A Retrospective

As 2015 comes to a close, it’s time for Longhorns and Camels to come to a close, too.

I started the blog FIVE years ago when we moved to Dubai. I can’t think of many things I’ve done consistently for five years! I wrote it for my family and friends to answer all those questions about what it was like to live in the Middle East. I wrote it for myself to remember those fascinating little details that easily escape us when time erases them from memory. But most of all, I wrote it for my kids. I wanted them to have a thoughtful account of our time abroad that would hopefully encourage them to revisit our experiences from an adult perspective when they grow up.

Even though they didn’t appear on the blog much, my kids were such a huge part of getting blog ideas published. They were in the backseat while I stalked gardeners. They got their heads bonked by my camera while they dangled from my chest in a baby carrier. They patiently waited when I would suddenly park the car to jump out and take a photo. They sweat in strollers, scampered through burning hot sand, and endured countless car trips when I turned the wrong way and got lost – all in the name of a good photo. Thank you little ones for not complaining (too much) and having so much patience with your camera crazy mother!

And to anyone who read, liked or commented on posts publicly and privately – thank you! I never thought of myself as a “blogger” and didn’t do too much to promote the blog so was always very grateful anytime someone visited my tiny home on the internet and took the time to read. I started out a bit skeptical of the whole thing but ended up amazed by readers’ friendly and encouraging attitude and by the immense talent and creativity of other bloggers. Some of my “blogging friends” have moved on over the years and we’ve lost contact, but I still send out best wishes to them, wherever they may be now. Some are still dedicated to their craft and have many more stories to tell. Looking forward to continue following your adventures.

Longhorns and Camels brought me all sorts of interesting and unexpected experiences. I met and interviewed a famous chef. I got to see my name and blog’s name printed in a published book. I was contacted by House Hunters International to see if I was interested in appearing on their show. (Ha! Did you know it’s filmed after-the-fact? There’s no way I could pull that off!). More importantly though, blogging inspired me to get out and learn about the new country I called home and encouraged me to learn more about photography. Overall, it was such a positive experience.

Since I’ve repatriated and have now been home for more than a year, the reasons I started the blog are no longer applicable, so it’s time to say goodbye. I’m including some of my favorite photos and moments from the UAE below – a sort of Longhorns and Camels retrospective. :)

Happy New Year everyone! 2016 – a new year, a new start!

Please keep in touch. You can find me at my etsy shop or on instagram.

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Top Dubai Souvenirs and Gift Ideas

thAre you looking for a unique souvenir to bring to family and friends?


gift clip art

Do you want to give something special to a friend who is moving away? (and we all know how often that happens!)


plane clip art

Are you repatriating and looking for something meaningful to bring home to remind you of your time in the UAE?

christmas tree clip art
Are you doing early Christmas shopping and need ideas?


Think beyond the pashmina! Check out my list for some gift-giving, souvenir-buying inspiration:


1. Imprints at Home and Away – my etsy shop that features prints of the UAE and neighboring Gulf countries. Click here.

Bastakiya 5x7


2. I love the retro vibe of the posters of High Life Dubai and how they illustrate so many quintessential Dubai experiences. Even though I know they are tongue-in-cheek, some of the prints of those unsavory Dubai attitudes are hard for me to laugh at; however, most of them are funny and really unique. Chances are you’ll find one with your favorite Dubai activity or characteristic. (To read a CNN article about the prints and artist, click here.)


High Life Dubai by artist Clare Napper

3. Gallery One (with many branches located throughout the city) has lots of wall art options. My favorite was this montage of little camels, each cut out with different paper (most of which have an Arabic vibe to them). The variety of paper represents the diversity of Dubai, and the lone camel wandering off in the other direction reminds us that someone is always leaving. Perfect for a going away present. (If it’s not available at Gallery One anymore, check out the Peas in a Pod website for more info.)



4. I recently saw this bookshelf on Instagram and fell in love. It spells ‘read’ in Arabic.



5. Gulf Photos Plus offers prints for sale including some unique shots of the UAE. Check them out online here or at their location in Al Quoz. (note that not all prints featured are of the UAE. Browse through the listing to find them.)

Photography by Nima Moghimi. Print available at Gulf Photo Plus

Photography by Nima Moghimi. Print available at Gulf Photo Plus


I’m a coffee table book junkie. I probably have too many, but feel like I can never have enough. I really liked the following:

6. Forty Three Photographers. This book was printed to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the founding of the UAE. It features the work of forty-three different photographers, as the title suggests, and includes a really broad pictorial representation of the UAE. The official description follows: “Following the region’s journey from the Trucial States to the UAE, this book captures the UAE’s land and people, its past and present, its harmonies and paradoxes, and above all, the quintessential Emirati spirit that lives within each of its people.”  The book is available online at Booksarabia and in bookstores in Dubai. (Note that the book was available with several different covers, so it may look different from the photo below.)

43 photographers image

7. Children of the Sun: Growing up in the Gulf (Parts 1 and 2) These books are written for children and include simple poems alongside beautiful pictures. Admittedly, it is a privileged childhood the books describe, but they feature a range of experiences from mundane to exciting. A few of the many topics covered are bringing home a new baby from the hospital, Christmastime in the desert, laborers and new construction, local holidays and traditions, after-school activities, dune-bashing, wildlife found in the region, etc. A great souvenir if you raised children in the city or have children back home to buy for. I bought my copies at Magrudy’s. Hopefully they are still available!



8. Stranger: A photography book by Magnum photographer Olivia Arthur. A fascinating and creative pictorial representation of Dubai, but definitely not the most beautiful or flattering. In her photos, Olivia Arthur imagines how a survivor of a 1961 shipwreck, returning to Dubai 50 years later, might interpret daily scenes from the city. The photos portray a futuristic and alienating city and express an interesting perspective of the rapid pace of development in the city. A signed copy is available in the Magnum bookshop online here.


9. The Flavours of Arabia: Cookery and Food in the Middle East. I’m sure Dubai food bloggers would have better recommendations for a cookbook, but I love this one because it would look just as beautiful on your coffee table as on your kitchen shelf. In addition to wonderful recipes, the book includes beautiful, enticing photos, a map, and very informative text about food traditions of each region featured. There are chapters devoted to Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Dubai, Jordan and Palestine, Syria and Lebanon. Available here on amazon.uk and in bookstores in Dubai.



10. Desperate in Dubai.  We’re not talking Pulitzer Prize winning literature here, but it’s a fun, light read, even if the actions and attitudes of the women (and men) in the book drive you nuts. Its former banned status makes the characters and story line all the more intriguing. Great gift for a girlfriend or book club buddy. Available on Amazon and Amazon.uk and bookstores in the UAE.

Desperate in Dubai.indd

11. City of Gold: Dubai and the Dream of Capitalism.  I have to admit I haven’t finished reading this one yet. But so far, it’s an incredibly interesting account of the rise of Dubai from its very humble beginnings. I think it’s a must read for anyone who calls Dubai home. For those of you who groan at the thought of reading a non-fiction book, don’t worry, it’s written in a very engaging way. Available on Amazon and Amazon.uk and bookstores in the UAE.

city of gold


12. The movie City of Life. So it might be a bit predictable at times with characters based on stereotypes, but I still love watching this movie. With an Emirati director and filmed in Dubai, it’s a gift that was truly made in the UAE, which can be hard to come by when looking for souvenirs. The film touches on so many true-to-life aspects of living in Dubai. It became tradition for me to make my visitors watch this movie at the end of their trip because they could recognize all the places they had visited. Available on amazon.uk. It’s also available in some video stores in Dubai.



13: Camelspotting. I admit, I bought this CD long before I knew I’d be living in the Middle East, and no one singing on it (as far as I know) is from the UAE, but it’s a really fun collection of Arabic pop songs that will get you dancing. My kids and I love to listen to it when we are missing Dubai. Available here on Amazon and here on Amazon.uk.



14. When I travel, my favorite place to look for souvenirs is the grocery store.  I love checking out the unique products and trying different items. In Dubai, I usually stopped by my local store and stocked up on dates, date syrup and baklava gift sets before my visits home.


Also check out Sadaf Iranian Sweets and Spices on Maktoum Street or Samadi Sweets on Muraqqabat Street for packaged Arabic and Persian sweets and snacks.

15. For more of a statement, head to Bateel and pick up some of the beautifully wrapped and very delicious gourmet dates.

Dates are not the prettiest fruit around, but Bateel makes them look glamorous, and they taste amazing too!

Dates are not the prettiest fruit around, but Bateel makes them look glamorous, and they taste amazing too!

16. If you have more time, head to the spice souk and pick up some unique spices. Yes, these can be found in Carrefour too, but isn’t the experience of buying the gift part of what makes it meaningful? Most spices can be found everywhere these days, but I liked to buy saffron since it can be very expensive at home. I also find that dried lemons are still not all that common outside of the Middle East. Pick up a few and print out a recipe that features them in the dish for the foodie on your shopping list.

dubai spice souk (2)

17. Balqees Honey: available in kiosks in malls in the UAE, it’s a fun experience to buy this honey because they offer so many varieties. Sourced from beekeepers in Yemen, this honey is pure, unaltered and unpasteurized. Traditional methods that have been used for hundreds of years are used to collect this honey. Click here to learn more.

balquees honey

photo credit: mercatoshoppingmall.com

18. Camel Milk Chocolate: Available throughout Dubai. The products below were on sale at the Jumeirah Mosque.

chocolate made from camel's milk

chocolate made from camel’s milk

Other items

19. Perfume bottles. They come in different shapes and sizes and I always liked bringing several so people could pick their favorite. You can also have them filled with the perfume of your choice, but I never felt comfortable picking a fragrance for someone else, so I just gave them empty for display. There is a perfume souk near the creek, but my go-to place to buy them was in Beach Centre on Jumeirah Beach Road. Don’t pay full price!


20. Arabic Coffee Pots (Dallahs) Skip the big places like Al Jaber and look at smaller shops or at the Blue Souq in Sharjah for more authentic dallahs with individual characteristics that don’t look like they were mass produced in China. I got mine at the little shop next door to Park n’ Shop on Al Wasl Road. (see my blog post about dallahs here).



21. Jewelry: I’m not crazy about jewelry, but of course with the Gold Souk in town, there are limitless options for buying glittering earrings and shiny rings, and the sky is the limit in terms of price. If you want something that won’t break the bank and will remind you of Dubai, try getting something inscribed with your name in Arabic, like this necklace: (I got mine in Mercato Mall)


22. Carpet: Probably the most sought after “souvenir” for people who live in Dubai and know they will leave at some point. From Turkish kilims to coarsely knotted Bedouin rugs, you’ll likely find something that suits your taste in Dubai. To read about my experience buying our carpet and tips on what to look for, read my post “How Not to Buy a Persian Carpet”

carpets Dubai

And lastly, if you feel you need some of the other souvenirs commonly found in Dubai, visit the Antiques Museum in Al Quoz. Every imaginable UAE themed gift, along with countless other goodies from other countries, can be found here. Put aside a good amount of time to visit, it is truly an Aladdin’s cave with endless aisles of treasures.

Happy shopping everyone!


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Imprints At Home and Away

Even though the blog has been relatively quiet over the last few months, I’ve been working hard behind the scenes on my new project, my new etsy shop featuring travel photography. Its name is Imprints at Home and Away and it’s finally ready and open for business!

Living in Dubai made me think a lot about what makes a house on the other side of the globe feel like home. None of my friends was from Dubai and most had plans to leave at some point. With such a transient and diverse population, I really enjoyed seeing how people chose to decorate their home. Inevitably, people displayed little clues about where they were from and where they’d visited. I think even if a house is temporary, we all like to be surrounded by objects that remind us of the intangible imprints that meaningful places leave on us.

These thoughts and preparing the photos for my blog posts eventually led to the idea of opening the etsy shop. About half of the photographs featured are from the Middle East. The other half are from Europe and North America. There is a good mix of expected shots and less predictable shots, and a variety of subject matter: landscapes, street photography, architecture, a bit of food photography and lots of pretty doors.🙂

I ship internationally and I’ll be adding more photos regularly. I hope you’ll check it out here and please consider sharing the shop or individual prints on social media. Thank you so much!

Below is a sample of photos in the shop. (The frames are provided for illustrative purposes only – I sell unmatted, unframed prints for easier shipping and to give the customer more flexibility in how they display the print.)

doha man


Dubai souk

abra creek


burj and cayan duo

camels closer

amman ruins 2

milan cathedral

verona more close up

liwa camel

New orleans door trio

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A Bit of TX and NOLA – A Photo Tour

I’ve been working on setting up an Etsy shop for some of my photos. Who knew it would be so time-consuming? It’s almost ready to open, but in the meantime, a few photos from recent adventures in Texas and Louisiana. (Some of these were taken with my phone and are on my instagram page.)

New Orleans

swamps en route to New Orleans

swamps en route to New Orleans


blue and yellow makes me smile

blue and yellow together make me smile

beignets and cafe au lait at Cafe du Monde. Had to visit 2 days in a row.

Beignets and cafe au lait at Cafe du Monde also make me smile. Had to visit 2 days in a row.

Mint green ironwork – beautiful!


finding love in New Orleans:

St. Charles streetcar in New Orleans - the oldest continually running streetcar in the world!

St. Charles streetcar – the oldest continually running streetcar in the world

Blue Dog!

Blue Dog!






If you look closely, you’ll find mardi gras beads hanging pretty much everywhere. The trees along St. Charles are dripping with them!



South Congress, Austin

South Congress

Gospel Brunch at Stubbs in Austin

Gospel Brunch at Stubbs

Delicious BBQ in Austin

Delicious BBQ in Austin

skyline, Austin


DSC_1368 DSC_1360

The Big D as seen through the museum windows

The Big D as seen through the museum windows

DSC_1318 DSC_1316

State Fair of Texas, Dallas

State Fair of Texas, Dallas

State Fair of Texas - Dallas

State Fair of Texas – Dallas

Big Tex welcoming visitors to the Texas State Fair. Ha!

Big Tex welcoming visitors to the Texas State Fair. Ha!

Yep, this pig sold for $14,000. He was right next to a beautiful steer that sold for $130,000! Raising livestock is serious business in Texas.

Yep, this pig sold for $14,000. He was right next to a beautiful steer that sold for $130,000! Raising livestock is serious business in Texas.


oak tree heaven, Houston Zoo

oak tree heaven, Houston Zoo


Mind boggling rocket boosters, Nasa

Mind boggling rocket boosters, Nasa

Chase Tower

Chase Tower

60th Floor Observation deck

60th Floor Observation deck

Pretty reflections on Wortham Center

Pretty reflections on Wortham Center

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Religious Tolerance in the UAE

When we lived in Dubai, I had planned to do a post about Christian churches in Dubai after visiting the Catholic church, St. Mary’s.  I thought many people may be surprised to know that there is a degree of religious tolerance in the UAE, and Christians (as well as people of many other non-Muslim religions) can and do worship openly. Unfortunately, the idea lingered in my drafts folder and I never got around to writing it or taking the photos.

When I went to St. Mary’s I was really surprised by how many people attended the church. Parking was difficult to come by and the courtyard was absolutely filled to the brim on a sweltering day with people from all over the world, although the majority seemed to be Filipino or South Asian. Only when the call to prayer came floating through the courtyard did I remember I was in the Middle East. St. Mary’s offers masses in English, Arabic, Tagalog, French, Konkani, Malayalam, Tamil, Sinhalese and Urdu. Confessions can be conducted in all the languages of the masses, plus Kannada, Ukrainian, Polish, Russian, Italian and Hindi. The congregation of St. Mary’s certainly reflects Dubai’s diversity.

I may have never been able to bring my “Christian Churches in Dubai” post to fruition before we left, but I just came across an interesting article (linked below) that seems to do the job for me! In addition to what the author describes, other Christian groups such as Gateway Church or Redeemer Church of Dubai that don’t have their own dedicated space to worship will use hotel ballrooms as a meeting space.

Read the following BBC article to learn more about religious tolerance in the UAE.

Free to Pray, But Don’t Try to Convert Anyone.

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