Celebrating every milestone to the fullest is becoming more of a norm than a novelty these days. Me, being the perpetually extra person that I am, have absolutely no complaints about this new age of gender reveals, babymoons, and push presents! Waseem and I have traveled quite a bit since getting married four years ago but a dream babymoon was something I just had to have IRL. The era of just us was coming to an end and we needed one last hurrah before two became three.
Haha yes, I plagiarized myself & my Babymoon Essentials post (shh!) but I put my sentiments into words a little too perfectly there and I blame my new-mommy brain mush for being unwilling to write up a new intro.
Bora Bora has been on my bucketlist for years and I had my heart absolutely set on it being our babymoon destination – I refused to even think of a back-up. When I know what I want, I just have to have it! I wanted a relaxing, exotic, & obviously Zika-free vacation and I wanted to stay in an over-water bungalow. This pretty much narrowed it down to French Polynesia…
Happy Fri-Yay!! Another long overdue 2016 travel diary today… Istanbul! Waseem & I traveled to Greece and Turkey last spring for our third wedding anniversary. All of my Greece posts went up in a somewhat timely fashion but I really dragged my feet with sorting through my photos from Istanbul. I feel like I’ve mentioned it so many times already but I got so sick in Greece that our few days in Turkey were such a delirious blur. I slept almost the entire time and barely got to sightsee so TBH looking at these photos makes me a little sad too! I’ve always wanted to visit Istanbul and while I’m so happy to have visited, I do really wish I was able to soak it up a little more! We did get to check off two of our top sights to see though – The Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia.
Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet was so generous in hosting us and we really couldn’t have picked a better location! Sultanahmet is the heart of old Istanbul and many of the major attractions are all here and in walking distance. The cobblestone roads were so charming and it must have been a little off season when we went (maybe?!) because nothing seemed to be crowded. It was very quiet & serene, we loved just strolling.
The Four Seasons is actually a century-old former jail! Who would think something like that would be converted into a luxury hotel?! The jailhouse was the first in Istanbul and was built in Turkish neoclassical style and underwent redevelopment in the 90s to preserve its history and architecture. The property now has 65 hotel rooms and suites with a gorgeous landscaped courtyard filled with flowers where we had breakfast every morning. The courtyard used to be the jail’s exercise yard, what a serious makeover! I love visiting places with tons of rich history, the property has so much character making our experience all the more unique.
We checked in at night and there was a yummy platter waiting for us (Waseem gobbled up all the Turkish delights!); we room service’d some tea for my throat and I went right to sleep. I woke up to such a lovely view of the Blue Mosque right from our balcony in the morning! You’ll see everything I’m describing in the photos below :)
Hello from the United Arab Emirates!
Waseem and I have been in Dubai for a little over a week with still quite a few days left! Waseem is here on business and I was at Pop Con Dubai over the weekend speaking on a social media panel as well as being Chrisspy’s model for her masterclass (also at Pop Con!). I’ve been to Dubai several times, usually for long layovers so my mom could hit up the gold souq; but Waseem and I also visited for our first wedding anniversary almost three years ago! I was excited to come back for such an extended period of time with a little bit of experience under my belt. What I was most excited for was the chance to drive down to Abu Dhabi and visit the gorgeous Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque again! This mosque is my favorite place I’ve ever visited in the world – how can it not be?! It is so gorgeous and peaceful – not pretentious like I expected prior to my first visit. It’s beyond decadent, adorned with marble, gold, precious stones, and crystal galore, don’t get me wrong – but I think there’s something really beautiful about feeling proud of your place of worship.
The Grand Mosque was established by the late president, who wanted to create something that truly unified the Muslim world – its peoples, history, & art. Materials and artisans from all over the world were brought to design and create this mosque and the design is best described as a fusion of Arab, Persian, Mughal & Moorish architecture. Yes, I got that from Wikipedia haha ;) The Grand Mosque accomodates over 40,000 worshippers and is made up of over 1000 columns and 82 domes, it will seriously take your breath away!
Tourist hours vary depending on the day. I was lucky enough to pray jummah (Friday prayer) twice here! In 2014 it seemed as though tourist hours began right after prayers ended (busloads of tourists came through as we were getting out) but the current schedule shows that tourist hours begin after 4:30pm on Fridays – be sure to check the schedule! I was a bit nervous about taking photos after prayers but no one said a thing & the mosque seems to be very photo friendly – they even host a photography competition every year! I have heard that you cannot bring tripods though, luckily I didn’t visit alone! :) To be honest, I don’t understand the Rihanna controversy from a few years back – she wasn’t doing anything that everyone else wasn’t doing! All tourists take a million photos. It’s the #1 tourist destination in Abu Dhabi and there are guided tours daily!
I drove down to Abu Dhabi with my friend Shyema (who took my bomb photos!) on Friday for Jummah prayer. Waseem & I spontaneously drove down last night and I have to say it is also soooo beautiful at night! To visit during Mahgrib (sunset prayer), is on my bucketlist! I don’t know if I can handle another drive this week, but God willing – next time!
This year has been quite the doozy! I think I’ve traveled internationally at least once a month since March, with the exception of May. Not only has it been an exciting year traveling the globe, I got to visit my dream destination twice in the same season! My husband and I visited Santorini during our anniversary trip in March and I was back again in August! Santorini Secret Suites & Spa was generous in hosting me and their property was such a quintessential Oia dream – everything was so white, clean & dreamy. Located right off the pedestrian walkway in Oia, shopping and restaurants were available all around the property. During our first visit at a different property, our room was on the street level so it wasn’t built into the cliffside like the rest of the hotel and like most of the residences in Oia. At Santorini Secret, we had such a Cycladic experience living and sleeping in our cavernous room!
Everything is carved into the cliff so be prepared for a ton of stairs! I get tired easily so I was happy to have a higher room; but the lower you get, the more private the rooms get as well. I had no issues with guests walking by when we were lounging on our terrace though (which was rare anyways!); & from inside the room you can’t hear a thing! So peacefully quiet & private.
Santorini is the most photogenic place I’ve been & any picture taken outside on the terraces or stairs at the hotel will be flawless by default. You can’t take a bad photo with all the light reflecting everywhere and the ever-so-perfect backdrop! You gotta check it out below to believe it!
Last month as I was closing out a long Eurotrip, I found myself with a 2 hour layover in Doha. With my in-laws living a short plane ride away, I suggested that they visit me for some long overdue quality time…. & my 2 hour layover became nearly a week haha! My wheels are always turning and I’m always ready to seize the moment! My father in law is a big foodie so with recommendations from family and friends in tow, we spent most of our time restaurant hopping without a single complaint from me! The food in Doha was so good everywhere we went. We started off at an Iraqi restaurant and over our few days we consumed so much more; fish & chips, Pakistani food (& a halwa puri brunch one day, yum!), Egyptian, traditional Qatari, & I don’t even remember what else! It was a blur of amazing food! We got in a little bit of sight seeing as well but not as much as I would have liked because the days were so hot so we wouldn’t really begin our outings until 4 or 5 pm. Our main outings were Souq Waqif, Museum of Islamic Art, shopping at the mall (duh! The Middle East loves malls!), & dune bashing in the Arabian Desert with Qatar Inbound Tours. I don’t recommend the last with your parents if they’re not the adventurous type lol! Trust me when I say that my mother in law was f r e a k i n g o u t! I’ve dune bashed before in Dubai, so I should have known but my father in law really enjoyed himself – we would have stayed longer if we could have!
Enjoy all the photos, I’ll chat about all the places as we go! Starting with Souq Waqif..