Tag Archives: tea

Bastakia: Art, Heritage and Crafts in Dubai

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series The Emirates

A stroll through Dubai’s Bastakia Quarter is like a stroll back in time, or a walk through a movie set. If you take the chance to step away from Dubai’s bustling, shiny shopping malls or its luxury beaches for a walk through this historical neighbourhood, you will find peace, beautiful architecture, and Middle Eastern art and heritage.

A beautiful mosque stands at the edge of the Bastakia Quarter. Photo © Kathryn Parsons

Bastakia in Bur Dubai is easily reached by heading to Al Fahidi metro station and walking up Al Satwa Road towards the creek. Once you reach Bastakia, immerse yourself in the area by walking around the tiny alleys and seeing what you discover! The neighbourhood is home to the Coin Museum, the Coffee Museum, various art galleries, craft shops and cafes set in sunny courtyards. Most of my purchases during my visit to Dubai are from Bastakia — there’s a wonderful incense shop where I brought some oud crystals for burning and an art shop where a lovely man wrote my name in Arabic and framed it. There are also shops filled with Iranian pottery, handicrafts and jewellery.

Often named ‘Old Dubai’, Bastakia is also home to the remnants of Dubai’s old wall, constructed in 1800 from gypsum and coral. The neighbourhood has recently undergone restoration and is now a completely pedestrianised heritage centre, so it’s a perfect, peaceful place to see traditional Middle Eastern buildings and visit the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding. Here you can also go upstairs for great views of the neighbourhood.

Shops, cafes, galleries and museums are hidden in the narrow winding allies. Photo © Kathryn Parsons

My favourite part of the Bastakia Quarter is the Arabian Tea House Restaurant and Café, and not just because the food is delicious — this courtyard café is dreamy! In my opinion, there’s no better word to sum up the atmosphere as you sit down under the white canopies amidst the trees and flowers, order a cool minty lemonade filled with ice, and enjoy your surroundings. They also boast a selection of over a hundred different kinds of tea from all over the world, and an impressive variety of dishes to keep you going throughout the day, from traditional breakfasts, to barbecue, to hearty salads and afternoon teas.

Mosaic graffiti spotted in Bastakia. Photo © Kathryn Parsons

One of the best things I found about visiting Bastakia was that it was an ideal place to visit with others or alone. I first went with a group of people, which was ideal for meandering around the lanes, checking out the art and enjoying a nice lunch — even if we did occasionally lose somebody to the next alluring alleyway or art gallery! But it was also great to visit the quarter alone. The second time I went, I was visiting my sister who worked in Dubai at the time, so I had a few days to entertain myself. Aside from being invited to lunch by two men on the metro who were on their way to their mother’s house, I spent the afternoon in uninterrupted peace walking round Bastakia. I got to spend as long as I wanted pondering the interesting graffiti, sampling the scents of each incense and, best of all, drinking coffee and writing alone in the serene courtyard café.

Featured image © Kathryn Parsons


A Rainy Day in: Kyoto

This entry is part 3 of 6 in the series Rainy Days

Most know Kyoto for its lavish temples, cherry blossoms, and precisely sculpted park – but few stop to think about what the city has to offer when Japan’s somewhat temperate weather drives us inside. Here are 5 ideas to still make the most of this gorgeous city, even when the clouds aren’t on your side.

(© fc09)

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The Chinese Tea Ceremony

In my opinion, there is only one way to make tea properly: under no circumstances does the milk go in first. Sadly, this is a point of great contention in my house. As it stands, I must let my family follow their own rituals, while I follow mine. But when it comes to the Chinese tea ceremony, however, preparation methods are precise, strict and intricate – there is no room for such debate.

In fact, the preparation is so intricate, it is often considered an art form. The Chinese tea ceremony is known as Gongfu Cha. ‘Gongfu’ refers to the art of doing something well, therefore, when this phrase is applied to the practice of making tea, it suggests that the tea drinking experience will be superior to drinking tea outside of a ceremony context because of the time, dedication and effort that has been invested in its preparation.


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The Japanese Tea Ceremony

Being British, it is highly likely that the substance that runs through my veins is at least fifty percent tea; it’s a hug in a cup, it’s the perfect study companion – it’s the solution to everything.

But Britain is certainly not the only nation to have such a close relationship with the beautiful leaf. For over a thousand years, the tea ceremony has been an integral part of Japanese culture, as a way to break the mundane routine of day to day life and to achieve, if only for a short time, serenity and inner peace through the connection to the natural world. However, though the main event is the presentation and consumption of matcha, powdered green tea, it is about much more than just tea.


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Turkish Breakfasts: Part 2 – Drinks

Our exploration of Turkish breakfasts last month left us salivating for a few more delights, which Turkey has plenty of. In a new city we are excited to immerse ourselves in everything authentic, including food, but we don’t normally focus on trying new drinks. Our meal may be traditional, but we might then tend to seek the familiar with a coke or an orange juice. I hope that I can convince you here to venture into a completely authentic meal of both food and drink!  


Türk Kahvesi is not just a type but a method of preparing coffee, which adds a rich, thick flavour to the drink. When drinking the coffee, you are supposed to stop sipping when you feel the settled grounds at the bottom of your cup. These remains are known as ‘mud’, and leave images and shapes which, according to tradition, predict your future. Reading the ‘mud’ is still popular in areas of Turkey today, including Taksim. It is unlikely however that your fortune-teller will be able to speak English fluently (unless you’re provided with a translator) so enjoy the thrill of trying to understand your future with an array of hand gestures.

PicMonkey Collage(www.themadtraveleronline.comdrink.seriouseats.comen.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turkish_Coffeeesaramangal.com)

Above is a collage demonstrating how Turkish Coffee is made. Floyd Maxwell dubs this coffee the “creative lighter fluid” found in many societies today. For some it is a reminder of home, for most is it just an inarguably unique drink.