Recent News

How Social Media Is Turning Us Into A Fake Generation

WSB Admin 29/10/2018 0

By Syeda Maria Sarfaraz

I remember the days before social media when I would get 20 phone calls per day and 50 or 60 emails, and felt exhausted by the communication. Now we’ve traded the telephone for other connection points (I only get 2-3 calls per day).

We do it because we believe that more relationships provide more opportunity.

When people think of social media, it’s thought of as posting photos, telling people how we feel or catch up with friends. Sounds simple enough, right? Wrong.

The problem social media platforms have given us is we hide behind screens, allowing others to judge us for the lives we want them to think we have, the lives we portray online.

It’s easy enough to do. Why would you post a photo of yourself you think is unattractive?

Social media is a world. We live through our screens, and many of us feel the need to pretend to do and have whatever we want and wish for.

“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” 

“Social media makes a big world smaller.” 

“Linkedin is for people you know, Facebook is for people you used to know, Twitter is for people you want to know.”

The reality is, we don’t KNOW hardly anyone.

The world was easier when we didn’t have to prove anything to anyone. We certainly shouldn’t nowadays, anyway..

We want to prove something. We want to show our friends that even though our lives probably aren’t as interesting in real life, maybe we can create something cool online, instead.

Most of us don’t have perfect lives. So why say otherwise online? Maybe because that’s the fun of it too.

Read more

Finding the Joy in moving Home

WSB Admin 29/10/2018 0

By Lizzie Daniell

Finding the Joy whilst packing those boxes!

“Is there joy in moving house, I hear you say”, really? Well, funnily enough, there can be… eventually!

At the time that we make that decision to move, we are excited, looking forward to change and have HOPE that everything will go to plan. It is something that lots of us do and look forward to (well, once it is all over).

So why, when we take that step to box up our homes, it ends up happening alongside other major incidents in our life: new babies; planning a wedding; manic times at work; visiting relatives etc – why is that?

 

Most of the time we are good at managing our lives, planning for the future, and just when everything is set in stone, a curve ball chucks itself at us – circumstances beyond our control.

When things are in ‘our control’ we can stay calm, focus, get excited and tick off our ‘to-do’ list with joy, but as soon as this changes (exchange on a new home does not happen, a baby comes early) we are out of our comfort zone and start paddling upstream. HELP!!

Having just experienced this very thing (a week of work visitors with a very busy programme to support), my normal calm, happy, smiling self, changed overnight and was replaced with stress, anxiety and worry about getting it all sorted in time! I admit I don’t like these feelings and they’re not ones I’ve experienced for some time – I felt out of my comfort zone and not in control! Why was it so strange this time? Being married to the Army for so many years, I am used to moving frequently – making up those boxes and preparing the house for ‘march-out’.

What was different this time?

A different country, craziness at work, tight timescales, the current moon, being older, I am not sure, maybe all of them. But after being scooped up by my wonderful husband, and having super friends to help, I was reminded to:

  • Find that JOY;
  • Feel blessed;
  • Focus on one thing at a time – that ‘other incident’ that was happening in my life;
  • Step back and look at the task(s) ahead;
  • Ask for help and be visible;
  • And, finally, to practice what I preach… that we are never given anything we can’t handle and to believe ‘all will be well.’ And it was!

There is always a beginning, a middle and an end, and each of these stages if taken individually – under grace and in the perfect way – can work in our favour; we just need to believe….

 

Thank you again for joining my journey and I look forward to hearing from you, hoping you might share your experiences and whether you managed to…find the joy!

 

With much love and joy,

Lizzie Daniell

http://findingthejoy.info

 

Read more

WSB Inspiring Woman: Jane Welsh, Allegra Bags & Handicrafts

WSB Admin 29/10/2018 0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A reason to get out of bed

Sometimes, you meet people with an exciting history, adventurous travel-logs or extravagant backgrounds.   Occasionally, you may be fortunate to meet a person with a moving story of their personal journey and be emotionally inspired by what they have shared.  In the lobby of the British School, Jane Welsh of Allegra was that person.

Jane had come to bring some of her beautiful, handmade, fair trade Cambodian products to sell at the school PTA Shop.  We started chatting and very soon I realised that Jane was truly an inspiration for many women who follow their partners around the world and who feel a need to do more.

An Australian citizen, married to an American, Jane had not one but two very wonderfully influential Aunts. “Light Houses” as she refers to them.  “Everyone should have a role model, someone who helps guide or point you on the right road” One aunt worked for the United Nations in an International NGOs and inspired Jane to undertake studies in Social Work.

Jane’s other aunt was her strongest inspiration; she was a Fashion Designer and had sadly passed away from breast cancer.  In her will, she had left instructions and funds for Jane to set up an organisation to help disabled women in Cambodia.

Previously, in 2002, Jane worked with the Association of the Blind in Cambodia for 3 years.  She set up a support group for visually impaired women and acid attack survivors (women who had been attacked with battery acid).  Her aunt funded many operations, surgeries, and activities.

Since this time, Jane has continued to work in international community development and in 2010 Jane relocated to Vienna as an accompanying spouse.  She and her husband had a son and naturally, the pace slowed down, being a first-time mum in a new country and language.  Jane describes this time as one of the most depressing and challenging times in her life.

It was whilst listening to Jane through what clearly was a very emotional and challenging time in her life, I realised that many of us have this time when we feel at our most vulnerable, lost or weak. It’s often then that we find the strength and inspiration to go on to do amazing things.   Jane and her family returned to the USA after 4 years, where Jane worked in sexual and reproductive health with an international NGO working in Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and Sierra Leone.   After 4 years of relentless travel and long working hours, she had a burnout.   Last November, Jane did a self-care retreat and used Ikigai (a Japanese method of finding your life’s purpose – to find your reason to get out of bed) to redirect her back to her life’s love:  working with women with disabilities in Cambodia.   Since moving with her husband to Saudi Arabia this year, she has refined and worked on her Ikigai – The Allegra Project:  Fair Trade and sustainable handicrafts made by women with disabilities in Cambodia.  These items are not only uniquely, environmentally beautiful, but each item sold helps empower women with disabilities in Cambodia.

As an accompanying spouse previously, Jane knew of potential hardships, identity and role challenges so prior to coming to Riyadh with her family, Jane and her husband decided to enter into a Post Nuptial Agreement, where they had many difficult conversations and worked together on their goals, roles and responsibilities and importantly how they work together as a team.   “This has definitely helped with the challenging obstacles that Saudi Arabia brings, especially for females and I urge any family to try something similar with their family or partners”.

Just as our conversation was drawing to a natural end, I am surprised to learn that Jane also has a passion for designing clothes for the larger figure, colourful, comfortable and affordable – watch this space.

Jane has found her reason to get out of bed in the morning – what’s yours?

Allegra Products can be purchased from many of the well-known coffee mornings, Kingdom, Ishbilia, Al Nakhla, Seder in addition to some upcoming Festive Markets, Ishbilia’s Collection Gift Store and the BISR PTA Shop.

 

 

 

Read more

The raw beauty of Tabuk

WSB Admin 27/10/2018 0

By Munira Patel

A few weeks back, over the Saudi National weekend, we travelled back to Tabuk for the second time in the two years that we have been living in Saudi. We happen to do the same last year – not at all planned but a sheer coincidence. As my husband pointed out, we celebrated the patriotic weekend in a way that is deserving; exploring the beauty and wonder that Saudi Arabia has to offer. I don’t often chronicle my travels; however, I was compelled to write about our adventures to the Tabuk region on both occasions. We have simply fallen in love.

On each visit, we hired a car to be able to explore the different points of interest, and for me, it’s this true sense of exploring along Route 55 – that exhilarates me. I never tire of looking at the vastness of the area, spotting the – almost oddly placed – lush green crop circles amidst the sprawling desert, to the huge boulder like mountains that look as though they belong to an underwater world. This time we traversed slightly further up north towards the Gulf of Aqaba, passing by mountains that were streaked black and bronze which eventually turned into pure black ruggedness before it descended into the bronze-red landscape that you’d expect to see in the Middle East. It is raw beauty.

We made our annual pilgrimage to the small secluded beach known as Kiyal, just a few miles from Sharma. The beach was sadly a little messy for my liking, however, what the sea had to offer made up for a bit of random litter. There were amazing corals dotted everywhere. Literally, only yards from the shore a world of beautiful colours lay anonymously. Bursts of purple, red, yellow and blue with gorgeous fishes just weaving in and out either forlorn or in a shoal – it was like being in a fish tank.

This time around, we visited Bir Sa’idani – it’s believed this is the area where Moses drew water from a well after his escape from Egypt. It was a peaceful place, though only a small area, there was something just so pretty about it. Tucked away down a steep hill and hiding under the shade of some trees – there still remains a humble puddle of water supported by a drizzly little stream. The location sits just a mile or so from the amazing views of the Gulf of Aqaba and the mountains of Egypt beyond. It wasn’t difficult to take yourself back in time and visualize the story behind this quiet historic gem.

Over the two trips, we have the Hijaz railway, the UNESCO site of Madain Saleh, Sharma, Kiyal, Bir Sa’idani, the deserted town of Al Ula and Mugha’ir Shu’ayb ticked off the list. However, with a whole plethora of other undiscovered beauties, we are sure to return again – maybe for the next Saudi National weekend.

 

 

Read more

Exploring the Kingdom’s gems

WSB Admin 26/09/2018 0

By Maryann Horne

A few choice words. That was my response when my husband announced we were going to Riyadh. Certainly not the place we had dreamt of. But two years on, Saudi Arabia has grown on us both in a way we did not expect. It’s secret? The kingdom offers an incredibly diverse array of adventures for those who enjoy travel off the beaten track.

Our first trip was a train journey to Houfouf. Al Ahsa is the largest oasis in Arabia. It used to be on the old Ottoman trading route and its Qaisariah souq is one of the most splendid of the peninsula. The Uqair sea fort, where the treaty of Kuwait was signed is also worth a trip, as are the neighbouring caves.

Next was a six-night road trip to the Empty Quarter, Abha, al Baha and Taif. Asir province is close to Yemen in its identity: it is hilly, green and people are as warm and hospitable as the climate is cool.

We visited the highest peak in the Kingdom at Mount Sudah and its suspended village of Al Habala. Baboons lined the roads in places. The honey and handicrafts market knocks your senses and treasures include Yemeni and Saudi “liquid gold” and Assiri embroidery and jewellery.

An absolute must in this region is Raj al Alma. It’s an old village that local people decided to restore without any government funds and have turned into a bright and authentic living museum. Its doors are painted bright yellow, blue and red and colours explode against the black rock.

Spectacular routes carved into the mountains then brought us to al Baha. This region is green and lush. The air is cool and you can picnic by lakes and waterfalls, pick flowers and watch birds with incredible colours migrate further.

Another hidden gem is Dhi Ayn, a 400-year-old slate village nestled against a majestic backdrop of white limestone. Not a plastic sign in sight and the restoration is spectacular. Further along in that direction is, of course, Jeddah and the old city of Al Balad and Taif with its rose festival and flower processions.

The lesson learnt is that we don’t need to go necessarily far or follow the crowds. Sudair, the birthplace of the mother of His Royal Highness King Salman is a great day trip, as is Ushaiger and Sharkra. The date festival in Burreidah is the perfect place to learn more about the Kingdom’s favourite delicacy.

Our children have grown to love packing up the car, setting off on an adventure and getting dirty in old ruined villages and forts. Their favourite of late has been hunting for fossils on the old camel trail just outside Riyadh where they found seashells, fish and bones.

So the next time you hear “there’s nothing to do in Saudi”, just dust down that map, throw caution to the wind and say “let’s go discover”. This country is a gem, just waiting to be uncovered.

Read more

The Alhambra and General Life

WSB Admin 23/09/2018 0

By Sairah Zubair Khan

The Alhambra is known by many names, Qalat Al Hamra, The Red One, ‘A Pearl set in Emeralds’. It comprises a series of palaces, used for leisure purposes by the Sultans and Sultanas of the Nasrid Dynasty, in the first three decades of the 20th Century. Walking around the magnificent palaces in the arid Spanish sun, one’s mind drifts off to a time long ago…

The Sultanas in their finery, surrounded by maids and children. Glancing over the fortified city walls, the heady aroma of roses and orange blossom in the air.

A Palace and Garden built to glorify God and depict the Islamic ideals of flowering trees, rivers and pools of water.

The Inscription above can be seen throughout the palace walls, carved into mosaic and formed on plaster decorative tiles. It translates as “Wa La Ghalib Ila Allah”. “Only God is the Victor” It forms the Nasrid Royal Motto and is present on the Royal Standard.

One of the best-preserved gardens, adjacent to the Palace district is that of the General Life, Jannat Al Arifa (Garden of the Architect). It has also been referred to as The Governor’s Garden and the vegetable garden of the Gypsy Festivity Organiser. A leisure place for the ruling dynasty, to get away from the official state affairs of the Palace.

There is religious symbolism once again that God, Allah is the architect, the Creator of the Universe.

Nowadays it is a venue for music and dance festivals, with flamenco shows in the purpose-built amphitheatre.

The gardens contain water, light and orchards full of fruits and vegetables. Some have described them as being a ‘heavenly vault’. A return to the nomad tent, shutting out the outside world, creating a feeling of ethereal peace and tranquillity. The Jannat prefix refers to ‘the gardens’ as a place of vegetation and cultivation.

Seven vegetable gardens, wildflowers, meadowland and fruiting trees of figs, apricots, pomegranates and orange blossom make up the 500 acres (220 hectares) of the General Life.

The Alhambra Palaces all have elongated patios, with water being the focal point. Inside the General Life, a canal exists. It is named The Acequia. It is an example of ingenious hydro-technology. Water is a vital commodity for the whole town, was drawn from a river four miles (six kilometres) upstream. It reached the Alhambra by a water pipe, the Acequia del Sultan. It became an aqueduct, upon reaching the walled area. Running downhill parallel to the street, then branching off to form pipelines.

The complex hydraulic system that regulates water levels in the pools, is quite stunning. There is great significance and symbolism of water throughout Islamic Culture as shown here in the General Life gardens.

In the Water Stairway, water is the feature of a handrail channel. It is divided into three flights, each with a fountain and handrails that channel cool, delicious running water. The sun shines through the laurel trees, creating a hazy escape on a hot day.

One can imagine the beautiful ladies of the court, retiring to the Patio de la Sultana. A Baroque garden laid out, in the area the of Palace Hammam baths. It has many ornamental water fountains and flowering trees.

The Patio and Court of the Sultana’s Cypress tree contain a central pond with a myrtle hedge. In the middle of the pond, is a smaller pond with a stone fountain. Small fish dance in the water and birds come to drink from the plentiful supply.

The General Life allowed for privacy and solitude. A space where one could look down and observe the ruling kingdom, visitors were not permitted into these private quarters.

When wandering around, absorbing the beauty of the flora and fauna in situ, a smile appears as you begin to relax and take in the surroundings.

As a family, we were visiting for the fourth time, to this magnificent place. Yet each visit resulted in the discovery of a delightful hidden alcove, a cool and shady area that we had missed on the previous visit!

It is true to say, this really is ‘heaven on earth’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read more

WSB Inspiring Women: Aahd Kadiri

WSB Admin 23/09/2018 0
  • Tell us about yourself?

I am an animal lover and rescuer since my childhood; I started rescuing in Saudi Arabian in 2009 as soon as I arrived in Riyadh.

I am a wife and a mother of a 3 years old boy, Noah and 3 fur babies; Bronze, AZ and Teeny.

  • What made you start Tail?

Since I started rescuing in Riyadh, I cared for so many dogs and cats, it started with the animals I rescued and adopted out, to the pets of people I don’t personally know but they know I care for animals and trusted me because of my animal welfare activities.

On a personal level, I had to limit my travel time since I have 3 fur babies and every time I leave them at a kennel when I travel something bad happens, dogs do get depressed when left in a cage 24/7, they don’t understand why they are there and why their family has left them, they don’t get exercises nor the love they need.

So Tail – a home-based boarding facility with no kennels –  was the answer for a lot of other parents who have furbabies and hate leaving them in kennels while they travel. Tail is a one of a kind facility in Riyadh, if not in Saudi Arabia (especially for dogs).

  • How long have you been in business in Riyadh?

Tail was established on Facebook in 2017 by another person (a friend of mine) who also suffered from the lack of good kennels in Riyadh, she started it as a Facebook page but she couldn’t care for big dogs due to her accommodations, so I suggested to be a partner and care for the big ones while she takes care of the small ones; But before even starting to advertise for it, and before receiving our first dog, she had got a job meaning she won’t be able to care for any dogs due to her work of course. So I continued by myself to handle the Tail page and started the business.

Few months after I started Tail, and after the huge satisfaction of all our customers, and after the 5 stars reviews we have got, people started asking us to care for their cats as well, so we have got a new location for the cats boarding, also a home-based facility with no kennels, of course, both homes are under Tail.

  • Have you had formal training in animal behaviour or are you self-taught?

I have been around dogs since I was a child and I also got a lot of training from trainers back home when I had issues with my own dog who had some behavioural issues.

You learn a lot being around dogs especially when you have spent all your life around them. Every dog has his own character and behaviour, but at the end of the day, all dogs can be trained and managed when you have the patience, the persistence and the assertive attitude.

I have read a lot about dogs behaviour plus being around all kind of dogs, from the couch potato to the aggressive ones have helped massively to build enough experience on how to deal with animals in particular dogs.

  • What does Tail offer?

Tail offers home-based boarding facility (for dogs and cats), daycare, pet relocation and dogs training.

  • What makes Tail unique?

Tail is the only home-based boarding facility (especially for dogs) cage-free in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. We offer a safe environment for the pets, dogs and cats will be treated like our own pets, because we have pets and we know how precious they are to their families. Walking the dogs in our care is a must, because I know how important a walk is for a dog, it builds an amazing bond with the dog and the handler. Of course, the dogs get a playdate in a secured park and they get to play with each other the remaining of the day inside the house. They are fed twice a day, all at the same time and we make sure every pet is well fed and eating his portion as advised by his parents.

A lot of Tail’s customers have said that their dogs went back to them better behaved than before they come to us.

  • What is a typical day like for you?

Waking up every day at 5 am during summer and 7 am during winter time, walk the dogs. If they are more than 6, I walk twice with them, sometimes we get help from other people. The dogs get their first meal then sleep, the dogs who like water get a pool time under strict supervision (which is in our backyard) and I take them for a playdate in one of the secured parks in the diplomatic quarter for some off-leash time arou4 pm4pm, they get their second meal around 8 pm and their last walk would be around 10 pm.

  • What do you enjoy the most about your work?

Being around dogs is a pleasure for me not a work. Plus, I enjoy watching Noah (my 3 years old boy) dealing and caring for dogs since his early years, this has helped a lot in building his personality.

  • What is the hardest part about your work?

The hardest part: I am always anxious if a pet under our care get sick

  • What advise would you give women considering starting their own business in the Kingdom?

Dare, you can do it, it only need courage and self confidence.

  • Do you have a quote or motto that you live by?

“Stay positive and happy. Work hard and don’t give up hope. Be open to criticism and keep learning. Surrender yourself with happy, warm and genuine people” Tena Desae

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read more

DIY Budget Guide to Tbilisi, Georgia

WSB Admin 23/09/2018 0

By Sarah Kaleem Ahmed

After Georgia opened its doors to the world and granted visa on arrival for GCC citizens and residents, the country has become a home to the ever growing tourists and naturally, tourism is their biggest source of income followed by winemaking.

Visa Requirements

For all GCC Nationals and residents, Georgia offers visa on arrival. If you are residing in Saudi Arabia and have an Iqama (residence permit), then here are the mandatory documents you would need to carry with you to get the visa stamped on arrival:

  1. Original Passport (at least six months left for expiry)
  2. Original Iqama (at least 3 months left for expiry)
  3. Original translation of Iqama into English
  4. Travel insurance (AXA insurance has a travel smart plan which might suit your needs)
  5. Hotel bookings (you may or may not be asked for it)
  6. Return flight ticket

How to reach Tbilisi

From Saudi Arabia

The growing demand of people wanting to visit this country has allowed many airlines to include a flight route to Tbilisi. Some of the airlines that fly to Georgia from Saudi Arabia are FlyNas, Gulf Air, Fly Dubai, Air Arabia etc.

Cost: approx. 2000 SAR and above

From Azerbaijan

If you are like me wanting to explore all the 3 countries together, then start with Azerbaijan, and then, move on to Georgia as it’s cheaper that way.

Option 1 -By bus

Cost: 12 AZN

Duration: 11 hours

Departure Location: International bus station, 6km from city centre, Avtovagzal

Option 2 – By train

Cost: 26 AZN

Duration: 12 hours

Departure location: 28 may Metro

Option 3- By Air

Cost: 300+ SAR

Duration: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Flights: Buta Airways, Azerbaijani Airlines

Tip: If you’re landing at Tbilisi airport, then exit the airport and turn right and walk until you find Bus #37 that goes to Station Square as its last stop. Pay 50 Tetri (cents) and inform the conductor about it (she won’t speak English, so be prepared). You can grab a taxi afterwards.

You are better off buying an internet and calling package at the airport itself for easy navigation as the difference between airport rates and city rates is barely 5 GEL. Besides, if you arrive in the evening, forget about getting a sim card from any of the official shops. Local shops do sell sim cards in Freedom square but you cannot trust their accuracy. My sim stopped working for a few hours, lol.

Things you need to know about Tbilisi

  • It’s full of churches and cathedrals. The country follows Christianity as their religion and this is evident in the numerous churches and cathedrals spread not only within Tbilisi city, but all over the country. Some destinations are famous just for the sole purpose of the existence of an old church. That’s Mother of Georgia in the background with wine in one hand and sword in another! That signifies her friendliness and courage simultaneously. These regions have a thing for female figures and role models!
  • There’s a famous church named Jvaris Mama Church and it’s funny that in Georgian language, Mama means dad and vice versa. It’s the opposite in their language!
  • Mini is pretty popular in Georgian history. She travelled from Cappadocia, Turkey to Georgia in the 3rd century to bring Christianity into the country. But, she forgot her cross which is one of the most important symbols of the religion. She couldn’t go back. So, she decided to tie some grapevines together with her own hair and make a cross out of it. That’s why you see her holding an angled cross.
  • If you’re walking around Tbilisi and looking for a clean place to answer nature’s call, head to Seoni’s cathedral. They, allegedly, have the best toilets ever! I didn’t try it for myself but those who did vouched for its cleanliness.
  • Hitchhiking is really safe here. So, if you ever need a free ride and cannot find taxis or buses, just ask and you shall be offered.
  • Georgian people, even though known for their amazing hospitality, do not smile. You see them with straight faces with no signs of politeness whatsoever at the strangers. This was so weird to me especially after coming from Azerbaijan where people were so warm and welcoming despite not sharing a common language. Our walking tour guide, Kate, explained the reason behind the “coldness”. Georgia, being an ex-Soviet Union country inherits the tough look from those times. They believe in smiling only when they mean it. No fake smiles, please 😉
  • They are known for their winemaking. From souvenirs to statues, people to historical places, it’s all about wine!
  • If you’re offered food, make sure to leave some food untouched to indicate that you’re done! Trying to keep a clean plate won’t help in Georgia as your hosts will interpret it as you wanting more food. Hehe.
  • The ancient capital of Georgia was Mtskheta. It was then relocated to Tbilisi due to its warm weather and attractiveness.

Moving around Tbilisi

Taxi: Really convenient and cheap starting at 3 GEL for a 5 to 10 minutes drive. Download Yandex and Maxim apps to make Taxi ordering easy for you and don’t forget to have Google Translate handy for translating messages from English to Russian.

Bus: Bus stops are plentiful and bus journeys are comfortable and convenient. Remember to keep lots of change of 50 Tetri and 1 GEL to hand over to the conductor.

Metro: I found this option to be the best as Tbilisi is well connected across different places. Using the Metro allows you to book your accommodation a little away from the city centre as the metro will connect you back in a few minutes. Get yourself a metro card at the counters and reload as and when needed. Cost: 0.5- 1 GEL per trip.

Walk: The best thing about Tbilisi is that it is so much fun to walk along the streets wandering and appreciating the cleanliness of the roads, the overenthusiastic tour guides selling you their day packages to interesting locations outside the city, the rustic Soviet houses, the magnificent buildings all lit up, the statues standing tall, the blue layers of the beautiful sky with its rich blanket of clouds, the cute dogs staring at you in awe, and the pleasant weather (except during July and August) simply makes this city so wonderful.

What to Eat while in Tbilisi

The Caucasus region comprising of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia are well known for two famous foods: bread and cheese.

And although Georgia has so many different types of food to offer, here are my favourites that are worth a try:

  • Suluguni cheese: This cheese is especially found only in Georgia and is a little yellowish in colour. It is widely used as pizza toppings, pie fillings and sold as blocks in the supermarket.
  • Churchkhela: These are walnuts dipped in fruit juice. They taste fine enough. You’d see them everywhere but the best place to buy is from the old ladies selling it on the street because they make it fresh every day. Cost: 2-3 GEL
  • Khachapuri: These are like fatayer (pies) with a variety of fillings, the sunny side up egg being the signature khachapuri you’ll find everywhere. You’ll also find different types of cheese khachapuri ranging from simple cheese baked pies, to breads stuffed with cheese several times like an Indian paratha. Some of those are stuffed with beef and pork, the options are limitless. Cost: 2-8 GEL
  • Khinkali: Khinkali are basically dumplings with a variety of fillings depending on the area you are ordering them. The traditional cheese ones are slimy and soft with melted cheese and butter oozing out while you eat them. The trick is to eat it in one go with your hand and discard the top part off.
  • Luca Polare Ice cream: I simply loved, loved, loved the ice cream here. It is extremely cheap at only 3 GEL per scoop and has one of the richest ice cream that I have ever tried! Their juices are fresh and filling too priced at about 10 GEL for a large one and you’re better off buying from them than buying from sellers on the street who overcharge you.

Quick things to do in Tbilisi

  1. Take a walking tour with Tbilisi Free Hack Tours:

I wouldn’t have known this city so well if it wasn’t for this tour group. The tour happens on foot and you get to explore the city by walking, stopping to listen to the guide explain the place and then continuing the walk again.

The entire city tour takes about 3-4 hours and happens daily no matter what the weather.

And most of all, the tour is for free! You only pay tips at the end if you like the tour guide’s services and it is entirely up to you how much you wish to give. If you compare this with the other bus or private car tours, the difference is huge! I remember checking with the city’s hop on hop off bus and they were charging around 50 GEL per person for an automatic audio guide for the same places that we saw on foot!

Here’s their Facebook page and email address should you want to contact them for booking your free walking tour in Tbilisi:

Tbilisifreewalkingtours@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/TbilisiHackFreeTours/

  1. Narikala fortress and the Cable Car: One of the must-see places in Tbilisi, the fortress was built by Persians in the 4th century before the city came to exist. It is a small fortress and people trek all the way up to get great views of the city. Be careful though as there’s nothing to keep you from falling off.

The entrance is on the lower side of the fortress. There are botanical gardens on the other side of the entrance. A Cable car ride is another thing you can combine when you visit Narikala fortress.

  1. Time for a Royal bath:

King Erekle bath stands out amongst the 10+ bath houses placed all close to each other in the vicinity. Private rooms are definitely expensive and a group of 4 in a common room would cost 30-40 GEL plus 20 GEL if you wish to indulge in extra scrubbing and massage.

If you want a painful yet cleansing bath experience, go to Queens bath instead. They really scrub the dirt out of you!

The most expensive of all is the Persian bath which in itself is a building worthy of Instagram. All of the bathhouses are located in Orebeliani street and if you ask anyone about them, they’ll be able to guide you to the location. Or, just key in Bath street number 27 into Google maps and it should lead you to the right place.

The key is to visit each one, choose what fits you and bargain hard to get the best price. Don’t forget to schedule your appointment a couple of hours in advance as they can get jam-packed really quickly!

  1. Dine at Shandiz Iranian restaurant: Located on Marjanishvili Street near the Metro station, the Iranian food here was really delicious. Portions were good for one and prices ranged between 15-25 GEL per person.
  2. Buy souvenirs: You’ll find them everywhere. However, buy them in the underground shops of Freedom square and you’ll get a good price. Other places include shops on the Bath street where the lady named Daki, gave us a fair enough price and spoke English too.

Cost: Magnets between 1-7 GEL, Globes between 10-25 GEL depending on size, Horn for 25-50 GEL

  1. Cross the famous Bridge of Peace and take an optional boat ride:

The bridge is beautiful and is instaworthy! It connects the Old town with a nearby Rike park along the Mtvkari river. However, I personally won’t recommend wasting your time and money on the boat ride as the river water isn’t that clean and you are better off watching the city from the cable car above.

———————————-+—+——————————–

So, that’s all about Tbilisi!

The hottest months are July and August and are not really recommended if you want to escape the heat. April to June is the best time and September is good too! If you wish to spend Winters here, you know when to go 😉 Winters happen at the same time as the rest of the world.

Already been to Tbilisi? Let me know what else you liked there 😉

 

Read more

Take a selfie at Santorini

WSB Admin 22/09/2018 0

By Deepa Thomas-Sutcliffe

Santorini is sure to be on your bucket list for its picturesque sunsets, stunning views and selfie-ready iconic white churches with blue domes. Located in Greece’s Cyclades Islands, Santorini is a short flight ride from Athens and is close to an active volcanic island.

We loved holidaying there, a lovely relaxing counterpoint to the busy Athens & even historic Delphi sightseeing trips. We went in June but it’s an all year holiday destination.

 

Where to stay: You are spoilt for choice and you can find a hotel or caldera hotel to suit every budget. I recommend a hotel in Fira if you are looking for a caldera view and want the pleasure of walking around and staying at the middle of the island. If you are on a romantic holiday or honeymoon, you may like to consider splashing out to stay at Oia.

What to do: Chill, Sunset Selfies, Shop, Sightsee, Walk, Hike up a volcano, Visit a prehistoric town museum, Sunbathe. Santorini offers a holiday of your choice for all ages and interests.

My favourites were the Sunsets at Oia, Akratori Archaeological Museum, Ancient Thira, the Volcano, Megalachori Village & the spectacular Caldera Views. Perissa Beach is great for a nice promenade, posing for scenic pictures and of course dining at the waterfront tavernas.

Must dos:

-A Volcano cruise to the nearby volcanic islands of Nea Kameni and Thirasia. Trek up to the highest point of the volcano, enjoy the hot springs (for strong swimmers) and lunch and chill at a waterfront taverna.

– Stroll through Megalochori Village, which dates its existence back to the 17h century. Home to historic mansions, old traditional houses, pirate hideaways and wine canavas, this is a charming village off the beaten route and well worth spending a couple of hours in. You can dine there, shop in the boutiques and of course take some lovely photographs of the iconic churches with blue domes.

– Get your perfect sunset selfies at Oia: Santorini is interwoven with the sunset, this magical hour of the day when the light makes everything look more beautiful. The sunset in Santorini is considered one of the most famous sunsets worldwide. Oia is the most picturesque settlement of Santorini, a lovely village with traditional character. Built on the caldera cliffs, when it is under the colours of the sunset it becomes even more staggering and idyllic. There are charming white-washed houses, blue-domed churches and marvellous buildings with attuned colours that compose an entrancing scenery. The best place to sit and enjoy the sunset is the remains of the prominent Castle of Agios Nikolaos. From here you can gaze the most scenic view; the spectacular settlement unfolding in front of you, the impressive volcano across the sparkling Aegean Sea and the dreamy horizon.

Of course there are beaches in Santorini too: The beaches are all pebbled & volcanic sand beach though you have interesting colours (Red, Black & White Beach). They are nice to sunbathe on but not very nice to walk on barefoot or even in sandals.

Eat: In a Greek Taverana, Indian Restaurant, Italian Café, You have them all. You will usually adopt a tavern or two near your hotel as your go-to-place for good food. Vegetarians may enjoy the stuffed peppers, tomatoes or vine leaves or the famous Santorini Salad. The olives are fresh and yummy. Non-veggies may enjoy the lamb gyros. Have breakfast at Fira by the Caldera and enjoy the view as you read, perhaps catch up on your email or just chill.

How to get there: Riyadh to Athens: (Aegean Air), Olympic Air from Athens to Santorini. Of course, there are ferries to travel by as well.

Read more

Inspiring Women: Rhonda Rogers of Rhonda Rogers Photography

WSB Admin 29/08/2018 0

“The most courageous act is to think for yourself.“ Coco Chanel

Many of us have admired the adorable newborn portraits from Rhonda Rogers Photography. An expat of 17 years, Rhonda Rogers herself has a lot to teach us about coming into our own in a foreign country. WSB had the pleasure to catch up with Rhonda and learn about her inspiring journey.

Can you tell us about yourself?

Well, I’d like to think I’m a bit of every one of your female readers…I’m a daughter, sister, mother, wife, BFF, academic and woman entrepreneur. I’m an expat for 17 years now and I’m multidimensional, America born & bred and a foreigner. I love every bit of the best of my two worlds. I’m a dreamer and probably a bit of a bleeding heart. I’m proud but try to be humble. I enjoy some of the finer things in life but I strive to be modest and I’m somewhat private these days with a hint of fun & adventure. I believe in quality versus quantity. I believe in giving not for the immediate return but for what you may someday receive in return. I’ve learned not to have expectations so I relish in the small victories.

Most importantly, my little family of five completes me.

When and how did you get started in photography?

I don’t remember exactly when my interest as a photographer began. I was a young Levi’s model in my early 20’s and slowly I shifted to behind the lens, photographing socially. My professional photography work began around 2011, I was inspired by some very personal experiences. I realise something greater than I had other plans for me. Now, I live vicariously through the Mums and Dads and their gift of life that they entrust to me. I jokingly sometimes offer that they go home, catch up on some much-needed sleep and leave their gorgeous little one with me…forever and ever and ever. I know it’s just a dream, but by virtue of being a woman, I am indeed allowed to dream!

How long have you been in business here in Riyadh?

My business began slowly in Riyadh, approximately in 2012. I took two years off to complete my study at Harvard University. When I returned in 2016, it all sparked up again.

Were you trained in photography or are you self-taught?

Proudly, a bit of both and as in all professions, my professional development is ongoing. I learned knowledge is empowering. I research, read and put it all into practice. It’s a learning continuum and it’s fantastic. My professional training comes through mentoring from some of the most stunning international photographers; for example, Kelly Brown, the dynamic Ana Brandt, whose Masterclass workshops take me to the next level of precision.

What makes your photography unique?

I think most importantly is my photography is emotional storytelling, not traditional portraiture. My work is organic, natural and hones in on wholesome family interaction. Most uniquely is the art of newborn baby posing and the props/accessories of our trade; my vast collection of vintage props and handmade vintage & vintage inspired newborn “itty-bitty” clothing for my trade photography. Lastly, I use the finest professional equipment for my trade, from fixed prime to macro lenses and my golden baby from the United States (not available in the Kingdom); my Einstein Flash unit.

What is a typical day like for you?

Ah, that’s easy. I have three doggies. It’s a morning walk along the golf course, then a coffee and ice cold water on my patio overlooking the golf course, post-processing work, the occasional friendly lunch out or host a friend, then plan dinner for my amazing husband after his ten-hour workday.

However, when I have a newborn session, then it’s all bets off! My morning is 3-4 hours of ‘newborn photography as my hot yoga.’ The rest of the day is post processing and cooling my body temperature.

What do you enjoy the most about your work?

Babies! The creativity! The beauty of the end result! My gracious clients! There are, indeed, few words to describe their joy when their love is translated in a photograph.

And of course, working inside of a rather gorgeous photo studio.

What is the hardest part of your work?

Professionally, its “breaking the glass ceiling.” After several years, ups and downs, small success, not-so-small challenges, it happened; the privilege of displaying my image galleries in two prominent Riyadh hospitals. It wasn’t only the hardest part but it’s THE milestone for any professional photographer let alone a photographer in a specialized trade such as newborn photography.

Personally, not much play time. The common Coffee Morning or Compound shopping bus is essentially out of the question. But then again, I’ve long enjoyed my places of peace and moments of serenity.

What advice would you give to other women thinking about starting their own business?

Believe in yourself…I promise the rest will follow. Take a look around you, there are inspiring women everywhere. I hope I can serve as a beacon of inspiration and proof that trust in yourself will breathe life into your gift or idea. You may feel lonely from time to time, being an inspiring woman can be that way, so don’t you quit. You’ll know when you’ve burst through that first ceiling because some who mattered are long gone and your new connections are inspiring as well as accomplished women. They are brilliant beautiful women and they often speak an entirely different language: the language of success and inspiration. And unfortunately, it should be said, let no one guide you otherwise and never-ever give rise to anyone who has little good to say. That is a personal problem, not your problem.

Where can creative women go to network in Riyadh?

Ah, another very easy question, the Women’s Skills Bureau, Blue Abaya online social outreach, both fine examples of women empowerment, success and support. I’d also encourage some coffee mornings, they are fun opportunities to see and be seen.

Do you have a quote or motto that you live by?

Yes, one by an icon for the empowerment of women and success, “The most courageous act is to think for yourself.“ ~Coco Chanel

Contact information and social media:

e: hello@rhondarogersphotography.com

m: +966(0)535568714

f: Facebook.com/rhondarogersphotography

i: Instagram.com/rhondarogersphotographyksa

w: rhondarogersphotography.com (under construction)

Read more