#CHECKTHELABEL

“There’s a Palestine that dwells inside all of us, a Palestine that needs to be rescued: a free Palestine where all people regardless of color, religion, or race coexist; a Palestine where the meaning of the word “occupation” is only restricted to what the dictionary says rather than those plenty of meanings and connotations of death, destruction, pain, suffering, deprivation, isolation and restrictions that the country has become injected with.”
― Refaat Alareer, Gaza Writes Back

Every year, Israel exports millions of pounds worth of dates to the world, which many people unknowingly buy and use to break their fasts. These dates are often grown in illegal settlements in the Occupied West Bank and the Jordan Valley, on land that has been stolen from Palestinians. By buying these dates, we are helping Israel to continue it’s illegal occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people. With your hard work, dedication and support the #CheckTheLabel campaign has grown significantly over the last 8 years.  The campaign has gone to the heart of the communities in cities and towns across the UK to ensure no one buys these dates.

When buying dates for Ramadan this year, please check the label and make sure they have come from free settlements and are part of a fair trade community. One of the biggest reasons we fast is to recognise and understand the suffering which unfortunate people undergo, and these fasts could be undermined if they are opened with food which becomes a symbol of oppression.

For more information, please visit this site.

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The Mountains of Bergen: Mount Fløyen & Mount Ulriken

One of the main reasons my husband and I went to Norway a few weeks ago (apart from the beautiful views!) was the fact that it’s a great place for hiking and climbing mountains. Bergen has seven mountains surrounding the city, so there were ample opportunities to explore the mountains and do some hiking. My husband is pretty passionate about walking around natural spaces and has always loved climbing mountains and through peaceful woods, so we were both pretty excited to try something different on holiday and explore Bergen’s two most popular mountains – Mount Fløyen and Mount Ulriken.

Mount Fløyen

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Due to Mount Floyen being quite a popular mountain, the roads up to Mount Floyen always have tourists and residents strolling up or down the mountain, and there were also trams travelling to and from the mountains for those who wanted the stress-free rides. We decided to take the tram or the Floibanen up to the mountains to explore, and then take the scenic route and walk back down again to the city later.

Once we arrived at the top of the mountain, we were able to see an extraordinary view of the city, which was pretty breathtaking, where we sat and enjoyed the view for a little while. There was also a lovely little coffee top for tea and cake in this area, where a lot of families gathered outside to enjoy the food and breathe in the fresh, cool air.

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Although this view was pretty amazing, we were able to keep walking from this area further upwards towards the top of the mountain, where we walked though beautiful paths and plenty of woodland areas. My husband and I had a lot of fun walking through the woods and being silly, although admittedly we were both pretty out of breath from climbing uphill after a while and needed to rest – pretty embarrassing after seeing a lot of people stroll past easily, clearly used to climbing the mountain every day!

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One of my favourite parts of this mountain is this man-made trail that we found in the middle of nowhere, which we followed to a small clearing with seating to rest and little notes with a game. I forgot to take pictures of the signs here, but it was a nice little find for us in the middle of a huge forest. There’s something a little haunting and eerie about the picture below (maybe I’ve seen too many horror films in the woods!), but really this was a really peaceful, fun place and we managed to run around the trees and explore a little before moving on.

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We carried on walking and followed a path to find a big beautiful lake, which was pretty empty, apart from a family of ducks which didn’t take any notice of us! We sat here for a little while to rest, and enjoyed the peaceful view before walking around a little more, and even found a small cabin on the side of the lake (we didn’t go in though because it was private. And locked.)

We weren’t able to to get to the top of the mountain but we were pretty happy with what we had seen, and were also a little tired, so after this we headed back down towards the city, and made plans for the next mountain hike!

Mount Ulriken

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After climbing down from Mount Floyen and taking a short break in city (and having something to eat!), hubster and I decided to tackle the much larger Mount Ulriken which involves more hilly areas, steep roads and and higher peaks which we wanted to explore.

We took a tour bus to the entrance of the mountain (I say entrance, it’s more like the roads which lead into the mountain) which we later regretted because the tour bus journey was pretty short and very expensive!

Unfortunately we weren’t able to take the cable cars (called Ulriken Express) across to the peaks of the mountain, which I was really looking forward to, due to the high winds and the cold weather. We did managed to walk around for a little while though and spot some memorable sights including this beautiful waterfall below. I really wanted to try some of the water from this waterfall but it was at an awkward location which seemed a little dangerous, so we stopped to take pictures and ooh-and-ahh at the fresh, cool air instead.

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We also did a little more hiking through this mountain, although we weren’t able to access a lot of it without the cable-cars taking us to the top. We also found this mountain a lot less busier than Mount Floyen which had more families and tourists, while this mountain was for the more serious hikers and explorers.

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We had a really fun (and tiring!) day exploring mountains in Bergen, which we found very refreshing. I have mentioned before how wonderful it is to find a place like Norway which has so many natural landscape scenes – mountains, forest, lakes and snowy peaks, and we certainly found all of these in Floyen and Ulriken. I think in future I’d love to be more adventurous and try some rock-climbing or scaling, although I think I’d need to be a little fitter to try these!

I’ll leave you with a funny sign-post we found in Mount Floyen (there’s lots all over) which made me laugh, Norwegians love their trolls and monsters and this was just one more on the list!

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Beautiful Bergen – Part 1

Bergen, Norway is one of those places which seems to have everything – beautiful architecture, the sea, mountains, forests and plenty of history. We landed (after a quick 1.5 hour flight!) in Bergen and took a bus to the city centre, where there was plenty of hustle and bustle, among colourful houses, a beautiful harbour and plenty of street art everywhere.

Below are just a few memorable places in the city, we had a few days to explore and pretty much did everything on my itinery (and more!), and loved how colourful everything look.

Bryggen
‘Bryggen’ litterally means ‘wharf’ in Norwegian, and is one of the most iconic places in Bergen – a row of colourful houses along the harbour where plenty of boats and ships dock. Most of these buildings along here are museums and shops, but they are a great place to sit and relax, and look amazing at night. I didn’t manage to get a decent picture of the lights in Bryggen at night because the first few nights we stayed they weren’t switched on (and it poured with rain all night) and the next few nights we didn’t go out late enough – sunsets were around 10.30pm and it wasn’t properly dark until after 11pm!

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You can walk around inside the harbour as well – there’s plenty of old buildings and staircases to explore, with shops, restaurants and museums hidden away. We had great fun exploring these, it was nice to see such old buildings still being maintained – Bergen itself is nearly a millenium in age, and the buildings have been there for about four centuries and more.

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And there’s also a wishing well to look out for, although this is mainly gated off (probably a good thing too, I remember the well in my grandparent’s house in Pakistan having to be barricaded off after a few people fell in the dark without looking where they were going!)

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The Town Square
The town square is a busy meeting place, often filled with market stalls, stops for buses and coaches and surrounded by colourful buildings and restaurants. While staying here we often came to this point to get to other parts of the city, meeting plenty of other tourists, as well as stopping for lunch, dinner or a quick cup of coffee (the Starbucks is in a huge Gothic-style building). This is also at the foot of one mountain (there’s seven mountains in the city altogether) as well at the edge of the high street, which felt like a fun mix of history versus modern, old city and the new.

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Fishmarket
Pretty much self-explanatory, this was a market to buy fresh fish and also get it cooked to eat if you wished to sit down and enjoy a meal. Bergen being a fishing-town, there’s a big demand for fish and a big range of sea-food, as well as tanks of live lobsters, crabs and fish to boggle at!

St Marys Church
I was pretty keen to visit this place, as it is Bergen’s oldest building. We didn’t get a chance to catch a service inside as we arrived too late, but I was amazed at how well-maintained this building is for a building which was built around 1130s. Of course it has been renovated a few times since then, but it’s still a very striking looking building which looks very impressive.

Things to look out for
There’s a lot to see in this city, and a lot of it can be found simply by wandering around Bergen and exploring. I loved this pavilion below, situated opposite an old government building which both looked very striking. We also saw plenty of beautiful flower shops which made me want to buy some to take home (I didn’t because they’d probably be shrivelled by the time I got on our plane!) and also quirky junk shops which were worth exploring. I also loved the fact that from wherever you stand you can see the beautiful houses on the hill, the huge mountains and plenty of art and decor everywhere.

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There’s so many memorable things about this country (apart from the gorgeous colourful houses!) – one things which really struck me was how fresh and clean the air felt – you don’t appreciate it until you get away from a smog-polluted city like London, away from congestion and busy skyscrapers and go to a beautiful place like Bergen. There’s an abundance of greenery, the water feels unbelievably clean, and there’s beauty in almost building, from beautiful arches and doors to the street art lining the street.

More to come, but one of my favourite lines from my husband about this holiday was “the WiFi here is amazing!” – and it really is!

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Dishoom: A Spicy Chai You Need To Try

A BOMBAY CAFE IN LONDON

The original Bombay Cafes have almost disappeared. Opened early last century by Zoroastrian immigrants from Iran, their faded elegance opened all: rich businessmen, sweaty taxi-wallas and courting couples. Fans turns slowly. Bentwood chairs were reflected in stained mirrors, next to sepia family portraits. Students had breakfast. Families dined. Lawyers read briefs. Writers found their characters.

I recently visited Bombay Cafe Dishoom, Shoreditch branch,  which has been on my list of restaurants I’ve wanted to visit for a few year now. There a few branches open all over London now, and I’ve been told by a few friends who have been to this place how great this place is, so I had high expectations of this place. My friends and I booked a lunch to go one weekend to experience some culinary (and visual) delights, and were not disappointed.

Dishoom harks back to an older era which mixes chai in metal cups with fusion dishes and art deco and art noveau decor; there’s random railway signs (which remind me of old Bollywood films from my childhood), funky bits of clocks and machinery, sepia-coloured family photos and gorgeous fabrics and flooring, all mixed together for an old-timey but very friendly atmosphere. There’s nothing pretentious about this place at all, and the staff who work here are just as friendly.

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The best thing about this place is it’s eccentric decor and the way everything seemed to come together – everything is placed together in a mix-and-match way without feeling cluttered or over-crowded at all, and there’s plenty of seating for the customers.

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When we wear seated, we were giving metal cups and a water jug, with condiments and pretty plates. One of the things which really stood out from this restaurant was these plates, which were laid out with small personal stories on each one, in patterns and swirls and which added a really nice quirky touch. It really tied in with the history of the restaurant and gave a way of making us feel part of the restaurant’s Story and how it works.

Of course I have to comment on the food, which is the initial reason we came. Dishoom apparently does a brilliant breakfast, which I have yet to try but we came for a (slightly late!) lunch and loved what we had. Our meal was pretty traditional in its cuisine, but there was plenty of juicy flavour and variety, and there’s something special about each dish. The rotis (traditional chappatis/round bread) were huge and delicious, not like the usual naans you get in standard restaurants but something closer to what my mum makes, and the drinks were traditional South Asian drinks – no coke or Pepsi here, you’ll find what is served in a normal Bombay Cafe.

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And what meal is complete without tea and dessert? I loved the Dishoom take on some traditional desserts – the ‘Memsaab Mess’ and ‘Guju Chocolate Mousse’, combining traditional English desserts with an Eastern touch. I also loved the drinks menus – there’s seven types of chais alone, each with their own dash of unique flavour.

And of course I must mention the signs in this place – they’re humorous and to the point – it’s nice to be reminded sometimes not to sleep in the toilet!

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I love the way there is a juxtaposition of old style glamour with modern retro decor, everywhere you turn you’ll see wooden chairs and screens mixed with painting, odd bits of machinery on display, from the welcome counter at the front door to the ground floor bathrooms and bar.

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Like it’s name, (‘Dishoom’ is the sound you used to get in old Bollywood movies when heroes threw a punch, think ‘kapow!’), this restaurant packs quite a punch and certainly lives up to its name. I loved my visit here, for both the food and the style of this place, and it’s great when the visual experience you get is just as good as the food. I’m already planning to come back soon, and have recommended it since to about three people who went and said they loved it too. Maybe I’ll try another branch next time, Convent Garden maybe?

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Eid Mubarak and Hajj Mubarak!

Eid Mubarak and Hajj Mubarak everyone, I hope this is an amazing Eid for you, regardless of what you are doing (amd on which day!). I’d also like to give a quick reminder for everyone to remember and keep in your prayers all those who aren’t as fortunate in your prayers, such as people of Palestine, Syria, Burma, Iraq, Bangladesh, Rohingya, Afghanistan and all the other innocent people who are being persecuted in today’s time.

Heres a banner made by my eldest sister Happy Muslimah for Eid, her house was colourfully decorated today which set the mood nicely, not to mention all the yummy food and good company we’ve had today! We have another family dinner tomorrow as well which I’m looking forward too, so more more photos coming soon! Please do tell me how your day was as well !

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