Take out your calendars right now and mark November 19-24, 2014 in them. Better yet, include a few days before and after in your travel plans. Because you can’t consider yourself a true Zouk addict if you never experience the Zouk ME insanity on your own body and mind!!!
I semi-accidentally made it to Dubai in 2013 – didn’t really think it could work, then saw a great deal on the flight and a super cheap offer on the event hotel too… By the way note to European residents: check out Transavia and SmartWings for flights to Dubai from NL and Prague in the range of 100 Euros or below one way. Very often you can also find a very cheap low-cost flight/bus/train from your city to Prague or the Netherlands and then your total cost for the journey will still be 1/2 or 1/3 of the price of regular airfare to Dubai. As to the hotel, keep an eye on booking.com for special offers for peanuts :).
This is how the trip went down:
Wednesday, November 20. My journey began on a rainy morning after the usual sleepless (before early flights) night with probably the second worst ever packing job in my life (the worst I still consider to be that one time I packed for Scheveningen/The Hague Salsa Beach festival and visit…) and the tram breaking down… I called a taxi because I realized I would be trying my luck if I waited for the trams to run again and then having to be very lucky with the bus.
After asking me where I was (at the bus stop on the main street where the tram broke down), the lady sent the taxi 200m away around the freaking corner without ever telling me, although it could well easily pick me up on the main street at the stop… So it took a while of mild panic and me deciding to walk around and see if maybe the taxi was elsewhere till I finally could get in the car, but I made it to the airport in time after all :).
Cue about 6 hours of sort of sleeping on the plane and a meal break (SmartWings even feeds you for that price!!!) and I disembarked in Dubai…
A friend of mine picked me up at the airport, we had a quick bite at her place and then she went off to a b-day party and I went off to the pre-party at Savage Garden, which is where, after a lot of warmth and fuzziness (hellos, hugs and great dances with so many of my beloved partners) the insanity has begun…
It was great to see so many people already at the pre-party!
Experimenting with Ariana 🙂
Zouk Kung-fu with Kamacho 😀
Despite the life-long efforts of my parents (who at every celebration always made sure I also had a drink like everyone else, usually champagne or something sweet but still alcoholic) to ‘make me more Russian’, I don’t really drink – alcohol in higher doses puts me straight to sleep and, more importantly, I don’t like the taste. I get an occasional cocktail here and there or something girly like Sheridan’s, or Martini (if there’s nothing else) – that’s about as far as it goes. So here I was in the Emirates, out of all places, and towards the end of the night I ended up downing shots of Sambuka and Tequila within about a minute from one another… What mom and dad couldn’t do in over 20 years was managed by the Omani crowd in less than a few minutes :D.
Granted, it was my parents who actually oversaw (at a Saloon in a mock Western-style city near Vienna) me topping the first ever (and the last until Dubai, because EEEEEK!) Tequila shot at the age of 12; then I had a friend of mine from France about 4 years ago make me try a B-52 that one time when I waited so long for the alcohol to burn that the shot glass split in two when the waitress came to pick it up; and finally the worst thing my taste buds had to deal with was the Absinthe shot in Mataro…
Anyway… I still managed to dance having downed both! Guess I AM Russian after all 🙂
That when I returned to my street in the middle of the night I spent about 10 minutes trying to remember which one of the buildings was the one I was staying at (I actually remembered it correctly right away, but I forgot about the big carpet at the entrance… When I arrived back and saw it, it threw me off, so I checked out the nearby couple of (nearly identical) buildings just in case I was confusing something :D) had more to do with me not having paid any attention to where I was when I arrived to my friend’s place and left it for the party than alcohol :). But I made it to the apartment safely :).
Thursday, November 21. Woke up after a short nap, packed my things for the weekend and left for Capitol Hotel to catch the shuttle to Ras al Khaimah (THANK YOU SO MUCH for organizing the transport directly to the event hotel!!! It was great not having to worry about finding out how to get there, and having the chance to chat with fellow Zoukeiros from around the world on the bus – we covered so many topics on that bus from human rights to political changes in Iran to rape (I swear there was logic to it all!) to Zouk teaching, it was epic! :D).
Once there, I met my lovely room mate for the weekend Thikra, we checked in and managed to beg out a second key to the room 🙂 – wise decision because our schedules couldn’t have been any more different one from the other. Then I proceeded to catch up on some much needed sleep.
The day was rather rainy – an almost magical coincidence since it only rains a couple of days of the year in this region. When in the evening we went for the Skittles party at Hilton al Hamra (huge thanks for the ride!), the planned barbecue had to be cancelled due to the thunderstorm! (If this happens again, I wonder if there is any way to have something more than just pizza Margharita vs. salad as choice of food for the hungry people who skipped dinner for the planned bbq? 🙂 ). It was a lovely party with some great shows though. A personal highlight was the totally fun column/pole-dance with Kamacho (if anyone has pictures, then pleeeeease let me know!).
Enjoying the vibe
After the party yet again I was lucky – got a ride back to the hotel from someone else and didn’t have to wait for the bus. It was the afterparty time!!! We closed it, of course, but it wasn’t enough for some, so we followed through by a few drinks upstairs. One of the crew invited everyone for drinks to the magic room 406… where the after-after-party was NOT taking place :).
Around 7am we descended to breakfast, laughing and generally having a great time trying to persuade Naji to not pass out sleeping right at the table. All was well right until an aged couple came up to us and said something angrily about their sleep and peace and something else and that it wasn’t funny or something along those lines… It took us a little while to figure out the puzzle but we finally got it: these were most likely occupants of the room 406, into the doors of which it is very likely a few unsuspecting after-party seekers have knocked at 6am or shortly after! Opsie…
Friday, November 22. Weather yet again permitted to sleep most of the day through. Upon awakening, I set out to walk to the nearby supermarket to get some food. As I descended into the lobby, I was ambushed by the ‘Omani mafia’ – they stalled my supermarket plans, kidnapped me into one of their own cars and took me to a more distant mall instead, where we had steaks at one of the restaurants. The timing was perfect – just as we finished the food, it got even colder and rain started once more!
Back at the hotel I was ready for the Minion party way too soon – almost no one else was there :).
My take on the Minions theme… BaNaNa!!!
We decided to use the free time for a few drinks upstairs and came back for a bit more a few more times throughout the night because the bar alcohol prices are ridiculous, of course. It was, again, a great night with cool shows, followed by the official afrerparty at the bar and the unofficial one that lasted till breakfast yet again.
Fatigued Minions :).
This time we sat outside in order to not disturb the rest of the guests, so we could talk and laugh loudly and generally entertain the omelette cook stationed out there quite a lot :).
Saturday, November 23. This was the day of the desert trip, which I was planning to skip… When I woke up, I decided to go to the nearby supermarket. As I descended into the lobby, however, I was yet again ambushed by the Omani mafia and coerced into the desert trip after all.
Getting into the mood 🙂
I only wish I had warmer clothes and waterproof pants to sit on the cushions soaked wet with evening condensation…
Food! I think I OD-ed on Hummus that night 😀
The food was fairly good, the two shows weren’t anything I haven’t seen although the belly dancer was a fun girl, but I had a bit of a run-in with the henna lady. I was 2nd in line. The girl before me sat there for a few full minutes as the lady created a beautiful oriental design on her hand and forearm. Then she got me and drew a 20-second half-assed small thing with a silly flower in the middle… I stayed next to her watching pretty much every girl’s designs and I kid you not I was the one she spent the least time on and the one with the crappiest pattern (if you could call it that) of everyone…
I know it’s a crap job. I know she probably doesn’t get paid much, if at all, for doing it. But this is supposed to be a tourist trap, and people don’t spend more money when they are in a foul mood. They also are unlikely to recommend the trip to anyone if they don’t like it… What a hell was then the logic of so blatantly singling me out of the whole crowd of 20 or so people to so distinctly do not even a half-assed job on remains a mystery. The others she did an elaborate collection of designs on, some even taking up entire forearm… I wiped the crappy 3cm joke off of my hand and at the end asked her if it was possible to do a different one. She said it was only one per person. I said I got mine smudged off. In the end I had to practically beg her to at the very fucking least simply write on my other hand “Zouk Camily Dubai” – something I could bear having on my skin for a week to come. Like one extra pattern or 1 extra minute could save her evening so much trouble… Sigh…
The incident left me rather annoyed (so did the cold wet weather), but at the Arabic themed party I got my Zouk pill and everything was good again :). We had a lot of fun that night doing random crazy things on the floor right till the very end.
Arabic party’s very own ladies in red 🙂
I whip my hair back and forth!
To the left, to the right…
1001 Nights characters visited the event…
This is how we do it, baaaaby! Lollll
Not exactly a veil, but close enough 🙂
Getting some fresh air :).
Your eyes are heavy.. you are listening to my voice now…
This time we went for breakfast first, and then for a few more chats and drinks upstairs. The congress itself was over 😦
So is it black or is it red?! I’ll show you in room 406 ;). LOLLL (totally inside jokes…)
Sunday, November 24. It was time for a short nap and packing up… Originally, I expected to go back by the bus…
Checking out… In more than one way 🙂
However, when I descended into the lobby and checked-out, I was ambushed by the Omani mafia (are you seeing the pattern? :D) who kidnapped me again. I got to take another short nap at their spare room while they were disassembling the floor (dance floor, that is, laid over the ballroom carpet) and I was to ride back to Dubai with them all in the car.
When was time to really go, guys couldn’t fit all the luggage into the trunk… I watched them try a couple of times then realized we could stay there forever because, apparently, none of them played Tetris when they were little. I was big on Tetris, so after a third unsuccessful attempt to fit things in (who said guys are better in spatial reasoning? Bullocks!), I told them to get everything out of the trunk and listen to the woman for a change. Luckily, they did. This time everything fit and we were soon on the road.
Back in Dubai we decided to have a lunch first at the Emirates Mall, so I arrived to my friend’s place way later than expected, got ready for the official congress afterparty, said I probably won’t be back too late and set off to Savage Garden. There I continued the assault on my liver with a mix of jumbo Mojitos and Tequila shots. Of course, the party finished way too early for our liking, so we went upstairs. At first, we realized there was an acute need of food and drinks. While everyone was deciding how to solve it, I got nice and warm and comfy under a blanket on one of the sofas and a human blanket on top of it and, having decided to warm up there after the aircon attack, closed my eyes for a minute or so. Obviously, I totally dozed out. When I opened my eyes again, everyone was gone except for the human blanket, warming my legs so nicely…
Monday, November 25. Luckily, everyone came back soon, brought food and drinks and we ended up first playing some Vodka-related question games and then dancing Zouk till like 11am!
Still looking decent at around 8am! After all that dancing and drinking and not sleeping! We rule!
Only at that point we decided it could be a nice idea to catch a nap, so we did (hail to the late 2pm check-out!).
Refreshed by a nap – yours truly, the Omani Mafia and the last standing Dutchies 🙂
Aren’t we all adorable? 😀
2pm was just about the right lunch time, so while I though it may have been the time to actually show up again at my host’s, the Omani mafia interfered with my plans and I was taken along with a couple of beloved Dutchies to Dubai Mall for some refreshments at the Red Lobster. Yummmm!
Red Lobster – awesome lunch with awesome people! 😀
Pashmina or a wide thin wool scarf – a must-have to save you from too much sun and definitely from too much air conditioning!
As finger-licking good as it looks! Had to have had a red lobster at Red Lobster 😉
On the way to the mall a binding contract was created between myself and Saud that if in 5 years’ time I end up religious, I have to marry him. If not – I’d have to think of some wish to make… In short, a usual uneventful day :D.
Lunch slowly morphed into getting a desert at the Cheesecake Factory (I love you, chocolate chip cookie dough cheese cake, let’s get married!!!) and a contest on how quickly and how many of the free refills could be drank in one evening. Oh, and I got the official proposal – car-key ring on the finger and everything included :D.
The proposal at the Cheesecake Factory :). (to think of it now, I should have totally kept the car key… sigh… hahahahahaha)
Finally we strolled back to the parking lot…
The (not-so-very)soon-to-be-married 😀
Bunch of hobos at the Dubai Mall…
…and after a few sad goodbyes I got dropped off at my host’s.
I didn’t stay there much longer than was needed to re-pack and get ready for the party at Sublime. It was fun but the floor was painfully sticky – maybe they should put baby powder all over the floor instead of just in a couple of corners? It was almost impossible to dance, except for on the carpet. At least I got a few nice Salsas and a couple of absolutely epic Cha-Chas in before all of a sudden Nayan called up all the Zouk team to quickly gather and get to their place instead. So a few minutes later here we were on the whatever-th floor of a high-rise building with the balcony overlooking Burj Al Khalifah and the room big enough for us to dance Zouk to the best tunes with enough drinks and even snacks to last till the morning! 🙂 (who has at least one picture of the balcony view??? I KNOW someone promised to send one over to me!). It was such a great little gathering – huge thanks to Nayan and Katharina for welcoming us all and for such a great night together!
At the end my original plan was to go directly to Abu Dhabi, but the plan changed (this was THE theme of that trip!) for that day. Instead, I ended up crashing over at the hotel for the night.
Tuesday, November 26. In the morning it was time to say goodbye to the Dutch survivors… It was all hugs and best wishes and finally my yet another future husband and I set off to the capital.
Sandeep was kind enough to meet us at the bus station and we got a lunch at Burger Bureau, where we actually danced, besides having burgers (you can request your favorite songs to be played while you’re dining :D) and took a few pictures.
Burger Bureau Band!
Then we went to change for the Abu Dhabi party night that concluded with a pretty hilarious photo session that included Musti’s epic photo-bombs :D.
It all began pretty decently, with the normal, ‘boring’ picture…
Then the ghost of Musti appeared!
Starting to work on that crazy picture now
Attempt number something (we took so many pictures that I decided not to post every single one or it would be one full album! 😀 )
Getting into the right mood already 🙂
And the epic photo-bomb award goes to… 😀
Hands in the air!
Ehm… No comment 😀
It was a small party but a very nice one and I ended up swimming in the hotel’s very warm pool – yaaay! But, of course, it was too early to end the night at the end of the night, so a few of us proceeded for some shoarma and shisha and excited chats related to teaching dance :).
Out-talking the great talker during the shisha session took up a lot of energy 😀
Wednesday, November 27. Ali picked Daniella and I up in the afternoon. First we decided to grab something to eat and ended up somehow at the revolving restaurant up the tower. After a lovely meal and when the heat subsided, we drive to the Mosque (pictures coming up soon, inshallah), spent a few hours there taking pictures of everything and headed back.
Looking all local 😀
Two happy girls 🙂
Apparently, divine beings care about fashion 😀
Sadly, it was time for Daniella to leave as well, so the evening was a quiet one dedicated to eating some more shoarma and watching The City of God (happens to be a great movie!).
Thursday, November 28. Sandeep was a darling and took me to the famed Presidential Palace (pictures coming up) during the day.
Can you find Sandeep?
The most ‘original’ Zouk pose ever 🙂
You’d think by now the congress and absolutely everything related to it was definitely over… So did I… But, apparently, not the Zouk gods…
Both of us took a bus ride to Dubai that evening (I only said it looked like a call center because everyone was talking on the phone! Didn’t even notice most passengers were Indians!), myself thinking I’d be at my host’s home in just a couple of hours… But first we met up with some Swiss Zoukeiros who, as it turned out, were still in the city! We went out for a dinner together and decided to drop into their place for a few drinks… Then we decided there was enough space to dance… Then we realized it was fairly late to go home/get a bus… so we ended up crashing over till the next ‘morning’…
Friday, November 29. In the ‘morning’ after breakfast we thought it would be nice to chill out a bit by the pool up on the roof, so we did that. Danced a bit… Then went for a dinner and then for a few drinks at some bar where you can get one cocktail apparently made of pure gold (judging by the price) and alcohol (judging by the taste) for five of you and still get tipsy, but you can’t dance there (for that requires a special license)… But the night was still young, so we came back to the apartment and watched some funny (although more like obscure…) videos online… until we realized it was actually fairly late, so we crashed over till the next morning again! 😀
Saturday, November 30. Having been all this time about 10 minutes away on foot from where I was presumably staying, I only finally made it back there this morning. I dropped off my stuff really fast and joined the Swiss crew for a trip to the beach :). It was full of people and kite-surfers, even music, and the sun was pleasantly warm while very quickly giving you a tan but not a sunburn. We spent a lovely day there and finally had to say our farewells in the evening for good – the last international guests (besides yours truly) were leaving…
Sunday, December 1. I decided not to do much because this was, presumably, the crazy day when everyone started celebrating the UAE National Day (officially on December 2). That year the celebrations were moved to the weekend instead, so I also took a day off :). To think of it now, if I make it there again (and I totally plan to!), I want to see the madness!
Monday, December 2. Yearning for a bit more sun, I went to the beach. It was empty! What a difference the working day made! I spent just over an hour there, got decently dark and went back home to rinse off. One of the Zoukeiros was kind enough to pick me up and we rode around the city a bit for a sort of a quick visual ‘tour’ before a dinner at Social House at the Dubai Mall. I finally got to see the musical fountain (the segments were short but sweet, although I’m still not fully over the Midsummer Night’s Dream theater piece with Prague’s singing fountains Krizikova Fontana serving as part of the show and decoration, after which I’m not easily impressed any more) a few times in a row :).
Tuesday, December 3. I did some catching-up on online stuff during the day, gobbled down another cheese cake (got myself one yesterday) and then Shammy (Shaaaaaaaa-mmmeeeeeeee!) took me along to Abu Dhabi for the absolutely-very-last-for-really-this-time-I-swear-party. I was the last international still left in the country after the Congress… It was sad… I took my last swim at the lovely warm pool, we stopped for the last shisha and shoarma and then it was time to leave…
Wednesday, December 4. On the way back that night Shammy and I got stuck in some of the thickest (if not THE thickest) fog I’d ever seen in my life! We had to crawl on the road with blinkers on at all times because it was nearly impossible to see the road and definitely impossible to see anything on it even with headlights on unless it was giving visible blinking light signals! We passed a few gas stations because it was impossible to see the exits or the stations themselves through the fog (at times it was impossible to see the front of our own car), but we got lucky to finally spot one in time in a pocket of slightly less thick fog, so we managed to get in for some coffee, gas and a quick bite.
The fog stretching the journey quite a bit, I was only home about 4am, so when I got up later in the morning after a nap, I decided to forego my initial plan to go to the beach for an hour before leaving. Instead, I took longer to pack everything up and went to the airport earlier…
While I wasn’t impressed by Dubai that much (a longer story as to why coming up some time in the near future), I had such and incredible time while there! The people made my stay so incredible and fun and random and full of joy! I hope this year I can see everyone again in UAE! Here are the due thank-yous:
First and foremost, to Nayan and Katharina – for organizing the lovely, fun, Camily-like congress – definitely one of the absolutely most favorite ones of all those I ever went to! For working on Dubai Zouk scene; for inviting us over to your place for a lovely night; for taking care of everyone and all your hard work!
To my host Yulia who probably saw just as little of me as she wanted and who was so chilled about my constantly changing arrival/departure to/from the apartment plans 🙂
To Sandeep for absolutely everything, for all the work, for simply being awesome, and for having Daniella and me over at a time that was probably more difficult than fun – we really appreciate it!
To Kamacho for the epic dance 🙂
To the Omani Mafia for every kidnapping and all the fun we had together, for turning me into an alcoholic (almost 😉 ), for the rides, foods and crazy marriage proposals and all the randomness, great spirit and for making me feel so incredibly welcomed and pampered all the time!
To all of the great dancers and party people of the entire too weeks – you are too many to mention but you know who you are and I love you all!
Special thanks to the prrrrecious Swiss after-after-after…..afterparty crew for allowing us to randomly invade the premises for like days (and nights :D). I like it when the red water comes out!!! (next time see you again, I hope, at the Candy Mountain!)
To Shammy for driving us around and for generally being an awesome person, as well as for making it safely through that damned fog! 😀
To the Abu Dhabi shisha smokers – for animated, fun and very insightful teacher chat(special shout to Musti for the picture and the tip about cell phones 😉 )
To Henri for showing me some of the city and for the lovely dinner :).
If all goes well, I sure hope to invade the UAE again this fall for more of all of you people! Love you all loads!!!