Arab heritage in the heart of Singapore

I am back to Singapore for the 3rd time this month, ready to follow up with my sightseeing plan even though I know already that will be difficult to find a colleague ready to join my new adventure.

Exactly how I predicted, once I disclosed my little secret, my work mates start laughing and nobody seemed to take me seriously enough: “Arab street? You came all this way to see the Arab street? Are you not tired of arabs?”
I decided to ignore the sarcastic comments and wearing my pink dress that I brought special for this occasion I am rushing down to the lobby excited to start a day full of colors and creativity.
Surprisingly, on the last moment three other colleagues showed interested in my plan, curious or maybe out of ideas while in Singapore, waiting for me downstairs, ready to discover a culture so familiar to them but placed in a different context, in the heart of the Asian world.

Arab quarter located in the heart of Singapore

First thing that welcomes us once we step out of the taxi is the beautiful Masjid Sultan Mosque, which gives the place a magical touch.

A bunch of muslims (arabs, turks, indians and singaporian) are gathered outside of the mosque waiting for the daily prayer, united not by nationality, appearance nor even by the same language but by the common beliefs and divinity.
For the tourists, the 200 years old mosque framed by palm trees impress by its size and beautiful design, taking them in the mystical journey of middle eastern tales of Scheherazade, Aladdin and other fictional characters.

The shops around the mosque display a wide variety of brightly colored fabrics and Persian carpets but despite the fairy tales, the rugs dont seems to master any supernatural powers and disappointed I am forced to continue my journey by feet and not floating around on top of a magical carpet.

In contrast with the other areas of Singapore, the Arab neighborhood seems a little bit messy and unattended with hundred waste bins aligned on the tiny colorful streets and beggars trying to win some coins so essential for survival.
Shocking discovery for a country where chewing gum or smoking on the street is totally prohibited and the economy its in full blossom.

Two of my colleagues returned to the hotel immediately, probably regreting their decision to accompany me in a place which cant compete with the fame of the marvelous Marina Bay sands and its gardens, being rarely included in the “must see” list of the regular tourists.

I am not giving up just yet, having a little bit more sense of adventure and curiosity, I continue my sightseeing with the graffitis covering the walls of restaurants and shops, the main point of attractions and the perfect background for some good Instagram pictures.

Fancy manicure, a place to “die for” or just a fresh fish in the Mad sailors restaurant? That’s the perfect place!

Buy me coffee…Make me coffee…Be coffee

By far my favorite art mural is a huge creation hidden somewhere behind a parking lot, describing a busy day of an Arabic coffee shop and the perfect formula used to create the aromatic liquid which my life depends on a daily basis.

Western food and beers on Arab territory

Not long after, we stop for a quick dinner and I have a hard time choosing something from the menu, Singaporean food being the last on my preference list, always tasteless, weird and overpriced. I exhale relaxed when I find few western options and I order the buffalo chicken wings but I am about to regret my choice with the first bite, the wings being covered not in a buffalo sauce but with a tick layer of bbq ketchup.
All the restaurants in the area are serving alcohol which is a little bit surprising being the fact that we are on an Arab “territory” where the alcohol is considered “haram” (big sin). I am not complaining thought and without thinking twice I am ordering a Corona to help me extinguish the unpleasant taste of my meal.

On the other side of the road, beautiful decorated restaurants with oriental motifs are inviting the costumers to taste delicious arabic and turkish delights and I can never say NO to a warm, creamy plate of Kunafeh and a strong black tea.

Singapore, the international hub of love, respect and acceptance

Singapore managed to develop one of the most harmonious society of the world, where people with different nationality, religion and belifs have learned to live in peace, exchange customs, ideas and learn from one another.
Little India and China town are just few steps away from the Arab quarter and once again this beautiful open minded country is proving that acceptance and integration between different comunities strengthens personal identities, making the world a better place.

Louvre Abu dhabi, a place beyond imagination

UAE government came out with the brilliant idea of opening a replica of the most famous museum of the world, Louvre, right in the middle of the desert. With a final cost of 2 billion dollars and 24.000 square meters in size, Abu dhabi invites the art passionate from all over the world to visit the largest and the most luxurious art museum ever built in the Arabian peninsula.
The museum’s design combine the elegance of the past with the luxury of the present, representing a floating dome with an web pattern which allows the sun to filter inside the inner courtyard, resembling rays of sunlight passing through date palm leaves in an oasis.

Taking advantage of my friend’s visit in town, I decided to surprise them, spending the weekend not in a coffee shop or a mall but in the middle of impressive masterpieces of contemporary and modern design, divided chronologically from prehistory to the present in 12 art galleries.

“Everything you imagine is real”~Picasso

After skipping the line with our online tickets (60dh per person) we step on the “world stone carpet” covering the floor of the first Art gallery, chamber which illustrate the great importance that humanity always showed to the most cruel stage of existance: Death.

Gold funerary masks, houses of the dead and other burial objects were used by the mankind since the oldest time trying to obtain their immortality when faced with death.
Today, after more than 3000 years, the humans seems to not have changed much, still trying to buy their after life comfort either by building imposing graves or by taking with them gold coins or other objects which will guarantee the necessary bribe for what may come after life.

“Does gold confer eternal life liberating our existence from the finite realm? Gold glows in the gloom of tombs but only bones have been found behind these masks.”

The greatest symbolism regarding the after life is found with no doubt in the ancient Egyptian culture were dead bodies were mummified and prepared for their journey to the afterworld, trip considered full of dangers.
Henuttawy(950-900BC), one of the Egyptian queens found her eternal peace in a beautiful sarcophagi, imprinted with symbols and holy decorations which may have not confer her immortality but definitely brought her lot of fame and admirers under the roof of the Louvre museum.

The great statues of Ramses II and the stale of Tutankhamun representing his offerings to the god Osiris are attracting the visitors like a magnet captivating with their mystery and customs even the most advanced civilization of the modern world.

~Ramses II~

~Stale of Tutankamun~~Osiris, God of the underworld~

“The world doesnt make any sense so why should I paint pictures that do?”~Picasso

Leaving the land of dead behind we approach the Victorian era when drama was a developing form of art and the great artists maintained their own “immortality” over the time, through their great creations.
One of the most admired painting covering the walls of the Louvre brings a smile on the visitors face when associated with the famous comedy show “Mister Bean” in which Whistler’s mother lost her face in a terrible incident.

Now the atmosphere inside of the museum is more relaxed as we are stepping inside the Modern art gallery much more abstract but closer to our understanding. Let’s be honest, 90% of the Louvre visitors are young people with no clue about art but with a high enthusiasm in discovering new things and shoot some great instagram pictures.

“There is only one difference between art and science. In science, the Universe is in control. In Art, you are.” Harry Kroto, Nobel prize in chemistry

Distancing themselves from the academic conventions, the modern artists implemented a more creative approach to express their artistic view over the life, using powerful mix of colors and abstract patterns. The talent is being replaced by creativity and the result may be disappointing for the traditional art critics but this form of art is getting more and more popularity among the young population being more affordable than any Picasso or Rembrandt and easier to assimilate.
I have no clue what the artists were trying to recreate in those modern paintings but my “professional eye” suggest that we are talking about….
• a great DNA sample from a mosquito battlefield
• a couple sitting naked on a bench on a first date
• a cricket playing his ballad in a metro station
• a group of drunk aliens taking a selfie

My friends found another funny meanings for each painting and laughing out loud we are moving forward to the main point of attraction, “The fountain of light”. The chandelier was created in 2016 by the artist Ai Weiwei from China using steel and glass crystals.
Oh God, It would look so good in my living room even though I doubt the authenticity of Chinese stones (hey Weiwei, I was just kidding).
We are rushing towards the inner courtyard where warm rays of winter sun are penetrating the web ceiling, creating one of the most beautiful painting of all, a game of shadows and rain of light. Since the opening, the visitors tried to find the most appropriate description for the 180 meters canopy which covers the museum; some would say it resemble a dome, a cupola, a space frame or even a bird nest while others would find a more powerful meanings, “a fingerprint which touches water”.

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of every day life”~Picasso

We end up this amazing visit with a photoshoot session outside of the museum, in the beautiful park with a magnetic view over the city.
Everything about Lovre impress; from the imposing architecture created by Jean Nouvel, the extensive collection of mix culture, the cocktail of ancient and modern believes until the perfect location chosen right in the middle of an artificial island, surrounded by sea, palm trees and modern skyscrapers.
The perfect way to purify your mind and soul!

Gone with the Wind(mills)

Windmills used to be one of the most famous landmarks of Netherlands, fighting in present to win the unfair competition with the modern touristic attraction like the Red light district, the famous Madame Tussauds, or other museums less artistic, dedicated exclusive to the adults.

Over the time, the windmills cluttered in the center of the capital Amsterdam were slowly relocated to the suburbs where the wind conditions were more favorable, making space to the countless cafeterias where the joints of marijuana are smoked freely and legally and to the nasty shops which display a wide varieties of condoms and other sexual toys for the foreigners and locals delight.

Zaanse Schans, an open air museum dedicated to the windmills

Only eight historical windmills were preserved and today stand beautifully aligned next by a lake in Zaanse Schans, a small town located 30 minutes away from Amsterdam.

Stepping out of the train I am entering the magic land of a fairytale, wandering the cobblestones streets in a warm sunny day of October. The smell of fresh baked bread, wooden houses and green fields are inviting me to discover the life style of 18th and 19th century.

Around the corner, De Goyer, one of the most iconic and oldest mill of Amsterdam is welcoming the tourists for the past 300 years, tempting them with the best beer in Amsterdam, brewed just next door.

Excited, I continue my journey and I am not disappointed at all when, over the bridge, I discover few other mills gracious dancing in the wind.
If in the past the windmills used to serve various purposes from grinding different grains (including the mustard, the favorite dutch condiment) to preventing the city from the floods, in present their activity is resumed to office work (like De Bloem) or just enchanting the tourists.

Local cafeterias, cheese factories and clog museums (dutch famous wooden shoes) are opening their doors for the visitors who decide to spend an enjoyable day in the middle of the nature.

“Too much bread and …we are dead”

The little ones (but not only) are delighted and jump restless from a place to another, playing inside of the giant shoes or feeding the poor goats who are overwhelmed not only by the bread ingested but also by the attention received, always looking cute and ready for pictures.

A journey of a thousands miles begins with a fabulous pair of…clogs

Few noisy scholars are writing their homework inside the Clog museum under the close supervision of their teachers and what can be more pleasant than a quiz where all the answers can be found behind a showcase filled with history about…shoes.

Traditional clogs are still used in present in agriculture and in some factories to prevent the mud from touching the feet being often associated with cheap footwear wore by the farmers in the past. However new, modern clogs are considered fashionable today and can be very expensive especially if they are covered with Swarovski or other precious stones.

The heaven of shoes is just one step away and its so charming for the tourists who cant leave Netherlands without the right pair of clogs or…for those with strict baggage allowance at least with some miniature keys chains.

The beautiful town across the Zaan river

Some nasty clouds are taking over the sun, reminding me that weather can be unpredictable during autumn and I decide to return to the hotel but not before paying a short visit to the mystical town radiating its beauty in magnetic waves from the other side of the lake.
Here, the atmosphere change completely, the foreigners giggles being replaced with a deep, mesmerizing… silence. I can almost hear the soft autumn breeze, the leafs losing the battle with life and laying now hopeless on the pavement.

Inside the homes, same heaven continues its existence and I find myself invading the perfect world of the residents with my curious gaze through the window.
I notice a couple having lunch, him holding her hand over the table, she radiating of happiness while the bottle of champagne its waiting patient to be replaced with a new one. The piano remain silent in one corner of the dining room, completing the perfect picture of a loving family in a regular day of October.
Few yards away, a young lady is laying lazy on the couch reading a book and slowly sipping from her coffee while a whole library covering the walls of the room is waiting to be browsed.
Another house…another story and I am floating back to the train station, like a thief who just stole a precious moment from totally stranger’s life.
I am woken up by the train whistle approaching the station and I step back on the carriage, leaving behind this wonderful world of peace and love so different from the noisy capital Amsterdam.

Flying to the fairy land

Its such an amazing feeling to live in a hot country when other parts of the world are freezing cold…

When I was little I’ve been told that even birds are running from the winter, migrating to the “warm countries” but at that time I thought “warm countries” represent a fairy land and not a real place on the map. My parents and teachers never named those places maybe not to destroy the mysticism or simply because they never asked themselves this question: “Where are the warm countries?” Few days ago I asked my mother: “Mom did you ever wonder where the birds migrates for winter?” After few moments of deep thoughts she answered me dry “No, they never told us”.
Almost 30 years of my life I ignored this matter myself, being too busy or to careless to find an answer. Every October I observed the number of pigeons multiplying on the beaches and streets of Abu Dhabi and I even heard stories of magical pink flamingos wandering the desert.
I am blessed to live in the fairy land of the warm countries where hundred species of birds find their refuge every winter.
Sharing my little friends antipatie for rainy, cloudy days I find myself relaxing under the gentle sun of November with no desire to return to my cold, grey country, Romania.

Seychelles…the land of dreams and happiness

I turn on the other side and place my head on his chest. Close by, the sleepless waves are hitting the shore and I am smilling in my dream…he played again the Youtube video which makes us sleep like babies, I am thinking, half awake. I open my eyes and I don’t recognize the place…it’s certainly not our room but some kind of old ship beautiful decorated with white sails, wooden bars and fancy rags. My heart is filled with happiness, invaded by feelings which are out of this world. Whatever this place is, it must be something magical about it and no doubt we are trapped by its spell.

Between dream and reality

A gentle sunshine is caressing my face and I know its time to wake up. My love is still sleeping next to me and I shake him hard: “Wake up babe, we are in Seychelles”.

I open the glass door and I step carefully on the wooden stairs..the beach is just in front of me and without hesitation I let my feet drowing in the sand. The waves are crashing on the rocks and I smile…it wasnt just a beautiful dream nor a Youtube video. The birds are performing their daily symphonie and I could listen to their song forever if Abdulla would have not call me for breakfast.

Breakfast with style

The restaurant is decorated in the same style with large white beds and hanging shells. We find a good table with sea view, just perfect to start our first day in Seychelles. While we are busy picking up the fruits for the breakfast, two naughty birds are already savourating a delicious croissant that I left careless on the table. I cant help but laughing of their “rudeness” and I offer them other items from the menu making sure that my new winged friends are enjoying a full complimentary service.

We spend the rest of the day in the natural pool of Bliss boutique hotel which is actualy a part of the sea surronded by huge stones and palms, filled with colorful fish, until the sun goes down….orange sky, noisy fruit bats circling around in search of fresh mango, a glass of wine and then…

….and then the stars, million shining stars piercing the black sky. I pay particular attention to one, the most shiny but the most isolated and I keep wondering how can it be so beautiful but so lonely in the same time?

The tour of Heaven

Next day in the morning we plan a tour on Mahe island. Paradisiac beaches, waterfalls, stunning panoramic views are waiting for us and we dont want to miss a thing.
First stop is the colorful hindu temple of the god Vinayagat. The old temple represent an important attraction for the tourists and the place of worship for more than 5000 hindus living on the island.
Surprisingly Seychelles is majority Catholic and our driver proudly wearing a big cross over his tshirt insist that we should also visit “The cathedral of our lady of immaculate conception”, the largest church in Seychelles. I am a little bit sceptic while Abdulla is over excited so I accept to visit the cathedral and I am not disappointed at all. While the inside impress just by its stained windows and the huge statues of biblical characters, the outside is absolutly heavenly. A big wooden door take us to a quiet, contemplative garden with a view over the Priests houses, considered to be one of the most impressive construction of the island.

Driving towards the Botanical garden, we make a last stop to the oldest historical landmark of the country, ironically named “Little Big Ben”, a small copy of the famous clock of London. The tower clock was built in 1903 to honor the Queen Victoria who colonized the island and saved the country from slavery and poverty.

The old giant turtles

Right now I am impatient to meet the giant turtles, the beautiful creatures which populates the island of Seychelles. From September to March the female turtles drag themselves in a choosen beach where they dig a nest using their hind flippers, carefuly placing their eggs inside. Unfortunately its the end of labor season and our only chance to see the turtles is the Botanical garden.

We found one pretty easy, just on the entrance of the garden. It seems quite big and slow in the same time. We move on quick as the era of dinos is long gone and this beautiful dummy cant fool anyone.
It did fool us in a different way thought…instead of following the path indicated by the turtle we choose to walk in the opposite direction and here we are lost in the beautiful park with plenty of crooked alleys and dead ends on a hot summer day.

We almost give up on hope when finally an welcome signage announce the turtles island.
Regardless of their reputation as “slow animals”, the turtles are in fact quite fast when it comes to their favorite food and in just few seconds I am surronded by a whole squad of hungry turtles of all ages, ready to seize not only the tasty leaf from my hand but also the veil of my dress.


Coco de mer, the hidden tresure of Seychelles

We are about to leave the Botanical garden when we almost step on an weird “coconut” which resemble more with an ugly human butt other than a delicous fruit. Coco de mer or the sexual coconut represent the natural tresure of Seychelles and the largest seed in the plant kingdom (it can reach up to 42 kg) and became highly prized over the time due to his shocking human resemblance. The naughty story of the coconut is far from being over as the female Coco de mer has an even more sexual looking partner (during its inflorescence)…the male coconut.

The Paradise has a name: Seychelles

We leave behind the crazy coconut life and the crowded capital city, Victoria driving towards the south part of the island where the real Paradise is opening its gates for us.

Down the road, a colorful stand of “innocent” coconut is inviting the tourists to enjoy its delicious liquor in an unforgettable scenery. A well deserved hydration break before our next stop…the waterfall.

There is not much to say about the waterfall…the terrain is difficult, the stones are slippery and not only once I was one step away of falling into the river. The water is shallow during this period and if I would have got my swimming suit I could happily enjoy an afternoon bath together with the other tourists who were more inspired than us.
Our “waterfall guide”, a young boy who just passed his puberty is sharing with Abdulla the story of his life, being the only one supporting his family while his brothers and friends all ended up in jail for drug traffic or robbery.  I like the guy but he becomes annoying at one point for being so talkative. In fact it supposed to be a romantic visit not a man to man talk. I forgive him thought after he makes us an unexpected goodbye gift: a natural cinamon bark that he just removed from a three.

Bat curry, a delicacy of the creole cuisine

The day is far to end but we are already exhausted and hungry. Abdulla suggest that we should try the local food and the driver promiss to take us to the best restaurant in town but not before of warrning us about the owner’s impolite behaviour. We need to speed up as the restaurant is open only from 10:00-14:00 daily and we dont want to be kicked out by the boss before we finish our lunch.
Notorious and overpriced , the restaurant is far from beying fancy, the food is weird and the staff very rude. The owner who is also “part time” chef is sitting grumpy on a table and doesnt seems in mood to cook today. He answers with a cold “pas bon” (not so good) when the habitual costumers are trying to engage him in a conversation and he is going mad when a familly of tourists are trying to take his parking lot. Our driver is giving us a complice look together with a smile: “I’ve told you…”
Meanwhile, a bored waitress is trowing the menu on the table asking us in french “what we want”, while she checks her watch impatiently. I am trying to find something edible in the multitude of the exotic dishes, most of them prepared in cury style: octupus (the house speciality), chicken, bat wings…yes right the small creatures of the night are hunted and used as source of food in Seychelles since the slavery period. If in the past the locals used to hit the bats with rocks until they felt dead on ground, in present nets and hooks allow bats to be caught, skinned and curried. The fruit bat is a delicacy in the creole cusine and I am most willing to experience it but I change my mind after Abdulla comes with scary stories about the diseas carried by those tiny “vampires” of the sky.

We decided on something more familiar: chicken curry, rice, tuna steak and creole sauce. I totally dislike the food but I am trying not to offend our driver who seems to be delighted with his choice. I fill my stomach mostly with rice and coke, we thank the staff for their “kindness” and run away of this place…for forever.

Ending our visit in Mahe

We end our journey with a tea factory visit and the panoramic view point, located up on a hill in the north side of the island. From here we can admire not only the beautiful Mahe in all its splendor but also Praslin and La digue, the second largest islands from the archipelago.

Madly in love with this place we are thinking seriously to extend our holiday for few more days and without paying a second thought, we book right away our plane tickets to Praslin.

New day, new destination: Praslin

Air Seychelles is ready for boarding but we cant leave the small domestic terminal before watching the safety video, a legal requirment even for the short 10 minutes flight over the Indian ocean.

With less than 12 seats, no hostess nor a cockpit door, the motto of the company seems to be “we totally trust our passengers”.
I am scared and agitated like everytime when I face a situation out of my confort zone but Abdulla tries to calm me down by setting the timer on his phone: “Its just 10 minutes flight baby, you wont even fell it”.

He is right about that and after exactly 10 minutes, the light aircraft finally touch down the runway and we are over happy to start a new chapter of this amazing holiday.

Coco de mer hotel, Praslin

Once we reach our hotel, Coco de Mer, we are welcomed with delicious cold cocktails and invited to have a seat on the lobby until the check in formalities will be over.


Its already evening and the tourists, well dressed are joining the special dinner organized by the hotel with different theme every night. Today is Creole buffet followed by a local show and even if we had a bad experience with the national food of Seychelles we decide to give it one more try.
After dinner, the artists are waving their body in the rithm of African music and I dont hesitate when the girls invite me to join them. Even if the dance is not one of my passion I am stealing few of their moves and by the end of the night, encouraged by my performance and few glasses of Proseco, I am making plans with Abdulla to not leave this island anymore.

If not for a lifetime at least for the next 4 days, Coco de mer will become our lovely home and we are planning to enjoy every moment spent in here. In fact it would be impossible to get bored with so many activities offered by the hotel: gym, library, watersports, cycling, massage, games, pool and amazing cocktails served in the Mango bar, the perfect mix for an unforgettable holiday.

The weather is a little bit whimsical and not only once it make us run for shelter when the bright sun is suddenly replaced with an angry tropical storm. It doesnt last for long thought and after half an hour of heavy rain, the sky is cleared up even more blue and shinny than before.

Relaxing day at the hotel SPA

Today we will let ourselves spoiled with a full facial and couple massage, ending our holiday in a perfect environment, a beautiful SPA above the sea. Meenasree is our host today and after being welcomed with a delicious cocktail made of cinamon and orange, we are asked to fill a questionnaire which seems weird in the beginning but will make so much sense later on. Based on our date of birth, Meenasree is choosing the right essence to create the perfect balance between the mind and the body. My element is Earth while Abdulla’s is Sky, we are total opposite (Ying and Yang) but we complement each other perfectly.
We end up the massage session with a romantic bath in coconut milk, flowers and lot of bubbles and we leave the place not only energized but also with a new friend, Meenasree, a pure hearted person always surrounded by positive energy and good thoughts.

Its almost sunset time and we are rushing to catch the marvelous show offered by the nature which lasts for almost two hours.  The great Painter is mixing harmoniously a whole palette of colors, setting the sky “on fire” and leaving us wordless until the night  is taking over with her black, mysterious veil.

Time to say goodbye

Our holiday has come to the end and its time to say goodbye, leaving behind the Paradise with sadness but greatful for the great moments spent in here. The taxi is waiting for us but before, I need to say goodbye to some little friends that I meet during this trip, wondering…will they ever remember me?