If you’ve been following my Insta Stories, you already know where we were last weekend 😊 We were in Al Ain, the ‘garden city’ of the UAE. We had a room booked at Al Ain Rotana, one of the oldest properties in the Emirate which also happens to be the only 5-star property of Al Ain as of now.

We drove into Al Ain a little past 12 noon on a Friday afternoon. Loved cruising through the near-empty roads! We were there in a little over an hour.

The beauty of the Al Ain Rotana property is its flat, spread-out structure. Not your typical towering hotel building here, but rather a collection of mid-heighted structures with a spread of exclusive villa properties, spacious greens and wide, inviting pool areas.

I love mall-hopping with my little girl. It’s our mummy-daughter bonding time, and one of our favorite shopping destinations has always been Dubai Festival City Mall.

Apart from a wide range of shopping options including the two anchor tenants Ikea and Robinson’s which do not have stores anywhere else in the city, Dubai Festival City has a great selection of restaurants and cafes, and the spectacular IMAGINE show that takes place every half-hour at the harbor front is absolutely magical for kids and grown-ups alike.

What’s not to love about Thai cuisine? The exotic blend of herbs and pungent spices makes Thai dishes a treat for the entire senses, and despite having that ‘feel good’ comfort food vibe, Thai food in general is very wholesome and healthful.

Great news for Thai cuisine lovers out there, we have a brand-new nook in town that gives you an entirely authentic Thai dining experience. Introducing Master of Wok, now open on the bustling 2nd December street juxtaposed between swanky Jumeirah and great-value Satwa.

South African fine-dining cafe and diner concept Walnut Grove has opened its second store in Dubai. Their first branch is located in CityWalk, and their newer and arguably more prominent location is in the heart of The Dubai Mall, right by the waterfalls.

The savvy, brightly lit cafe looks delightfully inviting with its Parisian-inspired interiors but the real highlight of the new branch is its spacious outdoor seating area that boasts of a stunning view of the Dubai Fountains and the mighty Burj Khalifa.

If you are a fan of North Indian thaali’s, chances are Rajdhani is way up on your list. Banking on their well-established brand name, the company has now opened a sister chain called Rajdhani Street.

I visited their branch in Karama (Dubai) last weekend. The interiors are colorfully kitsch and inviting. The walls are splashed with color, and at one end is a retro-style Indian bicycle heaped with a pile of colorful ware.

A night’s stay at five-star property Marriott Al Jaddaf includes a complimentary breakfast at their all-day dining restaurant, The Market Place. The breakfast runs from 8 am till 11 am and covers a wide range of international breakfast favorites.

Having over-snoozed in my comfy queen bed with the curtains blocking out the morning sun well past 9, all my good intentions of doing a few laps at the pool post breakfast were forgotten and we headed downstairs a little past 9.30 am.

We spent a very restful, pampered weekend away at Marriott Al Jaddaf (Dubai) and during our stay we visited Scots American Grill for dinner. This fine-dining steakhouse is located on the first floor of the hotel, offers a unique menu that is a fusion of Scottish fine foods with a new-age American flair. They have an entire lineup of steaks as well as enticing seafoods, and the very helpful staff are more than happy to assist with your choices.

I was mispronouncing ‘Zou Zou’ as ‘Zaw Zaw’, but I later came to know its ‘Zoo Zoo’, an affectionate feminine Arabic name. Perhaps this beautifully bronze-lit authentic diner is named after a beloved Zou Zou the owner happened to know, a brilliant cook who had a special penchant with Mediterranean flavors and loved to feed a large brood.

Such is the warmth and familial familiarity that exudes from this beautifully decorated ‘Turkish meets Lebanese’ restaurant, located in Insta-friendly La Mer, Dubai.

I recently watched the brand new Bollywood flick ‘Thackeray’, more so for being a die-hard fan of actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui than having even an ounce of knowledge about Indian politics. No I wouldn’t recommend this movie, the slow-paced screenplay does not do justice to Siddiqui’s talent nor the fiery journalist turned politician he portrays. But what I did gather from it all was Balasaheb Thackeray’s undeniable influence on restoring the Marathi identity.

One particular scene that resonates is where Thackeray (played by Siddiqui) starts a street-food revolution introducing the humble ‘Vada Pao’ as a Marathi snack.