Eating Out In Dubai...Satwa Style

  It came as a longing for cheap food, the kind you find in Saudi Arabia in every corner. Foul. Tamees, Shawerma. Roz Bukhari. It’s oddly uncommon here in the UAE. But then maybe that is due to the fact that Dubai is levels more organized than, say, Jeddah.
  City life, run by frigid corporate systems, has been getting to me. I was starting to feel desensitized and isolated in a shell of routine and pretenses. I wanted to come alive again even if only for a few hours. Eating out in Dubai, I am often presented with dazzling options. But I needed more. Perhaps the better word is less.
So I sent a shoutout to my friends on Facebook. Who knows where I can find cheap food places in Dubai? By cheap I did not mean 30 dhs cheap, or even 20 dhs cheap. By cheap I meant developing country cheap where you not only sample the flavor of the food but also the flavor of the person who made it.
  Osama responded to me right away. A Saudi entrepreneur who lives in Dubai and a friend of mine. Satwa, he said. In a big dazzle ‘em city, it’s the part that reminds me of Jeddah the most. So off we went in search of the drippiest, greasiest food the price of birdseed.
  Cheap food we did find and so much of it. But what we did not except to find were two things that we could not acquire when eating out in Dubai: simplicity and pure childlike fun.
  Here are three places we visited:
  It promised tea under a blue metal canopy surrounded by a hedge. It was a an inviting enclosure that, in the dying of the daylight, glowed in all of its green-tinged fluorescent glory. It was hot and humid and absolutely perfect for Indian food.

We sat on hard metal chairs and laughed our hearts out it was simple and silly. All the cosmopolitan pretenses fell apart to let our inner Jeddawi children through. This was all very familiar…Indian food came at last along with sweet lassi and not a drop of tea.

The conversation came faster: The meaning of life. The masks we put on in our lives in Saudi Arabia. Spiritual ascension. The real meaning of depression. Intuition…and all those gorgeous topics.

The waiter, we tried to engage but he very little English and was as shy as a moth so we left him alone. He was not a part of our quest this evening. But I knew someone would be.

Second: The hardware store. The two Indian men must have thought I was a loon because of the way I was cooing at how the PVC pipes were stacked. To them, the pipes were simply items to be used in menial jobs. I saw lines and shapes, art tumbling around the store. For some reason I’ve always been fascinated by hardware stores. Never used anything, mind you, but tools present to me possibilities of all the things you could do. And nothing is more seductive than that.

  This store was not the only spot where I could see lines and shapes. I saw lines and shapes everywhere, in the light breaking the shadows and in the people in their small moments and almost imperceptible expressions that gave away everything about them. In Satwa, in contrast with the rest of Dubai, life was revelational and revealing. Osama and I felt it in ourselves. No pretenses. More wonder. A sort of melding with the weather so that we ourselves became the humid breath of the world.

Third: We found our guy. The character of the evening. 3ammo Al Irani, I called him. You know how you can get into a deep conversation with a stranger and then realize hours after you’ve parted that you never asked them their name?

Osama and I walked into an apothecary, quite by mistake. My impression, by the straw hats hung outside the door was that it was a handwoven goods store. As soon as you walk in, however, you are overpowered by all those spices and perfumes that, when stored up together for too long begin to weave a thick magic of their own.

  Some of the ingredients were used for magic too. The Iranian man told me that Morroccan ladies often come to him to buy raw pearls in a jar to cast love spells with.
  The guy must have been in his sixties or above. As sweet and shrewd as Saffron. We talked with him about the ingredients in his store, his life of forty years in Dubai, the Arab world. He spoke to us with an acquired Arabic that often tripped and fell and quite endearingly. Finally, I got to ask him the question I’ve been meaning to ask someone in Satwa who had something of meaning to offer.
  “What is happiness to you?”
  He smiled like he’d been waiting to be asked. He immediately told us with the confidence of a man who has lived long enough to exclude all the wrong answers: “My health. If you have your health then you don’t need anything else. And gratitude. Everything else comes when you have these two.”
  I was humbled. Could I ever come to this conclusion myself in my own path? Or something similarly bare and stripped of excess?
  “Your shop is all about health, isn’t it?”
  “Yes! Yes it is!” he said, laughing.

  There are pockets of genuine experiences in Dubai, opposite to what I thought. Ever since I moved here, I felt the pretenses that people wore, like chain mail but transparent. They were different from the pretenses that people in Saudi wore. In Saudi, it was often fear and shame that caused people to wear masks to hide who they were and what they thought. While here, in Dubai, my hunch was that what drove these pretenses was survival, fear of failure, ambition, competitiveness and the constant race with time. I can feel myself wearing these pretenses as I head off to work in that big glass building that I am currently bound to. I become hard and efficient and mindful of all my mistakes - because there can’t be any! In Satwa, where money is not the friend or the enemy, and only health is happiness - as the Iranian man would put it - I stopped feeling like a machine and the juices of the human fruit that I was, spilled out.
  I miss this, I thought to myself. The corporate world teaches us to count our fun by the minute, by the day and put it all in the system. You watch the clock. You time your meals. You have two days at the end of the week to begin to find yourself again and by the time you’ve found yourself, it’s the first day of the week all over again.
  So where am I going with all this….? It’s a question I ask myself everyday. But I do know, that I was want more evenings like this in places like this, Satwa style, where you peel yourself and operate in the world in complete abandon.

  So next time when you think of eating out in Dubai, how about you drop the glam for an hour or two? You might find yourself.


A Conversation About Intuition

Crystalline Page and I met on instagram. It was one of those evenings when you’re unknowingly browsing for connection and you find it.

 Crystalline Page lives in the US and I live in the UAE, a continent and a half and one big ocean apart. She’s around my age and interestingly enough, we both shared similar stories. She was raised catholic, I was raised devout Muslim. We both forayed through a path of deep questioning. After high school, she went to embark on a new journey to study as a nurse in college. I started off studying interior design, which I absolutely abhorred. We both left these fields when we decided we couldn’t take it anymore. It didn’t align to who we truly are as spiritual beings. And we are both currently shaping our paths as healers, each in our own way.

 We decided one evening to have a conversation about intuition. This has been an obsession of mine and a speciality of hers for a while. I believe I’ve always had an intuitive sense for what is good and what is bad for me. But my intuition would not have come alive fully, winged and growling, had it not been for a damaging event that occurred in my life as a fourteen-year-old when my gut positively screamed at me to the point that I had a stomach ache. After that I became aware my body’s signals. My obsession started, however, recently, a year ago to be exact, when I felt pressured to make some big life decisions and needed that guidance so desperately. In the process, in the throes of my obsession, I may have tangled myself up a bit the way your feet would get tangled in the ropes during a double-dutch match. What was intuition and what was fear? Does intuition give warning signs or does it only show you what feels right? Where does intuition come from?

 Below is a recomposed conversation between me and Crystalline Page about this.


MARAM: So I want to start this conversation by telling you about the guided meditation I joined at a meditation center close to my building here in Dubai. It was called “The Soul Contract Meditation” in which we were meant to understand what the major lesson is that our soul is meant to learn in this lifetime. The teacher was a hypnotherapist and she was going to guide us to the higher realm, outside our dimension so we could meet our spirit guide and ask him/her/it all the important questions. I met someone in the meditation and got emotional as I asked him my nagging life questions. The answers that I got from him felt very intuitive and I realized I knew them all along. But to hear them from an “ascended sage” gave me so much comfort, like I was being watched and cared for. I had nothing to worry about. When I came out of the meditation however, I felt a little nauseous and the first thought I had was “I wish this was real.”


Here, I had a feeling what Crystalline Page was about to say in response so …


MARAM: And when I explained this to the teacher, she smiled and told me with her soothing healing voice “It’s as real and you allow it to be”. That only frustrated me more. I was calling out for something physical, tangible. I wanted an ascended sage to appear before me and speak to me so that I would have zero doubt that it’s not just my imagination. I wanted to feel cared for by an ascended being that I could turn to for advice whenever I needed it.


Crystalline Page:

This reminds me exactly of what one of my mentors told me after I finished my first healing session with him. I came to him seeking healing with the “blocks” I felt within me when it came to receiving more self-love and money in my life. The session led to me meeting some of my spirit guides and soul family. I did another session with him that allowed me to experience my first past life regression. These experiences were one of the most profound I had ever gone through and I remember saying to myself they felt so real. For both experiences, I went through a deep hypnosis. I came back crying very heavily with tears of joy and amazement. I knew that this was not pretend.


I remember my mentor who did these sessions with me was a shamanic practitioner. He discussed with me that these experiences occurred for me so that I could gain what was useful from them. He said, “ Are they real or not? That is up for you to decide. Were they helpful? Do you feel at peace? If the answer is yes, would it matter if it was made up by your brain to resolve issues you had or if it was a true, supernatural experience you just went through.” It made sense to me. After these occurrences, I continued to have powerful experiences on my own and with other clients of mine where I walked them through similar hypnosis through which they received messages from and met their spirit guides. And they were left in tears and in powerful states of empowerment and enlightenment.


So if you ask me if all of this stuff is real or are we crazy... Well, my answer would be is that there is so much to life than what we cannot physically see and not comprehend to its full extent yet. And thats pretty awesome I think! It’s an exciting journey that we are on!



MARAM: So tell me what is intuition to you?


Crystalline Page:

I was given an analogy by my spirit guides that our intuition is like a GPS system. Its our higher self. Us connecting to that. It knows why we came into this lifetime. It helps guide us to where we need to be and experience what we need to to evolve and grow as humans and spiritual beings.


On a physical level of understanding, I feel it in my gut ( or sacral chakra), my heart chakra, and in my third eye. I have learned that when you are fully aligned, all of these intuitive centers work hand-in-hand and that activates and opens your connection to your higher self or, how others would word it, ,as your light body. What I have come to learn about my intuition is that when I feel something is right or aligned with who I am, I feel a warm feeling in my gut and heart. I can kind of see with my third eye a bright light form in my intuitive centers also. If something is not aligned with my vibrations, who I am , or my life path, I feel a heaviness overcome me, and feel an ill-feeling in my gut. I then see with my third eye a dark cloud float over me kind of.  I listen to these feelings within me and that is how I learned how to follow my intuition more. When I started doing that, life has been so much easier and free-flowing.


MARAM: For me it feels like an opening, like an open space of light in my body. I feel drawn into a stream of events that are inevitable. There can be struggles on the way but the initial feeling will be of something opening. I’m still learning about the other messages. What feels wrong for example. I recently booked for a trip that I had been excitedly planning for a few months. But when the time came to book the tickets, I felt very hesitant and kept putting it off. I did not want to feel this way and I started asking myself, is this an intuitive response to the decision? Does this mean I shouldn’t go? Is something bad going to happen? Then I did a prayer that we were taught to do as children in our religious upbringing when we are making a choice, and I waited. My first feeling after the prayer was of an excited opening so I booked the tickets right away. After that, this tightening and dread came over me again so I got so confused.

Have you ever experienced the negative consequences of not listening to your intuition?


Crystalline Page: Yes. the first thing I can think of is a simple concept like taking multiple choice exams back in school. I was always one of those smart, quiet kids who sit at the back of the classroom. I studied so hard for as long as I could remember. I was pressured to live up to high expectations being raised in an Asian family so I always had A’s and B’s which were the highest grades you can get in the United States.


I was not consciously aware of intuition until I was older and actually understood and learned about the concept until I was in college. I struggled with self esteem and self confidence my whole life so of course with that and wanting to always please my parents, I had major test anxiety. It got worse in high school. I still maintained the A’s and B’s but I know I did not excel as much as I could have if I had known about intuition and had better self confidence.


MARAM: Well how about experiencing negative consequences that made a large impact on your life?


Crystalline Page: Well, pursuing a career that I was not passionate about in college. Nursing. I knew I excelled in art. I loved doing art projects, coloring, drawing, making things, I was very creative as a young child and throughout primary school/ elementary school. But with my low self esteem, I could not go against my parents’ wishes as they wanted me to get into medicine. In my mind though I was pretty ambitious my whole life, not afraid to go above and beyond and achieve. I always had big dreams since I could remember, be a veterinarian because I loved animals, wanted to save the world, be an astronaut and go to space , have my own business as a bakery owner or run my own restaurant, but I was not really encouraged to be different but to conform. Stay within what was acceptable. Since my parents were encouraging medicine, I decided I wanted to be a doctor. A pediatrician because I love kids and again had big dreams to change the world. And then, again, I allowed the limiting thoughts of my parents get to me: “ it’s too expensive. You will waste too much time being in school. Why not just be a nurse. It takes 2 to 4 years instead.” So I settled. I hated every day of it. I dreaded going to school. But I still pushed forward. It was the worst 6 years of my life (took me longer because I had 2 years of pre-requisites and 4 years to finish my classes). During this time, I hit my rock bottom and had thoughts of committing suicide (probably due to the pressure of school, and I felt at this time in my life, I was realizing so much about myself and how the world worked, I felt hopeless. Nothing was working for me. I had no boyfriend. I was stuck at a dead-end job,etc..) but luckily someone was watching over me. I was almost done with the nursing program, last semester. I passed all of my classes but one. The easiest one, a review class and prep for the board exam to get my license. I had failed a class and had to retake it the year before and if I had failed one more class, I could not graduate. That happened. No matter how hard I tried, it came down to 3 tries to pass the final exam and I could not pass. By 2 percentage points. This was devastating. The thing I thought I was good at, school, I had failed. It had to be God or the Universe telling me no matter what, we can’t let you pass. You have another path in life. You have to go through this failure and all you did was for a reason. I am stuck with $70,000 of student loan debt because in the first place, I did not follow my dreams. I did not follow my intuition, knowing this was not the path I wanted to take for my life. And I suffered 6 long years to please other people. It taught me to never do that again and ever since then, I have been learning how to follow my intuition more and I could not be happier. I found my life purpose. I am aligned with the healer that I am and am helping people. I found my soulmate. I have travelled to places I have always dreamed of visiting and foreign lands I have never imagined existing. And I am doing something I love and building those businesses I have dreamed of pursuing to make a positive impact on the world.



MARAM: Wow that’s great! At this point I am taking my move to Dubai for example. That move came from an intuitive place. I know that for sure. Because it felt like a big opening from a place of peace and then I got drawn into a stream of events that led me this way. There were struggles of course. I had to face my parents’ intense objection and overcome that. But eventually I settled here. Now, it’s not feeling right anymore. Or at least, not right for my body and my authentic self to be here for long. And I’m confused all over again.


Crystalline Page:

It seemed moving to Dubai has served its purpose in your life. Can you think of what that is? You just told me about it.


MARAM: I am not sure. What is it? ….



Crystalline Page (grinning):

You just said it. You stood up to what society told you you couldn’t do. And you did it. You proved to yourself that you can do anything. And your soul has learned that now.



So what now? Haha!


Crystalline Page: Well I think you will be guided to the next step from here.



The key thing to intuition, I guess, is not to overthink it. I feel that I fall into that trap often because my mind, like an A student who is also a teacher’s pet, desperately wants to get it right! It’s the Hermione Granger in me! I am learning to follow the flow, rather than the concepts and questions...the what-ifs, do’s and don’ts, the constant race to understand the plan that life has for me. I think what we both agree on for now is what feels right. I am still observing what my intuition does when something is wrong for me. I believe I have the gist of it but it’s more confusing to me than what feels right.  And I think that, to my small self, what feels wrong is very important because it speak to my endless fears and worst case scenarios.

Still a lot to learn! Maybe we should have a conversation like this again another time to check in about where we are in our intuitive path. Much love for sharing this with me Crystal!


Crystalline Page can help you with your own intuitive path. Check her out on Facebook and IG @crystallineawakenings_1111 and Youtube channel at Crystalline Awakenings. Or visit her website



Ground Zero: Living and Working in Dubai

  I've decided to name my apartment ground zero.
  I came here after a perfect storm of life things that huffed and puffed and blew me in this direction. Too many days, I arrive back from work and curl up into a ball and cry because of the stress, of the heartbreak, the confusion, the worry, the gaping demands of a life in a city that never stops devouring. And I’ve never been completely on my own in my life. I’m a thirty year old who is just learning the things a twenty-year old in the US, for example, is just beginning to experience when she leaves the family nest. That makes me ten years late by US Central Time.
  My body is changing already. My tolerance for being on the go and for staying up all night is starting to dwindle. My heart is beaten up and bruised and I’m only just learning about interest rates on personal loans with the bank. Living and working in Dubai was not what I imagined it would be.
  My apartment doesn’t have much furniture. Most of the time, there are too many dishes to wash as I don’t have a dishwasher. The floors are constantly telling me not to sit down on them because they’re too hard. The sofa I bought from Ikea does not have cushions to soften my fall when I just want to give in to distress. My bed is not accompanied with nightstands yet so my “by the bed” items are either on the floor or in bed with me. The doors don’t close properly and I only have one set of bed sheets.
  I’m not complaining. The reason I’m writing all this down is because for a long time since I’ve been here, I’ve been looking at this place and constantly picturing what it should look like, all the things that are missing, until my head started to hurt. Until my body felt tired and rejected. Until I felt trapped in a place that just will not feel like home. I’ve also looked at my body, at my heart, at my days, at my work here and they did not feel like home either.
  But I let go of that tangle today.

  Today, something different happened. One of the presenters on our morning show, decided to shave his head on air, to express his solidarity with women who are diagnosed with breast cancer. I didn’t realize that my sun was rising until I was watching him shaving his thick dark Aladdin hair on set. I felt inexplicable gratitude to be a part of it, to have been the person that facilitated this heart-felt gesture.
  It’s these things that happen, sometimes through little or no contribution on your end, that come as a breathtaking reminder of who you are and where you are. I realized I have not appreciated myself. Or maybe I have been appreciating myself over and over in the past four months. I’ve been repeating it, writing it, looking myself in the mirror and affirming it but myself has not been listening. She was still busy moving boulders from the driveway.

  I came home today, after a walk in the park, and looked around. I’m growing here. I was grateful to have been the person who facilitated the growth of me. Just like our presenter’s shaved head, I will grow back, probably in no time at all. And in Aladdin hair thickness.
  Too often, your growth feels wrong, like you’re missing all the steps or mixing up all the words. Something is wrong. With you. Growth actually feels like wrenches are being thrown at your head and you’re not allowed to duck. You’re not allowed to do the “right” thing either. You constantly feel like there’s some cosmic manual out there and you’re failing at every instruction. I’ll tell you the truth. I don’t know what I’m doing with my life right now. I really don’t. I only know one constant: I am documenting it.
  So, one way I’m making peace with the path I chose here in this city is this: Dubai is the land of construction. Buildings come up here so quickly, you have no time to admire the beams and the concrete before it’s some magnificent thing spiraling toward the sky. I’ve been nothing but beams and concrete in the past few months, so raw and rigid. Things have been pounding and hurting and hammering, making way for the design to rise from the ground - or from this very sterile white ceramic floor.
  When I was a student in Boston, my apartment was the landmark of coziness and lovely hospitality. If you slept over, I would practically put you to bed. If you came to watch a movie, I would have had snacks and warm creamy things for you to drink. My apartment now might not have the coziest throws or blankets. The smell of cookies is not wafting from my kitchen (although I have been wolfing down Chips Ahoy cookies like there’s no tomorrow). I might not be the best hostess, right now. Because this is ground zero. We’re doing some serious growing here. And if you're living and working in Dubai, maybe we can meet and swap growth stories.

Note: You can share your growth stories on this blog. Just go to Your Story on the website menu. You can drop in and tell a story anytime :)