dubai

Click to place your ad here

cage dive

Ever since I was a young girl, the ocean has intrigued me. It wasn’t until 2004 that I first dived (in Queensland) and then again in 2010 (in the Maldives). I was mesmerised. I found that the life under the ocean to be fascinating, intricate and integral part to our very existence and an instructor once told me that krill is the most important thing to humans. (Google it, it’s a fact!)

So when we moved to Dubai in 2012, imagine my excitement that Dive With Sharks was available in a Mall!

Image via: http://www.thedubaiaquarium.com/en/

Image via: http://www.thedubaiaquarium.com/en/

Dubai Mall aka World’s largest Mall aka A billion squares of shopping aka you need 10 years to look at each shop, has also a Guiness World record  for the ‘World’s Largest Acrylic Panel’ in an Aquarium.

Image via: http://www.thedubaiaquarium.com/en/

Image via: http://www.thedubaiaquarium.com/en/

What makes this aquarium so special?

Well, the 10-million litre Dubai Aquarium tank, located on the Ground Level of The Dubai Mall, is one of the largest suspended aquarium in the world.

It houses thousands of aquatic animals, comprising over 140 species. Over 300 Sharks and Rays live in this tank, including the largest collection of Sand Tiger Sharks in the world.

There are numerous ways for visitors to experience the main Aquarium tank, which measures 51 metres in length, 20 metres in width and 11 metres in height.  The website claims that:

  • The 48 metre walk-through Tunnel provides 270 degree views from 11 metres below the  surface of the tank
  • Visitors can go on a Glass-bottom boat ride, providing unique views of the tank from beneath their feet
  • Those who want to experience a dip in the tank can opt for a Cage Snorkeling Experience
  • And for the adventurous ones, a Shark Dive is a once in a lifetime opportunity, bringing you within inches of a large variety of sharks and rays

This last point was something that I was keen to try so on Sunday, I signed up, booked and paid. I was determined to tick this off my bucket list!

The booking and payment was simple enough, it was done via phone. Exchanged a few emails for medical forms and contracts and I was good to go. There was a choice to do a practice dive at Al Wasl Diving Centre or (for an extra charge) at the actual Dubai Aquarium. I selected to practice dive at Dubai Mall Aquarium, mainly due to time restrictions and although it was a big price difference, I didn’t have the luxury to be able to scoot around town.

I was very happy with this choice, because it meant that I got to know my diving instructor well and I could ask plenty of questions. I asked the obvious “Will a shark eat me?” and Ivan giggled tremendously and said “Probably not!” He explained to keep my hands to myself, follow him, do not wave manically and most of all to listen to instructions. And then he said “Don’t worry it’ll make good footage” and we laughed. For anyone living in the UAE, finding a HUMOROUS person is a rarity, so I quadrupled laughed.

After a ton of paperwork, we went through some testing and then it was time to get the gear on and practice in the cage!

Image via: http://www.thedubaiaquarium.com/en

Image via: http://www.thedubaiaquarium.com/en

I was nervous because all of a sudden I needed to remember everything I was a tested on. “Remember to equalise…. Remember to equalise…..Remember to equalise……Remember to equalise…..” was on repeat in my mind.

OFCOURSE I forgot to equalise when I got into the water and immediately felt a panic.

However, Ivan was very, very patient and calm and within a second I held my nose and all of a sudden the pressure was fine. We practiced how to get rid of water in my goggles, checked my gauge, did an emergency procedure if I lost my mouth piece (I gripped that baby with all my might) and how to regulate my mouthpiece. It was very intense, so I recommend that you listen very carefully during the training session. I also recommend you ask any questions (however trivial they seem), because soon after this – the REAL dive happens.

When Ivan was satisfied with my 2 minute practice (alone) then I was ready. Side note: He said I was a very calm breather and I told him “Really?! Because my heart was beating out of my chest!”

He strapped on the Go-Pro and took some happy snaps. I was happy to let him take care of taking pictures, because frankly at this stage, I was beyond anxious at forgetting to breathe. Number One rule for diving: NEVER HOLD YOUR BREATHE. As stupid as it sounds, it’s a common occurrence.

We stepped into the Aquarium entrance, and like a superstar people wanted to take pictures with us! It was funny that tourists mistook me for a pro. With a weights belt strapped onto my waist, a heavy tank, and a million pipes, I just smiled, posed and moved along.

I must stop here and mention ever so gently: PUTTING ON A WETSUIT IS HARD WORK. One piece of advice, keep the shower water running – think, friction.  Also note, Dubai Aquarium is very hijab friendly and provide the appropriate wear for ladies who wear hijab.

Back to the dive.

Here I am:

Ready to go!

Ready to go!

My heart was racing, my hands were shaking and my legs were stiff. But I knew I had my 3 little munchkins waiting to watch Mamma swim, so I made a quick prayer and stepped into the cold water.

 

family waiting ever so patiently!

family waiting ever so patiently!

Ladies and Gents, let me introduce you to water pressure. This lovely concept will wreck havoc to your lungs, ears and sinuses if you do not descend slowly and calmly. Follow the instructors lead and make sure you signal the appropriate problem you have. Unfortunately, the fist 3 metres I went down too fast and I honestly felt like my head was going to explode. I panicked and started to rush up the rope. This is a no-no. Ivan again calmed me down and I somehow tried again. I descended ever so slowly and blocked out my fear. I concentrated on the task at hand and before I knew it, I had descended 35 feet and although my head felt heavy, I was breathing fine. Woohoo.

My view.......

My view…….

This is where the action happens. I saw every type of animal species there was and Ivan guided me around the tank. Yes there are sharks everywhere. Small sharks, big sharks. Sand Tiger Sharks, Hammerhead Sharks and other sharks that I don’t know their exact name but somehow couldn’t stop staring at the teeth.



 

We swam around for 30 minutes and it was pretty magical waving to my kids on the outside of the tank. They were cheering for me and i wanted to smile (but water would enter my mouth) and I wanted to shriek with excitement (but sharks would probably have eaten me) so I ended up looking like this.

poses

Posing so calmly, but my heart was racing!

I highly recommend this activity for anyone wanting a thrill.

Cost: 1150 dh including training + 220 for video footage.

Till next adventure,

be happy.

 

IMG_2880

In 2012, my family and I packed up our bags and moved overseas permanently. By permanently, I mean we obtained visas as Permanent Residents in a brand new country – the United Arab Emirates. My husband’s work meant that we were to reside in Dubai and in 2015, we still call this place our second home.

 

26012015_image1_R2

 

You always miss home. You always get a pang when family back home are doing something fun and nostalgia runs wild when loneliness is rife (usually during holiday season and kids hitting a certain milestone. Photos also trigger tears).

 

There are also times that you will feel like a foreigner, especially when you asked for tomato sauce or when people snicker at your use of the term ‘thongs’. However, there are 5 main reasons to counter-argue any depressing feelings you might have when you move abroad.

 

1/ Making friends.

 

Especially in a transient place like Dubai, you will master the skill of making new friends and saying goodbye to friends. Ofcourse with meeting new friends comes learning new things and experiencing different cultures. My friends nationalities range and I have met people from every single continent in one birthday party event. Do you realise how large the world is? You won’t, until you leave Australia and move abroad.

 

 

 

2/ You will learn about the literal meaning of unpacking your bags.

 

This is a big statement, I know, but it’s valid. In my first year away, I waited for happiness to come and knock on my door. I was in a brand new place, with magical opportunities at my doorstep. You would think joy would rain on me, right? Wrong.

 

I realised that the moving part wasn’t the hard element. I needed to get outside of my box and start living. I needed to put my old life behind me and start this new chapter. Old habits die hard, but I kid you not, they do diminish. I order with an American accent (no one understands Aussies) and I love the monarchy here. Crazy, I know.

 

It took me nine months before I purchased my first pot plant and it was then I realised that I kept worrying about not staying here. I kept wondering about when we would pack up and move. I made the choice to embrace the new opportunities that lay in front of me and put my Australian life on the shelf.

 

 

3 years later......

To a new beginning

To a new beginning

 

<—- The plant today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

3/ You will have a TON of time to spend with you spouse/partner and children.

 

This is especially the case if back home you had to divide your time amongst 497 extended family members. When we first arrived, we just stared at each other and thought “HOW MUCH TIME!!!” So, we did things we never would have managed too. We took the kids to the desert for a picnic, we travelled (see next point), we played board games every single night for a year, we hung up the phone every evening (due to time difference) and we were free.

 

Eid mornings were pretty special – the children were able to come with us to the mosque and were able to open their gifts quietly and play with them.

 

As for marriage/relationship, it is an incredible booster. It doesn’t get monotonous, don’t worry. You begin to appreciate your partner because they become the foundation to your life. It’s deep.

IMG_5093

 

4/ Travel.

Being in the middle of the world (and not the bottom) is INCREDIBLE for your travel desires. My 10 year old son’s passport is pretty impressive and I am proud to have ventured to places I could only have dreamed off.

 

In our second year of living in Dubai, we decided to Road Trip around the UAE. Before you scoff at the small size of the country, you cannot put into words how it feels to jump into a wadi surrounded by caves, camp on a beach or meet remote Bedouins.

 

In 2014, we trekked through 5 European countries and with 3 kids it was quite a feat. I will never forget riding our bikes past the Amsterdam Canals and picking up Danish scrolls in Copenhagen. There was the time we were stranded in Sweden, stuck in a massive rainstorm without shelter. Or the time we felt heaven on earth at Huvafen Fushi in the Maldives. Did I mention how cheap tickets are over here?

The lines that outline Dubai.21012015_image5_R2150 The beach

 

5/ The value of family.

 

Being far makes you softer, your edges become less jagged and it’s marvelous therapy for a frazzled mum-of-3 (me) and a corporate junkie (hubby). We stopped groaning when our mothers called, and realised the importance of hearing about small, bizarre stories of childhood our fathers retold us. We prayed for Skype calls like someone prays for the lottery and when we receive a photo of family, we dissect it like we are in a laboratory.

dubai camel

 

If the opportunity arises, go for it.

a stroll on the beach

I am not a fan of Mother’s Day but I won’t ignore the cute cards the school forces allows the children to make me each year. It’s cute and I get to reminisce about the days of buying something from the school fete for 50cents for mum. Usually a bunch of weeds AND a soap.

My kids’ cards were really quite elaborate this year which made me feel a) proud at their vocabulary skills and b) annoyed at the fact they were put into a situation of ‘write about your mother even though you would probably rather do other things’ (I remember this feeling).

 

son's carddaughter's card

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So I explained to them, last night over dinner, that their love should not be limited to one day. In fact, I said, please write cards everyday or any day and I will be equally grateful. They each had a puzzled look on their faces and I knew that my deep and philosophical explanation was a little too deep. So I thanked them and we moved on.

But it got me thinking about mothers. My mother. Her mother. All mothers.

Hundreds and thousands (millions !?) of bloggers have written about their thank you’s, and their memories, and their sorry notes to their mothers. I’ve read them all – and cried. Here are some of my favourites. Here,  Herehere and this heart breaking letter from a husband to his wife.

I am not going to go down that path and profess my love. I am going to tell you a story.

____________

I could hardly sleep well when I was a teenager, I was always anxious about something or someone. During my later teenage years, falling in love occupied my mind. My mum would always reassure me that love was not meant to do that, rather it was my need to control a situation that was probably fretting me. Ofcourse, I disagreed (and most likely slammed doors too) and continued on this quest.

High school finished, Uni started and my mum fell sick. She had a really bad case of pneumonia and for months on end was bed ridden. I remember this because it was I that needed to attend to her every need. I cursed, mind you. Do not for a second think that I was happy with this situation because while my friends were free, I was home bound with a sick mother.

I was crying one afternoon because I realised that seeing as though I did not have a sister, this is how it would always be. Me and my mother. She needed me. So I did something Judy Blume’s books taught me and I had a little conversation with God. Judy Blume

“Are you there God? It’s me, Maysaa. I was just wondering if you could help me out here. I’m missing out on so much because mum is sick. I’m not working, so my money is decreasing and basically it would be awesome if she could just get better. I also hate washing. Thanks heaps I love you bye…”

Well, it’s up to you to believe me, but not even a few days passed and my mother’s energy returned. Slowly but surely my hard working mother returned and within a week she was making shish barak at 8am in the morning because that’s the way Lebo households roll.

I was rapt. I told my mum about my wish to God and she said “God knows best…when the time is right, things just fall into place. Even bad things…”

I went back to work that evening (a waitressing job) and as the legend has it, a wonderful man played cupid and my husband and I met… I fell in love and I was married within a year and my mum was no longer my carer because soon after that, I became a mother for the first time and I had to care. It was at this moment that I fell in love with My Mother.

“It’s hard work, this caring business,” I’d often complain.

“You’re not caring. You’re investing. Later on you’ll reap the rewards,” she’d say and give me a wink.

So, this is what I do. I invest. This is what mother’s do. We Invest. Because every minute of every day (not just mother’s day), I invest my energy and time into these little creatures that might just one day love me so h a r d back. And I pray that my returns are good. I pray that my returns will give me a child that will care for me when I am sick and pray to God for my recovery (even if it’s for selfish reasons). But mostly, I pray they find love and realise that when the time is right, things just fall into place. 

Till next time,

M.

 

 

image1

 

C O N G R A T U L A T I O N S.

You are probably reading this because you are inundated with facts and figures and nerves about moving to the best city in the world. The city that only dreams big, and literally too. It wins every single Guinness Book of World Record.

—[Random fact for you: Dubai, the city of gold, made the world’s longest 22-carat hand-made gold chain measuring a total of 5.522 kilometres. Moving on.]—

I’m going to be straight with you and tell you all about what to expect. You’re welcome.

1/ When you become A Dubai Person, you will always, always, always, always start your conversation with: “Where are you from?” and “How long have you been here?”

 

 

 

2/ Expect some traffic jams. A LOT OF TRAFFIC JAMS.

 

3/ You will never be able to go to  a public toilet in another country again.

4/ Carrying your groceries? Pushing your trolley of goods to the car? Assembling your bookshelf? NEVER AGAIN.

 

5/ You will never, ever have to cook again.

6/ Your accent will change. It’ll be a mix of Arabic, Philipino, Russian and British. Add a splash of American.

 

7/ Sometime between your 1-8 month of arrival, you will stop expecting people to give you their addresses. Landmarks and famous buildings will be enough information for you to be able to navigate to their home. YOU WILL HATE GOOGLE MAPS.

8/ Warning, Warning. You have been warned: ETA of terrible home sickness 6-10 month period.

 

9/ When you do go back “home” you will want to come back. You have caught Dubai Fever. Be careful, after 3 years you will never go back.

10/ If you are a parent, you will hunt down places at school as if your life depends on it. HUNT IT DOWN.

11/ If you are not a parent, you will still hunt down places at school as if your life depends on it. (Some schools have a 3 year waiting period. Insanely popular schools have messages on their crappy websites about 2045 being full.)

 

12/ When you get to Dubai, this will be you upon seeing the prices of things.

13/ After 6 months, this will be you.

14/ This will be your reaction every single time you see prices for homes for sale or rent.

 

15/ Don’t worry. YOU WILL NEVER UNDERSTAND why the landlord needs 1 cheque. And you will never understand how they expect people to have 1 cheque ready for a whole year’s rent.

 

16/ Bring every single document with you. Marriage licence, change of surname licence even your pen licence from primary school. They need everything here. AND make sure it is all certified. Then get ready for them to ask you for a document NOT on the list.

17/ Going to Westfield will feel boring, after Dubai Mall.

 

18/ Resaturants. They will seem less glamorous to you. Be careful, Pierre Herme is just an everyday thing here. #justsaying

 

19/ You will learn that Dubai has 2 seasons. 1. HOT and 2. WE-ARE-2-INCHES-AWAY-FROM-THE-SUN-HOT.

 

20/ Air Conditioning will become a norm. In fact, you will need a jacket in Dubai only for indoors.

 

21/ Dubai gives M U L T I C U LT U R A L a whole new perspective. 20 different nationalities in one classroom in common AND there’s every kind of cuisine available. Feel like Uzbekistani food? No problem.

 

22/ Make sure you buy extra bed linen and sleeping bags – you will host all year around because as I first mentioned – YOU ARE MOVING TO THE BEST CITY IN THE WORLD.