Archive | August, 2012
31 Aug

Harry and his antics

31 Aug

Celebration of Food

31 Aug

A brilliant treat for ardent foodies, Khan Saab does more than just impress. It leaves a lasting impression even after you have long left its carpeted floors

Before this, I firmly believed that money can’t buy happiness. But my visit to Khan Saab had me re-thinking about that statement. It’s true! Nothing works better on your mood than a plate of the most delectable delicacies.

Now, there is some food that cannot be recreated in any other form except its original and the menu at Khan Saab reads Indian ethnic food, page after page. With the menu quite in place, the ambiance of the restaurant speaks grandness in and around the massive space. Well lit up with candle chandeliers, the expansive dining room is beautifully set up with rich brown teak wood furniture with silver crockery ornamenting each table. A carpeted stairwell (much like the one you have seen in the dining hall in Titanic) takes you to the first floor which is reserved for a large party or get-together.

While sipping on some Badam Thandai which was a concoction of dry fruits and aromatic spices with a spicy after taste, we glanced at the extensive, bookish menu. What stands out at Khan Saab is that it seems to have achieved the right balance in recreating dishes served in the durbars of the emperors of the North-west frontier. The best part about it is that it has an elaborate spread of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes.

To start with, we were served Palak chaat which was fresh spinach leaves dipped in batter and fried to the crisp with a topping of refrigerated yoghurt and flavoured with tamarind chutney and sprinkled with sev. Restrain from filling yourself up with it. The Cheez Subz Di Kurkure was crunchy wheat warq rolls filled with cheese, mushroom and potato.

As we lay back, letting some of the starters settle in, sipping on some more of the Badam Thandai, the crunchy Gosht ke Gappe arrived. Filled with cooked, tender mutton stuffed in a poori, they were quite interesting. Now, Khan Saab is popular for their juiciest kebabs and we didn’t forget to order that. We tried every dish that had kebab at the end. So whether it was the Tunde Kebab which was a mix of exotic spices in patties of meat grounded to perfection or the Malai Chandi Kebab which was char-grilled morsels of flavourful chicken served with lemon juice and melted butter. They were all just simply mouth-watering!

As much as we were stuffed and ready to pass out, the main course looked delectable and definitely worth a try. The Rajwada Raj Gosht, a delicacy from Rajasthan had succulent pieces of lamb soaked in a flavourful, thick gravy served with a condiment of butter naan.

Satisfied and much rounder at the end of our gluttonous ordeal, it’s guaranteed that you need an unlimited appetite if you choose to dine at Khan Saab. Bon apetit!

THE JEWEL OF THE RED SEA

31 Aug

Pillar of Faith: The powerful silhouette of this mosque, one of three set as pavilions along the corniche of Jeddah, facing the Red Sea

The undisputed commercial capital of Saudi Arabia, Jeddah is not only known for food and shopping but also for its warm hospitality

Being brought up in Jeddah and living there for 18 years has made me understand the culture and norms of an Islamic city which is clouded in constant doubt. So this post is an account of my personal experiences over the years and is more of a travelogue for tourists who wish to the jewel of the Red Sea.

Not only the oldest but the second largest city in the Kingdom, Jeddah, when literally translated means “grandmother”. Spread along the coast of the Red Sea and connected by the Corniche which is nearly 30kms long, Jeddah is one of the country’s most liberal and cosmopolitan of destinations. Whether you are taking a stroll down by the seaside or smoking shisha in one of the many cafes, you will find that Jeddah has a very laid-back and relaxed feel. With a major foreign influence, it comes as no surprise that Jeddah offers a wealth of lavish shopping and dining opportunities.

WHAT YOU CAN DO IN JEDDAH

There are a whole bunch of activities to do while you are in Jeddah, whether you are visiting the city with family or friends. Children can never get bored as Jeddah has a variety of theme parks like At­allah Happy Land Park or Al-Sha­llal, which has everything from a double looped roller coaster to an Olympic-sized ice rink. Apart from theme parks, scuba diving is a favourite activity not just for Saudis but for expats as well. Desert Sea Divers in Obhur which is about 40km north of Je­ddah is the oldest and largest diving spot. If you are interested to spend the holidays on the coast, then there are a whole lot of private beaches at Durrat-ul-Arous, Desert Sea Divers, Al-Nakil, Salhia etc.

SHOPPING

A bit of both: The old city of Al-Balad is situated to the south of the Corniche. It is famous for fantastic gold souks, perfumes, latest gadgets and clothes

This one’s for the ladies exclusively! You might think but Jeddah has something for men too. One of the biggest and most famous marketplaces in Jeddah is Al-Balad (Old Town) within which you will find an array of ancient buildings which house tiny markets offering the latest gadgets, clothes and shoes. If you are looking for a more modern shopping experience, it wouldn’t be too hard to find. The city is packed to the brim with extravagant malls like Aziz Mall,Tahliya Mall, Mall of Arabia, Andalus mall etc.

NIGHTLIFE

If you are looking for a nightlife that revolves around alcohol, then you would be highly disappointed. What Jeddah really offers is shisha cafes, lounges and internationally recognised, coffee houses like Starbucks, Costa Coffee and Barnies.

RESTAURANTS

Jeddah boasts of some of the world’s best cuisines and also has most of the American Fast Food franchises like Subway, Applebees, Chillies,Tony Roma’s and Burger King. The most popular of them all, however, is Al-Baik which serves the best crispy-fried chicken in the world! Shawarma is also quite popular. It is chicken/lamb/beef with garlic sauce wrapped in pita bread.

BEST MONTHS TO TRAVEL – December to April

THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND

  1. The Religious Police, or muttawas, do not allow for public displays of religion by non-Muslims. Do not wear any religious symbols or icons, this may find you behind bars.
  2. Foreign men do not have to conform to special attire, but those visitors with long hair should expect to attract unwanted attention.
  3. Insulting the royal family or the king can result in a death penalty. Severe restrictions apply to women including being prohibited from driving, and foreign females are expected to abide by the same rules.
  4. All women (foreign or national) are required to wear an abaya (a long black robe) or a headscarf. The wearing of these items will minimise the amount of harassment you get from the muttawas (religious police).
  5. All businesses close for prayer for about half an hour at noon and at sunset.

HOW TO OBTAIN A VISA TO JEDDAH

Hajj visas are only available during the month of Hajj but Umrah visas are available all year round. Tourists may need to check the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website at http://www.mofa.gov.sa for guidelines when applying for a visa and the form needs to be filled out in Arabic. However, non-muslims are not allowed in the cities of Makkah and Madinah which are considered as the holy cities by Muslims.

A NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM

30 Aug

The Louvre Museum in Paris, France was voted as the most visited museum in a recent survey that was conducted by the Art Newspaper. The museum gained even more prominence after it was mentioned extensively in Dan Brown’s bestselling novel, The Da Vinci Code.

I am going to be taking a look at some of the other museums that I have visited which are known for their grand architecture and wide collections of artifacts from around the world.

1. Musee Du Louvre, Paris

Thousands of tourists flock to see her captivating smile that has been the topic of discussion for many a debate group. Even if Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa isn’t all that you want to see, the Louvre has seemingly endless galleries filled with scientific artifacts and artistic masterpieces. Arguably the world’s most famous museum, an estimated 8.5 million streamed through the Louvre last year making it the world’s most visited museum.

2. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

With more than five million  visits last year, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, one of the most popular of tourist attractions, boasts of some of the greatest works of art. The museum houses approximately two million individual objects as its massive list of curatorial departments has something for everyone.

3. British Museum, London

One of London’s top attractions, this museum was established in 1753 with 71,000 objects donated by Sir Hans Sloane. The number of items on display is so large that it took me more than a day to explore the museum. What mainly attracted me to the British Museum was that the entry was free.

4. Centre Pompidou, Paris

The Centre has amazed and delighted visitors since its inception in the year 1977, not only because of its collection but also for its radical architectural statement. The museum puts on display the works of some of the most famous artists of the 20th century modern art such as Chagall, Miro, and Picasso to name a few.

5. National Gallery, London

The museum had close to 5 million tourists popping in last year to view Western European classics by renowned artists of the 13th to 19th centuries like Van Gogh, Renoir, Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo which are displayed at the National Gallery on Trafalgar Square, which is one of the busiest tourist places in London.

6. Musee d’Orsay, Paris

Considered as the most visitor-friendly museums in the world, the Musee d’Orsay is located in a historic railroad station made of iron and glass. Its collections date from 1848 right through World War I and some of it is even loaned out to other museums. The other attractive feature of the museum is the panoramic rooftop view from the terrace.

7. National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

The National Gallery of Art is one of the world’s most pre-eminent museums and houses the work by some of Europe and America’s most renowned artists. Open to public free of charge, the collection at the museum traces the development of Western art from the Middle Ages to the present and also includes the only painting by Leonardo Da Vinci in the Americas.

8. National Museum of Korea, Seoul

A preserver of Korean cultural heritage, the National Museum of Korea has about 150,000 pieces on display. It also has a Children’s Museum which works around the theme, “An Exciting Journey into the Past”. It is probably the only museum in the world which allows children to touch and play instruments used in rituals and even try on steel armours there.

9. National Palace Museum, Taipei

Located inside the Forbidden City in China, the National Palace Museum in Taipei had roughly 3 million tourists last year. The museum is home to rare pieces of Chinese art treasures and displays China’s nearly 5000-year history with the help of 620,000 artifacts.
10. Tate Modern, London

Set up in the year 2000 by transforming a disused power station, the Tate Modern in London is probably the trendiest of all the art museums on the list. A national gallery of international modern art, it is part of the four Tate galleries which comprises collections from the late 1500’s to the present day. Works of most of Britain’s modern artists may be found at Tate Modern and Tate Britain.