From Our Authors

10 poets in the UAE you should know about
10 poets in the UAE you should know about
Published 3/16/2018 in Living among the locals Author Yasmin Helal
The UAE's poetry scene is as diverse and multicultural as the country’s population.  Almost a decade old, the country’s open mic and slam poetry scene has thrived thanks to the many active voices that have made it what it is today. Platforms and organizers like Blank Space, Rooftop Rhythms, and Dubai Poetics have greatly contributed to the progress of slam poetry in the country. Alserkal Avenue's LiteraturHaus, where poets and other figures of literature are invited to speak, is another significant contributor. Take a look at emerging and established poets that are redefining the UAE's cultural landscape.  Farah Chamma Farah Chamma is a Palestinian poet who has been performing spoken... read more ❯

Dubai's 7 best Rigag and Chai Karak joints
Published 3/16/2018 in Living among the locals Author Yasmin Helal
Taking into consideration how international Dubai is, one wouldn't be surprised with the versatility of its cuisine scene.  From French to Indian to Chinese and Japanese, your options are endless.  But local fast-food restaurants are also on the rise. And chai karaks (sweet tea with milk and cardamom) and rigags (the Oriental version of crepes) - delicacies that were virtually unknown outside the sphere of Emirati homes - are now being widely offered in various restaurants.  Here are a few good options if you'd like an introduction to Emirati snacks: Logma restaurant at BoxPark Located in BoxPark opposite Al Safa Park in... read more ❯

Edward Said's disappointment after meeting Sartre, Foucault and De Beauvoir
Published 3/16/2018 in Living among the locals Author Yasmin Helal
Palestinian-American scholar, Edward Said (1935-2003,) is considered one of the region’s most significant literary critics, dedicating most of his work to the struggles of Palestine and the Arab world. His 1978 book, Orientalism, has become integral to post-colonial schools of thoughts. Said was fascinated by French philosophers like Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and Michel Foucault. Sartre was a leading Existentialist thinker, de Beauvoir’s writings on gender significantly contributed to the second wave of feminism, and Foucault's skepticism made him a renowned philosopher and historian. Eager to discover the three philosophers’ perspectives on the Arab region's issues, Said was thrilled when he received an invitation from de Beauvoir and Sartre in... read more ❯

Dog Meat
Published 3/11/2018 in Stan Lee Pengelly's Travels Author Stan Pengelly
Warning:  If you are offended by a discussion of dogs being used as food or with animal cruelty, then please do not read this blog. I am serious when I say that if my dogs and me were trapped in a burning building and my wife could only save me or them that she had better rescue them first. I love dogs, especially our "children". I grew up with dogs as family members. I can watch a movie where dozens of humans are hurt, carved up, run over, shot or otherwise obliterated and it... read more ❯

Yasmin Helal
This is what it was like growing up in Cairo during the 90's
Published 3/11/2018 in Living among the locals Author Yasmin Helal
The 1990’s were a pivotal era in Egypt’s modern history. It was the decade that witnessed a changing social climate, with an influx of migrants flooding from the rural areas to the capital, Cairo.  A significant portion of the population was pushed below the poverty line, and substantially, fewer mini-skirts were seen in the streets of urban centers. It was a time when Egyptians were not as proud of their national identity as they were in the 1980’s but held fewer grudges against their government than in the early 2000’s. Back in those days, growing up in the streets of Orouba, behind Qa’et Sayed Darwish, we could see... read more ❯

A backpacker's guide to Dubai
Published 3/8/2018 in Living among the locals Author Yasmin Helal
Dubai is a famous destination for luxury travelers, shoppers, and big spenders. But that never stopped backpackers with a limited budget from exploring the glamorous City of Gold.  More recently, though, the Emirate's flagship airlines have been carrying a growing number of travelers from Europe to Asia me who often stop here for transit. Catering to these - often low-budget - tourists, Dubai has been expanding to meet their needs. If you have a trip that stops in Dubai, here are some suggestions for budget-friendly activities. Scan the city from the metro One of the most popular sights in Dubai is the city’s tower-studded... read more ❯

How an Egyptian revolutionary impacted the Sri Lankan Muslim community
Published 3/4/2018 in Living among the locals Author Yasmin Helal
Colonel Ahmed Orabi Pasha was an Egyptian nationalist, revolutionary, and army leader back in 1881.  A figure that would later on serve as an inspiration to former President Gamal Abdel Nasser, Orabi led a social-political movement that expressed the discontent of the Egyptian educated classes, army officials, and peasantry with foreign control. His influence and ideologies culminated in the revolt against the Anglo-French dominated administration of khedive Tewfik Pasha in 1879. Threatened by Orabi's rising popularity, khedive Tewfik asked the French and British for help, who went on to stage a naval demonstration in the bay of the Mediterranean city... read more ❯

A closer look at the history and misconceptions of Sufism
Published 2/27/2018 in Living among the locals Author Yasmin Helal
When I was asked about what I thought Sufism was at a so-called Sufi meditation seminar a couple of months earlier in Dubai, I was surprised to be told that Sufism had nothing to do with Islam. “The link between Sufism and Islam is a misconception. Anyone of any religion can be a Sufi,” the non-Muslim Sufi instructor patiently corrected me.   Eventually, when we moved on to the meditation practice itself, we were instructed to close our eyes, picture a closed flower in the middle of our chest, and slowly open it up by being positive and grateful towards everything in the... read more ❯

5 Things to do in Oman
Published 2/25/2018 in Living among the locals Author Yasmin Helal
Being based in Dubai, I got tired of hopping on an airplane for at least 4-6 hours for short trips that don't exceed just a couple of days. So I decided to head to neighboring Oman, a nearby destination that I hadn't explored yet. Located at just an hour's distance by plane, the Sultanate is the ultimate short holiday destination for all UAE residents. Feel the cultural difference If, like me, you live in Dubai or anywhere else in the GCC, going to Oman and meeting the Omanis will be anything but redundant.  While most of the GCC cultures combine an... read more ❯

Luxor, Egypt
Ancient Egyptian myths debunked
Published 2/18/2018 in Living among the locals Author Yasmin Helal
Intrigued by the pyramids and other outstanding landmarks, the world has been captivated with solving mysteries and finding answers pertaining to Ancient Egypt. But most of the stories you read are based on either outdated research or historical misunderstandings. Here are a few myths debunked and clarified: 1. Slaves built the pyramids Because the Pyramids of Giza were the highest buildings for almost four millennia, it is almost hard to imagine how an ancient culture with no technology that we currently understand made them happen. One of the common myths is that the Pharaohs enslaved an army of laborers to build them. But, thanks to recently... read more ❯

The Journey Inside
Published 2/12/2018 in Shoes of a Nomad Author Melanie Kitzan
And you? When will you begin that long journey into yourself? ---Rumi Since I have started sharing more of my solo traveling, many friends have asked me how I came to venture out on my own, and have said I am courageous for doing so. I feel a bit like an imposter when I hear that, because as much as I love my solo adventures, I still am afraid sometimes. I have just learned to move forward anyway, to reach out to others and get outside of my own head. I thought I would share the backstory of my solo adventures, which... read more ❯

Travel Resource
Published 1/25/2018 in Shoes of a Nomad Author Melanie Kitzan
Shout out to a travel resource where I have met so many members of my tribe. It excites me to share traveling with so many (especially solo) women. This is a positive group of women. Check it out!     I love the GoWonder Community (, it is a supportive community for women who travel with more than 50K members globally & their website ( has a library of resources to help you prepare for your next trip. read more ❯

A Camel, Flattery, and Lots of Mud
Published 1/20/2018 in Shoes of a Nomad Author Melanie Kitzan
I was only going to be in Israel for two more days. I had heard that the US government was going to make an announcement to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, and the local Israelis I spoke with said that they expected violent backlash in response to the decision. I decided to visit Jerusalem and Bethlehem the day before the announcement, rather than wait. My hotel concierge asked me if I would like Tour Guide Barry again, the tour guide I'd had the day before. I said yes, and when he greeted me after breakfast that day, he held his... read more ❯

Visiting the Unburied Past in Northern Israel
Published 1/12/2018 in Shoes of a Nomad Author Melanie Kitzan
Haifa I booked a tour guide (named Barry) to take me north of Tel Aviv along the coast. We started with the city of Haifa, where we saw the B'hai hanging gardens on Mt Carmel. The gardens are part of a Shrine to the Bab, and overlook the Mediterranean Sea. It's a UNESCO World Heritage site and a holy place for the members of the B'hai faith. While we were there,... read more ❯

When I Found Myself in Israel, Wearing New Socks
Published 1/7/2018 in Shoes of a Nomad Author Melanie Kitzan
I had never been to the Middle East before, so when I had a business trip to Israel come up I was giddy with excitement. I had never flown anything but coach class on international flights before, either, and the man that sat next to me in first class wasn't hiding his smile at seeing me pushing buttons on the map of my chair. I couldn't help myself, I would poke and hold each button and wait to see what happened. The I would giggle uncontrollably. I punched a button, the motor in my seat whined and my body was... read more ❯

elephant riding in sri lanka
The elephant riding debate
Published 12/28/2017 in Living among the locals Author Yasmin Helal
Who wouldn’t want to go on an elephant safari? Roaming the jungle on the back of this magnificent animal is every novice traveler’s dream. And even if it doesn’t cross your mind, the opportunity will be right there, waiting for you, asking you, to seize it. This is what happened to me. When I visited the Chitwan National Park in Nepal and Sri Lanka’s middle belt, elephant riding opportunities were almost unavoidable. So I went for it, and I enjoyed every second of the experience and of being surrounded by all the wildlife. At the time, I wasn't aware of the plight... read more ❯

Integrating refugees while breaking bread
Published 12/14/2017 in Living among the locals Author Yasmin Helal
By: Worldpal* Food is a universal language that knows no grammar or words, channeling its information over all our five senses. To me, it represents love, happiness and comfort. Food connects people the way that peanut butter and jelly bring two slices of toast together. This is exactly what the German city Potsdam is going for. At an event called Buntes Essen, which translates into Colorful Food, Berlin’s sister city attempts to bring Syrian refugees together with the locals. During the event, refugees prepared local dishes from their home country, creating a warm atmosphere to get us all together over the bread... read more ❯

The bad travel days
Let’s talk about the difficulties of life on the road
Published 12/9/2017 in Living among the locals Author Yasmin Helal
By Amanda Bensted* I had been in Singapore less than 24 hours when I got a text message from home, telling me distressing news about a loved one. I got straight on the phone and spent the next half hour trying to calm the inconsolable. I was already sleep deprived, overwhelmed, and suffering the onset of the flu; this news sent me over the edge. I curled up in my bed in my windowless room and wondered why the hell I did this constant traveling thing. It’s not easy to tell the truth about travel. We’re all so obsessed with painting the idyllic picture... read more ❯

Interviewed on Tamlyn Amber Wanderlust
Published 12/8/2017 in Shoes of a Nomad Author Melanie Kitzan
The following interview was originally published by Tamlyn Amber Ryan on Tamlyn Amber Wanderlust – Travel Writing and Photography As part of the next installment in my international version of Guests’ Corner (previously a local South African travel interview section on Tamlyn Amber Wanderlust), I chatted to Melanie Kitzan, travel blogger at Shoes of a Nomad. Melanie Kitzan grew up in North Dakota, and during her lifetime, she has been a scientist, attorney, mother, writer and vagabond. She lives in the House of She, near Seattle, with her dogs and daughters. Follow her global travel adventures and stories on her lovely travel blog,... read more ❯

Travel writing tips
5 Simple tips for travel research [Infographic]
Published 12/3/2017 in Living among the locals Author Yasmin Helal
Given how oversaturated the market of travel writing is, your really need to come out with innovative ways to research your destination read more ❯