It’s beginning to look a little like Christmas

Xmas IMG_1377

It was about this time last year that we had a conversation about what our Christmas in Dubai might look like. Should we take the Christmas decorations with us? Surely not. Likewise, the oversized fake tree that comes down from the loft every year? No, that would be ridiculous too. Wise decisions. Without all the familiar festive paraphernalia to hand it is easier to break away from convention and adopt a fresh approach. Deep down, I think the attempt to simply replicate what we usually do in this very different location would make me feel a bit sad.

The traditionalists and those with small children can find all they need in Dubai to make the festive season bright – including a fake white Christmas! One of the big department stores in the nearby Mall has added a snow machine to Santa’s habitat, recreating the magic of a Lapland snowfall.

It’s a just a pity that the odds remain stacked against impressing the adults with a half decent mince pie. I have tried quite a few at some of the most popular British expat haunts but soggy pastry and a lack of decent filling of the right taste and consistency seems to be the norm. There is a wonderful independent deli close by our flat and I had high hopes when we spotted mince pies were part of their very tempting cake display.

mince pie

Unfortunately, ‘pie’ has been interpreted literally as this has a very thick pastry lid. The filling is an unsatisfying black paste with an overpowering flavour of cloves – possibly to compensate for the lack of brandy. All in all it was a bit medicinal, which is not really what anyone wants from a mince pie.

interior pie

A couple of supermarkets only stock those with a long shelf life from the kitchens of Mr Kipling and Mr Lyons. The trusty M&S and Waitrose ‘luxury’ versions don’t make it here at all, possibly because of their perishability and booze content. Nothing for it but to make my own. Shop bought mincemeat is tricky too. My search has been long and has involved many, (pun alert), fruitless conversations about the fruit-based content of ‘mincemeat’ with confused shop assistants. So when I came upon two jars, sitting lonely amongst a random clutch of unrelated products in a recommended supermarket, they had to be mine. By this time I had planned to make my own mincemeat anyway but the purchase felt so sweet.

I usually rely on Betty’s of Harrogate to supply the best mince pies on the planet and I don’t expect an outpouring of sympathy for this ‘deprivation’. Could it be with none of the usual pre-Christmas panic I could actually be spending the coming days calmly making pastry whilst listening to the radio? That’s a bit different!

We recently spent a weekend in Al Ain, one of the largest cities in the UAE but with a much older and more traditional heritage than Dubai. There is a famous camel market there which turned out to be prophetic. Later I spotted a decorative ceramic camel in the lobby of our hotel and so ‘Colin’ our Christmas camel was duly purchased and is now installed, complete with red tinsel in preparation for the festivities.

Better camel IMG_1385

Lots of candles, a few strategically placed baubles and some pretty fairy lights will be enough for this year. Less is definitely more. Now the countdown is on till Tom and Jack arrive on 21 December. Requests have already been made for chill out time round the pool and I’m looking forward to joining them as a lovely hotel just across the road is in charge of our Christmas lunch, so no final lists and battling the crowds for the last minute food items. I might just miss the lovely smell of turkey stock permeating the house on Christmas Eve, though. Maybe next year……


This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Carol Arthur

    Sounds pretty blissful to me!

  2. RuthBadley

    You’re right Carol. I hope I can keep hold of the stress-free Christmas feeling in future years – it feels good this way! x

  3. Julie

    Hi Ruth. Happy New Year to you. Thanks for all the great updates. I hope you are not affected by the fire in Dubai that we are hearing about and I hope that 2016 is a great year for you and yours. All the best. Julie.

  4. RuthBadley

    Hi Julie,
    Happy New Year to you and hope 2016 brings much joy, peace and success to your all your enterprises. Well NYE 2015 was rather different! The fire at the Address hotel is across the road from our apartment. Tom and Jack were here for the Christmas break so we were planning to have a meal on our balcony and watch the fireworks. Jack saw the flames first and we couldn’t believe how quickly it sped up the length of this enormous building. From that point we knew the evening wasn’t going to be quite what we planned but we were very fortunate. Our friends live much closer, were evacuated from their building and came to us. I have two other friends with apartments in that hotel and we were very anxiously waiting for news of them. One friend has lost everything and the other’s flat is affected by water damage from the sprinkler system. We were all quite upset that the fireworks went ahead as planned – celebration in the midst of such chaos and devastation seemed inappropriate but that’s Dubai for you – image and prestige is everything. I will be posting a New Year blog soon and the pictures tell the story. Funnily enough I was considering writing a blog on 31 December which would have been totally redundant given the events that took place that evening but that didn’t stop the media here writing their own fairy tale version of events – some clearly written in advance of reality! That’s a long reply! xx

  5. Julie

    I can sympathize actually! Whilst everyone was enjoying their Boxing Day celebrations here, we were clearing out neighbours from their flooded properties and rescuing pigs, horses, sheep and cattle from the flooded fields; we had to leave the chickens to fend for themselves, but actually they managed ok. What a few anxious days we had too. We have never had flooding so bad here in York since I came nearly 22 years ago and in fact the bridge at Tadcaster collapsed too. We are only just getting back to “normality” and the river remains at its highest level since they started monitoring the levels many moons ago! You stay safe and hope one day you will be back in Harrogate! x

  6. RuthBadley

    Julie – a friend and press photographer captured the pictures of the collapsed bridge at Tadcaster that went everywhere. He put the pictures on Facebook so it was really through seeing those that we had a sense of the water levels. How dreadful and so frightening seeing the water rising and the damage it will do. Time goes so fast – we have been here nearly a year already. Harrogate is definitely the return destination, though after their recent holiday our boys are not too impressed that with that idea! Hope Yorkshire gets some respite through 2016. Bye for now. x

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