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Yup, you heard me!

I gained 6 pounds in only 5 days during a recent trip to Istanbul, Turkey.

In an impulse, I decided to go with my daughter to Istanbul for a long weekend. Although I just started my new job and have no leave time yet, I just had to escape even for a couple of days. Luckily, my new boss is cool and flexible. I was also a cool mom and  responsible   coordinated for my daughter’s education so I talked to her school to excuse her for 3 days.

All worked out and we were ready to make the best of it.

I figured in five days I would prepare a busy schedule for sight seeing since it’s our first visit. It took only one bite of a juicy grilled Kebab to make me forget about all the grilled meat I ever tasted in my life! I also changed my purpose from sight seeing to food tasting.

Seriously , I could never get enough!

And then I indulged in their delicious sweets, which are very common in Saudi Arabia. However, somehow they taste more delicious in it’s native country.

I grew up with Turkish delights. We eat them every year during Eid holidas (end of the Holy month of Ramadhan) . Every year I look forward to them and now I’m not that excited to try them this year. Unless I go to Turkey to purchase them.

I also acquired a new addiction during the five day stay. Turkish Coffee.

I never drank it at home and rarely drank it when people offered it to me, until I came to it’s original country. I would have one in the morning, after every meal, and end of the day……I was hyper all day.

For five days I dived into a sea of grilled meat and Turkish sweets and swam back up for Turkish coffee. On my last day I bought lots of sweets and Turkish coffee for my relatives, neighbors, and friends. I wanted to share with them the  experience .It finished in three days…I think I need to go back and buy more.

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On the 17th floor of the Marriot Hotel in Shanghai, I have arranged a sitting area in the glass corner of the room (using the cushions from the couch) as it makes me feel that I’m sitting on a cloud. I look down and all I see are the roofs of the houses and so many people walking the streets. I wake up early every morning and I love to sit here, sip my coffee and read my book (about Shanghai in the early 1920s) before starting the day in this busy city.

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Contrasting architecture in Shanghai; modern at the top, traditional at the bottom.

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Weird looking building with a combination of natural and man-made walls

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Mystic and majestic  – traditional buildings at the Tea Garden

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Already late for her weekly gathering with her best friends from high school, Manal was desperately trying to catch a taxi since her driver called in sick. As for all women living in Saudi Arabia, having a driver is the most important necessity in life. Most rely on the male members of the family and for those who can afford it, one or two drivers (depending on the size of the family) become essential members of the family as well. Those who can’t afford drivers will have to either stay at home and become secluded from a social life or, if allowed, take a taxi. Manal hates it when the family driver is not available because she hates to ask her brother or father for a lift then she would have to stick to their commuting schedule. So she decided to take a taxi to the café.

She reached Bateel Café , a small coffee shop not only known for its great coffee but also for the variety of date delicacies. Her friends, Sara, Fatin and Latifah were already waiting for her eager to catch up on the latest news without any interruptions from crying babies, husbands and bosses. “We already ordered coffee. What took you so long?” asked Sara Albassam, an Executive Director at an advertising agency, wife and mother of two – Ahmed and Rola. Having a career and raising a family at the same time is not easy anywhere in the world. But in Saudi Arabia, it’s twice as difficult, especially if you don’t have a supportive husband as in Sara’s case. “My driver is sick and it took me a while to find a taxi in my neighborhood. So what did I miss?” Manal said, obviously eager to get the latest updates from her friends. “My ex is in town and he wants to take the kids for the weekend” Fatin Alhamdan announced. She is a divorced mother of three, twin boys and a girl, who has just moved from Jeddah back to Riyadh to live with her parents after her divorce. It was hard to adjust back with her parents after 15 years. In most families, single women, divorced and widowed are not allowed to be living alone and it is totally unacceptable in Saudi society. “Well it’s about time for him to take responsibility of his kids. You need to take him to court for child support” said Manal, although they all knew that it’s not going to happen. Child support is mandatory by religion. However, it is not easy going through one court order after another without any force on the husband to pay child support. They could easily delay any court ruling until they feel responsible to pay without any force of law.

“You’re awfully quite” Manal asked Latifah Alturki who in turn just called the waiter for more coffee and biscuits without answering her. She has recently had a new addition to her family, a second wife. Her husband of 15 years and father of their three daughters has just come back from his honeymoon with his second wife. The girls try to live in different worlds, temporarily, and gain support and learn from each other. After a few coffees, complaints, laughs, jokes, and then complaints again, they would say good bye and pray for each other hoping that by next week things would be better for all of them.

Recently I went on a business trip to Mumbai for three weeks.
I find it ironic that in KSA, my Indian colleagues are always complaining about everything…..the water, the streets, the people, the weather , well I guess the weather could be annoying sometimes. Anyway, I never defended anything cause I thought maybe its better from where they come from. However, once I arrived in Mumbai I thought “seriously?!” Do Indians realy think Mumbai is much better than Riyadh?” The streets are dirty and crowded, the water is recycled, can’t even shower. Of course it was all driven by poverty so we can’t blame the people. I guess they were just trying to make a good impression about their country. Which comes naturally even to me, sometimes. Regardless, I enjoyed my time while working, enjoyed most of all the freedom of just walking in the streets, which is all the Indians had to say to make me like their country.

20150226_170151I stayed for 3 days at ITC Hotel then moved to the Marriott. On my first day in India I became ill so I asked for soup and a glass of lemon juice. No one knew what I meant by lemon juice. After so many explanations to different people, they finally gave me some lemon, concentrate. and some slices just in case I needed more.

20150304_112949   Unlike any other franchise in the world, you can tell it belongs to TATA by the security check at the entrance.

wpid-20150306_113448.jpgWe took the day off to celebrate Holi day with the people of Mumbai . Holi day is a Spring festival also known as the festival of colors or love, I guess depending on your status and mood. Although it’s a religious festival, we enjoyed the dancing and coloring activities. Anyone and everyone is fair game, friend or stranger, rich or poor, man or woman, children and elders.

wpid-20150309_162228.jpgTaxi drivers are very protective of their Gods.

wpid-20150312_163445.jpgThe view from my hotel window, Renaissance Marriot at Powai Lake. I like to wake up to this view every morning.

wpid-20150314_160654.jpgA mosque on top of a building.

wpid-20150313_184627.jpghhmmm. Honestly not sure if this is a real hospital or the site of a horror movie.

20150319_194907Dinner with colleagues at BBQ Nation Restaurant. Amazing place . loved the food. With so much food variety, I gained so much  weight during my stay.

?Just so ordinary to see a cow cross the street in Mumbai. I hope he didn’t get a ticket for running a red light.

The Taj Mahal Palace, another TATA alliance.

 ?Gateway of India, the place where governors landed when arriving in India.

My Therapy Buddy

After 24 years of marriage and going strong, I tend to take him for granted sometimes. But I know he is always there for me when ever I need him.  So my new 2015 resolution is to work on my marriage and make it even stronger to last another 24 years.

He is not only my husband but also my best friend as he is the first person who comes in my mind in whatever situation I am in, good or bad. I call him my Therapy Buddy cause in what ever screwed up mess I am and no matter how bad I feel, I know he will make things better. This I have never experienced with anyone in my life.

I love you hubby!

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