World Cup opening

What I’ve been up to – June

Believe me, I’ve been intending to write this post about half a month ago. Or actually, by the end of June I was already thinking I should prepare my write-up about that month, before July passes and I haven’t told you yet about the events I attended and articles I wrote. It happened to me before, you know.

Come July 19, and I still haven’t posted you about what I’ve been up to last month. The truth is: Every week I had something (I thought) more interesting to talk about, such as my tips for a happy Ramadan, my trip in June to Singapore, and, not to forget, my birthday. But, no worries, ’cause here is an overview of the articles I wrote this month.

 

Art & Culture

Caribbean beats at the French Consulate
Caribbean beats at the French Consulate

The most spectacular event of the month was the opening of World Cup at the French Consulate. It was probably more swinging than the Brazilian one in Sao Paulo. Though the Caribbean beats and dance were not exactly “Saudi-proof,” I wrote about it in the paper. Of course, with some self-censure applied.

Landscape impressions by Idris Al-Daw
Landscape impressions by Idris Al-Daw

The French Consulate did not organize only this event, however. Throughout the year, it has been giving French, Saudi, other Arab, and even African artists the chance to showcase their work at the consulate. Two exhibitions I covered were the one about landscape impressions and women expressions as well as the first African art exhibition.

The Italian football team
The Italian football team

And as we’re talking about football, the Italians and British decided to challenge each other on the evening before the game in Brazil. Guess what? The British beat the Italians easily. Luckily, for the Italians, this was not an omen for the ‘real’ game in Manaus.

Performance during the celebration of the Italian National Day
Performance during the celebration of the Italian National Day

The Italians were more successful during the celebration of their national day on June 2, though, truth be told, they had some technical issues as well. Read about it in my article.

Graphic Design exhibition at Dar Al-Hekma University
Graphic Design exhibition at Dar Al-Hekma University

And, lastly, I covered a graphic design exhibition at one of Jeddah’s major private universities, where I saw some impressive work by senior students.

Food

Faris Al-Torki, owner of #F6_or Faris - a breakfast joint born out of a hashtag
Faris Al-Torki, owner of #F6_or Faris – a breakfast joint born out of a hashtag

Earlier this year, I did a restaurant review for a very special place in Jeddah: a small joint on Tahlia Street that was born out of a hashtag called #F6or_Faris (pronounce Futoor Faris, which translates as Faris’ Breakfast). It’s a very interesting story and the owner was simply amazing! He is an example for many Saudi entrepreneurs.

Breakfast at F6or_Faris
Breakfast at F6or_Faris

Plus his breakfast isn’t bad, either! Faris is opening a second branch now on King Road.

Breakfast at F6or_Faris
Breakfast at F6or_Faris

After writing the article, I realized breakfast joints have been mushrooming in the city in the last few years and decided to write about it.

World Cup nights at Park Hyatt
World Cup nights at Park Hyatt

Another food and World Cup-related article was my piece about Park Hyatt, which organized special “World Cup nights” at their Andalusia Restaurant, including the possibility to watch the matches with colleagues or family in one of the air-conditioned tents.

 

Travel

Bratislava Old Town
Bratislava Old Town

About a year ago, I traveled to Vienna and Bratislava to accompany my husband on a business trip. I had been to both cities before, I was impressed by both cities, and I wrote an article about both for the Saudi Gazette. The one about the Slovakian capital came out this month.

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Health

I wrote quite a lot on health-related issues. One thing I thought would be nice to cover is the pre-holiday stress many people experience. I did my research and wrote about the topic in my article “Relax! Holiday season is almost there.”

Another thing I thought would be interesting is a plea for a healthy diet. You know, there are so many diets these days – paleo, vegan, intermittent fasting, gluten-free – while in the end being healthy shouldn’t be that complicated. I believe the secret lies in just a little bit of everything: No forbidden foods or combinations, just common sense. Easy, right? (That does not mean I don’t support certain diets. For me, following a vegetarian diet is very easy, and I do it for ethical and environmental reasons. However, when talking purely about health, I think eating a bit of everything is most beneficial.)

With Ramadan around the corner, I also decided to tackle some issues regarding this holy month. One such topic I had been wanting to cover for years was whether diabetics should or should not fast. I got good feedback about the article.

Secondly, I wanted to stress on the impact of giving and charity on our well-being. I figured Ramadan was the perfect time of the year to write about that.

 

Miscellaneous

A front page story about a Dutch politician who converted to Islam and is to establish the first Islamic political party in Europe appeared in the Saudi Gazette on 22 October.

My manager has been encouraging me to start doing business interviews. While I still need to get into the routine of approaching CEOs and other business people I did make an attempt this month during an interview with the CEO and General Manager of Mercedes-Benz Saudi Arabia.

Lastly, you may have heard about the row between Saudi Arabia and the Netherlands due to an anti-Islam sticker by a very stupid Dutch parliamentarian. Much has been said about the issue, but I felt I wanted to have a word as well, given my position as a Dutch married to a Saudi. Plus, most opinions are either totally pro-Dutch of pro-Saudi, and I felt a more balanced argument was needed. Hence, I wrote an opinion article for the Saudi Gazette on the matter.

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Birthday thoughts – turning 28

A few days ago I came across an article about turning 28. What a coincidence, I thought, as I would be 28 in a few days. I knew the article was gonna ravage my mood, as it was full of warnings and well-meant advises about reaching this “turning point.”

You may wonder why on earth 28 would be a turning point, but according to this article, when we reach this age we need to get serious about dating – especially if you want to have kids, ’cause, you know, your biological clock is ticking; career – if you wanna switch careers do it now, or else you’ll be stuck in a field you don’t like forever; health – you may have gotten away with junk food until this age, but you should really start watching every bite you stuff in your face to avoid excess fat on the abdomen/hips/butt/you-name-it.

Last year's birthday cheesecake
Last year’s birthday cheesecake

Objectively speaking, I shouldn’t be too worried (as no one should). After all, aging happens only gradually, and a number, in the end, is just a number. What matters more is how you treat your body, I believe. Give it some exercise, some wholesome food, and don’t skimp on sleep. And, not to forget, a little fun from time to time goes a long way as well.

That is not to say I don’t feel like being in a transition period. I don’t know (and don’t care) if it’s the age, but my husband and I have been playing with the idea of change, and we both are convinced we need some new challenges during the course of this year.

For me, that challenge could be anything, from exercise challenges to improving my Arabic, and from taking a course in journalism or writing to enhance my skills to reading some inspiring books.

Turning 27 and getting a golden medal from a friend.
Turning 27 and getting a golden medal from a friend.

Or, maybe, just maybe, we take a leap of faith and decide on some drastic changes. Let’s see what happens in the next few months.

Lovely birthday gifts from some friends
Lovely birthday gifts from some friends

And, to totally wipe out the birhday blues: Turns out women are happiest at the age of 28. Ha! Cheers to a great year!

 

Singapore

Singapore: utopia on earth?

Last month, my work allowed me to travel again. I can hardly keep up with all the trips I made in the last 12 months. Following media trips to Switzerland (read here part 1, 2, and 3), Abu Dhabi and London I was invited on a visit to the tiny city-state of Singapore in South-East Asia.

Singapore skyline by night
Singapore skyline by night

I had been once to Singapore before, with my husband on our way to New-Zealand back in 2012. In that time, we stayed a few nights to rest from the first leg of our journey and diminish the effects of the jet lag we would sure have. We walked around and saw some of the highlights, but by far not everything there is to do and see.

The Flower Dome in Gardens by the Bay hosts flowers from all over the world.
The Flower Dome in Gardens by the Bay contains flowers from all over the world.

Although Singapore is one of the smallest states worldwide, it actually has a lot to offer for tourists. However, what makes the country unique for me is that it is one of the most religiously diverse places in the world. In Singapore, you will find a Buddhist temple on Mosque Street, or a mosque next to a church. But what you don’t find is people fighting because of their religion. Singapore is a very tranquil country in which the different ethnic groups live next to and with each other peacefully.

Sultan Mosque, the largest mosque in Singapore
Sultan Mosque, the largest mosque in Singapore

When the Brits set foot on the island back in 1819, the population was predominantly Malay. However, soon the country became dominated by immigrants from China, Malaysia, and India. The fourth major group are the “Eurasians,” descendants from mixed European and Asian marriages.

While the British planned to separate the various ethnics in different neighborhoods – hence the still existing China Town, Little India, and Arab Quarter – they ended up living together without any problems.

The result of this is also a very interesting cuisine, and we got the chance to make some of its dishes during a cooking class at Food Playground.

Satay with tofu
Satay with tofu

I finally got to learn how to make Chicken Satay (tofu for me), a dish I truly love and is quite popular in the Netherlands as well due to the Indonesian influence there. I could eat peanut sauce every day and not get bored of it! I was surprised how complicated and time consuming it is to make good peanut sauce, though. I remember seeing some recipes on the Internet calling for peanut butter, water, soy sauce, and perhaps a little chilli, but I can tell you that is not the real thing! This was so much tastier and unlike any peanut sauce I had before. If I have enough courage and time I will try to replicate this recipe at home.

Char Kway Teow
Char Kway Teow

We also made Char Kway Teow, a fried noodle dish with egg, prawns (not for me) garlic, chives, bean sprouts and soy sauce. I’m not a big noodle eater, but this was definitely an easy to make and quite tasty dish.

Kueh Dadar, or stuffed coconut crepes
Kueh Dadar, or stuffed coconut crepes

Naturally, our meal wouldn’t be complete without ending it on a sweet note. For this we made crepes made of flour, egg, coconut milk and pandan juice (which gives it the green color) stuffed with a concoction of grated coconut and palm sugar. As you can see on the picture, I became quite a master in Kueh Dadar!

Infinity pool
Marina Bay Sands infinity pool

The cooking class was the highlight of the trip for me. I always enjoy trying new dishes and learning about ingredients.

Another highlight was our visit to the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and particularly the infinity pool on top of the three skyscrapers. Too bad we just had a glimpse of the rooftop swimming pool, but it was nevertheless special to see.

Singapore's infinity pool on top of Marina Bay Sands
Singapore’s infinity pool on top of Marina Bay Sands

As always, we had way too little time to see and do it all, so it would always be a good idea to come back. To find out what other highlights we visited you can check the article I wrote in the Saudi Gazette: “Singapore: A family friendly getaway.”

Gardens by the Bay
Gardens by the Bay
Two waiters in traditional Hijazi (from the west of Saudi Arabia) clothes serving belilah, a snack of chickpeas, pickles, cumin, and vinegar.

Tips for a happy Ramadan

While writing this in the afternoon, I am enjoying having a bottle of water next to me, sipping from it every now and then. Nothing strange, you might think, but for the next 29 or 30 days (depending how long the lunar month is) I will not be able to do this. The Islamic holy month of Ramadan is around the corner: tonight it will begin, meaning we will start fasting from tomorrow.

Ramadan evening in Jeddah's Old Town
Ramadan evening in Jeddah’s Old Town, August 2013

Ramadan is the ninth Islamic month and believed to be the month when Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) received the first revelations of the Qur’an. Muslims worldwide fast during this month from dawn (Fajr prayer, which is before sunrise) to sunset. This entails abstaining from eating, drinking, engaging in sexual relations, and talking or behaving badly.

Iftar (breaking of the fast) at Jeddah's Red Sea Mall, 2013
Iftar (breaking of the fast) at Jeddah’s Red Sea Mall, August 2013

It is the fifth Ramadan since I moved to Saudi Arabia in August 2010, but I haven’t been always here and fasting. In 2012 and 2013, I spent part of it in the Netherlands. However, when I am here, I try to fast, although I must say I don’t find it easy to do so. It’s not even the hunger or thirst that makes it difficult, but rather the boredom and low blood sugar/dehydration that mess with my well-being.

This year, I am determined to not let myself go down. I jotted down six strategies to keep the spirits high, which I would like to share.

1. Keep structure in my life

At work in my office at home (picture courtesy of my mom)
At work in my office at home (picture courtesy of my mom)

Throughout the years, I discovered that I am a person who needs structure. I feel good when I plan my day and get things done. While the month of Ramadan means my daily routine will be completely different (as I won’t eat during the day and most activities will take place during the night) I will try to create a new structure of breaking my fast around 7:10 p.m., do my runs around 9:30/10 p.m., go to bed at 2 a.m., get up for suhoor (the pre-fast meal) at 4 a.m., sleep until 10:30 a.m., write my articles, and prepare iftar in the afternoon (breaking-of-the-fast meal).

2. Eat healhtfully

Iftar (breaking of the fast) table at my mother-in-law's
Iftar table at my mother-in-law’s (picture courtesy of my brother-in-law)

Paradoxically, a big part of Muslims who fast Ramadan actually gain weight during this month. The reason? The sugar- and fat-laden foods usually eaten when breaking the fast. Some think they need to make up for the long hours they fasted and indulge themselves with sweet drinks and meals, while fried foodstuffs (samboosa, anyone?) are often found on the breakfast table as well.

Though I have always been quite careful what I eat during Ramadan, avoiding too many fried things, this year I will guard to eat healthfully and sufficiently, because some years I did not and ended up shivering during the day and losing several pounds. I know, many people would envy me, but for me it is not good to lose weight.

3. Exercise moderately

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Another point to keep in mind this month is to take it easy when it comes to exercise. Again, many people try to get active during this month, picking up a sports routine like walking or swimming, but someone like me who is used to exercising vigorously needs to slow down during this month. A few years ago, I kept running avidly five days a week (despite feeling weaker and weaker) and ended up with anemia. I have already been taking it easy for the last couple of months (let’s say I had some overtraining symptoms), but I will have to continue to do so this coming month. I find it extremely difficult, ’cause I feel so energetic these days, but I will have to be strict with myself and run for not over an hour and stick to a moderate pace. I am thinking I may do some cross-training this month, like swimming and spinning.

4. Keep in touch with family and friends

Going out for dinner with my family
Going out for dinner with my family

For me, personally, Ramadan can be a rather lonely month. Most of my (expat) friends are out of the country for the summer holidays, and spending a lot of time with my in-laws – we usually break the fast at my mother-in-law’s – is fun but also makes me aware how different I am. By keeping in touch with my family and friends back in the Netherlands I am hoping to feel less isolated. I will also (hopefully) use this month to improve my Arabic, which will help me to enjoy my time with locals more.

5. Remember the things I am grateful for

Spain-0868
Holiday in Spain and Portugal, May 2014

Perhaps the single most important thing to do this month is to be grateful. After all, no matter how hungry, thirsty, tired, or bored I am, there are so many things in my life I am grateful for. Remembering these things will cheer me up whenever I feel down. I may try keeping a gratitude journal to remember the little and big things that make me happy once or twice a week (which, researchers say, is more effective than doing it daily).

6. Helping others

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Studies suggest that one of the most effective ways to be happy is to help others or give to charity. I wrote about this today in the Saudi Gazette, which you can read here. In short, not only do happy people spend more money on others; spending money on others also makes people happier. It’s a reinforcing cycle, and I think I may give it a try this year, whether it is helping my mother-in-law preparing iftar or sending a letter to my foster child in Uganda.

Happy Ramadan!

Final Amsterdam 2010

Orange fever in Saudi

Brazil and Saudi Arabia: Could there be a wider gap between any other two countries?  Brazil is known for its lascivious women and crazy parties, while in Saudi the sexes are strictly segregated in most situations.

Luckily, there are the diplomats who are often more than happy to throw in some spice with swinging dance parties and concerts. For the opening of World Cup it was the French Consulate in Jeddah that added a dose of samba – as well as Caribbean and Jamaican rhythms, for that matter.

Caribbean beats at the French Consulate
Caribbean beats at the French Consulate

Soon I will write more about this phenomenal event, but let me just say that it was an amazing party Brazilian style (and probably much better than the official opening ceremony, which many people were disappointed with).

Exotic costumes made the Latino night complete.
Exotic costumes made the Latino night complete.

However, the real party began last night, with the first game of my country: Spain vs. The Netherlands!
Now, I was far from convinced the Dutch had a chance. Not only do I tend to be very critical of my country, my husband and I did some research and saw that the bulk of the squad consisted of players whose name I (which is not that surprising, given my disinterest in football (soccer for you Americans)) nor my husband (who is a huuuuuge football fan) had never heard of!

Husband Ahmed supporting The Netherlands during the final against Spain back in 2010
Husband Ahmed supporting The Netherlands during the final against Spain back in 2010

We are participating in a football poll, in which we had predicted Holland would lose 4-1 against arch enemy Spain.
There is one thing, though, we have to give the Dutch credit to. With their Orange fever taking off over a month before they play the first game, they are one of the most enthusiastic fans of the world. This fever manifests itself in decorating entire streets and houses in orange, wearing orange clothes, and even eating orange foods during the games. Of course, businesses feed this craze by supplying their shops with orange gadgets, hats, sunglasses, cutlery, etc., while supermarket chains (Albert Heijn) give away some orange goodies (Wuppies) that have become world (ok, country) famous.

Orange fever in Amsterdam during the final against Spain 4 years ago
Orange fever in Amsterdam during the final against Spain 4 years ago

Needless to say, our pessimism proved wrong when the Dutch scored their first, second, third, fourth, and finished with a 5-1 score, completely and utterly humiliating the former World Cup champions.

Watching the match with some other Dutch in Jeddah
Watching the match with some other Dutch in Jeddah

The Spanish, perhaps sensing the impending defeat, withdrew to the outside terrace when Holland scored its second goal.
Once the game was over and the Dutch exuberant as if they had just won the final, the Spanish, however, were quick to say they had lost the first game in 2010 as well.
Let’s not spoil their illusions by reminding the Spanish that that game was against Switzerland and only a small (0-1) defeat…

The Spanish withdrew after the first halve to quietly bear their defeat.
The Spanish withdrew after the first half to quietly bear their defeat.

 

Abu Dhabi

What I’ve been up to – April & May

Love coffee? I do, but I also feel I should not be drinking it by the liter. I think what makes me drink it sparingly are all the different – and conflicting! – opinions I read and hear. Some say it’s healthy and full of antioxidants, others say it increases the chance of certain conditions; some say it dehydrates the body, others deny this; there are those who warn against drinking it right after a meal, as it would extract minerals from our body, while others claim coffee contains useful nutrients.

Mmmm, espresso!
Mmmm, espresso!

So I decided to do some research myself and write an article for the newspaper. Wanna know the truth about the black elixir? Read the article.

My work in April and May was pretty much focused on tourism and art. Of course there was that amazing trip to London about which I wrote in my previous post, but also did my write-up about Stockholm come out this month. For some insider tips on this Nothern European capital – hubby and I were shown around by two locals and their cutie pie two-year-old daughter – read the article here.

Stockholm feels like a friendly village on the countryside.
Stockholm feels like a friendly village on the countryside.

While being in London, I managed to squeeze in a visit to an arts and crafts fair, where I met a representative of PR company Gong Muse. Long story short, she had messaged me on Twitter some time before asking if I was interested in covering the London Masterpiece fair (one of the biggest art fairs in the world for those not familiar with the name). Of course I was! I met her in London and did later an interview with Masterpiece CEO Nazy Vassegh, which recently appeared in the Saudi Gazette.

The best of London
The best of London

That Jeddah’s art scene is booming is something I realize more and more, and I am quite proud of it to be honest! I already wrote about the interesting show by Emy Kat to preserve the Old Town of Jeddah; another artist I met was Louis Romero, a French ‘art and steel enthusiast’ who creates sculptures out of metal leftovers, which he founds at the construction company he works for. His exhibition “Metalmorphose” was on display at the French Consulate in April.

"Metalmorphose" by French artist Louis Romero
“Metalmorphose” by French artist Louis Romero

At Athr Gallery, one of Jeddah’s most prominent art spaces, my eye also fell on a fascinating collection of drawings by Syrian cartoonist Ali Farzat when I went there to interview Kat. Although I was unable to meet the artist (he had not been able to come to the country due to visa issues) I thought it was worth writing a story about the satirical drawings that all speak for themselves, and which – surprisingly! – had been approved by the authorities here to be shown to the public.

Haute couture, cuisine & cars: The Italians rocked their party!
Haute couture, cuisine & cars: The Italians rocked their party!

And then there were the Italians, who came up with the crazy idea to organize a major event including everything Italian: food, cars, and fashion. The first two were not a problem, as I’ve written about these things before. The third part, fashion, although not my favorite topic to write about, could be done as well. But how to hide the fact that this Italian haute couture was shown by sleek Arab models dressed in evening gowns? I chose to mention the haute couture part without putting attention on this detail and omit the model pictures. Read the article here.

Not Saudi-newspaper proof!
Not Saudi-newspaper proof!

Other topics I wrote about these two months were an expo that encourages business from home (mainly targeting housewives), Park Hyatt’s yearly roadshow, an e-commerce fashion company, as well as a graphic design senior exhibition at Dar Al-Hekma, a private (and perhaps the best) college in Jeddah.

Graphic Design Senior Exhibition at Dar Al-Hekma
Graphic Design Senior Exhibition at Dar Al-Hekma

Regarding wholesome living topics, I discussed the importance to jump for healthy joints and bones (keep on running!) and burn injuries (they are more common than you may think).

From mid-April, I also travelled for one month (hence this post covers both April and May) and saw some amazing places! I will soon write about them here and for the newspaper, so stay tuned!

Sneak preview of my travels in April and May!
Sneak preview of my travels in April and May! Any idea where this is?
Changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace

A taste of London

“Would you like to go on a trip to London with Brititsh Airways?” asked the PR lady on the phone. I had met her only once, during an interview, but I didn’t need a second to answer her. Of course I would love to go, I replied.

Red phone booths and impressive cathedrals: Here I come, London!
Red phone booths and impressive cathedrals: Here I come, London!

The whole trip would be very short: leaving on Monday morning with the first British Airways four-cabin Boeing 777 and flying back on Wednesday evening. We would fly first-class and stay at the charming and central Langham Hotel, located at the top of Regent Street and right next to the BBC’s Broadcasting House.

Entrance of the Langham Hotel
Entrance of the Langham Hotel

Together with four other journalists and someone from the PR agency I left in the beginning of April to experience another episode of my rich-girl life. The flight was beyond expectations, I could say. Of course I had expected a very comfy journey, but who would have thought I would have a private suite with flat screen, a seat that reclines to a fully flat bed, bed linen, complimentary travel kit full of creams, lotions, and moisturisers, PJs and slippers, power socket and USB port, and an extensive list of à la carte dining options! I was sad the flight lasted only five hours or so.

British Airways First class cabin
British Airways First class cabin

At Heathrow, I bumped into a Saudi lawyer who immediately recognized me. Turned out I had interviewed him about a year ago, when he started a partnership with a British law firm, and he had always wanted to thank me for the good job. It kinda surprised me, because I had just began working as a journalist at that time and had been incredibly nervous every time I interviewed someone and had an article published.

Lovely brekkie at the Langham Hotel
Lovely brekkie at the Langham Hotel

But back to my three days in London. We were picked up by the Langham Hotel, which is a lovely 5-star hotel that radiates Britishness: from the fresh roses brought in every single morning to the wallpaper and furniture, and from the polite staff to the world-famous afternoon tea served daily at the restaurant lobby.

Spring was definitely in the air!
Spring was definitely in the air!

The days in London had not been stuffed with activities, which made it possible for me to do some sightseeing on my own and have a morning run in Regent’s Park. We visited Harrod’s and met charming perfumer Roja Dove, who briefed us with passion about his Aoud collection. Aoud, usually spelled as “oud,” comes from the wood of the tropical Agar tree, originated in India, and is extremely popular in the Middle East.

Roja Dova talking passionately about his Aoud perfumes
Roja Dova talking passionately about his Aoud perfumes

A highlight of the trip, the following day we got the chance to fly in a Boeing 777 flight simulator! Although I had never really felt the ambition to fly a plane, I was so much fun to learn some basics and be able to take off and land the plane safely. And the simulator did feel incredibly real!

Boeing 777 flight simulator
Boeing 777 flight simulator – a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

In between these activities the two other female journalists and I did some shopping (where better to shop than in London?!) and I spent a whole morning running from one monument to another! I managed to see 30 St. Mary Axe (a.k.a. The Gherkin); the Monument, a remembrance to the Great Fire of London of 1666; Leadenhall Market, where aristocratic bankers can be spotted enjoying their lunch; and St. Paul’s Cathedral, built after the Great Fire on top of the Ludgate Hill, the highest point in the city.

In the background: "The Gherkin"
In the background: “The Gherkin” (A very innocent nickname if you ask me!)

Subsequently, I crossed the river on the pedestrian Millennium Bridge, from where I got a glimpse of the Tower of London and the Tower Bridge. On the river’s south bank I saw the reconstructed Globe Theater, where Shakespeare’s playing company used to perform; Tate Modern, Britain’s national museum of modern and contemporary art; and London Eye. Then I crossed the Waterloo Bridge towards the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. I turned right on Whitehall to get a glimpse of 10 Downing Street, the official residence and office of the prime minister, and of Horse Guards Parade right next to it. I ended up at Trafalgar Square, from which I had to hurry back to the hotel for the flight simulation.

What else could this be but London's landmark The Big Ben?
What else could this be but London’s landmark The Big Ben?

While writing this, I can hardly believe I spent only three days (or 2.5 actually, considering we arrived Monday afternoon and left Wednesday evening) in this metropolis, because I did much more than I wrote down! I found the time to see Buckingham Palace’s changing of the guards, take plenty of flower pictures at Green Park, St. James’s Park, and Hyde Park, did a morning run in Regent’s Park (my favourite park by far!), and had a spa treatment at Langham’s spa Chuan.

I can't help myself: I have to take pictures when seeing flowers!
I can’t help myself: I have to take pictures when seeing flowers!
St. James's Park
Squirrel in St. James’s Park

The only thing I did not do (and kind of regret not doing) was go for the afternoon tea at the Langham Hotel. Appearently, this is the best and most famous place for a high tea. The hotel even claims having invented the custom!

Garden in front of Buckingham Palace
Garden in front of Buckingham Palace

Prior to our overnight flight back to Jeddah we enjoyed our time at the luxurious First Class Business Lounge of Heathrow airport. Unfortunately, the spa was already closing its doors, but I enjoyed the restaurant at the lounge. The flight back was as comfortable as the outward trip, although I was sad it was an overnight flight and I was, thus, supposed to spend it sleeping. You can’t blame me I wanted to enjoy my time on the plane!

Naturally, once back in Jeddah I wrote an article about my trip for the Saudi Gazette, which you can read here.

London by night
London by night
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