MAURITIUS 2019

MAURITIUS 2019

By far, Mauritius is up there with one of the most beautiful places I have ever had the privilege of visiting. From the unrelenting kindness and hospitality of the local residents to the pride of their culture and landscape, there is so much to appreciate when visiting.

Most notably, the landscape transcends everything I’ve ever seen – the tranquillity is like nothing I’ve experienced before. The hills are the greenest I’ve ever witnessed, the sea holding different shades of blue, it’s a nature lover’s paradise. We stayed in Flic en Flac, a village on the west coast overlooking the sea. With the ocean on our doorstep, the sunsets were truly one of a kind – every day was a different canvas of pastel colours.

An added bonus on our trip was being upgraded to our very own villas in the five-star hotel next to ours for absolutely no reason, and we were hugely grateful for the gesture. With an outside pool and seating area, to a huge walk-in bathroom suite and wardrobe, we were well and truly spoilt. It was something we never expected and to receive a perk like that really brightened up our trip – after all, the holiday was to celebrate my graduation from university and my parent’s anniversary so it made the entire holiday incredibly special.

In terms of activities, we actually kept this holiday very relaxed and spent most of our time on the beachfront soaking up the sunshine. During the ten days we spent on the island, most days were beautifully sunny with the odd overcast afternoon here and there. I personally love nothing more than sitting on a beach for most of my day, either reading a book or having a nap and it was so nice to be able to actually do that this time! My parents normally prefer exploring when on holiday but even they joined me on the beach, so it was lovely to wind down and just enjoy being present on a sunlounger. We did, however, do a bit of exploring whilst on the island. We visited a few waterfalls and took part in a waterfall hike –  we were rewarded with stunning views of green hills, amazing waterfalls and the ocean as a backdrop.

One of the best experiences of Mauritius for me personally was the wildlife – in particular, the monkeys. They were surprisingly tame, patiently waiting on a roadside or on a wall for tourists to feed them. Naturally, monkeys, as with most wild animals, can become relatively aggressive if they ever feel under threat so some did lash out every now and then when approached by an overly-eager tourist wishing to capture that all-important Instagram shot. But overall, they were relatively gentle mammals who enjoyed nothing more than playfully fighting with each other over scraps of banana. Oh, and the babies were nothing short of adorable.

My trip was hands down one of the best travel experiences of my life, primarily because it was so chilled out. We were incredibly well looked after by everyone – from travel guides to hotel staff, they were warm, welcoming and keen to share their knowledge with us.

The holiday took a slight turn for the worst on our final evening when I accidentally ate a cashew-based curry (didn’t realise it contained nuts in my defence!). When the hotel staff realised I was having an allergic reaction, they quickly called for transport to escort me out of the villa to a nearby hospital. Long story short, after various scans it turned out my severe stomach pains were not just from an allergic reaction, but also from an ovarian cyst! I was given a load of pain relief and kept in overnight for observations before being discharged the following morning so we could catch our flight (within three hours of leaving the hospital!). But the hotel staff were very sweet, enquiring after my health when my parents came back from the hospital and apologising profusely before we checked out, despite it being no one’s fault.

I’ve popped a few pictures from my trip below to give a small insight into the beauty of the island. I cannot recommend it enough, and would love to visit again if the opportunity presents itself!

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One of the many unbelievable sunsets by our villa
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Waterfall hike
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Hike view #2
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View of the villa pool from my bed!
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Snoozing kitty
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Monkeys!
All photos were taken by myself on an iPhone.

A x

Marrakech 2017

Marrakech 2017

From the alleyways to the Atlas mountains, my trip to Marrakech was one of astounding beauty and culture. I was inexplicably lucky to have my parents take me to Morocco to celebrate my 21st birthday, and although it took off on a rocky start, it’s safe to say I had an amazing time absorbed in the culture and traditions of the city. My parents really outdid themselves with the choice of Riad and its location, as well as a perfect birthday dinner. I couldn’t have been happier.

On our first day in the city, we visited the captivating Secret Garden: it was beautifully tranquil, surrounding us with trees and plants of every kind. As you’re all probably well aware, I am no stranger to intense heat, and I absolutely loved the climate. It reached roughly 30 degrees by the time we arrived at the garden, so whilst my parents climbed up the tower, I sat in on the terrace overlooking the gardens and it was absolutely perfect. The gardens were kept in perfect, pristine condition with seats scattered across the grounds and quaint water features here and there. Did I mention the heat?

Unfortunately, as a result of relatively unmanaged asthma and weak lungs, I landed myself in hospital that same evening with an asthma attack, and spent the better part of that evening and the following day attached to oxygen tubes and a nebuliser. My dad was adamant we ought to leave back home for England so I could receive proper treatment, since my breathing was incredibly laboured but I refused to leave only 24 hours into our trip. With some IV steroids and 18 hours of oxygen tubes and nebuliser treatments, I recovered and discharged myself with albeit fragile lungs, over the moon to finally be able to breathe again. That night we ate in a picturesque Riad courtyard (a traditional, Moroccan house) relieved after the events of the previous night.

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On our third day in Morocco, we visited The Majorelle Botanical Garden. Walking around in 30 degree heat is no small feat, but the gardens were beautifully landscaped. It didn’t take us long to explore the whole place, plus there were no places to really sit down once we’d finished but other than that, it was a fantastic experience and made one forget where we were.

The fourth day brought us to the Atlas mountains, one of the adventures which really heightened our cultural exploration of the country. The air was fresh and cooler, with a perfect breeze and the views were like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It was a picture-perfect landscape of rolling snow-capped mountains amidst green hills, with small Berber villages dotted all over. Visiting the Berber villages really took my breath away; a 9000 year old heritage preserved within the mountains, where they live a life of complete simplicity. No one had phones, computers, or any electronic device and the children were blissfully happy playing with each other amongst the animals on the hillsides. The feeling of content was contagious despite their minimalistic style of living, and it saddens me that they rely solely on tourism to preserve this historic, authentic heritage. We visited a Berber household, and I cannot describe just how accommodating and hospitable they were. We were greeted with warm smiles, fresh bread and mint tea without any hesitation. What struck me the most was seeing young, perhaps six-year olds, begging for money for to buy essentials since they only relied on tourism to get by, and the look of sheer pleasure and happiness on the ladies’ faces when we gave them money made my heart hurt. I urge as many of you as possible to visit the Berber villages if you travel to Morocco – it puts things into perspective and makes one realise the luxuries and privileges we, in the West, take for granted.

(A quick note – buying gifts from the Berber community itself is much more beneficial for their livelihood than in stalls and markets in the alleyways in Marrakech. Of course there is plenty of choice in the alleyways and it’s an enriching experience but the Berber communities make all their gifts by hand, from carpets to plates to jewellery. Buying from the communities will help preserve their heritage and support the families.)

We explored the city on our fifth day, wandering through the markets and alleyways and venturing into the square. There’s quite an exciting buzz in the square, whether it be during the day or at night, with countless events taking place across the area. I personally, however, do not approve of the treatment of animals in the square, where monkeys were kept on chains for entertainment for the tourists. Other than that, it was rich in culture and a fantastic visit. We travelled by horse-drawn carriage across the city, passing the old and new town. I highly recommend it as it’s a brilliant way to see the sights of Marrakech without trekking in the humid climate. The only downside is to be weary of the pollution, especially if you have asthma or a lung condition: the majority of Moroccans travel on motorbikes and travelling on a carriage will result in the inhalation of these fumes.

The final day took us through the alleyways one last time and we immersed ourselves in the art of Marrakech, from hand-painted plates to canvas paintings. I was beyond excited that my dad bought me a canvas – the artists capture the essence of Moroccan culture and landscape perfectly in their choice of colours.

It was with a heavy heart that we left Marrakech and it’s intertwining of Eastern values with Western influence. The people were so accommodating and polite, always looking to help us in any way they could and offering us the best bargains as well as little gifts and presents along the alleyways. The only hiccup was the pollution, as it does hang heavy in the air, but I’d love to explore more of the new and old towns if (or when!) I return. A special thank you to Patrick and Caroline at Les Trois Palmiers El Bacha Riad for taking such great care of us, and to their staff for their overwhelming hospitality and kindness, always ensuring we were happy and well looked after. I’ve never come across such lovely people.

A x

DUBAI 2016!

DUBAI 2016!

My favourite city, with the best food to offer worldwide (in my opinion!) Dubai is what my parents and I call our “home away from home.” It’s somewhere we can escape to when life in England gets too stressful, and these past few months have been exactly that. This year, we stayed at JBR (Jumeirah Beach Residence) – having visited it briefly last year, we fell in love with the beach front and all it had to offer in terms of restaurants as well as atmosphere. All in all, we spent very little time actually at the beach, because let’s be honest, 42 degrees is not sunbathing on the beach kind of weather.

JBR was an interesting experience; unbeknownst to us, it’s where most of the nightclubs and bars were, hence the extraordinary number of  people walking around half-naked, and the odd few tourists seen stumbling across the beachfront, visibly and embarrassingly intoxicated. Ultimately, people are allowed to dress however they like, but what I find ever so slightly disrespectful is the utter disregard some tourists had for the culture and country they were in. Dubai is part of an Islamic country, and thus tourists should show some consideration of the cultural and religious values that the country holds. I think some have a misconception that Dubai is a very liberal city and thus, it’s not necessary to adhere to the strict values that its neighbour cities, such as Abu Dhabi, hold. Despite 84% of Dubai’s residents consisting of foreigners and expatriates, I still believe it is fundamentally important to respect the cultures and values of the country you’re in.

It’s also interesting to note that different parts of Dubai, despite it only being a city, vary in the extent of strict culture; for example, JBR is known to be the least conservative area in the city, whereas if you travel further east, you’ll find there are less tourists, less expatriates and more Emirati nationals, and thus, they’re more conservative in their traditional/cultural values.

Anyway, enough about that. Here are a few snaps of my favourite moments during my time in Dubai.

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JBR Walk 
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Dubai Mall 
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Umbrella St 
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Cheesecake Factory: one of the best aspects of Dubai!

This year, we decided to explore a little further out of Dubai instead of staying in the city, and it was the best decision we made this year! The East Coast is one of the (not so) hidden gems of the UAE and the tour took us to Al-Fujairah, the Indian Ocean, a beautifully hidden fishing village called Dibba and the Middle East’s smallest and oldest mosque.

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A rug market situated amidst mountains
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Markets amongst mountains
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More rugs!
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Greenhouse market
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Al-Fujairah
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Beach, ocean and mountains – what could be better?!

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Sandy Beach Hotel – Al- Aqaa

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Al Aqaa

I think my favourite part of the trip, however, has to have been visiting Abu Dhabi. Last year we visited only briefly but I immediately fell in love with the culture, despite it being somewhat more conservative than Dubai, as well as the calm and relaxed atmosphere. This year we swallowed our fears and went to Ferrari World, home to the world’s fastest roller coaster (and boy they weren’t kidding about being the fastest!) I’m already looking forward to revisiting Yas Island and Ferrari World the next time we visit Abu Dhabi, and we’re definitely staying there longer to explore the area a little better.

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So many cars!
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Italian themed stores and restaurants inside the theme park

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Yas Mall
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Yas Mall

Something that (obviously) stood out to me was how much art I stumbled across whilst in Dubai – from wall murals to paintings, every other street had some form of artwork that everyone and anyone can appreciate, and it added to the ever-modernising appeal of the city.

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Found at JBR Walk
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Also found along JBR Walk

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The interior design of this cafe was breathtaking!

All in all, Dubai certainly did not disappoint this year; in all honesty, however, I would not stay in JBR again – if you’re visiting Dubai for the nightclubs, alcohol and bars then yes, I would recommend it but otherwise, I think I’d like to stay in downtown Dubai, by the Marina perhaps. Nevertheless, the holiday was truly wonderful, just what I needed before I began university and I’m already counting down until I go back! I’d like to thank my parents for giving me such a special holiday, and for forever spoiling me as they always do.

A x

UMRAH 2016: Makkah

UMRAH 2016: Makkah

الحَمْد لله

Having just returned from the most life-changing trip I’ve ever had the privilege of going on, I’m juxtaposed in my feelings of heartache at leaving a beautiful city behind and excitement at the prospect of going back again in the near future.

Before I arrived in Makkah, I was nervous and apprehensive at doing things wrong but all the worries of my life back home were washed away the second I stepped foot in the holy city. The night we landed we were exhausted from a long flight and made the decision to begin the pilgrimage of Umrah the following day so we could complete it to our full potential. Driving from the airport to the holy city, we were astounded at how modernised it was; lights and sculptures lined the streets leading up to the Holy Mosque. The roads were packed with cars, everyone travelling to the mosque for Isha (night) prayers.

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Top level of Masjid Al-Haram

Setting foot inside the exterior of the mosque (expanded to accommodate the ever-increasing capacity of visitors worldwide) the first thing to hit us was the sheer grand scale of the Sacred Mosque. The interior was packed with Muslims trying to get in as fast as possible to visit the Kaaba, the holiest site in Islam. The intense rush of people hastily making their way towards the Kaaba is quite overwhelming at first but as soon as your eyes find the Kaaba, everything falls away because, at the moment, it’s just you and God. The outside of the Kaaba was packed with circles people performing Tawaaf (one of the rituals of Umrah.) The rest of the visitors were either praying or simply sitting in front of it, making the most of being in the presence of such a sacred part of Islam.

The following morning, after Fajr (pre-dawn) prayer, we made our way to the Aisha Mosque to recite our intention of performing Umrah. From there, we travelled back to the Sacred Mosque and began the Tawaaf which consists of circling the Kaaba seven times, passing the Black Stone at the eastern corner. Following the seven rounds, we proceeded to Maqam Ibrahim (The Station of Ibrahim) where we performed the prayer as mandatory during Umrah. Finally, once this was completed, we made our way to the Zam Zam wells. It’s said to be the purest and freshest water on the planet, with sacred qualities improving health and wellbeing in all those who drink it. I personally believe this to be the truth as my health was the best it has ever been whilst in the Sacred Mosque.

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Sitting in front of the Kaaba

 

From there, we made our way to Al-Safa and Al-Marwah to perform Sa’i – walking between the hills of Al-Safa and Al-Marwah seven times. (3.15km) Once completed, we performed the mandatory prayer and thus, completed the ritual of Umrah. Sa’i was definitely the most challenging aspect of the entire pilgrimage, as we were walking barefoot on marble for nearly two miles. Nevertheless, once this was completed, a beautiful feeling of serenity washed over me and that’s when I found an inner peace radiate within me.

For the remainder of our four days in Makkah, amidst performing our daily five prayers, we visited other holy sites in the city. Most of the time I was inside the Sacred Mosque, sitting in front of the Kaaba and it was blissfully peaceful. My relationship with God grew ever-stronger as I know He listened to every prayer. It sounds awfully cliche but this was a life-changing experience for me in that it transformed my entire perception of the religion, bringing me closer to God. I embraced everything Islam has to offer and came back an entirely new person, spiritually. Once you enter Makkah, your heart never wishes to leave; being back in London is great for me health-wise, but my heart is still in Makkah and I’m desperately longing to go back as soon as possible.

I can only thank God for making this trip possible.

سبحان الله

 

Camden Town

Every town in London is so beautifully lit up at this time of year!

I’ve been visiting Camden for about two years now, and from the market to the food stalls, to the tattoo parlours and the packed streets at night, it is one of my favourite parts of London to visit.

Camden High Street
Camden High Street
Camden Lock
Camden Lock

Christmas In London!

I don’t think there is anything more beautiful than the city of London during the festive period. The atmosphere buzzes with excitement and tourism as Christmas draws closer by each day, and although the crowds get bigger, there is nowhere else I’d rather spend Christmas than in my home city. A truly spectacular sight at night, too.

Panoramic view of Oxford Street
Panoramic view of Oxford Street
Outside Selfridges, Oxford Street
Outside Selfridges, Oxford Street