A 100 likes & we’ve only just begun

First of all, a very big, gigantic, life sized, thank you, to all the wonderful readers of ‘The Black Book Dubai’!

I still remember, a little more than four months ago, when I hit the publish button, for the very first time, I was so nervous. Having read so many wonderful blogs I was apprehensive as to how ‘The Black Book Dubai’, would be perceived.

But here we stand, a few posts & a couple of interviews later, at the first milestone of 100 likes.

It has been a wonderful journey so far, & here are a few things that I learnt in the blogging world:

  1. Unlike real life, people in the blogosphere are nice (at least most of them are)
  2. If someone inspires you & you want to talk to them, just reach out
  3. Have a unique voice
  4. Don’t get disheartened with lesser followers, just focus on the content
  5. Have fun when you post

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this blog, do drop me a line at theblackbookdubai@gmail.com

In conversation with Olga

Meet Olga Lobanova, the force behind the very popular blog, Sand in The City, a heady combination of fashion, style & photography. Join us as we chat with her

  1. How long have you been a photographer?Chat with Olga_The Black Book Dubai_Sand in the City

I’ve always been into photography since my childhood. Luckily I could experience analog cameras, and even saw how my grandfather and uncle developed the films in the bathroom. While studying Media Management at the university, I took a few courses in composition, photography and retouching. I am constantly involved in different projects as a photographer; however it is not my main job. Photography is my biggest hobby and passion!

  1. What made you start shooting street style and how did you do it?

After moving to Dubai in 2010, I was very curious to know, if anyone runs street style blogs in the region – these types of blogs was extremely popular in Europe and US at that time. However, I couldn’t find any blogger or photographer & so I decided to fill up this gap.

  1. What’s the story behind the name ‘Sand in the City’?

Yes there is a story to this as well! One of my friends was visiting Dubai & I took him for a desert safari. We got into a terrible sand storm, while we were stuck at the little petrol station somewhere near Al Ain, he suggested this name for the blog. Plus he considered my love for the famous TV series and to SJP in particular.

  1. Where’s the best place, to shoot, in Dubai?

I find outdoor events such as Sole DXB, FFWD or Meet D3 the best for capturing cool street style pictures.

  1. What are your views on the evolution of street photography & the fashion sense in the region?

The Media here is increasingly involving their photographers into street style shooting.  Additionally, bloggers also showcase their outfits outdoors while casually walking and not posing. It’s definitely became a trend here recently.

  1. How many photos do you take per shoot?

It really depends, sometimes just one shot is enough and the photo turns out to be the best photo of the day. Sometimes I take 10-20 shots of the same person and they are not good enough to publish. I would say an average 3-7 shots are enough to capture a great street style photo.

Olga Camera-2_The Black Book Dubai_Sand in the City

  1. What camera do you use, to capture these amazing pictures?

I use Canon 5D Mark II together with 24-70mm lens.

  1. What’s a typical work day like for you?

Street style photography/blogging is not my full-time job. I work for a fashion e-commerce and my typical day is in front the computer and in the meetings.

The working day when I photograph is normally quite hectic; you need to be fast and creative in the same time.

  1. How do you market yourself?

I’ve got a few clients through my blog; I guess they found me either by word of mouth or while looking for a photographer on Google.

Promoting the blog wasn’t easy, especially at the beginning when no one knew me. It is almost 3 years now of constantly being in touch with PR agencies, brands, press, media and fellow bloggers.

  1. Any words of wisdom, to aspiring street fashion/style photographers?

If you have even an iota of doubt, before posting a specific photo, blog post or social media – don’t publish! When you’re publishing anything, you have to be very sure of your content.

It was a pleasure speaking with Olga, a sweet & humble person. We would like to wish her luck, for all her future projects. To know more about her work, do visit her blog Sand in The City.

Do say Hi to us at theblackbookdubai@gmail.com

Tete-a-Tete with Tasneem

Grab a cup of Chai (Tea) & join us as we chat with Tasneem,  popular food blogger & writer at Thoughts Over Chai

Tasneem 2What is the story behind your blog’s name ‘Thoughts Over Chai’?

The name occurred to me instantly – as I sat in front of the computer to start a blog. At that time I didn’t think it would shape up to be a food blog. It was simply a collection of my thoughts, sentiments and basically everything that runs at a constant speed in my mind.

And yes, I do have a vital connection with tea.  My mind works a million times better when I have a cup of tea in hand, and hence the name.

What is your favorite Middle Eastern dish?

Can’t get down to naming just one – the versatility in the Middle Eastern dishes is extraordinary. But if I had to name just one, it would be Baklava,hands down – I hope I learn to cook that one day.

Where do you draw your cooking inspirations from – the place you grew up or your mom or some recipe book?

My cooking inspiration comes from every corner of the world –  a quick chat with my mom and sister to know what they are cooking, my son’s demands,husband’s requests & a lot of social media influence.

Whatever meal I make each day,is a culmination of all these factors plus constant experiments. I love to play around in my kitchen.

What according to you is a foodie’s dream destination?

I’d say India – it’s such a beautiful country with lovely people, marvelous hospitality and a humongous variety of regional cuisines. The medley of flavors that you can find in different parts of the country is just amazing.Every corner has something distinct to offer and there is absolutely everything to love about that.

What are the five most essential ingredients that everyone should have in their kitchen at any given time?

  • Salt – No meal is complete without it.
  • Garlic – Why not? Love this ingredient for the kind of impression it leaves in every dish.
  • Coconut milk – Gives a regular meat curry an imperative jazz.
  • Cooking oil – Because I can’t imagine cooking my main meals without oil.
  • Eggs – Eggs in itself is a meal, so if you have just this in your pantry you won’t ever stay hungry. And it doesn’t even take a lot of time to cook!

What is your worst cooking nightmare? Any epic recipe failures?

I used to have many during the first few months of my marriage – couldn’t get the Biryani right, over cooked vegetables, unseasoned curries etc.

Once I spent the whole afternoon in the kitchen baking a cake –  for my husband’s birthday – his first after our after marriage & then popped it into the refrigerator until it was time to cut it (which was at midnight).

The cake hardened and the poor birthday boy was awfully embarrassed to run a knife through the cake in front of all his friends. I am glad we had another cake to our rescue and laughed over the debacle. The flashes from that day still haunt me every time I go in the kitchen to bake something new.

What is the most adventurous dish you’ve eaten?

Sadly, not yet!

What is it that you love most about food blogging?

I love the idea of sharing recipes and connecting with like minded people. I also cherish the fact that in a small way, I can touch someone’s life. Food is an integral part of our system – to inspire that, is humbling and that is what most food bloggers consider to be the most honorable part of their work.

You run a very successful blog – in terms of followers & traffic – any tips you’d like to share with us?

Thanks a ton! I am still just a drop in the vast ocean of blogging, but I believe in few things – being honest, writing about things I feel the most for & most importantly connecting with my readers.

Having my own voice, is my mantra 🙂

Any words of wisdom, to aspiring chefs, food bloggers?

Follow your heart and passion

Thank You Tasneem, for sharing your thoughts with us. We love how simple & down to earth you are & would like to wish you the very best for everything.

Do check out her amazing blog at Thoughts Over Chai

Let us know what you think about this interview at theblackbookdubai@gmail.com

How Istanbul Stole my Heart

HOW ISTANBUL STOLE MY HEART

Turkey Pic 4

Every once a while, I find myself in a city that mesmerizes me, intrigues me, demands my attention, but at the same time showers me with warmth & a feeling of familiarity & comfort. Cue Istanbul, the city that has formed an integral link between Europe & Asia over the course of history, a city well known for the beautiful architecture, the sumptuous baklava & the mouth watering ice cream, the Turkish bath & its very popular films & drama. It’s a city that is as traditional, as it is modern.

Istanbul, due to its very strategic location has attracted hordes of invaders – from Greeks, to Romans to Persians & the Ottomans – each left behind a rich cultural legacy that stands tall even today, lending the city a very beautiful character. Every nook & cranny in the city is nothing short of a marvelous experience.

Turkey Pic 8

It doesn’t take more than a few hours to fall in love with this city. As you walk through the cobblestone streets, layers of history just unfolding before your eyes.

The locals are warm & friendly, always ready to chat with a cup of Cay Tea (or Turkish coffee, if you must) & lots of conversations.

I happened to visit this city during April, & I was greeted to gardens upon gardens of beautiful Red, Yellow & Orange Tulips, swaying majestically in the sometimes sunny, sometimes rainy weather.

While there are many things one can do, in this beautiful city, these are some of my personal favorite experiences.

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  1. Ride the nostalgic Tram to Taksim Square for some old world charm

Make sure you hop onto this red beauty, for some old world nostalgia. Built in the 19th century, it is the one of the two remaining tram lines, running between Tunel Square & Taksim Square, bustling through one of the busiest area – the Istiklal Street. It costs less than 1 euro to buy the tram ticket & is available with the operator.

  1. Taksim Square

Taksim Sqaure is the modern city centre of Istanbul, a majestic square dotted on all sides by cafes, restaurants, pubs & movie theatres. It is also a place where people gather on New Year’s Eve, concerts or any other street demonstrations. You will find small carts serving the most delicious Simit (Bagel Bread dotted with sesame seeds) & freshly grilled kebabs on charcoal. If you’re lucky you might also find some musicians stringing their guitars or playing their violins, with such flair that it would put some very famous musicians to shame.

The highlight of Taksim Square is the Independence Monument that you would find at the beginning of the pedestrian walkway (or the place where the tram would drop you off), opened to public in 1928, it was built by an Italian Sculptor (Pietro Canonica) depicting Ataturk, along with other leaders, representing the Republic & a soldier holding the Turkish flag depicting the army.

Turkey Pic 5

  1. Stroll along the Istiklal Street (Caddesi)

It is a 3 km pedestrian only walkway, located in the Beyoglu district on the European side of Istanbul. Colorful neo classical buildings, bustling people, shops, cafes, book stores, concert halls, you name it & you will find it here. It is the best place to snack, stroll & shop – or simply people watch. Make sure you stop by for some Cay Tea & conversations, or browse through some music CD’s or buy the traditional Turkish Evil Eye bracelets & key chains.

Turkey Pic 1

  1. The Short Circle Bosphorous Cruise

A visit to Istanbul is incomplete without the very popular Bosphorous cruise – they generally run throughout the day & night. There are two types of cruises available – Short Circle Bosphorous Cruise, The Full Bosphorous Cruise during day & night. I took the Short Circle Bosphorous cruise, that takes about two hours. It is an ideal option if you’re hard pressed for time, but still want to see the Sultanamet & the Bosphorous bridges connecting the European & the Asian sides of the city. The approx cost is 10TL per person, but it is better to check the rates once you get there.

Turkey Pic 6

  1. Make sure you take out time to eat Baklava at Karakoy Gulluoglu

While every restaurant in the city serves some amazing baklavas, this one sort of takes the cake (or baklava). No matter how busy you are, make sure you take time out to visit this baklava shop, located about 15 minutes from the Spice Bazaar. Opened in 1949, it serves one of the tastiest baklavas in the city – plain, pistachio covered, cream filled & even chocolate baklava. Their baklavas can be packed in beautiful boxes, to take home. It can get quite crowded at night, so if the weather’s nice, you might want to visit this place for brunch (or a late afternoon snack).

There is absolutely no end to the various things that you can do in Istanbul. What are your best memories of Istanbul do leave your thoughts in the comments below or drop us a line at theblackbookdubai@gmail.com

The Ripe Market: Dubai

If there’s one thing you can never be in Dubai, then it’s bored!

Just when you think you’ve exhausted all possible things to do, something quirky comes up the block. If you’ve been to Zabeel Park on Friday’s you would have definitely seen the colorful tents, the lovely streamers, strains of faint music & the wonderful aroma of food wafting by.

So what is the Ripe Market all about? Stay tuned for our first ever pictorial post!

Why I would hop away from IHOP & Customer Expectations

This weekend, I happened to visit the IHop restaurant at Dubai Mall, while the overall experience was not bad, it was not all that great either. Here are few reasons, why I might just give it a skip next time:

The Omlettes were cold

I mean stone cold – while I do understand that weekend’s are a busy time, but that is not reason enough to serve cold food

Mixed Up Orders

Again,we’d specifically asked for a dish, but when the order came, it was all wrong. After waiting for about 20 mins for our order, we ended up getting the wrong one & then had to wait another 10 mins for the right one.

The Hash Browns were all over the place

Yeah, the Hash Browns were not nice at all, apart form being lukewarm, they were all were all over the place.

If all of this had happened at some normal average restaurant, I probably would not have minded it. But when you walk into an IHop, as a customer I have certain expectations about the service, food quality & the overall experience. When this level of expectation was not matched, I was quite disappointed.

This makes one realize how fragile Customer Expectations are, if as a business you cannot meet them once, you might lose on your customers all together.

Diary of A Wandering Girl

Oh yes, I love travelling!

New places, different cultures, exotic cuisine, rich history – there is so much to discover.

But sometimes planning a trip is cumbersome and tiring, specially for people like me, who suffer from lazy bones syndrome.

I enjoy the bit that involves shopping, booking hotels and exploring different things to do. But don’t ask me to take charge of the trip and plan the day to day itinerary. I don’t want to take charge when I go on vacation mode. Isn’t that why I have taken the time off in the first place? And what fun does a planned trip have when you are 26? Spontaneity, where did you disappear?

But boy oh boy, travelling with a younger sibling who is far more particular than you is exhausting even before you board that plane to vacayland. This time around, I had to pack my bags 2 days before we fly out, my passport was in my purse with my air ticket, hotel stay and passport copy. As if this wasn’t enough, my sister also insisted that I carry a copy of her air ticket, hotel stay and passport. Hmpf!

I prefer travelling light. Minimum things to hold on to and swing around. You look less touristy that ways and attract far less attention of hawkers and taxi drivers. Bliss!

For now, I am going to reserve my judgement until I am back, either with big pouches under my eyes or a perfectly tanned skin!

Until then, lots of love.

Rendevouz with Rania

Rania Esper, well known fashion blogger, editor of the The Blush Diaries & also the Creative Director of The Blush Boutique. We caught up with her recently, & here’s what she had to say

Rania Esper

  1. Could you tell us a little bit about how ‘The Blush Diaries’ was created?

I was working in corporate marketing for a few years but I really wanted to get into the fashion industry. In January 2014 I finally decided to quit my job and pursue my dream.

  1. What are the best things & the biggest challenges of being a fashion blogger

Fashion blogging is exciting because I get to work on many different aspects,from styling to photography and writing. The biggest challenge I would say is keeping it fresh and always creating unique and engaging content.

  1. Could you tell us a little bit about how you go about building an article?

I work on my editorial calendar at the end of each month. I brainstorm upcoming   topics, schedule photo shoots, purchase outfits etc. I like to write my articles a couple   of days in advance to give me time to proofread and be completely happy with them.

  1. All the pictures on your blog have a very chic feel about them. Who does your amazing photography?

Thank you, I’m really happy you like them! I take all the photos for my lifestyle and beauty posts myself. As for my outfit posts, I’m currently working with Olga from Sand in the City Dubai and it’s been wonderful.

  1. How would you describe your own personal style?

My style is dependant on my mood, but I would say I’m pretty much girly-chic at heart.

  1. What are the key fashion trends that we should be looking out this summer?

I anticipate a lot of graphic tees, bohemian maxis and ethereal lace, all of my favorites!

  1. If you could travel back to any fashion decade, which one would it be?

If I to choose just one it would be the 1920’s. I love the beautiful headpieces, bold red lipstick and chic dresses.

  1. What are some of your favourite boutiques to shop at?

I like to always change it up and search for new places, but I currently love Asos, Boohoo Official and Daily Look (all online).

  1. We hear, you’re online boutique is up & running. What kind of styles can we expect?

Yes, we launched on March 26th. The Blush Boutique is all about fun, flirty items all made with love.

  1. Lastly, what would like to say to all the aspiring fashion bloggers, out there?

I encourage all aspiring bloggers to follow their passion, but it’s a lot of hard work and you have to be ready to put in the time.

Thank you Rania, for sharing your thoughts with us. We wish you all the luck with your future endeavors.

Do check out her amazing work at The Blush Diaries

The Driver’s of Dubai

If you live in Dubai, then chances are, more that 80% of your life is spent driving (I don’t mean the F & F 7 type of driving, but the slow, brake – accelerate –  brake Shk Zayed Road driving)

Based on my experience so far, no matter which part of Dubai you’re in, you will most definitely bump into the below, very special driver’s

1. The Forever Ferrari’s

Yeah, those people, who are in a state of eternal hurry – other cars be damned! You can hear them (or rather the sound of their state of the art aerodynamic engines) before you can see them in your rear view mirror & in a blink of a second, they’ve already zig zaged across you.

2. The Flasher’s

These driver’s are signal, speed limit & traffic blind – no matter what the situation is, they will flash. They expect the other cars to change lanes in less than a second to make way for them, or they will start with another string of flashes. It’s okay if somebody driving painfully slow on a fast lane track, but if a person is already driving  at the legal speed limit, where do you expect the car to go?

3. The Lane Cutter’s

These guys are easy to spot, half of their wheels are always on the lane next to which they are supposedly driving the car. So if you’re anywhere around them, you’ll be kept wondering if they’re planning to change lanes or not. The worst part is, there is no sure shot way of gauging these drivers – sometimes they may actually shift lanes & land in front of you, sometime they will just straighten their cars & continue driving.

4. The Drifter’s

They are somewhat similar to the Lane Cutter’s; however, these guys, randomly drift into the next lane, when there’s a bridge or a curve. As soon as they realize it, they straighten back into their lanes. Another variant to this type, are the smartphone drifters;yeah those guys who are busy with their smartphones & have absolutely no idea that their car has drifted onto the next lane.