Learning Arabic the Write Way

Have you tried to write for a prolonged amount of time by hand recently? The time-honoured skill of handwriting may be an utterly distant memory. Come to think of it the memory of ruining your manicure, receiving the gift of now-almost-extinct writer’s callus or undergoing excruciating wrist and hand agony may not appeal to you. But have you thought about how you can benefit from handwriting once you pass through the pain threshold?

  • Writing into relaxation

I would have gladly stuck to my scribbles or the more computer-assisted approach but a few months ago I took it upon myself to learn Arabic. When it comes to effectively acquiring a new language, there exists little alternative to writing by hand, at least in my experience. Graphotherapy claims that handwriting can cure depression. I would not know any better but it has definitely been the most efficient and surprisingly relaxing form of studying I have been encountering.

  • Amplifying your learning

Your capability to focus will improve as a result of repeatedly forming letters, which will eventually evolve into words, sentences and paragraphs. The foreign vocables will become imprinted in the brain effortlessly, and the movement of the hand almost as fluent as the very word you will have just learned to utter. Your penmanship may not evolve to the level of a calligrapher and your diction that of an Arab but you will probably find the entire experience edifying. In case you get a kick from acing your exams, an article in the Wall Street Journal confirmed that students who take notes by hand outperform others.

  • Smartening your brain

Research published in the medical journal, Neuroreport, shows that Arabic writing trains both side of the human brain. It has been found during a study of the brain dynamics of writing that native Arabic speakers engaged both sides of the brain unlike their Spanish counterparts when writing. I guess this also applies to Urdu and/or Farsi writers since they use the same system. Not only do these scriptures use cursive letters, known to engage both your right and left cerebral cortex, but they also write from right to left, an extra-brainy challenge.

  • Writing prettier letters

As I mindfully applied myself to the craft, my stuttering cacography in Arabic slowly morphed itself into tidier letters. Interestingly, even squibbles in my own native scripture have become more legible. For the past two decades, I have been infamous for my illegible handwriting. Even my husband who absolutely adores me would confirm. Believe it or not, I can now read my notes, something that I was unable to do since 1995. Morever, I have recently discovered the joy of looking at my notes, a very satisfying experience.

Inspired by my inspiration

Be prepared for a slightly cheesy blog post. It is mostly about the love, care and attention I am fortunate to receive on a daily, if not hourly, basis from my best friend and life partner: MinyWife, AKA Miki. We launched this blog together with a view to sharing whatever makes us smile in life, normally revolving around our cats, yoga, food and digitalia. But I wanted to take this opportunity to write about my inspiration to get up in the morning, just a little, as it forms the foundation of this very blog and our lives together. It isn’t our wedding anniversary, it isn’t a particular day for celebration or remembering, except for our ongoing daily romance.

This has been sat in the Drafts folder for some time and I now come to reopen WordPress after some time, so long since starting this post that it is now MinyWife’s birthday. We have spent a day hard at work unfortunately instead of celebrating my favourite person as much as I would like, but when time and funds permit we shall certainly be doing something more fun than Powerpoint 🙂



A Visit To the Osteopath For MinyWife

It seems there can be a thing as too much yoga, it is sad to report on these pages. Many a weekend MinyWife and I would be absent from our friends’ social lives with our main focus on ourselves and our wellbeing, sometimes totting up over 10 hours of yoga on weekends. We are fortunate to have discovered two very good studios close to home and the All-You-Can-Ommm packages appealed to the Yorkshireman in me!

Following a remarkable period of weight loss since last August, we are increasing in density once more. I might be perceived as blowing our combined trumpets here, but we did manage to remove 15Kg each from our bodies, in a period that ended in January this year. A fabulous achievement in terms of focus, willpower and determination across both exercise and diet. What with a major operation, honeymoon, general summertime lethargy and MinyWife not smoking since 1st May all coming into play since January, we are not back to our hefty former selves but heading that way without a concerted effort.

Hence the push back towards yogathons on the weekend. Unfortunately, after one particularly demanding 5.30am Ashtanga class, we both came away with cricked necks and hurting shoulders. Literally shrugging this off as a symptom of getting used to a different style with a new teacher, we carried on regardless without the pain subsiding. Weeks later, MinyWife received a text from her osteopath, a rearranged appointment forgottenly made months ago. A truly brilliant medical professional, or so I am told after the excellent 30 minute diagnosis and treatment sessions by MinyWife, well worth the outlay even though not covered on our company medical insurance.

The doctor made the common sense observation that yoga will have a very different impact on a body depending on it’s size, shape and weight. Therefore exercise done when slim is likely to be easier than that undertaken with more girth. Hence, all those Ashtanfga-driven downward dogs carrying an extra 5Kg here or there will apply increased pressure on our arms and shoulders. This stellar advice in mind, we are refocusing our exertions towards Bikram, Pilates and milder forms of Hatha yoga until we both trim down closer to previous levels. Wish us luck.

And, depending on our mood, we might even reveal the doctor’s name if you ask nicely. No promises…

Image courtesy of StockSnap.io, a fantastic copyright free stock image resource

Weekend Roast Chicken Delivery in Dubai

Following a mid morning meal with friends at an egg-cellent restaurant at The Beach, Jumeirah Beach Residence, we were suddenly struck by a mid afternoon hunger. Without wanting to leave our air-conditioning in the (must be somewhere around 50C) heat, we decided to try one of the many delivery options in our vicinity.

For those of you that live outside the UAE, delivery of almost anything to your door is possible and increasingly with credit card payment, not just cash. Convenient but also dangerous.

Foodonclick, 24h.ae, Zomato and our growing favourite Deliveroo (download the app and you’ll see why, merits a separate post about the channels at our disposal in fact) all compete for our attention. Today we ordered from Gallus via Deliveroo. Tomorrow we may take advantage of another provider’s discount deals.

Regardless the half roast chicken was delicious. Still juicy and hot, MinyWife also ordered PiriPiri and Harissa sauces and a green salad. The cats and myself finished off the leftovers. Yum.

I’m partial to Waitrose’s roast chicken and it definitely wins in the value department (18 to 48 AED) but there’s a lightly delightful herb mixture used at Gallus, plus the lazy/delivery factor, that will no doubt see more deliveroos to MinyHome in the near future.

Learning Arabic in Dubai?

Two months ago, I decided to end 3 years of procrastination, and took it upon myself to start learning my fifth language: Arabic. My greatest challenge was to select a learning path. After days of googling, emailing and reading blogs, I finally decided: 1) to go to the  Eton Institute in TECOM’s Knowledge Village, 2) to undertake the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, CEFR, path. With this in mind, I used three main criteria for selecting the school, as follows:

  1. Classroom Settings, Distance Learning & MOOC
  2. FuSHa, Certification & CEFR
  3. Investment & Commitment

Continue reading “Learning Arabic in Dubai?”

First steps #خطوات in Arabic #العربية

contemporary designed staircase
“Contemporary staircase in a metro station in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.”

This weekend has been an intensive study session just before my Starter Arabic exam on Sunday. I have taken it upon myself to learn by heart the basic vocabulary we are expected to know to pass the Eton Institute-administered certification, with the long view to build my skills up through the internationally recognised CEFR levels A, B and ultimately C.

With increasing government regulations and requirements to boost Arabic and Emirati input across the board, my decision to study a fifth language – not including “Yorkshire” as the husband puts it – is hardly premature. The initiative launched by the Dubai Department of Economic Development came as an opportunity to learn the language of the city I have called home and lived for the past four years. Ahem

Learning Arabic has opened my eyes to another side of Dubai, something I already knew from learning other languages but you can pick up some finer details in a culture. Apart from walking around shopping malls slowly reading signs and sounding slightly “Special” in the process, there are some nuances to phrases unbeknown to most of us who can’t speak a language which surrounds our daily lives here in the United Arab Emirates.

There are plenty of collateral benefits that come with studying Arabic, one of them being getting excited each time I recognize a word. My favourite thing to date has been the thrill of stalking my colleagues and forcing them to watch me write their name, then holding up the piece of paper as if I am meeting them at the airport and showing it off as if I am six years old.

Regardless, I have been studiously attending my two-hour classes twice a week for the past two months. Deadlines are a curious thing; here I am just two days before the test with seemingly completely empty mind. MinyHubby has limitless faith in me to pass with flying colours but I want to give it everything I have got, which includes making sure I can read and write the vocabulary set in Arabic, even though this particular test does not require it. I am learning for the future.

Update: this post was written on Friday, July 29th. Since then I passed my class with a perfect score. I am currently looking forward to building my Arabic skills by taking them to the next level.

A very feline obsession

Unless you have cats of your own, it might be hard to understand the rationale behind owning one, let alone two. I sometimes ask myself what is it about sharing a living space with someone who only says hello when they want food and looks at you as though you’re “an imbecile, get out of my way” the rest of the time. 

I sometimes think I’d rather have a dog. A simple animal that salivates all over me at the thought of chasing after a ball to bring it back to fetch again. Awesome! Then I realise I’m as cynical as Melchior and Gaspard, the feline residents of MinyHome.

You’ve seen them all over Instagram and Facebook already, you may even have met them if you’ve ever been over to visit. But do we really know our cats? 

Garfield was easily my favourite comic strip growing up, as he ran rings around his owner Jon and fellow “pet”, Odie, whilst going crazy for lasagne and despising anchovies. He reminded me of a cat version of Blackadder, surrounded by buffoons. I avoided anchovies for many years because of the ginger cat cartoon character, only to try them in my twenties and enjoy the taste almost as much as the look of disgust on the faces of onlookers. Never allowed a pet in the parental home, I’ve owned several since and not looked back.

Melchior and Gaspard, names selected by MinyWife after the Three Wise Men from the nativity, her first and pre-Miny cat called Balthazar, are both rescue cats. Both from different broken homes (come by and we’ll tell you the story over a cuppa) and both with us nearly three years at the time of writing. Neither like to be cuddled, although after an hour of calm in the house Melchior might sit nearby. If he is in the mood. And after you’ve fed him. Gaspard is curious and superior. In his head at least. 

Both are awesome, and worth occasional sneezing to have them in our lives. That’s right, to complicate things just a little bit more, we both have cat allergies. We also have a very feline obsession.

Gaspard MinyLife
Gaspard “Gingerpants”

Melchior MinyLife
Melchior “Catboy”

Feline Obsession at MinyHome
Yin and Yang

Tough days call for tasty noodles

After a day spent waiting in government buildings to finalize essential admin, it was important to take advantage of our location and explore The Other Side Of Dubai, aka Deira. We aren’t very daring.

But we had had a ramen recommendation and we weren’t let down. Hanabi at the Asiana Hotel has a broad ramen menu and will not disappoint. Even the prices, for Dubai, were reasonable too 🙂

Full review to follow, possibly, once we have digested. Failing that, Miki has already left thoughts on Zomato and TripAdvisor.

Yoga with a stiff neck

Bikram. Ashtanga. Hatha. Vinyasa. Yin. Iyengar. Even gong meditation. We love them all and at all times of day. Our weekends are devoted to a yogathon of sorts, normally spending at least half our weekend travelling to or from or actually “doing” yoga. But there comes a time when we need to take our foot off the gas a tad, and this is one of those weeks.

5.30am Ashtanga classes are awesome, because it is almost a normal time to wake up. And by the time the class finishes at 7am the day is in full swing as you move from breakfast to shower to car to office without blinking. Except this week, our regular teacher has gone for a two week training session – I am loathe to call it a retreat, but I suppose it is – and the stand-in teacher, unlike the reserve teachers at primary school, is entirely competent. The issue is we aren’t.

One of the appeals of Ashtanga is that it is a thorough workout, balanced with meditative sessions to open and close a class, but the main essence is to work your  core and whole body through a series of poses, postures and stances, body consistently shaking throughout. The only respite tends to be at the very end, when you hear what has quickly become my favourite yoga phrase: “shavasna“.

The Corpse Pose is apparently difficult, but after over an hour of fairly intensive stretching, focused breathing and balancing against my body’s natural instincts, it seems like the easiest thing in the world to lay on your back and breathe. MAybe I am missing something.

I digress. The new teacher normally takes the advanced classes and, being the teacher’s pets us MiNy’s might be known as, we pushed ourselves to the limit throughout and ended up with stiff necks the following day. Gutted. And the rest of the week has been spent recuperating and applying hot balm and getting Balinese massages. Not all bad, after all.