A rare update

I find myself with as little time to update as usual, but thought since I don’t really have the opportunity to share any travel excursions here any more, I may as well share some of the material I’ve had published. Most recently, I found myself back in Greece – Athens and Mykonos. After last year, I was determined to return to Mykonos again this summer for a bit of carousing, and imagine my delight when the opportunity presented itself through work. So, perhaps less on the carousing end of things, but still a very welcome return. And if you find yourself in Athens and want to treat yourself, there’s no better way than booking a room in the Hotel Grande Bretagne – while a bit too traditional for my personal taste, that didn’t make it any less impeccable in terms of service, decor and atmosphere. For incredible modern Greek food set within a restaurant that is one of the most visually interesting that I’ve ever encountered, book a table at Aleria and eat everything you can.

short break mykonos JUL14

Prior to that I took a detox and spa break in Kuwait, at the Jumeirah Messilah, where I learned that maybe a five-hour marathon of spa treatments is not really for me (but I also can’t really complain, can I, as I’m being exfoliated with diamond dust from head to toe).

short break kuwait MAY14

CNT ME – and more of my babbling – is also available in Apple’s App Store (search for “conde nast traveller middle east”) as a monthly digital download. And I think it’s free right now. It’s a rare moment when anyone can do something to make me happy that doesn’t involve spending obscene – or any, in this case – amounts of money. You’re welcome.

It’s full-on summer here in Dubai (110 degrees, humid and Ramadan, t’boot) but I’m soon off to finally give Six Senses Zighy Bay a go in Oman’s Musandam Peninsula. I’ve been eyeing it up for many a year and look forward to finally making it there.

A trip to Turkey’s southern coast is also under consideration for a late summer getaway. Much like Zighy Bay, the Lycian Way trek has been on my mind for some time, although I won’t be taking on the full month-long, 500+ kilometre journey. I imagine after two days of shoving as many Iskander kebaps down my throat as humanly possible, I’ll no longer have to walk, though, and can simply let the boyfriend roll me. Maybe prod me along with a blunt stick or something. I would also love to try to fit in a visit to the Pamukkale hot springs. Before I get fat on Turkish kebaps, obviously.

olinguito FT

Animal house

I’ve been chugging away at working on my writing over at Conde Nast Traveller Middle East, not really leaving any time for the blog (or much else). This is one of my little stories from the February issue I felt worthy of a share. If for no other reason than I finally decided to dig up my illustration background.

(As always, click to embiggen.)

CNTFeb14 Animal House Laurel Munshower


Oh man, Oman

As I seem to so often whine at the start of many of my blog entries, I have been so very busy guys, thus the lack of updating. I also haven’t been doing anything terribly interesting. So, there’s that.

We had a long holiday weekend for Eid Al Adha a couple weeks ago – actually, more like a month ago – that I filled with a quick tripette to Oman. And I really feel like Oman can do pretty much no wrong. Muscat in particular grows on me significantly with each passing visit. Often when in Muscat, I am shacked up in The Chedi, with little interest in leaving. As we weren’t staying there this time (wah) more time was spent around the city than usual, and I felt like I got a much better feel for it than I had in the past. One of the things that I really love about Muscat so much is that they seem to have utilized their waterfront areas much better than Dubai has. There are chilled out little cafes just off the sand, a long park filled with people cooking amazing-smelling foods and and a lovely old corniche (where you’ll often get to feast your eyes on Sultan Qaboos’ super yacht – one of the largest in the world).

I had never been to two of Muscat’s more popular hotels, the Grand Hyatt or the InterCon, so decided it was high time to give them a try. I loved the Grand Hyatt’s beachfront view from a poolside tiki bar (great people watching both in and outside of the hotel grounds), but I think that the InterCon edged the Hyatt out with their chilled out and unpretentious  poolside bar set in a forest-like garden. Relaxing to the extreme.

The city’s residential neighborhood’s really hooked me as well – how nice to live a stone’s throw from the beach and nice little cafes in Shatti Al Qurum or even a bit further inland, in Madinat Sultan As Qaboos, with sea and mountain views from the balcony. Or, best yet – a fancy beach-side villa in the ridiculously wow diplomatic neighborhood. I have to admit, at times I find it very frustrating to be living in Dubai while the Muscat lifestyle taunts me just over the border.

Outside of Muscat, we decided to head down south along the coast to have a go at camping. We were hoping to set up on a beach around Sur, and maybe catch a glimpse of some sea turtles, but no such luck. We eventually settled on a clifftop near Fins, with the crystal clear Gulf of Oman crashing against the rocks below us. Even from far above (I would say at least 20-25 feet?) you could still clearly see colorful fish swimming in the water below.




our camping site near Fins

While looking for a camping spot, we stopped at some incredible wadis between Muscat and Sur. In my time here on the Arabian Peninsula, I have never seen any wadis like the ones I saw during this trip. It was, to me, not even a wadi, but something venturing into swamp territory. Seriously. And there were frog noises (I saw no frogs, but they were certainly there), white egrets, dragonflies – things that are very much not desert-like.

We first stopped at Wadi Shab, which was just off the coast and very easy to access. It was huge, but also extremely busy and, sadly, full of garbage from holiday picnicers. We didn’t stick around. There was an amusing Che Guevara graffiti, though.


Next up was Wadi Tiwi, which was also full, but not quite as badly. It looked stunning, so after a brief peek around, we left but decided to return early the following morning before anyone else had arrived. The morning trip back uncovered seriously verdant surrounds and a tranquil little village, full of very active falaj. This was undoubtedly the most beautiful wadi I had ever seen. If you’re in the Muscat area and want to have a look at a veritable oasis, Tiwi is the place. I think it was only about an hour’s drive south of Muscat and very easy to access.


falaj and swampy wadi at Tiwi


Tiwi’s waterfront real estate

On the way back to Muscat we also checked out Wadi Suwayah. This was one was a bit more difficult to get to than the other two (it was further into the mountains, after a long dusty, rocky road) but was worth it. After finally reaching the wadi, we were greeted with something more like a small lake. There wasn’t much exploring to be done in the area, which consists of the lake-like wadi surrounded by cliffisides, and a very small village, but the clear and apparently very deep waters, would be excellent for some cliff diving.


A small portion of what was practically a lake at Suwayah

…and a month later we were back to Oman for a visa run. Now that the weather is perfect for outdoor exploration, we made our way to an area beyond the Hili border post in Al Ain called Wadi Kitnah. Again, a ridiculously stunning area. It’s amazing what awaits you once you cross the border into Oman. Stupidly, I deleted the few photos that I took from my phone already, so a couple Instagram shots will have to do.


There are two areas within the Kitnah wadi that you can visit (possible more) and both are gorgeous. One was filled with smaller pools, and was reminiscent of a creek, with bubbling water, frogs jumping all around  and water trickling down boulders overgrown with small plant life. The other area was filled with narrow canyons holding deep, crystal clear pools of water. You couldn’t explore part of the area very well without swimming (and I didn’t) as the pools were set deep within steep canyon walls and there was nowhere to walk. However, in the other direction, the wadi opened up, and after scrambling around some rocks you’ll find yourself at a deep pool that is perfect for cliff jumping. Scramble along some more rocks further into the wadi, and the water slowly trickles to a stop as you find yourself at the base of the high, red walls of a canyon.


red dragonflies and crystal pools in Kitnah


Any recommendations for fab wadis in the UAE-Omani border area are very welcome, so please don’t hesitate to share your favorite wadi spots with me! There must be endless amazing options out there.

And it’s quite blowy and grey this morning – exciting weather for Dubai. It would be nice to see some rain come this way soon (although hopefully not while I’m driving). Shit. It just started raining and thundering, and I need to leave for work.

[Oman wadi photo album]

Hey, detour.

Back in late June, it was announced to me that I’d be losing my job at the art gallery because said art gallery would be closing its doors. This was both terrifying and a great relief. Losing your job is never good news, especially when you’re living in a foreign country. However, the job’s challenges and learning opportunities had dwindled some time ago, which, in turn, lost my interest, causing me to start considering a career change (writing, in some form or another). With the end of a job that I was no longer happy at in sight, it seemed like exactly the push required to set me off on a more fulfilling path, and for that I was very thankful.

I was to be employed into September, and as summer plodded along towards the light at the end of the employment tunnel without a replacement job in sight, I approached my impending unemployment with both trepidation and unbridled glee. More than anything, I was scared of unemployment being boring; I feared it would drive me utterly mad. But – I was also really looking forward to giving up the responsibility that comes with a job, and just unwinding.

When unemployment came, it ended up being an absolute treat. I wasn’t nearly as bored as I feared I’d be! I could get so much stuff done! Sure maintenance guys, I’m home ALL DAY so you can drop by and fix the aircon whenever you like! Be four hours late, like you usually are, I don’t care! Grocery shopping was no longer a post-work chore; I had ample time to shop without it eating up precious personal time! I’m going to get fit! Jogging in the morning and cycling in the late afternoon had me starting to feel pretty good about myself! What delicious, healthy lunches I had time to prepare every day! And books! I can finally read you – poolside, no less!

Maaaaaaaaaan, I was getting used to this unemployed gig. In fact, why would I ever go back to work? This was good times. Oh…shit, that’s right. Life comes with (ugh, financial) responsibilities. Damn it. Where’s my Greek shipping heir husband? I’m ready for my villa in the Cyclades now, thank you very much.

Ah, that pesky job, it just had to be found somewhere. But what to do? I really did not want to start my way down the path of another unsatisfying career. I toyed with copywriting, but in the end I could not ignore the siren’s call from the soon-to-launch Condé Nast Traveller Middle East magazine.

A travel writing gig. Condé Nast. Traveller. Writing is awesome. Travel is my life’s passion. Hey, may as well try to make a career out of it. Slight problem. I can’t just roll up to Condé Nast and be like, hey there, I have a blog I write in every now and then, it would be your great honor to hire me. But I could get an editorial internship. And so, in the interest of trying to chase what I basically see as a dream job, that’s exactly what I did.

I figure, worst case scenario it will be a decent learning experience. So, it’s been just over a week now, and I’m enjoying it. I’ll just have to wait and see where it takes me.

And after just seven days of work I’m looking forward to the 5-day holiday weekend for Eid starting this Tuesday. Five days hearkening back to the good ol’ days of poolside unemployment.


Wild parrots! In my yard!

Technically they’re rose-ringed parakeets (males have a black ring around their neck; females, as in the photos here, do not have the ring). And they’re not native to this region (shock), and apparently not very welcome, but I am thrilled to have them as my guest!

I noticed them flying around my community several months ago – three of them – and from that very moment I knew that I just had to have them in my yard (I fully believe that every outdoor experience is better with parrots, peacocks, nachos, and bellinis). So, I invested in various bird items to make my yard more enticing and I did attract a lot of birds (warblers, finches, hoopoes, mynas (aka screaming birds), red vented bulbuls)…but never the parakeets.


Quite frankly, I had given up on ever getting the parakeets.

Then, this morning I woke up and noticed them fluttering around my yard. And not even three, but five! I had never seen more than three together before. Later, I noticed there was a whole flock of about 10-12 of them flying around. I was so ecstatic. I never knew I could get so excited over some birds, but it was just the coolest thing to have colorful, exotic creatures hanging out in my yard! The cats were beside themselves with glee, too. The parakeets are rather larger than the usual birds we get, and must have looked like quite a decadent meal.


I felt like an asshole though, because I am usually very good at keeping the feeders full at all times, and then the morning the parakeets finally come, after months of waiting, both feeders were totally empty. When they flew off, I hurried to refill everything and they shortly returned.

I hope they become regular visitors now; once they get used to my yard I’m curious to see if they’re receptive to being around humans. It would be so amazing if they are friendly with people. And it would drive my cats mad.