General Travel News
Medley: An Arabic restaurant with a Moroccan twist
My knowledge of Morocco is limited to the 27 times I have watched Casablanca (which was actually filmed in Hollywood). So, when I was invited to experience a new restaurant that offered an Arabic Night with a Moroccan twist, images of waiters with fez caps and Sam’s piano came to mind. But Medley was different.
Chef Mama was courteous and welcoming. She walked around inviting each guest to try one of her many culinary creations that were on display. There was Seafood Tagine with lime leaves around the edges. I tried it and it was delicious. There was Chicken Tagine. There was the traditional Cous-Cous with vegetables.
I had come prepared. My friend Amine who lives in Temara, near Rabat in Morocco, had suggested I try the Bastilla so I asked Chef Mama about it and she pointed me in the direction of two dishes which looked like pastry. One was Chicken Bastilla and the other was Seafood Bastilla. I tried both. The chicken was definitely better. Nice crispy covering with a surprisingly different flavor of chicken inside.
But it wasn’t all Moroccan cuisine. Medley, the new restaurant at the Pullman Hotel in Deira City Centre is an Arabic restaurant with a Moroccan twist. And no Arabic restaurant will survive without the Mix Grill and Medley is no exception. Next to the Mix Grill was a mound of rice mixed with chicken and vegetables. I was informed by the attentive waiter nearby that this was a Jordanian dish – maqlouba – spelled Makloupe. He was a little surprised when I mentioned to him that this is a Jordanian dish favored by those who support the Wahdat football team. Jordanians who do not trace their origins to Palestine favour the Faisaliah team and prefer to eat “mansaf.”
But let me go back to the beginning of my dining experience. The dark wooden tables where we were seated, were all decked with a golden paisley design table cloth/runner. Waiting for us was a plate overflowing with carrots, cucumber, lettuce and tomato and a selection of olives. A good Arabic restaurant always serves you some greens to munch on and Medley’s got full credit there.
There was a choice of Harissa and Lentil Soup and a massive spread of Arabic starters. The Fattoush was crispy. The small cups of pomegranate seeds with a tangy sauce that prepares your palette for the food that is to follow was particularly good. There were Kalamata olives with walnuts, salmon with capers, stuffed vine leaves and a variety of pickles. You have to stop or you ruin your appetite leaving no space for real food.
And after our main course was over we were overwhelmed by the variety of Arabic sweets on offer. Yes, there was Umm Ali which could have been a little creamier but there were so many other sweet dishes that you were once again spoilt for choice. Chocolate fondue, sweet sambousek, loqaimat and strawberry cheesecake were all there.
And then I noticed that there was Sam there after all. Maybe his name was not Sam. And he was definitely not playing a piano. But nevertheless, there he was with his bright fez cap strumming the strings of his oud and serenading us from his corner beside the huge room filled with sweets. “Here is looking at you, kid.”
Last Updated on Thursday, 13 March 2014 00:09
Top 10 Eco-Hotels of 2014
Editors and travel experts at Lonely Planet have curated an interesting list of off-grid cottages, treehouses and ‘earthships’ spanning Costa Rica, South Africa, Tanzania to Russia in a list they call the top 10 eco-stays for 2014.
With Earth Hour, World Water Day and Earth Day drawing near, the list serves as a useful guide for travelers looking to green their vacations and support sustainable outfits and travel operators.
Set in the heart of the rainforest in the country’s Osa Peninsula, the property consists of 16 private bungalows built from locally harvested materials that offer luxurious guilt-free accommodations.
The 930-acre tract of land is an incredibly rich ecosystem, home to nearly three percent of the world’s biodiversity. Guests of the Lapa Rios lodge are invited to explore their natural surroundings in guided rainforest hikes and bird-watching treks, or while kayaking, surfing and whale watching.
Amenities include private outdoor decks with rain showers and hammocks, king size beds, indoor bathroom and showers, and a central pool.
Other interesting eco-friendly accommodations includes the Chole Minji, which describes itself as a “castaway fantasy” and “jungle island retreat” for the 7 treehouse accommodations built on a remote island off the Tanzanian coast.
Built into baobab and tamarind trees, all of the thatch-roofed treehouses are designed to offer views of the sea and offer king-sized beds.
And an ‘earthship’ in New Mexico offers accommodations in the desert that are completely off-grid. Built from recycled materials, the collection of buildings is powered by solar panels, rain and snow-collecting cisterns, and a greenhouse for self-sufficiency.
The off-grid hotel is part of a larger Earthships project that aims to serve as an international model on sustainable, self-sufficient communities.
Here are the Top 10 eco-stays of 2014, according to Lonely Planet:
1. Lapa Rios, Peninsula de Osa, Costa Rica
2. Bulungula Backpackers, South Africa
3. Chole Mjini, Chole Island, Mafia Archipelago, Tanzania
4. Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, Aguas Calientes, Peru
5. EcoLodge Chepu Adventures, Chiloe, Chile
6. Maison Anglaise, Taroudant, Morocco
7. Earthship Rentals, Taos, New Mexico, USA
8. Dana Guest House, Jordan
9. Nuli Sapi, Papua New Guinea
10. Baikaler Eco-Hostel, Listvyanka, Russia
Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 March 2014 13:52
Kempinski to open resort in Beirut
Summerland Resort Kempinski is set to open in Q4 of 2014 on the beautiful coastline of Lebanon, just outside the city of Beirut.
A short drive away from Beirut's Rafic Hariri International Airport, the hotel will feature 153 rooms and suites, two restaurants and various cafes, including a poolside cafe and a Marina Club, and conference facilities.
Last Updated on Monday, 10 March 2014 14:46
Silk Road Ministers deepen commitment to visa facilitation
On the year of the 20th Anniversary of the Samarkand Declaration on Silk Road Tourism, the 4th UNWTO Silk Road Ministers' Meeting convened to discuss visa facilitation as a means to further advance tourism development along the ancient trade route. At the meeting, UNWTO presented its Tourism Visa Openness Report for the Silk Road Countries, mapping out progresses made and challenges yet to be addressed in the region. (ITB Berlin, Germany, 5 March 2014).
With the support of ITB Berlin, the 4th Silk Road Ministers’ Meeting brought together 21 Ministers and Vice Ministers of Tourism from the Silk Road countries with representatives from the European Commission, the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to exchange experiences and visa facilitation strategies.
Continuing the work initiated in 1994 when the Samarkand Declaration on Silk Road Tourism was signed, calling for ‘the adoption of facilitation measures that would reduce travel barriers and stimulate tourist flows along the Silk Road’ the participants discussed how the Silk Road countries can develop their collaboration to advance the visa facilitation agenda in 2014 and beyond.
Opening the meeting, UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai emphasized the importance of a cooperative approach: “Complicated visa processes are still a major barrier to the growth of the tourism sector, and as such a barrier to job creation and poverty alleviation. UNWTO welcomes the measures already taken by the Silk Road countries in this area and commends their strong commitment to further advancements, evident by the high level of participation in this Minister’s Meeting. Only by joint action can we fully unlock tourism’s potential as a driver of sustainable growth and regional integration along this unique historic route and transform barriers into opportunities”.
In today’s released Tourism Visa Openness Report for the Silk Road Countries, UNWTO research shows that while many visa barriers still remain, the global tendency towards visa facilitation can be observed also along the Silk Road. At the beginning of 2008, 87% of the world population required a visa prior to departure to a Silk Road destination as compared to 73% in 2013. Between 2010 and 2013, visa facilitation measures in Silk Road countries accounted for 14% of all improvements made globally, with the most common measure being substituting a traditional visa requirement for a visa on arrival.
Last Updated on Sunday, 09 March 2014 18:01
Japan to offer bullet train with footbath
Last Updated on Sunday, 09 March 2014 12:40
Google launches restaurant menu search feature
Google has launched a new search option in the US that will lead users directly to a restaurant’s menu listing.
The new feature takes users straight to a restaurant’s menu, which is presented under different headings such as appetizers, entrees, and desserts at the top of the search page. Prices are also listed.
However, users must be specific when making the request and type the words “show me the menu for” before adding the desired restaurant.
Google’s menu search option is only available in the US for now.
The latest feature builds on the search giant’s partnership with Zagat, which provides restaurant reviews, ratings and mapping services in search results.
Last Updated on Sunday, 09 March 2014 12:29
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