Bezar at Ajman Qubes

As the world headed to Dubai on New Year’s eve, we decided we’d escape from the madness and make the most of the empty roads in Ajman to visit Ajman’s homegrown version of Dubai’s Box Park, aptly named Ajman Qubes, at the Ajman Sports Park in Al Hamidiya.

I’d never been to the sports park before so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. It turns out entry to the park is free (as of Jan 2018) and the park is home to a running track and outdoor exercise equipment which are also free to use- very Korean style. It also has at least 3 outdoor football fields, a volleyball field and an outdoor basketball court complete with dressing rooms which you can book in advance, for a fee of course.

But the facilities aren’t what left me impressed. I was actually blown away by the number of people spending quality time with their families on New Year’s eve at this park- from the young men playing football under lights to the girls up on the exercise machines, the mothers and sons who were out for a brisk walk to the blindfolded fathers comically dancing trying to tag their wives while their kids hugged their legs, from the little army of kids trying to drift on their bikes on the moisture covered walking track to the dreamers lying on their mats staring up at the stars. Now that’s what I call a New Year’s Eve well-spent.

Of course, there’s also the Qubes to feed you while you’re there. The Qubes are basically container restaurants, coffee shops and there’s even an art gallery and a men’s spa there to add some variety. It’s a small affair, but there are lots of restaurants to choose from- 71oz Steakhouse if you’re fancying a steak after a heavy workout, Patatello Cafe for some dessert to put back on those pounds, Tackle Shack if you fancy catching a game as you eat, Bezar for fancy Emirati-Indian fusion cuisine and a lot more. We were spoilt for choice and are notoriously bad at making decisions on where to eat, but we took a democratic approach and after checking out the first menu it was a unanimous decision to try Bezar on our first visit to the park.

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Time for dinner!

We went in expecting to order something more Emarati but ending up ordering Indian instead… butter chicken and mutton rogan josh with biryani rice, khameer bread, fatoosh and Vimto slush for drinks. I’ll be honest with you. I’m always bragging about this little known restaurant close to my office which my colleagues and I had agreed, had the world’s best fatoosh, and they did for 3 years running. But I’m afraid, they lost their crown on New Year’s eve to Bezar which made the most mouth wateringly good fatoosh I’ve ever had.

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Say hello to the world’s best fatoosh

And their mutton rogan josh… let me just say their chef put big restaurants like Gazebo to shame. While big chains usually think adding massive amounts of spices and making the gravy thick and difficult to eat is what subcontinental cuisine is about, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Bezar’s mutton rogan josh was pretty much something your mum would make for you at home – in other words REAL subcontinental style. No spice OD. The biryani rice was also really good, none of that crazy mix of rice you normally get that makes you wonder if people have forgotten what biryani really means and the butter chicken was super sweet- the chicken itself was a bit on the hard side but I’ll forgive them because everything else was so awesome.

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Great ambiance

And that includes the music selection. The music alternated between English and Indian classics (no Arabic classics ㅜㅜ ) though I’m not quite sure how Kolaveri Di got past the muzak filter of the world. It did make for a good laugh and we ended up staying for dessert instead of hopping off to another restaurant for a sweet something. Ordering dessert was probably the most hilarious with dishes named Deewana and Mastana (crazy and carefree boringly translated). I’ve never order crazy before.

We had a great time and only the cold could bring us back home to watch the fireworks. It’s safe to say Ajman Qubes and the Sports Park deserve another visit and preferably while the weather still holds. If you’re in the area, I’d definitely recommend stopping by.

Kayaking in Al Zorah

After the amazing time we had kayaking in Hatta, we decided to give it another go, this time much closer to home – about 10 minutes to be exact. We headed out bright and early to Ajman’s latest development, Al Zorah which is currently home to a 18 hole golf course, 200 hundred year old mangroves and an upcoming townhouse development. We’d managed to get our bookings done online with Quest for Adventure tours, who are the only licensed operator at Al Zorah primarily because their activities are much wider than just water sports in that they are charged with raising awareness about the mangroves, its environmental significance and the need for its preservation.

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Just some of the wildlife that call the mangroves their home

They had the option of taking out single kayaks, or going tandem, so this time we decided to give the tandem kayak a go and set off towards the thick mangroves. It was interesting to note that the mangroves were much shallower than I had expected and as a result, the oar size was also much smaller than the ones we had used back in Hatta. While it made for convenient maneuvering especially in the dense brush, it did also mean we were soaked from the very get go, with the water from the oars raining in at every stroke. That also meant that we got to learn (the hard way), as we handled our phones, that the mangroves actually grow in salt water which meant by the end of the trip our phones were nice and salty. ^^

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Time to set off

Al Zorah is home to grey mangroves spread out over 2 square kilometers and as we paddled on, we were able to see through the clear water the bed of sand which looked pretty much like an underwater beach, being covered with shells! We were told that we would probably also be able to get a glimpse of the flamingos who normally migrate here during the winters but we were sure not to get too close so as not to disturb them. It was amazing to see the flamingos were mostly white, not as pink as you see in pictures, and that we found out was because these waters are not home to much shrimp and crab which lend them their distinctive colour. The only crabs in these waters are mostly white, only the tips of their pincers are red. We were lucky enough to see one of these crabs up close, albeit dead, as he’d already been someone’s breakfast. 

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Into the mangroves we go

As we sat and watched the flamingos, we also learnt more about how mangroves breathe and grow. It turns out mangrove trees are quite clever. The thick mud in which they grow has far too little oxygen concentration for them to survive, so their roots grow upwards and out of the ground to get the oxygen they need and once the tide goes out, the trees effectively breathe, exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide with the atmosphere. It was also amazing to learn that mangroves are in fact more carbon rich than rain forests which means they are of strategic importance in reducing global warming and climate change and with sea levels rising the way they are the very existence of mangroves is threatened.

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Old mangrove trees and new ones coming up

After a nice long paddle all the way up to see the flamingoes and our lesson on all things mangrove,  we then had to head right into the thick of the mangroves for a little “adventure”. Since we’d taken a tandem boat, maneuvering through the thick branches was a bit of a struggle, especially when a branch got caught in an opening on the side of the canoe, which left us struggling forward, only to be rocked right back. Once we managed to escape from the clutches of the mangrove tree that was determined to keep us, we then inched our way forward, alternately swatting away branches and hunching over to make it through. We finally made it, only to find out we’d picked up an assortment of hitchhiking spiders along the way. Surprise!

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Paddles Up!

Lucky for us we were in the tandem kayak, which meant we had enough time to swat away the spiders while the other person rowed on. ^^ We started on back to where we had started as the tide was getting low and on our way back we found lying there in the salty water, a plastic cake box that had been swept in with the tide. While our guides fished it out to dispose off later, I felt that this was just another example of single use plastics dangerously finding their way into ecosystems that one would assume would be immune to their impact. I was suddenly reminded of the Great Pacific garbage patch. As garbage swirls in our oceans, the world goes on much as before. Out of sight, out of mind. sigh

It was an overall amazing experience, and I’m sure I’ll be going back again but better prepared next time around! Remember, say NO to jeans and sneakers, say YES to a bottle of water, cap, sunscreen, flipfops and an extra change of clothes. Booking can be done online through their website. Renting out a kayak costs only AED30 per hour (as of Jan 2018) while the kayak tour costs AED190 for adults. They have a whole lot of other activities to try such as paddle boarding and wake boarding and even offer archery and bike rentals so there’s a little something for everyone.

Qdeemk Ndeemk

The resolution for this long weekend was not to stray too far from home and instead stay and explore the back alleys of Ajman. You might think that there’s not much happening in Ajman, and you would have been right a few years ago, but it’s come a long way since then, especially in terms of the foodie start-up scene. With a number of food trucks set up at the promenade in Ajman and a whole new set that we came across at the Mosaic Market, I was interested in trying something new.

For breakfast, we headed straight to Qdeemk Ndeemk whose modest exterior betrays an absolutely stunning interior.

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Welcome!

The cafe is large, yet cozy and oh so vibrant, with dated decor. Colourful canvases dot the walls and colourful cushions are scattered around, featuring legendary Arab icons such as Adel Emam, the Egyptian comedian, Abdul Halim Hafiz the Egyptian Singer (which got my mum reminiscing), and the famous Kuwaiti comedian, who incidentally was our neighbour in Kuwait.

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Everything about the cafe has a distinctly vintage feel to it, like a refreshing blast into the past. From typewriters (I have always wanted one of these), to radios, phones which would now be considered antique, however much of an affront that is to my not so distant childhood, and old television sets which go back to my parents’ generation. The not so flat screen generation.

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There were two other distinctly awesome things about this place, not counting the food. The car themed decor, which includes an entire bright red Mercedes as the highlight, which got my dad thinking back to his Mercedes days and the teapot chandeliers which I absolutely fell in love with ❤

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Half-cut cars… only my brother will get this joke *sigh*

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Well hello there beautiful ^^

When we were finally done ooh-ing and aah-ing at the interior design, we finally settled on three different kinds of breakfasts (Indian, American and Arabic) and of course no meal is truly complete without a cup of freshly brewed…karak ^^ The food was absolutely wonderful and the karak was spot on! Take note, every other restaurant who serves tea as a pot of hot water and tea bag on the side, that is such a no-no. When I’m ordering tea, I’m expecting a cuppa made with love, like karak ❤ I would highly recommend anyone coming down to Ajman not to miss breakfast here.

We polished off our meals, headed to the restroom, which also turned out to be a work of art with its mosaic tiles to match the rest of the cafe interior.

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Tiled toilets

As we headed back to the table, we were met with a tray filled with bakhoor and oud to get rid of any annoying lingering smell of food (really, I can’t believe no one has done this sooner, and no scented wipes don’t count) and the bill came with the characteristically Emarati Sharaawi Bros Mastic gum. If you live in the UAE, you know this gum is currency… used as change when supermarkets run out of 25 fils.

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The 4 stages of meal at Qdeemk Ndeemk

Final Verdict: must go again! The menu has so many yummy goodies to sample, it’s going to be hard to stay away.

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Don’t stay away too long!

Mosaic Market

As a pre- National Day celebration, we decided to stay closer to home and visit the Mosaic Market which is held every Thursday and Friday at Safia Park in Ajman. We weren’t really sure what to expect, having only seen posters of the market on Facebook and Instagram, but they were convincing enough to get us out of the house on a Thursday evening, which is highly uncharacteristic of us. By the time we got to the park, we had come to one pre-event conclusion…we were clueless about a lot of the development that was taking place in Ajman. Jurf in particular, is like an area transformed.

Anyway, back to the market… the weather was lovely, ideal for a night out, and despite the rush we managed to find a parking spot not too far away from the park entrance.

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Getting in line for tickets

Tickets were AED 5 per head and once we were in, it was time to take the compulsory snap with the event hashtag ^^

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Hashtags are so in

My brother decided it was absolutely necessary to sample as much food as possible from as many stalls as possible, so we ended up having or at least watching him have dynamite shrimps from Foodbox, some concoction of berries and Red Bull, hot sweet corn on the cob, swirly potato chips, karak chai, Monkey Cookies and of course… and I mean of course…. we had to have Oman Chips paratha.

For those of you who’ve never been to UAE before, you must know this. Oman Chips sandwiches are tradition. If you come here and leave without having this sandwich and a karak, then you’ve really not visited UAE. More sacrilege than visiting UAE and not visiting Burj Khalifa if you ask me.

There were so many things to eat that you’d best come with an empty tummy if you’re looking to sample a bit of everything, including sweets from Sophie’s Kitchen and some good old food food, as I like to call it, from Qdeemk Ndeemk.

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So many places to check out!

Apart from the food, there were lots of activities, especially for kids, from an outdoor cinema, complete with comfy cushy bean bags, screening Freej to outdoor slides, paint walls and pull up bars. There was also a stall where you could try your luck and see if you could pick out an oyster with a pearl in it! I’ve only done this once as a child, but trust me… the feeling of opening up the shell and finding a beautiful pearl nestled inside the soft meat is like nothing else in the world, except perhaps winning the lottery ^^

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Celebrating National Day

Since it was the National Day weekend, we were also treated to traditional local plays and local dances, complete with swords.

If you haven’t been before, it’s well worth a visit and if you’re done with the market, there’s an entire park just waiting for a picnic and a running track to help you shed those pounds you put on at the market ^^