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Desert Chill – ice cream vans in Abu Dhabi.

The van that came to meet us!

There is something really joyous in the sound of the ice cream trucks coming to your neighbourhood during the hot summer months.
Imagine my excitement when I realised that they have ice cream trucks in Abu Dhabi too, thanks to a company called Desert Chill (also on Facebook).

They are slightly different from the ice cream vans in the UK, as they don’t serve soft cones but they sell Algida ice creams (which is known as Wall’s in the UK). Think cornetto, magnum and so on. Yum.

The ice creams available.

It took me a little while to work out how it all goes down, but they answered all my questions with incredible patience!

So, basically: the Desert Chill company has a fleet of vans roaming around Abu Dhabi. If we fancy an ice cream, we email/call them and say: “Can one of your vans come to (example: my street) at (11am?) on (Saturday?). This is my name and phone number.”

And they will tell you: “YES, we will have a van coming to see you at your preferred time and place!”

Now, this is going to cost an arm and a leg, right? Having a van coming to your house, just because you fancy an ice cream!?
Well, this is the best part: it does not. If you call the van and then just want to buy one single ice cream, that’s fine. There is no minimum spending limit, and you literally just get what you want and then bid goodbye!
We bought a cornetto and a twister (19 AED in total) and we were not charged a penny more!

The reason for this is that they have a lot of vans going around the city anyway, so to make a slight detour it does not change their routine much, hence they don’t have to charge you extra and you don’t have to go around looking for them! Is this not great?

Of course, if you have a party and you want the van to hang around for a while, then you have to spend at least 150 AED.

They have a general schedule with areas/routes (see image below) and some kind-of fixed appointments (such as on Thursdays lunch time next to the TwoFour54 building) but mostly they are happy to come to you if you call them.

desert chill

We tried to call a van this morning, and the driver was bang on time, very polite and friendly and we left happy and with a yummy ice cream in our hand!
With the hot months coming, this definitely won’t be the last time we call them in!

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Mina centre: Jarir bookstore

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A wide range of books, both in English and Arabic.

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

Where: Meena Mall, Mina Zayed, Abu Dhabi
Opening Hours: Sat 9am-11pm, Sun-Wed 9am-1pm, 4.30pm-10.30 pm;
Thu 9am-1pm, 4.30pm-11 pm; Fri 4.30pm-11pm
Tel. No. +971 2 673-3999, Fax No.+971 2 673-3222

This bookstore, known to some as United Bookstores and to others as Jarir bookstore, is an Aladdin’s cave for all bookworms out there, and for the crafty ones, the pinterest-addicts, the artists, the DYI gifters and all those who might need stationery for all sort of purposes. The store also offers a good selection of electronic items and accessories.

This spacious shop has it all: books on all subjects you can think of – from cookery to international politics and architecture, both in English and Arabic, and all sorts of stationery for the office and arts and crafts supplies: you can even buy canvases and an easel for your next masterpiece, or ‘colour the dots’ books for your first steps into the world of art.

A lot of office supplies…

…and art supplies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pinterest addicts rejoice!

The shop from outside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I personally love to go there to browse their sales tables (sometimes they sell books for just a few AED, and my amazing bread machine recipe book came from there) and to look for pretty wrapping paper.
The truth is that I am a sucker for anything stationery-related, and I could spend hours browsing pens and cute notepads, hence W always has a hard time dragging me away from here!

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Saturday lunch at the fish souk.

Friendly vendor agreed to be pictured with this huge shrimp!

Mina port is probably one of the most charming areas of Abu Dhabi, and a personal favourite of mine. From the dhow harbour to the Mina centre, here is where we go if we want to feel as we are somehow off the beaten track, even if ever so slightly.

On a sunny Saturday, around 12pm, we visited the fish souk, as our friend M had heard that you can have lunch there.
It was reasonably busy, buzzing with vendors and customers, haggling for the best prices.
I was impressed by how clean and well organised the stalls looked: all vendors wore gloves, aprons, nets and name badges, which gave me the feeling of a very professional environment.
And yes, it smells fishy, but it is fresh fish smell, not a miasma, hence it is not unpleasant (and it is a vegetarian talking!!) and soon you get used to it.

Freshly fished.

The fish was neatly displayed.

Lots of choices.

Every stall is very well organised.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, here is how it goes down, if someone wants to have lunch at the fish souk:

1) Choose the fish.
The fish is caught fresh the previous night, so the choice is different every day but also very diverse. Official prices are written on boards all around the market, but you can haggle with single vendors to get the best price.
Our friends decided to buy some shrimps and shark, and got them from two different stalls.
In general, the stalls further away from the main entrance door seemed to have slightly better deals, but the difference between prices is anyway minimal.

2) Get the fish cleaned.
At the back of the market area there is a big group of men dressed in red: those are the fish cleaners, both for people who want to eat there or just get their purchases cleaned before bringing them home. Apparently, if you buy shellfish for lunch, you can get it cleaned directly at the kitchens, but for other fishes, you need to get it prepared here. Our friends had the shark cleaned and cut in fillets and they paid 10 AED.

3) Get the fish cooked.
After the fish is ready (and we were invited to look at the cleaning process), we brought it to the opposite side of the room, inside a daedalus of small rooms and corridors. In this area there are small individual shops selling dried fish, fruit, salads, drinks, and anything else you might need.
The kitchen is quite close to one of the entrances: you speak to the cook, tell him how do you want your fish prepared, if you want it spicy or not, and he tells you when to come back to pick up your lunch.
For shark fillets battered and fried and 1 Kg of shrimps, our friends paid 20 AED.
It was very busy when we went there so they asked us to come back in one hour to pick up the cooked fish.

Battered and fried shark.

1 Kg of shrimps!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4) Eat!
In the same area where the kitchen is, there is a very simple restaurant with tables and chairs, where you can seat to have your lunch.
I have not tried the fish, but our friends said it was absolutely delicious and full of flavour.

The fish market is a very interesting and bustling place, with also other foods been sold: a coconut milk seller attracted our attention. We could choose between two different types of coconut, and he would cut it for us, make a hole on the top, and then give it to us with a straw. It was fresh and really tasty. And coconut milk is supposed to be very good for your health too!

Coconut being prepared…

Such a healthy and fresh treat!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the back of the fish market, towards the dhow port, you can find people renting jet skis and offering boat tours, and a series of charming restaurants on dhows.

The whole experience is very interesting: if you like fish, this is something you don’t want to miss.

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Shop local – Ideyna

(Photo: © ideyna)

When it comes to handmade goods, I better hide my money, and fast… I just love handmade art and crafts!

After writing about Etsy and Little Majlis, now I found another website full of beautiful objects made in the UAE.

It is called Ideyna, which means “our hands” in Arabic, and it is an online platform for local artists to share and sell their creations.
The layout is quite simple and straight-forward, and it is easy to browse among all the different objects.
From art and accessories, to homewares and toys, there is something for everyone!
Now, where did I put my wallet…?

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Little Majlis: Shop Online, Shop Local.

Image © Little Majlis

A little while ago I wrote a post about Etsy and all the fantastic handcrafted and vintage items that I can buy from local sellers.

To my delight, I have been told there is another wonderful online platform for Middle East-based artisans, designers, vintage lovers and crafty people! I am so happy to have the chance to explore more of the local talent!

Little Majlis is a specialist online market for makers and merchants of art, edibles, crafts and design.

According to Wikipedia, ‘Majlis’ is an Arabic term meaning “a place of sitting”, used in the context of “council”, to describe various types of special gatherings among common interest groups. (Source)

Aside from the many items available for purchase, on this site there is also a very useful calendar listing festivals, fairs, markets, art exhibitions and workshops: so much to do and see!

I just discovered this site but I already love it. (Better ask W to hide my wallet for a while!)

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Grand Central – Burgers Restaurant

The Grand Central restaurant in Dalma Mall

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

Where in Abu Dhabi:

  • Muroor Road – Intersection of Muroor & 15th Street – 02 642-6499
    (opposite Mamoura Buildings, across from Jones the Grocer)
  • Dalma Mall – Musaffah – 02 445-5867
    (second floor, near the cinema)
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Waiting for our order to be ready.

 

 

The first thing that attracted us to this burger restaurant has been its striking decor.

We were walking through Dalma Mall and we could not help but being drawn towards the bright red seats, the luggage over them and the overall underground feeling, complete with curved roof over our head! Attention has been given to the smallest details, such as the order number which is in the shape of a rail crossing sign.

Grand Central is a local burger chain, created by an UAE national and an American from New York. They transported their restaurants right into the tunnels of a New York subway, sourced local and organic ingredients and created something of high quality, fun, and original in the somehow very crowded world of burger franchises.

I ordered mini veggie burgers with a side of curly fries. W ordered the beef burger with sweet potatoes fries. To top it off, we shared a cookies and cream milkshake.

Our food arrived in beautiful packets, almost wrapped as designer clothes in a posh boutique. We were very impressed!

Beef burger.

Veggie mini burgers.

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Cookies and cream milkshake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were not disappointed by the taste either: everything was absolutely gorgeous!

Burgers unwrapped.

The burgers were tasty and juicy, the fries were perfectly crisp, and the milkshake had cookies’ crumbles happily clogging up the straw.

We really loved everything about this restaurant.

Thanks to its great atmosphere, really helpful staff and wonderful food, Grand Central has quickly become one of our favourite places to go when we want a really good burger.

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