Postcards from Abu Dhabi with some tips from Ask Ali

Saying Marhaba (Hello) or As salamu alyakum is a way to greet local people here, so please allow me to greet you with a Marhaba!

This is the first post from our adventures in Middle East, starting from United Arab Emirates (UAE) where we arrived in the scorching and highly humid summer 2014.

Travel Journal to Abu Dhabi UAE by ServicefromHeart Corniche
Our first summer in Abu Dhabi: admiring 123-m flagpole on Marina Island across from Marina Mall. 
Travel Journal to Abu Dhabi UAE by ServicefromHeart Grand Millennium Al Wahda Hotel
A bird view of Abu Dhabi City from Grand Millennium Al Wahda Hotel, where we lived happily for almost 4% of our days this year.


Travel Journal to Abu Dhabi UAE by ServicefromHeart Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque where we learned from a funny tour guide who is also a civil engineer.
Travel Journal to Abu Dhabi UAE by ServicefromHeart Madinat Zayed
Madinat Zayed


Travel Journal to Abu Dhabi UAE by ServicefromHeart Abu Dhabi Mall
Abu Dhabi Mall


Travel Journal to Abu Dhabi UAE by ServicefromHeart Marina Mall
Marina Mall has a Carrefour.


Travel Journal to Abu Dhabi UAE by ServicefromHeart Khalidiyah Mall
Khalidiyah Mall where I attended a worship in a cinema for the first time of my life.


Travel Journal to Abu Dhabi UAE by ServicefromHeart Reem Island Sun Sky sea Gate Towers
A bird view of Reem Island, where we live in 2014.
Travel Journal to Abu Dhabi UAE by ServicefromHeart Gate Towers like Marina Bay Sands
The Gate Towers reminds us on Marina Bay Sands, Singapore.


Travel Journal to Abu Dhabi UAE by ServicefromHeart Gate Towers like Marina Bay Sands
Another view of the Gate Towers and their reflections on the Arc Towers.


Travel Journal to Abu Dhabi UAE by ServicefromHeart Reem Island
Dramatic reflection of sunrise as viewed in Reem Island is always inspiring. 


Travel Journal to Abu Dhabi UAE by ServicefromHeart Reem Island
Night view of Reem Island.

Travel Journal to Abu Dhabi UAE by ServicefromHeart public bus
Public buses e.g. bus 54 of Abu Dhabi cost only 2 dirhams / passenger.

Travel Journal to Abu Dhabi UAE by ServicefromHeart St Joseph's Cathedral Catholics
St Joseph’s Cathedral of Abu Dhabi.

Hand shakes
Remember to shake firmly. If you are a man, it is impolite to offer your hand to a local woman. If a local woman offers her hand, it is then OK to reciprocate. Some Arab men will shake non-local women’s hands, some will not (it is ok too)!

Learn some Arabic words. Based on my experience living in Abu Dhabi, one can survive in Abu Dhabi without knowing Arabic, but it is always wonderful to learn some Arabic words.
Yes : Na’am / Aywah
No : Laa
Bon appetit : Bel Aaafiya
My name is : Ana esmi
Congratulation : Mabrook
Thank you : Shukran
Sorry : Asif / Asifa

Respect – a universal value – for each other’s differences requires open-mindedness, tolerance, adaptability and obedience. Although I have not lived long enough to give wise advice, I have found that respecting yourself and other people (regardless of their social, economic, education status) is among the best policies. Ask Ali also highlights that it is “illegal to defame any member of the ruling families of any of the emirates.”

Be thoughtful. “Even if you must compromise, don’t embarrass your Arab colleagues in public.”
Depending on the context, the opposites may be right.
In Arabic culture, it is impolite not to answer a phone call during meetings.
In Western culture, it is impolite to answer a phone call during meetings.
What if you are in a meeting with both Arabic and Western colleagues?
I remember a meeting that I attended in my first week working in Abu Dhabi. Half-way through the meeting, a phone rang. The most important person (who was originally from USA) said, “I’m glad it’s not mine.”

Arab people may raise their voices when they speak, not out of anger, but to emphasize a point.

Trust Arab people like to do business with those they trust (those whom they know or wit whom they have friends in common). Arab people don’t like to do business over the phone or without initially meeting you.

Local values that I hope to learn more:
generosity / ikramiya
modesty / humility


Social media that I follow:
www.emiratweet.com : a virtual majlis of events, news, street talk about Emirati individuals and society.
www.sailemagazine.com : about successful entrepreneurial Emiratis.
The National : an English newspaper of UAE


Things that I add to the bucket list:

    1. visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the largest mosque in the UAE and the eighth largest mosque in the world. It also has a Center library. Gently step on the wool carpet (the most comfortable one I have ever had the blessing to walk on) in the main prayer hall. Admire the Swarovski crystals-decorated chandeliers.
    2. learn Arabic calligraphy as a way of learning Arabic culture.
    3. enjoy a cup of coffee sprinkled with gold leaves @ Emirates Palace with classic luxurious stairwell.
    4. attend exhibitions (and if possible, weddings) @ Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company (ADNEC).
    5. desert safari / dune bashing @ Liwa Oasis ~ 2 hours drive from Abu Dhabi. Imagine a roller-coaster ride over sand dunes accompanied by sunset.
    6. ride a camel.

First and finally, please remember the followings:

  1. Stand up when someone approaches you to say hello.
  2. Use your right hand to pick things up or accept things.
  3. Reshuffle your position (at an elevator, a doorway) to place an important person / guest to your right.
  4. Dress modestly.
  5. Remove your shoes before entering your host’s home.
  6. Refer the gulf as Arabian Gulf (not Persian gulf!)
  7. Send a Ramadan Kareem (Blessed Ramadan) card at the beginning of the Ramadan month or an Eid Mubarak (Happy Mubarak) at the end of Ramadan, to your Muslim friends.
  8. Wait until after Ramadan to approach Muslim businessmen with new ideas.
  9. Offer local friends food – a symbol of goodwill and friendship, especially home-cooked food if you know how to cook. Remember to exclude pork or alcohol (even in chocolates)!
  10. Do not touch anyone of the opposite sex. No gentle pat.
  11. Do not schedule any meeting / gathering / sport event on Fridays, at least not until after 4 pm because, to respect people’s need of praying.
  12. Do not leave your host’s home before coffee and Arabic sweets are served (or else they may feel that they have not completed their hospitality duties; hospitality is an important value here, rooted in the harsh desert conditions).
  13. Do not point your soles / the bottom of your fee towards anyone, especially someone’s face.
  14. Do not say Mashallah when praising something beautiful to an Arab.
  15. Do not say swear words.
  16. Do not post sexually suggesting, politically / religiously controversial material.
  17. Do not take photographs of a local person (especially women and families) without asking for a permission.
  18. Do not take photographs of Muslims praying.
  19. Do not take photographs of military sites, the royal family’s palaces, government buildings (e.g. airports, police headquarters).
  20. Do not eat, drink, smoke, or chew gum in public during Ramadan.
  21. Women traveling alone in taxi should sit in the back and not make conversation with the cabbies, as drivers may misinterpret friendliness.

With love,
Last updated 20141026


#readxp Happy Money the science of smarter spending

Book title: Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending

Author(s): Elizabeth Dunn (University of British Columbia / UBC, Vancouver, Canada) and Michael Norton (Harvard Business School)

Publisher: Simon & Schuster


Liz and Mike proposed 5 main strategies or principles on spending money that can enhance our happiness, based on their and others’ psychological research studies.

happy money ServicefromHeart Elizabeth Dunn Michael Norton book review

Buying experiences (e.g. trips, adventures, concerts, special meals) brings more happiness than buying material things (e.g. IT gadgets, cars, houses, swimming pools) does. Unlike material things that undergo depreciation in values, our past experiences get better when we re-think and re-feel about them.

Their suggestions to (1) turn our favorite things into treats (e.g. instead of having a cup of Starbucks coffee every morning, limit our access to perhaps a cup Starbucks coffee once in a while) and (2) pay now , consume later (as opposed to credit culture of consume now, pay later), appear to me deeply rooted in delayed gratification. It is in the delay that human beings enjoy the pleasures of anticipations, such as planning for trips.
Ideas / Inspirations:
♥ Thinking about money (that we don’t have at the moment) can discourage us from taking actions that promote happiness.
♥ People will think that an irrigation pump costing $250 is expensive, but Kickstart phrases it beautifully to appeal to our nobler motivation. “You give us $250, and we’ll get a family our of poverty – forever.”
♥ Giving money away can create wealth e.g. Pepsi Refresh Project grants.
♥ To be happier, watch less TV, spend more time (if necessary buy time) to play with our children or walk our dog. Consider how a particular purchase will affect our time.
♥ Many people sacrifice much of their time in efforts to save a little money, for example through comparison shopping (this effort in turn can influence us to pay more for features that do not bring happiness).
♥ Invest in others brings happiness only if we are not feel pressured or compelled to give.
♥ Relationships and connections matter. For example, Better World Books create connections between donors and recipients. Consequently, they have happier donors.
♥ Giving our children and ourselves treats instead of daily consumption of our favorite things may boost happiness. I am going to try this principle on baby Ren with his favorite strawberry!

1. Since the findings of the books (e.g. the authors proposed that people are happier spending money to purchase experience than material things) are based on averages or majorities of responses, this does not mean that everyone will have the same preference. Ask ourselves, especially for large amount purchases, will we be happy 1 week, 1 month, 1 year after spending money in exchange of a particular experience or a material thing?
2.”Who makes us happier, our significant others or strangers?”
3. What is our happy ratio of “money spent on ourselves” over “money spent on others”?  Based on a study quoted in the book, > 600 Americans report an average ratio of > 10 to 1.

♥ “Some 57 percent of Americans reported that the experiential purchase made them happier than the material purchase, while only 34 percent reported the opposite.”
♥ “When undergraduates wrote a summary of their “life story” (at the tender age of approximately 19), they were more likely to mention experiential purchases, rather than material goods.”
♥ The chef Ferran Adrià has a goal to turn “eating into an experience that supersedes eating.”

Other reviews / interview that I appreciate:
♥ Goodreads’ members’ reviews
How money actually buys happiness at Harvard Business Review
♥Chuck Sambuchino’s interview

Visit also other #readxp posts.

With love,

Kimchi pancake with yoghurt mixture recipe by servicefromheart

Food image is here.

Ingredients for pancake mixture:
♥ 1/2 cup cake flour (or all purpose flour)
♥ 1/4 cup sweet potato flour
♥ 1 tbsp anchovies
♥ 2 tbsp chopped kimchi to ensure its tangy fragrant is spread evenly
♥ 1 tsp sesame oil

1. Heat olive oil over medium heat.
2. Pour pancake mixture to the frying pan, lower the heat to between-medium-and-low.
3. After a side turns golden brown, flip to cook the other side.
4. Garnish with your favorite vegetables / fruits.

♥ If you like crispy pancake, ensure you spread the mixture thinly on frying pan.
♥ Serve the hot pancakee with cold salad, the yin-yang sensation of hot and cold brings delicious treats to our taste buds.

Imagine simple happiness

Imagine … waking up to gaze on beautiful blue sky
admiring the dancing leaves that gently moves by the wind
seeing sunset from your window
watching a loving couple chatting
dancing kite with red, green, blue, and white light on the twilight sky

holding a baby sleeping calmly on your arm
gazing at his little lips and long eyelashes
simple bliss of life!

Today, I had them all and feel very blessed.
How I wish I could share all these with you!