Jumeirah Mosque

Jumeirah Mosque

One of the reasons I love the Jumeirah Mosque is because of its location. It’s in an older neighborhood and I like the rustic charm of the area. When most streets in the area look like this:

Jumeirah 1 street

It’s nice to see a little of this:

Jumeirah 1 Jumeirah 1 Jumeirah 1 Jumeirah 1 ally Jumeirah 1

I’ll trade the sterile perfection of most streets for some of those beautiful doors any day!

Of course, this being Dubai, just when I was trying to photograph a bit of grit, this rolls on by: (typical!)

jumeirah 1 (5)

The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Understanding organizes tours of the Jumeirah Mosque so a friend and I visited one weekend. (Hi Yuri!) This activity is usually something tourists or recently landed expats do, but it took four years of living in Dubai before I finally managed to visit. I had driven by or photographed the mosque many times so I couldn’t wait to see inside because it’s the only mosque in Dubai open to the public. As with other activities organized by the SMCCU, it was well-organized, informative and an enjoyable experience.

Before entering the mosque, you can enjoy a bit of coffee and borrow a pashmina if you need one.

Jumeirah Mosque tour

chocolate made from camel's milk

chocolate made from camel’s milk

Like my earlier visit to the SMCCU for the Emirati breakfast, however, I wish the presenter had been Emirati, or at least from the Gulf. I’d appreciate hearing more from local voices, but the British woman (who converted to Islam some years back) was a very informative and polished presenter.

Construction on the mosque began in 1976 and it was completed in 1979. Dubaians affectionately consider the mosque a historic landmark and it’s featured on the 500 dirham note.

The presenter explained a bit about Islam, including a description of the five pillars of faith and the different styles of dress.


Most of the points she highlighted were things I knew having lived in Dubai for a while, although I did learn a little something about the men’s ghutra (the headscarf worn by men – it has several different names like keffiyeh or shemagh). She explained how generally speaking the look is more formal when it’s worn straight and draped around the shoulders, and more casual when it’s tucked in and folded around in a turban-like manner. She compared the “turban” type look to a pair of jeans. This made sense in hindsight because often younger guys wear them in this way.  The different colors don’t hold much significance anymore, but some fabrics are heavier than others.

I know the way Muslim women dress gets a lot of attention, but I’ve always been more fascinated by the men’s clothes. We women are accused of applying make-up in the car, but I saw men arranging their ghutra countless times while driving – they are just as guilty as we are of primping! Here are some variations:

Want to learn how to tie one yourself? Check out this you tube video. :) I like the part when he talks about how the style at one point was to have many layers showing, but now fewer are acceptable. This is something I would have never noticed as a westerner.

As far as women go, the following pictures/captions (courtesy of the BBC) show different variations of how head coverings are worn. As it states, the shayla is the most common for Gulf women to wear. It looks deceptively easily to casually throw on a pashmina to make it look like that, but I learned on multiple occasions it is not!

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In the pictures below the presenter describes and displays the different types of face coverings you may see in the Gulf.

In terms of the prayers and service at the mosque, the woman explained how many mosques have carpets with stripes on them so that people can easily line up to pray in an orderly manner. The interior of the Jumeirah mosque can hold around 1,500 people.

Jumeirah Mosque interior

She explained how people line up shoulder to shoulder, poor next to rich, emphasizing equality. I found this interesting because many Emiratis love to flash their bling. They may be in a black abaya or white kandora, but more often than not you’ll also find a flashy watch, designer stilettos or fancy handbag to go along with it. The more expensive and the more ostentatious – the better. I wondered how this extravagant lifestyle, not to mention the extreme social stratification found in Dubai, is reconciled with this theme of equality in Islam.

In terms of content, she said all imams at all mosques in the UAE are told what to cover for the week so that their message is consistent across the country. And of course she emphasized that Islam does not condone or promote violence.

Overall it was really interesting and I’m grateful that I was able to attend the tour before leaving. Check out the SMCCU website for details on this and other worthwhile activities. A few pics of the mosque follow.

Jumeirah Mosque minaret Jumeirah Mosque exterior 3 Jumeirah mosque exterior (2) Jumeirah Mosque door Jumeirah Mosque dome Jumeirah mosque details Jumeirah exterior 2


DSC_5839 DSC_5838 DSC_5836


Jumeirah Mosque Interior


For pics of mosques in my neighborhood, visit the old post, Pillar of Faith.

To read about the mosque down the street from my house in Dubai, visit the old post, The Soundtrack of our Life in the Middle East.

**I am certainly no expert on this stuff, so if anyone needs to correct something I wrote – please leave a note in the comments.

Posted in Emirati Culture, Playing tourist - attractions and activities | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In Bloom

This is my first spring in Houston since 2010. I had forgotten how vibrant and almost electric new-growth green is.

I'm not sure that this photo really captures it, but the tops of these trees near my house are the prettiest shade of bright, light green.

I’m not sure that this photo really captures it, but the tops of these trees near my house are the prettiest shade of bright, light green.

Right now the azaleas are in bloom, but are on their way out. Next up, bluebonnets! It’s really beautiful to see everything spring back to life.

When we moved to Dubai, I had never given much thought to how much landscape defines a person’s sense of home. It wasn’t until I started missing Houston’s big, shady oak trees that I realized how much terrain, trees and flowers strengthen your connection to a place.

It’s amazing how many spaces in Dubai are bursting with color despite the inhospitable environment. These are the flowers that remind me of Dubai:

1) Flamboyant Tree (or royal poinciana). This tree has vibrant orange flowers that explode into bloom right around the time when the really hot weather starts to kick in. The orange tops always reminded me of fire and seemed to announce the start of the blazing heat that was about to settle in for a long 5 month stay.

Safa Park has lots of Flamboyants.

Safa Park has lots of flamboyants.

Dubai flamboyant

View from my bedroom window

View from my bedroom window

2) Petunias. These are common in Houston too, in fact, I just planted some yesterday, but I’ve never seen carpets of petunias like those found in Dubai. The number of workers it takes to plant, rip up and replant row upon row of petunias along freeways, in medians and in parks is staggering. Certainly not a fun job during the hot summer.

Dubai petunias

Dubai petunia

3) Bougainvillea. Normally the first place I think of when I think of bougainvillea is Spain. Maybe this is why our street in Dubai reminded me a bit of Spain when I first saw it. White walls draped with hot pink flowers are common in Dubai.

Dubai Bougainvilla

Dubai bougainvilla (2)

I never noticed that bougainvilla has these tiny flowers within the main flower until I started taking these pics. How sweet!

I never noticed that bougainvillea has these tiny flowers within the main flower until I started taking these pics. How sweet!

4) White plumeria. These wonderfully fragrant flowers have beautiful, broad, dark green  leaves. We had one in our yard and they smelled so sweet.

Dubai white plumeria

5)  Desert rose. I always wanted to plant one of these but never got around to it. They can have really interesting twisted and gnarled stems.

6) Crown of Thorns and Ixoria. These two don’t necessarily remind me of Dubai in general, but of our house there, because I had pots of them right next to our front door.


As for Houston, these are the flowers that most remind me of home:

1) Azaleas. I always get greedy and wish these flowering bushes would stay in bloom just a bit longer; the flowers always seem to disappear too quickly. Many people have azaleas in their yard and the wealthy neighborhood of River Oaks hosts an event every year, The Azalea Trail, where visitors can tour their grand gardens.

Houston azaleas 4-2



2) Bluebonnets. The state flower is the bluebonnet and it’s a yearly tradition to drive out to a bluebonnet field to snap some photos.

photo credit: Anna Martinez (Thank you Anna! Love this picture. I use this for my little ID pic too :) )

photo credit: Anna Martinez (Thank you Anna! Love this picture. I use this for my little ID pic too :) )

This is me when I was little. Shh - don't tell anyone - I think it might be illegal to pick bluebonnets. The reddish-organge flowers are Indian Paintbrushes, another wildflower commonly found in Texas.

This is me when I was little. Shh – don’t tell anyone – I think it might be illegal to pick bluebonnets. The reddish-orange flowers are Indian paintbrushes, another wildflower commonly found in Texas.

3) Hibiscus. I love their vibrant, tropical blooms

Houston Hibiscus

I thought the hibiscus at my house was killed by the winter cold. Isn't it so exciting when you think something is dead but then little buds start to emerge?

I thought the winter cold killed the hibiscus at my house. Isn’t it so exciting when you think something is dead but then little buds start to emerge?

4) Lantana. I love lantana because they remind me of my grandmother’s garden. I’m also a fan because they are easy to grow (let’s just say I don’t have a green thumb) and their flowers are so sweet and delicate.

Houston Lantana

5) Magnolia Tree. To me, few trees say “the South” more than a magnolia tree. Perhaps more closely associated with Louisiana or Mississippi, this tree is common in Texas too and has big, dramatic blooms.

Photo credit: wikipedia

Photo credit: Wikipedia


What flowers remind you of home?


Posted in Day-to-day living in Dubai, Texas | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

Memories of the Dubai Desert

Dubai desert

Dubai desert

Dubai desert

Dubai Desert

Dubai desert

to be a kid again!

Dubai desert

Dubai desert

Posted in Day-to-day living in Dubai | Tagged , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Sending Hearts on Valentine’s Day

I stole borrowed this idea from the creative Terri and James at Gallivance. Check out their blog for their awesome post, “Capturing Hearts around the World.”  When I saw their pics, I immediately thought of my picture of a baby blue door in Oman. I started wondering if I had any other “heart” pics from my travels. Obsessing over pictures the way I do, I couldn’t resist going on a scavenger hunt for hearts in my photo archives. Here are the few I found.  And if you’d like to make some chocolate hearts today instead of looking at pictures of them, check out my sister’s recipe for her delicious Cioccolatini. Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!



wall of love near the Romeo and Juliet balcony in Verona

wall of love near the Romeo and Juliet balcony in Verona

detail of the carpet I bought in Dubai

detail of the carpet I bought in Dubai

National Day pride in Hatta

National Day pride in Hatta

cappuccinos in Milan

cappuccino in Milan



bakery in Houston

bakery in Houston

Dubai - somewhere near the souks

Dubai – somewhere near the souks

Dubai - Jumeirah 1

Dubai – Jumeirah 1

another door in Jumeirah 1

another door in Jumeirah 1

Dubai - near the Jumeirah Mosque

Dubai – near the Jumeirah Mosque

detail of the front gate of my house in Dubai

detail of the front gate of my house in Dubai

beautiful bread in Vienna

beautiful bread in Vienna

Gold Souk - Dubai

Gold Souk – Dubai

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Dubai’s Skyscrapers: A Photo Tour

Dubai skyscrapers

When you think of Dubai’s skyscrapers, maybe you think of one of these:


Dubai is full of other interesting buildings that don’t get much recognition. I had planned to spend a day with my camera taking pictures of some of the pretty buildings downtown. (To see buildings in the Marina, click here.) Well, time ran out so instead I snapped these on my last few days with my mobile phone as I was running errands. Maybe it’s not the most representative collection, but it’s my last-ditch effort to remember what Dubai looked like in 2014, as it’s sure to look very different, very soon, with all the construction that’s going on.

The Dusit Thani hotel:

The Address hotel:

Dubai International Financial Centre



Emirates Towers

dubai skyscrapers 3

skyscrapers Dubai 8


dubai skyscrapers 1DSC_0535Dubai skyscrapers 9



metro on Sheikh Zayed Road

I once read that 25% of all the world’s cranes were in Dubai. Then I read that was just an urban myth. True or not, there does seem to be a LOT of cranes around!

Dubai construction 6

One thing I liked about Dubai when we first arrived was the clear view of the skyline on Sheikh Zayed Road from lots of places on Al Wasl Road and Jumeirah Beach Road. These views are disappearing as more and more shopping malls and development are planned for the area.

dubai construction 1 Dubai construction 8

Future home of the Dubai Opera House:

Dubai construction 7

I wanted to take a pictures of these guys while they were working, but they wanted to pose. After I snapped this, their boss came over and asked what I was doing. I suddenly felt a little afraid. “Ummm, just documenting the growth of Dubai, sir.” He smiled and said he wanted to make sure nothing was wrong.  That made me feel like something must be wrong. Or maybe he was just annoyed that I was distracting the workers.

The heat index was around 125F (51C) when I took this. Just standing outside for a few minutes to take these photos was extremely uncomfortable, so I can’t imagine what it would be like to dig ditches or lift heavy machinery. These guys are amazing.

Here are just a handful of the countless workers who are turning a sleepy fishing village into a cosmopolitan city attracting millions of visitors ever year.

Dubai construction 5 Dubai construction 4


Dubai construction 2 Dubai construction 3


Dubai construction

Posted in Day-to-day living in Dubai | Tagged , , , , , , | 12 Comments