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Parks and Points – Masalamma from Abu Dhabi


Hollywood, MD - Southern Maryland Traditional Music and Dance (SMTMD) will hold a contra dance Saturday, Feb. 10 featuring caller Sargo de Jesus and live music by the Southern MD Open Band. The dance will be held at Christ Episcopal Church Parish Hall on Zach Fowler Road in Chaptico. Doors open at 7 pm; dancing begins at 7:30 p.m. Beginners may arrive at 7 for a dance workshop. Admission is $10 for non-SMTMD members; $6 for members and band members are admitted free of charge. Contra is a traditional American style of social dance and is fun for the entire family. An ice cream social will held during the evening, as well. For more information and for directions, you may contact: www.smtmd.org.

Sarah Lorek, director of St. Maries Singers, invites interested singers to perform in the second half of the 2017-18 season. St. Maries Singers is a non-auditioned community chorus in St. Mary’s County meeting Mondays from 7:30 -8:30 p.m. in the band room of Leonardtown High School. The singers will perform in the SMCA concert to be held Sunday May 6 at 3 p.m. at Chopticon High School. Registration cost is $45. To register for St. Maries Singers you may visit: www.smchoralarts.org/sms/

Abu Dhabi wrap-up
Arabic Language Lesson For the Week: Saha wahanna = bon appetite, Shukran jazeelan = thank you very much, Marhabbteen = hello, afwan = sorry/excuse me, Keef haluk? = how are you?, Ismi... =  My name is, Umreeka = USA, Yani = like/you know, mabrook = congratulations, Naam = yes, La = no, shoo = what, al hamdu lillah = gesundheit, Abu = "father of," um = "mother of,’” hubbly bubbly/hookah = water pipe filled with shisha, Jinn = ghost

We have approached the end of our two-week holiday in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Every day has brought new and amazing adventures. The name "Abu Dhabi" means "father of the gazelles" - possibly referring to gazelles near to the Emirates. (In fact, a gazelle design graces one of the coins in the Dirham currency.) The city's original name was "Milh salt" a designation which could have come from the salty water of the Persian Gulf or from the salty marshes which ring the city. Bedoins called it "Umm Dhabi" which means "mother of deer". British records call the city Abu Dhabi. (Source: Abu Dhabi in 3 Days...The Definitive Tourist Guide.)

During the past week, we have enjoyed delicious traditional Middle Eastern food, home-cooked and restaurant-style, and have visited several of the "must-see" sights, bringing our exciting holiday to its satisfying close. One spring-like weeknight, we joined friends for a "Fish BBQ" held in the Mangrove Corniche Park in Abu Dhabi. Preparing the food for the evening was Mustafa Al Mulla, specialty chef at the Sheraton Abu Dhabi Resort and Hotel. On this, his day "off", he cooked fish, chicken, and lamb over a charcoal fire for 9 people! Each entree was expertly seasoned with Mustafa's original mixture of ordinary ingredients - with extraordinary results. Side dishes were rice, salad and bread. The meal was followed by cinnamon-flavored tea heated in a pot nestled down into the charcoal briquettes. The next day, we visited the souks (shops) at the Madinat Zayed Shopping and Gold Center and chose several lovely and reasonably-priced (thanks to our friend Imad's talent for "bargaining") souvenir items. This  mall has more than 400 outlets along with a supervised play area for children and a games arcade. Afterwards, we stopped at the local Pizza-At-The-Top Restaurant for pepperoni and seafood pizzas along with my favorite Lentil Soup (made with red lentils). On Thursday night, we dressed up for a fancy "night out" at the Sheraton Abu Dhabi Resort and Hotel’s Mexican Restaurant where our friend Mustafa greeted us and then displayed his culinary skills through a variety of dishes such as sizzling shrimp and Baked Tex-Mex Chicken (with his own "secret" BBQ sauce). We all agreed that the dinner was "lazeez" (delicious)! 

On Friday, Imad spent hours cooking his famous "Kawaj" for us – sliced sirloin, eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, potatoes (from France!) along with special seasonings which were poured into an enormous round baking pan. This "Kawaj" casserole reminded me of a type of lasagna - except that this dish was not "layered". The vegetables were meticulously chopped into small, bite-sized pieces, Side dishes included rice, and a chopped salad with lettuce, tomatoes and fresh mint - again, with all of the ingredients finely chopped. Another truly "lazeez" meal.  And then we were off in the car for an out-of-town adventure to Al Ain.

Al Ain, about a one-and a-half hour drive from Abu Dhabi, is the capital of the Eastern region and is known as the "second city" to Abu Dhabi. It is the birthplace and childhood home of Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the former UAE ruler. This area has been inhabited for the past 7,000 years; its legacy has placed it on the list as a  potential UNESCO World Heritage Site. Sheikh Zayed worked to create his vision of a desert oasis so that Al Ain now boasts seven natural oases surrounded by tree-lined streets and parks. A museum, an old prison, a camel market, a zoo designed as a safari park, and the Al Jahili Fort (which dates from the 1890's) are all to be found here. We drove through this beautiful town and headed up to Qemat Jabal (mountain) Hafeet. The sun was just beginning to set and the winding, twisting road to the top of the mountain was made brilliant by rows and rows of lights. The view from the very top was so spectacular that I'm sure that on a clear night we could (almost!) see Leonardtown! This is a public site, with no admission charge, and families were enjoying the cool night air, the panoramic view, and fast-food snacks such as hot chocolate and popcorn from the arcade. The drive back down the steep mountain was just as beautifully-lit as it had been on the way up.

On our last full day in Abu Dhabi, we made our final "tourist" stop of the trip - the Emirates Palace. But every "outing" here usually begins with something surprising to eat. On this day we had all agreed to go out to a nearby Chinese Restaurant - the Beijing. We did not get off to such a great start with the waitress who informed us that a large party had just come into the restaurant and it could be 30 minutes before we would be served. The single menu provided for our table was an iPad which also served as the method of ordering; it took some time for the four of us to decide on what we wanted. To complicate matters, there were almost no items listed on the menu with familiar-sounding names! There was no chicken chow mein, or beef with broccoli, or pork with garlic sauce, or shrimp with lobster sauce. And rice did not automatically come with our entrées - it had to be ordered seperately. This dinner could have easily turned into a disaster, but unexpectedly turned out to be huge success. The waitress returned to inform us that the other party had not yet ordered so if we were quick enough, the chef would receive our order first and would be able to start on it right away. We finally decided on: Sweet and Sour Chicken with Pineapples, Sizzling Shrimp, Duck, spring rolls, Tomato and Egg Soup (think Egg Drop Soup with chopped tomatoes), rice on the side, and hot noodles on the side. And everything was out-of-this-world lazeez. There was so much food that it was impossible for the four of us to finish eating everything, so we had many take-away boxes. It wasn't until later in the evening that I realized we had not been offered - or had even thought to order - the traditional Chinese hot tea. We'll, if it's true that you always save the best for last, then that's exactly what we did. The very last stop on our whirlwind tour of this UAE city was the Emirates Palace - a self-designated 7-star hotel and the most expensive in the world costing 3 billion dollars at the time it was built. The glorious marble and gold interiors and fancy shops and restaurants were unlike anything we'd seen to date. One of the more upscale restaurants within the hotel displayed a dress code with its menu; it's the only restaurant I've ever known of that imposes a dress code for what not to wear - and when! (For example: at breakfast, swim wear, beach wear, and sleeveless shirts and vests are not permitted; at lunchtime, shorts, miniskirts, Bermudas, sportswear, swim wear, beach wear, slippers, flip flops, sleeveless shirts, and vests are not permitted; at dinnertime,  shorts, miniskirts, Bermuda, sportswear, swim wear, beach wear, flippers, flip flops, training shoes, sleeveless shirts, vests, and T-shirts are not permitted.)  The hotel offers fabulous view of its private fountains and of the dazzling high-rises just across the street. It has a huge ballroom, 392 rooms, two pools, an American spa, 1.3 km of private beach, and is the site of numerous festivals and art exhibitions throughout the year. It is renowned for its afternoon tea. To say that this venue was opulent would be an understatement. (Source for historical notes: The Abu Dhabi Travel Guide, by Zohara Hirji and Rahini Hirji, Grapeshisha.com).

We concluded our evening with a stop at the Carrefour supermarket within in the Marina Mall - the scene of high-end shopping. The parking lot houses a Ferris wheel at least as high as the one at National Harbor. The Carrefour was twice as big as the California Wal-Mart and carried every possible item you can think of - not just groceries. There were even little private souks in the lobby offering local souvenirs. The Mall also contains a Sun and Moon sculpture by Luciano Massari which was presented by the Embassy of Italy to the Marina Mall in 2003. This Mall boasted a tower with a viewing platform and restaurant, a nine-screen movie complex, and an ice rink. High-end shops include Louis Vuitton and Fendi, and there are many restaurants and cafes. (Source: Explorer UAE Visitor's Guide at askexplorer.com/shop.)

Masalamma (goodbye) from Abu Dhabi. Our flight back to the USA was smooth and uneventful on Etihad Airways. I said “mumtaz” (perfect) to a flight attendant who’d complied with my request for a special drink and she asked if spoke Arabic! Our trip was fantastic, but as any fan of  The Wizard of Oz knows, “…there’s no place like home!”

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