Mama of Two
Hey people across the screen! It’s been a little while right? Since I last posted (which was over TWO years ago), I got pregnant and had another baby. It’s true what they say. You lose a little bit of yourself after becoming a mother. Of course, this is not always the case and you don’t lose yourself entirely. But for me it was most definitely true. I lost a bit of me, not even in a negative or a bad way. I lost a bit of me but I gained a whole lot of me. A little more patient, a whole lot more grateful.
Since lockdown and having my second baby, we haven’t been able to travel as much due to life commitments and financial reasons. This blog page was never meant for any financial gain, or for fame or whatever. It was always about my own memories and memoir of stories along the way. Although I have always hoped that maybe one day someone would benefit from the itineraries and travel routes that we were lucky enough to take once upon a time. I sometimes also love looking at all the wonderful moments we captured over the years!
As I touch the keyboards and type without much thought, one thing is for sure. I have truly missed writing and putting my thoughts to a keyboard. This feels like therapy, this feels like my happy place, so here I am. Since motherhood has consumed all five of my senses, that is exactly what I will share. My thoughts, my feelings and all that I feel about becoming a mum.
Motherhood is waking up several times through the night. Sometimes because your child is uneasy or unsettled. But other times just because you want an excuse to check up on them.
Motherhood is craving Nutella on toast but not being able to eat it because your child is allergic to nuts.
Motherhood is sitting down to have a hot mug of tea but just as you take a sip, you hear a little voice saying “poo mummy”. The tea can wait, you don’t want your baby to have a sore bottom. So when you return you drink cold tea, still satisfied and happy your child isn’t constipated.
Mum guilt is the kind of guilt that is unimaginable, unexplainable and quite frankly unbelievable. To me, it’s a bit like grief. It’s the kind of pain that is overwhelming and takes over all aspects of your life. It doesn’t necessarily get any easier, but you grow around it and each stage teaches you a lesson you didn’t know you needed in life.
There are days, when you are physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted and you have nothing else to give. But as a mum, you have no choice but to give. Give and give again. Give every bit of what you have, what you can and even what you don’t have it, you give. And what you get back in return is priceless. The cheeky smiles, twinkling eyes. Those infectious giggles and those loud stomps.
Those are the moments that I cherish and look forward to.
I wear my stretch marks with pride and I want to show off my cellulites as they remind me of how I spent 18 months growing two humans. I don’t want to hide away from my greying hair. I want to show my children that you can love your body, just the way it is. I want them to know that their body is perfect, no matter how it looks. I want them to look after it, care for it but never be ashamed of it.
What a turbulent journey it has been so far. But here we are. A 4 year old and a 1 year old later, I feel so much stronger and happier. I pray to always cherish these moments of gratitude. As I type this, I can already feel my past wounds finally healing, those painful memories fading and the scars becoming a part of my skin. Engraved gracefully in different parts of my body.
Your presence is making me hold onto optimism. I am embracing my strength.
Tag: new blogger
I want to begin by sharing a little back story around this city break to Barcelona.
When it came to writing about Barcelona, as soon as I started to put pen to paper, or shall we say fingers to the keyboard, I realised how special the trip to Barcelona was for me and always will be. My mum and I had planned to go to Barcelona with our friends to celebrate their new beginnings, but sadly they could not join us. Devastated by this news, we suddenly found ourselves being unsure about whether we should still go ahead with the trip. It wouldn’t have been the same without our friends as we were used to spending at least one weekend together every year. After much contemplation, we decided to go ahead with the trip as everything was already paid for and we knew we would make up for the lost time.
The trip to Barcelona took place in September 2017. This was a time where my life truly was a little ‘all over the place’. I had just left my job and family home in Newcastle as I was moving to Manchester to be with Ahmed. My Mum and I flew out on a Thursday evening and returned on the Sunday. The following Monday I started a new job, a new role, in a new city! At the time Ahmed and I did not have an accommodation secured in Manchester so it meant living in a hotel for a few days when I got back. In some ways the trip to Barcelona was the perfect ice breaker with my new colleagues. As well as an insane plan!
Since our friends were unable to come with us, it meant that this was the first time me and my Mum travelled anywhere on our own! I was petrified to say the least to be honest as we both have zero sense of direction when it comes to travelling as I usually have Ahmed to rely on.
However, at the same time the trip felt like a lot of new beginnings. A trip on my own with my Mum, moving to a new city and starting a new job. So much to look forward to despite the unknown.
When we went to Barcelona I had no idea I would start a blog in time to come. But I have put together a brief itinerary of the places we visited while we were there. But most importantly sharing this precious journey with anyone reading this 🙂
Flights: £109.98 return flights for two people with Ryanair. Absolute BARGAIN!
Please see Link above for our accommodation. We split the cost between four people so it worked out okay for us. The place was really quirky and spotless. They provided us with milk, bottled water, juice tea etc.
This was an amazing location as we walked down the street to get the tram into the city centre! Super quick and easy 🙂
La Rambla: We woke up super fresh and went straight out for some breakfast. Walking down the La Rambla, absorbing our surroundings. La Rambla is a street in central Barcelona and was completely heaving with tourists and most likely locals too. We found it to be an easy stroll that can be done at any time of day. Unfortunately, you do need to be on your guard against pickpockets on this popular stretch though! There are tonnes of restaurants and cafes located in this area. We tried out a couple of them during or visit and were impressed about the affordability and service.
La Sagrada Familia: After exploring La Rambla we decided to head over to the see the awe-inspiring La Sagrada Famila, a large unfinished Roman Catholic cathedral. This beautiful building was designed by Antoni Gaudi (the renowned Catalan architect) and it ended becoming his biggest obsession.
Can you believe this beautiful cathedral has been under construction for more than 100 years and attracts over 2.5 million visitors per year?
Park Guell: Park Guell is an enormous garden with gorgeous and distinct architectural elements designed by Gaudi. It was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984 and is a place that is definitely worth all the hype that it receives.
It was easy enough to get there, however, it was a fairly steep walk, uphill all the way and took at least 15 mins (probably more). So it might be worth considering getting a taxi there.
Point to note: We made a huge mistakes: we didn’t pre-purchase tickets. Tickets have timed slots and limited numbers so it was completely sold out by the time we got there. So we only go to explore the outside of the park. I still thought it was worth the journey as the park was like no other that I have been to!
Casa Batllo: I thought I had seen it all in terms of architecture, but I was so wrong! Casa Batlló is a building in the centre of Barcelona. It was designed by Antoni Gaudí, and is considered one of his masterpieces. As soon as we arrived at Casa Batllo, we were immediately reminded of what a genius Gaudi was. His work and imagination was truly unique in every way, shape and form. I have not seen architecture or buildings like it anywhere in the world.
Top tip: Book the tickets in advance! Once again we made the mistake of not booking the tickets earlier and by the time we arrived, the queues were so long it put us off from waiting to purchase them. We wanted to explore some more of Barcelona so ended up getting some cold drinks and wandering in the gorgeous streets of Barcelona for an hour or so!
We never got to see the inside of this amazing building. Perhaps a reason to return to Barcelona?!
Palau de la musica catalana (Palace of Catalan Music): The most beautiful concert hall in the world! I kid you not. In a city filled with incredible architectural masterpieces by Gaudi, I would not be surprised if people have not heard of this stunning piece of architecture. This beautiful concert hall was built in the early 1900s and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.
We paid for a guided tour of this beautiful building and were so impressed by the experience. The tour was well presented and well priced! We would highly recommend seeing this place for yourself!
Caterdral de Barcelona: From Palau de la Musica, we made our way to the Cathedral of Barcelona. We entered the Gothic Quarter district which is one of the oldest and most beautiful districts in Barcelona. It is home to lots of little restaurants and shops.
We ended the trip with some delicious Paella and discussing my crazy plan to live in a hotel for a few days and starting a new job! I could not have asked for better company and weekend before starting a new chapter in my life.
Barcelona was the perfect getaway! It offered great public transport, stunning architecture, city life, and the best part: delicious food. A city trip of about 3-4 days would be enough to cover most of the highlights. I have only shared some of the things you can do during a Barcelona city trip.
Pregnancy – 9 months of roller coaster
Pregnancy is a taboo topic in many societies, especially in the South Asian culture. But let’s break barriers and speak about the one thing that everyone should openly talk about. After all, it is something that humankind has known about and experienced since the beginning of time!
Fair enough, some people do talk about conception and pregnancy… but not in the context that the discussion should be led. I am not sure if you have ever had the distinct displeasure of being acquainted with one of those annoying ‘aunties’ who blatantly ask for a ‘good news’ (very) shortly after someone gets married? Yeah… that is not cool!
Folks take it for granted and assume it is so easy to conceive, or that people want to start a family straight after their marriage. They are happy to ask you about your ‘good news’ yet expect you to hide your bump and don’t want you to speak about your pregnancy openly.
So why is it that women are made to cover their gorgeous blooming bumps? Why is it that women can’t and don’t openly discuss the little things that change from the very moment you conceive?
Some of you may not be able to resonate with my experiences, but I wanted to write and share my pregnancy experiences as it may help someone feel like they were or aren’t in it alone.
It is okay to speak about it and it is okay to be negative.
You are not an awful mother or human to have YOUR feelings. Own it girls!
I am writing this at 22 weeks pregnant. I feel like right now I am in a frame of mind where I can write about my first and second trimester. All these hurdles and changes that you experience can take over your life.
I intend on giving you a brief snapshot of how pregnancy has been for me and what I learnt from it.
Everyone talking about pregnancy only tells you about how amazing it is. Is it really amazing? Well, yes of course, it’s the most beautiful process a woman can go through, SubhanAllah; BUT it doesn’t come without the compromises, sacrifices, emotions and the biggest changes physically. So yes, I am going to share my experiences and they are not necessarily very positive. They will be raw and they might be ‘TMI’ (Too much information) for some. But thats okay. As long as someone, even one person gets to read the post and is able to relate to my words or even better, in some way is able to prepare for what is to come, the blogspot will be worth sharing.
Another thing, pregnancies don’t just happen. Not everyone can conceive easily so please, don’t give people a hard time. Don’t interfere and ask them about their family planning.
It has nothing to do with you.
LET PEOPLE BE AND LEAVE THEM ALONE!!!!
So, all pregnancies consist of ‘Three Trimesters’. I will go through each trimester and list the things that impacted me the most on a daily basis.
Trimester one: 0-12 weeks
I was always told that the first trimester was the hardest. And boy oh boy was it hard. I could start feeling the changes in my body and mind from the word go.
Nausea – HATE THE TERM MORNING SICKNESS.
It is far from reality. In fact I find it extremely offensive when people refer to pregnancy nausea and sickness as ‘morning sickness’ because let me tell you one thing, it does NOT just happen on a morning. For me it happened all day, every day. Anything and everything could trigger it. People advised that I try different things: sucking on ice cubes, eating biscuits first thing in the morning, drinking peppermint tea and so many others recommendations.
It is safe to say that none of these things worked. It was something that I just needed to get on with. So yes, don’t be fooled when people tell you that you might go through ‘morning sickness’. I recall having to pull over the car to be sick, I even had to ask to use people’s toilets because I needed to be sick, I was sick in the middle of the night a couple of times too.
My advice would be to just take your time. Take however long it is that you need to throw up and don’t feel embarrassed. It is not ugly. It is your body doing amazing things and creating something so beautiful. Do try the things that people advise as theres nothing wrong with that but if it gets too much like it did for me, go and speak to your GP who can prescribe some anti-sickness medication.
Remember to stay hydrated. That is the most important thing for you at the time. Drink plenty of fluids even if you can’t hack it. Oh and if you can, try to sit down and be sick in a bucket or some sort of sick bowl as you can really hurt your back bending over the loo. I learnt this the hard way as I had a sore back for weeks.
Who do I tell?
This was a tricky one. Although I had always believed and been told that I shouldn’t tell anyone before the first 12 week scan, I didn’t quite follow the advice. I told my parents, my husbands parents and some friends pretty much straight away. At a time like this, you want to be able to share and talk to your nearest and dearest about the biggest changes happening in your life. God forbid, if something was to go wrong, they would already be aware and be able to support you.
My advice would be to listen to your heart. Follow your instinct and do what makes you happy and feels right. Don’t let others dictate who to tell and who not to.
Loss of appetite
Uh Oh. This one killed me. I love my food. I mean those who know me know that I absolutely love my food. I genuinely wasn’t aware that it was a thing to lose your entire appetite. I couldn’t even look at food on some days. I had completely gone off meat and spices which was a real struggle and I even cried at times because I wanted to eat but I couldn’t. So mum’s handmade curries and chicken burgers were out of the equation for the foreseeable future. THAT WAS HARD.
My advice would be to eat little and often if that is the case. It doesn’t matter what you eat at the time, as long as you eat something. Again, don’t be listening to people telling you you’re causing harm to your body/baby because you’re not. Of course it’s better and more nutritious to eat healthy, but if you’re physically unable to eat and mentally exhausted then do what is best for your mental health at the time.
Sensitivity to smell
Oh yes! This was something else. I felt that all of a sudden I was given some incredible powers to be able to smell anything and everything. There was a particular smell in our new flat (we moved into our new flat when I was only 4 weeks pregnant!!). But the smell was so horrendous for me that every time I entered the house it made me vomit. My first reaction was to always run to the loo. So be prepared and aware that this is something that could also happen to you.
I don’t have any advice for this I’m afraid. This is something ya’ll are going to have to deal with and maybe let me know what worked for you?
THE FIRST SCAN!
YES! inshAllah if all goes well during the first trimester and you get to your 12th week of pregnancy, it means that you have your very first baby scan. You can pay privately and get one before that. But we didn’t as we wanted to cross this big bench mark and do it through the NHS in case God forbid something was wrong.
Now in this scan you get to see your baby for real. The feature are somewhat prominent, you get to hear baby’s heart beating. It is truly emotional, or at least it was for me!
My advice would always be that your partner is there with you to witness this amazing moment. I feel that sometimes fathers can be a little left out and can’t quite grasp how much your body is changing on a daily basis. So this is the first time they get to see it for real.
Trimester two: 13-28 weeks
Many will tell you ‘oh it will go away once you enter the second trimester’. WRONG. It will go away when it will. Not one person has the same experience when it comes to sickness. Some people don’t go through it at all and some poor sods experience it for the entire 9 months. I am the kind of in-between type. I was sick non stop from 0-18 weeks, however, every now and then I was still sick. So don’t assume it will definitely happen or finish after the first trimester or worry yourself sick by waiting for it to happen. People will also tell you all sorts of things like ‘its a boy if you’re being sick so much…’ I don’t think any of that is true!
EUGH. This. If you haven’t experienced heartburn before, then this is something, another thing that may or may not happen. Heart burn can and does happen. It can happen at any time or a particular time, especially if you’re eating fried foods, fatty foods, spicy foods. Basically my entire diet.
I would say try to eat a healthy diet, although I struggled with that. Apparently eating salads, fruits and veg doesn’t give you heartburn as much. So I’d suggest eating better. Or if you’re like me and would rather eat what you fancy, then always, ALWAYS carry water and Rennies with you.
Also I bought soo many bottles of Gaviscon and it wasn’t until the end of my pregnancy that someone told me I could have got it from the doctors on prescription. So mention it to your midwife and try to get free prescriptions for it!
Awkward/odd stomach pains
Your baby is growing and therefore your stomach is making room for baby’s growth and development. So all the little aches, pains and feelings are completely normal, don’t panic. Although if the pains are excruciating, then seek medical assistance ASAP. But there is always is constant sense of something in the lower area of your stomach that feels kind of tight at times.
Yep. Second trimester means that your leg might go into a spasm and cause horrible cramps. But the only thing you can do is try to move your foot around to ease the pain. It hurts, God it hurts, but it does get better.
My absolutely one and only favourite thing about being pregnant so far. The flutters what felt like wind to begin with. This started to happen when the sickness subsided and I was around 18 weeks. I remember being sat in some very boring training and feeling this odd sensation in my stomach. ‘Is it wind I wonder?’. It wasn’t. As days went on, the feeling got stronger and more regular. As time goes on, the feeling becomes very familiar and gives you lots of reassurance that your little baby is growing and moving. Alhamdulillah.
Finding out the gender
Another gorgeous experience in the second trimester and you don’t have to wait as long as 12 weeks! At 20 weeks, you get to go for another scan to make sure that your baby is okay. They carry out lots of measurements for the baby to ensure that your baby’s growth and development is okay. This is also your time to find out if you’re having a male or female child!
My advice would again be to do what you feel is right about finding the gender. Don’t be pressurised by friends or family whether or not to find out. It is something between you and your partner, so you do what makes you happy.
As a couple we decided to find out the gender but agreed not to disclose it to anyone. So we stuck to that and enjoyed spending quality time discussing names, clothes and nursery decor. Not disclosing the gender was exactly what we wanted. Alhamdulillah.
So yeah. You do you. If you want to go ALL OUT and have a big gender reveal party then go for it. There isn’t really a right or wrong. And if you don’t want to find out the gender. Then wow, you’re strong willed. But that in itself must be truly amazing too!
Pelvic girdle pain (PGP) – What it does to you
I remember asking a couple of friends if it hurt in the lower abdomen when they walked, climbed stairs or even got changed. They both said they encountered difficulties and pain but they didn’t ask for medical advice. But for me, the pain was too excruciating. Yes I have a low pain threshold, yes I am a drama queen, but this was impacting me on a daily basis. So I didn’t want to take any chances and spoke to my midwife about it. She advised wearing a support belt to take the weight off my pelvis and if that didn’t work they would refer me to see a physiotherapist or recommend going for acupunture.
Trimester three: week 29-40
I made it. I made it to the third trimester. I don’t know how, but I’m here now. The most excruciating few months of my life… emotionally & physically.
The last few weeks were just about survival. I had to make lots of changes to my lifestyle to suit my needs. I stopped going out very much and tried to walk a lot less. Darn it, I even started to pay £3.50 per day for a car park space at work as I couldn’t walk too far due to the pains.
I spent the majority of time in the last trimester preparing for the baby’s arrival. This included packing the hospital bag, and drafting a birth plan, the details of which I will be sharing in a separate blog post.
Also, I will be sharing the essentials for the baby (including nursery furniture, pram and car seat) in a separate blog post.
Little did I know that my friends had arranged a surprise baby shower and invited my nearest and dearest. Even though I was impartial and not decided on whether I would have wanted to have a baby shower, it was a very pleasant surprise and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
As I had decided to go back up North for childbirth, I had planned the logistics of it over and over again in my head.
Having a maternity shoot was never on my radar and not something I had ever considered. But when a friend insisted on me having a maternity shoot as a present, I ended up researching it and falling in love with Mini Bee Photography
Though sharing my own experience of pregnancy, I wanted to emphasise on not letting anyone else interfere in this special time. But also to highlight that it is okay to feel a bit shit and a bit fed up; pregnancy is not all rainbows and roses as it might be depicted.
Mental health is your priority and if you are not feeling okay, just know that it is complete alright to not be okay!
My email and DM (on Instagram) are always open for anyone who wants to have a private conversation on pregnancy.
Oh hello bucket list destination….!
In August 2014 I saw a photo of a cave hotel posted by a traveller called ‘fameisficklefood’ and all I remember thinking is how I had never seen anything quite like it! At that point I had barely travelled and therefore my knowledge and understanding of ‘what’s out there’ was limited. Since the day I saw that photo, I researched the hell out of Cappadocia. I spent ages reading about it, looking at hotels in the area and dreaming of visiting one day. At the time I wasn’t really convinced it would happen but I made a list of places I would like to see and experience.
Our hotel Museum Hotel was an experience on it’s own. It is located in the Uchisar region and feature a terrace with panoramic valley views with a heated outdoor pool.
It is by far one of the most amazing places I have ever had the pleasure to stay (a close second after our hotel in Thailand)!
Looking back at all the photos from the hotel makes me feel extremely grateful that we were in a position to experience something like it. The hotel was absolutely impeccable. From their service, cleanliness, communication, everything was perfect!
Hot Air Balloon Ride
Of course the first thing you think of when you hear the word Cappadocia is ‘hot air balloons’. We started the day off by taking a ride on the hot air balloon. We woke up at crazy o’ clock (around 4am to be precise) as we were going to be picked up around 4.30am. The hot air balloon company collected us from our hotel and took us to a tiny little restaurant for breakfast… which wasn’t anything special.
After rallying at the restaurant, we continued our journey and headed towards the location where we were set to take off from. The experience was amazing, but there weren’t as many hot air balloons around. I think the unstable political situation in Turkey (2016 coup incident in Istanbul and Ankara) definitely had a massive impact on Turkey’s tourism around that time. The locals all commented on how it was unusual for their to be hardly any tourists around.
Roaming around Uchisar
After coming back from the ride, we had the most amazing breakfast ever! As we were the only guests for breakfast that day (absolutely no reflection on the hotel), we took up the option to being served breakfast out on the balcony rather than the dining area. The breakfast spread was such that we had to be served food on two tables in order to accommodate all the crockery!
Ahmed and I have the curse of restiveness when it comes to being on holidays and off we went to explore the local ‘things to do’.
Quad bike tour
Jumping on the quad bikes was never in our plans and actually we were thinking of staying in the hotel and making the most of it. But since neither of us know how to ‘relax’, we both agreed to experience the quad bikes! I am sooo glad we did. I can honestly say that exploring Cappadocia on the quad bikes was a bit of a highlight for me. I didn’t think I would enjoy it as much as I did. The adrenaline rush was so real!
I woke up (and forced Ahmed to wake up) mega early to witness one of the most incredible sunrises covered by the hot air balloons. It felt magical being able to just sit there and take in the beautiful scenery. I think it would be fair to say that whoever visits Cappadocia wakes up early at least one morning to witness this?
Devrent Valley (Imagination Valley)
We decided to hire the car and visit some local places throughout the day. Our first stop was Devrent Valley. For some reason we didn’t really stop here for too long as I think we may have got lost for a little while and ended up driving to our next destination. We it was worth a break and some photo opportunities!
Zelve Open Air Museum
The next stop was probably my favourite part of the day and one that I will definitely not forget any time soon. This cave town was home to one of the largest cave-dwelling communities in the region. Christians and Muslims lived here harmoniously until the 1920’s when the Greek-Orthodox Christians were driven out of Turkey. Muslims continued to live in their Zelve cave homes until 1952 when they were deemed too dangerous to inhabit for structural reasons.
What we liked most about the Zelve Open Air Museum is how freely we were able to explore the different abandoned homes and churches. There were also very few people visiting Zelve at the time, so we were able to roam freely and really imagine what it might have been like to live in this extraordinary homes only a short 65 years ago.
Pasabag Valley (Monks Valley)
The only memory I have of this place is seeing that lady in the photo on the right. She gave me the most gorgeous smile and waved as I was getting excited about being there. I then waved back and asked her if I could take a photo and she gave me a thumbs up. She seemed so excited that I was taking a photo of her, so I did. I even had a lovely selfie with her that she seemed to be impressed by!
Goreme Open Air Museum
This was another open air museum that we went to. If memory serves me right, we didn’t end up getting the tickets to visit the museum, instead we walked around and enjoyed our surroundings!
Kaymakali Underground City
Derinkuyu Underground City
We ended up visiting two underground cities in Cappadocia during our visit. It was the underground cities that took us by surprise. Even though these were a bit out of the way from Cappadocia, it was worth the visit to see how people had carved out dwellings underground. The concept left us awestruck and we ended up taking a silly amount of pictures. The best thing that we did when visiting them was to book a tour guide who talked us through the history and told us stories about them!
Time to say goodbye… to Turkey and to each other.. Until next time!
How to experience a coup in Istanbul….
So far I have taken you guys on so many trips with me. I have spoken about my wedding, followed by my honeymoon, my surprise birthday weekend in Dubai and my experience of performing Umrah. Most of which I had a part to play in.
But this is a strange blogpost for me to write as I literally had absolutely nothing to do with the itinerary or the planning. Plus at the time, my brain was so full of issues around the spouse visa, new job, and struggles of a long distance marriage that I didn’t necessarily think about the holiday much. Throughout this holiday I lived every second in the moment.
And actually, writing this blogpost has reminded me that we had initially planned and booked to go to Bali, but because of Ahmed not being able to get a visa from Qatar, we weren’t able to go. We ended up losing money for the holiday and Turkey was a very last minute plan!
To make matters somewhat more interesting, a series of very interesting events aka the attempted coup happened while we were in Turkey. It was described as “the bloodiest coup attempt in its political history”. On 15th July 2016 a section of the Turkish military launched a coordinated operation in several major cities to topple the government and unseat President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Arriving at the airport and seeing Ahmed there after three very long months felt magical. Ahmed had landed a few hours ahead of me and had his bearings sorted. When I landed, we took the train/tram to the hotel, dumped my luggage and off we went exploring the city. After what was supposed to be a brief walk (but wasn’t) around to some nearby historic sites, we found ourselves tucked away in a Turkish restaurant, noses buried behind a menu, trying to make the impossible decision of what food to order.
Needless to say the food was extremely flavoursome and well presented: splendid. Making nothing of the airplanes and helicopters flying overhead every now and then, we made our way to the hotel. At this point, neither of us had had any sleep in the last 36 odd hours (trying to complete work related milestones before the holiday and because of awkward flight times) so we crashed out as soon as we got the hotel.
We woke up in the morning to a gazillion missed called between us. Both our parents and friends had tried to get in contact with us, sent us several messages asking if we were okay.
Completely confused and disgruntled, we called back and were ‘requested’ to turn the telly on! Only to find that the entire country was under a state of emergency and that there had been a failed coup attempt while the pair of us were snoring away. There were helicopters flying over our hotel and tanks were seen at around the bosphorus region.
Despite being advised to stay indoors, we didn’t want to waste time staying in the hotel so we mutually agreed we’d go out and figure whether we should explore further.
Oh and another perk was that during our visit to Istanbul, the metros were free and we did not have to pay anything for the public transport while we were there.
We went straight to the ‘Blue Mosque’ which, to be fair, was only round the corner. Blue mosque is an iconic place in Istanbul and you often hear people wanting to visit Istanbul to see ‘the blue mosque’. It is located within the central district and easily reachable via train. From what I’ve heard other people say, it is usually extremely busy and crowded, however , due to the coupe saga our experience was quite the opposite.
There were hardly any people in sight and we found ourselves to be the only crazy ones surrounded by the gorgeous, breathtaking Blue Mosque.
Just a stone throw away from the Blue Mosque, we wandered over to the stunning Hagia Sophia. Hagia Sophia is a huge museum. It was originally a church built in 537 AD, became a mosque in 1453 until 1931. Then later opened as a museum in 1935. It is a huge building with an impressive dome and beautiful chandeliers.
I found this to be a gorgeous site with rich history of both Islam and Christianity. The building itself is amazing, and the remaining mosaics are absolutely beautiful. Just the size of of the interior, the high arches and the will blow you away.
The Topkapi is an enormous palace which was the Imperial residence of Ottoman sultans for almost 400 years. Although much of the palace is not accessible, the daily tours of the Harem are definitely worth it!
I would say you can easily spend over two hours to visit the site. The best way to visit the palace is to purchase a museum pass. There are two entrances to the palace. One is near the archeological museum and the other is beside Hagia Sofia (opposite to Blue Mosque).
The Holy relics area was particularly interesting for both Ahmed and myself. There were relics from the Prophet Muhammed (SAW) including his beard, tooth and sword as well as those from other notable prophets including the sword of Hazrat Ali.
Nope, we are still not quite done! You can tell Ahmed planned the itinerary!
Despite being exhausted he said ‘we can’t miss the bazaars’, so off we went in search for the bazaars. Apparently there are two kinds of bazaars, the spice bazaar and the golden bazaar. Sadly all the bazaars were shut due to the coup. The streets were empty and silent with only a handful of locals being around. Perhaps one of the most peculiar experiences!
In hindsight I think this may have been a complete blessing as I was completely knackered and not sure how I would have dealt with the hustle and bustle of how the bazaars usually are.
It’s fair to say I woke up feeling extremely knackered and my legs were aching, but Ahmed had another day of lots of walking and exploring planned! So here we go!
We started our day by taking the metro down to the cruise tours of the Bosphorus. Bosphorus forms part of the continental boundary between Europe and Asia, and separates Asian Turkey from European Turkey. Fascinating, I know!
We didn’t really do much research before going on a cruise and hopped onto the first boat that was departing. I LOVED this tour and would highly recommend this to anyone… I mean maybe its because my legs ached and the cruise meant that I could sit for a couple of hours! The bosphorous cruise takes you from the European side to the Asian and back, via ferry. The entire trip takes about 1.5-2 hours and we were able to appreciate the beautiful houses, mosques and palaces that dot the shore line.
All cities do or at least should have a ‘view point’, right? Well Galata Tower is Istanbul’s view point! Built in 500 A.D., Galata Tower is one of the dominating landmarks of Istanbul and was used as a watchtower to help defend the city.
You pay a fee at the bottom of the tower, the wait and the queues can be quite annoying, but I think its worth the wait and sweat! If waiting isn’t really your thing or you’re afraid of heights, I wouldn’t recommend going up. However, I still think that the location is worth a visit. It’s surrounded by some gorgeous narrow streets and tasty turkish food!
This wasn’t really my cup of tea if I am honest. When I travel, I prefer not to be surrounded by shops and high street brands. However, people who love shopping and enjoy the ‘city feel’. This would be completely up your street because you can shop till you drop!
Ahmed and I thought we had covered most of the ‘must see’s’ in Istanbul. So a friend of mine who had visited earlier in the year told me to visit two places. So we decided to take her advice and go on another day of exploring.
Eyup Sultan Mosque
This mosque complex is built adjacent to the tomb of Abu Ayyub al-Ansari. A companion of Prophet Muhammad SAW that hosted him after his arrival in Madinah. He was buried outside the walls of Constantinople and was over 80 years old.
Cafe pierre loti
The area is located near Eyup Sultan Mosque and you can take a cable car ride to the top of the hill to a place called ‘Cafe Pierre Loti’. The cable ride itself it rather underwhelming and takes around 2 minutes or so to reach the top. Once you get to the top, the views are great to take pictures. However, the café is crowded and you may find it difficult to get table. The prices at the cafe are also above average, so we chose just to have some cold drinks before heading back to the centre of Istanbul and stuffing our faces with some delicious turkish food!
Walking around aimlessly around Istanbul’s streets & taking photos…
After coming back from the Eyüp district of Istanbul we headed back towards the Blue Mosque. We spent a couple of hours wandering around and absorbing the surroundings! There was something really quite special about Istanbul and the ambiance in the area despite the fact that the country had suffered from a coup during our visit.
On day 4 we took a flight to the ‘bucket list’ kinda place, Cappadocia. I am writing another blogpost with our Cappadocia itinerary for those that may be interested or planning a visit!
A sneak peak of our cave hotel in Cappadocia to make you come back for the blogpost 😉
Why Sri Lanka?
Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
We started our journey around 8-ish and went straight to the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage. I had seen many photos on Instagram and it looked like an amazing place to visit. On the surface of it all, it sounded fantastic. We were told that we would be contributing towards elephant welfare, which was something that made me even more eager to visit.
HOWEVER….. I quickly became horrified at how these elephants were treated. I passed numerous elephants chained in solitary confinement (which you can see in the photos). The elephants looked unhappy and out of their comfort zone. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend that anyone visited a place that promotes animal cruelty for economic purposes.
For these reasons, we decided not to stay in the orphanage for long and headed straight to the famous ‘Dambulla Cave Temple’.
Dambulla Cave Temple
Sigiriya – Lion’s rock
- Wear trainers or comfy shoes as the hike/walk up can be quite strenuous.
- Get there early to beat the crowds and the heat.
- Take some (read ‘a lot’) water with you as you will get thirsty. (You can buy water before you start up the steps but it is expensive!)
Dambulla to Nuwara Eliya
We were shown the tea plants up close and the leaves that were picked. All these different types of tea aren’t different plants. It’s the same tea leaves, just processed slightly differently (I thought green tea was from a different plant but nope it isn’t!). The tea plantations grow the tea, process it and package it up for auctions in Colombo where all the different brands like Dilmah and Lipton taste the tea and buy the ones they like best.
Nuwara Eliya to Ella: Train trip of a life time
The train journey was epic, and I spent most of the train trip sat in the door with my legs dangling out of the moving train.
The Little Adam’s Peak, 1141 m high, is fairly easy to climb, with a good path all the way up. The trip took us about 2-3 hours in total (including picture taking). We didn’t see anyone at all during our hike which is extremely unusual as this is a really popular hike with tourists and backpackers. I guess maybe the weather put people off, but I thought the weather made it even more special and easy! Good job we carried out rain coats, right?
Whale & Dolphin watching
Quick visit to Galle
What we didn’t realise was that there is a large Muslim population in Galle. Obviously Muslim population means that one thing is going to be available for sure…. HALAL FOOD. Oh YES! We went searching for some halal meat and came across this tiny little burger place. My mouth still waters thinking about those burgers. I don’t know if we were mega hungry or whether the burgers really were that amazing… a bit of both!
Galle was a really gorgeous little town. It gave you a real feel of how life must be like for the locals.
Saying Goodbye to ‘Upali’ our AMAZING Driver
Okay, so this post is very close to my heart. I am in a place in my life where I feel like I am being pushed and pulled at the same time.
Prior to migrating to Qatar and prior to meeting my husband, I was someone who used to call themselves a ‘Muslim’. I was by no means a practising Muslim as such. I was a Muslim just by name. Around 2013 I did not even know names of our Prophet Mohammed (SAW) family members. And in all fairness, all I knew was there is no deity, but God. I believed in the Almighty with all my heart. After all, He had blessed me in so many ways. But I did not know much else other than the words La illaha ilAllah Muhammad rasoolAllah.
My journey started when I moved to Qatar. The move to Qatar was exciting yet depressing at times. I spent hours offering my prayers. Praying for an answer. Praying for some guidance. During this time, I had applied for numerous jobs and attended many interviews. As I waited to hear back from employers, I started to question my credibility and employability as I felt trapped in the four walls that surrounded me.
Eventually I was offered two jobs; one in a Pakistani school with a very good reputation and another job in an Islamic British school. After thinking long and hard, I decided to accept the job offer at the Islamic school. I believe He is the best planner and that is the reason I ended up in the Islamic school. I can confidently say that my experience at the school changed me. Changed me in ways that I might never know. I had the privilege to be in the company of the most humble and modest Muslims for 6 months. Sisters that will forever remain in my heart. Students whose faces I will never forget. Miss Aisha, the manager whose faith in God inspired me.
Though I do not claim to be the perfect Muslim, nor do I claim to have a great, intense Islamic knowledge, I believe I am now a somewhat better informed of what a Muslim is. However this journey has not been one without any turbulence.
Between April 2015 – December 2015, I spent my time trying to fit in, trying to make sense of how my life had changed and developed. As time went on, one thing was sure. Whilst we were living in Qatar, I wanted to perform Ummrah with Ahmed. Ahmed had already been for Ummrah a number of times, so I felt confident that it would be a very achievable task.
In December 2015, we finally applied for our visas for Saudi Arabia. It was quite an interesting and long experience which even consisted of them giving me injections for meningitis and some other vaccination. Once we gathered all our paper work, the passports were sent to Saudi Embassy for visas.
On 5th January we got a phone call to say that the Visa had arrived. We were completely overjoyed and drove straight to their office to collect it in the evening.
When we got home that evening, I received a phone call from my mum. She was inconsolable and could barely speak. Eventually the words came out of her mouth like some burning fire. My dad’s older brother, his best friend had suddenly passed away. Being thousands of miles away from my family, I never felt so alone despite the fact Ahmed was right next to me.
To say that I have been blessed with the best husband would be an understatement. We had been married for less than a year and already he had seen me at my very worst. Already he had seen me at my lowest. And already we had experienced a death in our family. It was an awful time. But I couldn’t thank the Almighty enough. What were the chances that we had just collected our visas and passports so I was able to attend his funeral in Pakistan.
After coming back to Qatar from Mirpur, I felt so alone. I had spent the last ten days or so with family and coming back to an empty apartment felt soul destroying.
But it all changed.
We went for Ummrah just a week after returning from Mirpur. Ahmed finished work on Thursday and we headed straight to the airport. We were running extremely late and I was petrified of missing the flight. He (Ahmed) has been known to do this before you see…. He missed his last flight to Medinah and ended up going to Saudi for less than 24 hours!
Somehow, miraculously we made it to the airport in time. I hadn’t been out of the house in an Abaya and a Hijab, but I really enjoyed the experience and felt the part.
The journey was quick and we got there before we knew it. We landed in Medinah and headed straight to our hotel which was down the road from Al-Masjid an-Nabawi (Prophet’s Mosque)
As I have mentioned before, my faith before Qatar was weak and so was my knowledge. I didn’t think that the striking Green Dome rising above the tombs of the Prophet Muhammad SAW would have such an impact on me. I was mesmerised by the beauty of this Mosque. I sat outside for hours just staring at it as I waiting for Ahmed to come back from inside.
As I entered the mosque and sat down to say my prayers, I noticed that there were women from absolutely all over. Young and old. Able bodied as well as disabled. There were some who looked quite wealthy and others who looked poor. Yet they all looked the same. They all had the same expressions and the same determination in on their faces. We all had the same purpose. Just before we offered our prayers and heard the Azaan, some women next to me offered their prayer mat as I didn’t have one. We didn’t speak the same language, nor were we from the same culture, but she made it clear she wanted me to share her mat. I was taken a back by her kindness and thanked her. As I thanked the women next to me, a little girl came running towards us and offered us a date. There was something so special about this moment. What a way to start out journey to Ummrah.
Day 1: Seeing the sites in Medinah before heading to Mecca in the evening
We woke up feeling really fresh after a good night sleep! We started the day early as Ahmed wanted to show me lots of historical sites. We prayed Nafls in all the Mosques that we saw.
We timed it so we could return back in time for Jummah to pray in Al-Masjid an-Nabawi. This will perhaps be one of my favourite memories from the trip. I felt so blessed and overwhelmed to be sat amongst so many other Muslims. As soon as we completed our prayers, we got some lunch from KFC (BAD MOVE) and went back to the hotel to get freshened up.
We didn’t waste any time and quickly grabbed a cab to go to Mecca. We stopped at a Miqat (Miqats are the areas or locations at which pilgrims wear Ihram, either for Hajj or Umrah). We offered two nafls here. This was an odd experience as the women were pushing and shoving all over the place, making it unbearable. Everyone was holding tight onto their shoes and belongings as it was utter chaos. I somehow managed to find a space and got ready to say my prayers.
The journey took between 4-6 hours I believe, could be more. Could be less! All I know was that I was exhausted.
The exertion quickly went away however. As soon as we entered the boundaries of Mecca, it started to rain a little. WOW. What an experience. I never thought I would experience rain or even a bit of drizzle whilst being in Mecca.
We got to our gorgeous hotel in Mecca and I noticed that there was a different buzz around me. Everyone seemed so happy and optimistic.
The moment I laid my eyes on the Kabah’, I couldn’t quite believe I was there. Too thrilled to take photos. Emotions running wild and a sense of feeling blessed was over taking me. It was amazing.
Luckily for me, Ahmed had done this a few times, so we quite quickly began to perform our Ummrah.
I could hear everyone chanting the same words. The same enthusiasm and the same eagerness.
Labaik Allahuma Labaik, labaik la sharika laka labaik, Innal hamda wann’imat laka wal mulk, la sharika lak
Translated this means:
“I stand up for YOUR service, O GOD! I stand up! I stand up! There is no partner with YOU! I stand up for YOUR service! Verily YOURS is the praise, the beneficence, and the dominion! There is no partner with YOU”
Praying Jummah in Al-Masjid an-Nabawi and then completing Ummrah on a Friday too! Oh what an experience!
Day 2: A sleepless night in Mecca
Having a sleepless night in Mecca was not what I had planned. I had really bad S&D. TMI, I know! But I had so many things rushing through my head. Is God punishing me? Are my sins being wiped? Or was it just the KFC?
I was hoping to go to Kabbah to read my Fajr prayer, however , I wasn’t physically able to do this. Ahmed went to say his prayers while I tried to take medication and fix myself up. I didn’t want to waste any time and wanted to experience the Kabbah all over again.
I managed to somehow wake up, have breakfast and headed out to the Kabaah. It was incredible. We offered a few prayers while we were there and also managed to carry out a couple of Tawafs.
What was really incredible about this trip was the fact that just few weeks ago I was mourning for my late uncle. I had never experienced loss like it. My faith in Allah became stronger that month. To think that our visas arrived on the day of his death, allowing me to to go to Pakistan to be with my family. And to think that I could carry out Ummrah upon my return. SubhanAllah.
What was also incredible was that I had got a job in the UK which I was starting in February the same year. I was about to leave the Country I started to call home. And I was about to part from my husband for an unknown amount of months.
My next blog post will be all about long distance relationships and spouse visa processes to the UK.
My Qatari Journey
After spending the most gorgeous few days in Thailand for our honeymoon, it was part 2 of the honeymoon. Well for me at least.
I had never been or seen any place like the Middle East. The lavish lifestyle, the brunching trends and the exaggerated bling was all new to me. Prior to meeting my ‘better’ half, I didn’t even know it existed or where it was on the map (yep, this is true). I had very little, if any understanding or knowledge about Qatar or in fact the Middle Eastern culture. In fact, I had absolutely no desire to travel to Dubai or any of the Middle Eastern countries at that point. And O boy how all of this changed.
Moving to Qatar was a challenge. A country so unfamiliar, so alien to my usual surroundings. The foreign language, different culture, unusual clothing and not forgetting the scorching heat was everything that I wasn’t used to. Without my friends and family, I truly thought I was going to drown in my loneliness at times. After spending the first few days setting up my little apartment, I realised I had lots of spare time on my hands. Feeling isolated and alienated I wasn’t sure I would ever fall in love with Qatar; and O boy how all of this changed.
I have realised that as goings get tough, the tough don’t get going straight away, they curl up in bed and contemplate their life, sulk and feel sorry for themselves, and eventually build up the will to get tougher. This and the sudden realisation that I can’t even cook pasta or know how to boil an egg suddenly dawned upon me.
It was overwhelming.
There were so many emotions running through me but I didn’t want to share them with anyone, especially not my family because I didn’t want them to worry about me. I wanted to be the strong and independent person my parents raised me to be. I wanted to enjoy what Qatar had to offer. I wanted to make the most of this time and upon reflecting back was a very precious time at the beginning of the new chapter in my life.
It’s so easy to fall into a vicious void of emptiness, but I was not prepared for that to happen. I kept myself busy by praying, cleaning, ironing and cooking but I needed more. I started to look for jobs, went to the communal gym and caught up with friends via all social media apps… as you do! Thank the Lord for technology, right? Hallelujah!
After Ahmed finished work, we would always go out. Somewhere new, somewhere exotic, somewhere fun (for me anyway). The evenings were always a good laugh and something to look forward to. There was so much to soak in and experience every time we went out. I still remember the warm breeze against my face, my taste buds going crazy over humous, kibbeh and batata harra (mezze from the Lebanese cuisine) as we smoked sheesha in the courtyard of the Grand Hyatt Hotel. Or listening to a live orchestra in the gorgeous Museum of Islamic Arts (MIA) park, full of people from all around the world.
The weekends brought me the most excitement though. I say ‘weekends’, but it was only the Saturday as my husband worked SIX, YES SIX days a week! Those Saturdays however are going to stay with me forever. I felt that it was everything and more that we needed as newly weds. We hadn’t spent any time together before the wedding, so this was our chance to get to know one another and to spend quality time together.
I soon started work and that was a complete different story altogether. Employment in the Middle East was a real eye opener for me. I soon came to know that the rosey picture that everyone paints of the Middle East is far from reality. That even I was completely unaware of what really goes on behind the scenes. I soon realised the bitter truth that this is a land where there’s a constant battle. A place where only the fittest can survive. A tragic place where when one begins to feel at home, they’re reminded that they’re merely living in a house which in essence was never theirs. Discrimination. Lack of justice. Inequality. Such immoral acts are experienced by many on a daily if not hourly basis. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer in places like Doha. The man who served his employers for 30+ years and raised his entire family in Qatar gets informed that he has 28 days to leave the country. His children struggle with their sense of identity and belonging. That is the reality. That is the story for many migrants in places like Qatar, Dubai or others in the Middle East. I guess it is important to be aware and truly acknowledge people’s sacrifices and not get lost in our own little bubble.
Nonetheless, this is also a place where you will meet the most genuine, caring and sincere human beings. People who are selfless and willing to sacrifice a great deal to help others. Pure hearts, with many stories and tales to tell. All nomads, living without a plan. Travellers with an interesting journey. The Pakistani who was raised in Nigeria and later moved to Dubai and now Qatar. The Pakistani who has spent her entire life in Qatar but knows this is not home. The Filipino nurse who has left her kids in the Philippines so her kids can study. People who want to give and give without wanting to receive anything, and that to with a smile on their face.
I will never forget what Qatar has given me. How much I grew as a person and how much I developed spiritually and personally. Qatar wasn’t only pleasing to the eye but gave my soul comfort and solace in it’s own unique way. I loved every moment of living there and cannot wait to share some of my favourites places. The places that I will truly treasure forever and places that I urge you visit if you ever get the chance to visit this gorgeous country.
Places to visit
The Doha Corniche
Everyone will tell you about ‘The Corniche’ when you go to Qatar or talk about Qatar.
The Doha Corniche is a waterfront promenade extending for many kilometers along Doha Bay in the capital city of Doha, Qatar. Perhaps around 15-20 mins from the airport. I’d say majority of the good hotels are around this area too!
This is where the locals hang out for hours on end, spending time with their loved ones. You’ll see people sat there having a picnic, flying a kite, exercising or just watching the world go by. I definitely preferred the latter. I could sit for hours people watching and putting the world to right.
You’d see the ‘Labourers’ at the very top of the corniche, in awe of whats around them. Their tired faces and sun burnt skin. That itself that an experience. Seeing the labourers enjoys the few hours a day that they had free from work. But as you went further down the Corniche, you’d start seeing more family friendly and female friendly places where these working class heroes were not allowed.
Best to visit anytime during the winter months and early evenings in summers (unless it is too humid). Overall a perfect place to spend a couple of hours with a iced coffee or an ice cream in your hand or be it a delicious chicken shawarma wrap.
Souq is an Arabic word which means “market”. Souq Waqif is a place full of restaurants, sheesha lounges, spices, golds, perfumes, animals and explicitly traditional garments. It’s architectural design of traditional Qatari style has been preserved over years ago with mazes and undefined geometric pattern as it characterises. The Souq will take you back in time and it will definitely give you an experience like no other if you haven’t been to a place like it before.
Located across the road from the Doha Corniche, it’s very hard to miss the Souq which is always hustling and bustling with laughter and joy. It tends to get very busy during the evenings as all locals and expats decide to finally leave their houses and enjoy some humid air! One can spend hours wandering the alleyways of the Souq, smoking sheesha, shopping or just enjoying a hot/cold drink as people walk on by and soak it all up.
The Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) and Park
MIA is a museum located on one end of the long Corniche in Doha. Once you have aimlessly walked along the Corniche, visited the Souq, it is almost time to visit the gorgeous MIA to watch the most beautiful sunset.
Build in it’s very own unique character, MIA is classy, modern and informative. There are tonnes of facilities inside the 5-storied museum, including temporary and permanent galleries, a gift shop, a library, a cafe, and a restaurant. There are also prayer rooms inside to cater to Muslim visitors.
I remember visiting the MIA park for the very first time when there was an orchestra playing. It was a fun musical evening with musicians from all around the world. MIA is known to have lots of different activities and festivities throughout the year. Be sure to check their website to see what events are taking place when you visit. It gives you a real flavour of the culture and most importantly the diversity that exists in the Country.
State Grand Mosque
The state Mosque Qatar is one of the largest mosques in Qatar and is a stunning mosque to visit. It is located a bit further than the Souq, Corniche and MIA, so I recommend that you either hire a car during your stay in Qatar or take a taxi to these places!
At night it lights up and you’re left totally mesmerised as you can see the rest of Doha lit up! The coloured stained glass windows reflect on the white marble floor, that is how sparkly clean and prestige this place is!
Be Warned: In order to enter the mosque, women MUST be wearing an Abaya. I remember the first time I went and didn’t have an Abaya. An Abaya is essentially a cloak which is a simple, loose over-garment, essentially a robe-like dress, worn by some women in parts of the Muslim world. The security guard quickly ran inside and advised me that I was not able to enter without an Abaya! Lesson was learnt very quickly and I made sure to carry my Abayah around at all times. But Abayas are provided for visitors at the mosque.
Katara Cultural Village
This place was my FAVOURITE to visit on evenings! I loved walking around Katara for hours and ending the evening with some delicious food. I feel that whoever envisioned Katara had great foresight. The location is perfect for people of all ages and all interests. It is located next to a beach, so lots of sand and sea for those that want to sunbathe and swim. There are also lots of different restaurants with various cuisines. It also has an amazing amphitheater with a grand and opulent structure.
You can visit the Katara website for more information: http://www.katara.net/en
The best thing to do is to visit just before sunset and enjoy that it’s got to offer!
The Pearl-Qatar is an artificial island spanning nearly four million square meters! Just like the name says, it looks like a string of pearls from above. It predominantly consists of lots of modern, expensive and luxurious residents. However, locals and tourists also tend to visit ‘The Pearl’ to get a feel of the marina, the yachts and the boats. I never went on the boats, but I have been told that some of the boats can be hired and taken to the corniche and beyond.
It also has lots of restaurants and cafe’s which are affordable and relaxing. If you like spotting cars then this is the place to be: we saw Ferraris, Lamborghinis and a variety of supercars scattered all over the car parks. We usually used to stay for around 2-3 hours, just to go for long walks, cold drinks and yes, people watching! Ok so we’re getting a bit of a theme. I love to people watch!
I was VERY VERY blessed and lucky that I got to experience dune bashing, sun, sand and sea many times during my stay in Qatar. We had a Jeep which meant that we could easily visit the desert as and when we wished. All it meant was that we needed to take the air out of the tyres before beginning our adventure. Mind you, it is the most tiring day out EVER! You don’t realise, but after hours of driving up and down sand dunes, it can hurt your back and make you sleep like a baby at night.
We also managed to find a specific destination in the desert where we always had the ‘beach’ all to ourselves. YES THAT’S RIGHT. We pinned a specific location where we realised no one ever visited. It meant that we had the entire sea to ourselves. So a dip in the sea followed by a picnic and some soothing music was my version of a ‘perfect moment’.
If you’re just visiting Qatar on holiday, I am certain there are tours that you can book in order to get a similar experience. I am not sure what it consists of, but its worth a quick google or if you want more info, I can ask a friend for you!
Zekreet and Film city
If you want to feel that you just got onto your flying carpet and rolled into the world of Aladdin then here it is. The landscape is so unique and captivating! It is quite literally in the middle of nowhere and you’d definitely not be able to get there without a reliable Sat Nav/ Google maps: although after a few visits you will be a pro at locating it.
Film city can be reached from Doha by following a Doha – Dukhan road (about 90 km) then turn right when you see Zikreet route sign. Again, it is probably best to do this via a tour or hiring a SUV and using your GPS to get around.
We only visited this place once and because we were already aware that there were no Cafes/restaurants in the vicinity of this place, we got some food with us and ate it on the way. I’d advise you to do the same so you’re not starving and dehydrated by the time you get there!
The nearest food places are in Dukhan which is round the corner. You can find a McDonald’s and a small market to cater for most needs.
Villagio Mall, Torch Doha and Aspire Park
If you have some extra time, the places mentioned above are also worth paying a visit. Villagio Mall makes you feel that you’ve magically arrived in Venice or perhaps a copy cat version of Las Vegas’s Bellagio (not that i have ever been there)! But I have heard that the inspiration was from Bellagio in Vegas. The mall has all the high street shops as well as designer clothing. BUT not just that. Villagio has a cinema, indoor theme park, ice skating and some icestone ice cream, NOM! Perfect way to spend a few hours when the heat outside is unbearable!
Villagio was my favourite place to visit for food. The Steak and Chicken Florentine at ‘The Butcher, Shop and Grill’ or ‘Prawn Dynamite’ from PF Chang are a MUST!
So yeah, if it’s scorching hot outside and you are itching you be out and about, Villagio is a great place to hang out and spend time!
HOW PRETTY AND CUTE?! Obviously I am going to be biased. As we lived in Wakrah, Souq Wakra was not very far for us which meant that we visited this little Souq on a very regular basis. At the time this place was fairly/somewhat underdeveloped I’d say as it was a work in progress. This suited me fine because it meant it was less crowded and more intimate for the people who actually went.
Over the months of visiting, you could see it getting busier and busier. More people were becoming aware of it and traveled all across Qatar to visit. It has a variety of cuisines on the beach front, but my favourite drink was the ‘Caramel Crunch’ from Coffee Beanery. My mouth is watering as I type about it. It was the yummiest cold drink I have ever had and I was pretty addicted to it. Even the employers knew my order, I’m sure!
Last but not least, the hospitality in Qatar is exceptional, especially by the Filipino workers who will always be polite and charming no matter where go. Or at least that was my experience. So if you ever visit Qatar, I urge you to always make an effort with the workers who always have a story to tell and most likely have sacrificed a lot to be serving you.
One of the best things about living in the Middle East is definitely the luxury of being able to travel to so many places. While we lived there, we managed to visit Dubai for my surprise birthday weekend and also went for Ummrah over a weekend!
Stay tuned for the next Blogpost about my surprise weekend away to…….DUBAI followed by my Umrah experience!!
When my dream became a reality
Following my gorgeous wedding, which by the way exceeded all expectations and more, I did not for a second imagine or anticipate that my life could get any better.
But it did.
It was something that I did not expect or even think would happen to me. I knew that my husband was going to take me to a ‘surprise’ honeymoon destination, but I did not envisage that it would blow my mind.
Two days after my wedding it was time to leave my friends and family to go to my honeymoon (or ‘holiday’ as I like to call it) before starting a new life in Qatar. I was not sure what to feel or how to react to this change. But I was excited nevertheless.
My dad was anxious and paranoid to say the least. His little girl, his only girl was leaving his ‘patronage’ to be with another man. My husband tried to keep the location a secret until my dad became restless and asked him where it was that he was taking me. Ahmed, hesitantly told my mum and dad where we were going. My dad’s reaction to this was, excitement as well as nervousness. I could see it all over his face. At this moment in time, I still had no idea where we were going!
I vividly remember being sat in the CIP lounge at Islamabad Airport; sitting next to the man I have known all my life on one side (my dad) and on the other was the man who I was going to spend the rest of my life (my husband). Sat there was also my beloved late uncle who I called ‘Daddy’. Little did I know that it was going to be the last time I was going to see him. Overwhelmed with emotions, I did not really think about the life ahead or even the next destination. My emotions were taken over by the fact that I was about to spend the rest of my life with someone I had seen a handful of times.
Yep, that’s right. I had an arranged marriage. Maybe that’s something for a separate blog post?
As we sat there, all I knew was that the plane was going to Abu Dhabi. Therefore, my only thoughts were that we were going to Dubai. To be honest, Dubai was never really a destination that I had desired to visit. Nonetheless, I was grateful to my husband for organising it and surprising me.
As we got to Abu Dhabi, Ahmed told me we were going to Thailand. At that point in my life, I hadn’t really travelled much so I still was unsure what to expect. Yes, you heard me right… I hadn’t yet explored the world of Instagram and travel bloggers.
As we arrived in Thailand, I recall a young Pakistani couple getting on the plane. It was almost a reflection of me and my other half. The excitement on their faces seemed familiar. The henna on the newly wedded bride looked similar to my own hands.
The flight to Phuket was uneventful… other than the fact that nearer to the time of landing, the pilot made an announcement for us to peek out the air plane windows as the Phi-Phi Islands could be see. And God were they gorgeous.
Going through passport control at Phuket International Airport was uneventful as well. At least for me it was.
My British passport and I whizzed through passport control without realising that Ahmed had been stopped for further screening. Soon after walking past passport control, I heard someone yell ‘PAAAAKTAAAAAANI PAAAAKITAAANI’.
What was to come was my very own ritual of initiation of having married someone with a Pakistani passport. I don’t mean this as a particularly bad thing; but carrying a Pakistani passport has its own set of caveats and conditions when you travel around (which we will come to in a bit).
When I looked around rather alarmingly to figure out what the ruckus was all about, I realised that the immigration office dealing with Ahmed was waving his arms around, heading towards someone senior I imagine; with Ahmed’s passport in one hand and ushering Ahmed to follow him.
My first reaction was, well, logical: I burst out laughing! Only to realise this was the guy I had got married to!
My stomach did a good few turns and a million thoughts went around in my head. Panic had set in! I was in a foreign country, which a man I had married very recently, with no idea or information about where we were headed… not even carrying my own plane ticket! What if they keep him overnight? What if I have go to the hotel on my own? What I have to go back to Pakistan or back home to the UK? or Abu Dhabi which is where the flight had originated from?
As my mind was doing overtime, I noticed that the other couple were in a similar predicament. However, the guy seemed more aware of the situation and stood next to his new Missus as the immigration was double, triple checking her visa. I looked over at Ahmed who reassuringly smiled back as he had his passport (and other documents) inspected and reinspected. Could this treatment be commonplace?
Ahmed was eventually, maybe 20 mins later, allowed entry. YES! By this point I had already dragged all our luggage off the conveyor belt.
We headed out of the airport and a gush of humid, hot, ‘wet’ air hit me all over. It smelt quite unusual and my first impression was: this appears to be a deprived country!
Ahmed would remind me time and time again how I was acting like someone from the TV series ‘An idiot abroad’. How many of you have seen it?
Oh well, I didn’t care, did I? I was buzzin’!
I looked up and this gorgeous white Mercedes pulled up. I was definitely impressed I must admit. I don’t think if I had ever sat in a Merc before then. As we got on, the driver offered us wet towels to freshen up and then pulled out two cold bottles of water from a small cool box. This alone made me feel a million dollars as I had sweat dripping off my face.
The journey from the airport to the hotel was long. Or at least it felt long. So long that I went through a million emotions of feeling sad, happy, excited, tired, bored. You get the picture, don’t you?
We pulled up at the hotel and were quickly greeted by the most happy people on the face of this planet. Bowing down as they put their hands together welcoming us. The reception room was lavish, bright and charming. As we sat down to check in, they immediately offered us some unusual tea and these gorgeous Jasmine bands for our wrists.
As Ahmed checked in, I looked around the reception room and the TripAdvisor board caught my eye. It was rated as 5* by TripAvdisor and had won a number of awards for being THE BEST hotel in the Phuket area. Once we checked in and all, we were escorted to our very own buggy. I had never been in one of those either, so at this moment, I was completely thrilled.
We rode to our apartment and WOW. I guess the photos below will say it all.
I had tears in my eyes as my heart filled with joy. A tear rolling down my cheek and my stomach going absolutely wild. I genuinely had never expected anything like this in my life and it only got better after it.
Alhamdulillah (“Praise be to Allah”).
I thought I was dreaming. Hallucinating even. But it was real. All of it. As a little girl I grew up dreaming for something like this to happen to me and at that moment in time, my dreams really did become reality!
Day 1: Phi Phi Islands
I woke up to the most amazing breakfast, overlooking our private and gorgeous infinity pool. It was everything and more. The breakfast spread was absolutely mouth watering. The hotel even catered for us to have Halal meat! YUM. NOM.
After breakfast, our ride was waiting outside for us. We were quickly taken to a tiny boat and off we went exploring the Phi Phi Islands. The whole tour was arranged via the hotel, and I have no idea about the cost. However, we (Ahmed) opted for the fast speed boat and we spent the entire day island hopping.
By the way, at this stage, I had no intentions of blogging, or instagramming so the photo quality may be a little poor and I don’t recall all little details as I didn’t plan the itineraries or write down specific notes. Nowadays I try to have things written down as reminders to share with y’all.
Enjoy the pics anyways!
I am not going to lie, this day was very looooong. I was still a little jet lagged from all the travelling and the sea air just knocked me out! It was also really busy as there were tourists in every corner of the islands. Maybe that’s why I don’t even have many pictures from this trip.
I guess maybe that’s why in some ways this holiday was so special. I spent less time taking the most picture perfect photographs and actually enjoyed my time hearing, feeling and experiencing every moment of being there.
We went back to the hotel and luckily the sun hadn’t set yet. We quickly made the most of the infinity pool, sipped some tea, watched the sun go down, witnessed the sky change colour numerous times. It truly was blissful and a moment to remember forever. The kind of picture perfect honeymoon that one dreams of. Well done ‘A’. You did an excellent job. What’s gone wrong now? lol.
Day 2: Safari Tour and Boat trip
I woke up, still in awe of this gorgeous hotel. The sun was shining, the music was playing and as we opened our eyes, we heard a knock on the door. ROOM SERVICE. I laid in bed as Ahmed let them in and helped them lay out the breakfast by the pool. Yep, we had room service for breakfast the entire trip as we wanted to make the most of the infinity pool.
We spent the first few hours just hanging around the pool as we waited for a second day of excursions. At this point, to be honest, I still didn’t want to know what we were doing on the day. I was quite enjoying being told on the day where we were going and just to go with it. So I sat back and enjoyed every moment. Quite opposite to how I am now: A CONTROL FREAK!
Yep, this is me. Just sitting on the floor, drinking tea.
Anyways! The Safari Tour with the Boat Trip, Yey!
We arrived at this safari place, where we learnt a little about coffee and how they process it. We then continued to find out about what they do with the coconuts. How they grow them, how they make all sorts of things with it. To be honest, this kind of stuff is more something Ahmed enjoys, because I don’t really retain the information well. I mean don’t get me wrong it was good, but part of me was thinking ‘is this it’.
UNTIL…… We got to see some gorgeous elephants. AAAHHH. I have always loved elephants and found them to be so bloody adorable that my heart sank when I saw them for the first time. I’m surprised by this point I didn’t have a cardiac arrest with all the excitement and surprises. We even got to ride an elephant! We fed the elephants! We touched the elephants! It was such a surreal moment.
Dammit. The elephant behind me even picked up my sun screen and sun glasses that fell out of my bag and onto the ground. This is true. The elephant behind me stopped, used his gorgeous long trunk to pick up my belongings and passed them to me. A moment to remember indeed!
The day ended with a short boat trip. Yes, yes I love boat trips! We had our dinner on the boat and watched the world go by. It was romantic, relaxing and just a really nice way to end the day.
Day 3: Tiger Kingdom, Big Buddha & FANTA-SEA
Another day, another excursion. We decided to head to the ‘Tiger Kingdom’. I had seen lots of photos of people with tigers and thought to myself, wow, how amazing. So off we went. We got a taxi from our hotel to The Tiger Kingdom.
Although I don’t really want to share photos from this trip. I kind of feel obliged to share them as well as sharing my opinions and experiences from visiting this place. As we entered, it was really busy and chaotic. There were tourists everywhere, of all ages and from all over the world. The prices to see the tigers were rather expensive I thought, but went with it. Then we noticed that the prices vary depending on how big or little the tigers are. To get a photo taken with the bigger ones was more cheaper in comparison to the little ones. I guess the little ones look even more ‘grammable’ right? EUGH. I regret this, but I still went with it.
I mean, just look at these poor souls. I feel like I messed up. I shouldn’t have given into the hype and paid for these wild life animals to be tortured and drugged for my benefit. But I did. So did many other people. I remember leaving the cage-like rooms where the tigers were kept and feeling an overwhelming sadness taking over. All of a sudden it hit me. I had just paid towards this cruelty. NEVER AGAIN. I promised myself to tell anyone that I meet not to go to places like these. Because it is just awful. Seeing these beautiful creatures being held against their will and being treated so badly for human satisfaction is not okay.
PLEASE DO NOT DO IT.
Soon after leaving The Tiger Kingdom, our next stop was to see the Big Buddha. I had never seen a Buddha statue that was this big. I had never been to anywhere like it. As we entered the area, the Big Buddha could be seen from miles away! This giant statue of the big Buddha really did overshadow its surroundings. It was a gorgeous place just to walk around and taking in a different culture, religion and belief to our own. Watching people being engrossed in worshipping and praying.
After feeling hot and tired, we headed back to the hotel, only to be told that we had another exciting place to visit called Fanta-Sea: The ultimate Thai Cultural Park. We were collected by a fancy looking van, with Fanta Sea written all over it. We arrived in a very loud, bright and colourful place. I kind of didn’t know what earth was going on!
As we entered, it looked so gorgeous. It was a huge theme park with a massive stage show, a large buffet restaurant and plenty of shops to tempt people into spending more than just the entry fee. Phuket Fanta-sea opened in 1998 and is certainly one of Phuket’s main tourist attractions.
There is also a popular show at Phuket Fantasea. The theater seats around 3,000 people. There are hundreds of performers in the show. I was not sure what to expect, tacky or impressive? Oh and by the way, you CANNOT take the camera into the show. They WILL take your camera/ phone away if they catch you snapping cool photos for the gram or the blog.
The show lasts over one hour with song and dance from different regions of Thailand woven into a tale of the “Kingdom of Kamala”. There are animals, acrobats, fireworks. I personally enjoyed it although I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea!
Day 4: RELAX
Although Ahmed had planned another excursion for day 4, we decided to cancel it. We were tired and exhausted and also wanted to make the most of the beautiful hotel. We spent the rest of the day relaxing by the pool, enjoying the views and just getting to know one another even more.
A bit of a disaster happened on the last day. As I was laying by the infinity pool taking selfies of myself to send to my friends, my phone slipped out of my hands and fell into the pool. Uh-Oh. My heart skipped a beat. I think I may have even cried. I screamed for Ahmed to come to my rescue. We called the reception and asked them to bring up some uncooked rice. Baffled, they replied ‘we can cook you Ma’am’. We explained it was a little more urgent than that. We were praying for a miracle and had heard that putting the phone in the uncooked rice will fix everything. With a heavy heart, I put my phone into the bag of rice and said a little prayer! MY ENTIRE LIFE WAS ON THERE!
Dramatic, I know.
But considering I wasn’t going to see my friends or family for the foreseeable future, it really did feel that the reaction was justified. Or at least I think so!
Anyways, there were positives on that day. We realised that we had the entire beach to ourselves and that the mock-tails drinks were free every day! So we made the most of our time left at the hotel. We laughed, laughed some more.
We stayed in the hotel for our last meal. It was absolutely gorgeous. The Thai Cakes and the Thai Green Curry was to die for. Despite the phone disaster I couldn’t help but smile at what a lovely start to our marriage we had had. It was beyond perfect. It was a dream come true.
Day 5: Flight to Qatar….
And this was it. For all I knew, I was going to be spending the rest of my life in Qatar. With a man I had only spent 7 days with.
The next blogpost will be about Qatar…..! Until then, enjoy, like & comment on this post 🙂
My big Mirpuri Wedding
You may be thinking, why ‘my big Mirpuri wedding’. Well it is where both, Ahmed and I come from. Our families, our early years of childhood and the actual wedding all happened in Mirpur. But also because we both feel passionate about being a ‘Mirpuri’, although it isn’t a term that is seen or spoken about in positive light. Especially not in the UK. But actually, I am rather proud to be from Mirpur. Mirpur has given me my identity, a sense of belonging and it is a place that I call home.
All my blogs this year are going to be all about re-living, re-visiting and reminiscing back to the time that made me who I am today. I am going to (hopefully) take you back to 2015 when my life changed for the better, in more than one way. It was a life changing experience for me, spiritually as well as mentally.
I feel it is important for me to share this journey with you mainly because of what someone said to me recently. They commented on how I had ‘changed’.
Amongst thing that were said were comments like ‘[…] seems like you attention-seek a lot’, ‘in some of your posts or blogs, it’s like you’re pretending or being fake’.
As the newer generation puts it: shots were fired.
Yes, it did upset me. Yes, I was mortified. I took a moment to reassess my situation and reflect on what I was doing. Ahmed, on the other hand, didn’t even give a horses’ backside. The bubble this guy lives in: insane!
But you know what, they were right. I have changed a lot. And I feel I have changed for the better. Before 2015, there were times when I could be quite a negative person. Someone who was always complaining or moaning about one thing or another. Don’t get me wrong, I still go through those phases, like we all do; but there was something deeper and darker about the negativity that I carried with me before 2015. But since then I have been living a life that I could have only dreamt of… I have had experiences that I didn’t even know were possible to experience… I have sprouted confidence that I didn’t know I could gain.
This is not to say that my life before 2015 wasn’t amazing, because it was. I am blessed to have the world’s most amazing parents. Trust me, my friends and family will vouch for this. They are my best friends and my world. People always spoke about wedding and marriage in such a negative manner, that I always had very little expectations. This was the main reason why I wasn’t too sure of what was to come. I wasn’t aware of how much I would grow and develop in just three years.
In 2015, my life took a drastic turn *dark dark background music*. Although it was planned and I had been planning it since 2013 (which is when I got engaged to my better half), nothing could have prepared me for what was to follow.
Organising an event as grand (read ‘laborious’) as an Asian wedding spanning over two continents and three countries- now that was difficult but we pulled it off so it clearly wasn’t impossible.
I was in England, Ahmed was in Qatar, the wedding was taking place in Mirpur. You see where I am going with this, don’t you?
I was based in England and not only in one town. I was having to travel between Bradford and Newcastle on a weekly basis since I was undertaking my Masters programme in Social Work and keeping up with my part time jobs in the North East over the weekends. As you can imagine, the stress was real, for sure.
Ahmed at the time was living and working in Qatar. He had been there for around 3-4 years and that was where I was going to move to after my wedding. So there was that element to it too! The uncertainty, the known.
And then there was the logistical challenge of moving my possessions from the UK to Qatar. When/where/how do I move my belongings? Will they go to Qatar via Pakistan?Where will they be stored?
Trust me, it isn’t as simple as it sounds.
As I was visiting Pakistan for my friend’s wedding towards the end of 2014, we decided that it would be a good time to get together and spearhead the wedding shopping. Making full use of my better half’s ‘travel light’ theorem, I had covertly planned to hand over a suitcases full of clothes for him to take back to Qatar!
Well, truth be told: not ‘so’ covertly as I had to make sure he could definitely take it with him. But making it out to be a covert plan sounds a lot better, doesn’t it?
Ahhaa.. That worked perfectly. That was one hurdle completed with ease with all the necessary planning and communication.
Yep. Communication and planning was absolutely KEY to it all. They always are.
As they say, ‘If you fail to plan, plan to fail’.
I also exploited the opportunity in December 2014 to order my wedding dresses and jewellery. This would not have been possible without my mum’s friend who is well settled and established in Islamabad. With her help and support, we were able to arrange and order everything within a week!
It wasn’t just the planning and the organising that was difficult. It was all the emotions and the feelings that were being more and more intrenched within me. Being an only child to the most wonderful parents meant that I was would be leaving them. In our society and culture, daughters are seen as an ‘amaanat’, a gift to whoever she gets married to. Their life changes completely. In addition to these feelings, there was that pressure. The pressure of how brilliant this wedding ‘should’ be.
We come from a quite well respected and well known family, and the weddings tend to be a big and extravagant affair. This made me full of anxiety and fear.
It made me question who I was.
It made me think about my insecurities of being an only child and I constantly thought about not having any siblings and how if I had siblings it would have been different, if at all.
At times I wasn’t in a good place. I cried. I cried a lot. But I kept telling myself it was going to be okay. That I have cousins that are like siblings and I’m sure they will do what they can… all they can.
Play some loud, over the top bollywood tune and it kicked off. April 2015, the start of the big Mirpuri wedding.
Glimpse of the Dholki nights
A week before my wedding, lots of my cousins from all over Pakistan and UK started to arrive. The house all of a sudden started to become noisy, cheerful and full of laughter. I can remember being over joyed.
With people going crazy all around me, my uncle, may he rest in peace, pulled me to a side and told me in a ‘by-the-way’ tone that my cousins from Germany wouldn’t be able to make it to the wedding.
I clearly remember this as my first heartache during the wedding days.
‘How could they? Why wouldn’t they?’ I asked myself. The concoction of self pity, selfishness and betrayal that ran through my veins at that moment in time made me aloof to the binary fact that sometimes people have commitments and the world, as much as I wanted it to, did not after all revolve around me.
I was devastated.
Fast forward two days; I am sat outside in the veranda and turn around to see someone who looks quite identical to myself making an entrance – I see my two gorgeous cousins entering the veranda. The Germans had arrived! I re-live that moment every time I think about it. It fills me with joy and happiness and a goofy smile plays on my lips every time I reminisce this memory.
Fast forward another couple of days and I am stood at Islamabad ‘International’ airport to receive the only Caucasian person attending the wedding. Having defied all odds, despite all the stereotypical narrative relating to the security situation in Pakistan (though some of it is not far fetched), Becky decided to be there for me on my wedding. Blown away by the love and warmth from everyone, it all seemed perfect.
A little too good to be true perhaps? But it was!
And when I thought there couldn’t be anymore surprises, I was blown away by the kindness and love that was showered upon me.
My cousin, who I see as an older sister, organised and orchestrated a Dholki (a function where family and close friends get together to sing and dance the late in to the night). The togetherness and contentment at the heart of this little family gathering makes my eyes swell up with tears of joy and thankfulness.
Mayoun – lets call it a hen-do of sorts, and then a bit!
Once I had got all prepped and pampered for the event, I actually felt really good. The dress I wore was specially prepared for the event (like all the other dresses *no surprise there*) by my dearest late uncle and his family. I vividly remember my auntie wanting me to try the clothes on, how brilliantly they fitted me, and her gleaming and joyous face to see me in these clothes.
With my hair professionally styled, light make up and flat shoes (fit for dancing just the way I like it!), I did look pretty spectacular if I may say so myself! And I felt spectacular!
With a lingering thought of an unprecedented future, the looming feeling of having to move away (in a manner of speaking) from everything I knew and cherished; emotions ran high. I had to take a moment every now and then to wipe a deceitful tear that defied the boundaries of my eyes, running down my face when it all got a bit too much.
The skies above seemed to have had resonated with my inconsistent ‘leaky eyes’ and the heavens above opened up.
The thunderstorm that followed wrecked havoc – like, literally! The food was ruined, there was a power cut (as in bijli chali gai!), the stage that had been decorated with flowers and all sorts was in shambles… textbook devastation.
I found myself sat in the basement with Becky, dressed like a princess (Asian princess to be exact), with a few candles lit around me… thinking how much effort everyone had put in to making everything picture perfect for it to be ruined.
Little did I know my late uncle Saeed will have yet another trick up his sleeve. Conscious of the weather, he had organised and pre-booked a venue as a back up just in case!
I mean what a legend! If the elements had willed to ruin it all, my uncle had perceived and preempted to see the night through,
We all ended up going to this hall very last minute, and what followed is my most cherished and memorable time of my wedding. All my nearest and dearest family members were around me, exactly how I had wished and hoped.
From all my fathers’ siblings dancing around me to my cousin Mohsin singing for me, from the craziness that transpired through the night to the contentment that took a hold of my heart, my family and friends had gone above and beyond to make my dreams come true. They did what I cannot imagine many family members doing and then a bit more. At no point during my wedding did I feel like I was alone. For the first time in my life I felt that everyone that was there was an extension of me and who I am as a person.
All the anxieties are fears had vanished, and I was overcome by a warm feeling of self-assurance. I didn’t really care about how I looked or what if my dress didn’t fit, or what people would say. With a heart raging with excitement, I felt shrouded in a strange tranquillity.
Oh and by the way. All this time I hadn’t seen Ahmed since I last met him at the wedding shopping/preps.
In fact he wasn’t even in the country!
The groom to be arrived on 1st April and on 2nd April we had our Nikkah (the Islamic marriage ceremony).
It was a very emotional time I must add. I hadn’t had much sleep the night before. I laid awake with my close friend all night and even attempted to pray Fajr, but weren’t successful as there was no water in the house – actual third world problems you guys.
I was tired and agitated on the day. After having a sleepless night thinking that I was about to ‘sign my life away’ to be with a guy who I had met a handful of times in person, I wasn’t sure how to feel about it all. Everyone around me seemed upset and tearful, and I could feel that anxiety and nerves around me. I was my father’s only child, my parents only daughter, their world. And I was about to leave them to start my own new life in a foreign country, far away from them.
It was all a bit overwhelming.
The Nikah ceremony went ahead as planned. After asking and confirming Ahmed’s acceptance to marry me, the registrar and witnesses came over to where the females were sat to ask if I accepted the marriage. Terrified of what was to come, with lots of eyes glaring at me and tears rolling down my cheeks, I said ‘Kabool hay’ (I accept) three times (followed by some signatures).
That’s it: legally married!
My dad, well, being dad had said that I could not see Ahmed until we had our Ruksati (when the bride leaves with the groom- may or may not be on a separate day in Asian weddings- our case was the former). But my mum being my mum decided to sneak us both into the garden downstairs to get a couple of professional photos – not that they are very flattering. Nonetheless, at least we have some memories from the day!
The funniest memory from the Nikkah is Ahmed playing games on his phone after signing the Nikkah papers. Who even does that?
On the night of the Nikkah it was my Mehndi. I remember being sat at the salon on my own- the beauticians winding down for the day, turning the lights off and getting ready to leave for the day. In a panic thinking they (my family) had forgotten about me, I rang everyone but no one answered. Eventually, one of my cousins answered and said ‘hain, you’re still at the salon?’. As you can imagine with the desi weddings, sometimes it all gets a little too much and people clearly forgot about the main person (ME!).
Once my cousin realised I wasn’t even at the hall, he did come to collect me. Crazy!
My beautiful ‘cousin-sisters’ had decorated a street hawker’s cart to perfection. Surrounded by flowers and candles, I once again felt like a queen in her castle. The boys wheeled me in to the wedding hall singing and dancing all around me. I probably looked the worse on this day but I don’t mind because the memories were so perfect. Fromall the photos from my Mehndi, you can see that everyone wanted to be a part of it and to get involved. Not so sophisticated when it comes to wedding photography. Patha nahee how the cameraman managed to get at least some decent photos.
We all know how trendy it is to have ‘synchronised’ wedding dances in Pakistani wedding. Unfortunately, due to time constraints and the busy-ness of it all, we didn’t get the chance to choreograph many dances. Regardless, a cousin, who is ‘a serial wedding dancer’ (if there is such a categorisation), took only a couple of nights to teach my cousins and friends a few dances. I don’t think anyone could have guessed that they had prepared these dances in less than two days! They did such a fabulous job that I was smiling like a Cheshire cat throughout!
My philosophy on weddings is simple: what’s the point of getting married if you can’t even enjoy your own wedding. That having said (and to bring things in to perspective), my phupo (auntie) had to sit me down a couple of time as I kept joining the peeps on the dance floor!
I don’t have many ‘photo shoot’ photos from my Mehndi because of the utter chaos on the day. But hey, no regrets there! The few photos I have and the memories are enough to last me a life time!
The following evening was Ahmed’s mehndi; and if you want to know more about it, you’ll have to ask him yourself since I wasn’t there.
I was chilling at home, eating junk food.
Baraat & Rukhsati
The ‘actual’ wedding day- this day actually feels like such a blurr.
I genuinely don’t recollect much from this day. The one moment I will never forget is walking up the aisle with my dad, arms linked, walking over a path full of red rose petals and lanterns on the sides. The song that played in the background was Farhan Saeed’s ‘Tu thori dair aur thair ja’.
My mum looked absolutely stunning, held her shit together and didn’t crying. Embracing me with her warm and a comforting smile. I remember kissing her cheek, bursting with happiness.
I wont lie: I don’t remember Ahmed coming over with the Baraat. It felt suffocating with all my family surrounding us and harassing Ahmed and his family for money (desi-wedding problems). He eventually got to sit next to me and we exchanged rings. Some, ‘read’ lots of random people, came and sat next to us and got photos taken.
And that was that.
Before we knew it, it was time to say goodbye to my family.
There were tears. Floods of tears even though in the back of my mind I was paranoid about ruining my make up.
I will not put you through the misery of seeing the traumatic photos of the ruksati. The ruksati that took place around 12am. This was before the 10 pm deadline for concluding events was implemented in Mirpur.
Following the ruksati, we went to Ahmed’s paternal house to carry out the standard ‘rasams’. I still remember drinking some coke and realising that was the only thing that I had drank pretty much all day. In the midst of the wedding hulchul, I don’t think I had any food all day!!
Can’t say the same for my better half; let’s leave it at that!
Feeling tired, yet excited, we were told that we needed to go to the studio for our photo shoot. It must have been around 3am by the time we got to the studio. Imagine how knackered we must have been. Awkward poses and tired eyes, yet gleaming faces. WE DID IT! But it wasn’t over yet, lol!
Last but not the least day, Walima, or what I call the after wedding party.
Some thing I had never seen in Asian wear, well not in Mirpur anyway, was a white bridal dress for a walima ceremony, and I wanted something different. Which is why I ended up getting a gorgeous white dress that I had brought from England.
Ahmed wore a morning suit and a cravat, because again, that’s something I had never seen anyone wear at a walima. Walking up yet another aisle with my best friend by my side and Ed Sheeran’s ‘Thinking out loud’ playing in the background was everything I could have ever asked for.
Our wedding song still gives my a lump in the throat.
It was a more relaxed and chilled out day, although I am still mad that my family were oh so typically late for the function!! I got to see all of mine and Ahmed’s friends and family. Lots of smiles, hugs and (obviously) photographs were taken!
The only thing I would change about this day was the photographer Ahmed hired. He took some horrendous photographs, where half of the photos were completely out of focus and over exposed. But we won’t fret about that. It’s all about the memories, right?
On reflection, looking at these photos I think my wedding was pretty damn special. I had all my nearest and dearest with me. People had travelled from different continents to be there… to be a part of my big day… hang on, my big week! And that is something I will forever be grateful for.
The love and joy that all the people attending my wedding brought to me was incredible. This is something I will never ever forget till the rest of my days. And I can’t honestly say that my wedding wouldn’t have been the same even without one of them (they know who they are!)
So if any of you could actually be bothered to read my blogpost (far cry!), I love you. I love you more than you know and I will be forever in debt to everything you did for me.
The End, or was it just the beginning….
We didn’t stay around in Pakistan for too long as the day after we flew off to my ‘surprise’ honeymoon. To be honest, as much as I come across as an extrovert, the thought of dressing up and going for ‘dawats’ was too daunting. I couldn’t bare being the ‘newly weds’ and meeting lots of people for days on end. Not being nasty, but it is something that I find uncomfortable.
Back to the honeymoon/ holiday/ vacation what ever you want to call it.
I, hand on my heart had no idea where we were going. I was all packed to go to our ‘destination’ and then to my new life in Qatar: a place I had never heard of or been to before in my life. Completely oblivious to how my life was about to change…!
Be sure to come back for the tales from the honeymoon. I am sure you will like it!