, a happy one.

As we resumed our stride, circumambulating the Kaaba, my eye caught a tall man walking with a Harry Potter backpack slung on his shoulder. I smiled as I realised 'the boy who lived' just performed Umrah too. Why not? The rich and the poor, the unhappy and the content, the brave and the fearful, the young and the aged, the healthy and the disabled, men and woman, black and white-- all were here under the shade of one sky, for one purpose alone- worship.
Once the 'Tawaf' around the Kaaba was completed, we moved to do the 'Saee' across Safa and Marwa. This is an essential pillar of the pilgrimage, just to commemorate the sacrifice one woman made thousands of years ago. Our mother Hajar, the wife of Abraham, was stranded alone in the desert with her infant son. She ran across the peaks of two hills seeking water for him till God provided them water and sustenance. Today billions of people have walked across the valley remembering and saluting this mother's incredible sacrifice. And billions of male pilgrims have run and continue to run part way to immortalize one single woman's resilience.

Once the Umrah was done our feet were sore, the leg muscles contracted rapidly- shocked by the sudden vigorous exercise. My back was killing me but my heart was full and my mind was at peace. The call to the prayer reverberated across the huge mosque and the seated pilgrims- the guests of God- immediately sprang up and assembled in rows curving around the Kaaba, eager to worship, unable to withhold any more pain, seeking reassurance and respite. For some time the only sound that was heard was the melodious recitation of the Qur'an and the sniffles of those moved by it. Somewhere a bird chirped and a welcome breeze occasionally caressed our faces.

Outside the masjid was another world altogether. Under the dark night sky stands the looming clock tower and swanky five star hotels that privileges some with nearer access to the mosque just by virtue of wealth. In front of these buildings reaching out to the sky, an old man sat on the cool white marble floor, his legs stretched out. He broke his bread in half and handed it to his wife. Both of them ate in silence and sipped their tea from little plastic cups as they gazed at the mosque. Around them the world swirled on, fast and relentless. They sat silently, peace etched on their faces.

(picture courtesy- Native Pakistan)

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The Journey

2017-07-17

When my father was still in the Air force and we were posted in different states, trips to Kerala happened in the summer breaks. The chosen mode of transport- the great Indian Railways.

As young kids with infinite energy, we looked forward to the long train rides as much as we awaited the stay at grandma's place, the snacks and the extended playtime with cousins. I am pretty sure my mother did not share the excitement with us. Probably because the thought of looking after three young kids with boundless energy, bouncing off the walls of a train for more than 24 hours is not very appealing. I don't know how she did it, I can't even look after myself properly on the train.

My fondest memories of train rides are from Pune to Kerala. With a scenic route offering amazing views of waterfalls, snaking through lush forests, whooshing through more than a dozen long tunnels, we were sure to fight for the "window seat" each time.

We used to be thrilled if there were kids among our co-passengers. The parents, not so much. Oh what fun to watch your bunch of angels run barefoot, screaming, through the narrow aisles of the train, chasing another bunch of barefoot angels, stepping on peoples toes and knocking off delicately balanced plastic tea cups! More so when the kids loudly demand each snack that passes their way. Then the parents shoot dagger glances at the vendor tempting their already hyper kids with more candy until he reluctantly moves ahead with his tray of goodies.

But we didn't really care. In those hours/days spent confined in the small compartment, we befriended each other without hesitation. Eventually the parents get to know each other, exchange details and sometimes even discover mutual links!

Meanwhile, as the train chugs South, the landscape gradually changes. And the kind of snacks coming our way also change depending on which state/city we're in.
As soon as the sight coconut trees couple with the calls of "pazham pori chaaya" we know we are in Kerala.
Then begins the chorus of "are we there yet?" Till we reach my mother's hometown. The goodbyes are said and hands reach for the strategically placed luggage under different seats and overhead, the logistics discussed and we disembark. And there's grandma waiting for us with a big smile as she walks towards us. Assalamualaikums and how-are-you?-was-the-journey-alright? done we are bundled into the small car for another summer of family and fun
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As we grew older and dad changed jobs, the long train rides with the whole family ceased. Some time back I boarded an early morning "Bangalore-kanyakumari express" to visit my relatives in another city. As I sat down ( at the window seat, WITHOUT fighting anyone for it), sipping on the trademark watery, super sweet coffee (yes, not tea! ??) that Indian Railways proudly offer, listening to kids next to me play "antaakshari", I was hit by a sudden bout of nostalgia. The kind which makes you smile and feel sad at the same time. The kind that makes you yearn for simpler times. Yet the grateful kind, for having those memories in the first place.

Alhamdulillah, for The Journey and the journeys within ??

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UGANDA DIARIES

2017-07-01

In Saudi everything looks bleak and dusty. The skies are usually covered in dust or grey-brown clouds. The eye and the body tire pretty quickly of the monotony. So when I landed in Uganda, my eyes were probably literally cooled by the lush green all around. It was like I was suddenly seeing everything in HD quality. A curtain I wasn't aware of had been lifted and I could now see colors in all their vividness. Not just colors, even tastes become more pronounced.

My tongue feasted on fresh tomatoes that were sweet and juicy and not fake tasting soggy pulp like in other places. I relished tangy passion fruit juice and ripe mangoes, in salads, juices, and smoothies. And let's not even talk about the just-plucked-from-the-tree avocados, devoured with a squirt of lemon and a dash of salt.

When I wake up here I hear all kinds of birds around. From baby birds with the sweetest of chirps to annoying ones with squawks that sound like an old goat being burgeoned to death. At night it is crickets and the geckos and frogs making their presence known. From the 'beach' nearby the sounds of beats come in as people dance to music to mark the weekend.

This trip has been a feast to all my senses. My eyes are relaxed, my tongue is pleased, my skin is softer and my ears are thrilled to hear more birds and less traffic.

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UGANDA DIARIES

2017-07-01

Two days back we set off from Entebbe, early in the morning, to the Queen Elizabeth National Park, which is about 400 kms away.
Armed with some really spicy 'Indian Pasta' and snacks we made the 7 hour journey to the Southern Hemisphere. Yup, we crossed the equator! We checked into Kingfisher Safari Lodge, which is a beautiful beautiful resort with a great view of the park
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The next day we went on a safari where we spotted some lazing lions, grazing Ugandan Kobs and pissed off wild buffaloes. Not many for this place. The savannah was dry and most of the animals had moved to the banks of The nearby lakes.

So we decided to take a boat tour to see these vacationing animals. Two big lakes-lake George and lake Edward are connected by the Kazinga Channel. Along this channel we had a two hour boat ride. We spotted a herd of African Elephants having a gala time, splashing water on themselves. Hippos hung out with their gangs underwater. Occasionally popping up with a splash, making the children on board scream gleefully.

A bunch of tiny kingfisher birds fluttered behind our boat and made a ruckus as they swooped into the lake and grabbed fish. They added a nice background music to our trip.

At some places we witnessed coexistence as Elephants, buffaloes, hippos, and warthogs all chilled together. As the summer is heating up the land, many of them are just letting off steam in the cool water.

There was also a bachelor pad of many of the adult male elephants that had been kicked out of the herd by the matriarch. According to the guide, this is to avoid inbreeding. Poor guys, but have to admit, what a badass matriarch.! We entered the Lake Edward which is the smallest of the African Great Lakes. The lake is shared by Uganda and DR Congo, with the major part of the lake lying with Congo.

Near the end of the channel there rests a fishing village which lives just on fishing. There's no agriculture here as the soil is not fertile due to volcanic activity. These people sometimes spend upto 12 hours at a time out fishing.

In this album you'll see some of the pictures from the safari and boat ride. And many pictures of the fresh juices I am enjoying at every stop. You guys know where my priorities lie.

PS: Currently sipping on some African masala tea. Enjoying a great view. I must say I am right about in my happy place right now.

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UGANDA DIARIES

2017-06-27

This is the story of a family of samosas that made its way from the sleepy Ugandan town of Entebbe, 115 kms north east to Jinja, the source of the mighty river Nile.
'What's wrong with this woman?'you might be wondering at this point. To that I say, you can take Indians out of India but you can't take India out of Indians. Read on to know more.

Yesterday, Day 2 of the #UgandanDiaries, we booked two SUVs for a trip to Jinja. We were a group of 9, my parents, le husband, me, my aunt, my mom's cousin and her family. Desi travel guide point 1- Travel with as many people as possible- check.

We were supposed to start at 7 am but since we are all still running on IST-Indian Slow Time- we were an hour late. (My father claims I am the reason everything was delayed, but I beg to differ). The drive to Jinja was bumpy, dusty, and slow. We made our first pit stop at Cafe Javas in Kampala. Kampala is the capital of Uganda and its largest city. Here I fell in love. No offense to my husband, but I realise I met my soul mate only now. My soul mate is a fruit bowl. Yes, a bowl of the freshest fruits, swimming in creamy yogurt, drizzled with sweet golden honey, and topped with crunchy toasted nuts. My tongue sighed in submission as it tasted this bowl of pure, unadulterated, goodness. I can't go an as I might cry. Let me just say that I have found my purpose in life.

We started driving again and at one point my dad stopped the car to buy caps from a roadside vendor. If you have been reading me for some time, you would know that my dad is fascinated with caps and hats and head gears of all type. He loves them, he collects them, he cherishes them. And my mom absolutely resents them and tries to get rid of them when he is not looking. I have a feeling he buys caps to irritate my mom. So he went ahead and bought a velvety black beret and a camouflage cap.This time though my mom bit her tongue and accepted my dad's questionable fashion choices.

After the cap detour we were in Jinja in two hours. The source of Nile requires entry tickets. Funnily, you can apparently bargain the rates with the guard. We asked for the entry rates and he was like 'How much you wanna pay?' Interesting...wish we could do that everywhere. We finally paid 95,000 Ugandan Shillings for our group. I am still not able to wrap my head around the currency here. 1 INR is 55 shilling and 1 USD is 3590 shilling. Which means we are carrying millions of this currency in our wallets and I am paranoid all the time.

Once inside we had to bargain again with the tour operators for a guided boat tour up to the exact source of the Nile. It cost us 120,000 shillings for a hour trip. The river Nile's source is in the Lake Victoria, which is the largest lake in Africa and is the world's second largest fresh water lake. The Nile is the only outlet of this lake and drains it from its northern bank in Jinja.

The boat gently sailed over the lake and our guide, Ismail, showed us the various sites. The lake is dotted with various small islands. Some of them have enough space for only a couple of trees and rocks. Others are lush and green. We spotted trees full of black Egrets and some Kingfisher birds too. At one point my mom called out to me from the other side of the boat and said 'Look at that Egret or later you will Regret.' Clearly in my family we have 'Mom Jokes' instead of the usual 'Dad Jokes.'

On one of the Islands we noticed that the biggest tree on it had white leaves and the surrounding area was fully white. It looked eery. We looked up and the mystery was solved. On the branches rested dozens of birds and the white leaves were the result of exposure to constant bird shit. Even the monitor lizard lazily crawling over the rocks below seemed to be covered in that.

Mid way through our ride Ismail took us to a long, narrow 'Island' on the lake. On it was a small craft shop made of mud and straw, with a bridge that led to the source of Nile. On the other side was a long stretch of grass and pebbles. As we neared the land we noticed a bunch of bearded men, some in white vests and others in traditional pakistani salwar-kameez, huddled over some pans. We got off the boat and greeted them and they informed us that they had come all the way from Pakistan as part of a 'tabligh jaamaat.' They were washing meat for a barbecue and we left them to do their thing.

We made our way to the source of Nile, gingerly treading on the creaky wooden boards below which was gushing water that was being pumped up from 65 ft below. Yes, the source of the Nile is a gushing spring that is 65 ft deep. Imagine the force of the water to come up like that.

In 1862 a British explorer, John H. Speke, had apparently traced the Nile from North all the way to this point and thus 'Discovered' the source of this river that travels all the way to Egypt, in North of Africa. The water from this source travels over 6400 km. It takes 3 months for the water from the source to complete its journey and reach the mediterranean sea. Now all this is fascinating information, but you know what is more fascinating? What the source of Nile got to witness when we went to visit it.

Over thousands of centuries, this place has witnessed the rise and fall of dynasties, kingdoms, and empires, It has seen explorers come seeking it, it has endured noisy travellers from around the world. What it hasn't seen though- a family that came armed with a tiffin full of samosas and cutlets to see the source of a river on which flourished so many mighty civilisations. It was then only natural that we honoured the formidable African river by posing with the mighty Asian snack- samosa.

We goofed around near the source of river sign for some time and the made our way back to the boat. This time the Pakistani men invited us to join their barbecue party but we were in a hurry and had to turn down the offer. Instead we requested they lend us their space to offer our afternoon prayers. Now this is easily my favourite part of the day. We made our ablution with the cool water of the Nile. The water was fresh and refreshing and seemed to wash away all the tiredness from the long drive earlier in the day. Then we all prayed in a congregation. There's something to be said about praying out in the open, in the midst of nature. Nothing connects you to the Lord more than worshipping him as you are surrounded by His creation. There was a gentle breeze that caressed our wet faces (one of the most calming sensation) and the sound of birds calling out to each other punctuated the soothing music that is playful waves gently lapping the shores and rocks and retreating again. This experience was a much needed gift for my soul.

After the prayers we shared some more pleasantries with the men, gave them some of our rotis we packed from home (of course we had rotis), and headed back to the boat. One of the older men in the group came running towards us and handed us a plate full of dates and candied sesame with the biggest of smiles. We waved him goodbye and headed back to the mainland.

By now we were getting hungry ( I am beginning to think that Indians exist in only two states- hungry. And very hungry) So my mom brought out the tupperware full of rotis, and handed out paper plates. Then she whipped out from her desi Mary Poppins' bag some yogurt and a jar of Mother's Mango Pickle. Thus we traversed the source of Nile, eating roti with yogurt and pickle. We even fed the boat guy some, probably making it a unique experience for him too. After the mini-meal my mom said she only wished there was a mat she could spread on the floor of the boat and take a nap on...You guys now know why I am like this.

Our ride ended after one hour and we made our way back to the car. All that food wasn't enough so we headed to the nearest cafe and ordered some more. I of course had the fruit bowl, among other things.

The journey back was quite long and tiring. At signals we'd see hawkers on roller skates selling ripe yellow bananas,grilled chicken thighs on wooden skewers (which I like to call 'meat lollipops') and small packets of peanuts. Some of them would hold on to the back of our car so they can gain speed.

We finally reached home late in the night and of course ended it with food by going to Javas the fourth time in two days. I think we have a food problem. But I am not gonna ask for help any time soon!

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UGANDA DIARIES

2017-06-25

I have celebrated Eid in 6 countries till now. Today was the 7th one-Uganda. Each place has been a different experience, but this one was something really special.

We woke up early morning and offered our prayers together. Post prayers we all sat outside in the porch and leisurely sipped on cups of tea and munched on the fried dates and plantain. I don't know if I am the only one but it feels almost wrong to eat after sunrise after a month of no breakfast.

My father's house has a beautiful, lush garden surrounding it. There are banana plantains, neem, jackfruit and mango trees. The wall is covered in creepers, making this a small piece of heaven tucked away from the dusty streets outside.

The weather here is a pleasant 21 degree Celsius, a welcome change from the sweltering heat in Riyadh. We remained out in the garden for sometime, listening to the various birds chirping in and around the garden.

Then began the morning dash for the bathrooms. Everyone had to be showered and out by 8am (in India it's much earlier). The Eid Gah, where the Eid prayers are held, is vey near. We drove in to see a sea of colors seated under white tents. Women in bright green, yellow, and red dresses. Men rocked fabulous purple and teal thoubs. The most adorable thing in sight though were the little babies decked in their finest. Boys in little thoubs and girls in bedazzled hijabs. One great thing about Eid is that it is so so positive. Everything about the day makes you feel good. Especially the fact that you wear your finest clothes. It really makes you feel good about yourself. You can see it in the faces of the little girls and boys who are so excited to flaunt their new clothes.

The Eid sermon was in English, which we were really grateful about. It was about the importance of being morally upright in our day to day lives.
Post sermon we headed to a nearby cafe and had a grand breakfast of eggs, steak, croissant, pancakes, waffles, and fresh fruit juice. What's Eid without food, eh?

At home we relaxed, enjoying the amazing post food buzz. My mom and aunts ( who are over for a visit as well) sat outside the kitchen and barbecued chicken and fish. Lunch was traditional Kerala biriyani (which I am not really fond of, Hyderabadi biriyani ftw!)

To give it a really Eid feel, we had some sweet lime tea to wash it all down.

The food coma has worn off somewhat now. We are now on the way to Victoria lake, which is the second largest fresh water lake in the world.

More updates tomorrow!

#UgandanDiaries #UgandaDay1

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WORST TRAVEL EXPERIENCE IN MY LIFE with Ethiopian Airlines

2017-06-23

Ethiopian airlines is the worst, most inept airline I have ever had the misfortune of flying with. My husband and I had booked the 6:45pm Ethiopian Airlines flight from Riyadh to Addis Ababa and further to Entebbe on 22nd June. We arrived at 3pm, did check in, obtained the boarding pass and reached the designated boarding gate by 5pm yesterday. The flight was indefinitely delayed and we waited 20+hrs at the boarding gate without any clear information from the Airlines staff. No communication from the staff here, no apologies, no alternative arrangements, no food coupons issued (some of the passenger had been stranded here for the last two days and hadn't eaten anything in that time), no accommodation was made available for most of the waiting passengers. People had to sleep on any space on the floor. Even cattle are treated better than this.

We were not being given refunds because apparently the flight's not been cancelled, only 'delayed'. They kept telling us that the flight will come after three hours and it never came till one day later. The worst part is that three Saudi nationals were refunded their tickets immediately, while we watched in despair.

Shame on you Ethiopian airlines for looting people by overbooking your flights / abrupt cancellations and not giving us the service we paid for. Your tall claim about customer services turned out be a big lie. And this lie resulted in stranded mothers with hungry crying babies and toddlers, tired travelers who haven't slept a wink in the last two days, and people who missed out important family functions just because of this utter mismanagement.

I can't even explain how upsetting and humiliating this whole ordeal has been. To make it worse, when people started asking for alternatives and demanded to be answered your staff called armed security guards to scare us.

I understand that the real reason you are doing this kind of harassment is because most of the passengers on this flight belong to lower income groups, so you don't care a bit about what happens to them, whether they starve or lose sleep. You just care about the money they spent on your tickets.

If you do care about your customers, do something to make it right. Till now we haven't received an official apology or even remark about what happened. I want an apology and acknowledgement of what happened. Till you address this I am not going to let it rest.
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Readers, I'd appreciate it if you can share this post as widely as possible. For too long such airlines have been harassing and humiliating passengers like us. They are willing to take our money but when it comes to delivering their services it's as though they are doing some charity for us. We can't let them get away with this.

#EthiopianAirlinesScam #EthiopianAirlinesApologize

Arab News Saudi Gazette RiyadhConnect

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I am someone who finds herself constantly wandering, searching for that elusive place which is 'home'. My life is in constant flux and naturally, my thoughts are even more chaotic. This blog is an effort to channelize my ruminations and rants into a coherent space. I hope this proves as a platform for me to mature as writer by exploring different styles and as an individual by delving into myself. It's going to be a long journey, and I would love for you to join me, whenever you want edited

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